Cell phone to use in Italy?

Old Apr 12th, 2005, 02:08 AM
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Cell phone to use in Italy?

My wireless carrier (Verizon) told me yesterday that my cell phone will not work in Italy.

I really need to be able to receive calls at any time from the US (little kitty on meds at home) so a phone card won't do the trick.

Can anyone advise the best option? Verizon says they rent international phones for $4/day - per minute charge is $1.49.

I think I read that there are phones you can rent at the airport? I hate to buy a new phone just for this trip - even on line they are not cheap but if this is the best way that's OK.

Any help appreciated. I am nervous about leaving my little kitty with no easy way contact to me.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 02:41 AM
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I think renting a phone in Italy would be just as expensive or more expensive than the rate Verizon offered you. Some options to consider:

First, ask if Verizon will sell you a dual or tri band phone which will work in Europe. This will also work everywhere in the world except Japan, so would be good for future travelling. You can usually buy them with a calling plan quite cheaply. You can then add their international roaming plan to your calling plan for the time you will be abroad. (Usually in one month chunks, a flat monthly fee and then charges per minutes.)

I doubt Verizon would be willing to sell you an “unlocked” phone, but if they will, then you can buy a local Italian sim chip and will have an Italian number which will be cheap for local calls, but not necessarily any cheaper for international ones. (Of course you then need to give your number to your kitty). I understand that T Mobile does sell “unlocked” phones so you might mention this to Verizon or switch carriers.

You can buy “unlocked” phones on the internet. You could then buy a sim chip in Italy and use the phone. I have not done this, others on this site have had good luck. I believe that if you buy an unlocked phone there may be no manufacturer’s warranty, as most phones sold in the US are locked (the deal with the phone companies, who want you to buy their calling plan and will sell you a phone at a discount price to get it.)

You can buy a phone in Italy and then a local sim card. Issues here may be a worldwide warranty, instruction book not being in English, and again having an Italian number that you have to relay to the kitty. (I live in Switzerland and this is the case with all 3 phones I have purchased here, you can find them on the manufacturers website, but this may not help you when travelling.) Also, do you want to take time out from a vactation to spend time buying a phone.

Finally, in the olden days before everyone panicked without a mobile phone, it was the usual practice to leave a list of hotel phone numbers where one cold be reached during a trip. You could try this. You could arrange a time to receive a call each night from the kitty. (With a least a 6 hour time difference between the US and Italy, you might appreciate this the most, rather than those 1 am phone calls, esp. if cats can’t tell time. . . .) Faxes to/from hotels also work. An AT&T calling card also works. E-mail also works, and there are internet cafes all over, your hotel may also have free internet. Go to cybercafe.com for a list of internet cafes by country and city.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 02:52 AM
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Cicerone...

The only thing wrong with your advice is that verizon does not use gsm...without getting into the merits of the various technologies for mobile phone service, let's leave it at the fact that gsm is the most flexible and had a late start in the USA. Therefore the question of locked or unlocked phones is a moot point as phones used by verizon in the us are not compatible with gsm technology (although to some degree that is changing) and do not operate using sim cards.

As far as renting phones is concerned, it is usually a losing proposition. There are lots of horror stories on this site about people finding their simple $4/day mobile rentals turning into $800 horrors.

There are lots of threads on this site about the advantages of buying an inexpensive mobile phone with the proper European frequencies and buying a local sim gsm package in Italy. The only down side, if indeed it is one, is getting to your contacts your local Italian number. In the 21st century, there is this thing known as the internet, perhaps you have heard of it and e mail...or you can use the mobile phone to send your friends a text message containing your number or you can initiate a quick call to tell them yhour number.

I wouldn't pay to rent a mobile, I certainly wouldn't pay $1.49 to make calls and one penny to receive calls.

BTW wanderer you may not be aware that with a local sim while you are in that country you pay nothing to receive calls; your callers pay somewhat more to call you.

Lists of Italian providers and comments on some of them can be found at www.prepaidgsm.net. Also you might want to do a search on riiing here and there which would be a very good choice if travelling to more than one country or perhaps if you are going back to Europe any time in the future.

Whatever you did, good luck to you.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 03:09 AM
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Hello Wanderer:

FWIW: Our carrier is AT&T Wireless (now Cingular). Two years ago we switched our network to GSM (and purchased smartphones at a deep discount). We have used the phones successfully in Austria and France, and assume they will work for us in Italy upcoming. The only thing necessary is to enroll on their Universal calling plan (no charge); then you pay $1.__ (I think it's .29)per minute for usage. Works great! Good luck. Gradyghost
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:11 AM
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I am a Verizon customer and used thier "rental sevice" for work last summer. No problems and you can forward you current number which means the "kiity sitter" won't have to figure out how to dial Europe.

I was actually back on thier site last night and noticed that they now sell a phone for $149 which does the same thing as the rental phone (rate charges are the same) I am considering since I need a phone for an upcoming trip (Last year the company I worked for paid the bill, this time it's personal) The advantage is that I would be able to use my current verizon number for this trip. (Taking a group of teens whose Moms need to be able to call me in an emergency) We will also be in three countries and the schedule is tight. I don't have time to buy three SIM cards!

I am going to swing by my local Verizon store and see if they now have any tri band phones. They didn't when I bought mine, but it looks like things have changed.

If the Verizon phone could be unlocked that would be ideal for future travel, but I have not figured that one out yet!
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:19 AM
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If you want to use a European sim card, why dont you just forward your incoming calls to your new number. Any GSM phone has the option to tell the phone company that it should unconditionally forward all calls to a number you specify. If your carrier supports this, which they usually do, everybody can reach you on your new phone dialing your old number.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:30 AM
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The problem is that if I buy the phone in Europe... I don't have the number now to forward to. I am thinking about leaving the phone with someone and sending them the forwarding instructions. I just did a search on Vodaphone and I think that I might just soon be the owner of a Vodaphone or simular British based phone.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:37 AM
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T mobile USA used to allow call forwarding from its mobile phones to foreign numbers and could be set remotely for free but they ended that for some unknown reason last February. It was a good deal as t mobile USA charges 29 cents/minute on its international plan to call most countries in Western Europe (Liechtenstein excepted because of riiing probably)....but the way around that is to sign up for an 800 call forwarding service such as kall8 or telcan....they give you a US based 800 number which you can program via the web or by calling them to forward to any number in the world. So you can then set call forwarding on your mobile phone (or your home phone too) to the 800 number and then to your European sim....great technology too.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:45 AM
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Hi w,

If you're interested in a phone only for emergency use, take a look at the $49 phone at www.mobalrental.com.

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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 05:10 AM
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Actually having done some digging in the past day I am leaning towards buying an unlocked phone with a UK SIM card from http://www.telestial.com

That will allow me to have the number before I leave and the service is with Virgin. According to Virgin's website I can roam in Paris and Switzerland. While more expensive it would be the best bet since I want ONE number for this trip.

HOwever, in the future I could just have the unlocked phone activated whereever I land saving me money over the long haul.

I did search EBAY, but the phones there are more then I want to pay for a used phone with no gurantee it works.

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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 05:36 AM
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Just for the sense of throwing out an alternative...

The virgin sim pack costs £10 in the UK and comes with at least £5 worth of credit; as a matter of fact when I was in London this past February they gave an additional £5 worth of credit so let's see if my fourth grade math is still functioning: £10 for the sim card - £5 credit - £5 additional voucher = £0; even at the high exchange rate of today that still works out to be $0 for the sim card due to the multiplication property of 0....

I think you can do much better if you buy the mobal dual band phone for $49...the phones are unlocked despite what the web site says and then either wait till you get to London or you can look up L8SHOP.NET....they were selling all the British sim cards the past month (don't know if they still are) for £3 and they ship to the US for £3 which comes to about $12.

I wouldn't deal with telestial; they are almost a den of thieves that triples the prices for prepaid sim's, throw on absurd shipping costs simply for the convenience of having the number in my hand before leaving.

JMHO

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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 05:41 AM
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I just checked the web site of L8shop.net...they are selling the virgin sim pack for £3.60 and shipping to the US is £3...total £6.60 and you will have your number before you leave. Simply insert the sim card into your phone and upon arrival in the UK turn on the phone and it will register on Virgin and you'll be in...you then dial 222 to set up your voice mail...comes with £5 worth of calling credit (calls to the US are 20p/minute timed to the second minimum charge 5p) calls within the UK 15p/minute for the first 5 minutes of use each day and 5p/minute for the rest of the day timed to the second but again minimum 5p/call...roaming rates are rather stiff though when outside the UK. Also comes with a swipe card making recharging easy...just go into any electronics or most drug stores tell them how much credit you want to buy, they swipe the card and voila you are topped up as they say. Couple that with the $49 nokia dual band phone and you're all set!
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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I was in the same situation several years back. A few times, I rented cell phones at the airport of arrival. That was fast and reasaonble. The cost of the week's rental was less than $100 and, with few exceptions, I used the phone for incoming calls, which were free. Then, one of our family members switched to the AT&T Wireless GSM service. The service was poor and after a few months we switched back to the TDMA service. In the process, however, we acquired a GSM phone. For about $15, I had the phone unlocked. That's absolutely no big deal. I use that phone both domestically and internationally. In the U.S., I use T-moble SIM cards available on eBay very inexpensively. Abroad, I buy SIM cards at the nearest mobile shop. Also quite inexpensive. The outgoing rate is usually about 10 cents a minute (within the same country) and incoming calls are free. That rate is available for SIM cards within the country for which they are primarily intended. Roaming is possible, but is significantly more expensive. There really isn't any hitch, but each SIM card comes with its own telephone number and that must be relayed stateside to whomever will be needing to call you. That's easy enough. Just get your SIM card and call home with the number. Those who absolutely, positively need to have the number in advance can buy SIM cards from Telestial at several times the price that you would pay at local outlets. In my opinion, that makes little sense since you can't use the phone for incoming calls until you get to the country or countries where you're going. We're off to Italy in June and en route from the airport to our hotel is a cell phone store where we'll spend 10 minutes to pick up a SIM card. It's certainly less time than we'll spend waiting for our baggage to come off the plane.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 05:56 AM
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Well, since the website says the $49 phones are locked I don't think that I am willing to take the risk they aren't.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 06:42 AM
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Well Carol...

It's a nokia phone...the unlocking calculator if by some chance it's locked is freely available on the web...ot else you can go to www.unlockme.co.uk where there is a forum which asks you for the imei # (the serial number of the phone) and the carrier to which it is locked and gives you for free the unlocking code.

But if you want to spend whatever telestial charges on the off chance the phone is locked and it can be unlocked anyway, well that's certainly your perogative.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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I have a friend who bought a cheap phone that "could be unlocked" One year later she is still trying to get it unlocked. Sounds to me like it doesn't always work as planned. (I can't remember the whole deal, but the free websites don't work on her phone and for a fee around $100 she has found someone who "says" he can unlock it. Since the phone was dirt cheap..... the unlocking is a little costly!)
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Yes I understand Carol...but the phones offered on the Mobal site are nokias and nokias can be easily unlocked without question...other brands are much more problematic. For a few bucks more, you can get a dual band Nokia for around $80 at a very reputable web site expansys-usa.com which is already unlocked; couple that with the $12 for a virgin mobile sim card from L8 shop and compare that to what you're going to pay with telestial and if you still feel telestial is the way to go, as I said before, that is certainly your perogative and I wish you well with it. I can only suggest cheaper alternatives.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 08:00 AM
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Carol, two posters have bought the Mobal phone and indicated that it was actually 'unlocked'...

Author: artsfan <threadselect.jsp?screen_name=artsfan&fid=2>
Date: 02/24/2005, 09:17 am
Actually, my Mobal phone turned out to have been unlocked. I guess you never know. To my surprise www.mobileliberation refunded me my $4 when I told them.

Re buying the SIM card here or there...it's actually one of my kids who is using it in Italy, and we wanted to make sure the kid was all set up before getting on the plane and will hit the ground running, phonewise, not needing to fool around with SIM cards in the airport. And this way we all know the phone number already. That is the advantage of buying the card here. If that doesn't matter to you -- and it may not matter to a lot of people -- then buy it when you arrive. Either way, it's a lot cheaper than using Mobal's service.

Author: real_goose <threadselect.jsp?screen_name=real_goose&fid=2>
Date: 11/09/2004, 12:23 pm
I purchased a Nokia 3310 from Mobal with SIM chip for $49. It seems to be a good bargain since the phone was unlocked and has a better warrenty than an Ebay purchase. The Mobal service is from a British Cell company called O2 and you only pay for actual usage.

We spend several weeks in Greece every summer and use CosmOTE prepaid service. CosmOTE alledgedly has roaming, but we've never been able to make a call from the Amsterdam airport in the event of a delay. (I've since read that we can only receive calls while roaming.)

Now our plan is to travel with the Mobal SIM in the phone for emergencies and then to use local SIM's when we spend more than a few days in a given country. A few minutes of calls looks cheaper than an initial SIM purchase in many countries and it is not always easy to find a shop immediately on arrival. It's good to have a working backup phone until you get service in a new country.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 01:42 PM
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I spoke with both Verizon and Cingular today. Verizon has 2 GSM phones - both well over $300 WITH a new contract!

Cingular was much more reasonable - a Quad-Band phone (they told me this was better than Tri-Band), Motorolla V551 I think, which with a 2-yr contract will cost $50. You can then add an international calling plan for the time you need it (it goes month to month) for $5.99 per month. International calls are then billed at 99 cents/minute.

I think this is the option we may go. Then we can use this phone whenever we travel and not have to worry about buying SIM cards, etc. everywhere. Just seems like the easiest option. I am curious about the person that said they had AT&T and got a GMS phone and had it unlocked for $15. Who did the unlocking?

Would also be curious to hear if anyone has recently been to Italy and used Cingular GSM and how it was.

I don't expect to do alot of local calling, so maybe a phone card in addition would be cheaper for calls within Italy?
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 03:12 PM
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Wanderer - T-Mobile has GSM service and does not charge a monthly fee for int'l roaming; their rate is also 0.99/minute.

Check GSM phones w/T-Mobile service on www.amazon.com and compare to phone prices on T-Mobile website to see if Amazon is a better deal (my Sony Ericsson was $0.01 after rebate).
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