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Cell service Italy-dual sim option on iPhone-opinion/making sense of Tim-Vodaphone

Cell service Italy-dual sim option on iPhone-opinion/making sense of Tim-Vodaphone

Old Oct 26th, 2021, 10:17 AM
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Cell service Italy-dual sim option on iPhone-opinion/making sense of Tim-Vodaphone

Hi all, Would appreciate any advice on the best way to go with cell phone service in Italy. Will be there for two months. I need to maintain my current US phone number (for some occasional calls from folks in the US who, for various reasons, will not be able to use WhatsApp or similar services through google, and need to reach me via my US-based phone number). I will also need an Italian phone for navigation, restaurant reservations, occasional on the street google searches, and coordinating meeting points vis SMS with traveling companion. I have an unlocked iPhone XR and understand that it has a dual sim option (one physical nano sim and one e sim)-I was unaware of this option, which seems like it would meet my needs. The e sim option for Italy works through either Tim or Vodaphone. My US based carrier is Verizon and I can buy a two month int'l pass for US$200. I'm not great with technology and I'm having trouble making sense of the Tim and Vodaphone sites (as there is no translation feature).

Wondering if anyone has an opinion as to the best way to make this all work? Buy the int'l pass from Verizon (pricier than I would like, but I can make it work) and then buy a cheap phone in Italy with some sort of prepaid plan (which I would then use for future trips to continental Europe)? OR, go with the dual sim option on my current iPhone, get the dual sim option set up as much as possible before I leave and then throw myself on the mercy of someone at a Tim or a Vodaphone store to help me figure out a plan that I can use for two months. I know most young people in mobile phone stores speak very good English. Or, if any of you has had experience with Tim or Vodaphone recently, is there a plan that sounds like it meets my needs (as described above) that I can purchase now through the app for one of the carriers. Using the dual sim would be my preference. I would in any case wait until I am on good wifi to use Whatsapp or Google equivalent for things like MMS. Thanks in advance for any tips from the tech minded, which I am not! I found some threads on this matter from several years ago (2018, I think, the latest), and thought things might have changed since then.
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 10:53 AM
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You don't really say how much you need. Data? Voice?

In general at the moment (and for quite a while) the Vodafone tourist option is the best value.

https://www.travelernick.com/2017/08...isiting-italy/

I try and explain the options there. The Vodafone tourist webpage is in English.

When compared to your home provider Vodafone is basically €30 a month . Actually less but without knowing how much you need no idea if it's good enough for you.

With Covid none of the options have really changed since 2019 . I think.
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 12:40 PM
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You don't need a phone account to navigate on gps
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 01:05 PM
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Thanks so much! This is very helpful info. I hadn't noticed the tourist page. I will delve into it now. Looks like vodaphone has a Dolce Vita option https://www.vodafone.it/portal/Priva...e-Vita-English, but it may not be available in Italy, OR I may be misreading that as I just did a quick skim (and even when reading in my native language, English, when it comes to information on cell providers my eyes glaze over unduly). But will spend some time on the vodaphone tourist page now. Not sure how much data and voice I need for the use in Italy--not much. I just need to be able send and receive SMSs with my partner (who will also be in Italy); use the phone for restaurant reservations; do some navigation when walking or occasionally driving; get train/bus schedules--that kind of thing--not streaming anything or planning to send MMSs from the e-sim. Thanks again for the lead and the comments.
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 01:06 PM
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Thanks--good point-more broadly need to have access to a phone for the other reasons above.
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 01:21 PM
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Ok, have looked more closely at the Dolce Vita option, which I think is the one to which you refer. It seems I can use it in Italy (which of course makes sense given the name of the plan) and the amount of data/voice seems fine for my purposes. As I understand it I would have to go into a Vodaphone store in Rome (or at the airport) to activate this option as it does not seem to be something I can do from the USA. But it does seem to meet my needs-thank you for the lead! I will otherwise get my iPhone set up to activate the dual sim option and apple has some clear info on how to do it. The dolce vita plan page in English linked here for reference by others: https://www.vodafone.it/portal/Priva...e-Vita-English. Dual sim instructions from apple https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209044
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 02:16 PM
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I've used TIM. At Termini they have a location upstairs. I've also bought a TIM sim in Matera before

Google is showing a Vodaphone in Termini too.

** As I understand it I would have to go into a Vodaphone store in Rome (or at the airport) to activate this option as it does not seem to be something I can do from the USA**

In the past, you couldn't find anywhere at FCO to buy a sim except beyond security. I don't know if that's changed as I haven't looked lately. They need to see your passport for your sim.
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by kybourbon View Post
I've used TIM. At Termini they have a location upstairs. I've also bought a TIM sim in Matera before

Google is showing a Vodaphone in Termini too.

** As I understand it I would have to go into a Vodaphone store in Rome (or at the airport) to activate this option as it does not seem to be something I can do from the USA**

In the past, you couldn't find anywhere at FCO to buy a sim except beyond security. I don't know if that's changed as I haven't looked lately. They need to see your passport for your sim.
Thanks for the info!
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Old Oct 26th, 2021, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by studenttobe View Post
Thanks for the info!
BTW, had a long talk by phone with an Apple advisor, who seemed to know a lot about how the dual (one nano physical and one e) sim option works. He said that as long as my phone is unlocked (which it is) and my iPhone model supports the dual (nano/e sim) option (which it does--it's an XR), then I am good to go and there is nothing more to do before I leave. He suggested that I go to a Vodaphone store when I arrive (there is one near the apt I am renting) and I tell them that I want to activate an esim, using the La Dolce Vita plan (which seems to meet my needs), that there is nothing do from here other than to remember to place my phone in airplane mode once I am in the air. He mentioned that even if I were to purchase an e sim plan with Vodaphone from the US (not sure if that's possible in any case) that I would still have to go into a Vodaphone store to activate the esim and show my passport. So I'll just drop the idea of trying to buy the esim plan before I leave. But thanks to folks who weighed in I know which plan, which carrier etc. Thanks for the helpful info. One predeparture thing ticked off the long list!.
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 01:24 PM
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For messaging, you and your partner should use WhatsApp (which everyone in Italy uses) or some other messaging app. Most phone plans don't even include SMS any more because nobody uses them. The only SMS I get now are from my bank, or from TIM, or some other business.
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 01:42 PM
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Do you have to have people in the US be able to reach you at your US number?

Or can they message you and you can call them back? Voice calls to and from the US will be expensive. If you can call them, at the time of your own choosing, you can install an app like Viber which lets you call them at low international rates using data, meaning it could be on a Wifi network at wherever you're staying or with mobile data from an Italian mobile carrier.

The alternative, using international voice calls using Verizon's international rates, could be expensive on a per-minute and per-call basis. Other carriers are better, like T-Mobile which will give you a flat rate of 25 cents per minute for receiving and making international voice calls.

The other possibility is to set up a Google Voice account and having all calls made to your Verizon number routed to Google Voice, which will work by data again.


The dual SIM option I've never personally tried and the setup may be tricky. You can have primary and secondary lines and have the phone use data from the Italian SIM but still get voice calls on your Verizon number. Again, international voice calls can be expensive.

And paying Verizon for getting international data roaming on your plan is also ridiculously expensive.

It would be easier if you can initiate calls to the US, to use the lower rates of Viber or Skype.

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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 07:09 PM
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Thanks—we use WhatsApp for sure—good point.
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 07:16 PM
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Thanks for this analysis and suggestions. It’s tricky for sure, but you’ve given me a lot to think about and some good options. And re the first question: I do have one family member who will need to reach me only on my US number for somewhat complicated reasons. But that person can SMS me on my US number and I can call them back as you suggest. thanks for all the excellent points-I will investigate the options you suggest, which together should address all of my needs. Thanks for taking the time to think though this on my behalf.
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Old Oct 27th, 2021, 08:27 PM
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Here's a rundown of using your phone overseas. It's a couple of years old so best to check with your carrier.

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/b...hone-overseas/

If you're willing to add some kind of international plan, it would be the simplest for you and people who has to reach you. But it's probably one of the most costly ways to do it, if your'e on AT&T or Verizon.

Also, it might be the case the if you're in Italy and someone calls you on your US number, not only do you pay for the call but the person calling also pays, even though they're calling a US number.

It would certainly be the case if they called an Italian number that they would pay for the call and the person who owns the Italian number wouldn't pay. And the most expensive international call is to call to a mobile phone.

So you may want to check to see if someone calling your US number while you're on an Italian mobile network would be hit with some kind of surcharges.

I have T-Mobile so I sometimes get calls while I'm abroad. I never answer them and don't even listen to voice mails, But T-Mobile charges me a couple of bucks each trip, as if I made calls while being on a foreign network. Like I said, if I have to call back, I usually use Viber where $10 in credits have lasted me for years because calls are a few cents a minute to most countries.
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 12:34 AM
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The Vodafone tourist option I mentioned includes calls to the US (Actually most of the world) in the price. I don't remember the number of minutes but likely enough for most people.
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 03:09 AM
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I’ve never tried it myself, but apparently you can set up your current data plan on the eSIM in your iPhone XS, then use the slot for the nano SIM with a pay as you go Italian SIM, Vodafone or another Italian provider. You might want to check that out in an Apple Store or with your current provider before the trip.
https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT209044

FWIW, I always keep my latest iPhone for backup when I upgrade to a newer model. That means I can have a second phone when I travel for a local pay as you go SIM, which is usually cheaper than my provider’s international roaming charges. If you have an old phone lying around at home it might work for you.
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 05:25 AM
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Thanks-all of this info is very helpful. I appreciate it a great deal.
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 05:26 AM
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Great to know-the vodaphone tourist option seems a great option, given my needs. Thanks!
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Old Oct 28th, 2021, 05:28 AM
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Thanks-the dual sim option seems like a great one and I will pursue it further. And great point re keeping an old phone. The next time I upgrade I will surely do that. And I’ll check around among local friends to see if anyone has an old phone lying around that they can lend me for the trip. Thanks again!
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