Cellphones and communications from Italy

Jan 24th, 2008, 05:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,026
Cellphones and communications from Italy

Hi all,

Here is my report on various methods of staying in touch, when traveling to Italy. In my case, I had 7 people coming over, staying in 2 apartments. In addition, I have 3 80+ year olds living at my home and the home healthcare worker needed a way to contact me.

1) Your US cell phone may not work. We use different frequencies. However, if you have a tri-band or quad-band GSM phone, then it can work.

2) Initially, I purchased the $49 Mobal phone for emergency use. You own this phone and only pay for actual use. The negative is that the per minute cost can be very high ($1.25 and up). The major negative is that billing is linked to your credit card/debit card, so if the phone is stolen you can end up with quit the hit on your statement.

3) I then picked up an old Blackberry on eBay for about $25. I purchased the Telestial TIM card online before I left for about $40. The per minute rates are much lower than Mobal's. Also, since the time is pre-paid, if the phone is stolen you only lose the purchased minutes, nothing else.

4) I have a Skype-In/Skype-Out acct. This allowed me to make and receive phone calls over the internet for about 2 cents per minute. Another advantage was that I forwarded my Skype-In number from Florida to my Blackberry. That way, folks only had to call the US number, it bounced over to the blackberry in Europe.

5) I purchased 4 walkie-talkies at WalMart, total cost was about $50. Yes, the frequencies are not allowed in Europe, but we figured what the heck we won't use them that much. Listed range was 10 miles, in Rome we found we got about 1/3 mile.

Now, here are things I learned from the experience.

1) The walkie-talkies were invaluable. With so many people we were able to keep up with each other through short radio messages. In places like Ostia Antica or the Palatine, we could locate each other easily. Normally we'd have them in the different apartments and used them for standard jabber.

2) I used the Mobal phone as an emergency contact phone. Like if my 20 year old daughter wanted to go out at night, I had her take it with her in case she needed to quickly call me on a phone.

3) The Skype/Blackberry worked great, except for one thing. There is a substantial incoming charge for calls made from the States to the Blackberry, so if someone here called me on Skype and I answered on the Blackberry then there would be a $1.25 charge to my Skype acct. But if I called from the Blackberry, then the cost was about 50 cents. So, I'd have people call the skype number, I'd answer the Blackberry, determine if it was an emergency or not. If an emergency, I'd call them back on the blackberry. If not, then when I got a chance I'd take the laptop over to the local Internet cafe, have a drink and call back on Skype for 2 cents per minute. The nice part about the Skype was if I missed the call on the Blackberry, then the call reverted back to Skype voicemail.

Hope that helps

daveesl is offline  
Jan 24th, 2008, 05:08 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
I thought the reason US frequency walkie-talkies weren't allowed in Italy was because they interferred with their emergency frequencies. Did you look into that?
kybourbon is offline  
Jan 24th, 2008, 05:11 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,026
Well, Europeans use those frequencies for their emergency services. However, each "channel" also has many sub-channels. We chose one that there was no other chatter on, which happened to be Channel 1, Sub 1

Each location will be different, so if you do this, then make sure to check the frequency first.

Oh, and we did find a few other American families doing the same thing.
daveesl is offline  
Jan 24th, 2008, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 665
Weird . I have used the two-ways in Italy and never had an issue and also have never read anything that they were illegal, and the customs people never said a word when they saw them.

The only place I haven't used them is China, which is illegal.

We have had world phones for 8 years so always use our cellphones in Italy without any problem.
wanderlust5 is offline  
Jan 24th, 2008, 05:21 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2006
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The "walkie-talkies" we're talking about aren't the cellphone type, but the old style, sort of like CB radio type.

daveesl is offline  

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