Italy SIM card question

Aug 12th, 2014, 08:23 PM
Original Poster
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Posts: 27
Italy SIM card question


I'll be traveling to italy (rome, florence, and venice) in September. I' currently have an unlocked cell phone and am considering purchasing a SIM card before I leave for italy from the United States. If anyone has done this, please let me know if you recommend a certain website or company. Also, did you have any issues when you were activating your phone in italy?

Thanks so much! Z
ziba is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 09:51 PM
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Who is your current cellphone carrier?

I bought my TIM (Telecom Italia) SIM card last year at FCO airport T3. It took me about 5 minutes and about 30EU. By the time I retrieved my luggage, I could access internet. Looks like the store moved to T1 (Skyteam flights):

If you want to get a SIM while in US with data, t-mobile USA's Simple Choice $50 plan comes with 1GB data with included data roaming in Europe, unlimited text, $0.20/min voice. Unlike other US carriers, this plan is not a multi-year contract. You can terminate the plan after your trip without penalty. The data is speed is 2G or 3G depending on what the roaming partners provide. In Denmark and Canada, I got 3G speed. In Paris, I got 2G speed.
greg is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 03:56 AM
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Greg, for years there has been no TIM store at Fiumicino airport, except inside the domestic departure terminal. I just checked the official airport website and they show a TIM store only in boarding are B, behind security and inaccessible to people arriving from points outside the Schengen area. Vodafone has a shop in the same area.

There is a kiosk at Fiumicino airport that sells so-called "international SIM cards" for outrageous prices, and often they don't work. I think the brand is Exacta, and you can see many complaints on the Tripadvisor Rome forum.

I don't know any service that sells Italian SIM cards in the US. Telestial used to, but stopped. The SIM cards didn't have an associated data plan, so you still had to visit a phone store to activate a data plan.

Any company that sells Italian SIM cards has to find a way to verify your identity to comply with Italian security regulations.

Lycamobile is a company that sells prepaid SIM cards in many countries, including the USA, the UK, and Italy. However, the cards sold in the USA are for use only in the USA, and I don't see any way to buy their Italian SIM card outside of Italy. The Italian cards have decent rates for calls, including international calls, but their data offerings are skimpy.
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 03:59 AM
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In which Italian city will be your first stop? How long will your trip be? Will you need data services or just phone calls and texts? If just phone calls, will they mostly be local or will some be international? Will you be making lots of calls or just a few?

If you can supply more details about your usage, I may be able to give you some advice.
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 04:10 AM
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Bvlenci, can you tell me where I can purchase a TIM senza Scatto in Bari or Trani? We arrive at Bari airport but will proceed immediately to Trani.

Thanks. And sorry ziba for hijacking your thread.
JoyC is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 04:22 AM
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There is no TIM store at FCO, at least for arriving passengers. My husband had three hours to kill there waiting for our traveling companions flight and he asked/looked everywhere. However, there are TIM stores all over Rome. We got a SIM card for our unlocked iphone. It's 10€ for the card PLUS 20€ for the plan we got which included 2G data and 200 minutes international or domestic calls. You need your passport, they do everything for you, it takes 10 minutes, it worked great. This specific plan is only good for one month, designed for foreign tourists.
isabel is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 05:40 AM
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If you take the train into Rome, there is a TIM store in Termini upstairs. The 10€ sim used to include 5€ of time (may have changed). Calls/texts within the first 24 hours of activation cost a bit more than after 24 hours.

The other phone services I typically see in Italy are Wind and Vodaphone. They seem to have stores in Termini also. I found their prices to be a bit higher than TIM last time I checked.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 06:05 AM
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ziba--We also bought our TIMs at FCO last summer. However, this year, we flew in through Venice and there were no options there.

Within Venice, there is supposedly a TIM store near the Piazzale Roma, and there's definately the one we used in the Cannaregio area (near Campiello de l'Anconeta). Just be aware that this store closes for siesta for an hour or two.

FYI--Our daughter's cheapie GSM phone died and she was able to buy a new cheapie GSM plus SIM plus time for the same 29 Euros we spent on just SIMs.

Another FYI--Even though our US Androids will take overseas SIMs without a glitch, we don't bother. We do use the WiFi on our Androids when we're in a free HotSpot like our hotels. Our reasoning? When we are traveling, our goal is to be DISCONNECTED as much as possible, so we'd rather be looking at everything around us as opposed to checking our emails.

And if you are missing your Google Maps, you can use offline map apps like MapsWithMe, which I really liked in Venice.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 07:20 AM
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The four major cell phone providers in Italy are TIM, Vodafone, Wind, and 3. Wind and 3 don't have the coverage of TIM, especially in rural areas. 3 also has a store in Termini station, on the lower level. They were advertising a plan for tourists when I was there a few weeks ago, but they told me the SIM card would cost €30, which is excessive.

I think the best way to find a store selling SIM cards is to ask at your hotel. It doesn't have to be a phone store; appliance stores, electronics stores, and some camera shops all sell phones, and would also sell SIM cards.

Google maps is often useful for finding specific types of stores. You can type "Vodafone [or TIM] store near xxx".
bvlenci is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 07:59 AM
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AlessandraZoe, thanks for those last two paragraphs. I agree - what am I doing thinking I HAVE to have data and phone? I wanna disconnect! So in Tuscany (when we need GPS) we bought an Italy Touring Club map and I will check out Maps With Me for backup. Thanks for your perspective!
joan is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 08:16 AM
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>>>ziba--We also bought our TIMs at FCO last summer.<<<

Were you connecting to somewhere? I've looked for a TIM store at FCO in the past and it's always been inside security so you can't access it if arriving from the states.

Where is the shop?
Security checks : After
Terminal/Gate area: T1
Location/Gate : T1 - Area B ***

Perhaps you were arriving from somewhere else in Europe and not the US (although I'm not sure that gives you access either)?
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 13th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Joan--It is so nice that someone understands! Total Disconnect is one of the reasons my husbands heads to Europe so that no one can find him from work unless he wants to be found. We probably would not even check our emails via WiFi if we did not have an aged mother and two daughters back home.

The limitations on Maps with Me is that without GPS (you COULD connect if you would want, but that's precisely what we're avoiding) you don't have an automatic beacon showing where you are. But once I got the hang of it, it was easier than reading a paper map (and easier to hold).

The other use for our disconnected Android phones abroad is to use mp3 files with our ear buds. We've used all of the free Rick Steves podcasts for Venice now, and if we were to go back to Rome and Florence, we'd do the same.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 01:19 PM
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AllessandraZoe, to disconnect your phone, do you change the settings to block voice and text, or can you just remove the SIM card and still use the hotel wifi, map apps and other downloads? (Sorry if this is dumb question) Thanks again.
joan is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 03:15 PM
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This is NOT a dumb question.

When my youngest daughter and I went to Venice in 2009, we were just then trying to figure out how to make the use of her iPhone's MP3 files without downloading data. We were scared to make use of WiFi then, too. We had visions of thousands of dollars in charges (and that did happen to other people, but not because they turned WiFi on).

It took us another year before we felt comfortable turning WiFi on while keeping the phone in Airplane Mode.

Disclaimer: Every phone is just a tad different. And I do have to tell you that weird things happened when we returned from overseas via Canada one time (we had to do some quick data trick there). But other than that...

...this is how we've walked that fine disconnect/connect line for the past five trips...

We only get SIMs for our cheapie GSMs if we are cycling ("I've fallen and I can't get up").

Otherwise, there really is little need to have one since we tend to be together. People back home can reach you in an emergency via a hotel front desk, and that front desk can also make restaurant reservations for you.

Our home mobile phones continue to be excellent resources for us even if we don't enable calls on them.

For our Droid Razr Maxx phones, just putting it in Airplane Mode as soon as we board our flights over does the trick to cut the phone cord.

When we check into a hotel and get their WiFi code, we keep our phones in Airplane Mode but turn on WiFi so we can scan emails to make sure there were no emergencies back home.
If no emergencies, we just don't respond to emails, but we COULD if we so liked.

Again, we still keep the phones in Airplane Mode to do so. No charges.

And if we wanted to use Skype apps to talk or send SMS, we could do that once we connected our WiFi, although again, our goal is to avoid even that level of communication.

Nevertheless,if we did so, I repeat: Still in Airplane Mode. I repeat: No Verizon charges.

Here's a good link for an explanation:

My daughters know exactly what to do to their iphones to get the same result.

As to other technology...

We do remain semi-connected. I always have to have a book to read because I rarely sleep well away from home. My husband is fine not talking to or emailing people, but he's a financial junkie.

My husband uses his iPad to read The New York Times and Wall Street Jouranl and Financial Times no matter where we are plus uses his iPad to read all those darn Kindle financial books I stock on it. The Kindle books, once downloaded, are there even without WiFi. To read the NYT/WSJ/FT subscriptions, he just seeks a free WiFi area.

He NEVER buys a European SIM for his iPad.

I steal his iPad from time to time to research restaurants or a hotel change on the spot and email them. Again, no charges.

As to a Kindle...
I do my reading at home and overseas on a Kindle Paperwhite, to which I upload all my trip documents and spreadsheets so I'm not carrying a ten-ton binder with me anymore.

My Kindle is the 3G version that doesn't depend solely on WiFI, so let's just say I saw the Duomo in Florence and wanted to read Brunelleschi's Dome in the middle of the street. I could turn my Wireless mode on and download it on the spot to read the book in a nearby cafe.

Heck, I was on a Turkish gullet surrounded at midnight by people with iPads searching for a wireless signal. I downloaded 6 books on my Kindle on the spot.

No charges.

I hope this helps.

(Hard to believe it's that easy, isn't it?)
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Aug 13th, 2014, 07:43 PM
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Thanks so much to everyone! This is extremely helpful information. I'll probably wait until I get into Rome and swing by a nearby TIM store in near my hotel. Normally I just use wifi at the hotels or restaurants/cafés, but since I'll be traveling alone part of the time, I would like the option to make a call or look up something quickly on the internet.

Joan-no worries about hijacking the thread.

Have a great summer everyone! Ziba
ziba is offline  
Aug 14th, 2014, 06:22 AM
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Thanks again, AZoe! So helpful. You're funny too, I can picture you reading with one eye on the Duomo lol.

ziba, I didn't apologize yet for hijacking - that was JoyC above. But thanks anyway for letting me hone in here! Have a great summer yourself!
joan is offline  
May 19th, 2016, 06:55 AM
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This thread is a couple years old. I just landed at FCO this morning (from US), and there is indeed now a TIM store in the T3 arrivals terminal just after exiting security.
Mjr_Tom is offline  
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