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Italy SIM card with Skype Forwarding -- Is this a good option?

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We are a middle-aged couple and 1st-time travelers to Europe, concerned about staying in touch with my elderly mother-in-law who is in an assisted living facility. We are trying to work out the lowest-cost, 2-way communication for our trip to Italy in 2 weeks. Also, in case of emergency, it would be best if the Assisted Living Facility could call my husband's regular cell number to reach us--without incurring international charges.

We will be part of a tour group & not always in control of our time. When it comes to technology, we don't have deep know-how but fumble our way through. Would the plan below work?

1) Buy a pre-paid international calling card in advance so we can check in on my mother-in law once we land.

2). Take an unlocked phone to Italy and purchase a SIM card there that includes international calling to the US. and free incoming calls

3) Sign up for Skype international/forwarding plan. Once we have the assigned phone number from the Italy SIM card, go into SKYPE and forward my husband's cell phone to the Italy SIM card number.

We are not particularly tech-savvy, so we would appreciate feedback from those who are familiar with SKYPE and SIM cards

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    I've done this. Basically, you need to get a Skype US phone number ($18 for three months I think - I have one). First forward your husband's cell calls to the Skype number (which will be a US phone number; you can choose it but not all area codes will have availability). That means calls to your Skype number will "ring" on your computer or smart phone or whatever device is logged in to Skype. I can set in front of my computer and answer calls in Europe when people call my cell number, because it's been forward to my Skype number.

    To complete what you actually want to do, in your Skype account forward calls on to the Italian cell number you'll get when you buy the SIM card. Yes, free incoming calls so only about $10 or $15 USD for the prepaid SIM card. $18 to buy the phone number for three months. And whatever per-minute cost Skype charges to forward calls to a cell number in Italy. Their forwarding rate varies by country and by landline vs. cell. I'd estimate about 25 cents per minute.

    You can't MAKE calls back to the US this way without eating up your prepaid SIM card time - probably not cheap.

    But if you take a smart phone or laptop with you to Italy, you can at least make calls with your Skype account. This isn't free either (buying the Skype phone number is for INCOMING calls) but should be a lot cheaper than using the cell phone. As you won't know your Italian cell number until you buy the SIM (in Italy?), you'll also need to login to your Skype account and set the forwarding phone number there.

    Also find out what it costs to forward cell calls from your husband's cell phone to another number, if it costs anything. Alternately, you could give the facility your Skype phone number so your husband's cell phone isn't involved at all.

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    By the way: make sure your unlocked GSM phone is also a "world phone" or "quad band." Not all GSM frequencies are the same in the US and Europe. Many cheaper GSM phones sold in the US have only three frequencies and won't work in Europe.

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    There are many options to make your head spin. The difficulty here is that the ease of setup for one type of usage is not necessarily easy to use or low cost for other usages.
    First, I would comment on your setups:

    1) Buy a pre-paid international calling card in advance so we can check in on my mother-in law once we land. – This works well when you are in your hotel room in Italy calling outside Italy. This set up is useless from the US to Italy. An international phone card purchased in Italy would be much more likely to be easier and cheaper to use.

    2). Take an unlocked phone to Italy and purchase a SIM card there that includes international calling to the US. and free incoming calls. – This works well to you for incoming calls. It is very expensive for those calling from a US phone without some kind of discount setup. It works ok for Italy to US for short calls. The US side must be familiar with how to call an Italian number. Can they do it? Will they do it?

    3) Sign up for Skype international/forwarding plan. Once we have the assigned phone number from the Italy SIM card, go into SKYPE and forward my husband's cell phone to the Italy SIM card number. – I am not sure how this would work as you described. I am only familiar with the way Andrew described. Before you go this path, read Skype reviews regarding issues with Skype incoming phone numbers. I am presume your have this type of set up in mind 1) forward your husband's number to Skype incoming number 2) forward Skype incoming calls to your husband's Italian number. This is pretty involved. You would probably want to test this out before you go. For example, you can temporarily forward Skype call to a hotel you will be staying in Italy anyway and see if you can actually call them.

    The other relevant consideration is if you are with a tour group, you will be constrained when you can receive or originate calls. If you have to respond with a delay, would not have more options to call back the facility? Carrying this further, is it only necessary for you to be notified a need to communicate, but you don’t have to use that particular method to communicate?

    By separating the notification part from the talk part, one way to do this is to 1) add international plan to your husband’s phone presuming your husband’s phone is GSM capable and can operate on 900mhz/1800mhz European frequencies. (If you don’t know, post the name of your carrier and the phone model) 2) buy an international phone card in Italy. The assisted living care facility calls your husband’s phone as usual. When you receive a call, decide if the talk be done in just a few minutes. If the call requires many minutes of phone time, tell them you will them call back right away. Use Skype (funded kind for calling a real phone) if you can use your Skype device or use the calling card from an Italian phone to talk longer time. There are many variations to this.

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    Actually, Greg, I don't think it's a big deal to forward calls. On my phone, I can control call forwarding on my phone itself. It takes about a minute to set it up. To forward calls on Skype, just login to your Skype account on a web browser and set it up. It may take a few minutes to figure out the country code, etc. properly but you can ask about this when buying the SIM card.

    Sure, I'd test the Skype part in advance at home. As I said, the OP could simply give her Skype phone number to the facility and bypass the US cell phone entirely. Then voicemail messages would come to Skype, too, and she could listen to them with a computer (for free).

    One potential gotcha I have experienced with forwarding - in Slovenia - is that budget mobile carriers might not allow call forwarding with Skype. I remember I bought a prepaid SIM in Slovenia at a convenience store for about $5 USD - the cheapest of the cheap. And after the forwarding failed to work, I googled and found that this particular company indeed did not work with SKype. I could have bought another SIM for more money but at that point it wasn't worth it to me.

    In Italy, prepaid SIM card sales are much more controlled, and I think there are fewer choices. You have to buy the SIM cards at a phone store (like a cell phone store in the US) not at a convenience store. Probably TIM (T-Mobile) and Vodaphone are the two biggest, and if you stick to them forwarding with Skype should work fine. I know I bought my SIM from TIM store in 2009 and forwarding worked perfectly. (At that time, I also had to show my passport and have it photocopied to make the purchase. Probably same restriction now.) I imagine it would still work fine.

    When buying a prepaid SIM in Europe, I usually ask the salesperson to activate the card for me in my phone and have them call my phone from theirs to make sure it works. There may be English-language instructions, but I'd rather have them do it, just to be sure.

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