Sim Cards

Old May 16th, 2017, 03:25 AM
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Sim Cards

I have asked this on another forum too but am coming with an old throwaway phone to Italy this summer, am mostly staying in Rome with the 1st 3 nights in Milan and am looking for a cheap sim card to use. Does anyone have suggestions? I am not using a smartphone but an old Nokia so I won't be sad or lose pictures if it is stolen or damaged and I will mostly be calling Italian numbers and sometimes the Netherlands and UK. It would be nice if the service on the phone is also good and if calling all over Italy is the same price and a Milan to Rome call would not be considered long distance. Any advice is very welcome!
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Old May 16th, 2017, 07:04 AM
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I assume you want just to make calls and many send text messages, in other words, no connection to the internet. Are you sure your phone will work on the GSM networks used in Europe? You don't say where your phone was originally used. The essential bands used in Europe are 900 and 1800. If your phone is an old phone used in the USA (for example) you should make sure it works on at least one of those, but two would be much better. If your phone is not GSM at all, it won't work in Europe. If you used the phone in the USA, it would be GSM if your provider was T-Mobile or AT&T, otherwise probably not.

The most used provider in Italy is TIM, and Vodafone comes a close second. These two providers are reliable and have good connectivity all over Italy. Calls to any place in Italy are the same price, so you don't have to worry about long distance costs within Italy.

The SIM card costs €10, and includes €5 of initial credit that you can use to make calls and send text messages.

TIM's Base plan is called TIM Base New. It costs €3 to activate and calls are 23 cents a minute, with a 20-cent connection charge. A two-minute call would cost 66 cents (20 cents + 23 x 2). TIM also has a flat rate plan, called TIM Special Voce, which costs €5 every four weeks for 500 minutes of calls within Italy, and €3 every four weeks for 500 SMS. You can activate one or the other, or both. It costs €3 to activate. Ask TIM to activate TIM International Base, which is free to activate and will allow you to call the UK and the Netherlands for 15 cents a minute.

Vodafone's base plan is called Tutto Facile Basic. This plan costs 12.5 cents a minute for calls within Italy, with no connection charge, and 19.9 cents per SMS. Obviously this is much cheaper than the TIM base plan. Vodafone also has a plan for calling foreign numbers: Vodafone MY Country lets you call the Netherlands and UK for 15 cents a minute, but it costs €1 per week.

Your initial €5 credit may not be enough for all your calls, so you might want to top up your credit at the time you buy the SIM card.

Either one of these providers should have good service all over Italy, provided your phone works with both the GSM bands.
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Old May 19th, 2017, 06:24 PM
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Thank you very much for such detailed information! It is an ancient phone I bought in the Netherlands so I am not so worried about it working in other European countries and it also works in the UK when I switch the Sim but the info about band is nice for any not with European phones. You are right about text messages and I'm not worried about connecting to the internet with phone since I have wifi where I am renting and can bring my device and have no need to carry it around outside with me. Vodafone sounds like they have good plans and I will for sure look at both of these. You've been very helpful, I appreciate your time!

Yes one more question, are sim cards sold kind of all over, grocery stores, souvenir shops, the regular stores of the brand, tobacco shops, etc, or is there something very specific I should know?
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Old May 19th, 2017, 09:58 PM
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Each country has its own rules and regulations about how SIM cards are sold and activated. In some countries, you can buy SIM cards at a convenience store like buying a pack of gum. In other countries - like Italy - rules are much more strict, and you must register your identity with the SIM to activate it. You will need to show your passport and have it recorded.

So your best bet is to go to a Vodafone store in Italy and buy the SIM there, where they can scan your passport and take care of everything there. Make sure the SIM works when you leave the store.

I will say that you might reconsider - if not now than in the future - having a smart phone when you travel. I was a slow convert myself, but I have seen the huge benefits when traveling of using a smart phone just for navigation when I travel. It's great, for example, for walking directions with Google Maps or even to use say the bus system in a town without knowing the bus schedule. Or just open the map to find out where you are if you get lost.

In Italy last week, I used the Trenit app to buy train tickets without needing to print anything, and I could use the app to find out arrival times of connecting trains, know which platform my connecting train would be on (in case of a tight connection), etc.

And given that you will be buying a SIM anyway, all you have to do is get a phone and learn how to use it, if you don't already use one. Cheap smart phones can be had for well under $50 USD these days.
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Old May 20th, 2017, 05:48 AM
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In addition to a Vodafone (or TIM store), you can also buy SIM cards in any shop that sells phones. That would include electronics shops, small appliance shops, and some camera shops. They will often sell the SIM card of only one provider, and there will usually be a sign on the window advertising which.

Some supermarkets sell SIM cards, along with phones, but they often sell their own brand of SIM card, which usually uses the networks of one of the big providers. They have different plans, though, so you wouldn't find the ones I've mentioned above, but maybe something similar. I wouldn't advise buying the SIM card of a provider you don't know. Besides TIM and Vodafone, Wind and Three (3) are also reliable, but their coverage isn't as universal, especially outside the large cities.

No matter where you buy the SIM card, you must have your passport, as Andrew says.
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Old May 25th, 2017, 07:52 PM
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Thanks so much! If it were not for these forums I really never would have guessed I needed to have my passport scanned to buy a simple Sim card in Italy. It sounds like doing it in the actual brand store is probably best to get started in case there are any mistakes that need fixing right away since I don't want to spend a whole trip concentrating on a Sim card. It's not really an important question and it won't change anything about my trip or buying one but does anyone know why a passport is necessary?
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Old May 25th, 2017, 10:30 PM
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A vote in favor of getting a smart phone. It really is nice for directions walking around a city.

And I can't answer your question except to say... It's Italy.
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