Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   SIM cards in Italy,Germany, Austria, & Czech Republic (

okminty Apr 20th, 2015 09:46 AM

SIM cards in Italy,Germany, Austria, & Czech Republic
My wife and I will be traveling in Italy for 6 weeks on our own but with some friends and family joining us from time to time. At the end of Italy we will be traveling to Austria, Germany and Czech Republic and then back to Italy. All travel is by car.
My question is about which SIM to buy. I have an iPhone 4S and can get it unlocked. Current carrier is AT&T and they want a lot of money for International Package. So if I go with a SIM for Italy, which one is best. Most calls and TXT will be to the aforementioned guests joining us and to restaurants for reservations and of course if there is a problem. Most Data can wait till I get to a WIFI spot.
I also saw there were SIMs I could buy before I go and some after. Does anyone have experience with both ways?

greg Apr 20th, 2015 10:50 AM

Spending so much time in Italy, it would make sense to get an Italian SIM. I liked TIM SIM. There are packages like this, voice and data, data only but they cannot be used beyond 30 days. I think you have to get another card at that point. TIM SIM card I have used, voice and text roamed well in other European countries. This was not always the case for prepaid SIM cards from other countries. For use like this, getting a SIM card before you go would be likely to be less favorable than getting a card after you arrived in Italy unless you have t-mobile USA Simple Choice plan.

bvlenci Apr 20th, 2015 11:35 AM

The SIM cards you can buy before you go are not Italian SIM cards, and, like Greg, I suggest you get an Italian SIM card. The so-called international cards sometimes have fairly decent rates for calls, but I've never seen one with good rates for data.

The TIM Welcome card is probably the best you can get for your first month. The first one mentioned by Greg includes talk time as well as internet, and the calls include calls to the US and to other countries in Europe, if you want to call home, or make reservations in the other countries you're visiting.

The second plan mentioned by Greg doesn't include talk time, which would be pay as you go, but it has more data. Neither plan covers text messages, which would be pay as you go.

At the end of the month, you'd need to get a different plan, because TIM Welcome is designed for tourists and has a maximum duration of one month. You wouldn't have to get a new card, though, just a new plan. You could visit a TIM store a few days before TIM Welcome dies, and get something else. What you should get at that point depends on the use you're making of the card, but something like the TIM Special Start plan mentioned on this page:

With any of the other regular plans, calls to places outside of Italy would be at long-distance rates. That would be 50 cents a minute, plus a 16-cent connection charge.

You don't mention how long you'll be in Germany, Austria, and the
Czech Republic, but unless it's more than a few weeks in any one country, you'd be better off roaming with your Italian SIM card. Tim has two different roaming plans. TIM in Viaggio Pass costs 15 euros for a week, and gives you 300 minutes of talk, to anywhere in Europe or the US, plus 300 texts (also Europe/USA) and 500 mb of data. You can activate it when you buy the SIM card, and it won't take effect until the first time you use the phone outside of Italy. It can be renewed at the end of the week by sending a text message TIMPASS ON to the number 40916.

The other roaming plan is called TIM in Viaggio Full and is pay-as-you-go; it might be better if you're mostly using wifi. Calls within Europe or the US are 16 cents a minute, with a 16-cent connection charge, and internet costs €3 per day, for 25 mb, only charged on days you actually use data services. If you make very few calls, and only use the data services four days of the week, this plan might be cheaper than the TIM in Viaggio Pass. This plan costs nothing to activate; you just need to ask them to activate it when you buy the SIM card. It also never expires. If you get the TIM in Viaggio Pass plan and don't renew it at the end of the week, you're automatically enrolled in TIM in Viaggio Full from then on. So, if you get TIM in Viaggio Pass and will be outside of Italy for ten days, you shouldn't renew the Pass plan at the end of the week, because it would be cheaper to use the Full plan for the other three days.

Before leaving Italy, make sure there's enough money on the card to pay for any expenses you'll incur outside Italy, such as renewing the Pass plan, or paying for pay-as-you-go services. It's impossible to top up an Italian SIM card outside of Italy unless you have an Italian credit card, or enroll in Paypal using an Italian credit card.

crosscheck Apr 20th, 2015 04:22 PM

I used to routinely get SIMs for long stays in Europe, but don't any more because everyone there is using Whatsapp (for texts) and Viber, Facetime or Skype (for calls). For those you just need to be a wifi zone or have a data plan. Many US providers are now offering very reasonable data options that include 100 minutes of free calls. (I use Verizon - t-Mobile offers free intl. data, but voice reception where I live is awful.) I would look into the US data option with your existing number before you give up your US phone number and go through the hassle of switching to a foreign SIM. Everyone we dealt with 6 months ago in Croatia, Spain and the Czech Republic exclusively used whatsapp or FT to communicate.

Several of my son's friends who studied in Italy got the TIM SIM, but ended up using their US phones with a data plan.

okminty Apr 25th, 2015 11:51 AM

Thanks for all the info. Looks like I'll start with Tim Welcome and then decide which plan I need after that. The two weeks outside of Italy will be just us so I would only use it for reservations to eat. We have all our accommodations taken care of. I think all the places we are staying at have WIFI so I'll use that for most of my internet access. Calls will be to the people who are meeting us over in Italy and in case they get lost. Again, thanks for all the input.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:40 PM.