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International phone?

Nashville, Tennessee
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International phone?

I'm flying into Rome in June should I unlock my iPhone and just get a SIM card, or should I get a prepaid phone, how much is just a SIM card and service and how much would a cheap phone run. Is it possible to get it in the airport? Thanks

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1. Re: International phone?

If your phone is unlocked then you can get a sim card in Italy. There is a thread here on tripadvisor that could help you

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187768-c5431/Italy:S…

Le Marche, Italy
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for Rome, Marche
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2. Re: International phone?

A SIM card costs 10 euros, which includes 5 euros of talk time. It can only be used in an unlocked GSM phone which works on the European bands. An iPhone would work, if you can unlock it. To buy the card, you have to show a passport, which will be photocopied. This is Italian law, an anti-terrorism and anti-organized crime measure.

Otherwise, a cheap phone in Italy costs about 30 euros. I've seen them cheaper, but count on 30 euros.

There may be a phone store in Terminal 3, in the international arrivals hall; as you turn to the right, towards the train station it will be on your left, and is called SmartPhone. For a while this store was closed, but the last time I was there, it seemed to be reopening. If the store isn't open, or doesn't carry cheap phones, you can get both the phone and the SIM card at one of several stores in Termini station, the main train station in Rome.

If you absolutely must have access to a phone immediately, you can buy an Italian SIM card in the US, although you'll pay a lot more. Telestial has genuine Italian SIM cards for $49:

www.telestial.com/view_product.php…

Then you would need a phone, which you can get cheaply on Amazon or EBay. Make sure it's a GSM triband or quadband phone, and that it's not locked.

If you get a SIM card for your iPhone, assuming you get it unlocked, it has to be a miniSIM. I think maybe the iPhone4 requires a microSIM. I don't think Telestial sells either of these.

The various international SIM cards sold have much more expensive call rates than a SIM card for a particular country. Even if you're going to other European countries after Italy, the cost of using an Italian SIM card in those countries would be considerably less than the rates charged by the international SIM cards. If you plan to use the card outside Italy, tell them so, and ask them to activate whatever international calling plan they have. My provider TIM will activate it for free for new customers, but I think they charge 5 euros for existing customers, so activate it when you buy the card. (Other providers may have different rules.)

I wouldn't use an international SIM card for 3G data services except in an extreme emergency. The rates are 20 to 50 times higher (that's 50 times, not 50 %) than the cost of a data service plan on an Italian SIM card. If you buy an Italian SIM card and want to add data services, tell them when you buy it. A reasonable plan costs 2-3 euros per week, and renews itself automatically from your available credit. If you'll be in Europe more than a week, or if you'll be making more than a few calls, you might want to add an extra 5 euros to the credit balance immediately.

Don't buy the SIM cards sold at kiosks in the airport advertising international SIM cards. They are scandalously overpriced, both for the initial cost and the cost per minute for calls, and several people on these forums have reported that they couldn't get them to work.

Indian Wells...
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3. Re: International phone?

I agree with runner1310,

Instead of getting a new phone you can unlock your iPhone permanently and use other networks when ever you want too.To unlock an iPhone the remote unlock service would be a better option because, you need not give your mobile to someone else nor do you have any chance to enter the wrong unlock codes. To get such an unlocking service for your iPhone approach www.onlinegsmunlock.com/apple-iphone/rs7wp9/ and by submitting the country and network to which the mobile is locked to you will be able to remove the restriction from the respective network. This will be a permanent unlocking solution.The simcard and the dataplan ...all depends on the network that you choose.You can get the same in the airport or through online also.

Atlanta, Georgia
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4. Re: International phone?

I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts to bvlenci's excellent advice (since I just went through this myself a couple of weeks ago). By "unlocked" he means a "SIM unlock", which allows your phone to be used on networks other than your home network. Your phone service provider should be willing to give you the code to do this on your phone (you type the code in the first time you install a SIM card for a new network). Many newer phones sold in the US are already SIM unlocked, and it does not seem to be as big of an issue with cell phone companies as it used to be.

If your US service is with a GSM provider (AT&T and T-Mobile are the largest), then all you need to do is replace your existing SIM card with a card from an Italian provider. If your US service is CDMA (Verizon or Sprint), then you will need one of their newer "Global Ready" phones that accepts SIM cards. Note that once you install the Italian SIM card, you will get a new (Italian) phone number and your phone will not answer calls placed to your old US number (until you put your old SIM card back in).

On our recent trip, I actually took two phones. I am on Verizon and had just gotten a new phone about two weeks before the trip. I had Verizon put the new phone (temporarily) on one of their Global Travel plans, so that my US-based phone number would still work. However, I turned off the data connection in Italy since that would be too expensive to use on a regular basis.

I also took my old phone and bought a 2 GB data plan from TIM after I arrived in-country. This allowed me to use the old phone for real-time maps and directions via 3G (very handy for riding the buses in Rome), while still keeping my US phone number active (on the new phone) in case anyone needed to contact me. It also provided me with an Italian phone number that I could use or give out locally if needed, and I was able to set up my old phone as an occasional mobile hot-spot, so that I could connect mine and my wife's (new) phones via Wifi. This allowed us to share the TIM data plan without paying the outrageous US data fees.

The two largest carriers in Italy are TIM (Telecom Italia) and Vodaphone. I went with TIM because they are the largest and have stores all over the place. There is a TIM store in FCO, and also one in Roma Termini train station (I bought my plan at the latter location, and they were very helpful). You are probably better off purchasing the plan at a store that deals frequently with visitors from out-of-country, as they will have the most experience at tweaking the necessary settings to get your phone on the new network (I am told that the TIM store at FCO is a good choice for this). I am pretty tech-savvy and was able to do this myself, but if you think you will need help, then I would try to get it done at the airport as soon as you arrive.

Personally, I would not use my main US phone for this - probably better to purchase a phone once you get there, or just use one of your old phones (or borrow one from a friend). Most of the service in Italy is 3G anyway, so even a phone that is a couple years old should work fine for this. That way if you lose it or it gets stolen it is no big deal. Just make sure that whatever plan you purchase is "rechargeable" ("ricaricabile" in Italian) and that you pay cash for the first month. This will eliminate the chances of accidentally getting recurring charges on your credit card.

-JimG

Le Marche, Italy
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for Rome, Marche
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5. Re: International phone?

Unfortunately, much of what I posted in January 2013 above is now outdated.

If there's now a TIM store at Fiumicino, it's very new. I'd like to know exactly where it's located, if you don't mind.

Terrestial no longer sells Italian SIM cards (which were really overpriced anyway).

TIM now has packet plans, which give you fixed amounts of talk, texts, and data for a month, starting at 15 euros per month. There is an activation charge of 19 euros, but it's much lower for new customers. If you don't want data services, this post has the most recent information:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187791-i22-k70925…

This topic has updates on using data services and international use (read both pages):

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187791-i22-k69843…

TIM's lowest cost packet is now callled TIM Start and costs €15 per month, but includes twice as many minutes of domestic talk time (400 rather than 200) as their earlier plan. Tourists would rarely use this much, so this is not a favorable development. The only thing cheaper would be to get TI€3M Special Voce, with 300 minutes of talk time (NO text messages) for €8, to which you could add 1 gb of data for €5. However, if you don't want data services, you'd be better off with a base tariff, as explained in the first link above. TIM 12 is now the tariff I recommend, as the TIM zero scatti tariff now has a much higher per-minute price.

Once again, the available plans are available only for a very short time, and it's likely that everything will change next month. Obviously, they're trying to confuse us!

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6. Re: International phone?

JimGinAtlanta....did you need to do ((anything)) to your OLD phone ((before)) leaving the US for Italy?

Thank you.

Le Marche, Italy
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7. Re: International phone?

Usually phones that are no longer under contract can be unlocked on request, or maybe some providers unlock them automatically.

8. Re: International phone?

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