You can by them at tobacconists and bars. 001 is the usual prefix on a landline phone to call the USA. You break off a corner from memory, and they come, I think, in €10 and €20 values.
There are one or two cards @ 5 Euro, you get 300 minutes to the US. When used from a landline (hotel) it was minute for minute for usage, on a payphone 3 minutes were 'used' for every 1 minute of talk. Payphones are few and far between in all three cities you mention, just like here in the US. Always ascertain the card can be used to call the USA, some are only for European calls. Once I purchased a card that worked in Rome, but not in Sorrento.
After dialing the 800 number on the back of the card, follow the prompts and then you dial 001 - area code - phone number. Don't forget there's a 9 hr time difference between Italy and SF.
The cards Lynn mentions are designed to be used in pay phones, which, as Ocpony says, are becoming increasingly rare. The kind Ocpony mentions can be used from any phone.
Before I had access to Skype, I used to use the Sisal Edicard Europa&USA. It's sold anywhere that has a Sisal terminal, which are also used to sell Superenalotto (lottery) tickets, as well as for paying bills. You'll see the signs on bars, tobacco shops, and sometimes in stationery stores. It works exactly as OcPony says, except there are four different rate levels, each with a different number of minutes available. There are various phone numbers to dial on the front, depending on which rate structure you're using. The rate levels are:
1. Making a local call to an Italian number, from a normal phone, such as a hotel phone. This gives the most minutes, but since you'll also have to pay for the local call, it may not be the cheapest.
2. Dialing an 800 number from a normal phone. This is what I always used, as it was the cheapest all around.
3. Making a call from a cell phone; there are different numbers to dial, depending on your provider.
4. Making a call from a public phone. This is absolutely the worst in terms of minutes available.
The instructions on the card (which may not be a card, but a paper receipt) are in Italian and English. When you dial the number, you'll be prompted to choose your language.
HI, Bvlenci, in your post, no 2 says dial an 800 no form a normal phone.
what does normal phone means ?
Does anyone knows if hotel charge you for calling out with your phone
card, if you get more mins but have to pay through the roof for local
phone calls or toll free calls, then it might still be better to find a public
telephone. Does the Rome airport sell either types of telephone cards
mentioned. above. How can I tell if my card is only for calling Europe or
can call US ?
sorry for all the questions. No experience with this.
I appreciate anyone with experience in this to share the info with me.
So I presume there is no one telephone card that can work in different
Barb, do bars still have phone booths? I recall using one frequently in San Gimignano and a few other towns, pre mobile days. The barman had a sort of calculator and you were charged according to that, but it was free if you used a phone card.
I use the phone cards every trip to Italy. When I purchase them I always specify to the store employee that I want an international phone card to call to the United States.
I am assuming that a "normal phone" is simply a land line and not a cell phone. I think it depends on your hotel if they charge for local calls or 800 number calls. Some hotels I have stayed did charge for the out going connection, most times a set fee for the connection. You can buy the cards in different denominations....the cheapest/most common being 5 euro for about 180 minutes, sometimes up to 300 minutes. I have asked when I purchased the card how many minutes and usually was told "I don't know" by the store employee. I usually don't find out how many minutes I have available until I make the first call and the recorded voice tells me what I have.
You dial the 800 number which prompts you to use your key number which is printed on the card/sheet of paper and then you are prompted to enter the number you are calling. As you are connected to your number, the voice recording tells you how many minutes you have remaining.
I have used the cards without any difficulty at pay phones through out Italy. I search out where phones might be....I know there are several banks of phones on the street just before crossing over into Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's) in Rome. I have never had much difficulty locating a public phone.
I also have never had a problem using the same card in different areas of Italy....where I have purchased the card in one area and then used it in another.
I was not aware that using the card in a public phone results in a more rapid use of your minutes. That could be though because it did seem that I would think I had more minutes remaining than the voice recording would tell me I had.
I do not know, but don't believe there is a card that works in all countries. Have never attempted to purchase a card at the FCO airport....so can't be certain if it is possible. Only makes sense that you should be able to do so.
By normal phone, I meant a land line that's not a public phone.
There's a law in Italy (or at least I think there still is) that hotels can't charge for local calls more than they pay themselves. However, I would check the rates, because, who knows, they may have a strange telephone carrier that has high rates for local calls. In Italy, free local calls are almost unknown, so there is always some charge for local calls. I think it's almost certain that you'd be better off calling an 800 number from your hotel phone.
How long ago was that, Lynn? I haven't seen a phone in a bar for a long time. Maybe I'm just not noticing them. I'll try to make a point of seeking them out and report back. I often see places that have the old phone sign hanging outside, but that's all that's left.
Once, about ten years ago, my car died when I was at a shopping center, and I discovered that my cell phone wasn't charged. I asked in nearly every store in the center where I could find a pay phone, and no one could tell me. There was one in the center, and I finally found it, but it just goes to show you that even then, pay phones were hardly even considered.
When you buy a phone card, the seller can't tell you how many minutes you have, because it depends on which number you call, and what type of phone you're calling from. You get a *lot* fewer minutes from a public phone.
At the airport there are some kiosks selling international phone cards, sim cards for sell phones, and the like. These are mostly *huge* ripoffs. I've seen reports of people paying five times what they should have for a SIM card which they weren't even able to use. Be very careful there! I recommend you go to a Sisal distributor and get the Sisal Edicard, or to a post office, which also sells international calling cards. There are also reliable cards sold by newsstands, bars, and tobacco shops, but I don't know the brand names. If you stick to the two I've mentioned, you should have no problem.
I am going back to 2002 and 2006, I must admit.