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bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

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bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

While researching cell phone plans for Italy, I came across a post from bvlenci on Fordors. I'm wondering if you might be able to help demystify the myriad of plans and help me figure out the best plan for our trip.

I will be traveling 11-Sep to 06-Oct, 2014. I am taking a cruise (departs/returns to Venice 14-Sep to 21-Sep) with friends that has ports of call in Italy, Greece and Croatia. My boyfriend will fly over to meet me in Venice 20-Sep and we will travel together throughout Italy when the cruise ends.

We would like to be able to communicate with each other (phone/text) and to folks back home while staying connected so that we can continue running our business while away.

We each have an unlocked iphone (a 3 and 4). What would you recommend? I would love to have a number before I arrive but it is not a deal breaker.

I really appreciate any assistance you can offer. We will be going to Venice Cinque Terre, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii. We will have a car for three days and will drive Tuscany (possibly with a side trip to Assisi). Any tips you have on those areas are also greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Le Marche, Italy
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1. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

It sounds as though you'll have no need for data services, and will use the phones only for calls and texts. Is that correct?

If so, you would be best to get SIM cards with a simple basic pay-as-you-go plan for calls and texts in Italy. These will cost €10 each, including a €5 initial credit. My provider is TIM, so I know more about their rates, but Vodafone is another reliable provider, with similar plans.

TIM has two basic plans. TIM Zero Scatti is the best plan if most of your calls will be short, such as "Meet me back at the hotel". With this plan, calls are 29 cents a minute, but there is no connection charge, and they're charged by the second, so a 10-second call will cost you 5 cents. The other plan, TIM 12, is best for long calls; it costs 12 cents a minute, but you're charged by the minute, starting immediately, and there's an 18-cent connection charge. That means that a one-second call will cost you 30 cents, the same as a one-minute call. Text messages cost 15 cents with both plans.

When you get the SIM cards, you can add extra credit if you think the €5 (a little over 15 minutes of calls with TIM 12) won't be enough. Otherwise, you can top it up at a tobacco shop or in a bar. You have to tell them your provider, your phone number, and how much you want to add (in 5-euro increments).

If you'd like to use your phone on your shore excursions while you're on the cruise, you should activate TIM in Viaggio at the time you buy the SIM card. This costs nothing to activate, and it lets you make calls to anywhere in the EU or the USA for 16 cents a minute, with a 16-cent connection charge. Text messages will cost 16 cents. You should add extra credit before setting off on your cruise if you think you'll need it, because it's not as easy to do that once you're outside of Italy. TIM in Viaggio is only good when you're outside Italy. If you'll want to make international calls while you're in Italy, you should ask for the TIM International New plan, which allows you to call most European countries, the US, and many other countries for 20 cents a minute or less, depending on the country. For new clients, it can be activated free, so there's no reason not to activate it.

You should write down exactly what you want, for example:

TIM Zero Scatti

TIM International New

TIM in Viaggio Full

If you want to add extra credit at a bar or tobacco shop, write down:

TIM ricarica [10 euro]

phone number

Some places don't have electronic terminals for topping up credit and will sell you a scratch card instead. For these, you don't need the phone number. You call a toll-free number from the phone you want to recharge and follow the instructions (in several languages). They'll ask you to enter the PIN, which you reveal by scratching a box on the back with a coin to reveal the number.

Orlando, FL
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2. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Thank you for your detailed reply. I'm sorry if it was not clear, we will also need data to keep up with business back home.

Is TIM in Viaggio an add on to the TIM International New or a separate plan?

If I want to use Viaggio while cruising and International while in Italy, would I have to get two SIM cards?

Are we charged for both incoming and outgoing texts (i.e., what happens when we text each other)?

Kochi (Cochin...
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3. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Not to hijack this thread but what would you recommend for a data only or primarily data with minimal calling plan?

What are your thoughts on the tim international welcome plan? www.international.tim.it/en/tim-welcome

Thank you.

Le Marche, Italy
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4. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

If you want to use data, I'd advise different plans and options. Before I head down another wrong track, while you're in Italy, will you be making international calls?

TIM International is an option, not a different SIM card, but it's not compatible with some of the data roaming plans. If you'll need data while on your cruise, you should get TIM in Viaggio Pass (€10) for that week rather than TIM in Viaggio Full. However, I found I couldn't activate it along with TIM International New.

When you need data (this is also in answer to Fahd) you're almost always better off with a bundle that includes calls, and it almost always has far more minutes than you'll need. The TIM Welcome plan is especially convenient for tourists who will be making calls to the covered countries while they're in Italy, and who will need data services.

If both of you will give me more specific details about your probable usage, I can give you more specific details about these plans and options.

Kochi (Cochin...
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5. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Thank you so much for your help. My primary use is data only as I was planning on using Skype for all my calls back home to India. But it looks like calls to India are pretty cheap on the tim plans. So I'd love to hear what you would do in my place. :)

Grazie mille!

Orlando, FL
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6. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Thank you again for all your help. We really appreciate the detailed information you have provided. For us, phone calls would be to Italian numbers, Canada, the States and possibly to a German cell phone.

Le Marche, Italy
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7. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Curly, the TIM Welcome plan might be the best option for you. It costs €20 and gives you 200 minutes of talk time, which can be used to call Italian numbers, but also for calls to many other countries. I also gives you 2 gb of data. However, this plan can only be used inside Italy. For the week you'll be on your cruise, the TIM in Viaggio Pass plan, which costs another €10 will give you 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 500 mb of data, which can be used outside of Italy in any country in Europe or the USA.

However, there seem to be unstated restrictions on the use of TIM in Viaggio Pass. I recently found I couldn't activate it because I also had the TIM International New plan, which is used inside Italy to make calls to other countries. I can't find anything on their website that mentions this restriction, so I wonder if there are other restrictions. Assuming you can activate both of these options, your total cost would be €40 (€10 to purchase a SIM card, €20 for TIM Welcome, and €10 for TIM in Viaggio Pass).

If you can't activate TIM in Viaggio Pass, you could use TIM in Viaggio Full instead. This is an option that costs nothing to activate, but you pay for phone calls and data as you use them. Calls within Europe or to the US cost 16 cents a minute with a 16-cent connection charge. Data services cost €3 per day, but you're charged only on days you actually connect to a data network. If you use data more than three times while on the cruise, you'll pay more than you would with TIM in Viaggio Pass, but it's still a reasonable option. You should keep data services turned off unless you actually want to pay €3 for that day, and you should make sure you have enough credit on your SIM card before leaving Italy to cover your call and data expenses while you're on the cruise.

It seems as though your boyfriend will be in Italy only for a week. If so, he could activate TIM Tutto Compreso Unlimited Settimanale which is just for one week and costs €10. It allows unlimited calls and texts within Italy plus 500 mb of data. If he'll be in Italy for more than a week, the next cheapest plan is TIM 4G Limited Edition, which costs €15, is good for a month, and gives 200 minutes, 200 texts, and 500 mb. If he wants to make international calls from Italy, he also should activate TIM International New.

Le Marche, Italy
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8. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Fahd, if the only thing you wanted the data for was to use Skype to call India, it might be best to get a basic calling plan, such as TIM Zero Scatti, which I mentioned in response number 1 above, and activate TIM International New, which has a low rate of 1 cent a minute for calls to India (but with a 16-cent connection charge). If you need data for other things besides Skype, I think TIM Welcome would be your best choice. One of the countries you can call with the 200 minutes it gives you is India.

Kochi (Cochin...
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9. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Sorry for the late response. I must have missed the update email from TA.

Yes, I am leaning towards the "TIM Welcome" offer as I will be using data for email, browsing, navigation, etc.

On a related note, are SIM cards available in micro-SIM size or is it possible to get them cut to size at the stores itself?

Thanks again for all your help and advise! :)

Le Marche, Italy
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10. Re: bvlenci - Best SIM for Italy & Cruise Sep-Oct-2014?

Yes, the micro-SIM cards are available.