Use Your Mobile Phone in Italy

How to use a United States GSM mobile phone in Italy

Cell Phone Use in Italy

You will notice a vast majority of people in Italy walk and talk on the phone. When I am in Italy I am compelled to use my phone more than in the U.S. I use what most Italians call a 'pay as you go'. This is perfect for tourists since you are always in control of the charges and there are no contracts or bills.

Basic level cell phones in Italy sell for less than €30. TIM, Vodafone, Wind, Tre, have cheap entry level 'pay as you go' rates. €5 can get you a SIM card for your phone. You will be required to show an ID document and your physcal code.




Currently 50% of new US cell phones function internationally, so check with your carrier. Be aware that you could be roaming at approximately $1 per minute plus tax and you will be paying for both outgoing and incoming calls.


A better option is to purchase an Italian SIM card for your cell phone so you can pay the Italian cell rates and all incoming calls are free from anywhere in the world. This option will only work if your phone has either the 900 MHz or 1800 MHz bands that are used in Italy. You must also make sure that your phone is unlocked, meaning that it will accept SIM cards other than those from the U.S. While carriers in the U.S. will unlock your cell phone it can vary from carrier to handset.


Besides unlimited free incoming calls you can expect to pay about €00.15c a minute for local calls and €00.50c to €00.60c per minute for international calls. SIM cards are available at any cell phone store in Italy.




If your current cell phone will not work in Italy you have two options: rent or buy.


Cellular Abroad is an online company in the U.S. that offers Italian SIM cards as well as cell phone rentals to North Americans traveling to Italy. They sell an Italian SIM card that has been designed for U.S. and Canadian travelers as all the voice prompts and customer service are in English and the rates back to North America and Canada are lower than usual roaming charges.


Students or anyone staying in Italy for a month or more should consider purchasing a cell phone with an Italian SIM card. If you do not speak Italian or will be making a significant number of calls back home Cellular Abroad is a good option.


If you are only staying in Italy for a couple of weeks or less Cellular Abroad also rents cell phones, but phone prices have dropped enough that if you need a phone for longer than a month it is cheaper to buy one. While we recommend Cellular Abroad for the convenient and affordable solutions they offer, other companies are available that offer bill pay solutions.


For a more in-depth look at Italian cellular services read the article below.


More on Cell Phones - SIM Cards


By Paolo Nascimbeni



Wednesday, December 24TH, 2008 by Guest


This past Summer I took my family to Italy. We all had unlocked Blackberry 8320 Curves GSM phones with TIM phone cards we bought before we left the United States. We had our Italian phone numbers in advance and we were able to give them to our friends and family.

We purchased the TIM cards through We have had fantastic experience with this company. Their prices are low, their customer service is fantastic, their website is very easy to use. We highly recommend them.

I have a question about 3G networks in Italy. If I we go to Italy again, should I consider upgrading to a 3G phone? How much of Italy and Europe using 3G?

May thanks. You article is very helpful and knowledgeable.

Glenn Heffernan

Friday, February 27TH, 2009 by Guest

Hi guys, it seems that TIM is really the only choice for a prepaid sim card... Wind is very visitor-unfriendly, my wife has been refused in 6 Wind stores in Milano because she hasn't had an italian passport. Finally she had to ask some Italian to help her with a sim card. It's been very frustrating...

Friday, April 10TH, 2009 by Guest

I get upgraded with a new cell phone once a year from AT&T, I tried to bring my old Samsung SGH-C417 to Italy to give to my fiance. When I put her SIM card in, it doesn't work. How do I get this to work? OR can I? Thanks.

Wednesday, June 15TH, 2011 by Guest

This is a great article. The cell phone issue creeps up every time I have to go to Italy and I can imagine its the same for everyone, and more challenging for those going for the first time.