How to use a United States GSM mobile phone 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.
By Paolo Nascimbeni