Italian Culture – Mobile Phones For The Traveler In Italy
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During previous trips to Italy, in order to have voice and data service on our cell phones, we had chosen to use our existing Verizon SIM and just add the international plan. This seemed to be the easiest approach, but we quickly learned that their plan is garbage. During our first trip (with a cell) we quickly ran out of the 100Mb of data as we leveraged Google Maps to help us navigate around. Verizon ‘helpfully’ charged us an additional $40 to add more data and we continued on our merry way. After returning home and seeing the huge bill, we were certain that there must be a better way.
One our next trip, I still stuck with Verizon’s plan, knowing it was bad, but also wanting to be able to receive work calls on this phone. I was such a good worker! My wife had read a bit and learned that getting a SIM from a local provider was a good option, so we tried it. We had probably 10X the amount of data available, a local number and voice. The price was around $25 for longer than the duration of the trip and worked flawlessly. I limited my data usage on my Verizon phone, didn’t receive or make any calls, and once again decided that I had chosen poorly.
On my recent trip, I decided work didn’t need me and I would communicate with my family solely using WhatsApp. While I continue to be suspicious of Facebook (owner of WhatsApp), I also knew it was hugely popular in Europe and could work as an alternative to cellular. After I arrived in Rome, and checked into my beautiful hotel room at the Residenza Cellini, I walked back to the TIM store in Termini and bought a SIM.
TIM, Telecom Italia
They were helpful and had plans available for travelers. There were various options (see picture) and while I could’ve made it my life’s work to find the best plan, for 26€, they offered 30Gb data, Unlimited Chat (WhatsApp) for a month. This seemed to meet my needs and 26€ seems reasonable. Again, in hindsight, I didn’t need all that data, but I won’t lose any sleep with my decision.
Travelers have some limitations that local customers don’t. Importantly, one is how you can track your usage. You cannot register and use the MyTIM website. The only way is to download the MyTIM Mobile app from the app store and check when you AREN’T connected to Wi-Fi. Admittedly, I had to make an additional visit to the TIM store to square this away, but hopefully this guidance will save you a step.
As my plan didn’t include SMS, since that is over the voice network, I got charged a few coins when I accidentally sent a text. I say ‘accidentally’ because being new to WhatsApp, I was not as clear as I should’ve been regarding how I was sending texts. Totally my bad, but a good lesson learned.
Advice #3 (Final!):
Bring a paperclip and a small box. I used a plastic box from my SD card, which worked well. The salesperson at the SIM store will offer to help, but if you run into issues or need a safe place to store your local SIM while abroad, you’ll be happy you have them.
I believe this was the right choice for me, and unless you need to get calls on your local phone number, it may be a good option for you!
Forza e Coraggio!