Cell phones in Italy

Has anyone had experience with the on-line business "One Sim Card"? We are thinking about buying an unlocked cell phone for my husband to use while we spend a month in Florence. This company will mail one to our home before we go. I have an iPhone and am thinking of adding an international call plan with my carrier (AT&T) for while we're away. Then I'll place it on airplane mode and use data only when we're in a free WiFi location. What do you think of that idea?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7949 posts

I don't know squat about One Sim Card, but you're a bit mixed up. Airplane mode is the 'Switch-that-shouldn't-be' for a phone (as opposed to a tablet). It kills voice, wifi, data, email, and everything that isn't contained within the phone. Just kill cellular data (which also shuts off data roaming) at the departure gate and leave it that way. If you do this, you've a phone and wifi all the time. The ATT international voice plan is ten bucks a month - - ours stay on it since we wander all the time. Calls are a dollar a minute. An international data plan is thirty dollars a month - - we've never had one, but our occassional, quick use of cellular data has an inconsequential cost. Having two phones just to talk to each other when you're in the same area seems to be an overkill if that's the implied question. We tend to move around rather independently and there's nothing that couldn't be said a few hours later. In fact, the only time I've ever talked to my wife when we're both traveling is when we've gotten days or hundreds/thousands of miles apart. If you're going to keep going down this track, I'd be better just to buy a cheapo when you get there. There's a trick to signing up in Italy - - Roberto expalined it a while back, but I can't find the tread in the archives.

Posted by Monique
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
493 posts

I am not sure if this is phone dependant, but I know personally my WiFi DOES work when I put my phone in airplane mode. After putting my phone on airplane mode, Wifi is turned off automatically, so I do have to turn it on manually. No calls, texts, voicemails, etc... But I do get WiFi which allows me to access the internet, my Skype and WhatsApp accounts and the like without using data and incurring roaming charges. I have a Nokia Lumia but perhaps each phone is different with regard to how its airplane mode operates. If you are unsure of this company, you can also get a quad-band unlocked cell phone on eBay. Or call AT&T, tell them that you are traveling, and have them walk you through steps to unlock your own phone. I have AT&T also and they will do this for you in a few easy steps. One thing to remember is that some smartphones use the micro SIMs, which may be harder to find than a normal sized SIM (I don't know, just something to think about). When we were in Florence for 2 months, we went to a tabacchi and bought SIM for 10 euro each, stuck in the phones we had brought with us, activated the numbers and were set.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17716 posts

@Monique, Just to clarify, "Airplane Mode" will disable ALL wireless functions in the phone, including Wi-Fi. By manually switching it back on, you're re-activating only that one specific part of the phone. "Airplane Mode" is still activated, which means that voice, text and other functions are still "off". Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17716 posts

Connie, I've never dealt with One Sim Card but I'd suggest comparing their rates and features with some of the other "travel phone" firms - Roam Simple, Cellular Abroad, Call In Europe, Telestial, Mobal, EuroBuzz, Tru-Phone or others. Another option would be to buy an unlocked quad-band GSM phone off E-Bay, and then buy a local SIM when you arrive in Florence. I've heard that a Codice Fiscale may be required to buy SIM's these days, but hopefully one of the others can confirm that. You could also use a SIM card from one of the above travel phone firms in the unlocked phone. Be sure to check the Chargers for ANY electrical products you'll be travelling with, to ensure they're designed for multi-voltage operation. You will of course need Plug Adaptors. Regarding your iPhone, which model is it? Some models have two switches for data - Cellular Data and Data Roaming. If you plan on just using it for texts and occasional voice calls, using an AT&T international roaming & data plan could be a reasonable option. As Ed mentioned, if you leave it in airplane mode, ALL wireless functions will be "off", so you won't be able to communicate using voice or text either. One other point - if you leave the phone portion "on", any calls to your number at home will be forwarded to you in Florence. YOU will be paying for those. Especially annoying are calls received in the "wee hours" of the morning by some moron that didn't bother to check the time difference. Also, if your husband wants to call you, he'll have to dial your U.S. number and will pay the long distance, and you'll pay for the incoming call. There are all kinds of scenarios to consider...... Happy travels!

Posted by Monique
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
493 posts

@Ken: gotcha! Thanks for clarifying that! BTW, I would also be interested in knowing what's required to get a SIM in Italy now-a-days. Last time I did the SIM card thing there was in 2011. Have things changed? As someone mentioned, a lot will have to do with what you plan to use the phone for. If it's to confirm reservations and the like, I would get the iPhone unlocked and buy a SIM while I'm there, then use WiFi to check email and such. If it's to keep in touch with each other, you both need Italian SIMs, in which case I would do the above AND get an unlocked phone off eBay (or get your husband's phone unlocked through your carrier) and get him an Italian SIM too. If you need to keep in touch with family back home, I would download Skype to my iPhone and use it in a WiFi area.

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

Italy is one of the European countries with low phone and data costs. Check the Trip Advisor Italy forum for the latest on costs and best places to get a cheap prepaid SIM card.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3297 posts

In order to get an Italian cell phone number you need a codice fiscale, an Italian tax ID. The code can be derived from name, last name, sex, date and place of birth. In most cases the phone shop will calculate it for you, but sometimes the won't. Therefore get it for yourself using the website below: http://codicefiscale.it/ Cognome is the last name Nome is the first name Sesso is sex (m or f is like in English)
Comune o Stato Estero Di Nascita is City or foreign countries of birth (enter Stati Uniti d'America) Data Di Nascita is date of birth, enter as dd/mm/yyyy. Then click on calcola button. Print and take the code with you.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17716 posts

@Monique, I don't have a lot of information on how to obtain an Italian (or other country) SIM, as I don't use them. However, Roberto has provided good information on that topic in the previous reply. I've used roaming with my home cell network in the past (fairly reasonable for texts or just a few voice calls) but more recently a "travel SIM" with one of the travel phone firms that I frequently mention. As I'm typically in several countries on each trip, I prefer a plan that provides the same rates regardless of which country I'm in. I also like the post-paid billing (calls charged to a credit card), so that I don't have to bother with "topping up". Cheers!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

I took my unlocked A&T GSM phone to Italy. After buying a SIM card in Florence, it wouldn't work. Customer Service was thru an Italian automated attendent, and I just gave up. It was actually nice not talking to anyone for two weeks. I made it 37 years without a cell phone, and have no problem traveling without voice communications. I just used the internet on WiFi at my hotels.
You can buy a phone when you get to Italy that works like our TracPhones. I would carry a notebook or some way to get on the internet, however. Most hotels do have WiFi or computers in their lobbies.

Posted by Miguel
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA
258 posts

It's a pain in the A@#, They speak Italian (unless you speak Italian) and we speak English. See the problem already? I got a SIMM card and all I could do was make phone calls and text. I'm sure I paid for a certain amount of data, but when I asked a couple of times what was going on, they just told me I had an US phone, they shrugged, patted me on the head and asked me to leave. I wanted to use the map feature on the phone, but after a while "forget about it". I wasn't going to spend my whole time on vacation trying to figure out a stupid phone, there's just to much to enjoy. In my opinion get a call, text prepaid plan and shut off any data. I found WiFi when I could and had the time of my life. After a while I forgot I had a phone until at night I called to check on things back home and charge the phone. Sorry but that's my opinion on cell phones in EU.