Cell Phones - spell it out for me.

I'm taking my 65 year old mother to Italy. She would like each of us to have a cell phone to stay in touch during the days when she stays back to rest. She is also worried about getting separated. The phones don't have to access the internet and they won't be used to call the US. Can I buy the unlocked phones here to save money and sim cards in Italy?
Where can I get them? What brands are compatible? Please spell it out for me. Thanks.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6320 posts

You can buy a very inexpensive phone in Italy, around €30 each. Comes loaded with ten minutes, you can buy more as you need them.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1903 posts

You might also want to check with your US carrier. Verizon has a nice loaner program, which I've used a couple of times. If you already have an appropriate GSM phone from another carrier, you may be able to use your phone. If you buy an Italian phone, just keep in mind that notices (eg, warning you're almost out of time) and instructions for installing more time will be in Italian (not surprisingly). When I took that route, I'd get someone working for the hotel to install time, but it was a problem a couple of times when I heard a notice on the phone and had no idea what it was trying to tell me (until the phone stopped working, since the time was gone). I used an Italian phone one time and then decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
350 posts

Regardless of whether or not you buy a Europe plan on your existing US phones or buy unlocked phones and get pay as you go sim cards in Italy, make sure that your mother knows how to dial the number of your phone. If you use your American phones, you will be making a call that has to be prefaced with +1 (the + indicates it's international and 1 is the country code for the US), then area code and then the number. If you buy Italian phones you will get Italian phone numbers and you should make sure you write out the exact order of numbers to dial to reach each other. YOu won't need the country code for example to dial each other. The phone shop should be able to help you. Are you staying in cities or going to the country? You can often get your Italian phone reloaded at tobacco shops. They normally have a sign in the window showing the phone company logos.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22580 posts

Tracey, Yes, you can certainly buy unlocked, quad-band GSM phones here and use those with Italian SIM cards. However, recent posts here would seem to indicate that you'll need to obtain a Codice Fiscale and register for phone service with your Passport. I don't have the details on the Codice Fiscale, but hopefully one of the others can provide that information. Another option you could consider would be to buy a couple of phones with SIM's from one of the "travel phone" firms such as Roam Simple, Cellular Abroad, Call In Europe, Telestial, Mobal, EuroBuzz, One SIM or Max Roam. You'll have to check their respective websites for details and costs. They typically provide numbers based in the U.K., but have consistent rates throughout Europe. Some have post-paid billing (calls charged to a credit card) so no need to top-up when you've depleted your minutes. I've been using a SIM from one of the above firms for the last few years, and so far it's worked really well. Depending on which type of phones you buy, could easily program the numbers into the directory in each phone, so it wouldn't be a problem for your mother to remember the number of your phone. If you're both "comfortable" using text messages, that's by far the cheapest way to keep in touch (received texts are usually FREE). Happy travels!

Posted by carmen
alexandria, va, usa
31 posts

Hi Tracey, I've been reading blogs on RS and they have good reviews on Cellomobile that I got one for my family. We are going to Italy next week and their prices are reasonable. they lend you a phone and it's only $1.99/day. Any incoming call or texts are free but if you call it is 99c/call and when you text it is around 69c per message. They delivered my phone a week in advance. Learn more about it at www.cellomobile.com hope this helps!!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8054 posts

It's so easy to simply buy phones when you arrive in Italy. We bought a couple of phones in Spain last trip for 25 euro each. Each came with a phone, charger, SIM card plus ten euro call credit at 8 euro cents per minute. I'd recommend waiting because you may buy phones ahead of time only to find they aren't really unlocked or don't work when you get to Italy. If that's the case, the phones you bought are paperweights and you will still need to buy phones there. When you purchase phones, don't leave the store/kiosk until they set the phones up for you and you have made a test call from both phones to be sure they're working. Trying to set the phone up in a different language may be difficult.

Posted by shirley
Toronto, Canada
350 posts

Just a note: I've purchased a phone and various sim cards in Italy. I did not need a codice fiscale, but I did need to show my passport to the vendor (WIND and Tim).

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1281 posts

Tracey, I also researched Cello Mobile and will be renting 2 phones from them for our upcoming trip in August. My husband and I each want a phone just in case we get lost from each other and also so that tour guides can get in touch with us if necessary; we don't plan to use them to call back to the U.S. (will use Face Time or Skype for that). Cello Mobile does seem to have consistently good decent reviews and as Carmen said, they charge $1.99/day per day for the first phone and $.99/day for subsequent phones AND they also give a 10% discount when you rent 2 phones or more, so for my 21-day trip, they quoted me $75.22 which I felt was a good price. I considered purchasing a phone here and buying a sim card when I land in Italy but I really don't want to deal with on screen messages and prompts in Italian and also with wasting time finding a store as well as increasing the minutes. With Cello Mobile, they simply charge you after you return for the minutes used. If you frequently travel to Europe, it might make more sense to purchase a phone & then purchase new sim cards when you travel but we don't travel to Europe more than every 3-4 years so I didn't see the point in owning the phone.

Posted by Kristen
620 posts

I used text plus which was free. It assigned me a phone number and I picked a user name. My family members who were also going on the trip signed up and got a phone numbers/user names and that is how I found them on text plus. You can also find people through facebook. You do not put in people's names or phone numbers. They choose to sign up themselves. We were in a very (free) wireless friendly part of Europe so it was a free way to communicate with people. Just a suggestion.

Posted by Kristen
620 posts

The last few times my family and I went to Europe, we all brought our own cell phones and communicated via text message. We all have ATT. It is 25 cents to send a text message but free to receive it was from an ATT carrier, even though we were international. In a few pinches (missed trains, etc) we just called and kept it short. Last trip, we were there for a month, and my cell phone bill was an extra $50. I think this was easier than going through the hassle of buying a different cell phone and getting some type of plan. Also, I haven't been to Italy in awhile so don't know how wireless friendly it is. But if you have wireless and smart phone, there are apps you can download where you can text message each other using the wireless.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6625 posts

I'm in Italy and we just did this. We bought two cheap unlocked quadband phones through Amazon, then when we arrived in Venice, I went to one of the several TIM outlets in the city. (TIM is the largest cellular company in Italy.) I bought two SIM cards for 24 euros each, I think. They came with 100 free minutes, 100 free texts and then 10 euros built in credit for calls within Italy. He needed my passport for both cards. He had to punch in a bunch of numbers, and I had to sign eight different places, but the phones were working within 30 minutes. No codice fiscale needed. Because we are planning to return to Italy every couple of years, the cards have to be renewed annually to avoid losing the number permanently. That can be done by calling TIM, apparently.

Posted by Simon
19 posts

Don't bother. Really. You will be making one or two calls a day of a minute or two duration just to tell each other where you are.
The roaming charges between Europe and the US have come down dramatically in the last year or so. Unless you are very unfortunate (do check) you will be paying 50 cents or so in making the calls. Getting phones in Italy is simply not worth the bother (or expense) these days for most average users staying less than a month.