Cheapest Cell phone use in Italy

Does anyone have recommendations on a better cell phone service while in Italy? I have Iphone5 but Verizon says it won't work there, I need to rent a loaner phone for $25.00 before I leave the U.S. and long distance charges are 99 cents a minute; text messaging is 50 cents per outgoing, and 5 cents to receive. The last time I used this Global Assist Program, they sent me an archaic loaner phone with no keyboard. Appreciate your suggestions!

Posted by Fred
Midlothian, VA, USA
2 posts

I used wwww.cellomobile earlier this month without problems. I would check out all fees before ordering.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5412 posts

Do you need a smart phone or just a phone that is not too smart for voice and text? If all you need is a phone to make calls and text messages, for $25 you can buy a cheap phone online (e-bay, amazon,, etc.).
Make sure it's an UNLOCKED GSM QUAD (or DUAL) BAND (you can enter these search words in the website you use). Europe uses the GSM system (in the US it is the system used by AT&T). However the GSM in use in Europe uses the band 900 and 1800 MHz, whereas in the US the frequency used is 850 and 1900 MHz. That is why you will need a dual or quad band, to make sure you have the right European frequencies of 900-1800 Mhz. Once you have a phone purchased in the US, you will need an Italian SIM card with an Italian number. You can purchase a SIM card in any mobile phone store with any of the major cell phone providers in Italy (TIM, Vodafone, Wind, 3). My unlocked Iphone5 works in Italy, maybe because it's an AT&T (GSM system). Also if you have a phone on contract with your provider in the US and it's less than 2 years, you won't be able to unlock it and replace your SIM card with an Italian one. I also have a DUAL SIM GSM UNLOCKED QUAD phone. That allows me to use 2 SIM cards at once (one Italian number and one American number). Once you have an Italian SIM card, calling within Italy will cost you very little (just a handful of cents). Calling the US with that Italian number will also cost you less than 50 cents/minute. Receiving calls on the Italian phone is totally free. You pay only on outbound calls, not on inbound calls. The person who calls you will pay, but not you.

Posted by mary
Jamaica, New York, United States
14 posts

I just need a phone to text and call local and perhaps a few calls to home. Don't need a smartphone (i'm not too smart either, to make sure I buy the right phone online as you suggested). I'll try it anyway. Thanks!

Posted by Robert
Happy Valley, PA
250 posts

Mary: Is it possible you misunderstood Verizon? I have an iPhone 5 with Verizon service and recently used it extensively in Austria and Germany. Not sure why someone told you that it wouldn't work in Italy. If you don't have a global-ready phone, Verizon Global Program will lend you a phone for free; optional data package costing $25 for 100 MB of data; optional $4.99 one-time fee to get discounted call rate (I think cost is 99 cents per minute vs. $1,29 per minute); incoming texts 5 cents each; outgoing texts 50 cents each. You might want to contact Verizon again about this.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4742 posts

If you just need calls and texts, you can buy a cheap phone in Italy. Just like in the US, there are stores selling these all over cities and even in the airports. I agree that the iPhone 5 should work in Italy, albeit at Verizon's high rates. Of course, while buying an Italian phone give you lower rates, that is offset by the initial cost of the phone, unless you are making a lot of calls. Roberto's suggestion to buy an unlocked phone before your trip makes good sense if you want to have one for future trips to various countries. If it is not quad band, make SURE it has the European bands (dual band phones are also sold for the US, with 850/1900; you need the European bands of 900/1800).

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1231 posts

Mary, the Iphone 5 is unlocked which allows you to change out the sim card and use your Iphone in Italy (this is not the case with previous Iphones). I didn't want to change out the sim card as I needed to be able to use my phone in the airport in the U.S. & didn't want to worry about changing the sim card while on the trip and I didn't want to waste time in Italy buying the sim card & then I worried that since the instructions are in Italian I might have had trouble figuring it out. In the past, I have also rented a loaner phone from Verizon for $4.99 but it was a pain & the per minute cost was high (more than $1/minute). Also, it didn't come with clear instructions on how to dial the U.S. or other numbers within Italy and I ended up not being able to use it much. We just returned from 3 weeks in Italy & this time I rented 2 phones through Cellomobile and like Fred, I would recommend them. I spent a lot of time researching rental companies & while a lot of them offer lower per minute rates, when I dug deep I found that many of them are "call back" services and/or their reviews were spotty at best. Cellomobile worked out very well. They even shipped the phones to me several weeks before we left so that I could get the phone number & provide it to tour guides & hotels, etc. They also provided clear & concise instructions on how to dial the U.S. or within Italy, etc. We didn't use the phones a lot but I have elderly parents & needed to be reachable in case of an emergency. I also used the phone several times to make arrangements with tour guides and hotels. When we had a wifi connection, I used Skype and it worked out really well too...I paid for minutes so I could call landlines & it was really cheap. But, I still needed the cell phones for when I didn't have a wifi connection. Hope this helps. Have a great trip.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21504 posts

mary, I agree with Robert and the others. It sounds like you were given incorrect information by Verizon. AFAIK, Verizon iPhone 4S and later phones are capable of use in GSM areas. If you use roaming with Verizon the cost will be a bit steep, but if you only need it for a few calls and texts, the cost should be manageable. If they'll agree to unlock the phone, you should be able to use your phone with local SIM cards in Italy. The other option you might consider is to buy an inexpensive phone with SIM from one of the travel phone firms. That way you'd have a working phone as soon as you step off the plane, and as many of them use post-paid billing there would be no need for topping-up. If Verizon will unlock your phone, you could also just buy a SIM from the travel phone firm. If you choose that option, BE SURE to block cellular data as the costs can be huge. Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by Joe
Hudson, Ohio, US
13 posts

The Verizon iPhone 5 is one of the most travel friendly smartphones available. It will work fine in Italy. The Verizon model GSM SIM is unlocked so you can use another carrier's SIM without a problem. My family was there in July, and I added the Verizon international calling and data plan to my company iPhone 5 and ordered a data only SIM for my son's from If you take your Verizon iPhone, make sure you purchase their international data plan before you go or shut off the data roaming. The non-plan data charges are insanely large.

Posted by mary
Jamaica, New York, United States
14 posts

Thank you all for your advice. Will clarify with Verizon again.