Getting Italian SIM Card for cell phone? Important Information

To get an Italian SIM card in Italy, you need two things, a passport and a "codice fiscale". Apparently this is a card required for security reasons. it's a unique code for each person in Italy (and in theory in the World), which identifies that person for the Italian Fiscal department. You need the CF for any registration in Italy, and it's the same for sim-cards, both pre and postpaid. This site explains how to get one in advance:
http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/italy.html
Go about half way down the page and read the instructions. The author gives the Italian web site and translates the information so you can enter it correctly. Voila! You can print out your card on your own printer.

Posted by SamSn
Scottsdale, AZ, USA
1092 posts

You do not need a codice fiscale to buy a SIM card, just show your passport. A codice fiscale must be issued from an Italian government office, not via website. It's the equivalent of a social security number in the USA.

Posted by JOHN
Hendersonvlle, NC
486 posts

Do a web search. While some sites say you don't need one and that just a passport is enough, apparently many places that are more scrupulous about following the rules will require it.

From http://www.expatsinitaly.com

"A codice fiscale is the Italian version of a tax identification number and is required to purchase some simple items such as a cell phone. If you are moving to Italy it can be handy to have the codice fiscale before you leave home, and it is a relatively simple process to obtain one."

http://www.bus.wisc.edu/international/studyabroad/reports/documents/reportmilanfa06mbh.pdf

The only problem you may encounter with buying a SIM card is you need quite a few documents including a passport and sometimes a “codice fiscale” which is a tax code. If you try different stores eventually someone will sell you a SIM with just a passport though.

Posted by Jim
Slidell, LA
283 posts

Unless you absolutely must have a cell phone, consider getting two phone cards that work with any telephone, public or private, one for local calls and the other for international calls including within Italy. For five euros you get 200 minutes of calling time on EACH one. The local one you slide into any public phone and the other gives you an 800 number which asks for the pin on the card, then you dial the number you want. We've been here since last Friday and have used 80 international and 35 local minutes. Piece of cake.

Posted by JOHN
Hendersonvlle, NC
486 posts

Unless you absolutely must have a cell phone, consider getting two phone cards that work with any telephone, public or private, one for local calls and the other for international calls including within Italy. For five euros you get 200 minutes of calling time on EACH one. The local one you slide into any public phone and the other gives you an 800 number which asks for the pin on the card, then you dial the number you want. We've been here since last Friday and have used 80 international and 35 local minutes. Piece of cake.

No doubt about it. A public phone telephone card is much cheaper. But if you have multiple people as we have needing to communicate, if you want places to be able to call you back, or if you want people from home to be able to reach you any time, a cell phone is simple, convenient, always there, always working, and useful.

Posted by Tim
Haverhill, MA
5 posts

We took our own cell phones (2yr old Nokia's) to Italy last week, and they worked perfectly. No special SIM cards needed. It could just be our carrier, AT&T (Cingular). Call and ask your cell phone carrier if you need a SIM card for Italy.

Posted by JOHN
Hendersonvlle, NC
486 posts

Tim,

you misunderstand the posting. This applies ONLY if you want a local Italian SIM card so that you temporarily have an Italian phone number on your cell phone. It does NOT apply if you use your "foreign" (e.g. American) SIM from Cingular, AT&T or T-Mobile. With those, you are roaming in Italy and pay roaming charges. U.S. residents would call a U.S. number to reach you and a hotel in Italy calling you back would have to call to the U.S. With an Italian SIM, your American friends would call an Italian number but you and places in Italy you call would be "local". With an Italian SIM, you are not roaming and calls to Italian hotels would be much cheaper. Also, if a group of you you have multiple cell phones, you could communicate with each other inexpensively in Italy with your Italian SIMs.

Posted by Arpita
Kolkata, Westbengal, India
1 posts

I am an indian citizen,will go to italy for 6 month-1year.I need an italian simcard in italy from italian stores.Which documents are actually needed to purchase simcard in italy?Do i need codice fiscale and residence proof for that?Do i italian credit card to topup the card or it is possible to pay in cash.Please inform me about this...

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Arpita, are you going to Italy to work or just as a tourist. Don't forget the 3-month provisions of the Schengen Visa.

Posted by Jason
Rochester, NY, USA
1 posts

As someone who just came back from Italy and having checked at multiple retailers, you definitely need a "codice fiscale". I was told by multiple sales people that they use to just use a passport but would now need the "codice fiscale". It was recommended that I could have an Italian friend get it for me (i.e.: any guy on the street for a few bucks). Apparently newer laws (again from the salespeople) have made this more strict and require the tax number. Also, since they send the information in to the particular carrier for activation there is no way around this. I am sure there are less than legal ways around this but if you are looking for a vacation with no trouble, you need to get the SIM card from the US before traveling to Italy. BTW, calls are MUCH cheaper in country than if you use your AT&T, etc. card in Italy.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

I'm sorry but I must disagree with you. I am in Italy with 25 other students, we all bought TIM phones and SIM cards, and none of us were asked for a codice fiscale. When I tried to add more credit to my SIM card online, I did need a CF. But to simply purchase a SIM card through TIM, I did not. (And these phones were purchased in different locations - Rome, Arezzo, Florence, etc - and didn't have a problem) We all bought our phones over a month ago, so maybe things have changed since then, but it was pretty recent. And I also disagree, calls are NOT cheaper through AT&T in Italy. I did that last year, and racked up lots of charges. If you are here for an extended period, or will be calling a lot, buying an Italian SIM card is best. Calls to the US for me are 16 cents/minute (€) through TIM, and they were $1 a minute with AT&T.

Posted by lydia
havertown
21 posts

Was in Rome and Venice middle of August. Three of us bought Vodaphone sims with no CF and one bought a Tim also with no CF.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

I bought a new SIM card for my wife the other day without a codice fiscale.

Posted by RB
Coraopolis, Pa, USA
602 posts

We were in Italy in August, 2011 and I purchased a rechargeable TIM simm card for my unlocked phone with only a passport. I did not need a codice fiscale. I asked the clerk and she told me my American passport was sufficient. So, now I have an italian phone number and will use it when we return to Italy in the summer of 2012. Buon viaggio,

Posted by Steve
San Diego, CA, USA
38 posts

Just to add my two cents, I've gotten SIM cards a few times in Italy (as recently as last year too), and always only needed my passport. They generate the CF code for you and it automatically into your account when you buy the SIM card, but you don't actually need to register a CF to get it.

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

@ RB above^...the Italian SIM you bought probably won't work next time you come to Italy. You have to recharge them (put money on them) something like every 4-6 months or so or else they expire. Same with Germany.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo
653 posts

I bought a TIM phone in Italy in May 2011. It came with a 13-month contract, so when I go back in May 2012 I can use it again. Cost for the phone was 29 euro plus additional minutes (it came with 5); calls to the US were about 10 cents/minute. Only needed a passport.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

One method for avoiding the need for a Codice Fiscale and Passport is to use either roaming with your home network (AT&T?) or use a SIM from one of the "travel phone" firms. If one only plans to make very occasional and short voice calls, getting a Roaming Travel pack with the home network is a cost effective solution. I've been using a "travel SIM" for the last few years (the number is based in the UK), and it's worked well so far. As the plans are usually post paid, there's no need to "top up". It's not surprising to find some disagreement on this subject, as I've found that the rules in Italy tend to be applied in some areas, and either not applied in others or applied in a different way. A good example is Wi-Fi access, which is also regulated due to "terrorism regulations". Some Hotels simply provide a Password which is good for the entire stay. Since they have the Passport info on file, this would seem to be complying with the regulations. In other cases, the Hotel generates a Password which is good for a specific time, using a small device about the size of a Calculator. The device prints out the details on a small slip of paper that resembles a cash register receipt. The internet time could be as short as one hour or as long as six hours, depending on how they choose to structure their particular system. The Password becomes void if not used within a specific time, which means that one has to run down to the Front Desk each time it expires to get a new code. I've just returned from Italy, and that was my experience with net access on this trip. The way the rules are applied for internet access seems to vary between locations, so I suspect the same is also true for cell phone access. Cheers!

Posted by Mathew
San Francisco, CA
166 posts

Here's a blog post on your various options for getting cell service abroad, including roaming on your existing phone and buying a SIM: http://www.lodgephoto.com/blog/going-wireless-in-europe-what-you-need-to-know-about-cell-phones/12/ I was last there in June. You can buy a pre-paid SIM with only your passport as a visitor to Italy. If you try to buy a regular (post-paid) plan you would need Italian bank details, which you don't have. Any staff that ask for a codice fiscale are confused (or poorly trained) as you only need your passport -- as many folks here have described. This is retail, ladies and gentlemen: poor staff training, confusion, high employee turnover etc. are common. Mistakes happen. Anyone ever visit an electronics retailer in the US and get the wrong answer to a question? If this happens to you, insist that they check, or find another sales person, or go to another SIM store. You can get a SIM card with only your passport.

Posted by RB
Coraopolis, Pa, USA
602 posts

Rik in Vicenza, When I bought the rechargeable TIM simm card I asked the salesgirl about the validity period. She told me the simm was valid for one year. We will be back before the year expires. Also, I can recharge online since I can speak, read, and write in Italian. Thanks for your concern. Buon viaggio,

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

RB, Check and make sure that you can indeed recharge your SIM card online. It's not a matter of your Italian skills, but recharging online will require a Codice Fiscale (at least if you're using TIM).

Posted by Mathew
San Francisco, CA
166 posts

Devon, Why do you say that? I was able to re-charge my TIM SIM without one in June. Mathew

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

Mathew, You were able to recharge your TIM SIM card online without a CF? When I went to do it through my account it asked for a CF. I have plenty of stores close to my apartment so it's not an inconvenience, but would love to know how you did it online without a CF. Thanks!