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I phone use

Hi folks, I’m sure this topic has been thoroughly covered but I wouldn’t know where to find it. My wife and I are heading to Italy and are trying to figure out how best to use our phones to keep in touch with each other (text, iMessage or WhatsApp) are ways and occasionally make calls to transportation, hotels, restaurants, etc. Any suggestions?

Posted by
4930 posts

The key question is: who is your carrier at home and do they support international roaming, so you can use your phones in Italy (other than on WiFi)? If you will have international roaming, then use whichever messaging app you are already used to - they will all work in Italy too.

Posted by
19 posts

Andrew is right need more info. We have used our iPhones Italy, France. Slovenia, Spain and UK along with T-mobile all without issues. No SIM cards needed. My suggestions are if you are not used to using your Wallet app. Do so. We used it it everywhere, literally. We also use Google maps,(change to walking directions and down load next days map when in hotel), translate, photos plus tripit, WhatsApp,, I buy Nordcom vpn so we can watch our Comcast streaming when abroad.
Let me know if I can help.

Posted by
4 posts

dpappe Do you use your wallet app for payment and / or keeping up with everything? Or other uses? Thank you.

Posted by
1034 posts

You will need wifi to use what’s app or I message. What’s App is very commonly used in Europe and that would be a way to call hotels, restaurants, etc. without using phone minutes, which are billed differently than data. If you have Verizon you can buy one month worth of data for $100 or you can buy it by the day for $10 each day you use it without being billed for other days when you don’t. Data is also helpful for using your phone for navigation, although you can download directions when you have wifi and watch the little blip on your phone as you travel (no step by step directions without data). If you have T Mobile you can text for free. I suggest you call your phone provider for assistance.

Posted by
19 posts

Do you use your wallet app for payment and / or keeping up with everything? Or other uses?

While we were in UK & Amsterdam in 2019 we used our iPhone wallet (Costco Visa card) for almost everything (including our Vaccine proof) set on Data mode with T-mobile. We rarely were we required to sign anything. Same in Spain 2018, what’s app for communicating to US. We use life360 (our home security app) if we need to locate each other and google maps for walking route back to hotels who’s address we keep in Tripit along with all travel documentation. VPN for safe streaming. We use RS money belt full time with our Passport some US cash & hotel list plus a spare CC.
We are headed for Sicily next this October.
Biggest risk is phone theft. Don’t let lie anywhere.

Posted by
32 posts

I will piggy-back on the others here that it depends on your US cell carrier. We have Mint Mobile which is fairly expensive with their international offerings so we have opted to get new TIM tourist sim cards when we arrive in Venice and just use our new Italian phone numbers for the next two weeks. I think it'll be around 30 euros each for our iPhones with data and phone minutes. Once back home, we can pop our old sim cards back in and off we go.

Only bad thing is last I heard, the airport in Venice doesn't have a TIM cell phone service location so we might need to go onto the main island first.

Posted by
14 posts

To reiterate, WhatsApp was used by everyone we dealt with from hotels, to car services to private boat tours. I had to install it when I got there and familiarize myself with its general use (specifically adding contacts). At a minimum, you need wifi to use it.

I have the top tier unlimited plan with AT&T, and set up the international day pass before leaving. For each 24 hours of use, you are charged $10 (up to a max of $100 per 30 days). You draw from your current plan. If a 2nd phone is used while one is active, it is $5 extra. Verizon is a little different and does not offer the reduced price for a second phone. My brother set up the Verizon plan before leaving, but there was some glitch and he was in the phone with them in tally for quite awhile to get it fixed.

We had several iPhone 13s. For some reason, my AT&T iPhone had service problems in some areas with Vodafone. Others in my party had Verizon with iPhone 13s and they were able to pick up signals where I could not, specifically on the water.

We were staying in Sorrento and I spoke to people who were also having problems there with AT&T and Verizon (in some areas, but not all). Wifi can be found in virtually all restaurants/hotels and was very consistent.

In Naples, I could not get AT&T to work in the older part of the city (narrow streets, tall, old stone building walls). The problem areas in Sorrento were also in areas with stone walls.

Posted by
5147 posts

To clarify Lisa post on ATT, my understanding is that $100 max in 30 days is per billing cycle. If your trip goes over two billing cycles, I am not sure what happens. You might want to double check before counting on that limit.

Posted by
9 posts

As a few of the other comments mentioned, if you have AT&T, you can pay $10 per day for the first phone and $5 for additional phones. We did this in Italy last September and then used our iPhones just like we were in the U.S. - no need to find and use new apps, etc. Other carriers may have similar plans. Happy travels.

Posted by
7596 posts

You can also use WhatsApp over the cellular network (if you pay for access to the cellular network, either through your home company's international roaming plan or via buying a local SIM). You do not have to be on WiFi to use WhatsApp (although of course being ableto use WhatsApp over WiFi is a big advantage if you do not have cellular access.

Someone linked above to Rick's phone tips. There's also an entire section of the Forum devoted to technology — and most of the discussions have precisely to do with using cell phones in Europe.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips

Posted by
14 posts

Carol: Thanks for mentioning that as I forgot to clarify. We were in one billing cycle and only used it for 10 days. Either way, we would be paying $100. If you go over 2 billing cycles, you would end up paying more than $100 if the total days is over 10. Just something to keep in mind. Anyone with questions can also clarify directly with AT&T. Just be sure to set up of the international travel pass on the phone lines you might be using it for. Keep the phones in airplane mode and turn them on when you need to start using. (You can even be frugal by turning it on for one 24 hours period when you really need it and leaving it in airplane mode until you want to start your next 24 hour period).

Kim: Yes. You can definitely use WhatsApp if you only have cellular (no wifi). My statement made it sound like you must use it on wifi. So WhatsApp will work on cellular or wifi. We also made lots of calls via WhatsApp to/from the companies we were dealing with.

One other thing. If everyone in your party has iPhones, they can iMessage over wifi (no cellular needed). This came in handy when there were issues with the cellular network and we had access to a reliable wifi signal (like in restaurants). However, it was definitely more convenient to use the cellular signal.