Do I then just need a sim card and it will work? I wouldn't need to worry about a contract with anyone? I just need to make sure that what I buy is GSM quadband. Does it matter what carrier it says the phone is associated with, assuming I won't need to get a contract with them? Suggestions on best way to go about getting the sim card? Thanks!!
Leslie, As long as you buy an unlocked quad-band GSM phone from E-Bay, it will work fine in Europe for basic voice and text. There's usually a really good ion to choose from, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one. I'd suggest purchasing a new, unlocked phone rather than one which was previously configured for a particular network. I've found in the past that the original settings have been changed on some phones, according to the spec's of the network they were first used on. I've been using a Motorola V-551 for several years, and it's been a great travel phone! To answer your original question, you can use the phone with a PAYG SIM card purchased in Italy. The previous replies provided good information on that process. You could also use the phone with a SIM from one of the "travel phone" firms such as Roam Simple, Call In Europe, Cellular Abroad, Telestial or Mobal. These typically operate on a post-paid basis, with calls charged to a credit card. I tend to prefer that approach as there's no worry about "running out of minutes" in the middle of a call, or having to top-up. Whichever phone you buy, be sure to check the Charger to ensure that it's designed for "world operation". You will of course require a Plug Adapter (it's a good idea to pack at least two Adapters, so you have a spare). Good luck!
I bought an unlocked motorola v190 on Ebay. It was $17.45 delivered, and I'm very happy with the seller. The v190 was rated excellent by most users. Here is the listing: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&_trksid=p4340.l2557&rt=nc&nma=true&item=270719574585&si=3EJDqdakxKiQFxwdPdHz0PuJeAA%253D&viewitem=&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWNX%3AIT#ht_933wt_1139 As I understand, I will buy a Sim/Tim card when I get to Milan in June. I'll need to produce my passport and they will register the number to me. "Unlocked" means the phone will work with any carrier. If you buy a phone that is associated with a carrier, then it is not unlocked. You probably won't be able to just the sim card. You can get a phone "unlocked" for about $20, but since you can buy a good used phone for that on Ebay, why bother? The "unlocking" process is done either with secret codes from the keypad or with a computer. Things get more complicated if you're thinking of getting a smart phone. Data plans in Italy are very expensive, I understand. We're just getting the phone for emergencies and we are leaving our Droid at home.
I bought an AT&T Samsung phone on eBay and then purchased the unlock code on eBay as well. The phone was about $30, and the unlock code was $2 or so - and it was emailed to me immediately and worked like a charm. If you want to use the unlocked phone here in the US, you can decide whether you want a monthly plan or a pay-as-you-go plan. In Italy, I purchased a pay-as-you-go SIM card at the TIM store in the Rome Termini train station. It worked like a champ all through Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and Umbria. You can buy SIM cards from phone providers or from the numerous tobacco stores (i.e., cigarette shops) that are found everywhere. Make sure that the prompts are set to English. And also verify how to add funds to the SIM if you need to after you buy the card. In most cases, you can also do that at any tobacco shop. There are some quad GSM phones that are meant to be used globally and are unlocked, but they seem to be quite a bit more expensive. I would just recommend buying a highly rated used cellphone on eBay and then unlocking it yourself. Neither the US phone providers or the Italian service providers will care what carrier's name is on it. Hope this helps.
If you get an unlocked GSM smartphone, you can use it just for voice and take advantage of wifi connections to check your email, etc.
Zombie thread. Two years old.