Phone Calling

In Italy. Each of us from the USA would have a cellphone. How do you call each other?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

If it's a smartphone, push the speed dial button. Magic.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
529 posts

But it will probably cost you about 1.29-1.49 a minute. Texting is a better option. Depends on your provider but for AT&T, texts are 25-50 cents a piece depending on the carrier of the other person. This is how my family communicates when we travel. We just limit the texts to essential texts only.

Make sure your data roaming is turned off and that emails/facebook/etc are not automatically updating!!! If you are using data, and you haven't purchased a data package, your bill will skyrocket very quickly. But if you encounter free wifi, you can use that without any extra charges.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2543 posts

T Mobile has really signed up a bunch of new customers on their $50 all inclusive plan. It comes with $.20 per minute voice calls when you're out of the country--the cheapest cell phone around. And their service in Europe is good as they're the official cell phone company of many countries.

If you have an AT&T GSM phone, it can be programmed to T Mobile. Since they don't require any contracts, you can drop the service upon your return home. Verizon uses a completely different phone that's incompatible.

When we were in Budapest, Vienna and Prague in April, our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter kept calling us in the middle of the night on her mother's cellphone. She was just speed dialing our regular cellphone.

Posted by Don
Santa Fe, NM, USA
153 posts

I am really confused. I contacted Verizon about my iphone 5 for my trip to Italy and they said I could just insert an Italian SIM into the phone and it would work. Why wouldn't a T-Mobile SIM work too?

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4363 posts

"I am really confused. I contacted Verizon about my iphone 5 for my trip to Italy and they said I could just insert an Italian SIM into the phone and it would work. Why wouldn't a T-Mobile SIM work too?"

Yes, but Verizon isn't about to promote their direct competitor.

There are different systems for mobile phones that are not compatible with each other (think of AM radio vs. FM radio). In the US, Verizon and Sprint use CDMA, while T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM. In Europe, all phones use GSM. However, North American and Europe use different frequencies.

Some Verizon phones, including the iPhone 5, are dual system, and work on CDMA in North America and GSM in Europe. Others, like the Verizon iPhone 4, are CDMA only, and will not work in Europe. And, a phone from T-Mobile or AT&T will only work in Europe if it's triband or quadband. Even though it's GSM, if it only has the two North American frequencies (850 and 1900) it won't work with the European frequencies (900 and 1800).

Next, a phone with GSM always takes a SIM card (the "brain" of the phone), which determines your carrier and phone number. Some phones are locked, and only work with one carrier's SIM; others are unlocked and take any SIM. How hard it is to get a phone unlocked depends on various factors.

So, to scottsandyd999, exactly which kind of phone do you have, and who is your carrier? The answer to this will determine the next course(es) of action.

If, like Don, you have a Verizon iPhone 5, the SIM slot is unlocked, so you have 3 options:

  1. Use Verizon's plan, at their rates (high). In exchange for the higher cost, this is easiest.
  2. Get a T-Mobile US plan, and use that SIM in your Verizon phone. The usage is cheap, but you have get a new T-Mobile account. Someone else posted that T-Mobile was not happy when they canceled their new account after only a month, but they were able to do it.
  3. Get an Italian SIM. Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) has a deal called TIM Welcome. For €30, you get a SIM, 200 domestic or international minutes for outgoing calls (receiving calls is free), 2GB of data (4G speed where available), and €5 credit for outgoing texts or more calls (again, receiving texts is free).

Rick has two good pages on calling in Europe, either using your current phone: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/phones-tech/data-roaming or using a European SIM card: http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/phones-tech/cell-phone-europe