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SIM card or $10 a day to Verizon?

With an iPhone and 16 days in Italy, also driving for 5 of those days in Tuscany, I am going to want my Google Maps - I am also told that Google Maps on the phone is essential for finding your way around cities when on foot. Looks like I have two options - $10 per day ($160 to Verizon and burning my data) and it is simple (just pay the bill) -- or buy a SIM card which I think is more economical, but, I have no idea how complex that is for someone who never has done it before. I have read on this site that people are buying the cards -- but, I feel like a tech dunce - I also feel anxious to hand over my phone to someone (am I really getting the right plan / will using the phone end up costing me more / will my phone be the same when I get back home) to get the SIM, as well as how much data would would you want to purchase figuring you are using it for maps and data for searches (like Rick web site!). Anyone a first timer to the SIM card vs home plan use - with advice and experience you can share to help me make a good decision?

Posted by
1039 posts

There are two popular local carriers that pop up consistently here when discussing Italian SIM cards. Vodafone Italy and its holiday plan and TIM with its visitor plan. Both plans are about €30 and include data, texts and phone calls. I think the TIM plan includes more data. Please check details to confirm. Oh and you may need to check if tethering is allowed (using phone as WiFi connection)

Getting a SIM card and plan is relatively easy. Walk into one of the stores. Bring your passport as thy need to register you. In my case I was done in 30 minutes and service was active within an hour.

It’s a prepaid plan so no surprise charges, but I pay in cash so that there’s no credit card on file for them to attempt to charge. The plans are good for 30 days but if you use up the data you can add additional data. Probably entails going back into a shop.

The only odd thing I’ve noticed was last year. When using a Vodafone UK SIM my stored contact’s phone numbers looked weird. I think some were converted ie xx xxxx xxx type format instead of the usual US style xxx xxx xxxx. After reinserting my ATT SIM most reverted to the normal format but a few were still messed up. I needed to reenter them but I did so in the +1 format so hopefully that won’t happen again.

Posted by
4531 posts

Fairport,

Just make sure your phone is unlocked in order for a foreign SIM card to work.

Last September I bought a Vodafone SIM card in Italy and it worked great!
It included 500 minutes of call time to Italian phone numbers and 300 minutes to U.S. numbers, plus 4GB of data for 30 days.

Three weeks ago, I walked into a Vodafone shop and asked if I could reload the SIM card I’d purchased last September. I ended up buying a new SIM card with the international plan which includes 500 minutes to Italian #s, 300 to U.S. #s, and 8GB of data for €30 for 30 days.

The staff in the Vodafone shops know the best plan to sell you and they are friendly and helpful.
You can also download the Vodafone app and you can keep track of your usage.

I didn’t rent a car but have used my Google Maps app almost daily. It shows me where I am and the direction I’m walking. I love Google Maps!

The only thing is that you’ll get an Italian phone number. Your contacts and all your apps will not change.

You can still use Wi-Fi wherever it’s available.

Enjoy your trip!🌼

Posted by
9450 posts

As long as you have an unlocked phone, an Italian SIM is the way to go. Should not cost you more than 40 Euro. .

Posted by
180 posts

Disclaimer - I work for Verizon..... We have been to Italy twice this year. Both times we did the $10 per day for each phone (I do not get a discounted rate). I stayed in airplane mode some days which saves the $10 charge for that day, but it still adds up quickly. It worked pretty well but I did need to call tech support last September (from the center of Piazza Navona) as there was some setting that needed to be changed and I didn't know that until we got there. My wife's phone did not have the same issue. We also found that we could not always connect to WIFI, so we just stopped trying after a while. Google Maps worked great. Also used Google Translate a few times. Remember to register your number on the Verizon site, search for "Travel Pass" and choose Italy...

While it may be easy, cheaper and safe, I was not comfortable swapping out my SIM card in a different country. It just wasn't the right thing for us...

Also, we rented a car in Tuscany, and the GPS in the car was awesome, so we turned off Google Maps while driving.

Posted by
2 posts

We bought an $80 plan from Verizon for our four week trip, which gave us 250 minutes, 250 texts, and data. We ended up going through the data in less than 10 days and acquired $75 in data charges. Needless to say, we should have bought the $10 daily travel pass and just put the phone in airplane mode when not on wifi. If you can score a car with navigation, it will save you multiple days of needing to use google maps and data while on the road. We burned up our data using Waze before we even realized that the car had free gps.

Posted by
1666 posts

After researching, we decided just to do the Verizon plan. We had no issues on either our trip to Tuscany, our trip to Germany or our trip to London and Paris.

Wi-Fi was plentiful everywhere and there were several days we didn’t use Verizon. Also we took our Garmin with the Italy and Greece map card and used it while driving, but by the end of our stay we drove to many places with just a paper map and road signs. We also had street maps of Florence, Rome and Siena and had no trouble finding our way around. Smaller hill towns like San Gimignano don’t need maps.

Based on our usage in Tuscany, it was pretty much a wash on cost. My teenage job was a delivery boy for a drugstore and I was a Boy Scout so my navigational skills are above average.

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I realize you can’t always rely on Google Maps.”

Posted by
486 posts

While it may be easy, cheaper and safe, I was not comfortable swapping out my SIM card in a different country.

I use an Italian SIM card when in Italy; a Belgian SIM while in Belgium; and AT&T in the USA. I don't physically swap out the SIM cards. I go to the shop (TIM in Italy/Orange in Belgium) and let them do the swapping. I make sure that the phone works before leaving the shop.

And, don't forget your home SIM card.

Posted by
2521 posts

If you’re landing at FCO, there’s a TIM store in the arrivals area of Terminal 3. Here’s a link to the TIM for Visitors card. Last two years I purchased the card on line, presented my voucher and they installed and activated the new SIM in my phone in about 15 minutes. TIM service throughout Italy was great. I’m returning in September and will do this again.

Posted by
154 posts

I use the app Maps.me for free offline navigation. You have to download the maps where you want to go ahead of time but then using it offline is easy and it tracks you.

Posted by
4 posts

I had a $10 a day plan when I went to England last year and it was wonderful. Calls to and from America were all free, plus nearly unlimited browsing. I plan to do the same thing this time and am on Verizon now. my phone is not unlocked (not paid off yet). wonder if Verizon will still allow me to do this?

Posted by
3 posts

We are flying into Ciampino Airport in Rome next month. Does anyone know if there is a TIM store there? I can't seem to find a store locator on their website.

Posted by
9 posts

You can download Google maps and use the maps in the Airplane Mode. You can also mark up the Map and put in specific places so you can find them later! You download each city or area that you will be in!!

Posted by
5378 posts

For our prior 4-5-6 week trips, we have suspended AT&T service on our phones and used hotel/ apartment wi-fi for research/ email/ WhatsApp texting and Mobal phones for occasional local calls. Suspended service means we don't pay $$$ for home service we can't use. This trip we also bought one SIM card (Vodafone Netherlands -- thank you Andrew H -- which I got online before we left so we could test out changing the cards and leave my AT&T SIM card safe at home) and used that for local calls and text and data on the road as backup to the Garmin with European maps which was used in conjunction with the GPS that was unexpectedly provided with the rental car (talk about belt and suspenders!) Vodafone service was €20 for 3GB of data plus 20(?) minutes of European calls and 20(?) texts during a 30-day period. Ample for what we used. Calls and texts after the 30 days were €0.20 and €0.15, respectively.
Assuming my phone works when I put the AT&T SIM back in, we will use this method again.

Posted by
4695 posts

Laura:

This trip we also bought one SIM card (Vodafone Netherlands -- thank you Andrew H -- which I got online before we left so we could test out changing the cards and leave my AT&T SIM card safe at home) and used that for local calls and text and data on the road as backup to the Garmin with European maps which was used in conjunction with the GPS that was unexpectedly provided with the rental car (talk about belt and suspenders!) Vodafone service was €20 for 3GB of data plus 20(?) minutes of European calls and 20(?) texts during a 30-day period. Ample for what we used. Calls and texts after the 30 days were €0.20 and €0.15, respectively.

Glad it worked out for you, Laura. FYI, Vodafone is now offering 2X the data at the same prices (maybe temporary, maybe permanent) - so you really get 6GB for 20 euros - or 4GB for 15 euros, 2GB for 10 euros. And after 30 days (or maybe after you use up your old bundle if you do so before 30 days), you can buy another bundle.

The 30 min for calls and texts on the Dutch SIM are good only to call or text numbers in the Netherlands, but incoming calls and texts are free as is true with most (all?) prepaid European SIMs. I am in Portugal now with this SIM and had to make a local call; instead of using the SIM, I used Skype (3 cents/minute to a landline here - price varies depending whether you call a mobile or landline and also by country) because I already had some Skype credit anyway. I am on a ten day trip and will never get close to using up the 2GB of data I paid 10 euros for.

Posted by
671 posts

I have used Verizon's TravelPass ($10/day) for several years during trips to Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Scotland. All of the trips were for 7-10 days, so even using TravelPass daily, it only added a maximum of $100 to the cost of the trip. And remember, if you don't use cell service/data on a particular day (and only use wifi), there is no charge. I stay with Verizon because I can keep my US phone number and don't need to unlock the phone or buy SIM cards and, when I do use cell/data in Europe, it is my US data plan. Admittedly, if I was going to Europe for a longer time period, I would consider a SIM card or other option. But for 2 weeks, when you consider that you spend several thousand $$ for a European trip, another $100 is small in comparison. And you cannot beat the convenience of the TravelPass plan.

Posted by
6 posts

sure you have by now lots of advice. I am also a novice at this technical stuff and we're also traveling to Italy soon. I found "Phillips" advice the very best with getting a sim card from the TIM store at airport terminal 3 and even his convenient website TIM for visitors" site. I think this is the most efficient, simple, and cheapest (much better than Verizon) way to have a cell phone in Italy. I will definitely follow Phillip's advice. have a great trip!

Posted by
2521 posts

Hey Monika, thanks for the thanks! It’s really an easy and convenient way to do it.

Hey Robert from Happy Valley, I’d rather have the $60-65 to spend on a great meal! I go to Europe once or twice a year since 2001 and am able to do it because I try to get a good bang for my buck. I don’t do cheap or extravagant, and by being careful, I’ve been able to go on these many wonderful trips.

Posted by
4695 posts

There's nothing wrong with using Verizon's or AT&T's $10/day passes when you travel, if you simply don't want to mess with a SIM or find the technology intimidating. I find it fairly easy, so swapping SIM cards is routine for me. (I get to keep my US number while overseas with any SIM card I use, because I use Google Voice and use Google Hangouts to make/receive calls.) I'm also pretty frugal. in fact, I'm much too frugal to spend money on AT&T's or Verizon's monthly plans throughout the year in the US, either. I just switched to Sprint but only because I got a free year unlimited everything out of it. Sprint has free 2G data in Europe but it's been too slow for me on the trip I'm currently on, and using the Vodafone SIM has cost very little.

I recently used TIM which as a previous poster mentioned has a little shop in the arrivals area at FCO. They set it up very fast & swapped out the SIM card no problem. (Don't lose your US SIM card!) The plan was for 4 GB of data & 100 minutes of calling (to Italy, the US, etc.) within a 30 day period. Texting did not seem to work though so you'd have to send texts via an app like WhatsApp. The total cost was 35 euros ($42.29 at the exchange rate that day). The new service started working on my phone on the train ride into Rome. It all worked very smoothly & easily and was well worth it. Your phone does need to be unlocked; putting the old SIM card back in once you're airborne on the way back to the US or wherever is very easy also - just follow the online instructions for your phone if you don't know how.

Texting probably did not work for me by the way because you have to send the text to the number in the US using the Italian dial system, i.e. 001 + area code + number or 01 + area code + number, I can't remember which. Same thing with making phone calls to the US. If you just hit the name of the person you're calling or texting in your contacts, then it won't work.

Posted by
140 posts

I just returned from 16 days in Italy - Rick's South of Italy tour. I did exactly what Philip / Hobe Sound, FL / 05/20/18 11:03 AM described. Total cost 30€.

Posted by
3307 posts

Verizon has a $40 per month international plan that I always use...it has limited talk, text, and data but with all the wi-fi everywhere now I find that it's PLENTY for my needs. I use maps offline and usually only get my phone out to text or get online when I have wi-fi. I only occasionally need to call anyone (like when booking tickets or last minute hotels) and only get online out of wi-fi range here and there. It's a far better deal than the $10 per day unlimited plan - SIM cards are a hassle and then you get lots of ads for the country you're visiting too!

Posted by
4695 posts

Texting probably did not work for me by the way because you have to send the text to the number in the US using the Italian dial system, i.e. 001 + area code + number or 01 + area code + number, I can't remember which. Same thing with making phone calls to the US. If you just hit the name of the person you're calling or texting in your contacts, then it won't work.

I can't remember either. Instead of remembering, on a cell phone I simply use the + sign a the international access code. (Hold down the 0 on the keypad to get a + .) The country code for the US is 1. So to call the US from Italy I would dial +1-212-555-1212. To call another number in the EU, put + and then the country code and then the number.

Posted by
4695 posts

Verizon has a $40 per month international plan that I always use...it has limited talk, text, and data but with all the wi-fi everywhere now I find that it's PLENTY for my needs. I use maps offline and usually only get my phone out to text or get online when I have wi-fi.

It would not be plenty for me - I would use it up in two days, tops. (You get all of 100mb with Verizon's international monthly plan.) That's because I use my phone for walking/public transit navigation, something that requires mobile data. So "free WiFi almost everywhere" does not help me much. Google maps "offline" works only for driving directions. Because SIM cards are so cheap, it would be silly for me not to get one instead of crippling my phone. About $13 USD for this current trip to Portugal to top up my Vodafone SIM - for 2GB of data.

Posted by
11170 posts

"Texting probably did not work for me by the way because you have to send the text to the number in the US using the Italian dial system, i.e. 001 + area code + number or 01 + area code + number, I can't remember which. Same thing with making phone calls to the US. If you just hit the name of the person you're calling or texting in your contacts, then it won't work. "

To amplify Andrew's answer on this:

To call or text a US number on a cell phone, enter +1 and area code and number. This will work wherever you are - US, Italy, or any other country. And it will work whether you are using a SIM from the US, Italy, or anywhere else. So, when I put numbers into my phone, unless it's a number I know I will never call from abroad (like a local restaurant), I just put it in as, for example, +1-212-555-1234. Then, wherever I am, all I have to do is press Send and the call or text goes through.

Similarly, for Italy, if you save the number as +33 +39 and then the full local number, it will go through wherever you are, and whether you are using an Italian SIM or a US one.

It's a bit of work to change your saved contacts from, for instance, (212) 555-1234 to +1-212-555-1234. But you only have to do this once; then they will work both when you're home and when you're traveling, and whether you keep your US plan or get a local SIM.

When I first did this, I worried that local calls would be charged as international ones. They aren't; the system "knows" where you are and charges correctly.

Edited to reflect Philip's accurate correction of my mistake!

Posted by
11170 posts

Yes, Philip is absolutely right - sorry! France is 33; Italy is 39.

Posted by
671 posts

@Phillip: It is worth the $60 to me to only just have to turn my phone on when I arrive in Europe and then use it like I was at home with my US number. I don’t consider it to be wasteful. Each traveler has their own preferences and we respond to provide ours for the OP, who can decide what they wish to do.