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iPhone 5s (AT&T) in Italy

I want to be prepared and able to use my phone for voice calls (emergency only) and texting (more regularly). My iPhone is out of contract and I should have no issues getting unlocked by AT&T. Was thinking of buying a sim card from vodaphone once I land in Italy. I read somewhere that it's around 40 eur. But I can no longer find the thread. Has anyone attempted to unlock their phone through AT&T? Does this seem like the best route? I plan to bring my phone to use for pics so that I don't have to drag a camera along too since my iPhone takes decent pics. Any alternate suggestions are welcome too. Thanks!

Posted by
3282 posts

I used my iPhone 5S in Italy last October. Didn't buy a SIM, didn't unlock it, didn't buy AT&Ts Euro program, just used it. Everything worked perfectly fine.

I did pay $2 a minute for the one emergency call I made to family back home. Made zero local calls. Didn't use data or texting except through WiFi so no charge for that. Total cost over what I normally pay: $10. Getting it unlocked, getting a SIM, letting everyone know what my new temporary phone number was and all that just seemed like way too much effort and would have cost me more than I spent making no changes. Just one point of view.

Posted by
300 posts

For emergency calls and texting how about just keeping your AT&T SIM in the phone and making sure yoiu have an appropriate AT&T international plan? I don't known the specifics for AT&T but its likely that incoming texts are free, outgoing about 50 cents and calls around a dollar per minute. Not the cheapest but there's no setup cost.

If yiu keep your AT&T SIM in, turn off data roaming so you won't come home to any data charge surprises.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks to both of you. That is one thing I am considering too. I have elderly parents, so I'll want to check in on them once or twice while I'm away and to let them know I arrived safely. Still weighing my options.

Posted by
2518 posts

Here's a link to info on sim cards in Italy. Check the options under Tourist SIM's. The best rated providers in theses forums have been TIM and Vodaphone. If you are concerned about your parents being able to easily contact you, consider signing up with one of T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans. That way, they'll be able to dial a local US number to contact you. Their $50 plan includes unlimited texting, 2gigs of data, incoming or outgoing calls at 20¢ per minute. I've used T-Mobile in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and found it to work seamlessly. I've also used local SIM cards with mixed results - difficulty finding a nano SIM, language set up problems, misery while trying to re-up when I ran out of data.

Posted by
5008 posts

I could be wrong, since I've avoided doing it, but buying a new SIM card changes your phone number, so it messes up people who are used to your old number. I just use the international plan of my provider. I've even managed a whole trip without turning on the phone.

Posted by
2525 posts

Each SIM card has a related unique phone number. Put in a new SIM card and your phone will switch to the phone number assuming you meet all carrier requirements.

Posted by
11970 posts

It depends on how much data you need and how many calls.
If you want to keep your AT&T these are the costs with AT&T Passport plans.
https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/international/roaming.html

If you need more data and/or in5ernational minutes, this Vodafone plan for tourists will do the trick at a cheaper price. Just be aware that you will have a new Italian number while in Italy, so if people need to contact you, you need to tell them what that number is:
http://www.vodafone.it/portal/Privati/Tariffe-e-Prodotti/Tariffe/Estero/Vodafone-Holiday-English

Posted by
2092 posts

I have an iPhone and ATT and every year I just get one of their Intl plans for the 2 weeks I am away--I also have elderly parents and we do need to talk every couple of days, plus I have one friend that texts. I use free Wi-Fi in hotel or out and about so I get the smallest data plan, which is great to have just in case.

This year I bought the Silver Passport plan, $60 and it covered some data (used some but plenty left), all texting and calls were .50 per minute. When my next bill came around with the plan and the calls I made it was about $100 extra. I just figure it as part of the cost of my trip.

Posted by
5498 posts

I have elderly parents, so I'll want to check in on them once or twice while I'm away and to let them know I arrived safely. Still weighing my options.

Do your elderly parents have or use E-mail? We're late adapting cell phone dinosaurs and find we can survive multiple weeks outside of the US without cell phone service. Our iPhone has no bars in Europe but Wi-Fi works. We do use Internet and E-mail service while out of country to connect back home. It would be unusual for hotels to not have WiFi. It even worked in the Finland trains which had Wi-Fi service.

Posted by
2954 posts

I use the ATT passport plan. $30 for 30 days of unlimited texts. International phone calls would cost $1 a minute. I don't use the data because I just use Wi-Fi at hotels. I haven't had to pay for any phone calls so far.
I do use the text feature frequently to keep in touch with fellow travelers and my children back at home.
My last trip took me to Africa and Europe. I didn't have to worry about SIM cards, etc or what country I was in.

I totally get the elderly parent reasoning. My sweet parents (87 and 86) might be able to figure out how to use email during an emergency, but I don't want them to have to do so. I feel better knowing that they can call the phone number that they are used to calling and they can get ahold of me right away. I want them to know, and I want to know, that they can get me if they need to at any time.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks for all of the suggestions! It seems like the path of least resistance is to sign-up for the AT&T international plan. No hassle of having a new number. I'm hoping to 'unplug' as much as possible!

Posted by
823 posts

Your AT&T iPhone 5s should already be "unlocked" for non-competing service SIMs (whatever that means). It's my understanding that all iPhones from v5 onwards come factory unlocked for non-domestic SIMs. I had no trouble using mine in London (iPhone 5 w/O2 SIM) or Italy (iPhone 6/WIND SIM).

I wasn't particularly impressed with WIND so you might want to try one of the others. I've heard TIM and Vodafone are better but I can't personally vouch.

Just remember to remove and replace with your AT&T SIM upon return...