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Rome Airport-Purchase a phone?

I have always just added an international plan to my verizon account and it's worked great. Same for my wife's phone.

This time, I am traveling with 2 other people who don't have unlocked phones and their phones are old and they do not want to change.

I would love to be able to take care of this immediately when I get off the plane. What kind of cost and plan are we looking at to purchase a phone/SIM for just calls and texting? Mainly so we can separate and still be able to contact each other.

We will be in rome and on a cruise through eastern Med. (Greece)

Posted by Philip
Hobe Sound, FL
1516 posts

If they have "old" phones, there’s a chance that their carrier will unlock at no cost. If not, I’d suggest purchasing phones in the US before the trip, since this might be easier than purchasing one overseas. Unlocked phones are available at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, etc. just make sure the phones are quad band and capable for 4G Lte. There is a TIM store in the arrivals area of terminal 3 where you can purchase SIM cards. Both TIM and Vodafone have tourist cards available for €30.

Posted by Kathy
United States
7274 posts

Vick, if these are for your 72 year-old mom and 90 year-old aunt, probably one phone they can share will do ya. I would guess that your aunt will either be with you or your mom aside from sleeping?

Posted by Vick Vega OP
288 posts

Hey Kathy. Yes. I want to have two phones for our group.

( I will always have mine primarily because I need to always have a phone available due to my work. I like to be available to answer it basically as much as I can if it rings. I can virtually work from anywhere in the world so long as I have a cell phone connection and able to connect to the internet at least 1 time a day)

Having two phones is crucial for us to be able to communicate if we decide to separate. We will never separate all three of us and go our separate ways. There would always be at least two of us together at a time. So I just want to be able to communicate via phone and or text at any time. Hope that makes sense. Basically we just need two phones for our group mine already works just fine but neither one of theirs does. Therefore we need to find One phone

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2351 posts

Philip:

If they have "old" phones, there’s a chance that their carrier will unlock at no cost. If not, I’d suggest purchasing phones in the US before the trip, since this might be easier than purchasing one overseas. Unlocked phones are available at Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, etc. just make sure the phones are quad band and capable for 4G Lte.

Just remember that "4G LTE" is not a universal standard. There are numerous LTE "bands" (frequencies) and they are not even the same ones used in Europe as used in the US. Many phones can do only a few LTE bands (e.g. a Verizon phone would of course include the LTE bands Verizon uses in the US, at very least).

A phone that works at 4GLTE in the US may work only on slow "edge" (2G) frequencies in Europe. That's one reason you might be better off buying the phone in Europe not the US. But if you know the exact model number of the phone you'd be buying in the US, you can look up its frequencies to see which ones it would have for Europe.

Even so, I don't consider 4G a requirement for Europe - even 2G is OK just for occasional phone calls (which don't use data). 3G is usually plenty fast enough for me.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
11613 posts

You may be able to purchase a simple phone at TIM at the airport, I did several years ago; phone, plus phone plan for a month, was less than €70 (perhaps a bit more now).

Posted by Vick Vega OP
288 posts

Something I hadn't though of previously.

If i buy a phone and SIM in Italy for my mother/aunt to use while we are there or if I buy an unlocked phone here and a SIM for it in Italy, am i going to be able to use that phone to call and text MY Verizon phone (I'm there with them) that I've activated the international plan on?

Again, the only purpose for getting a phone for them is so we can communicate between MY phone and the phone we get them for times when we separate. They won't really need to be able to call #'s in italy/greece etc....Just call and text back and forth with me.

Sorry I never thought of this before.

Posted by Andrew H.
Portland, Oregon
2351 posts

If you buy and use an Italian SIM (no matter where you get the phone), you'll have an Italian phone number. To use the phone's native calling and texting features, you'll be using the Italian number - which means an international call or text when communicating with people who have US phone numbers/US phone service.

If you buy smart phones for them, then you can use apps like WhatsApp to text/call without using the phone's number - you'd use mobile data (or WiFi) instead and wouldn't be required to make international calls or texts.

But if your two traveling companions are used to flip phones, they may not find it simple to use a smart phone. Smart phones are quite intimidating to first-time users, at least to first-time users who have put off getting one this long perhaps for a reason. And using an app to call instead of just dialing or typing a number to text may be more than they can figure out in the span of a vacation.

One possibility for you is to buy yourself an Italian SIM for your Verizon phone (which should not be locked). Then you'll have an Italian phone number too. Get flip phones for your friends with Italian SIMs. Then they can continue to make calls and send/receive texts like they are used to doing on a flip phone, without using an app, and because you'll all have Italian phone numbers, you'll be making domestic calls/texts. If you need to receive voice calls yourself, there are ways to do that without using your Verizon service. Google Hangouts and Google Voice is one solution for communicating with landlines and regular cell phones via smart phone apps.

Alternately, get smart phones for your friends before you all leave for Italy. Setup WhatsApp and make sure they can use it. (You can use it on WiFI without a SIM card). That way, you won't have to find out when they get to Italy whether they can make it work or not.

Posted by Agnes
Washington DC Region, USA
4328 posts

This seems like a lot of trouble for a less than 3 day stay in Rome....how long do you anticipate being separated? It sounded like you had mostly a full schedule together for all 3 days, plus or minus a few hours in case someone wants to relax at the hotel. If someone wants to just relax at the hotel for a while, I would just give them a time frame that I'd be back to check on them before (you all go on to) the next activity. What's wrong with keeping it simple? If there was some emergency, I'm (pretty) sure the hotel could help with a phone call or e-mail if you had to be reached.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
1516 posts

If you get them a phone in Italy (or a phone from home with an Italian SIM) you can call each other but it will be at international rates. For you and them. You have an international plan so it shouldn't cost too much for you but I'd look carefully at the plan with the SIM you buy to see costs. I'm not sure how this works.

Then once you understand that I'd program your number in because calling a US number from an Italian phone would require country code and such - and it sounds like this may be confusing for them.

Honestly, the easiest thing would be to figure out a way to put an international plan on their phone. Or buy a phone AND SIM with intl ability at home.

Posted by Rocket
San Francisco area
624 posts

Calling a US number from an Italian cell is easy just use the +1 area code and number. Program it into the phone you buy. And test it. If it’s a keypad phone(basic phone) and you can’t find the + symbol then dial 00 1 area code and number.

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/phones-tech/call-uk-europe

Buying a plan in Italy is relatively easy. Takes about an hour, less if there’s no lines. Bring your passport.
TIM and Vodafone seem to be the go to carriers but there is wind and tre.