Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cell Phone for Italy

I don't think I've spent as much time researching anything for our trip to Italy as I have on cell phones. Well, that's not exactly true - figuring out Seymour's travel health requirements is still an ongoing problem - and will be covered in a later blog entry.

The first thing I had to decide was why I wanted to use a cell phone - to call the USA and Italy, for Italy only, or so people could contact me?

I decided that most of my communication needs back to the USA will be solved with Skype set up for the free service and then I plan to get the Skype phone number so people can leave me messages that I can check when I have internet. I will have an emergency calling card in case I have an emergency call to make.

What I think I need in Italy is a phone with an Italian phone number so I can call places in Italy for directions, reservations, etc. and people in Italy can call me. Not that I expect many phone calls. The next question is whether to buy, rent or use my own phone. You can use your own phone if it is set up with GSM access, but I decided not to bring my phone. I'm too chicken that I would do something wrong and I'd come home to $1000 worth of charges.

Some people believe that if you are only going for a week or so, renting a phone is the best bet. I personally think that you can purchase a phone pretty cheaply so why not just buy it and have it for future trips? And if you don't go on "future trips", sell it on craigslist or ebay.

I found this cute little phone on Amazon for about $32. It comes with a headset (probably not the best), an electrical charger and of course the phone and rechargeable battery. My concern is remembering where I put that "cute little phone" during my travels - it is little!

You will need to get an adapter to your charger so you can plug it in while in Italy. Adapters are really inexpensive and I already have one.
This is what they look like:

The outlets in Italy have 3 holes but you only use the 2 outer holes when you plug in an adapter.

Back to the cell phones. So, once I chose my phone, I had to decide what to do about a SIM card. Some SIM cards sold in the USA will give you a USA or UK phone number so your family can call you inexpensively. Since I only want to use it for calls within Italy, I decided to wait until I go to get a card. Some things I didn't know about SIM cards, that might be old news to you:

1. Every time you get a new SIM card, you get a new phone number. So, since I am just going to Italy, I will buy one card and get it recharged. I understand that you can get them recharged in tabacchi, grocery stores or via the internet.

2. The SIM card itself costs money so you may pay 10 euros for a card and only get 5 euros worth of time - or less. But usually you only pay for outgoing calls, not incoming calls. With some services, you are charged for both.

3. There appears to be three main companies/stores that sell SIM cards in Italy: Telestial, TIM, and Vidafone. They each have stores all over Italy and you can find them by searching the internet - or asking someone.

4. You do have to get the SIM set up and hopefully they will help me when I buy it. Otherwise I'll have to try to translate the directions using either Google Translate or a cool new site I found called

5. In order to purchase a SIM in Italy you have to have a tax record called a "Codica Fiscal" which proves you live in Italy. I found a site online where you could supposedly create your own Codica Fiscal but it wouldn't work for me. Maybe that is good because they do say that is could be illegal. So,this tax form could be a problem. I understand that some shops will fill one out for you when you buy a SIM - and I hope that happens. Otherwise I might see if the woman I'll be staying with the first month will help me to get one.

6. There is a way to set up most phones to speak English instead of Italian but right now I don't know how to do it. Again I hope to learn more when I get to Italy. BTW, I understand that the reason for needing this card is because the Italian government doesn't want terrorists to be able to access phones for sinister reasons.

Besides needing to set up the Skype phone number, I think my communication needs are complete. I don't plan to get any data packages but instead will just seek out internet access in various places and use my iPad. I just purchased a bluetooth headseat with mike for my iPad but I haven't tried it out yet.

I'm trying to make this trip as inexpensively as possible, so any money savers I find, I will pass on to you.

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