SIM /Data while travelling in Italy
April 28, 2012 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Staying in Italy for 3 1/2 months from June to October 2012. The Flashdrake and I need SIM cards for our mobile/cell phones while we are there. I must have data access as well, at least 1GB a month. The TelCo industry changes so rapidly however, that I hoped that MeFites might help with current options. In the past we have had not problem with SIM cards overseas, particularly finding the Lebara plans great in Europe as they permitted us to call each other for free.

Lebara doesn't operate in Italy, and there is a great deal of bureaucracy in the requirements for identification for foreigners from what I can see online at the TIM, Vodafone, and 3. This site gives a deal of information, and we will have an address and my husband is an EU citizen. I have a visa to stay for 6 months, so am eligible for a statement of residency. We will not have a tax file number.

Do MeFites have any recent experience or knowledge of Pay-as-You-Go mobile plans in Italy?

Bonus points for info on SIM card for an iPad and/or a mobile wireless device to connect phones and lapstops.
posted by Flashduck to Travel & Transportation around Italy (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have personal experience, but this page seems like a decent summary.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:26 AM on April 28, 2012

TIM (or at least some of their offices) will just make up the codice fiscale number if you're a foreigner. (Getting a codice fiscale is actually really easy if it turns out you need it for other things - you just queue up and get it, and as it doesn't give you any rights to healthcare or other fine things they don't police it. Just go to the office early.) If you're getting a microsim for an Ipad or one of those keys for a computer then you don't need the codice fiscale or anything else - it's the mobile phones that they seem to need them for (or at least that was my experience). I got mine in the TIM office in Termini in Rome, where they speak excellent English if you don't have good Italian. (This was in January of this year, so the information is reasonably current.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:03 AM on April 28, 2012

Oh, and it's really, really easy to do pay as you go in Italy. I think my ipad plan was something like 20 euro for 5 GB data. I never hit the limit, at any rate. No need for signing up for anything long term.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:06 AM on April 28, 2012

I don't think many offices are rigid sticklers on the codice fiscale anymore; when I changed from TIM to Wind in December they only asked for a valid ID (passport, EU driver's license, EU Identity card). YMMV.

I'm hazarding a guess that you and your partner don't speak much Italian since you linked the English versions of TIM & Vodafone, so please excuse me if I'm mistaken and the following summary is a bit redundant to research you've already done. I'm not going to hit specific offers or rates because we'll be seeing the summer offers starting soon.

All of the big 4 (TIM, Vodafone, Wind, & 3) usually have time-sensitive offers going on to entice new customers. Wading through the ad speak and fine print can be a bit of a pain in the ass, so do your research ahead of time before you walk into the store. In all areas below, read the fine print so you don't get caught out by little gotchas that eat up any extra credit you put on.

Generally speaking for the big 4, when you get a new pre-paid number, you will have a base tariff for outgoing national calls and sending national SMS/MMS. Currently there are no tariff differences for calling a national land line versus a national mobile number. You do not pay for receiving calls or SMS/MMS while in Italy.

You will see some base tariffs nominated senza scatti. Scatti are arbitrary units of billable time as defined by the operator, generally 30 seconds. The senza scatti plans mean that they don't immediately charge you a scatto the instant the other party responds (scatto alla risposta).

The big 4 all offer time sensitive offers or "options" to entice new customers in addition to this base tariff. So the base tariff is what will kick in once you go over the limits of the special offers or the offer period runs out. For example, every 30 days I get 300 minutes and 300 SMS to all national numbers. If I use up 300 minutes before the 30 days are up, then every call I make after that is charged by my base tariff.

You will see offers for unlimited calls and/or SMS to other phone numbers held by the same operator, which might be ideal for you and your partner since you will be getting SIMs together. Other offers will be "a tutti" which means to all national numbers. AS usual, read the fine print.

Some offers will be based on a weekly deduction while others will be based on a monthly deduction. And some offers will have an activation fee while others might have an activation fee "waived" as part of the promoted offer.

Internet access for your smartphones is more or less along the same lines as above. You might find that a "tutto compreso" (voce, sms, internet) offer works best for you or as a separate option/offer added on to your account. Internet offers can be rated by time or bandwidth; usually the "time" offers also have bandwidth limitations written into the fine print. If you go over the limits, you are generally charged a heftier fee per kB if you have any remaining credit.

And here I am going to deviate from not naming a specific offer, because you specified needing at least 1GB a month. Wind's Internet No-Stop gives you 1GB a month - if you go over that limit you can still navigate sans additional charges, just at a reduced connection speed. Right now it's on offer to new clients at half price, but that apparently ends today.

Tablet offers function similarly to the smartphone Internet access offers, but with more GB per month/unit of time. Mobile Internet USB keys will usually be a "key+this Internet access tariff" type all in one packet.

One last little FYI gotcha - I finally got my US iPhone unlocked earlier this month and in trying to get FaceTime and iMessage to work, I discovered that each time I un- and re-activated each service, it sent a long distance SMS to the UK @ €,16 a pop. Whoops. And I don't think iMessage works internationally from what some of my other iPhone having friends say, but since I got fed up with the frikkin' thing, I just turned it off and installed What's App.
posted by romakimmy at 5:53 AM on April 29, 2012

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