If you have an unlocked GSM cell phone that supports the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 frequencies or an iPad, you should consider purchasing or renting an Italian SIM card for your cell phone for your trip to Italy.  Purchasing a SIM card from an Italian cell phone provider can offer signifcant cost savings as opposed to using your home cell phone to roam abroad. Roaming rates, particularly for data services, can literally cost thousands of dollars.  Furthermore, you will have an Italian phone number which is advantageous if you plan on receiving phone calls from friends, families, hotels, restaurants, etc. from within Italy, as they will then be calling locally. Each cell phone provider has numerous rate packages for voice, messaging, and data, and the offers vary considerably and frequently.

You may purchase a SIM card for Italy prior to your departure or once you have arrived in Italy. Purchasing prior to your trip will cost a bit more but it's worth it.  You will also have acces to the English speaking customer service, which is particularly important if you intend to use your SIM card for data.  Search the forums for experiences and reviews.

Purchasing a SIM in Italy requires presentation of proper identification, such as valid passport or European ID card. There are no real differences between purchasing a PAYG (pay as you go) SIM and purchasing a contract, except for the rates applied. PAYG top-ups can be purchased in many more places than SIMs, such as most tabacconists, many supermarkets, some news agents, some bars and coffeeshops. Many ATMs also provide an option for adding credit from an ATM card directly, by inserting the phone number in a guided on-screen procedure.

Please note: SIM registration is required by the Italian government prior to service activation.  This can be done using your passport when purchasing a SIM card.  More information on the regulatory requirements can be found here: www.italycellphone.com

Warning: Usage rules on your TIM payg Mobile phone are the same as any other, top up the sim account at least once a year in order to retain the same mobile number. However it is not possible to use the TIM on-line top-up Service for your sim unless you have an Italian Bank Provided Credit or Debit card. This policy is similar for other providers, so plan on refilling in a shop versus online.

There are four major GSM network operators in Italy, as well as several network resellers such as Italian Postal Service and the CoopAdriatica supermarket chains that sell SIM cards:




For many, it is sufficient to get a tablet SIM card while traveling, even to put in your mobile phone. This way, you have Internet and can use apps like Whatsapp to communicate.

Should you do this, you should avoid Tre. Their plan looks great - 8 gigs for 10 euros - but is designed to take advantage of foreigners who don't know the intricacy of activation. Once you purchase, you need to wait until midnight to use (unlike other providers) and if you try to use before midnight it works but on a different payment scheme where you're charged by the megabyte. Additionally, ensure that data roaming is disabled. Clients have reported attempting to activate multiple times with zero luck. 

Vodafone is also known for engaging in such slippery shenanigans (and they're more expensive - 2.5 gigs for 10 euros). WIND seems to be less so, but naturally all companies here have their own interests in mind.  

If your SIM card is WIND, it will take about one hour to get activated after purchase. Brilliant for mobile 3G data. 9 Euros a month for 1GB data, plus card costs (around 15 Euros, plus min 10 Euros top up. If in any doubt, get a wind dongle, around 40 euros. Alll software is built into the dongle - just plug it into the USB port.

Helpful Tips:

Many cell phone stores represent multiple service providers, and can offer a wide choice of voice, messaging and data packages, as well as often having relatively inexpensive, basic unlocked cell phones (from €29 on up) to which you can add a SIM from any of the cell companies.

Vodafone has a store inside Milan Malpensa airport's Terminal 1 (Phone Number: 0274867058) and also inside Milan's central train station.

The Vodafone SIM card costs 5 Euro, which includes 5 Euro time (May 2009). Additional time costs 10 Euro and up. A warning SMS message is received when your balance falls below 2 Euro and again at 1 Euro.
A Vodafone store locator is available here: Vodafone Store Locator

TIM or Telecom Italia Mobile has cell phone stores all over Italy as well.  In September 2014, a TIM SIM card cost 35 Euros, including 2GB data and 200 minutes domestic and international calls. There is a TIM stand in departures in Rome Terminal 1. Otherwise go to a TIM store.

 TIM will ONLY accept Italian credit cards, so if you intend to use an American credit card (or one issue in any country other than Italy) to add credit to your account, TIM will not be a good choice for you. 

One issue with Italian cell providers is that unless you speak Italian, it may be difficult to navigate through the options such as adding talk time, checking your call credit or accessing voicemail.

Once purchased, the credit on your SIM card generally lasts for 12 months.  If you add additional time on to the SIM card, which can usually be done on the phone companys website, it resets the time deadline for another 12-months.  But, once your 12-months expires, the phone number is deleted and you will have to purchase another SIM card.  

Additional Information:

Indian travelers should also consider this article while planning Italy trip. They can choose from TravelSim, One SIM CardLemonSIM Card and Clay Telecom.  All of them are fairly good and decent solution, speically when you have problems with your Indian phone.


TIM Internet Package is horrible

Be careful with TIM internet package. While browsing the internet, you might automatically get registered on some adult services without your consent, what will cut your credit. Service center cannot do anything to return the credit and call center only speaks italian. Costs around 5 Euros per week and updats automatically too. Without knowing you can loose 20 Euros in one month for something you do not even use. Other package than internet package is ok. 

Hint: check the "servizi" part in the online client area regularly. If there is more than 0, then you should check thoroughly, and deactivate any service you don't know. If you'll live in italy for more than 1 month, just change your sim card the next month in case your balance is negative for something you don't pay for.

**Tim tourist package as of May, 2015


Vodafone Italy Holiday Package - be careful what they don't tell you

Costs 30 Euro comes with 300 mins free talk and 300 SMSs and 2G data. Note that 29 Euros goes to activating the card and 1 Euro for usage. Please take note what they don't tell you - (1) even after you still have 1.92G data but you've lost your 1 Euro credit for whaever reason and you need to top up, minimum charge will be 5 Euros but you can top up 10 Euros just in case. 


Uniconnect - International SIM card 

When travelling around Europe, you can opt for a single card which works in multiple countries. If you are travelling from India then you opt for this card from Indian Airport , counters located at Mumbai, Delhi, in south Hyderabad, Cochin, Calicut & Trivandrum international airports. Uniconnect provides local sim cards, as well as single card for multi country travel.  

You can get more information on www.uniconnect.in