Using Your Mobile Phone in Italy

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 03:00

We have all become more dependent upon our mobile phones than we ever imagined: they double up as our music player, camera and personal organiser. They keep us connected to social media and enable us to share our experiences worldwide.

As mobile devices have increased in both popularity and ease of use, there’s been a gradual decline in the U.S and the United Kingdom in public telephones and this is the same in Italy, with many small villages no longer having a street corner telephone.

If you are visiting Italy and want to use your mobile/cell phone while you are there, here are a few things that you’ll need to know.

Will my phone work in Italy?

Italy, like most EU countries, uses the GSM mobile system, meaning that the majority of U.K. mobile devices in circulation will be compatible; however, only 50% of U.S. and Canadian handsets will work in European countries. So before you travel, it’s a good idea to contact your service provider and make enquiries. Also please check your contract, as some providers will require notice that you intend to use your device whilst travelling out of your country of residence.

Roaming and Charges   

Once you are in Italy, your handset will be ‘roaming’, this means it will be looking for an Italian service provider to connect to. The four Italian service providers are Wind, Vodafone, TIM and Three. Roaming means that you can stay connected at all times, but it does also mean that there can be additional charges. If you have a smartphone, it’s a good idea to turn off data roaming until it is required. Data roaming is when your phone automatically updates internet services, such as Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, etc. One of the biggest complaints from holiday-makers is the high costs accrued for data roaming, so turn it on only when you need to check your email and post on social media.

One thing to bear in mind is the extra charges that will be incurred while you use your handset abroad. For every incoming call you receive, there will be an additional charge to your handset for the portion of the call that is routed through the host country’s telephone system; some providers will also charge even if you don’t answer the call.

Local calls and texts may be charged at the local Italian rate, however texts home to your friends and family will also incur further charges. Also bear in mind that if you call or text a friend who is in your holiday group on their non-Italian phone, it will still be considered to be an international communication and subject to your service providers international rates.

Unlocking your Phone

One of the easiest ways to keep track of phone charges whilst in Italy is to purchase a SIM card, as all the Italian providers operate pre-paid services. Unfortunately, most mobile handsets are locked and will only be compatible with SIM cards belonging to your service provider. If you contact your service provider and explain that you are travelling and will be using another SIM card while abroad, they will unlock your device or send you a code to do so by SMS. Some providers will try to talk you into taking an international package, but in most cases these work out more expensive than using an Italian SIM card.

Obtaining an Italian SIM card is relatively easy; all you will need to provide at the point of sale is your address while in the country and your passport, which will be photocopied. Unlike some EU countries where it is possible to purchase a pre-paid card anonymously, this is not possible in Italy, as the details of all telephone users and their numbers are registered.

Finally, Italian SIM cards expire after a certain period of inactivity. Providers vary from 3 to 12 months; this also includes any credit you may have left, so it’s best to use up the remaining credit and dispose of the card once you return home, as it won’t be worth saving it for another visit a year or two later.

Also before you change the SIM cards, save your address book to your handset so that it will be available for use with the Italian card and remember to add the (+) sign and country code to the numbers you will be calling while on vacation.