Using Your Cell Phone in Italy - EASY!

A working cell phone while traveling is pretty much indispensable. To me, it's like comfortable shoes or clean underwear. And while you can try to get by updating your Instagram by using the many places you can get free WiFi (I did that on my honeymoon), having a working cell phone eliminates a lot of stress by enabling you to make calls, use google maps, communicate, update your Instagram, and just feel like you are still connected to the world even though you may be a world away from home.

One of the bloggers I read is planning a trip to Italy and posed a question on Instagram about how to obtain a SIM card or international plan in Italy. She wasn't finding much online and since I literally just went through getting a SIM card in Italy I wanted to share this post in hopes that it answers someone's international cell phone questions.

Some background on me: I am an American who was traveling to Italy. My cell phone provider is Comcast mobile (which I highly recommend by the way) and my cell phone is an unlocked Moto G5S Plus. "Unlocked" means it is not tied to any cell phone provider's network, such as the phones you might buy directly through Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T.  I think this is important because when I went on my honeymoon and tried to buy a SIM card my phone was locked on Verizon's network and the SIM didn't work (my husband's phone was unlocked and he had no issue at all).

Some background on Italy: Similar to the US, Italy has multiple cell phone providers, including TIM, Vodafone, and Wind. We only used TIM so I can't really talk about the other providers but I'm sure they have very similar offerings. If you have any info about those providers let me know and I'll add it in!

TIM offered the perfect package for what we needed so that's why we went with them. It was called the "Tim Tourist" package.

TIM; TIM Tourist; TIM plan; cell phone in Italy
TIM Tourist is a 30 day package which cost 20 euros for each SIM card. We were only traveling for 2 weeks so that was plenty of time. TIM Tourist includes a TIM SIM card, 15GB of data, 200 minutes (both for Italy and international calls!), and free chat (like Google Hangouts or Snapchat). It will give you an Italian phone number and you don't have to worry about your home network at all. No roaming fees whatsoever!

One thing we learned was that there was no texting with this particular plan. That didn't matter to us because we could just use email, Google Hangouts, and Instagram to chat with people if we needed to. If you simply MUST have texting this plan is not for you.

The best part about using TIM Tourist was that we could buy it online. Prior to even leaving the US we purchased our TIM Tourist package and received a receipt and a voucher (these come as separate emails). The Voucher even comes with directions!

I deleted some of the PIN CODE in case they re-use them or something. Your PIN CODE will have more numbers in it.

The next part is whatever works best for you. You really can go to any TIM Store and there are over 4000 locations so you can find one wherever you are in Italy. 

We flew into FCO, which is the Fiumicino Airport in Rome, and I believe there are multiple TIM stores right in the airport.  We walked off the plane, went down the escalators to baggage claim (there's also a money exchange office in baggage claim but we didn't use it because we have international cards that let us use any ATM for local currency without any transaction fees! If you want info on that let me know), and picked up our luggage. Because we weren't sure where the TIM store actually was in the airport and we didn't want to leave the secure area if it was located there, we asked an airport official to point us to the store. As it turns out, we had to walk through the security doors to the area where the public is (drivers picking up people, family waiting to give hugs, etc). It is important to know that you cannot return to baggage claim so make sure you are ready to leave before you exit those doors! Once you come through the doors if you look to your right there is hallway of shops and counters. TIM has a store right there in that hallway. It's on the right side after you walk up a tiled ramp. I believe Vodafone also has a location there (possibly right next to the TIM store). Since the store is in a public area it means that even if you fly into a different terminal/gate you can always get to this TIM store!

The sales associate was so incredibly nice. She collected our vouchers and our passports (to make copies), we signed a form basically saying we picked up SIM cards, and then she installed the SIM cards right in front of us. 
She said that in about an hour we would get a text message from TIM and we would have to restart our phones. Then they would be activated and ready to go. 

If you fly into FCO it's about 30-40 minutes to Rome. We walked back to the arrivals area to find our driver and on the way to our hotel I got my text message. So for us it only took about 20 minutes to activate.

The sales associate even took our old SIM cards and taped them to the back of the plastic card for safekeeping, which was fantastic because have you seen SIM cards? They are TINY. In France they just handed them back to us and I stored them in my necklace pouch for the duration of the trip. This time it was so easy, I just sandwiched the plastic card between my phone case and the back of my phone and my SIM card stayed safe and was readily accessible to be reinstalled when we landed in the US two weeks later.
Just don't lose your phone!

I hope this helps! If you have any additional questions or if you have experience with Vodafone or one of the other providers let me know and I'll add the information to this post! Also, always remember if you're looking at this in the future some information may have changed. You should always do a bit of research on your own to confirm. Enjoy your trip!

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