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serega 07-04-2008 06:56

Prepaid SIM in Italy?
Hello All

My wife and I will be traveling around Italy for a couple of weeks in May and I would like to get a prepaid SIM card for my phone to use in case of emergencies, possibly call a TI or a museum if needed, and to check in with my 'parental units' in the US and with my wife's folks in Belarus.

My planned route is as follows:
Arrive to Rome's Fiumicino Airport, rent a car, don't stop anywhere in Rome (I hear Rome's traffic is a bear) drive to Rimini -> Venice -> Milan (and possibly Lake Como) -> Florence -> back to Rome.

I am looking for advice on:
- Which provider and plan to go with for best rates?
- Where can I buy said provider's SIM?
- Are there instructions in English for activation/refill? (with my non-existent Italian unfortunately it's a must)

Any advice would be much appreciated! :)

Effendi 07-04-2008 20:05

In Italy there are 3 GSM+W-CDMA operators (TIM, Vodafone, Wind) and 1 W-CDMA only (3) operator. There are also some virtual operators, but not so convenient. I'd go with a GSM operators (you need at least a dual-band 900/1800 phone; an American quad-band is perfect) It's very easy to get a prepaid sim-card, just go to a TIM, Vodafone or Wind shop and ask for a new "carta prepagata" (prepaid card).

Wind is the cheapest of the 3; coverage is a bit worse than TIM and Vodafone, but usually it's good (very good for US standards, I'd dare to say). I'd go with a Wind prepaid card with "Super Senza Scatto" plan.
When you buy the card ask the dealer to activate the "Call Your Country" option. With this you have cheaper tariffs to call Belarus (€ 0.20/min) and the US (€ 0.35/min). Activating the "Call Your Country" option is free of charge when you buy a new card, that's why you have to ask them to activate it at once.
BTW all information about Wind is here:

To refill it's very easy, most Tabacchi shops have electronic recharge: you choose the amount you want to recharge (i.e. 10, 25, 50€...) and tell them your phone number (32x.xxxxxxx) and they will recharge it automatically. Very easy.
In any case, when you activate a new Wind card, calling 4242 you can choose English for voice prompts and SMS communications. Ask the dealer to do it for you if you want, but it's really easy, just wait to hear something in English after a lot of info in Italian! :)

serega 08-04-2008 02:59

Hi Effendi,

Thank you much for the info! I was able to extract info on the store locations from Wind's website. I think I shall pick up a SIM in one of their Rimini stores. :)

- While in UK 2 yrs ago, I bought a prepaid SIM card and I remember a portion of the cost was unusable for the actual service, for out of 10 pounds cost say only 5 pounds worth was actual talk time. Is it the same way in Italy?


Effendi 08-04-2008 10:55

I think in the UK now you get what you pay for, while in Italy sim-cards usually cost 10€ and include just 5€ of credit. But sometimes, expecially in summer, you can get some promotions with more credit.

Intasun77 07-05-2008 11:49

I have had a TIM 'carte prepagata' for nearly four years. I usually buy a Ricarica card before I go home and top up my SIM after 6 months to keep it valid. I tried to register on the TIM web site to top up my sim but the system would not accept a non Italian credit card. I have recently discovered that I can now top up my TIM sim in Spain which is helpful. Do you know of any other means to ricaricare, other than Ebay, from outside Italia?

Thank you.

Effendi 07-05-2008 16:32

In the past I think it was possible to refill with vouchers from the FreeMove alliance operators also outside of Italy, but I cannot find any information about it on TIM website now... BTW the validity of the credit is 12 months, you don't need to refill after 6.

Motel75 07-05-2008 19:56

Vodafone annoyingly went up to 15 euro minimum topup on their website (but they do accept foreign cards). It used to be 3, then 5. Small-value cards are available on eBay, though, and I suppose one can always stock up on small-value topups while in Italy, provided they don't expire for several years.

wco81 09-05-2008 04:32

Can you comment on the procedures for getting a codice fiscale?

Is the online web site still valid? Why is Telestial in this country asking for a copy of your passport? Do the Italian authorities need your passport if you use a prepaid SIM?

Also, are any of these prepaid cards any good for UTMS data? I see the rates there but will loading a couple of web sites cost me like 10 Euros or something?

On a related note, looks like Italy may be getting iPhone from both TIM and Vodaphone. Wonder if they will have an unlimited data plan. iPhone tends to encourage a lot of data usage.

Motel75 09-05-2008 14:17

I have a real codice fiscale, and it wasn't any trouble to get it. Took about half an hour at the tax office. BTW, my CF was slightly different from the previous "fake" one that I had worked out with pen and paper (they used my full name, whereas I'd used just first and last to generate it).

Effendi 09-05-2008 16:03

You have to use the full name, that's sure.
BTW for registration they require codice fiscale and passport/ID card.

There are several data options with Italian providers if you want to use bigger quantity of data. The best offers are usually with Wind, but consider also 3 for its much much wider UMTS HSDPA coverage...

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