Mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy
We should start with the easy stuff. The EU as of June 15th 2017 has eliminated most roaming for EU residents. What that means is you can use your phone within the EU the same way you would at home. There are some exceptions so it would be best to check with your carrier but for the most part you can now not worry about mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy if you are an EU resident using your home phone.
For non EU visitors there are choices. The first likely the easiest but most expensive is to contact your home carrier and see if they have a roaming package to use. For a short trip or if you only expect to use your phone for a limited number of voice calls this can be a good choice. Paying $2 a minute is still cheaper if you’re only making one five minute call.
If you intend to use your phone for data or just want peace of mind the more economical choice is to buy a local SIM. This requires an unlocked phone. If you don’t know if your current phone is unlocked ask your carrier. If it’s locked you can not just insert a new SIM. If it’s locked you will either have to get the phone unlocked or consider buying an unlocked phone.
If you’ve decided to go with a local SIM there are choices.
Wind has completed its merger with TRE. That has resulted in a new website and a new tourist offer. The new offer is broadly similar to the previous offer. The price remains €14.99.
The offer still provides a month of service. 20GB of data. 100 minutes of voice calls. 100 minutes of international calling to a select 55 countries which likely covers the vast majority of tourists. Now we come to a bit of gotcha. To activate the offer you need a SIM. The SIM will cost you €10. If it’s not clear that means the real cost of a month is almost €25. €10 for the SIM plus €14.99 for the plan Still likely much less than your local carrier will charge for roaming. The Wind offer only covers your stay in Italy. If you plan to visit other parts of Europe you’ll need to make other plans. No data roaming is included. The offer can not be renewed in spite of what the website seems to imply with the restart message.
Vodafone seems to have dropped their offer. This is a step the company had already done in other European countries. Unfortunately the Vodafone offer was the best. With Vodafone out of the market the fear is the other two offers will change in negative ways.
Vodafone.it offers Dolce Vita 600 minutes of voice and 30GB of data. For a price of €25 . It’s the same price of the Wind offer. It does provide more voice minutes and data . But more importantly it offers EU roaming and the ability to renew the offer. Most people don’t have a need for the extra voice minutes but may find roaming or the renewal option interesting. NB only 15GB of data is available for roaming. It includes voice calls to a number of countries including the United States and Canada. The offer is valid for a month. After the initial month it renews for €25. You will need to have credit on the phone for the renewal. The automatic renewal may make this interesting for longer trips.
TIM offers TIM for Visitors. It’s €20 plus an additional €10 for the SIM. In other words a total of €30. The offer provides 15GB of data and two hundred minutes of voice. The offer allows you to use your minutes to call with in the EU and many non EU countries. Check the list to see if your home country is included. The offer now includes data roaming in the EU but only 8.6GB outside of Italy. If that’s not clear you’ll have a data allowance of 15GB if you stay your whole trip in Italy. If you roam outside of Italy you will be able to use 8.6GB of that allowance in free roaming mode. The Tim offer has a duration of thirty days.
Time for the caveats. The obvious differences are the minutes and data allowance. If either of these matter to you then that might sway your choice.
The biggest caveat is all these offers can and do change. Your local carrier may change their offers. You should always check the current offers before leaving home.
I would also suggest printing out the offer you are interested in and bringing it to the shop.
The final point. The price differences aren’t huge between these three plans. At most €10. You may wish to just go with the shop closest to your hotel.
March 7th 2022 new recommendations
With the changes the choice is now down to either TIM or Wind. TIM is the only one offering roaming if that matters to you. Wind is slightly cheaper but the difference in price isn’t big enough for most people to seek out a Wind shop. If you don’t need roaming pick whichever one is easier.
Mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy updated July 2nd 2019
Mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy UPDATED conclusions!
With the changes to the Wind offer it’s now a closer competition between Wind and TIM. Wind is cheaper and includes more data. Less voice and no roaming. TIM includes roaming. The roaming being the most important if your trip spans multiple countries.
The Vodafone offer at the moment is hard to suggest. The only possible advantage is it can be renewed but it provides no roaming and the least amount of data. The Vodafone offer is also more expensive than the WIND offer.
Updated September 2nd
The new Vodafone offer is likely the clear winner for everyone. Price is in line with the Wind offer. Provides more data and EU roaming. Plus the potentially useful option to renew.
Currently unless getting to a Vodafone shop is difficult for you it’s the option to pick. Wind provides nothing extra. TIM is more expensive with less data.
Reality is any of the three offers will work if you’re only spending a couple of weeks solely in Italy. TIM’s 15GB is unlikely to be a problem. For that matter if you aren’t leaving Italy Wind’s lack of roaming won’t cause you any problems.
But if you’re needs are higher the Vodafone offer currently is the BEST
Updated for April 5th 2020
With the Wind Tre merger nothing has changed from the tourist view point. The Vodafone offer is still the best options . The only reason to consider the other two is if you can’t find a Vodafone shop near you and will not be traveling outside of Italy.
Updated September 5th 2021
Nothing has really changed with the offers. The Vodafone offer remains the best overall for most people.