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 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.
At the moment Wind.it offers ITALY TOURIST PASS. The offer provides 2GB of data and 100 minutes of voice all for €10. The offer provides thirty days of service. 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 the four weeks is €20. Still likely much less then 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. The offer can be renewed for only €10 a month making it the best option if you are planning a longer stay in Italy.
Vodafone.it offers 300 minutes of voice,300 SMS and 2GB of data. It also costs €30 including the SIM. It’s more expensive then the Wind offer. It does provide more voice minutes and SMS. Most people don’t have a need for either the SMS or the extra voice minutes. It includes voice calls to a number of countries including the United States, Australia and Canada. The offer has a twenty eight day duration. After the initial twenty eight days it renews for €29. You will need to have credit on the phone for the renewal. The automatic renewal may make this interesting for longer trips. There is no EU roaming included.
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 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 6GB of that allowance in free roaming mode. The TIM offer is currently the only one offering free voice and data roaming. If your trip includes stays outside of Italy this is almost certainly your best choice. 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 Tim offer is slightly longer than Vodafone. If you’re staying for twenty nine or thirty days it obviously makes the most sense.
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.
Mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy updated July 7th 2018
Mobile data for your smartphone while in Italy UPDATED conclusions!
The latest TIM offer is greatly improved. At the moment there is very little reason to consider the other competing offers. The new TIM offer includes a much larger amount of data. Likely the biggest draw for most visitors. In addition for travelers combining multiple EU countries the included roaming represents a major improvement.
I fully expect the two other competing companies to more or less match the new TIM offer . Remember before leaving home check what the current offers are. The “best” offer for you may have changed.