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  • How to Use a Cell Phone in Italy

    Melia2
    Italians are known for talking and their zest for talking on their cell phone is no exception. In fact, Italy has one of the highest cell phone penetrations in the world. Most travelers to Italy certainly don't plan to spend their majority of their time cooped up indoors watching television and hence, having the use of a cell phone for calling restaurants, museums and friends will certainly come in handy.

    However, the reality is, US and Canadian cell phones often do not work in Italy and those that do are expensive. The good news is that there are affordable solutions available.

    First, one must determine if their phone works in Italy. In Italy, as the majority of the world including all of Europe, they use the GSM standard and the 900 and 1800 MHz spectrums. Many newer phones through AT&T, T-Mobile and Rogers in Canada do have the ability to be used in Italy. Verizon and Sprint have very few as they use CDMA in North America. If your phone is a GSM handset and is a tri band or a quad band, it works in Italy. You may need to contact your provider and have them enable international roaming. Better yet, instead of paying your carrier's expensive rates, which, including tax, will be about $1.50 per minute for incoming and outgoing calls and double that in Canada, it makes sense to swap out their SIM card for a local Italian pay as you go one. While outgoing rates vary, you can expect to pay just a fraction for your outgoing calls, and, better yet, one thing they all have in common is that incoming calls are always free.

    There are several carriers in the Italy to choose from including TIM, Vodafone, Wind and more. You will need to provide a copy of your passport for registration purposes. You can choose to wait until going to Italy and purchasing one locally. You can also purchase one online prior to your departure. The advantage is that you will already be up and running upon arriving and you can give out your phone number in advance. Cellular Abroad at www.cellularabroad.com offers an Italian SIM card specifically designed for English speaking travelers going to Italy and needing to make local and international calls. All menus are in English, there are special rates to call back home and as the cards come pre-registered, you do not need to provide your passport information.

    It is important to know that even if your phone will work in Italy (check with your carrier if you have doubts – ask them if it has the 900 and 1800 network bands), you must ask your provider for the unlock code. Most carriers “lock” their handsets onto their network as they would obviously love to put their fingers in the proverbial pie, or in this case, the pasta sauce.

    If your cell phone does not work in Italy and you cannot simply swap out your current SIM card for an Italian one, you have two options. You can rent a handset or you can purchase one.

    There are many online companies offering service to Italy. The vast majority offer of cell phone rental companies for Italy will give you a UK number and you get a bill for the calls made when you come back. The problem with having a UK number in Italy is twofold. First, some entities, such as restaurants or even hotels have international calling blocked. Therefore, if they needed to get hold of you for any reason, they may not be able to call you. Also, calling an Italian phone number is less expensive and therefore they may be reluctant even to call an international phone number. We recommend Cellular Abroad as their service is affordable, you will get an Italian phone number and the service is pay as you go so there are no surprises regarding how much your are spending.

    If you travel often to Italy or anywhere else outside of the United States or Canada, you should consider purchasing a handset. A tri band or quad band GSM handset will work in over 200 worldwide simply by inserting the appropriate SIM card.

    Summing it up, if your current cell phone works in Italy, you may want to consider getting it unlocked and buying a local Italian SIM card in order to have an affordable cellular solution. If your phone does not work and you are not a frequent traveler to Italy, it makes sense to rent a cell phone. If you do travel often, it makes sense to buy a SIM card and cell phone. Cellular Abroad has all three solutions. Having your own cell phone while in Italy will help you blend right but a word to the wise – please do not take a stab at another Italian tradition which involves talking on the phone, talking with your hands and driving a car! Some things are just better left to the natives.

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