Reduce your roaming bills by using a local SIM card.
Italy is one of Europe’s finest tourist destinations, with lots to see and do. A trip there can leave you with much to talk about, but calling home can work out to be expensive. Fortunately, Italy has some great prepaid SIM card deals that can reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Italy’s leading telco provider for as little as EUR5 (AUD$7.48). So, whether you’re planning a short trip or a lengthy tour, check out the best SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Italy
There are four main operators in Italy: TIM, Vodafone, Wind and 3 (Tre). All four operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Italy has great coverage in the main cities and along the highways, while the signal can weaken along the shoreline, countryside and mountain regions. Italy is part of the new European Union (EU) roaming pact, which means you can “roam-like-at-home” in all EU member states at the same rate.
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About Italy’s operators
Italy’s operators offer great coverage for a country that has a mountainous terrain, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “Chips”, and they can be purchased from official stores. You must show your passport or some form of ID to purchase and use the SIM card, and it will only be activated once the SIM card has been officially registered. The retailer might ask you for your tax code, which is mandatory for locals or residents to purchase SIM cards in Italy. However, if you explain that you’re a visitor and only wish to purchase a prepaid SIM card for a short period of time, then it’s usually fine. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Italy.
TIM is the largest operator in Italy and offers good rates and deals. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is widely accepted as being the best. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and must be registered properly by showing your passport before they can be activated by the store assistant. Credit can be purchased from most retailers in Italy, including supermarkets, small stores, service stations and post offices. Credit can be added by entering a 16-digit PIN code into your device or by sending an SMS to 40916. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for EUR10, which comes with EUR5 credit.
The following “Piani Base” prepaid SIM card packages are available:
- One Prime Go – EUR0.49 per week which includes data-free access to the TIM app, free calls and SMS to one desired number on the same network, and two-for-one cinema tickets.
- TIM Base New – a basic plan which includes slightly higher base rates on calls and data. The SIM card is free, and if you add packages to this SIM card, then calls and data rates are lower.
The following combination packs are available, and each one is valid for 28 days:
- TIM Special Voice: 500 local minutes, no data – EUR10
- TIM Special Voice+Data: 500 local minutes, 2GB data, TIMmusic free for 6 months – EUR15
- TIM Special Start: 1,000 local minutes, 2GB data, TIMmusic free for 6 months – EUR20
- TIM Special Large: 3,000 local minutes, 3GB data, TIMmusic free for 6 months – EUR30
- TIM Special Unlimited: Unlimited local voice and SMS, 1,500 minutes call time to Europe and the US from Italy, Europe and US, 1,500 minutes incoming calls when roaming in Europe/US, 6GB data – EUR40
- TIM Special Pack: 2,000 local minutes and 20GB valid for 6 months – EUR49
The following data-only SIM cards can be purchased for tablets, modems or laptops:
|Internet Start||EUR10||2GB||Valid for 28 days|
|Internet Large||EUR20||5GB||Valid for 28 days|
|Internet XL||EUR30||10GB||Valid for 28 days|
TIM International plans are only available for tourists visiting Italy. Local Italians are not allowed to purchase these deals. You must show your passport to get this prepaid SIM card. The base rate is EUR10, which comes with EUR5 worth of credit. The following packs can also be added:
- TIM International 1000 Super: EUR9.99 which comes with 1,000 local minutes and 300 international minutes, 10GB of data – valid for 28 days.
- TIM International Pass: EUR15 which comes with 500 minutes, 500 SMS, 2GB of data and roaming in the EU and US – valid for 10 days.
- TIM International 2GB: EUR3 which comes with 2GB of data – valid for 28 days.
- Internet 3GB: EUR5 which comes with 3GB of data – valid for 30 days.
- TIM International 10GB: EUR15 which comes with 10GB of data – valid for 30 days.
There is also a Tourist SIM card available for travellers, which can be purchased for EUR20 and comes with EUR5 of credit, 100 minutes for calls and 4GB of data, valid for 30 days.
The following roaming offers are available too:
- TIM in Viaggio Pass: EUR20 – 500 minutes voice, 500 SMS and 10GB data valid for 10 days in all countries in Europe and USA.
- TIM in Viaggio Internet: EUR25 – 4GB for 10 days in the EU, Switzerland and USA.
TIM’s APN: ibox.tim.it /or/ wap.tim.it, and website: http://www.tim.it
Vodafone is the second-largest operator in Italy and offers good rates and deals. Internet speeds are faster than TIM, and its network coverage is good. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and must be registered by showing your passport before they can be activated by the store assistant. Credit can be purchased from most places in Italy, including supermarkets, small stores, service stations and post offices.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for EUR10, but packages must be added to get the full benefit. Credit vouchers can be purchased in many different amounts from EUR5 to EUR100. Dial 414 to check your balance.
The following basic SIM card packs are available:
- Tutto Facile Basic: EUR4 per day for up to 500MB of data.
- Vodafone 19: EUR6 per day for 1GB of data, 2GB on Sundays.
The following combo plans can also be added, and each is valid for 28 days:
|Vodafone Start||400 minutes||100 SMS||100MB||EUR10|
|Vodafone Digital||400 minutes||100 SMS||2GB||EUR15|
|Vodafone Super||400 minutes||100 SMS||3GB||EUR18|
In addition, other data packages can be purchased using the Vodafone app:
Vodafone's famous RED plans are also available in Italy:
|RED Start||EUR39||4GB||Unlimited calls and SMS|
|RED Maxi||EUR49||8GB||Unlimited calls and SMS|
If you prefer, there’s a data-only SIM card available for tablets, modems and laptops:
|Giga Start||EUR10||2.5GB||Valid for 28 days|
|Giga Extra||EUR20||5GB||Valid for 28 days|
|Giga Maxi||EUR30||10GB||Valid for 28 days|
|Internet 1 anno||EUR149||15GB per month||Valid for 1 year|
Vodafone offers roaming deals in several countries around the world, plus tourist SIM cards. Check with the retailer at time of purchase as these deals change from time to time.
Vodafone’s APN: mobile.vodafone.it, and website: http://www.vodafone.it
Wind is the third-largest operator in Italy and offers good rates and deals. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is good. Wind will soon merge with 3 (Tre) Italy, which will create the biggest Italian provider. Wind customers will still be able to use their packages during the merger and can get 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and must be registered by showing your passport before they can be activated by the store assistant. Credit can be purchased from most places in Italy, including supermarkets, small stores, service stations and post offices.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for EUR10, and you can buy credit in the following denominations: EUR5, EUR10, EUR15, EUR20, EUR30, EUR40, EUR50, EUR75, EUR100. The following base SIM cards are available:
- Wind 1: Standard SIM card – no packages are added.
- Wind senza scatto: EUR0.19 per week for lower calling and SMS rates
The following combo plans can also be added:
- All Inclusive Unlimited: 500 minutes, 500 SMS, 5GB – EUR12
- All Digital: 500 local minutes, unlimited local SMS, 5GB – EUR10
- Noi Tutti: Voice-only bundle, which offers 400 local minutes – EUR7
Call 155 and select the relevant pack to activate.
In addition, the following data packs can be added to any existing plan:
|Internet No Stop||1GB||28 days||EUR5|
|Internet No Stop Large||2GB||28 days||EUR7.50|
As well, there are tourist SIM cards and roaming packages on sale. Check offers at the time of purchase for the best deals.
Wind’s APN: internet.wind, and website: http://www.wind.it/it/privati/
3 (Tre) is Italy's smallest provider, but once it fully merges with Wind, it will become the largest operator in the country. Although the two companies have already officially merged, they will be slowly combining their services over the next couple of years. Customers on Tre can still use their services. Internet speeds are fast and the network coverage is good. Tre offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and must be registered by showing your passport before they can be activated by the store assistant. Credit can be purchased from most places in Italy, including supermarkets, small stores, service stations and post offices.
Tre’s prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for EUR10, but plans will have to be added for them to work. Tre’s “Power29” prepaid SIM card is probably the best option for tourists because it comes with a number of different voice and data combinations. Check in store for the latest offers.
There is also a data-only SIM card available which offers the following packages:
|SuperInternet Play||EUR10||10GB||30 days|
|SuperInternet 5GB||EUR5||3GB||30 days|
|SuperInternet 10GB||EUR10||10GB||30 days|
|SuperInternet 30GB||EUR15||30GB||30 days|
|SuperInternet Express||EUR20||20GB||90 days|
Tre’s customers can use Wind’s packages until the merger has fully taken effect. See Wind’s deals above for more details.
Tre’s APN: tre.it, website: http://www.tre.it/
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff
- If you don’t know the Italian language, you may want to download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Note that English is taught in most schools and is spoken by many Italians in the main tourist areas.
- Ask the retailers to set up the SIM cards for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“All the phone stores are in the domestic departure terminal, behind security. You can't get there if you arrive on a flight from outside the Schengen area, unless you're transferring to an inter-Schengen flight. There are lots of phone stores in central Rome.”
“These days if you buy at a TIM/Vodafone or Wind shop 24 hours is unusual for activation. I guess it could still happen with a third party store if you bought during the weekend. But I'd expect a TIM SIM to work basically before you leave the shop.”
Pros and cons of Italy’s top telco providers
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Italy has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in stores
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Signal can suffer in some parts
Another question about finding the best SIM?
Q: What about other SIM card providers in Italy?
A: There are many mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) providing SIM cards in Italy, like CoopVoce, PosteMobile, FastWeb, Lycamobile, Ringo Mobile, Tiscali, 1Mobile and Digi Mobil. Although they may offer slightly different packages, the prices are not any lower than the three main operators we have highlighted above, and it’s always better to stick with the main providers.