Last year, I wrote a post about travelling with your smartphone or iPad in Italy. Data roaming is obviously a popular subject, because that post remains the most common point of entry for readers coming via a search engine. The advice is still solid, so you should first skip over there if you’re looking for general tips on buying an Italian SIM card in Italy.
But the pay-as-you-go (i.e. contract-free) plans and prices need updating. So, below the fold are the latest updates as of June 2012. [Note: the updated plans as of May 2013 are here.]
TIM: The “TIM per smartphone” prepaid data option for phones still costs €2.50 per week for 250 MB of traffic. TIM have also added a “TIM per smartphone MAXI” tariff, costing €5 per week for 500 MB. For iPad and tablet browsing on TIM, there’s an offer running through 19 August that doubles the traffic that comes with each of their bundles. So, Internet Start includes 2 GB of data for €9 and Internet Large has 10 GB for €19.
Vodafone Italia : Vodafone’s starter data plans for tablets are pricier. “Internet Go” costs €20 per month for 5 GB of traffic at speeds up to 14.4 Mbps. “Internet Fly” costs a little more, €25, for 7 GB at speeds up to 43.2 Mbps. Vodafone’s best prepaid smartphone plans bundle surfing the web with SMS, talk minutes, or both. For example, Smart 100+ includes 100 minutes to anyone in Italy, 100 text messages, and 500 MB of Internet per month for €20. You can find a Vodafone vendor in your destination using the store locator.
Wind: Wind offers the same data plans whether you’re browsing from a smartphone or from a tablet. For €9 per month, Internet No Stop promises “unlimited” web. However, once you hit a ceiling of 1 GB your speed drops to a very restricting 32 kbps. Still a good deal, though. If you need more traffic, €20 a month buys you Mega Unlimited, with a 10 GB ceiling.
3: Tre, as it’s known in Italy, still offers its Super Internet tariff at €5 a month for 3 GB of traffic (capped at 100 MB during any one day). The data add-on costs the same for smartphones and tablets. I have struggled with 3 coverage in rural areas in the past. However, that is very cheap compared to the rest, so if you’re going to be in a city, it may be worth a punt. Amazingly, Brits can still bring their Italian 3 SIM home and use it at the same rates when they get back. I’m going to try 3 out again when I’m in Italy this August and see how I get on. (If you have any experiences using 3 in Italy, do leave a comment below.)
Note that you’ll also need to buy the SIM and activate it, which generally costs around €5 (occasionally a little more for 3). Plus you’ll need an unlocked smartphone. But the minimal cost of unlocking most phones ought to be far outweighed by the savings you’ll make on roaming charges, despite the new EU regs.
And if you don’t have an unlocked handset, you should also consider buying one locally, especially if you’re visiting Italy from North America. You can pick up a decent Android phone for under €100. Buy it, use it, then recycle or eBay it when you get home. You’ll save a bundle.
This post took lots of time to research, and I’m more than happy to share my knowledge here for free. I hope it saves you a bundle. If you’d like to drop a few coins in the box to say thanks, I’d be very grateful; just click this button:
You can connect with Donald Strachan on Google+.