There’s always a new deal in Italy, and prepaid phone plans change all the time. So, it’s time to update the details on my step-by-step guide to buying a smartphone SIM and pay-as-you-go plan in Italy.
The how-to instructions remain the same (see that previous post for easy-to-follow instructions): it’s simple to get connected in Italy, and much cheaper to use your smartphone (or even a regular phone) on a local network. Roaming rates for voice and text messages have come down within the EU, but that doesn’t help much if you are arriving in Italy from outside Europe. And anyway, if you want to use data, you need a local SIM and plan—wherever you are coming from, and whether you are bringing your own unlocked phone or carrying a MiFi.
Aside from the prices, the other big change since 2012 is the arrival of 4G (or LTE) data speeds. I was all over Italy last month and had a chance to test out one of the networks “in the wild”.
The best data deals on each of the main Italian networks are below the fold.
The “TIM per smartphone” option is still one of the best deals around for a visitor. It costs 3€ per week, renewed automatically each week after activation, for 300 Mb of data. If you run out before the week is up, you can renew early (you will receive a text with instructions; reply with SI and you are refilled with data). To activate TIM per smartphone, just text TIMSMART3 ON to 40916 from your TIM line. There are a couple of further options to consider: TIM per smartphone mese (1 Gb valid for up to a month for 10€; text TIMSMARTMESE ON to 40916); and TIM per smartphone 4G (500 Mb at 4G/LTE speeds valid for a week for 6€; text TIMSMART4G ON to 40916).
Note, though, that TIM 4G coverage is limited to some cities only. Most of the country is covered with 3G only (and remote areas, not even that: slow EDGE speeds are still out there).
It is free to activate any of these options, as long as you do it by text or phone. In a TIM store, they will probably charge you an activation fee (often equal to the first payment of your prepaid plan). Here is the online TIM store locator.
Voda’s data-only add-on isn’t quite as generous as TIM’s: it costs 3€ per week for up to 250 Mb with the Mobile Internet option. However, Voda has fantastic all-in plans for mixing up talk, text and browsing. Vodafone UNLIMITED offers unlimited in-country Voda-to-Voda minutes (it costs a further 1€ per day for 200 minutes to anyone, debited automatically from your first call), unlimited texts and 1 Gb of data per month (at 4G/LTE speeds for no extra money, until May 31, 2013) for 11.90€.
Smart 350 is slightly better if you want to do more talking: 350 minutes to everyone, 350 texts to everyone, and 1 Gb of fast data for 9.90€ per month. Note, that’s a promotional price, and may rise after June 9, 2013. (It may not… prices on Voda’s all-in tariffs swing around a lot; check the updated tariff sheet they keep in most Vodafone stores.) Here is the Vodafone online store locator.
As with Voda, you get the best out of Wind with a minutes plus texts plus Internet plan. The All Inclusive plan has 120 minutes, 120 texts and 1 Gb of Internet for 7€ per month (until June 9, 2013; the regular price is 17€ per month, but after June 9 another promotion will almost certainly come onstream). To activate, text ALL SI to 4033. You can increase that data allowance to 2 Gb for an extra 2.50€ by activating the Internet No Stop add-on. Or make it 10 Gb of Internet by activating the Mega Unlimited add-on for 12€ per month (text UNLIMITED SI to 4033). Here is the Wind store locator.
The advice on 3/Tre remains the same: this is very much Italy’s “fourth” network. I have struggled in the past to find a signal in remote, rural areas. But if you expect to be city-tripping only, this is worth a look—mostly because the plans are straightforward and cheap. All-In Small costs 8€ per month for 120 domestic minutes, 120 texts and 1 Gb of high-speed Internet. Alternatively, don’t bother with a plan (other than the Power10 .10€/min. pay as you go rate) and add Super Internet: 5€ for up to 3Gb of Internet valid for 30 days. Here is the Tre/3 store locator.
iPad plans in Italy
SIMs for iPads, iPad Minis and Android tablets are available on every network. Tre’s plan is the simplest and cheapest: the Super Internet package offers 3 Gb of Internet valid for a month for 5€; Tre SIMs usually cost 7€.
Prices and plans on Vodafone and TIM vary with browsing speed (cheaper for standard 3G, pricier for HSPA+ [42.2 Mbps, in theory], priciest for 4G/LTE). TIM has the cheaper “starter” plan: Internet Start offers 2 Gb of browsing within a month for 12€ (plus 5€ activation fee). Pay a little more for Voda’s Internet Go package (20€/month) and you get 5 Gb of traffic at 3G speeds. For heavy use, TIM’s Internet 4G tariff allows up to 15 Gb of traffic in a month, at 4G/LTE speeds, for 35€. TIM and Voda SIMs usually cost 5€.
This post took lots of time to research, and I’m very 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 the button:
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