Prepaid data SIMs for iPad, tablet and MiFi in Italy

Getting online on an iPad or MiFi in Italy is pretty straightforward. Most of the networks have SIMs and prepaid/pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans travellers can use right out the box.

So, step one: walk into a phone shop (they are everywhere) and ask for “una scheda ricaricabile, per navigare in Internet sul mio tablet/iPad/MiFi” (“a prepaid SIM to surf the Internet with my tablet/iPad/MiFi”).

Remember your passport, driving licence, or similar official ID. As well as cash or credit card, they are going to request “un documento,” which they will photocopy. This is required by Italian law. If they also ask for a “codice fiscale” (a tax number), just explain “sono un(a) turista.” Visitors don’t need one to buy a mobile phone.

Italian SIMs come in every size (regular, micro- and nano-), and usually take just a few hours to start working after in-store activation.

The SIM generally costs 5€, but comes with approximately the same amount of credit pre-loaded. In essence, it’s free, or near-free, to buy a SIM card in Italy.

Data deals shift regularly. But, as of writing in March 2014, these are the best for travellers:

TIM: this network always has a good range of prepaid data packages. The basic “Internet Start” bundle costs 10€ for 2 Gb of traffic (valid for a month). With “Internet Large”, it costs 20€ for 5 Gb. Have a need for speed? You can add 5€ to make either of those bundles 4G/LTE . The biggest, fastest, maxi bundle “Internet 4G” costs 35€ for 15 Gb valid for a month. TIM’s nationwide coverage for 4G is pretty good (map here).

Vodafone: there are a couple of eye-catching tariffs for tablet, iPad and MiFi travellers. With “Internet Fly”, you get 7 Gb of traffic at 3G speeds for 20€. Like TIM, it costs 35€ for 15 Gb at 4G speeds, with Voda’s “Internet 4G” bundle. Both are valid for 30 days. Vodafone’s 4G coverage map has pretty good service in urban areas, but so far nothing in Umbria, Le Marche or Abruzzo. Out in the sticks, though, it’s usually 3G only, on either network.

There are two more major networks (Wind and Tre [3]), but their best-value tariffs are aimed at contract customers, and so less suited to visitors.

I have never had any serious connection problems in populated areas with Italian networks. However, any of them can struggle in the mountains. If you are staying rural, it is a good idea to ask your host or another local which network they use.

As an alternative to a data-only SIM, elsewhere I have covered tethering your smartphone in Italy.

[Photo: yum9me on Flickr.]

12 Comments

  1. B. Gentile March 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    Donald,
    Thank you so much for the update info on data plans and SIMS for MiFi and tablets in Italy. It will certainly be useful when I arrive there in two weeks.

  2. Peter Manly April 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    An informative and very useful article. I’m quite a heavy user of data via a Mifi device on a boat and I’m thinking the TIM bundle “Internet 4G” appears to be good value for money, but will it work in an area where there is 3G coverage only? Also can you buy more GB if you reach your limit before the end of a month?

  3. Donald Strachan April 21, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Hi Peter. Yes, it will work at 3G speeds. And yes you can buy more. Enjoy!

  4. Lucas H April 27, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    Hi Donald, Can i just get the sim and the internetfly option and put it into my IPhone instead of an ipad?

  5. Winz May 26, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    Hi Donald

    Sorry a noob question. I’ll be travelling to italy for two weeks. If i have a mifi and i purchase a data card, i can use it to tether to my phone for whatsapp and surfing the net right? But if i purchase a SIM card that has data, voice bundle, this would not be allowed to tether?

  6. Monnette June 2, 2014 at 3:42 am #

    Connectivity is becoming more basic especially among travelers.

  7. Raven June 3, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Hi Donald,

    Thanks for your informative blog posts. They are all very helpful!

    I am planning a trip where the majority of my time will be spent in Italy but I arrive in Paris and depart from Barcelona. Would roaming be possible and do you have any recommendations for this situation?

    Thank you!

  8. lisa July 5, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi Donald I will be traveling with a Samsung tablet with the sim cards work for it as well?

  9. Crispin July 19, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Hi Donald
    We stayed in Alghero, Sardinia for 11 days recently where I took your advice and bought a PAYG Data only sim from a TIM retailer in the town, fitting this in my old unlocked smartphone. The deal was 20 Euro + 3 Euro activation for 4GB of Data and almost no calls – these are intended to be used only in tablets etc. By comparison roughly the same £20 or so would have bought me just 250 MB from Virgin. Signal at our hotel typically was very good to perfect – however you are locked to just one network and reception varied widely as we travelled around – just like being at home. Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. Jim July 27, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    Hello Donald,

    Thank you for the very helpful information about the Prepaid data SIMs for iPad while traveling in Italy. The Vodafone sim looks like the best option for us. We will use our iPad to help us find places and for routing.

    We will be traveling by car not only in Northern Italy, but in Eastern France and Switzerland as well. Do you know if the Vodafone sim card will work in these countries too?

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to respond to my inquiry.

    Jim
    Fukuoka, Japan

  11. Joy August 17, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    The most concise information so far … Thanks. Just to clarify please. Sorry I’m an older person so very low tech

    We will be in Italy for 1 month. I want my iphone 4 to roam (from Australia) so will leave that as is.
    IPad mini – get a TIM bundle internet 4G nano sim just for data
    Nokia regular mobile – can I get a regular sim just for sending/receiving international and local calls.

    Thanks again

  12. chris November 11, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    I just returned from Italy. I flew into Venice. Just north of the Rialto Bridge is a Vado store and a block north of that is a TIM store. I had two unlocked iPhone 4s phones. I bought 2 SIM cards for 10 Euro each and 5 euro credit on each one. Then two data and phone plans for 20 Euro each. Each plan had 2 GB of data and 200 minutes of out going calls. No sms. Worked perfectly for each of us. We could call each other when ever we wanted and had essentially unlimited data. I used less than 1 GB of data and my wife even less.

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