PREPARE FOR YOUR TRIP
Once in Italy, you may want to stay in touch with your loved ones back home. Or maybe you will desire to take a break from everything and really be “out of the office” for everybody. Whichever your choice, today I would just like to write about how you can actually stay in touch.
Cell phones in Italy work a little differently than in the US. Very rarely they come with a contract. 90% of them actually come with a pay as you go rechargeable SIM card.
If you’re traveling soon, I suggest to unlock your phone while still in the States and once in Europe you can buy a SIM card with a plan suitable to your needs. A SIM card with an Italian phone number with any company you choose requires no contract. You can choose a weekly or monthly plan, (usually it can be as low at 10 euros a week for maybe 300 minutes) or a pay as you go. You pay at the store the first time and you’re good to go. Once your credit is gone you can go to any ‘bar’ or ‘tabacchi’ shop, tell your phone number and the amount that you would like to add to your credit and that’s it. They‘ll give you receipt, and in a matter of seconds an SMS will alert you that your phone has been “recharged” with that amount. Once you go back home, your unused minutes will of course expire, however the SIM card stays with you and hopefully you will reuse it soon.
I think it is very important to plan ahead how you will use your phone abroad, and thus deciding on an international cell phone plan or SIM card for your travels in Italy or Europe can be crucial. It’s not only essential if you go on off the beaten track tours so that you can call someone in case of an emergency, but also the convenience of being able to load GPS trip maps into your smart phone can’t be beaten.
I therefore suggest to add a data plan to your minutes plan; the internet will prove to be extremely useful to get yourself around by using the Maps App.
With ‘location services’ on and some Giga bytes you really always know where you are. Plus, thanks to WhatsApp, Line, Viber and Skype, you can communicate with most people without actually using minutes, so what you really need in the end, is a basic data plan with some minutes to make some national calls and a good internet plan.
Another option is called Lycamobile. If you want to call home or another cell phone in the US without using an app, you can consider buying a Lycamobile SIM card and maybe switching it with the other one. Lycamobile is a mobile phone virtual network based in the UK and very popular in Europe now. You just go to the website, buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card and a bundle of Euros, and order it before you travel. Rates to call landlines and cell phone in the US from Italy vary from one cent a minute and up. It really works and I recommend it for those who cannot communicate with their family through the phone apps. So the good thing now is you can always be reachable, and (un)fortunately you won’t have any more excuses not to call home and be disconnected from the rest of world while on vacation.