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Wanting to stay connected on your trip to Italy? Using your smartphone abroad means you can stay in touch with loved ones, use maps to help you navigate, find local restaurants and more.
In this article we show you the best Italy SIM card and other alternatives for accessing the internet and wifi in Italy. There are many different (and confusing) wifi and SIM options to choose from on the market. The best choice for your trip will depend on your data usage, what you need the data for and who you are traveling with.
You can also choose between buying a SIM card or buying/renting a portable wifi device your home country or when you reach your destination.
Use the table below to help you decide or read our full analysis in the article below.
Summary – best wifi and SIM cards for Italy
|Option||Data included||Keep your phone number||Cost||Where to buy|
|Portable wifi device for up to 5 devices||Unlimited / depends on device||Yes||Day passes from $9||Click for details on Skyroam|
|International day pass with your mobile provider||Varies - 200-500MB per day||Yes||From $10 per day per device - depends on provider||Check with your cellular / mobile service provider|
|Buy SIM before departure*||Varies||No||$US 20+ per device - depends on time and data needed||Click here for best deals
|Buy SIM on arrival*||Varies||No||€30+ per device||TIM Mobile or Vodafone outlets at the airport and major cities|
|* Needs unlocked GSM phone|
What's in this article
- 1 Summary – best wifi and SIM cards for Italy
- 2 How much data do I need for Italy?
- 3 Your options to access the internet and wifi in Italy
- 4 Tips for managing your communications costs abroad
- 5 Ready for Italy?
How much data do I need for Italy?
First you need to assess what you need phone data for, when you need to access it and how much you think you will use. This is going to depend on how much you rely on or need apps, social media and email.
Here is a quick guide to help you assess your usage:
|Mobile data usage||Maps and research||Communication - phone, text, email||Social media and entertainment|
|LOW - Less than 200MB per day||Happy to use physical or offline maps. Have everything written down and planned. Minimal on the go research required||All day access not required - can wait until we reach our hotel/apartment||All day access not required - can wait until we reach our hotel/apartment|
|MEDIUM - Around 500MB per day||Prefer to use live maps and will do some research on the go||Need access to WhatsApp and MyTaxi/Uber, a quick email check||Like to check in on social media throughout the day but can do uploads/downloads at hotel|
|HIGH - unlimited data required||Prefer to use live maps and do research on the go||Need access to all apps and email||Need access to social media apps throughout the day. Will upload images and video on the go|
You can also check how much data you use at home to help you estimate how much you need when you are abroad.
- Apple: Settings > Cellular / Mobile Data > Usage
- Android: Settings > Connections > Data usage
Do I need local and international calls and text messaging?
Most SIM card providers will package up local and international calls plus SMS or text messaging into their offer but in reality you may not need this at all.
The best way to communicate with family and friends at home when abroad are with wifi based apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime or Skype. Just make sure everyone is connected before you depart.
Italians love to communicate on WhatsApp. If you are renting apartments on AirBnB or other booking sites, it is most likely that the owners will prefer that you contact them with WhatsApp. The same goes for tour operators.
So unless you want to talk on a landline then you are unlikely to use much of this allowance.
Families and group travel
If you are traveling as a family or as part of a bigger group, have a think about how many devices need to be connected with mobile data.
The best solution for a group of two or more may be a portable wifi device that offers unlimited daily data rather than separate SIM cards.
Your options to access the internet and wifi in Italy
Here are the main options for accessing the internet while you are in Italy. Chances are you will use a combination of these options so it is good to know what is available before you arrive.
Use your hotel or accommodation wifi and free wifi hotspots
For those that use minimal data and do not need their device for navigation or communication, the cheapest and easiest way to use your phone Italy is to connect to your hotel or accommodation wifi. Speeds are probably not as high as you experience in your country but for minimal data usage it is fine.
You can also try to use free wifi hotspots around Italy but be aware that they are not as common as in the US, UK or Australia. You will need to register and speeds are likely to be slow if you can connect at all
Do not expect to find free wifi in cafes or restaurants either. Italians have not adopted an “always on” culture and prefer to keep their eating and drinking establishments for meals and talking to one another.
You can also try using this app that searches for Wifi hotspots throughout Italy
- free / included in accommodation costs
- can be very slow / limited connectivity
- you may need to register online
- not always available
Buy or rent a portable wifi device
If you and your travel companions are heavy data users and know you need access to reliable internet and fast speeds on your trip then a portable wifi device is the best option. It’s also the most cost effective if you are traveling as a group of two or more people and both want reliable internet access if you are doing a trip of 10 days or more.
We use the Skyroam Solis portable wifi device in Italy and on our trips around the world. With Skyroam you can get the fastest 4G LTE mobile WiFi speeds worldwide and connect up to 5 devices. The battery lasts all day and can also be used to charge your phone.
Day passes are available for $US 9 or equivalent in your own currency for unlimited data. So you only pay for what you need. You can either buy or rent the device and it’s available all over the world with fast delivery.
- Buy – $US 149.99 + $US 9 per day for data
- Rent – from $US 9.95 per day
- you can connect up to 5 devices
- pay as you go for unlimited 4G wifi access
- device acts as a back up battery
- need to remember to charge the device
- higher cost option for a single traveler with minimal data needs
- does not include phone calls or SMS (we use apps like WhatsApp for this instead)
Top tip – set up your portable wifi device before you depart on your trip and before heading out for the day so you know everything is working fine. And always remember to turn off global roaming on your phone if you want to avoid huge charges
Use your carrier’s international day pass
Telecommunications companies from around the world now offer international day passes to their customers who want the convenience of keeping their phone and number while traveling.
You will need to sign up to the plan separately to your existing contract and additional fees will be triggered against your account when you land in Italy or international destination. The pass will renew after 24 hours until you return home and connect to your standard network.
There is no doubt that this option is convenient however it is an expensive approach when you calculate the length of your trip and data usage. They are best suited to shorter trips and for those that want a simple back up solution (albeit an expensive one).
- Simple solution to keep your phone number plus access data
- Expensive compared with other options
- Limited data / slower speeds
Check with your current provider what is included in their pass so you can make an informed decision
- AT&T – offers an International Day Pass for $10 per day that uses your local data allowance and gives you unlimited calls and texts to the US and within Italy/internationally – more info
- T-Mobile – Unlimited international texting and data is included at no extra cost. Charges for calls apply. Do note that internet speeds are up to 2G on this plan but you can upgrade to high speed internet for $5 per day (up to 500MB) – more info
- Sprint – Sprint Global Roaming includes free text and basic data (up to 2G) plus .25c per minute international calls. You can buy higher speed packages for $5 per day/$25 per week – more info
- Verizon – for $10 per day Travel Pass gives you talk, text and data per your domestic plan allowance. Data speeds are reduced after the first 500MB – more info
- Telstra – $10 per day gets you unlimited talk and text plus 200MB of data a day – more info
- Optus – has a $10 per day Travel Pack with unlimited talk and text plus 100MB of data a day – more info
- Vodafone – $5 Roaming lets you use the data, call and text inclusions of your plan – more info
- TELUS – EasyRoam uses your local data allowance and gives you unlimited texts and calls to Canada and within Italy for $12 per day – more info
- Bell Mobility – Roam Better gives you unlimited talk and text, plus use the data from your account for $12 per day – more info
- Fido – Use your plan’s minutes, texts & data abroad for $12 per day (for a maximum of 15 days per billing cycle) – more info
Buy a prepaid SIM for Italy before your departure
These days you can get great deals on SIM cards prior to departure. Buying a SIM for your Italy trip prior to departure means you don’t have to waste precious vacation time on sorting out administration when you arrive.
You’ll be able to check in with family and friends and your accommodation as soon your plane lands.
We like this Italy SIM card deal from Simoptions – $US49.90 for up to 14 days that includes:
- 10GB of highspeed 4G/LTE internet
- 2 hours worth of calls
- send 1,000 SMS
- customer service available over live chat, phone and email
If you need more data it is easy to top up on the English language app. There are several other options for those going on longer trips or who need more data.
- all in one solution for phone, SMS and data
- guaranteed fast data speeds
- need to swap out your SIM or have another smartphone available for use
- can’t be tested before departure
Buy a prepaid SIM in Italy
There are four different cellular or mobile networks in Italy, TIM, Vodafone, 3, and Wind. TIM Mobile and Vodafone offer the best prepaid SIM options for tourists visiting Italy.
This is a great low cost option if you are happy to swap out your usual SIM or a have a spare GSM enabled smartphone you can use. You will need to spend some time setting this up when you arrive by presenting your passport at a local outlet.
- TIM Mobile – On the TIM tourist deal, €30 gets you 15GB of 4G internet plus 200 minutes of local and international calls and free chat over WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Valid for 30 days only – more info
- Vodafone – the Vodafone Holiday SIM costs €30 and includes 300 minutes of calls within Italy and to 43 countries, 300 SMS within Italy and to these countries and 2 GB of data in Italy and EU. It is valid for 28 days – more info
- low cost
- you need to find an outlet and do the admin set up when you arrive
- you must show your passport
- quirky Italian language translations for set up and troubleshooting
Tips for managing your communications costs abroad
Above all, turn off international roaming on your phone prior to departure if you have not purchased an international day pass. The last thing you want is to be accruing huge costs for data and phone usage before your vacation even begins.
Manage your apps
Before you leave for Italy, spend a little time reviewing which of your apps are using the most data. In general, social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as entertainment or streaming apps like YouTube and Spotify use lots of data. The same goes for Google Maps and Uber and fitness apps. You can restrict the access your phone has to data for those apps – directions for both iPhone and Android here.
Your device may use data in the background, even when you’re not actively using it. To reduce your background data, you can try switching off automatic:
- App updates
- File transfers
- Email refresh and attachment downloads
Next set up Google Maps and Google Translate to work offline before you leave (best to do this over wifi)
- Google Maps – search for the area you want to save eg Rome. Now zoom out to show the whole city or area. At the bottom of the screen, tap where it says the area name (Rome” in our example). Then click “Download” on the new screen.
- Google Translate – go to offline translation and download Italian as well as English
How to avoid international roaming charges on calls and text
We use the following apps to communicate with family and friends at home when we are in Italy. As we mentioned above, your accommodation is likely to have decent wifi so you can use these apps over that connection instead of your mobile plan.
- WhatsApp – for text, voice and video calls
- FaceTime – video calls between Apple devices
- Facebook Messenger – instead of text
- Skype – when the other two aren’t working
In the unlikely event of an emergency you can always send a quick text before you can reach a location where you can access wifi such as your hotel.
Disconnect (a little)
Remember to put the phone away and spend time just soaking up the incredible atmosphere. Who knows when you’ll be back in Italy again.
Ready for Italy?
We hope you now know what your option are for using your phone in Italy and how to access wifi and the internet. If you are just about to depart, make sure you check out our:
- Italy packing list – guide to packing for Italy with suggested outfits per season, in flight essentials + more
- Arrivals information for Rome, Venice and Naples
- Guides for train travel and driving in Italy
- Travel insurance information for your Italy trip
- Essential tips for travel to Italy
For things to do, city guides, itinerary ideas and more visit our Italy travel blog
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