Travel Tips: How To Buy A Tourist Cell Phone Plan In Italy

Written By: Andrea Spallanzani
Reviewed by: Rick Orford
How & Why We Created This Article

This article has been written, reviewed, and fact-checked by Rick and I. We live in Italy and travel throughout the country to help you make the best choices for your trip. We wrote this piece to ensure you have the best trip possible on your next trip to Italy. Portions of this article have been written using assistive AI tools to help with tasks like research, spell-checking, grammar, and translation.

Last Updated October 28, 2023

When you’re about to go to Italy, you make lists of the locations you want to see and everything you need to pack. You’ll want your passport, camera, device chargers, sunscreen, local money, and other necessary items. But, it is easy to forget that you need to organize a local SIM card when making travel plans.

We wrote this guide to help ensure you don’t have to over pay for your cell phone service because, nothing ruins a peaceful vacation like coming home to a phone bill that exorbitant with crazy roaming charges. In fact most American carriers charge up to $10.00 per day for roaming.Even worse, picture yourself trapped in the Italian countryside without a map or GPS to help you after unexpectedly losing service.

In this guide, we will give you all the information you need to know about how to buy a tourist cell phone plan in Italy. 

Why Buy a Sim Card for Italy?

Undoubtedly, phones greatly simplify our life and help us maximize our time when traveling. Our phones are a lifesaver while traveling since they allow us to quickly convert currencies, call Ubers, translate words, use GPS to navigate our way, and take pictures and videos of our trips to share on social media.

Goofy Photo

If you have a European Union SIM card, it will definitely work in Italy at no extra charges. Also, your local sim card may or may not work. If it does, you can incur eye-watering roaming and data expenses. When you need connectivity or coverage the most, you can find yourself horribly without it. Even though your accommodations in Italy most likely have decent internet, you still want it to function on the streets, right?

If you follow these helpful guidelines, getting a local sim card in Italy can help you avoid a lot of hassle and save you significant money.

The Best SIM Cards for Tourists and Locals in Italy

When selecting a sim card for Italy, there are many options available. While larger multinationals like Vodafone are well-represented, several smaller carriers offer various services exclusively for travelers.

OneSimCard

OneSimCard, a sim provider with headquarters in Boston, has long focused on offering affordable foreign sim packages for travellers. Although they don’t have a specific sim card for Greece, they carry a wide variety of international sim cards compatible with numerous nations, including Italy.

This is a fantastic choice for frequent travelers who visit several different nations or just regularly go back to the same one.

Check out the OneSimCard eSim World package if your phone supports e-Sim. You can learn more about e-sims and how they operate in that way.

OneSimCard eSIM World

  • It provides service in over 150 countries, most of which allow free incoming calls to an EU number
  • Sim + Data Bundles starting at $13.00
  • There is no expiration date

If your phone isn’t compatible with an e-Sim card, stay with plastic and look at their Europe & More Package, which will function everywhere in Europe.

OneSim Universal

  • It provides coverage across Europe
  • Sim + Data Packages start at $29.95
  • There is no expiration date
SIM card

TIM

It is among the best prepaid sim cards that tourists in Italy may get. They offer the best pricing, the widest range of plans and bundles, the best coverage, and the biggest 5G network. One disadvantage is that although you can top up and recharge on their website, you can’t purchase a SIM card there.

  • 14.99 €
  • 50GB and 200 minutes in Italy
  • Monthly

Vodafone Italy

A single prepaid sim card is available from Vodafone Italy and is intended solely for use by tourists. This is an excellent option if you want to visit additional European countries but are limited by EU data regulations. Not only does it provide superb coverage, but it can also be easily recharged over the internet.

  • 24.99 €
  • 30 GB in Italy and 15GB in the EU and 500 minutes within the EU
  • Valid for 30 days

Windtre

This company, which was formed through the merger of Wind and 3 (a UK mobile internet service), provides a variety of prepaid sim cards in Italy.

  • Starting from 14.99 €
  • 20GB and 100 minutes in Italy
  • Monthly

Other eSims

With an easy-to-use eSIM, your journey to Europe will be hassle-free. Keep in touch while traveling with high-speed service in Italy (including San Marino and the Vatican) and the other 41 of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.

Choose from a range of data packages, validity options, and coverage in more countries when you purchase and install your eSIM anytime, anywhere. You may access your necessary apps while traveling by scanning the eSIM QR code.

With this zero-waste approach, manage many SIMs without the hassle. Purchase and activate one eSIM per device, then top off as needed by purchasing additional eSIM subscriptions. Your coverage will start once it is enabled for your chosen term.

  • Stay connected on your trip to Italy
  • Select the data plan and option for validity that best suits you
  • A simple QR code will allow you to activate your eSIM
  • Purchase or top up your eSIM card anytime and from any location
  • Travel with high-speed zero-waste service

Tips for Choosing a Provider in Italy

There is no one-size-fits-all method for selecting a sim card for Italy; it primarily relies on your needs and tastes. Your budget and needs will determine what is best for you, which may not be the same as what is best for someone else.

Let’s look at the factors you should think about:

Price

Everybody enjoys a good deal, right? Especially if you’re traveling in Italy and possibly on a meager budget. The excellent news about sim card purchases in Italy is that they’re reasonably priced; €1 will get you 2GB of data.

It’s a good idea to shop about, do your homework, and always read the fine print, as with most purchases. Sometimes making larger purchases can result in longer-term financial savings as well.

In Italy, some sim cards have expiration dates. So, you can’t even top them off or extend them. Most Italian sim cards come with free roaming inside the EU, but be sure to review the fine print. Outside of Italy, roaming data usage is occasionally blocked or restricted.

Data

The more providers there are, the more affordable prepaid sims and data are. The cost of data is very affordable in Italy.

Be aware of how much data you will likely require. Like most things, buying more for less money is more cost-effective than frequently buying less and topping off. Keep in mind that top-ups might get pricey.

Selfie in Siena

We recommend taking some time to learn about your typical data usage before you leave on your trip. You’ll probably use more data when traveling than at home, so add some padding when you get a figure.

Coverage

Research the networks’ reach in the regions you’ll be visiting. A good 4G coverage is typically available. However, 5G coverage in Italy is only available in larger cities. The greatest 4G networks are provided by Vodafone, TIM, and eSIM, which also have the most extensive 5G coverage but are currently geographically constrained.

The good news is that most tourist destinations, especially those off the beaten path, have excellent network service.

Bureaucracy

In Italy, getting a sim card is a relatively simple process. There isn’t a lot of paperwork to fill out, and there isn’t much bureaucracy. Make sure you have your passport on hand because you will need it. You can register three SIM cards on a single passport.

Expiration

Verify the authenticity of your sim because many have expiration dates and can’t be kept longer than that. Make sure the sim you choose covers the entirety of your stay. If you go to Italy often, you might want to get an open-ended sim that doesn’t run out.

Where Can I Get an Italy Sim Card?

You may easily get a sim card in Italy at several venues, including airports, cell phone stores, and online.

In the Airport

Most travelers are encouraged to quickly get a sim card at the airport. Despite how tempting it can appear, purchasing some sim cards at airports will cost you substantially more. For example, the airports in Milan and Venice are notorious for having higher charges. The cost is a little lower at the airport in Rome.

Positively, purchasing a sim card at an airport can put you in touch with salesmen who speak better English; frequently, Italians have trouble speaking English.

At a Store

The good news is that most big cities and tourist sites have many cell phone dealers.

Online

Buying a sim card online is one way to ensure you won’t have to worry about administrative tasks while on vacation and can start your trip immediately. Additionally, doing things this way allows you to consider your options and make the best decision carefully.

Remember to place your order before leaving to be delivered on time.

What You’ll Need If You Want to Buy an Italian SIM Card

Your SIM card can be readily purchased in person at the network store of your choice. You should obtain it in-store because most SIM card activations require that you prove your identity with an ID.

The requirements are as follows:

  • Identification – such as a passport or driving license
  • A credit card

How to Activate an Italian SIM Card

After you’ve signed up for your SIM card, it’s time to activate it so you can use your phone!

You’ll most likely sign up in person, and the clerk will install and activate the card for you.

Your phone must be “unlocked” to accept an Italian SIM card. It implies that sometimes US or international phone companies lock the phone so it can only be used with that service. You’ll need to go to them first to ensure they unlock it.

How To Top Up Your SIM Card In Italy?

If you run out of credit on your SIM card, it’s time to purchase credit (ricarica) for your SIM. On your service provider’s website, at a grocery store, a phone store, or a tabaccheria shop are all options for purchasing credit for your SIM. If you buy top-up credit at a grocery store or a tabaccheria store you can ask the store clerk for help to add the credit, they will be more than happy to help you.

trevi Fountain Selfie

Can I Use An Italian SIM Card On My Phone?

Your phone could be locked if it is from the USA, Canada, or Japan.

Contact your current operator and request that they unlock your phone for use abroad before you travel to Italy.

It can then use a local SIM to function in Italy.

What Are The PUK and PIN, And What Do They Do?

There are two crucial 4-digit codes on the card from which you remove your new SIM: the PUK and the PIN.

When using a SIM card in Italy, you will need to unlock your SIM card using the PUK and PIN.

This privacy and security safeguard goes above and beyond. Once you enter the PIN code, it will automatically unlock. Additionally, you can change the 4-digit pin to a shorter, more straightforward phrase.

We suggest keeping that card in your wallet or another secure location so you won’t lose it.

After three unsuccessful PIN attempts, you can only unlock your phone with the PUK code. It should likewise be the backup code in the strictest of confidence.

When you buy your SIM ask the clerk to remove this extra safeguard for you. It is not necessary.

Free EU Roaming

Since Italy is a member of the European Union, nearly all other nations in the continent have partnerships with Italian phone companies. It entails cost-free roaming throughout the EU; just be sure you enable data roaming on your phone.

Your phone will still function if you travel to another EU nation from Italy. However, remember that not all of Europe’s nations are members of the EU. Also, remember that your data plan might be limited to 2-6GB when you travel abroad.

Final Thoughts

It’s pretty easy to purchase a SIM card in Italy. The most excellent thing is that they offer a cheap means of maintaining a connection to one’s home. It’s worthwhile to go through whether you are living in Italy or visiting for more than a week to save money and avoid relying on free WiFi, which is still scarce outside hotels and restaurants.

Italy is a fantastic year-round destination with abundant art, history, and culinary delights. Make sure you’ve chosen an Italy sim card that won’t let you down whether you intend to visit crowded cities, charming towns, or scenic areas.