Traveling to Italy, and still wish to use the internet during your visit for things like navigating, Instagram, etc and want to avoid data roaming charges? Then I recommend purchasing a prepaid local Italian sim card that’ll cover your data usage during Italy – and possibly beyond, into other EU countries.
If you’re coming from another EU country and already have a sim card, check whether you have any data allowance left to use during your visit to Italy. If you’re living in the EU, using an EU phone contract, just be aware that the EU roaming allowance may be lower than your phone’s normal data plan.
You also need to check whether there’s a cap on how much data you can use. When I visited Italy, I was only allowed to use 12GB data of my Three Unlimited data plan before they’d start charging me. Some countries may have a higher or lower limit depending on how your country interpreted the EU data roaming laws.
If you’re coming from the UK and have a UK sim card, make sure to check what the data roaming limits are. Since Brexit, some networks have started charging for roaming, some allow you to add it onto your contract as a monthly add-on, and others include it for free. So make sure to check before leaving whether your plan includes roaming, and the limits.
If you’re on a network like EE or Vodafone that has monthly addons for data roaming, you might find buying a local sim card is cheaper. For example, Vodafone charges £2 per day for roaming if your plan doesn’t include 4 Xtra benefits. For a 2 week trip, that’ll be £24 which can be more expensive than just getting a local sim card.
What to do before travelling to Rome?
Before travelling to Rome, you should make sure that your phone is compatible with Italian sim cards.
You must make sure your phone is unlocked so that you can use another network provider’s sim card. If it isn’t unlocked, you’ll need to contact your network provider and ask them to unlock it for you. If for some reason they won’t unlock it, you could always hire a mobile WiFi or pick up a cheap unlocked phone such as a Moto G6.
You should also check whether your phone is compatible with the Italian phone networks. Most popular brands, such as an iPhone, and Samsung Galaxy will be compatible but it’s always worth checking. To be able to use an Italian sim card, check that your phone can use any of the following network technologies:
900/1800 MHz GSM (GPRS, EDGE)
900/2100 MHz UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+, DC-HSPA+
800/1800/2100/2600 MHz LTE, LTE-A
If it can use any of the above, then you’ll be able to use any sim card that uses the Vodafone, TIM or Wind Tre phone networks.
If your phone can use any of the below technologies, it’ll be able to connect ot the Iliad network:
900/2100 MHz UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+, DC-HSPA+
1800/2600 MHz LTE, LTE-A
(Network technology information sourced from Wikipedia, Wikipedia contributors. (2019, October 19).)
Buying a sim card at Rome Fiumicino Airport
If you’re flying into Rome Fiumicino Airport, and want to buy an Italian sim card before you leave the airport you’ll find sim card stores in the baggage collection area in Terminal 3, and the Terminal 3 Arrival Hall. If you can, I really recommend waiting until you’ve left the airport to buy a sim card, as the airports overcharge. A 10euro sim card can easily cost you 50euros or more at the airport.
Within the Terminal 3 Arrival Hall, you will find 2 sim card stores, one for Vodafone, and the other for Lyca Mobile. Vodafone is one of the more popular networks in Italy, and has a lot of coverage but their airport pricing is hiked.
When I passed through, they were charging 50 euros for what would cost you 10 euros outside of the airport. Lyca Mobile is more likely to offer cheaper plans, and if you’re planning on phoning home you’ll benefit from their cheaper international phone calls.
In the baggage collection area, you’ll find a Tutto store that offers sim cards and mobile hotspots. But once again, their prices are really hiked up.
If you’re travelling into other areas of the EU, make sure to check what data roaming allowances are included in these operator’s plans.
Buying an Italian sim card in Rome
Buying a sim card within Rome, is so much cheaper than buying one at the airport, and there are so many more options. Plus, you can top up sim cards purchased within Rome whereas the airport sim cards cannot always be topped up.
Within Rome’s city centre and around the Vatican City, you’ll find plenty of stores offering sim cards for Vodafone, TIM and Lyca mobile. You;’ll also be able to find sim card stores in some of the bigger train stations.
If you’re taking the train to central Rome, and are getting off at Roma Termini, you can you pick up a sim card within the Roma Termini shopping area from one of many sim card stalls such as TIM and Windtre.it (formally wind and tre.it, they merged together in 2020).
Windtre has a prepaid italy tourist sim available, that includes 20GB data, 100 minutes within italy and 100 international minutes. The sim card lasts 30 days and costs 24.99 euros. Roaming isn’t included with this plan so don’t buy this if you want to goto other EU countries within the 30 day limit.
You need a foreign ID such as your passport when buying the card so make sure to take one to the store with you.
If you choose to buy a Vodafone italy prepaid sim card, you can take advantage of their tourist sim card offer. The tourist sim includes:
600 minutes, 30GB data (15GB can be used within other EU countries), unlimited usage for WhatsApp, Waze, Instagram etc for 24.99euros a month.
You do need a foreign ID, so make sure to take your passport along with you to the Vodafone store. You can find out more about this tourist sim card on the Vodafone website.
Order an Italian Sim Card Online
If you want to save time and avoid the hassle of buying the sim card in Italy you can rent an Italian pocket WiFi with unlimited data in Itay and the EU, for delivery to any address in Rome, Italy or another European country – such as your home, hotel, a post office delivery point, etc. You can pay upfront online for the pocket WiFi and then return it before you leave Europe via a self-addressed return envelope that will be provided. Pocket WiFis are great for saving money as up to 10 devices can share 1 WiFi plan, and you save yourself the hassle of having to get your phone unlocked.
You can also order a European sim card from Amazon before you travel.
Three Mobile’s prepaid sim card works for 30 days within Europe, including Italy as well as the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand & more. It offers 3000 minutes, 3000 texts, and 12GB data for 1 device.
Orange’s prepaid sim card offers 14 days of 20GB data within Europe, including Italy, plus 120 international minutes and 1000 international texts for use within Europe. While the credit only lasts 14 days, you can top up this sim card online.
Another option is dataRoam’s European data sim card, that offers 4GB data within Europe for up to 60 days.
You can also order a tourist sim card from the TIM website that you can collect from a TIM store. As of June 2022, the tourist sim card is 20euros, for a 30-day sim card plan that includes 200 minutes to Italy and abroad, and 15GB 4G data, and unlimited chat on apps such as Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.
Buying an e-Sim online
If you have a new phone, chances are it probably suppots e-sims which means you can just download the sim information to the phone. You can buy e-sims online and when visiting Italy you have the choice of buying a Europe-wide e-Sim, a global e-sim or an Italy only one.
Online, you can buy a Eurolink e-sim from an online e-sim store called Airalo which gives you access to 39 european countries. Prices start at $5 for 1GB data, which lasts 7 days and 30 day sims start at $13 for 3GB data.
They also sell global e-sims, that start at $9 which gives you 1GB data for 7 days, $24 for 3GB data that lasts 15 days or $35 for 5GB data that last 30 days. They also offer 60 and 180 day plans. Plus, you can top these up whenever so if you do run out of data, you can always get more.
The Italy e-sims, are fairly reasonably priced and much cheaper than most tourist sim card options. They start at $4.50 for 1GB data that lasts 7 days, and their 30 day plans start at $7 for 3GB data. Their largest plan is 10GB data for $16.Plus you can top up whenever you need.
These Italy e-sims only work in Italy, so you would need to get an alternative if you want to visit other countries.
Renting a portable WiFi in Rome
If you’re travelling as a group, or have multiple devices you might find a portable Wifi is cheaper than buying multiple sim cards. Plus, it means you can keep your own normal sim card in the phone so if you only have 1 sim card slot you don’t have to worry about being unable to receive authencation texts from your bank etc.
You can rent an unlimited 4G portable wifi, that supports upto 10 devices online. It’ll be delivered to your accomodation so make sure you can receive parcels. I recommend ordering it to arrive the day before you arrive just to make sure it does turn up as there can be postage delays.
If you’d prefer to buy a portable WiFi, then there’s a few options that include roaming.
GlocalMe has a 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Router, with a touch screen that within 30 days of activation gives you 8GB of data within the US and 1GB wordwilde. You can top this up whenever you need, by buying a data pass online.
GlocalMe sell a range of passes for italy, with 7 day passes starting at $9 for 1GB data. 15 day passes start at $22.50 for 3GB data, and 30 day passes start at $12 for 1GB data. If you’re travelling to more places in Europe than just Italy, they do sell a 5GB 7 day Europe pass for $29.90.
You can also hire a GlocalMe portable WiFi through their website, but these are quite expensive. They have a minimum 5 day rental and their cheapest plan is $8.99 a day for 1GB 4G data and unlimited 3G.
Wikipedia contributors. (2019, October 19). List of mobile network operators of Europe. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:01, October 21, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_mobile_network_operators_of_Europe&oldid=922092464