Having traveled to 39 countries, I have purchased many SIM cards for my U.S. purchased GSM phones to stay connected while on the road. Your phone must be GSM (T-Mobile, AT&T) compatible if you hope to use it anywhere outside of the United States and, if it is, all you have to do is buy a local SIM card when you arrive in a foreign country. It will cost you from nothing to $10 for the card (and local phone number) and you can get a data/voice/SMS plan with 2GB or more of 3G or 4G data (depending on country) for $10 per month and up.
I bought a TIM (Telecom Italia) SIM card when I arrived in Italy for an extended trip with 20GB of 4G data per month and 400 minutes of talk-time for just €40 per month. With the plan I can create a portable hotspot or tether my phone to my computer in order for me or anybody else to access the web via wi-fi at no additional charge. TIM has 4G-LTE, 4G, H, H+, and 3G data in many populated areas of Italy with the occasional 1G (E) in some spots, so it was very easy to access the web from my computer pretty much anywhere.
The only downside to TIM is that they do not have an App or other easy way to access your plan in order to monitor data usage, voice minutes or SMS balances. And if you do not speak the language or find a TIM store with an English-speaking employee, you probably will not be able to figure out how to do so. After a week, I finally had a friend help me access the TIM website where you can register and monitor your account. Google even translates the page for you so you do not have to be fluent in Italian to navigate their site!
When my wife arrived in Italy (she is Italian-born), she wanted to use the Vodafone SIM from the phone that her recently deceased father used, so we went and bought a data/voice/SMS plan for her. It seemed like a good deal with 2GB of 4G data and 500 minutes of voice for just €20 per month, but you know what the say when something "seems too good to be true".
My wife was helping a friend prepare a presentation for a conference early the next morning and they needed two photos (they had forgotten at her friend's home) from the internet to finish it. I showed my wife how to create a hotspot on her new Android phone, a Motorola Moto G 4G LTE, and we downloaded two photos, taking a total of five minutes. As soon as we shut-down the hotspot, my wife received a text from Vodafone telling her that she had been charged €4 for utilizing a service not included with her phone plan. She was never warned about the potential charge or clicked on "I Accept" this charge because Vodafone simply deducted the money from her balance.
I wondered how that was possible in the first place, also wondering why Vodafone would care how she used the 2GB of data that we paid for. What does it matter if she used the data on her phone over a month or created a hotspot at the Napoli versus Roma soccer match and gobbled it up in 30 seconds? We paid for the data, so what does it matter? So we decided to visit a Vodafone store and find out what happened.
In the interim, we made a video of her friend's presentation on my wife's Moto and wanted to transfer it to my computer so I could edit it in iMovie and upload it to YouTube. Of course Apple makes it nearly impossible to use anything purchased from another company, so my Macbook Pro would not allow me to connect with her phone via Bluetooth. I finally found a forum that told me what to do and had to tether the phone to my Mac after downloading an App called Android File Transfer from the PlayStore. Success! We transferred the movie when suddenly, my wife received another text from Vodafone ... she had been charged an additional €4 for simply connecting her phone to her computer ... no hotspot created, no Vodafone data used! What the heck was going on?
Staying at her friend's apartment in Vomero, there was a Vodafone store two blocks away, so we decided to go ask about both issues. The girl behind the counter had a snooty look on her face as soon as my wife began to explain and quickly cut her off saying, in Italian of course, "you used a service not on your plan and you have to pay". We tried to reason with her, but it was obviously useless as we could tell that neither she nor Vodafone cared in the least about customer service, so we left.
BOTTOM LINE: If traveling in Italy, DO NOT BUY a Vodafone SIM Card for your GSM smartphone! I am telling you that there are many options available, including TIM, Wind and others, so utilize their services instead of Vodafone when couch surfing or surfing the internet abroad ... as I say to myself, "Is Vodafone a subsidiary of Apple, because they sure have similar business practices?"
CombatCritic Gives Vodafone A Dismal 1 Bomb Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!
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Title: If Traveling In Italy, DO NOT BUY a Vodafone SIM Card For Your GSM SmartPhone
Key Words: Vodafone, Italy, telecom, plan, data, phone, smartphone, TIM, Wind, tether, mobile, hotspot, review, CombatCritic, travel, value, tech, technology, Apple, Macbook
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