Cell Phone Rental

Don't Be Afraid To Rent A Cell Phone (but it will be probably better to buy one!)

This is freely taken from an old article by Sebastian Harrison of Cellular Abroad. Some of the information might be a bit outdated, but the general principles are correct. Do not hesitate to visit Cellular Abroad website to get all the info you need about using cell phones in Italy.

Technology can be a frightful thing. So, many people are still hesitant to rent a cell phone for their trip to Italy. The most common apprehension by far concerns the cost of using a cellular phone. A usual remark goes something like this: "A friend of mine rented a phone for overseas and when he got back he had a $1000 phone bill!" or, "I heard it's very expensive." Other fears are that a cell phone may be difficult to use or the coverage in Italy is poor. While in the past, these fears were justifiable, nowadays there are options that not only are very inexpensive but are also easy to take advantage of and extremely functional.

Until a few years ago, having a cell phone for use in Italy was expensive and a luxury reserved primarily for the business traveler or the wealthy tourist and certainly not for the budget-minded traveler.

Luckily, there is now a practical and inexpensive alternative for having a cell phone in Italy - use the local system. Almost 90% of all Italians use cell phones. About that same percentage use the pay-as-you-go system. By using this system, you can pay the low rates that an Italian pays, meaning, local calls are about 15 cents per minute, calls to the US about 37 cents and, best of all, you get unlimited FREE incoming calls from anywhere in the world. Sounds incredible but it's true. You simply buy what is called a "SIM" card (Subscriber Information Module card - a.k.a. "smart card") with a certain amount of call credit. The SIM card is the brain of the phone and contains information such as your phone number and how much credit you have left. Once that card becomes depleted - or even before it does - you can easily add more talk time by buying a "recharge" card at any magazine stand or convenience store (and this you can legally do). That way, you retain the same SIM card along with your personal cell phone number associated with it. The procedure of recharging a card is simple: just dial a toll free number and follow the prompts (in English) asking you to digit in the recharge code.

You can purchase a SIM card in Italy, but it is also possible to buy them from Cellular Abroad in the US. You will still need to have a handset, which you can rent or purchase as well from Cellular Abroad. Many people prefer to buy a handset (which you can do for as low as US$20.), and some of the phones even work in the US as well as overseas, meaning that if you do happen to have a carrier using GSM, you only need to tote one phone around the world.

Since cell phone rates in Italy are so low, the number of cell phones has quickly outdistanced the number of landline phones. Also, the Italian telecom providers have made sure that they can reach all potential customers, meaning that the coverage in Italy is exceptional. It virtually encompasses the entire peninsula. In fact, 99.7% of the population is in an area where there is cellular coverage. The sound quality of the GSM standard is so crisp that all major US cellular service providers either already have or are in the process of switching to the GSM system. Although the US has opted to use the 1900 Mhz band, whereas in Italy and everywhere else they use 900 or 1800 Mhz, you can get a triband phone that operates on any of these three bands. In fact, you should consider buying a triband phone. Inevitably and eventually, you will be able to go almost anywhere in the world with just one phone, then all you have to do is to slip in a local SIM card in order to take advantage of the local rates, not to mention to receive free incoming calls. If you are with a US carrier that already uses GSM, you can even do that right now with a triband cell phone. Of course, these carriers don't want you to know that nor do that. They actually modify the phones they sell to accept only their own SIM cards, so you must purchase a triband phone elsewhere.

Here are a few advantages of having a cell phone with you during your trip to Italy:

1) Inexpensive to use
2) Easy to use
3) Phone is ready to go
4) Calls are prepaid - no surprises
5) Avoid costly hotel phone bills
6) Stay in touch at all times back home
7) Convenience
8) Know your number before you leave
9) If someone needs to reach you, they pay for the call, not you
10) For security or emergency situations

Since cell phone service in Italy is so good and fees are more than affordable, rather than being afraid to rent or buy a cell phone, shouldn't you be more concerned about not having one? And by the way, if I figure it out and you need help with yours, just give me a call - I might just be in Italy myself but that's OK...I have an Italian SIM card.

Sebastian Harrison

Click here to visit Cellular Abroad's website.