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Why rent an Italian cell phone from Cellular Abroad?

We are the number one online cell phone rental company and the first of only a few that rent pay as you go solutions for Italy. Our number one destination is Italy and we have rented 10s of thousands of cell phones for Italy during the years. We know our products backwards and forwards and are the only company that can offer the low rates that we can and an easy to use solution.  Our goal is to continue to be the number one resource for cell phone rentals to Italy in customer service, price and customer experience.

Here are just a few testimonials from customers who have used our services in Italy.

Dear Friends at Cellular Abroad,
I can't begin to tell you how excited I was when I arrived in Italy and found that your advertisement was true. All I did was activate my phone and made a call immediately. It was amazing and the calls were as clear as if I were at home. One of the most amazing discoveries was that I could go to the Tobacco shops in Italy give them my cell number and they could load extra time on my card automatically. I couldn't believe it ! Go into the shop, buy minutes in Euros and in just a few minutes they were loaded to my phone. Having one of your phones made our trip to Italy even better. We had friends that we traveled with and could keep in touch with them while on the autostrada and other cities. I'll never travel without your phone again.

Having a cell phone with me during my recent trip to France and Italy gave me such a level of comfort that is almost indescribable. I was able to communicate with my family on a daily basis during a rather stressful time for my husband. I used my SIM card minutes to notify my husband that I was available to talk with him. He would return my call, using a phone card that offered overseas phone service at a very low minute rate. Think about it! If ever I go abroad in the future, or I have friends who are going abroad, I will recommend your service, no question about it!! Thank you.

First of all, I ordered an Italian SIM card from your company yesterday - of course I haven't received it yet. But I wanted to take a minute to give your company a compliment prior to asking a question.

As a long time CEO of both private and public companies I have often been frustrated with the low level of customer service that many organizations seem to accept in their dealings with customers. After ordering your SIM card I spent some time on your website to learn more about the "process" of using TIM while in Italy. I must say that your group has thought of everything - you have answered virtually everything that a customer might have issues with, and you have done so in a clear, comprehensive, and easy-to-follow manner, even understanding the potential for language issues.

Thank you for taking the time to set out your instructions so clearly - I hope the TIM service is as good as your own!

It is Sunday, October 15th, 2006 and we have just returned from Italy. The phone worked great and I will not hesitate to use your product the next time I travel abroad.


Should I rent or buy a phone?

If you are like most people, your US phone will not work in Italy. There are two main options buying a phone and renting a phone for use in Italy. Frequent travelers often prefer purchasing a cell phone. In fact, by the time you rent a phone twice, you could have purchased a basic, no nonsense phone/SIM package. The phone itself works also in other countries. All our phones are unlocked and either triband or quadband. If you are traveling to another country, say Spain or the UK, simply swap out the current SIM card for another one and you will be able to use the phone. If you are not a frequent traveler or simply do not want to purchase a phone at this time, feel free to rent a cell phone for Italy. If you are not sure what you want to do, Cellular Abroad recommends renting the phone and don’t return it. You will forfeit your deposit but ultimately, this “rent to own” option will only cost you about $20 more than if you had purchased from the get go.

Many of our customers, particularly the frequent travelers to Italy, prefer purchasing a phone for a variety of reason. Besides the fact that ultimately, they will save money, it prevents them from having to go through the process of renting the phone and sending it back to us each time they go abroad. Also, by retaining the same phone, you will also be able to retain your same phone number (as long as you add talk time at least once a year).

Some customers are concerned that the technology will quickly change and that if they purchase a new phone, it will soon become a throw away. Consider this analogy; while a ’65 Mustang will not have all the bells and whistles of a new Ford, you still see some of them around today as the underlying technology of a gas powered vehicle is still similar to today’s technology. If you are mostly concerned about making and receiving calls on your cell phone, then a phone you buy today, as long as you treat it carefully, should last you for several years or more.

Our standard recommendation is that if you travel more than once a year overseas, it makes sense to purchase a phone. If you travel less than once a year, it makes sense to rent a cell phone and if you travel about once a year, it is a toss up.

Can I buy just a SIM card? (requirements and compatibility)

Your current phone may be compatible for use in Italy. Whereas a couple of years ago, there were very few phones that worked in North America as well as Europe, many of the newer phones on today’s markets, particularly the more expensive phones, will work in Italy. The basic requirements are that your phone is unlocked and has the 900 and 1800 GSM frequencies. If your phone has a SIM card, that means that it is using the GSM service. In the US, T-Mobile and AT&T use the GSM technology. Still, if you have an older AT&T phone, you might be on their older technology. In any event, in order to determine if your phone does have the 900 and (you need both) 1800 GSM standards, either check you original instruction guide for the specs or call your carrier and ask. If you don’t know what model phone you have, your best bet is to bring it to a cell phone store and have them determine if your phone has the proper networks to function in Italy.

Even if your phone is GSM and has the 900/1800 networks, it will need to be unlocked in order to be able to accept a different SIM card. If you bought your phone from a major US or Canadian provider, 9 out of 10 it is locked. That means that your phone has been blocked from accepting different SIM cards other than the current providers. The reason they do this is that they would prefer that you used “their” phone with their services, including, paying the expensive roaming fees. The good news is that they will provide you with the unlock code in order to use other SIMs with your phone. Our viewpoint is that since the phone is yours, you should be able to use whatever SIM card you want! Imagine only being able to use Microsoft branded software on your Microsoft computer.

Once you have the unlock code, all you need to do is to enter the proper sequence onto the handset. The only way to know for sure if your phone is locked or unlocked is to put a SIM card that is different from the current one into your handset. If it is locked it will say, “enter subsidy code” or similar. If it is not locked, it will not say anything and will search for the network (which it may or may not find, depending on if your SIM has been activated or not).

Therefore, please ascertain if your phone has the 900/1800 GSM bands and, if it is locked, ask your provider for the unlock code. If your phone isn’t compatible with overseas networks, you may consider either renting or buying a cell phone – we have both options available.

Adding call credit

Cellular Abroad has made it extremely easy for you to add call credit to your Italian cell phone rental, purchase or SIM card (you are actually adding it to your SIM card in all circumstances). As this is a pay as you go system, you will need to stay on top of your call balance to ensure that you have enough credit to make an outgoing call. Checking your balance is free and easy. There are two ways to do so; you can either call 435002 and hear your balance (in English) or you can send a text message as per our instructions. Also, when you credit drops down below 3 Euros, you will hear a beep every time you make a call.  Even if you have no credit, you can still receive calls.

There are essentially two ways to add talk time. You can go into a tabacchi store (where they sell cigarettes and stamps) in Italy or, you can call Cellular Abroad 7 days/week and request a $29 recharge voucher. We will give you the 10 digit pin number over the phone and you can enter it for immediate call credit. Each recharge voucher gives you 83 minutes of talk time within Italy, or 43 minutes of international talk time. You can purchase just one or as many as you like. We will use the credit card we have on file (quickest way) or another credit card if you prefer. This is easily the more convenient of the two options. We also have a toll free number that works from most landlines in Italy. This number is specifically for our customers to add more talk time to their account. 

If you would like to purchase talk time before your trip, you can do so as well. We will automatically add one $29 recharge voucher to your account for any Italy rental phone. Additionally, for any purchase or rental, you can order as much talk time as you like and we will send you the physical vouchers. At your request, we can also add the talk time to your account immediately on your behalf so you don’t have to wait to do so once in Italy.  

If you have purchased a SIM card or cell phone for Italy and would like to keep it active for your next trip, we can add talk time at any point. Please keep in mind that, in order to keep your phone number activated and your SIM card alive, credit must be added at least once a year. This is a good option for travelers to Italy who go to Italy once a year yet want to retain their phone number. 

Again, the easiest way to add talk time is to call Cellular Abroad at any time, even from Italy, and to request a recharge voucher(s). Please note that we cannot refund our customers for call credit so order no more than what you think you will use.


While you can roam with your Uno Mobile Italy SIM, there are a few things to consider. First, for those who need clarification on roaming, this implies going outside of the network carrier’s infrastructure and on to another carrier’s network. This can only occur outside of Italy (or within very immediate proximity of the border) so for all practical purposes, you roaming means using your service outside of Italy.

The first thing to consider is the cost. Within Italy, all calls are 0.18 Euros to Italian numbers and 0.35 Euros to International numbers and you get unlimited free incoming calls. Outside of Italy, the rates are a bit more complicated as it depends on where you. As rates are extremely high outside of Europe, we will not even address those rates. Within Europe, incoming calls are 0.28 Euros a minute and outgoing calls within Europe are 0.49 Euro cents per minute. Calls to the US and back are 1.50 Euros per minute. Our recommendation is IF you are going to use the service outside of Italy, and particularly if you are going to communicate with the US or Canada, have people call you back whenever possible. Better yet, text. SMS messages are free to receive and from 0.30 to 0.50 Euros per text depending on the country. 

While Cellular Abroad does not sell or rent our Italy SIM products and services for use outside of Italy and we cannot support the services, many people do roam with them for short periods of time. For example, if your travel plans are predominantly within Italy but you will or may venture to Switzerland or France for day or weekend trips, roaming is a feasible solution. You may, however, want to stock up a bit on call credit as the calls will cost more than within Italy.

Extending your SIM life

Many of our customers are frequent travelers to Italy and have friends and family that they communicate with on a regular basis while in Italy. It is extremely convenient having the same phone number every time you go back so that you don’t have to communicate your new contact information time and time again. In fact, we have customers who live between North America and Italy and have a North American cell phone number and an Italian cell phone number printed on their business cards. Some of our customers, while perhaps only traveling once a year or less to Italy, still appreciate the convenience of being able to retain the same phone number for when they do go back.

In order to keep your SIM card active and therefore, retain your Italian phone number, one must only add talk time once a year. Even if you are in North America, you can check when was the last time you added call credit to your account (as long as you are in an area with GSM coverage). Simply turn on your phone, scroll through the menu to “call credit”, press send and it will tell you your balance and the last time you added credit to your account. If you need to extend your service life by another year, simply order a Uno Mobile voucher from Cellular Abroad. You can add the talk time yourself or we can add it for you.


Cellular Abroad has compiled a list of travel tips associated with your Italian cell phone rental or purchase. Some of these have been passed on by our customers and some are based on our personal experience. A few of these tips may seem obvious but others may be less obvious and can prove to be invaluable resources. Please feel free to comment on our tips or to add more based on your own travels. 

Leave your new Italian phone number on your current cell phone

Before you depart, you may want to leave your new Italian cell phone number on your current cell phone’s voicemail. Remember to mention the proper dialing procedure to call to Italy, including the country code (011-39-phone number). Another option is to forward your home number to your Italian one. However, Cellular Abroad does not recommend this approach as the costs to forward calls from cell phones are high.

Enter phone number into speed dial 
You may safely enter phone numbers onto your phone from the US or Canada. Please remember that from Italy, to call North America, the dialing sequence is 001, followed by the area code, then the phone number (ex. 001-212-555-1212).

Get non 800 numbers 
You may need to call back home to 800 numbers (ex. Credit card companies to pay your bill or report losses, etc.). There is nothing more aggravating than calling a toll free number from abroad to resolve an issue and not having that number work from overseas. In fact, the majority of 800 numbers do not work internationally. The ones that do by the way are not toll free from overseas so you might as well get a non toll free number.

This is quite a common issue and we highly recommend that this step becomes part of your trip planning procedure. 

Call credit card company and let them know you are traveling

Another aggravation, and a common one at that, is for your US or Canada based credit card to stop working while overseas. Imagine attempting to pay for your meal at that French Bistro only to find out that your credit card use has been temporarily restricted due to your own “suspicious” use pattern. It very much makes sense to let your credit card company’s customer service know that you will be using the card overseas so they do not think that it is being used fraudulently. Also, it is useful to give them your Italian cell phone number just in case they need to reach you.

Give your Italian number to airline carriers and hotels 
One tip that we have received is based upon a travel nightmare. A well known Italian airline (without mentioning any names), lost but then found a traveler’s luggage. The traveler had given them a US cell phone number that worked in Italy. However, due to restrictions, this particular airline carrier could not contact the customer until well into his trip. The moral of the story is, make sure that all parties that you will be doing business with in Italy that may need to contact you have your new phone number.

Don’t pack your phone in your suitcase 
Speaking of lost luggage, we do not recommend that you pack your phone in your suitcase. If it gets lost or stolen, that means that you will be without cellular communication for the length of the trip.

Don’t forget your charger in your hotel 
This may seem obvious but it happens more than you know. One trick is to wrap the cord around something that you know you will not forget, like a book or a shoe. This may sound like strange advice but it is effective.

Italy SIM card FAQs


What is a PIN/PUK code? 
The PIN code is a security code to prevent unwanted users from accessing and making calls with your cell phone. The default code is 1111. Cellular Abroad usually disables the PIN for rentals and phone purchases but for Italy SIM only purchases, we do not (as not to disrupt the packaging). Therefore, for SIM only purchases, you will be prompted for the PIN. This feature can be disabled or you can change the PIN to another code. Be sure not to enter the code on to your handset erroneously as the third wrong attempt will block the SIM. To unblock it requires getting the PUK (phone unlock key) from Uno Mobile. This requires contacting Uno Mobile directly and there is usually a 48 hour turn around time. Our recommendation, don’t let this occur in the first place! 
Can I keep my US phone number ?
You cannot retain your current US phone number. Every SIM card has a unique phone number associated with it. Your Italian SIM card will come with an Italian cell phone number.

What area code does my Italy SIM have?
Unlike North America, most countries do not associate cities to phone numbers. Phone numbers have their own unique area codes that differentiate them from land lines. Therefore, there is no such thing as a Rome or Milan based cell phone number.

Is the SIM card in English? 
All the menu prompts (voicemail, checking/adding your credit) are in English by default. If for any reason you need to change your default language into Italian, this is possible simply by following the prompts. 

How do I add call time? 
The easiest and quickest way to add talk time is to call Cellular Abroad 7 days/week . We will give you a pin code or codes for you to enter onto the handset. This will give you immediate talk time. You may also purchase talk time locally in Italy by going to a tabacchi 

Is there voicemail?
Yes, there is voicemail and the prompts are in English.

Can I send emails? 
At this time, you cannot send emails. You can, however, send and receive text messages.

Is there GPRS? 
There is no GPRS available as of this time. 

Can I roam outside of Italy?
You can roam outside of Italy but the rates differ from using the service within Italy. Cellular Abroad does not sell this product for use outside of Italy and, while we cannot guarantee the services, since it is covered by the Vodafone network, quality and coverage is excellent outside of Italy as well.  

How much are phone calls? 
Phone calls are free to receive and are 0.18 Euros to call within Italy and 0.35 to call outside of Italy. 

Can I use my US/Canada phone? 
If your phone is unlocked and a GSM phone with the 900 and 1800 bands, you will be able to use your phone. Simply purchase an Italian SIM card and insert it in your phone. Chances are, your handset also has a multi voltage power supply. You will, however, need a plug adapter for the outlet

How good is the coverage? 
Uno Mobile coverage is excellent. They run on the Vodafone network, which covers the vast majority of the country, including, of course, Sicily and Sardinia. Please note that there is no such thing as 100% coverage. Even in the center of Rome you may not always get coverage, particularly if you are indoors where the walls are thick. If you are staying in a remote location, say for example, a villa in Tuscany or Sicily, ask the agent or owner if there is coverage through the Vodafone network in that precise 

What happens if I run out of credit? 
If you run out of call credit, you can still receive calls (while in Italy) since all incoming calls are free. You can call Cellular Abroad 7 days/week to get more talk time. We also have an Italian toll free number that works from most landlines (some hotels will charge you even for toll free calls and toll free numbers usually do not work from Italian payphones). Please note that you can check your credit at any time from the handset and your phone will alert you before you make any call when there is less than 3 Euros on your balance.

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