How To Buy a SIM Card in Italy

If you’re planning a holiday in Italy or if you plan on moving to the country for an extended period, you will likely want to get your cell phone working as soon as possible once you arrive. It’s difficult enough being somewhere new, but it’s even worse if you can’t use your phone. But setting up your phone to work in Italy can be confusing to figure out, so to help make it as easy as possible, we’ll walk you through it and include a list of the best pre-paid sim card providers in Italy. 

Buying a SIM card in Italy to make your phone work is not as easy as it sounds and requires a few different things from you first. Then you’ll also have to decide which carrier to use based on your needs, how much you want to spend, etc. And we’re sure you’ll have a few questions, so you’ll find answers to the most commonly asked questions about buying a SIM card in Italy. 

So without further adieu, continue reading to find out everything you need to know about using a SIM card in Italy. 

What You Need to Buy a SIM Card in Italy

Buying a SIM card in Italy and using your phone is not as easy as you might have hoped it would be. You won’t be able to just walk up to a kiosk or into a service provider’s store, grab a SIM card off the shelf, and five minutes later be surfing the web or sending text messages. It takes a bit more time and effort, so let’s dive a little deeper into what you need to do to buy a SIM card in Italy.

First, you must buy the SIM card in person; you can’t preorder it for your arrival in Italy. This is mainly due to the fact that purchasing a SIM card in Italy requires a photo ID as well as a codice fiscale. If you do not already have a codice fiscale — which is required for much of your life in Italy — the service provider can help you get one. Your phone also needs to accept SIM cards and not be tied to any specific carrier.

Where to Buy a SIM Card in Italy

Now that you know what you need before you can purchase the SIM card, it’s time to learn where you can buy one. The easiest way to get a SIM card in Italy is right when you get off the plane. Kiosks, stores, and vendor stalls right in the airport will be able to sell a SIM card to you right when you land. But you’ll be paying extra for that ease and convenience!

If you’re willing to wait a little longer and go a little further before you get your SIM card, you can save some money. 

Which Cell Service Companies Work Best in Italy?

There are quite a few major cell carriers in Italy that have steady coverage throughout much of the country, but some areas of Italy struggle to get a signal. If you’re planning on spending your trip staying in, near, or around the major Italian cities, then any of the carriers listed here should work fine for you. The best cell phone service providers in Italy include:

  • Best Overall Network Coverage: Vodafone — Vodafone is undoubtedly one of Italy’s biggest mobile networks with over 30 million clients, Vodafone takes the cake as the best option overall. It offers customers the best network coverage and impressive speed. So if you don’t want to spend time deciding between carriers, you can’t go wrong with Vodafone.
  • Overall Runner-Up: Wind — Although Wind does not yet offer 5G, it still provides customers with 4G connections in over 98% of the country. And the customer service from Wind is top-notch. You’ll feel comfortable making a deal with them and know you’re getting a solid price and great coverage.
  • Fastest Network in Italy: TIM — Outpacing even Vodafone as the single largest network in Italy is TIM. Its network coverage is comparable to Vodafone, with TIM claiming 4G coverage in over 95% of the country. But the biggest advantage of TIM is the network’s speed. TIM’s 5G is the fastest network in the country and is an excellent choice of service while you’re there. 
  • Best Customer Service: Tre Italia — As alluded to above, Wind has top-notch customer service. Similarly, you will be in great hands if you choose to go with Tre Italia. The two companies merged in 2016 but are still operating as separate entities to this day. The coverage can sometimes be a bit spottier than Wind and other big networks, but the customer service is the best on the market.
  • Best Budget-Friendly Network: Iliad Italia — If you’re looking to get the best value and most bang for your buck, then consider going with Iliad Italia. The new company launched its cell service in 2018 and offers significantly lower prices than the other big names. Iliad’s service was so comparable and so much cheaper than the other companies that the other providers were forced to lower their prices to prevent losing more customers to Iliad.

Italy SIM Card FAQs

Now that you have an idea of how to get a SIM card in Italy and how it all works, let’s take a look at a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding Italy SIM cards.

Can I use a sim card from Italy with any phone?

Not directly, and not every time. The phone has to be unlocked, meaning that it is not tied to any specific provider in the country you’re traveling from. It also has to be a phone that accepts and uses SIM cards — not all phones use SIM cards these days. But if you have a phone that uses a SIM card and isn’t locked to its original carrier, then you should be able to buy a local SIM card in Italy and slide it into your device. 

Should I buy a long-term contract?

If you aren’t planning on being in Italy for very long, it is not recommended to buy a long-term contract. Even if you plan to stay for a few months, you should consider using a pay-by-month plan rather than agreeing to a long-term contract. These contracts can be difficult to get out of, and you might be tied in for longer than you end up staying. 

Is cell phone coverage good in Italy?

If you’re staying in or around the major Italian cities, then cell phone coverage should remain fairly steady throughout your trip. But as you get further away from the cities and into more rural areas, coverage can start getting pretty spotty. So if you know you’ll be out in the countryside more than the main cities, you should wait before buying a SIM card until you talk to the locals to see which company has the best service in that area.