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How You Can Get A Rome SIM Card As Easily As Possible

Getting a Rome SIM card with this guide when you visit is an important first step soon after arriving and we will help you understand and simplify the process.

If you plan to travel internationally, you should probably become a little more familiar with how to use your mobile phone once you land in a new country. There are a couple ways this can be accomplished that I will describe below, but knowing how a SIM card works in your phone will help you decide how you want to be able to use your phone.

What Is A SIM Card?

If you weren’t aware, SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module and it is a memory chip that holds unique information about your cell phone account. It tracks the identity of the country, carrier, and user of any given cell phone. In other words, when your cell phone connects to a cellular network, the SIM card tells the network who is using it.

Do You Need a Rome SIM Card?

It isn’t a requirement to get a SIM from an Italian telecom service when you arrive, but it is something people coming from outside the EU will need to consider for a couple of reasons. First, if you use Verizon or AT&T, you will need to check into their international plans. Currently, Verizon’s TravelPass is an additional $10 per day that you are traveling, you get unlimited calls and text, but data is pulled from your domestic balance, which can be an issue since wi-fi isn’t quite as ubiquitous as in the U.S. and you will probably use it more for maps and WhatsApp while here.

One additional reason you should consider getting an Italian SIM card is if you will be in Italy for an extended amount of time. If so, and you plan on getting food delivered, you will need a local number. This isn’t really a big deal, but if this is something you expect to do, keep that in mind.

Rome SIM card - TIM

Get a SIM At A Store Like This

There are a couple reasons not to get an Italian SIM and one has to do with your work. When I traveled in the past I wanted to be reachable by my employer. While I NOW recommend ignoring your job while you are on vacation, that decision is up to you. If you stay on your domestic SIM, everyone will be able to reach you like you were back home, which might be really unpleasant due to the timezone difference.

The other reason to consider, and this happened to me once, is if you need to authenticate an account with two-factor authentication. What happened to me was that my phone battery swelled up and split the phone, so I needed a replacement. That is a story for another time, but the result was I had a new iPhone, but none of my Google accounts were available because they needed to be re-authenticated, which is done through an SMS message to your domestic phone number, but I hadn’t signed up for an international plan with Verizon. The only way I was able to resolve this was to use my Chromebook, which I luckily brought as well. This is a very specific issue, but something I would suggest that you consider.

What Is A Removable and Unlocked SIM?

This isn’t so much of an issue anymore, but you need to be sure your phone has a removable SIM. Again, older phones didn’t always have this, but today I believe all current models include this. What is more of a current concern is that your phone must be “unlocked.” What this means is that your domestic phone providers will lock the phone so that it can only be used with that provider. This happened to me when I bought my last Samsung, so I confirmed with Verizon that it was unlocked prior to leaving.

Your Phone Number Will Be Italian

Having an Italian SIM means you will now have an Italian phone number, but be sure to keep your original SIM card from your domestic service because you will need to re-insert it when your trip is over. I recommend keeping it in a VERY safe place, like with your passport, laptop or camera.

What is an eSIM?

The term “eSIM” simply means the SIM card is locked in place (literally “embedded”). There are no physical SIM cards involved but there is a slot available to add an additional SIM. This way you can have the best of both worlds, your domestic telecom service provider and the new Italian SIM, which can be made to be the default while you are here.

Orange Prepaid SIM

30GB of data in Europe with 2 hours of international calls and 1000 texts from Europe to anywhere in the world.

What Do You Need To Get A Rome SIM Card?

You will need to be at the store in person and provide them with your passport and a Codice Fiscale. The Codice Fiscale is similar to your social security number. If you don’t have one and you are here for a relatively short visit, don’t worry about it. This number is not a secret like your social security number and can be derived from your passport, which they will do for you.

The Telecom Companies in Italy

TIM (Telecom Italia) has a plan called the Viaggio Pass. It costs 20€ and will last you 30 days. This will give you 10 Gb of data, 500 voice minutes (half calling / half answering) and 500 SMS messages.

Vodafone has their Holiday plan. It costs 30€ for the month. This will include 2 Gb of data, 300 voice minutes in Italy and your home country and 300 SMS messages.

Rome SIM card - Vodafone

The Stores Are Everywhere

WindTre is the combination of two previously separate telecom companies, Wind and Tre. They have three varieties of their plan called: Call Your Country. The best one costs 20€ per month and includes 500 minutes calling 53 countries with unlimited Italian calls and 200 Gb of data.

Once you decide on the plan and provider you will use, you definitely should download their app. This will help you track your usage and also allow you to reload your minutes or pay any negative balance. It has been my experience that the companies will recommend downloading their app, but if they don’t you should do it anyways. One part that might not be obvious is that to use the apps it is important to be on their network so they can validate what phone it is. That means get off of wi-fi and use your cellular network when using the app.

If you consume all of your data or texting available on your plan, your phone will stop working and you will need to go to one of the stores, or use the app, to reload (ricarica) the balance. This has happened to me twice because of some accidental texting.

Unlocking Your Phone

The PUK and the PIN

  • The PIN (Personal Identification Number) is intended to protect your SIM Card from unauthorized use. 

  • The PUK (Personal Unblocking Key) code is a code consisting of 8 digits. It is used to unblock your SIM card when you entered an incorrect PIN 3 times. A card blocked by the PUK code cannot be unblocked and you have to replace it.

These numbers are on the card holding your new SIM and it is important to save them securely. When using a SIM card in Italy, some phones are set to require that every time you turn off your phone and turn it back on, you will have to unlock your SIM card, especially if it isn’t from your domestic service provider. My experience is that this security feature can be turned off, but at least the first time you are prompted, you will need the PIN.

Where to Buy a Rome SIM Card

Rome SIM card - Telecom Providers

WindTre On A Street Corner Near You

When you arrive in Rome you have a few options. The most immediate opportunity is Buying A Sim Card In The Rome Airport from one of the providers I discussed above. If that is too soon, once you buy Leonardo Express tickets and arrive at Termini Station you will find the main telecom companies there as well. Lastly, there are stores everywhere, especially in the tourist areas, and you can just walk right in and buy the SIM there.

More Help Getting Around Rome

It takes a little planning to get a Rome SIM card, but it is a pretty easy and well-worn process so just choose the plan that will work best for your travel plans. For more help getting around Rome, check out these other articles:

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