Once you’re in Italy, you may want to keep in touch with your home by phone. You can rent a cell phone or use a public telephone, which are the cheapest options if you follow the instructions correctly.
Cell phones are for rent in many parts of Italy and there are many companies that offer this service for tourists; the benefit is that you can call many parts of Italy with low calling rates; This is a good option because most Italians are addicted to using cell phones and you’ll keep in touch with them without having to follow many instructions before calling. Many tourists also buy a cheap cell phone and a pay-as-you-go SIM cards from a cell phone provider, which is a handy option.
Although using a public telephone is the best choice, it is an unusual experience for some tourists because public telephones available in Italy do not use coins; if you want to call you need a Telephone Card (scheda telefonica in Italian language), which are for sale at newsstands, electronic shops, tobacco shops, airport or train stations and they costs from 3.00 euros and more, Phone cards are valid for only 6 months after you buy them.
If you want to make international calls you must buy an international card (scheda telefonica internazionale), but whether for local or international calls it’s highly advised to use the public phones than cell phones because the minute of call costs much more if you use cell phone.
All Public Telephones in Italy have the instructions to use them, be careful to follow the right instructions because some independent companies paste cards with instructions printed in a way that match the telephone company colors and design, and if you follow these instructions they charge their rates for your call therefore your calls will be more expensive than expected.
While most Italians do not use pay phones (Italy has one of the highest cellular phone ratios per capita in the world), pay phones are generally available all over Italy, particularly in tourist destinations. Still, like in most countries including the US, the vast majority of public cell phones do not pay for themselves and therefore, the telecom companies are not in a big rush to repair or provide maintenance for their equipment. Generally speaking, you will find public phones in good working condition in the proximity of tourist attractions. The vast majority of payphones use a prepaid calling card that you can purchase at tabacchi, cafés and newspaper outlets. Ask for a “scheda telefonica”.The lowest denominations available are 5 Euros.
In order to use a scheda telefonica, you simply enter the card into the proper slot and when you are done with the call, the card with be returned to you along with your residual credit. To make a local call, simply dial the phone number. For example, a call to a cell phone always starts with the number 3 (ex. 335.1234567) and a call to a landline always starts with a zero, which is part of the area code and is always given as part of the number. For example, if you need to call Rome, even from within Rome, you would dial 06 plus the phone number (ex. 06.123456). Please note that not all numbers have 7 digits following the area code. Additional area codes are 02 for Milan, 081 for Naples, 041 for Venice, 011 for Turn and 055 for Venice. Again, you do not necessarily need to make note as this as the area code is always given as part of the number.
If you want to make an international call, you must dial 00 (sometimes given as the “+” sign) followed by the country code, area code and then the phone number. The country code for the USA as well as for Canada is 1. To call the US or Canada from Italy you must dial 011-area code-phone number (ex. To call a number in New York City dial 011-212-1234567). Other country codes are 27 for South Africa, 44 for the UK, 61 for Australia, 353 for Ireland and 64 for New Zealand.
Hotels generally charge astronomical fees in order to utilize their phones. One way around this is to purchase an international calling card. Calling cards are available throughout Italy or can also be purchased prior to your departure in your home country. In general, it cots more to call to a cell phone as opposed to calling to a landline. For example, if you are in Italy and calling back to the United States from a calling card, if you call your home in Los Angeles, it may cost you $0.10 per minute while if you call to a friend’s cell phone it may cost you $0.50 per minute. Another useful tip to consider is that many hotels charge customers even if you call to a toll free number – even if it is an Italian toll free number. If you plan on using your hotel’s phone often, even with a calling card, it makes sense to find out what all the fees are prior to using the hotel’s phone.
Virtually all cell phones from the UK, Australia, NZ and South Africa work in Italy while roughly only 50% of phones from the USA and Canada work in Italy. However, roaming rates, particularly for non EU countries (hence, outside of Europe) are high. On average, one can expect to pay about $1.00 per minute plus tax for all outgoing and incoming calls with a US provider and $2.00 per minute for all incoming and outgoing calls using a Canadian provider. If you are anticipating using your cell phone in Italy, an alternative option to expensive roaming is to purchase a prepaid SIM card. Italian SIM cards offer the benefit of free incoming calls as well as much lower international and local rates than roaming with your current carrier. There are several carriers in Italy including Vodafone, Wind, TIM, Uno Mobile, Poste Mobile and a few others. You can purchase a SIM card once you arrive in Italy by going to a cell phone store and showing proper identification such as a passport. For English speaking travelers, the Uno Mobile SIM card is recommended as all the voice prompts, instructions as well as customer service are in English. In addition, international rates are lower than all competitive carriers and local rates are comparable. This SIM card is also available online through many retailers including Amazon.com, Buy.com, CellularAbroad.com and others and therefore, may be obtained prior to your departure which is an added convenience.
If you intend on purchasing a SIM and utilizing your current handset, make sure that your cell phone is unlocked meaning, your provider has not enabled a subsidy code preventing you from using your cell phone with other carriers. If your phone is locked, you can sometimes receive the unlock code simply by calling your cell phone carrier. In the event that they will not unlock the phone, you can usually get your phone unlocked online for a fee or by taking it to a cellular store. If your handset is not compatible for use in Italy (doesn’t have the 900/1800 MHz networks), there are plenty of phones available online.
Call to and from other countries:
Emergency numbers: To dial these numbers it’s not necessary to pay or use the city code:
- If you want to phone Italy from other countries to contact a travel agency or the accommodation, follow these instructions: First, dial the “foreign call code” (generally it’s 00 and 001 for USA), after that, dial the International country code (39), then dial the city code plus the phone number.
It should be something like:
00 39 081 45566322… (For a phone call to Naples in Italy)
If you want to phone from Italy to other countries to keep in touch with your family; you must follow these instructions: dial the “exit code” which is always 00, then the country code, the city code followed by the phone number.
For local calls it’s always necessary to dial the city code even if you’re in the same city you are calling to.
- 12 Phone Directory Assistance
- 112 for Carabinieri's service
- 113 for Emergency Police Help
- 115 for the Fire Department
- 116 for the A.C.I. (Italian Automobile Club) - for road side assistance
- 118 for Medical Emergencies
- 176 International Inquires
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