no luck at the airport
i was hoping to buy a SIM card at the airport like someone mentioned on the Prepaid With Data wiki page but couldn’t find a vendor. as far as i found, there was only an expensive third-party SIM kiosk and a tabaccheria that sold top-ups (no actual SIMs). (for what it’s worth, there is free wifi at the airport but you have to keep re-registering every 30 minutes.)
i saw a large TIM store at Termini station but didn’t have time to stop because i had to meet my Airbnb host and was running late, so i had to slog on without connectivity. (p.s., how much do i love this host? she took me out to coffee and gave me some tips for seeing Rome. super nice and helpful.)
my Airbnb is located in the Quadraro neighborhood and there are three cell phone stores within walking distance of each other: a 3, a Wind, and a Vodafone. i went in that order.
the 3 wanted an Italian form of ID; they would not accept my US passport. the Wind wanted €35 for a card and service — too rich for my blood. i went next door and luckily they were able to help me at the Vodafone.
my total cost came out to €25 (€10 for the card and €15 in top-ups). not too cheap, but i guess it could have been worse. they will make a copy of your passport and you need to sign two forms, but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. one of the two salespeople there spoke English. the only drawback was that i didn’t get a choice of plans (in retrospect i should have seen if there was anything cheaper). they do have the equipment necessary to take credit cards but asked if i could pay cash instead (fine with me).
i asked what this plan included and he said it has 3 GB of data as well as talk and SMS allowances. i wasn’t sure how much of each until some text messages came rolling in after activation (=immediate).
if i’m google translating correctly, it looks like the plan (Smart 200, which was sort of detailed on the Prepaid With Data wiki page, but maybe that was without bonuses) includes 1 GB + 2 GB free of data, 500 minutes of voice, and 500 SMS — definitely much more than i’ll ever use during my week here.
i didn’t have to do any configuration and while it supposedly includes 4G service, i’m only getting 3G on my Verizon-based iPhone 5S (though they did have nano-SIMs readily available, no cutting necessary). speeds seem decent so far.
the last two here are new messages:
p.s. over at the Wind store…
Here is a cat on a leash in a cell phone store. Because Rome. pic.twitter.com/FjrPDEU1Uo
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) February 17, 2014