Cell Phone Frustrations


So, last week as I was going throught some stuff for our upcoming trip to Italy, I decided to check the GSM phone I always take with us whenever we go to Europe which has an Italian Vodafone SIM card in it which I can recharge online. I turned it on, made sure I had plenty of battery power, took it to a part of the house that gets cell coverage, and waited for it to find a network.  I waited…and I waited…and I waited some more.  Hmmm….why was it taking so long?  I looked down at the phone and noticed an info button.  I hit that and …CARD IS INVALID!!!  What?  How could that be?  I ran to my computer and logged onto Vodafone’s website (my trusty Italian phone site where I am  registered and everything is hunky dory for recharging, etc) and find that they don’t recognize my phone number anymore!  They tell me “errore”!!!  So, after perusing the site for answers, I realized that my SIM card had expired because I hadn’t charged anything to it for more than a year!!!  Stupid me….I knew that rule, but totally forgot!  OK, I was going to figure this out by writing to customer service for their suggestions.  I sent a total of 4 emails last week and have yet to receive a response!!  So much for customer service!

Someone that is not American cannot understand our problems with cell phones when we travel overseas.  The United States is the only country in the world, I think, that has it’s own unique cellular networks and they do not mix well with the rest of the world!  My U.S. cell carrier is Verizon – they have great coverage and are extremely reliable IN THE UNITED STATES, and they don’t do SIM cards!!!  But, unfortunately, I cannot use them anywhere else!  And those that have other plans, like AT&T, may be able to use their phones throughout the world, but the fees are exorbitant!  So, for this reason, I have a GSM phone which I use just for travel.  But purchasing SIM cards is extremely difficult.  They require lots of registration and also copies of passports, etc.  Whydoes it have to be so complicated? 

Luckily, I have relatives in Italy which are willing to help out this helpless American!  But they don’t quite understand our problems with our cellular dilemmas! 

“Just go to a Vodafone store”, they say.

“We don’t have one!!”

“How can that be?  Vodafone is EVERYWHERE!!!”

 “Except the U.S.A.!!!”

11 responses »

  1. Ciao, Barbara! Weird you just posted this as I was considering the pros and cons of getting another phone to use in Europe (since I turned in the one I was using last year). I am lucky that I have great coverage in Europe with AT&T, but even with the worldwide travel package, I still pay $1/minute. Any chance you’ll be in Florence after mid-September?

    • Hi Valerie,
      No, unfortunately we’re coming back on the 10th of September. We are going to Lago Maggiore, Cecina (near Livorno), and the Cinque Terre!!! And all in one week!!! We will be RUNNING!!! Typical for us! I know that AT&T allows you to use your phones in Europe, but they are SO expensive!!! Maybe you should look into getting a phone just for Europe. It has always worked out great for us until my stupidity got in the way, and I forgot to recharge it!!! Ugh! Hopefully my Italian cousin will be able to work his magic and get it reinstated 🙂 How long are you going to be in Europe for?

  2. Wow – Sounds like quite the itinerary! LOVE the Cinque Terre this time of year! (OK, I love the little wine bar on the trail between Vernazza and Corniglia – with rough, unfiltered, cold, delicious white wines. Fine – AND the occasional glass of Sciacciatra`with biscotti.) Yes, it would be best to just buy a cell or sim card. I will be in Italy for 2 months and Southern France after that for a month. The good thing is I actually got to find (and see) my next apartment before I left in May, so am happier to be in a quieter (less tourist traffic) spot in Oltrarno this time. In bocca al lupo con il tuo cellulare!

    • 3 months in Europe? You are a lucky woman!!! What are you going to do while you’re there (other than write your blog!!!) I will have to check out those wine bars – I hear the white wines in the Cinque Terre are wonderful! Oh, I forgot to mention that we are also going to spend a day exploring Piedmont….LOTS of wines there too!! A presto 🙂

      • Oh – Piemonte! I only spent 2 days there (at wineries, of course) – but someday would love to go back for a week or two. I will actually be attending – finally – a REAL Italian language course full time (the only school I heard anything good about, really). Somehow, I’ve taught myself to intermediate level (we shall see how intermediate) and am excited to just go “live, study, immerse” tutto in italiano. In France I’m going to study French wines and review the language as well (which I haven’t used in 30 years, so you can imagine that disaster as well). I’m excited to read your posts from bella italia!

      • Thanks….and HAVE FUN!!! Sounds like it will be wonderful. I would love to “live” in Italy for some time and experience every day life there. I did when I was very young – we would go to Italy for 1 to 3 months at a time, but I couldn’t really appreciate then like I can now. I can’t wait to read your posts of life in Europe!

  3. Barb, same problem we had last year. We decided the easiest way was to have Verizon supple us with a phone that worked in italy. I was very skeptical but the rates were very good (per minute) if you don’t plan to be on the phone constantly.

    that is quite the itinerary. We spent 2 days of our trip last year in Cinque Terra staying in Vernazza. Loved the little towns.

    have a great trip


  4. Purtroppo le settimane in prossimità di Ferragosto, o Agosto in generale, è un pessimo momento per avere dei problemi perché tutti sono in ferie…spero tu sia riuscita a risolvere il problema telefono 🙂
    Se hai bisogno posso comunque darti una mano 🙂
    Spero di vederti quando verrai qui in Italia 🙂

    • Sto provando a vedere se possiamo incontrarci. Ti mando l’itinerario quando lo finito e forse possiamo vedere se c’e possibilita. Per ora, mi sembra che forse al 5 settembre!!! Ti tengo aggiornato 🙂

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