The cell phone. Remember life without a cell phone? I do! One day on my way to work in Red Bank, NJ, I got a flat tire. Hey, of course I KNEW how to change a tire but I was in a suit and didn’t WANT to change the tire. So how did I get help? In my high heels, I tottered down the street to the first house and at 7:30 in the morning banged on the door. Yup, I wasn’t afraid, serial killers didn’t enter my mind and obviously didn’t enter the mind of the woman who answered the door and called a gas station for me. Then I got a cell phone. Now, I realize that I can’t possibly navigate life’s curvy roads without a cell phone.
Three months in Italy with out a cell phone was out of the question. We weighed the options. One was to buy a cheap – no data – phone and a local pay-for-minutes plan. Nah! Impossible! Truth be told we are addicted to our iPhones. Want a restaurant? Turn to the Yelp app. On the road and need a hotel? Turn to Hotel.com. Lost? Pull out the google map and chart your way. All my contacts, Facebook friends, Dropbox folders and more are on my iPhone. What to do? How much will it cost for a data plan? The one thing we knew was that we were not going to buy the president of Verizon Wireless a new yacht by enrolling in their “cost you your first born child” international plan. We had done that for short trips and relied on wi-fi zones to call each other through the free Viber interface. We also know lots of folks with iPads and iPhones that use Apple’s FaceTime. Verizon had been notorious about not unlocking phones on contract so that you could install a pay-as-you go sim card. I was ready to go the mattresses with the Verizon Global folks to demand a more equitable plan for our three month stay. Was I surprised and delighted to discover that Verizon had changed its policy and would unlock our iPhones. I put our Verizon account on hold for three months and we left the country with unlocked phones.
Meanwhile, Annarita Mancini, the best and most efficient person a traveler could have on their side, investigated pay-as-you go cell phone services. Sit down – you are not going to believe this. For ten, not one hundred, but ten euros a month per phone, Jack and I were able to have unlimited 3G, 400 texts (I am not an avid texter so this is enough for a life time) and 400 minutes of talk time. So, for about $26 a month we get approximately the same bloody service for which we now pay Verizon $170 a month! How can that be?!
Don’t believe me? Check out the web site:
Our service is through a company called Wind. Now there have been some snafooos. When we bought our new sim cards and swapped out the Verizon card we weren’t sure what to do next. Jack always says, when in doubt hard reboot! We did that by sticking a paper clip in the tiny iPhone reset hole. I bit my lip and did some good luck incantations. Unnerving. We turned the phones back on and one worked perfectly. Jacks phone was in pazzo land. My Italian wasn’t good enough to understand Wind support. Annarita!!!
Over lunch in Morcone, the nearby village that requires the legs of a goat to walk through, Annarita stayed on hold with Wind, made pushy noises and got Jack’s phone functioning. The one annoying Wind security thing is that every time you shutdown your phone or runout of battery you have to re-enter your million number Wind security code. Jack says I’m lying it isn’t a million numbers only four. OK, he wins but I didn’t pick the four and I don’t remember the four. The first month the service was great. There were only a few spots on the mountain where we didn’t have ‘bars’. We also don’t get service in our kitchen. Of course the bones of the house are medieval and all thick rock. The kitchen is an all rock internal room. I don’t think Verizon or AT&T could sneak through those thick walls either.
Month two arrived and we had to pay for the second months service. We tried to do it online. It couldn’t be done by us. To set up an on-line account, you need a Codice Fiscale number – think social security. Annarita bought our sim cards before we got here. Thinking my Codice Fiscale was bad or I had someone else’s, I kept cursing at the computer and the Italian government. Later, we discovered that Annarita had registered the sim card with her name and number. Not a big deal. You can go to almost any Tobacchi (cigarette and assorted stuff shop) or Edicolo (newspapers and magazine shop) and top off your account. We did that and all was well – we thought. Jacks service continued, mine stopped. Eeeeeeh. Annarita!!! She came and rebooted my phone. Now why didn’t I think of that! Once again all is brilliant in cell phone land.
Question – why is it so much cheaper here for cell phone usage? All I could think of was, this is a smaller country and we only bought service for Italy not all of Europe. But hey, I ain’t calling anyone in Greece. Wait a second! Jack and I are going to London for five days. My brilliant niece Alexandra Rose is graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. We are hopping over to see her in a play and graduation review. How much more than our ten euros will Wind charge for calls outside of Italy? Two Euros a day ($2.60) that is how much more. For that we get 30 minutes of call time, 30 text messages and 30 MB of internet data. That extended plan is good for all of the European Union and the United States. We have learned to turn off the data on our iPhones when traveling and just use wi-fi zones so the 30 MB won’t be an issue.