|Subject: Buying a cell phone for travelling|
GSM cellular phone are sold at almost every electronic shop in Italy starting from a bit less than 100 USD and up. These phones can be used in Europe only, otherwise you need a multi-band phone which goes a bit higher, about 200-300 USD. When you buy it, you can subscribe as well the connection, with a proof of ID and a credit card. The phone only can be bought online, there are many consumer electronic websites but I'm not sure they deliver outside Italy and of course you can't sign up via web.
There are two different contracts: prepaid and billing. The prepaid is easier, you see how much money it's left all the time and the credit lasts one year, but the billing is more flexible, i.e. allowing to place and receive calls everywhere in the world anytime. You get a statement every two months, the minumum amount you are charged is the Gov fee (less than 5USD per month). You can't of course deactivate it. Charges: there are so many different to suit your needs, but I opted for a standard fee 24/7 as I don't need the hassle of look at the time of the day everytime I call. The price for one minute from Italy to USA and Canada is about 0.60 USD, while if you're called the USA or Canadian caller pays the usual charge for Italy. Things change if you have an Italian phone and you travel elsewhere in Europe: when you call you pay a higher tariff, according to the country you're in, while incoming calls are splitted between the two parties, i.e. the caller pays the call to Italy while you're billed the portion from Italy to the country you are staying. Very difficult, huh? Just for explanation, if my mum calls me when I'm in the USA, she pays about 0.25 USD per minute and I pay about 0.50 in addition. Definitely not cheap, but if you need to stay in touch esp. for business purposes it can be worth.
Hope this helps
Paolo Trieste, Italy