In preparation for the vacation, the issue of mobile communications arose. It was necessary to find out how much it costs, which operator to choose and how to connect. In Italy, it turned out to be not so easy to find out the information in advance, because the operators' websites are not translated into English. Then I remembered that my smartphone has an eSIM and decided to check how it works.
Who does not know, eSIM is a virtual analogue of a physical SIM card. Instead of the usual plastic card, a small chip is sewn into the smartphone, which stores information about connecting to the operator. To buy and activate an eSIM, you don't need to go anywhere (if you don't take into account Tele2's experiments in Russia), the connection is connected through the smartphone settings – it's no more difficult than connecting to Wi-Fi at a party.
eSIM is still available only in expensive flagships, and not in all. The easiest way is with iPhones – all models of 2018-2019 support a virtual card. In my case, it was just iPhone XR.
Before traveling to Italy, I looked at the list of operators who sell communications via eSIM. It turned out that there are already dozens of offers on the market. Especially for comparison, there is a special site Esimdb.com – it allows you to choose a tariff among all operators and find the best option for your purposes. The site immediately shows the price, traffic volume and other parameters.
The nuance is that my trip lasted only a week, so buying a full SIM card was expensive and pointless. And on the comparison site, I found the operator Stork Mobile, which has the optimal tariff for my purposes – 1 GB of Internet for 15 days for $ 6. It operates throughout Europe. If you wish, you can buy another 3 GB of Internet from above for $ 16, but this tariff has been valid for 30 days.
For comparison – the Internet in roaming from my main operator would cost 350 rubles per day for 200 MB or 1500 rubles per month.
In the case of the Stork Mobile operator, there is one limitation – it only provides the Internet, without mobile communications and SMS. Even a phone number is not assigned through the operator's eSIM. So if you need a full-fledged mobile connection, then it is better to look for other options. I only needed the internet.
How eSIM connects
With the virtual SIM card connected, everything turned out to be even easier than I thought. Two days before the flight, I bought a basic tariff for 1 GB of Internet, in response I was sent a QR code. To buy a tariff, you do not need to enter passport or visa data, only your first and last name – and no one even checks them.
Further in the settings iOS you need to go to the 'Cellular' section and click 'Add cellular tariff' – and scan the sent QR code. After that, at the airport in the city of Rome, I switched the data transfer to eSIM, and that's it, the Internet started working. But you need to check that data roaming to the new eSIM card is enabled in the settings.
I advise you to buy a tariff and activate eSIM the day before your trip or save the QR code on another device in advance. As a last resort, it is possible to connect the card manually, there will be instructions in the letter with the QR code. It is important to remember that you can activate eSIM only once – for example, transferring a tariff to another phone will not work.
At the same time, the Stork Mobile operator has no restrictions on the distribution of the Internet, when the smartphone acts as a Wi-Fi access point. So one SIM-card was enough for us for three. Mobile communications were rarely needed and only for messages and navigation, so the gigabyte of the Internet ran out just at the airport before the plane back to Russia. For more serious tasks, there was Wi-Fi at home, on trains or in cafes.
Conclusion – eSIM is a very useful function that also helps to save money. The basic mobile tariff in Italy starts from 15 euros, but it is paid for a month and gives an excess amount of traffic. So I spent three times less on communication than I could.