Pre-Departure Information

Student Finances

This page is an overview of financial information that will be useful as you plan your time abroad. Please read the information carefully and contact us with any questions. Being clear about financial details before departure will make for a smoother transition to your new home.

Italian Bank Account.

We definitely advise our students to avail themselves of the special opportunity our bank offers to students and short term residents. It is now possible to sign up for a pre-paid card that can receive wire-transfers from abroad (so long as each transfer does not exceed 5,000.00 Euros). This avoids having to pay a fee each time a student uses an ATM card, and also ensures that once the money is received on the card it is and remains in Euros, which is the currency used all over Europe. This will also avoid the hassle of continuously having to think about exchange rates! Siena Art Institute staff will assist interested students in applying for the card upon arrival in Siena; just let us know prior to arrival if you would like this service.

Credit Cards.

Be sure you talk to your bank before going abroad to confirm that your credit card/ATM card will work outside of your home country. Discuss your daily withdrawal and spending limits, and withdrawal fees, to make sure you are clear abouts the terms of service. Your bank should take note of the dates and location of your travel to protect your card from fraud.  Be sure you are clear about how you may contact your bank while abroad. As US 1-800 numbers do not always work from abroad, ask you bank if there is a regular telephone line with area code to reach customer service, in case of urgent comunication. A customer service email is useful, too.

Exchange Rates.

The last few years have seen the exchange rates constantly fluctuating between Europe and other countries. For this reason, we strongly advise all students to buy a prepaid card and put however much they envision spending on it before departing.

Cell Phones & SIM Cards.

I would like to have a cell phone while in Italy. Do you recommend this?  

Yes. We highly recommend that students take advantage of this, as it will be much easier to keep in touch with friends and can be used in emergencies. While some foreign cell phones and plans will work in Italy, it is important to know that if you plan on doing this, it is expensive for us to call these numbers (and for you to call any Italian numbers), so it will not be as easy for us to communicate with you.

Will my cell phone work in Italy? In Europe?

In order for your phone to work overseas, you need a phone that works on a GSM network. You should check with your service provider and/or phone manufacturer. If you are planning on using your own phone and purchasing a SIM card in Italy, you need to check with your service provider because the many foreign phones (especially from the US) are locked and cannot be used by another provider.

What is a SIM card? Will it work in Italy? In Europe?

A SIM card is a little card that goes into your phone and is connected to your phone number. Often you can save your phonebook on the SIM card as opposed to the actual phone. This means that if you take the SIM card out and put it in another phone, you will have your number and information available on this phone. Your SIM card may work overseas, but it can be very expensive because you still have your American number; this means that every time you call someone in Italy, you are essentially making an International phone call.

I know my phone and SIM card will work overseas.

Great, but we still recommend that you double check with your service provider to make sure it definitely works AND that you know the additional fees. We have had students in the past who were certain that their phone would work overseas and instead it didn’t.

Can I rent a cell phone from the school? When will I get the phone?

We offer students the opportunity to rent a cell phone from us for the time that they are in Italy. The cost of renting the phones is as follows:

  • Semester Programs: 70.00 €
  • Winter/Summer Programs: 50.00 €

All rentals include:

  • Phone (basic model, with voice, text, answering machine, hearing aid compatible M-1)
  • ChargerActivation of SIM card in your name
  • 5.00 € of available credit
  • €20.00 security deposit, returned at the end of the rental if the phone/charger are returned to us in the same condition in which we gave them to you.

*Deaf program participants have a complimentary rental and will only need to pay for the Sim card and security deposit, for a total of 30 €.

You will receive the phone at orientation after paying the rental fee, deposit and signing the appropriate paperwork. Phones cannot be distributed until rental fees are paid and contracts are signed.

Note that all rental requests must be accompanied by a scanned copy of your passport photo page. Without this page, we cannot complete your registration prior to arrival and your rental will be delayed.

Can I buy a SIM card without renting the phone?

If your phone does indeed work overseas, you can purchase an Italian SIM card. The school will take care of the arrangements. This service costs €10.00. Again, we must have a scanned copy of your passport photo page to complete this registration pre-arrival.

How does my cell phone plan work?

Your SIM card can be a “pay as you go” plan. With your Italian mobile phone, you will buy phone cards to "recharge" your phone with money to make outgoing calls or to send text messages. These phone cards can range anywhere from 5 to 100 euro depending on how much you want to spend.

Can I call the US with this phone?

You should NOT use your cell phone to call the States, as the rate would be ridiculous. Instead, they are convenient to call your host family, the school, or other students. One very positive aspect of the Italian cell phone is that even if you do not have any money on your phone, you can ALWAYS receive incoming calls. This means that anyone, including your parents in the States, can contact you at any time. Parents love this!

What is the most inexpensive way to call home?

The best way to call the States is Skype or hangout. Many students also buy an international calling card, either here or in the US. Some calling cards offer fixed rates, regardless of what time of the day you call. Other calling cards may charge more during peak times of the day; avoid making international calls from 9.00 am - 6.30 pm (except on Sunday), which is peak time.

International calling cards can be easily bought at newspaper stands and tobacco shops in Italy.

Sart life