Mobile Phones & SIM Cards in Thailand

If you’re going to Thailand on holiday for a couple of weeks you’ll probably want to have a mobile phone to keep in touch. Here we explain your options for staying connected while in Thailand.

Nowadays it’s relatively easy to use your own mobile phone from your home country in most other countries in the world provided they have a developed telephone infrastructure. Thailand has a very well developed mobile telecommunications infrastructure which means you’ll have good coverage in all but the most rural and mountainous areas of the country.

Check your Phone is Compatable

In order to find out if your own mobile phone will work in Thailand first check to see if it’s a GSM phone. . This means your phone is capable of being used on different telecom bands in different places. In today’s day and age (2013) it’s highly unlikely that you’ll still be using a phone that isn’t compatable with use in Thailand. However, depending on what country you are in you may need to call your telephone service provider and make sure that they can activate international roaming on your mobile phone.

The advantage of using your own mobile phone in Thailand is that your friends back home will be able to keep in touch with you on your regular number; however, the costs of both making and receiving phone calls when you are in Thailand are so high that it’s probably not a good idea if you are staying longer than a couple of weeks.

SIM Cards in Thailand

Buying a SIM card once you are in Thailand is probably an easier and cheaper option. A SIM card can be bought on a pay as you go basis for about a few hundred Thai Baht or about $10. In fact, in recent years as competition has increased, some providers offer free SIMs  to tourists as they arrive at the airport. There will usually be a girl offering sim cards along with a pamphlet showing all the international tariffs to tourists as they exit either immigration or customs. Those sim cards are totally ok to use if you are just in the country for a very short while, but in exchange for recieving a free SIM you are going to be paying slightly higher rates on the calls.

Buying A Sim

Otherwise you can buy a SIM at pretty much any phone shop in any city of town in Thailand. These are not large official outlets, but usually small shops on the side of the road who’ll be able to service you. In fact, many minimarts will also be able to sell you SIM cards, as well as offer top up service. This is really handy because there are more 7-11′s in Thailand than there are people and you’ll find one everywhere.

Choosing a Provider

The most sensible option would be a pay as you go if you are only on vacation, and there are a few providers with not a great deal of difference between them. DTAC (Happy) and 1-2-Call are a couple of the big names, but it’s impossible to say which one is definitively better, as there are always changing promotions going on. Your best bet is to find a store where the attendant speaks even a little English and ask about the options.

Expiry

One thing to bear in mind is that the pay as you go SIMs expire if you dont top them up every so often ( usually 3 months). If you are a person who goes to Thailand on short trips, but often, then you might consider paying a few hundred Baht extra for a SIM that remains valid up to 12 months without top up. That way even if you go back only once a year you can keep the same number.

Call Costs

Calls are cheap to make and free to receive. The only thing you have to consider is whether your own mobile phone is locked. Many phone providers deliberately lock their phones to make it impossible to use on rival networks. This can be overcome however for a small price at any phone shop in Thailand where they are pretty handy at that sort of thing.  Mobile phone retailers are very easy to find in Thailand even in smaller towns.

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