Step By Step Guide To Get Mobile Phone Service In Thailand

These days every backpacker seems to be equipped with at least a mobile phone and a tablet. Don’t worry – I’m not here to tell you to leave the iPad at home. Let’s just get right to the point…

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You’re traveling to Thailand and want to buy a local SIM card for voice and/or data?

I’ve done this several times before so let me tell you exactly, step by step, what you should do to get a cheap local SIM card in Thailand.

1. Go to the nearest 7-11. If you’re arriving at the main Bangkok airport (BKK) you’ll find a 7-11 near the entrance to the BTS train on the lower level. And for all other locations in Thailand, just know that 7-11’s are extremely popular and common all over the country – you’re never far from one.

2. At the 7-11, ask for a SIM card. English language skills at 7-11 are generally poor to non-existent, so be patient and be prepared to use hand gestures (try showing them your old SIM card as an example of what you’re looking for.)

3. But don’t get just any SIM. You want the Dtac Happy Tourist SIM card. If communication with the 7-11 staff is challenging, say the words “Dtac Happy” and point to your old SIM card (or your mobile phone). Make sure you get the “Dtac Happy Tourist” SIM card for 49 Baht. It should cost exactly 49 Baht. If you are offered something that costs 100 Baht or more, you are probably being sold Dtac top-up credit (also useful, but not what you need at the moment).

Get mobile phone service in thailande Dtac Happy Tourist
Make sure to get the dtac Happy Tourist SIM card

4. The Dtac Happy Tourist SIM card is a prepaid mobile phone SIM card that is perfect for tourists. For 49 THB (Less than $2 USD) you instantly get one day of free unlimited 3G Internet and 15 Bhat of voice/sms credit.

5. The Dtac SIM cards include a standard size SIM and a micro SIM, which will fit most phones. (Note: The iPhone 5 needs a nano-SIM, so use caution, or be prepared to cut down the micro SIM to nano size).

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6. Unwrap your Happy Tourist package and extract the SIM card. Take note of your new mobile phone number, which will be printed on the external plastic packaging.

7. Insert your new Dtac SIM card into your phone. Turn off your phone and immediately re-start it. Wait a few minutes and you’ll receive an SMS message from Dtac that says something to the effect of “Welcome to happy service”. Now you are free to start browsing the net.

8. ‘Top-up’ (add more credit) to your prepaid SIM as soon as possible and subscribe to a data plan if you want to use data beyond the first 24 hours of free 3G Internet. Topping up can also be accomplished at 7-11 and can now be done online as well: http://www.dtac.co.th/en/prepaid/services/happy-refill.html

9. Once you top up, your credit will be instantly added to your Dtac account. You can use this credit for calls and SMS (including International calls, but read the included Dtac manual for dialing instructions). You can also apply your Dtac credit to a “Happy Internet Package” which allows you unlimited browsing throughout Thailand. Unlimited data packages start at 199 THB per week or just 299 THB per month. See here for the details: http://www.dtac.co.th/en/prepaid/products/Happy-internet-package.html

dtac sim card
dtac Happy SIM Card has a micro-sim built in.

For example if you want to subscribe to an unlimited data package for 1 week, first make sure you have more than 200 THB in credit on your Dtac account. (You might want a little extra for calls and texting too). Then dial this exact code on your phone: *104*28*9# (then press send). After a few minutes you’ll receive a confirmation SMS that is mostly in Thai, but will say “Happy Internet” in English – that’s your cue to start surfing.

10. If you forget your phone number, want to check your balance, or need more help, Dtac has pretty good English-speaking customer service (dial 1678 and then press 7 for English after the call connects).

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Also the included ‘Dtac Happy User Guide’ is full of tips on getting the most from your Dtac prepaid plan. Want to read the dtac Happy User Guide? Click Here. 

11. Now you’re free to enjoy all the benefits of staying connected while traveling to every corner of Thailand. Just remember to put the phone down sometimes so you don’t look like a lame-ass nerd!

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome article! I’m wondering about what to do for internet connectivity. We’re going to be renting a place for 6 months, and there are 4 of us with internet devices. A “share the USB dongle” type of setup would not be optimal, but I’m looking for something that will work (AIS or Tot?) for all of our devices (smartphones, iPad, laptops).

    • Hi Alan, sorry for the delayed reply. I wouldn’t recommend a USB dongle for this situation as it typically can only be used with one device. There are some WiFi access points/repeaters that you can plug USB dongles into, but those seem cumbersome to me. I would strongly encourage you to rent a place that has internet included and then use a mobile carrier’s internet connection as a backup (that’s what I have done each time I visit Thailand and it works pretty well). In your situation I would recommend getting an unlocked GSM WiFi hotspot that you can simply insert a SIM card into. You could also use a smartphone, but since there are 4 of you the internet connection will be tied to someone’s phone (may not be so convenient for everyone). Hope that helps. Happy to help with any more questions you may have as I’ve been dealing with these situations actively for a few years now.

      • Great source of information. Thanks for writing it.

        I was just wondering about that “15 Bhat of voice/sms credit”. All my wife and I need is a card to make a few phone calls, no internet access needed, over three or four days. Say a dozen calls at most.

        So we would possibly not need a “data plan”.

        Or is there something here that I’ve not understood?

        Once again, thanks.

        • You’re welcome Simon! You should not need the data package on the plans. I don’t remember off the top of my head what the options are on that front, but that will be easy to figure out at the DTAC airport counter. Just tell them you don’t need any data. The “15 Bhat of voice/sms credit” means that you have this amount of funds to use for OUTGOING voice and text (SMS) messages. Usually it cost 1 Bhat/minute and 1/Bhat per text (SMS). Incoming text messages and calls are free. If your wife needs to make international calls outside of Thailand be sure to ask for the dialing codes and rates at the counter so she knows how much credit to buy. For example, if it’s 3 Bhat/minute to the US and she wants 60 minutes then she would need to have 180 Bhat credit on her account to make those calls. Safe travels!

    • Typically yes! Most carriers in Thailand, including Dtac, don’t different between data used on your phone and data used for tethering from your smartphone. I personally verified this information in March of 2014. All the major carriers in China also allow data tethering in case you plan to go there.

  2. Hi Mike: Thanks for the excellent informative post. I’ll in Thailand for a 15 day trip and in-between will be going to Vietnam as well. I’ve two questions and would appreciate some advice on those . After I purchase the DTAC Happy Card if I want to top up both mins & data right then and there, can I do it at 7-11? If I can do I have to do that for both data and mins separately? Mike any advice for how to go about getting a SIM for mins/data in Ho Chi Minh?

    Thanks again for your help.


    Gaurav

    • Hi Gaurav. Yeah, you can top up at 7-11s, via ATM (although I’ve never done this), and also online via credit card. Regarding how the top-up works, I would recommend that you do your best in getting a plan with enough data/minutes when you first buy the SIM card. This is especially true with the data. After your data runs out and you’re still within the 15 days of activating the SIM card the your Internet will still work it will just be very very slow. If you want regular speeds again you would have to apply some of your existing credit to data usage (which you could do on a daily basis or even per-minute). You may need to call DTAC’s support to get them to activate certain data packages for you (e.g. daily). This is why I recommend getting more than enough data to begin with. For the voice minutes it’s much easier. Just add credit and you’re all set. Hope that helps.

      For Vietnam I’m honestly not sure. From talking to fellow travelers it seems like the process in South East Asia is similar to Thailand, but most likely a bit more difficult. I always start by asking at the information counter of the airport that I arrive in, ;).

  3. Great guide,

    Thank you very much,

    Only funky thing is when I tried to use the English support had to dial 77 rather than just 7, must be new, even there voice prompt said just 7,

    Hope this helps reduse confusion,

    Great guide,
    Thanks,
    Happy travels

  4. I just bought one last night on arrival in Bangkok. Works very well. But found out they did not return my old Sim card to me. One big hazard when buying stuffs in Thailand when handed in your own belongings.

  5. Simeasy.com will DHL free to your home a sim card for either AIS or True before you travel to Thailand, thus avoiding queues at the airport and allowing you to share your number with friends and family before you travel and of course avoiding roaming charges.

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