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…
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.
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- 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.
- 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.)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- ‘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
- 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
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.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).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. 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 sometimes down so you don’t look like a lame-ass nerd!
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