While traveling, local prepaid SIM cards are handy to have and usually dirt cheap. In recent years, getting a SIM card in India has become more convenient – with the advent of national carriers, it’s no longer necessary to purchase a different SIM card in each state. Also, SIM cards used to expire, so if you were returning to India after a couple of months abroad, you’d need to purchase new SIM(s) with new phone numbers. SIM cards are sold in tons of shops – all clearly marked with a LOT of advertisements (trust me, you can’t miss it!) – and the pricing clearly marked, so no need to bargain. Here’s some quick tips to making your purchase smooth and fast:
- Providers: Decide whether you want a national or local SIM: In the state of Goa, !dea is a popular regional provider; if you’re traveling throughout the country, Vodaphone offers excellent national service.
- What you’ll need:
- (1) Passport photocopy (original not necessary)
- (1) Visa photocopy (original not necessary)
- (1) Passport photo
- Local Address in India (e.g. a guest house or hotel), including full address and the cell phone number (not landline) of owner / manager (who will be called to confirm that you’re living there!)
- Home address in your own country
- Make sure your cell phone is Unlocked for international SIM cards.
- (4) Signatures – I guess they really want to make sure you are really you!
- After receiving the SIM card, the process is almost, but not quite, complete. It’ll take about 24-36 hours for the paperwork to be processed. Then, when you have a dial tone, try to make a call. It won’t go through, but you will receive an automated message which, if you wait for 45 seconds, will connect you with a live operator. Then, you will need to re-confirm your cell phone number, your name and the local address which you submitted with your application. Then, your phone will be activated within 1-60 minutes.
- Costs (general): Phone calls and SMS/text messages cost fractions of pennies. Once your prepaid credit runs out, it’s simple to refill at local shops.
- Vodaphone costs:
- Basic plan: 150 Rupees (about USD $2.50) for the initial SIM card – 90 Rupees pays for the card itself, leaving you with about 60 Rupees credit.
- Data plan: 550 Rupees will get you the SIM card, 355 rupees credit, 1 gb Data, plus 35 free SMS / test messages. Once you use your credit, the plan automatically revert to the Basic plan, in case you decide that data isn’t necessary (which is likely, given the ubiquitous free wifi at cafés and restaurants). Plus, you can call internationally for fractions of pennies per minute.
Tip: If you have an iPhone or other cell requiring the smaller Micro SIM, ask the shop keeper before you buy. I met a Russian tourist who purchased the SIM, then ran around for hours trying to find a shop with one of those SIM card cutters.