Updated last year

Once you touch down in Thailand, you'll probably want to get a mobile phone with a local Thai sim so that you can stay connected with your friends and family abroad, and keep in touch with your new friends and colleagues in Thailand. Keeping your existing service and using international roaming can cost a fortune, so it's worth having your phone unlocked from your service provider for a small fee before you leave your home country. Then you can get a Thai sim card when you arrive.

If you're only travelling to Thailand on holiday, you you can find tourist-targeted plans at the airport, but they do tend to be more expensive and are only valid for short periods. If you're staying for a longer period of time in Thailand, then it's worth buying a pre-paid SIM from a provider store or booth in a shopping mall, where you can find a flexible range of plans to suit your needs and budget.

SIM cards include talk and data packages, and you can top up your phone in any 7-Eleven convenience store, as well as at the provider's store. A good thing about a pay-as-you-go plan is that you’ll never be surprised with an enormous bill — you'll simply run out of minutes, texts or data. To ration your data, connect to WiFi networks in restaurants and shopping malls whenever possible. Also contact your plan provider’s customer service to request for alerts to be sent to your phone in English, informing you of how much you have left.

However, if you are staying in Thailand on a long-term basis and have already opened a Thai bank account, your best option -- depending on your usage -- may be to get a postpaid plan, where you will be billed after use. The main service providers offer packages that are good value for money and should meet your needs.

Service providers

There are three main mobile phone providers in Thailand — AIS (also known as One-2-Call), DTAC and True Move. All offer pay-as-you-go deals for short and long-term stays, and provide 3G and 4G service, although the quality of 4G network coverage varies depending on the different carriers, location, network upgrades and capacity.

While DTAC is considered to be most friendly to foreigners in terms of customer service, True Move provides a lot of WiFi hotspots across Thailand, which is great for those on a budget.

The different service providers offer different packages at competitive prices. Once you arrive in Thailand and know your priorities and budget, do some research and choose the one that suits you best.

Process

Generally, you will need to bring your passport to purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card, as most providers need to register the sim card under your name and passport number. Be sure to ask for a recurring package and make sure that the package has been activated before you leave the shop. You should receive a text message informing you as soon as it has been activated.

If you are signing up for a post-paid plan, you will need to show your passport and work permit as well.

  Useful links:

AIS
DTAC
True Move

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