Traveling is meant to be relaxing and an escape from the rigors of daily life. However, it is important to stay connected to your family and friends while traveling. The Internet makes communication easier. To use the internet, you need an activated local SIM card. Purchasing a SIM card in India is hassle-free and doesn’t take up much of your time.
Here’s an extensive walkthrough of all the information you need to know about staying on-grid while touring India as a foreigner.
Buying An Indian SIM Card
Table Of Contents
- What Is A SIM Card?
- If You’re A Foreigner Based/ Traveling From The USA
- Digital SIM or eSIM
- Benefits Of Purchasing An Indian SIM Card
- Reliable Service Providers In India
- Documents Required
- Age Limitation
- How Is The Internet Speed In India?
- What Are Prepaid And Postpaid Plans?
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Where To Get A SIM Card?
- How To Activate The SIM Card?
- Validity Of The SIM Card
- Is 5G Available in India?
- Roaming In India
- Helpful Tips
What Is A SIM Card?
If you are looking to purchase a SIM card, you probably know what it is. Either way, let’s cover the basics.
SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. It is typically a small card that has a protected microchip to uniquely identify the user. Mobile devices have SIM slots of varying sizes based on the model. To accommodate this, SIM cards also come in varying sizes namely standard, micro, and nano. Once the SIM card is registered with the network provider, they link the SIM card and phone number provided to you.
In India, a typical cellular number has the code +91 followed by 10 digits. To utilize the benefits like making/receiving calls, sending SMS/text messages, or using mobile data, you need to pay the network provider.
If You’re A Foreigner Based/Traveling From The USA
If your phone doesn’t have a SIM card slot, then you need to unlock the phone before leaving your home country. Just approach your local retailer to enable a SIM card slot accessible for you. Another alternative is to either buy a pocket router or a new mobile phone with a sim card slot. Recently, eSIM was introduced which is great for frequent flyers.
Digital SIM or eSIM
eSIM is an embedded SIM that allows users to use the prepaid or postpaid service without using the physical SIM Cards. Airtel, Jio, and VI offer the service for compatible smartphones or devices. Currently, Apple, Samsung, Google, and Motorola have rolled out this feature in top-end phones. All new and existing customers can opt for eSIM.
Benefits of Purchasing An Indian SIM Card
- The rates are cheap in India when compared to the hefty roaming charges
- Despite the large area, India has a vast network coverage
- You can also choose daily data usage plans which include free calls and SMS all across the nation
Reliable Service Providers In India
Among the four major network providers, Jio, Airtel, BSNL, and VI (Vodafone-Idea), Jio and Airtel are mostly preferred and have the most subscribers. They provide seamless 4G and 5G internet connectivity at better speed with wide network coverage and also value for money.
- Photocopy of your passport
- Photocopy of Indian Visa
- One Indian passport-size photo
- If the passport doesn’t have your address, then you need to provide proof of residence in your country. Eg. Identity card, driver’s license.
At the time of purchase, one photograph will be taken as a part of KYC (Know Your Customer) and you will be asked to fill out a form and sign the same.
In India, a person should be 18+ years of age to get their sim card. Otherwise, he/she can avail in the name of the guardian.
How Is The Internet Speed In India?
India has a slow bandwidth speed when compared to most of the countries. But it is quite good in the cities. It does vary widely in remote areas. The increase in the number of smartphone users is also a reason for the comparatively slow internet speed in India.
What Are Prepaid And Postpaid Plans?
Prepaid services are “pay before you use” and postpaid services are “use first pay later”. Postpaid services require permanent address proof in India. So, as a foreigner, you are eligible to use prepaid services only. In general, residents prefer a prepaid plan as it is comparatively cheaper and has the added advantage of avoiding monthly credit shocks.
With the prepaid option, you can choose your plan but you need to pay upfront to enjoy the benefits. You can also recharge to get add-ons or even upgrade your plan. Once the plan expires, you will have to do a nominal top-up to avail the benefits.
How Much Does It Cost?
Heavy competition and an aggressive increase in smartphone users made the network providers offer competitive prices to lure customers.
Where To Get A SIM Card?
At the Airport
Most SIM Cards bought at the airport are tourist SIMs and are typically valid for 90 days. After purchasing a SIM Card, stay within the city limits for it to be activated.
As a tourist, the airport is the best place to buy a SIM card in India. But, if face a delay in activation, you cannot go to the airport retail again without a flight ticket (Airport Security Protocol). But you can seek local dedicated retailers’ help to contact the store and get it cleared.
The Airtel shops are located at the T3 arrival area at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi (Airport Code: DEL), and the Level 2 arrival area at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai (Airport Code: BOM). The shops at the airport are open 24/7. If you cannot locate the store, you can enquire at the Information Desk at the airport.
At Exclusive Retail Outlets
There are multiple retail outlets spread across the country. You can google “Airtel/ Jio store near me” to find the one closest to you. The SIM Cards offered here are cheaper and you can approach the retail vendors anytime.
If you are a foreigner, you will be asked for a local reference number. You can give the contact number of your friend or the hotel/hostel you plan to stay in.
At Local Vendors
Although many vendors offer SIM Cards, it is advisable to buy only from authentic retail dealers. When purchasing from an unlicensed vendor there is a possibility that the number might be registered under the name of someone else and could stop working anytime. But you can top-up or recharge online or at any local shop across the country.
At Your Hotel/Hostel
You can get a SIM Card from the hotel/hostel you’re put up without any struggle but they might charge an extra fee for the service.
How To Activate The SIM Card?
Once your details are successfully verified, your SIM Card will be activated within 6 hours after the purchase. Call the number given on the cover of the SIM Card you purchased to activate it. If it takes more than 24 hours to activate, then contact the seller whose in a position to help you.
Validity of The SIM Card
As mentioned earlier, if you are a foreigner, then the validity period is usually 90 days but it could be extended to match your VISA validity upon request. Once the validity period expires, your phone number will be blocked automatically.
If you have longer VISA validity, say 5 years, for instance, you need to recharge once every 90 days to keep the SIM card active. If not, the SIM might lead to deactivation.
Is 5G Available In India?
Airtel and Jio offer 5G services across different cities in India. VI is expected to launch its 5G services in 2023 followed by BSNL.
Roaming In India
India has 29 states, each run by its respective State Government. Each time you cross the state border, you will get a push notification or message and your roaming will be turned on automatically. If not, restarting your device should do the trick. There are no roaming charges within the country. You can enjoy calls and data anywhere in the country.
- You can download the app of your network provider to check your current plan, and data balance, or recharge online.
- If you want to charge your device, most of the sockets are Type D and Type C plug types. It is advisable to purchase a universal adapter that can be used in 150+ countries including India.
- When you approach a vendor for recharge or top-up, be specific about your prepaid plan.
- You can also purchase a pocket router to connect multiple devices.
- The prepaid services don’t work in Jammu and Kashmir due to security reasons.
While it is easy to navigate the digital world in unfamiliar territory using the internet, you are advised to always check in with a trusted friend or family member. Travel adventurously but also sensibly.
Have you purchased a local SIM Card in India before? Share your experience with us. If you find this blog useful, spread the word. For more content like this, and everything travel, adventure, and great stories stick with your Twins.