How To Get A Local SIM Card In India As A Foreigner In 2021

How To Get A Local SIM Card In India As A Foreigner In 2022

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

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 card
Standard, Micro, And Nano SIM Cards

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 which costs around Rs. 3,000 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

Different service providers in India

Among the four major network providers, Jio, Airtel, VI – Vodafone-Idea, and BSNL, Jio and Airtel are mostly preferred and have the most subscribers. They provide seamless 4G internet connectivity at better speed with wide network coverage and value for money.

Note: BSNL though the most cost-effective does not offer 4G services yet in India.  

Documents Required

  • 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.

Age Limitation

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 of 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.

If you purchase the SIM Card at the airport, it will cost around Rs. 1000 which includes the value pack (1.5 GB/ Day with truly unlimited local calls and 100 local SMS/ Day) for 28 days. You can buy the same at less than half the price at local retail. Normally, a SIM Card will cost you around Rs. 200 plus the money for the plan you choose. 

Airtel Prepaid plan
Airtel Prepaid plan
Jio Prepaid Plan
Jio Prepaid Plan

Disclaimer: Please note that the price comparison is given only for your reference. The prices do change frequently. Visit their official site for recent and updated pricing.

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. Upon request, you can have the SIM validity extended to a period equal to the validity of the VISA. After purchasing a SIM Card, stay within the city limits for it to be activated.

A major problem is that,  if you are faced with 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 

Sometimes, you will be asked for a local reference number, then 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 mostly 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 could be extended to match your VISA validity upon request. Once the validity period expires, your phone number will be blocked automatically. 

Is 5G Available In India?

5G services are expected to be launched in 2022. At present, India has a wide range of 3G/4G internet services.

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.

Helpful Tips

  • You can download the app of your network provider to check your current plan, 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 the 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. 

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Shekhar 08/30/2022 - 10:09 PM

My visa to India will get expired in soon but will get it renewed as applied for.
Will Airtel block my sim.
Do I need to inform Airtel not to block my sim.

Please advise.

Twins 08/30/2022 - 11:14 PM

Hi Shekar, the SIM card validity has nothing to do with visa expiration. To keep the Airtel sim active, just recharge. If a plan is activated, Airtel will not be blocking your SIM.

sanjay k 09/26/2022 - 9:59 PM

Hi ,
I am Travelling from New Zealand to Abu dhabi and than Mumbai so I am having 8 hours layover at Abu dhabi Airport , Can i get a Airtel Prepaid Sim card from transit lounge in Abu dhabi Airport. Please advise where is this counter located to get Airtel Sim card for Mumbai.

Twins 10/03/2022 - 12:19 PM

Sanjay, you can get Indian SIM cards only after landing in India. However, you can use international roaming services from your existing SIM card. At Mumbai, the Airtel store is located at Level 2 arrival area which is open 24*7. If you are not able to locate, please contact information desk at the airport.

James 09/27/2022 - 5:32 AM

Hi, Airtel stopped selling sims at Delhi airport during Covid times, Have they restarted selling sims at T3 International Airport Delhi Arrivals?
Doe anyone have any recent update?

Twins 10/03/2022 - 12:23 PM

Hello James, yes the Airtel kiosk at the Delhi airport is operating now. You can buy one from the counter directly.

Deepak 10/31/2022 - 7:35 AM

After purchaing E-Sim card, how much time take to activate the E sim-card?
Is any counter nearby IGA airport?

Twins 10/31/2022 - 11:20 AM

@Deepak, the e-sim cards are activated immediately. However, for the calling and messaging services to be active, it’ll take around 2-3 hours minimum. Also, as mentioned in the blog, counters are available at the T3 – international arrival terminal at the Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi.

Valentin 11/21/2022 - 1:55 AM

Does that mean that it would also take some time until Internet is activated?

I will need it to order Uber and similar services. Is WiFi widely available within the airport premisses?

Twins 12/02/2022 - 11:03 AM

Yes exactly. It will take some time for the internet services to be active. For an immediate internet connection, you can use the free WIFI available at the airport, which can be activated upon submitting the OTP from your mobile number (not necessarily an Indian SIM). Also, please note that only popular airports have Free WIFI facilities.

4cricket 02/04/2023 - 8:28 PM

Requiring OTP for wifi access makes no sense. International Travelers without roaming plan has no working phone # to receive OTP. What is the workaround to get internet access?

Twins 02/07/2023 - 10:53 AM

As far as the mobile number is active with a valid plan, roaming is not required to receive OTP. Unfortunately, this is the only possible way to get access to the airport WiFi in India as of now.

Jan 11/26/2022 - 3:15 PM

Great post! I travel to India once in one to two years. How can I keep the same number active when I’m outside india? How does one top up a prepaid plan?

Twins 12/02/2022 - 11:07 AM

That’s good to hear. You can keep the same number active in two ways – by asking your friends to recharge or you doing it from the website. As far as the plan is concerned, topping up for a monthly pack with data (at least 1 GB/ month) has worked for us. We hope this helps!

Rit 11/28/2022 - 5:44 AM

Hi, I will arrive in Mumbai on 20th December around 7.10pm. I need to get a SIM for the 2 weeks I am there.
Which is the most suitable SIM for me. I need data more than anything else.
Will hotels sell SIMs. I will be staying at the Trident Nariman Point.

Twins 12/02/2022 - 11:12 AM

Hello Rit, Welcome to India. You can opt for either Airtel or JIO SIM card providers. Indian hotels do not sell SIM cards directly. The best and immediate option is to get it at the arrival terminal of the Mumbai airport on landing. For other options, please refer “Where to get a SIM card” section of the blog.

Rohan Dharmasena 11/29/2022 - 12:24 PM

Hi, Is there any mobile sim provider outlet in Chennai airport?

Twins 12/02/2022 - 12:27 PM

@Rohan Unfortunately, there is no sim provider outlet at the Chennai airport.

Robin 12/05/2022 - 10:26 PM

Hi, I am a Nepalese citizen and while travelling to india, came to know that a valid visa is required to get a sim or you need an indian citizen adhar card. Nepalese and Bhutanese do not require visa, so no sim is available for them. Can someone put this message to the concerned body. Many nepalese travel to india for pilgrimage for longer durations in india, how can they remain disconnected with their family?

Twins 12/23/2022 - 9:07 AM

@Robin, thank you for highlighting this issue. We truly understand your problem. We’ll check and do our best to find a solution.

balaji 12/20/2022 - 9:42 AM

Is there a SIM provider in Bengaluru airport?

Twins 12/23/2022 - 9:17 AM

Hi Balaji, you can purchase SIM cards and dongles at the CXSOL counter next to arrival gate no. 10 at the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru.

searchingforasimcard 01/23/2023 - 5:01 AM

Hello. Is there a possibility of buying a SIM card at Lucknow airport as a foreigner?

Twins 02/07/2023 - 11:13 AM

We’re sorry to say that this facility of buying SIM card at the Lucknow airport is not available yet. However, you can make use of the WiFi services available at the airport premises.

Ron 12/29/2022 - 11:32 PM

I will in Goa, India Jan 2023 for around three months.
I am looking for a mobile internet connection for my laptop and other electronic devices.
Can you kindly suggest some reliable providers and what is the best product in terms of mobile routers.
Additionally the cost.
Thanks so much

Twins 02/07/2023 - 11:08 AM

Hello @Ron, Apologies for the late reply. Jio network works well in Goa when compared to Airtel. For mobile routers, you can check in your locality of stay as it highly depends on the area. Hope this helps.

Rajesh 01/22/2023 - 11:59 PM

A lot of blogs seems to be old. What is the position now in January 2023? We will be landing at I. G. Airport at the end of Jan. 2023.
As an NRI how much is a prepaid SIM card from Air Tel for two months?

Twins 02/07/2023 - 10:47 AM

Hello @Rajesh. Our blog is updated frequently as and when required. The plans are same for both Indians and NRI. For Airtel-prepaid latest price list, please refer the official website.

Debiya 02/05/2023 - 12:46 PM

Iam an airtel user and iam from bangladesh studying in india from 6 months.As i brought my sim card with my visa and visa is for 1 years and i have to live in for four years for study
As my everything is connected with this sim now. Will it get disconnected after one year of visa..
Can i get the same number after disconnection?@

Twins 02/07/2023 - 10:58 AM

Hi Debiya, the SIM will not be disconnected after your VISA validity. You just have to recharge to keep the number active. If your number is deactivated, there is less possibility that you’ll get the same number. The best way is to retain your mobile number is by recharging.

Gary 03/02/2023 - 1:57 AM

Hi, I am planning a two week trip to Delhi in April of this year 2023. I do have an unlocked Samsung phone, but it has no SIM card in it at the moment. I want to put an Indian SIM card in it when I get to IGI airport and will use Airtel. It’s just a matter of inserting the card and then calling a number to activate it? But I would call using the very same cell phone that will have the Indian SIM inserted in it? And how long should I wait until calling? Forgive my ignorance in this matter as I am not used to cell phones.

Twins 03/02/2023 - 7:35 AM

Yes, you’re right. Just insert the new SIM card and call any valid Indian number to get activated. A basic verification check on your submitted ID proof is done during the call. The activation will take at least 10-15 mins. People from the store desk will help you. Meanwhile, you can also use the WiFi services available at the IGI airport.

Gary 03/05/2023 - 9:02 PM

Thanks for the great information. I appreciate it very much. When you say “call any valid Indian number to get activated” you mean I could call a friend of mine who lives outside Delhi, and this is enough to “activate” the SIM? Or do I call a certain Airtel number in order to get activated? Again, sorry for being ignorant in these matters.

Twins 03/06/2023 - 11:04 AM

It’s our pleasure to assist you 🙂 You can call your friend and that is enough to activate your sim. The first call will be transferred to customer care to verify your identity. Once that is done, your sim will be activated in the next few minutes. And you are ready to go.

Alternatively, you can call 121 (for airtel) to activate your SIM. But it is not mandatory that you should call 121. Any first call that is made is forwarded to customer care for activation. We hope it is clear now.

Gary 03/24/2023 - 9:40 PM

Hello, sorry for asking so many questions. Regarding the data we will receive when we purchase an Airtel SIM at IGI airport, do you know how long it takes to activate it? I know the Indian phone number should be working soon after purchasing and activating the SIM, but how long before the data part is activated. And do we have to do anything or does it just start up?

Twins 03/25/2023 - 9:08 AM

@Gary, once the verification is successful, the number will be activated anywhere from 10 mins to 6 hours (max). If it takes more than 24 hours, contact the seller. Once the number is activated, you can use the services right away. You need not do anything to activate the services. Try restarting the device if you’re facing problems.

Nish 03/06/2023 - 7:14 PM

We are moving to Bangalore for a few years. Could I get a local sim for the validity period of the visa instead of a tourist sim? What is the documentation required and is Airtel or Jio better?

Twins 03/07/2023 - 10:53 AM

Hello @Nish, most SIM cards bought at the airport are tourist SIM cards for which the validity can be extended as your VISA validity. Local SIM cards can also be bought by mentioning the same to the executive while purchasing (at airports especially). Kindly refer to the “Where To Get A SIM Card?” section of the blog for other places to buy SIM.

Local SIM card doesn’t have a validity period but the services will be deactivated if the SIM is inactive for 90 continuous days.

For the required documents, kindly refer to the “Documents Required” section of the blog.

In Bangalore, both Airtel and Jio have excellent connectivity. Hope this helps 🙂

Markus 03/16/2023 - 5:15 PM


We will travel in April to India for two weeks. As i understood so far, the best way to get a local sim card is to do it directly at the airport which is Mumbai in our case.

During investigating the different blogs it is not completly clear what we need to provide right now from our side. If i took all informations together is should be:

– A copy of the e-visa we just receveid yesterday.
– A copy of our passport
– One photo

Is this information still valid or do they changed something in the meanwhile.

From my perspective in the last 3 years there are a lot of changes in getting a sim card. Should be currently easier then before.

Kind regards,

Twins 03/18/2023 - 5:09 PM

Welcome back to India @markus. The documents that you’ve mentioned are enough to purchase a SIM card. And the process has definitely improved a lot and it is a lot easier now. If you’re facing any issues, feel free to reach out to us. Wishing you a happy and safe journey.



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