How to get a local sim card in India as a tourist 15

4th Mar 20
Harshal, Indian Travel Blogger

A trip to India is always a mind-boggling experience, especially if you are a first-time traveler. Maybe you are backpacking across the North or spending some quality time in the serene backwaters of Kerala, staying connected with the rest of the world while traveling to India is very essential. As a foreign tourist visiting India, it is often stressful to stay connected wherever you go. A local sim card will come in handy as you can use the internet while making online transactions, payments, booking an uber or as simple as using the Google maps. You could call a hotel or a new friend that you made in Jaipur or Mumbai. Sim card is a lifeline of cell phone and it must be kept alive while you travel.

But how exactly would you get hands-on a local sim card in India? Seems complicated? Well, we have made it easier for you! Just read along.

Why Indian Sim card is important to traveller?

Jio Sim Card How to buy a local sim in India

As a traveller you have the option of carrying your own country’s sim card and use it in India but the following are the benefits to take India sim card as a traveller :

  1. An Indian sim card will help you save on hefty roaming charges if you carry your own country’s sim card.
  2. Data roaming on your card could cost a bomb, so if you take an Indian sim card then you can get data at the cheap rates as compared to global data roaming charges.
  3. International sim card may be an alternate but still, it will cost you more if you compare to a local sim card of a country.
  4. To make local calls you will not even be paying any amount. India has innovative companies that do not charge to make a call only pay for data recharge. Indian telecom company Reliance JIO has changed the telecom space.
  5. Reliance JIO has come with a proposition of daily data consumption-based plans.
  6. For example, if you take a plan which allows you to recharge the sim card with Rs 499 or ~ USD 7. This plan will allow you to use a daily 1.5 GB data plan, free calling across the country.
  7. Over and above this you can use several mobiles and web app for media, songs, payment free costs. There are several applications that come as free with the JIO Sim card plan.
  8. If you are taking an Indian sim card it will ensure good coverage even in rural areas as well as being a local company.

What is a sim card?

Maybe this doesn’t need an explanation but here you go!

  • A sim card is technically known as the subscriber identity module, chip type of circuit card which is hosted by a local or international mobile operator or carrier providing calling and data services.
  • It has to be inserted into the provided sim slot of your phone and activated later to continue using calling and internet data services. Sim cards are widely used throughout the world in a large number of Asian and European countries. While traveling to India is mandatory to have a local sim card to enjoy smooth connectivity.

Things you must know before getting a sim card in India

Things to do before getting a sim card in India

  • If you are traveling to India from the USA, it is quite possible you wouldn’t have the faintest idea about what is a sim card.
  • Mobile phones in the USA do not have a sim card slot since they are directly connected with major telecom carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile.
  • Therefore, it is wise to get your phone unlocked for a sim slot before leaving home for India.
  • Before leaving for India, visit your local phone retailer and ask for manually unlocking the hardware of your phone in order to make it accessible with a sim card.
  • If this is not possible somehow or you do not wish to go through this process then you could simply buy a new cell phone or pocket router to enable wifi every time with sim card slots especially for your trip to India. Samsung and Nokia phones have this option so you could either buy a new one or a pre-used device. The same phones may cost you a lot more if you would buy it in India. Make sure you by phone with the right bandwidth for using a 4G connection or LTE.
  • If you are carrying dual sim card enabled phone like iPhone 11 or One plus or Samsung you should read about e-Sim also. These are new age sim which do not require physical sim card and can act digital sim card.
  • But there is a catch with e-sim’s as in India only 2 providers are giving this service and may not be available with any vendor you see on the road side.

Which are the best mobile sim card operators in India?

4G Local Sim Cards In India

There are a lot of options among the mobile sim operators and carriers in India. It is quite essential to note that their connectivity and network largely depends on factors such as:

  • The region you buy your sim from.
  • The region you are traveling may have good network coverage for some carrier while bad for others.
  • Type of your plan and its varying services from region to region.
  • Since India incorporates a vast and diverse geographical area, strong network and connectivity may be different for different operators.

The major mobile sim card operators in India are:

  • Reliance Jio

  • Airtel

  • Vodafone-Idea

  • BSNL

  • You can opt for any of these sim card carriers given the fact that they all offer the best calling and data service at nominal rates. Cut-throat competition to capture a larger customer base has led to a cheap rate for large data packages, which is good for you.

  • Though there tariffs and charges differ, they are quite affordable and fall in nearly the same price range. For a 4G/LTE sim card, you could get 1.5 GB 4G data per day along with unlimited calls and SMS for 28 days. You could have this for a nominal rate of INR 150 (~2.80 USD). Jio and Airtel are considered the best networks throughout the country irrespective of the region or area.

Where and how to get a sim card in India?

Well, now that you are all set with proper phone and enough knowledge, let’s delve further on how to get a local sim card in India. You are two ways of buying a sim card in India -

  1. Buy a sim card at the airport.
  2. Buy a sim card at an authentic dealer.

Let us understand both of them in brief:

Buy a local sim card at the airport in India

Vodafone Store Mumbai Airport

  • If you are traveling to India by flight, it is likely you will be arriving at either the Delhi International Airport or the Mumbai International Airport. All the international, as well as domestic airports across India, has special kiosk or shops operated by local sim carriers to provide sim card on arrival to travelers and tourists.

  • You could find these kiosks near the arrivals hall and near the exits at all the international airports. It is located at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and Terminal 2 of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai.

Buying a sim card in India need a few important documents which are listed as follows:

  • Photocopy of your passport and the original document
  • Photocopy of your visa and the original document
  • Photocopy of the e-visa if you are using one
  • 2 x Passport Photos
  • Proof of address of the country you live in (utility bill or official government document such as a drivers’ license to display your home address)
  • Proof of address in India (where you are staying or visiting)
  • Charges around 900 to 1000 INR

All these documents usually cover the requirements and you may be able to get a sim card. Once you get the sim card, the packet includes the sim and a manual book which lists the instruction on how to activate your sim card. The services usually resume within 24 hours. If it takes longer then you have to call the kiosk time after time until your services are activated. If you can spare some time, you can revisit the airport and request them to get it done.

What the catch?

  • Local Indian sim cards bought at the airport are tourist sim cards and specifically valid up to 90 days of your travel. They may extend it up to the validity of your visa as per request.
  • If you are planning to travel to India for more than 90 days, it is preferable to get a sim card from an official local vendor which is actually quite cheaper than the airport prices.
  • Note that there is no free Indian sim card offers for tourists at airports anymore. It was an old initiative undertaken by the Indian government to provide free SIM cards to foreign visitors arriving on e-visa.

Buy a sim card from an authentic local dealer or vendor

Local Sim Card Dealer Shops in India

  • Buying a sim card at the airport may be a lot expensive and so it is preferable to rather get through a local vendor that offers cheaper rates, more choices, and smoother transactions.

  • Local vendors and dealers sell sim cards that are authentic and valid as they give you a wide range of offers to choose from which are sold by the sim operators.

  • The documentation required to get a sim at the local vendor is the same as required at the airport. You would have to fill in a paper or digital form and provide some details to the vendor to register your info on your sim card.

  • You would find a local sim vendor almost everywhere as far as the sight goes. Just look out for huge hoardings over shops of various carriers like Airtel, Idea, Vodafone or Jio and you will find them. You could even google the authentic retailers of the respective companies and find the right address near you.

  • If you still find it difficult to locate a local sim card vendor, just ask for assistance at the reception of the hotel you are staying at, they will patch things up for you. Some hotels even offer you get a sim card for you in their services itself.

  • You can make documentation and form filling easier by giving local reference contacts of your friends living there. It wise to provide reference numbers of the hotel staff where you are staying. Make sure to inform them before doing so. If you are lucky enough, other local customers may offer to provide their numbers to help you out.

  • You can only get a prepaid sim card since postpaid sim services require a permanent residence proof in India.

  • Once you get your sim card, you have to activate it by giving a call to the mentioned numbers on the sim packet. Your sim may get activated within a couple of hours or may take longer than 12 hours. Your phone number is written upon the sim cardholder by the vendor. Make sure to memorize it.

  • If you face issues regarding the same, make a phone call on the customers’ service number or ask for assistance at the same vendor you bought the sim card from.

Other useful information to know about getting a sim card in India

How to buy a local sim card in India

  • If you are traveling from one state to another in India, make sure to turn on roaming on your phone. In most cases, it gets automatically activated once you cross the borders of the state. Remember that roaming charges do not apply for internet usage but only for the calling rates.

  • You can top-up or recharge your prepaid packages at any vendor across the country. You could also do it online by using websites by using your debit/credit card or apps such as phonepe, paytm and freecharge.

  • If you are topping up at a vendor make sure to tell him exactly what you need. Check the list of offers mentioned across the shop for information. Only pay after you get notification messages of successful recharge.

  • Data speeds and network coverage may vary from region to region. If you are low on data or have no network, try using public WiFi services available around you.

  • If you need to use internet services and calling before buying a local sim, you could use paid services like Trabug and Surfroam which provide data and calling services.

  • Do not buy a sim card from the black market or an unauthorized vendor. This sim card may be already registered on someone else’s name and may stop working abruptly.

There you go! A simple and handy guide for you to know how to get a sim card in India as a tourist!

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