Hampi Morning Ferry

Buying a SIM Card in India

By Keir Briscoe Get Connected63 Comments

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When I was growing up, I imagined India as an exotic land filled with tigers, elephants, and monkeys.

When I finally got there I didn’t see any tigers… but I saw plenty of monkeys, cows and pigs instead, along with incredible architecture like the Taj Mahal and Vijayanagara ruins, and the beautiful beaches of Goa.

India is by far the cheapest country I have ever traveled in, but its also one of the toughest. This goes for the SIM card market as well. Prices are cheap, but to get one involves an awful lot of bureaucracy.

The Indian government trialed a scheme that made it easy for tourists to buy SIM cards at international airports, but sadly it seems to have been discontinued. Sorry, it looks like you’re back to the painful process outlined below!

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  • Consider Vodafone, Airtel and !dea, but the best cell provider depends on where in the country you’re going.

There are several major service providers in India, although mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies have changed the market situation significantly in recent years. Most offer 4G/LTE or HSPA+ speeds, but not all have good coverage across the entire country. The top three for market share and network coverage are:

  • Vodafone – 19% market share
  • Airtel – 24% market share
  • !dea – 18% market share

The market is the second-largest in the world based on the number of cell devices in operation. The country is divided up into “circles”. Each circle roughly covers each state. Local and long distance service, run both privately and by the government, operate independently within each circle.

There is immense competition, and prices for calls in India are some of the lowest in the world. It also means there are literally thousands of possible combinations of service and costs.

Location will determine which provider is best. Everyone I met was using one of the three networks above. I ended up using both Airtel and !dea as I traveled across the north, middle, and south of the country.

I had two very different experiences buying each of my SIM cards, and very different network speeds based on my location. To help decide which provider may be best, Sensorly uses crowd-sourced data to display connection speed and availability.

All listed networks offer both prepaid and postpaid, and none do contracts. Prepaid is best unless you have an extended stay. A tourist SIM is only valid for three months, and the postpaid plans require a three month commitment to start with.

Postpaid is slightly cheaper than prepaid, but the savings are insignificant in the real world. Companies offer free calls within their own network and area code. So if you have friends in India within your area code, it may be a good idea to purchase a SIM from the same network as them.

Standard SIM cards are disabled after three months of inactivity, but cards for tourists expire after three months regardless.


Before I came to India, I heard it was difficult to get a SIM card. All I can add to that is: it was even harder than I imagined. I ended up buying cards from two of the major networks, Airtel and !dea, and had very different experiences with each purchase. It had more to do with where I bought the card, and not so much about which network I chose.

Neither cards nor top ups are sold at Indian airports. I passed through eight of them, and none sold SIM cards. I did find a Samsung store in Mumbai airport that sold phones, but even they couldn’t sell SIM cards with them. Instead, you can buy from official carrier stores, or one of the many smaller shops licensed to sell the network’s products.

For the Airtel SIM, I went to one of the larger branded stores. The sales person who talked to me flatly refused to sell me a card, saying I needed to have a local resident buy it for me. Fortunately I was staying in Vadodara with a local Indian friend who was willing to help out. He had to provide his passport, an extra passport photo, proof of local address, his current valid phone number, and his father’s name.

To activate the card, the provider sent a pin code by SMS to my phone. My friend had to use his phone with the number he provided previously to call back and give them the pin code and confirm his address and father’s name. From this point the SIM was active with data in 30 minutes.

Buying the !dea SIM was much easier, although slightly more expensive. In Goa I went to a local licensed store that sold cards and top-ups, acted as a travel agent, and sold gasoline out of 1 litre water bottles. Now that’s a market niche.

SIM store in Goa

The store in Goa where I purchased my !dea SIM. Gasoline in water bottles not shown.

I had to supply my passport, an extra passport sized photo and the name of the hostel where I was staying. I waited 48 hours for the SIM to be active. Once the waiting period was up I returned to the store, they called a number using their phone, and within 20 minutes my card was active on their network.

One thing to watch for with smaller stores is being sold a SIM that is already active. This means it’s used, and you’ll have no idea when the three-month tourist limit will be up. I heard of people buying cards like these, and within a week it had expired. They were unable to retrieve any of their credit.

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SIMs cost anywhere from free to 250 rupees, depending on the network. This basic price may include absolutely nothing, or varying amounts of data, SMS, and voice credit. It all depends on which offers are current, the network you’re using, and where you buy it. My Airtel card cost 225 rupees (~$3.50), which gave 1GB of national data, but no texts or calls.

My !dea SIM cost 250 rupees, with no data, voice, or SMS credits. I returned to the store once the SIM was activated, and bought a 1GB data pack for 400 rupees (~$6), good for 30 days. I also added 250 rupees for voice and SMS.

There are three tiers of charges for voice calls — local calls to a different network, national and international. On my Airtel plan, voice and text rates were as follows:

  • Incoming calls – Free
  • Local outgoing calls – 0.80Rs /min
  • National outgoing calls – 1.15 Rs/min
  • International outgoing calls – 4.5 Rs/min
  • National SMS – 1.5 Rs
  • International SMS – 5Rs

Whether you’re calling a landline or cell number affects the charges. Roaming elsewhere in the country also incurs charges, depending on the network you are roaming on. To make things more confusing, you can also buy top-up packages that eliminate roaming charges, and also lower the normal calling rates.

With both Airtel and !dea, I would receive a message saying how much credit had been used after each call or SMS, as well as each time I used 10MB of data. The message also showed my remaining balance, super-handy given the complicated charging system.

Topping Up

As a tourist, topping up is best done by finding one of the many little shops that sell credit packages in cash transactions. These packages are priced by the networks, so shop owners can’t really rip you off.

That said, it’s always a good idea to check your balance after you buy the top-up, and while still in the presence of the vendor. Each provider has a code for checking your balance — with Airtel, dialing *123*11# returns a message showing your remaining data, voice, and SMS credit.

That said, it’s always a good idea to check your balance after you buy the top-up, and while still in the presence of the vendor. Each provider has a code for checking your balance — with Airtel, dialing *123*11# returns a message showing your remaining data, voice, and SMS credit.

Most options for topping up your credit online required a local credit card. The only one I found that allowed me to use a foreign card was Xoom.com. It’s owned by Paypal, and I was charged $0.99 USD to top up my voice and SMS credit.

While I couldn’t top up on any of the network provider’s sites, I could still check current prices — Airtel packages are listed here.

Data top-ups are separate from voice/SMS, and provide a certain amount of data to be used within a given timeframe. I typically topped up with 1GB of data good for 30 days.

Each network sent promotions and offers by text. Any time I used my Airtel data connection after midnight, I got a message from Airtel offering 50% cash back on all data used between midnight and 6am. Obviously it made sense to accept this offer, which I did by replying to the text.

Be prepared to get many offers like this, for cheaper calls or SMS with certain restrictions based on the time of day, or day of week.

Coverage and Data Speeds

The original data package on my Airtel SIM card I bought provided 4G. The company only provides 4G service in major cities, however, so don’t pay the extra if you’re not available where you are. Service drops to 3G outside those cities, or even 2G if in a remote area.

As I traveled around the country, I switched between Airtel and !dea depending on which was faster, as speeds varied widely across the country.

India Network Speeds

Network speeds in India

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

About the Author
Keir Briscoe

Keir Briscoe

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Growing up, one of Keir's biggest dreams was to explore the world, though he never thought it would become his reality. At the end of 2014, he quit his job as a project manager, sold most everything he owned, and set out to see the world. His travel goals are to make new friends everywhere he goes, become a better photographer, and avoid cold locations. You can find him at keirbriscoe.com.


  1. Avatar

    one reason traveling to India is such a pain. i don’t know why they make it so difficult. what is a tourist sim card? never heard of it. why is it hard to get a tourist sim card as a tourist if that is what they are designed for?

    1. Dave Dean

      Yep, it’s a far cry from buying tourist SIMs (or for that matter, normal SIMs) in most other countries, that’s for sure.

    2. Avatar

      They call it a tourist sim card because it expires in three months. Normal sim cards will only expire if the user does not keep them valid through regular use. As for you question on why it’s hard to get a tourist sim card? The only answer I have is welcome to India.

    3. Avatar

      I feel your pain. But as an Indian once living in Dubai, it was hard even for me to get a SIM card in a city that I was visiting and didn’t have a permanent address in. It was the Mumbai attacks that made the government have laws to keep people safe and reduce the chances of SIM cards getting in to the wrong hands.

    4. Avatar

      The additional paper checks (beuraucracy, if you may) to get hold of a fresh SIM is to do with national security. Terror outfits could get hold of the SIMs easily if there were no additional checks.

      With passport (or driving license) and paperwork at least the owner of the SIM is traceable in case some untoward activity is planned via that phone. In the past this has helped the law enforcement agencies a lot.

  2. Avatar

    India faces what no other country has faced with till date. Terrorism!

    Getting all these details to ensure that if that number is used by someone for any unlawful activity, they know who it was.

    This complicated/extra vigilant process is for safety of travelers and citizens alike. It most likely began after terrorists attacked their parliament house!

    Having said that, I am dreading traveling to India next month and the exercise I’ve to go through to get a sim card.

    1. Avatar

      I never got any confirmation but my thought on the complications of getting a sim was because of terrorism. That being said it was super easy to get one in Anjuna, though I did have to wait 48 hours to activate it.

    2. Avatar

      AGREED !
      Terrorism has caused Indians the loss of lives in the past of 2 prime ministers, and countless citizens. Its absolutely essential for Indian security agencies to keep a grip on terror outfits with sleeper cells operating to disrupt the normalcy and mutli-culturalims and multi-religious fabric of India.

      These checks for SIMs are no more different than airlines banning liquids on planes, or US banning laptops and mobiles on planes to-and-from certain countries.

      There are several other checks you should be braced for:
      1. Cinema halls too do not allow much handbags (bomb blasts in civilian areas in cinema halls in the past)
      2. Other crowded places may have similar checks e.g. Xray machines while entering Railway stations or that of the Delhi Metro.

  3. Avatar

    sim card problem is disaster its a bloody big problem to get it so many things you have to follow up, you need to have local address or an indian residence must be your withness so it will take 2 days to get it on air, sometimes youget crazy it takes a week, its nonsense stupid prosedures lots of paper you need to sign and give them 1 passport copy and photo fill up the locL and home addresses …

    1. Avatar

      Yes it is a hassle to get a sim card there. As an alternative I found that most places have free wifi. All you have to do is ask for the password, and be willing to a accept relatively slow connection.

  4. Avatar

    Yikes! This all seems super complicated. Will be traveling to Goa and Kerala soon. Any recommendations on what sim card to get?

    1. Avatar

      Josh. When I was in Goa I got my !dea sim fairly easy. There was a 48. Hour wait before it activated though.

    2. Avatar

      Hey Josh!
      To avoid national roaming, you may opt for BSNL. They have begun giving good offers on data as well as usual calling balance. However, you may face some challenges with it in remote areas. Airtel, Idea work great too but are slightly pricey. and will have national roaming.
      Having a local identification is important so that the sim does not end up with notorious people. You may ask the people at the hotels you shall stay at to provide you with local IDs. Getting a recharge is fairly simple once you have the sim running. You need to visit the websites of the respective carrier or can even visit small shops that may have recharge vouchers.

  5. Avatar

    As far as I know, your positive experience in Goa has to do with the fact that you bought the SIM card in this state. No matter which carrier you decide to use, buying the cards in Goa just seems to be so much easier than anywhere else in the country. The only logic I can see behind that is that Goa basically lives of tourism.

    In Delhi or Mumbai it’s still pretty much impossible to get a SIM card without a local sponsor, as far as I know.

    1. Avatar

      I agree with your reasoning that Goa is so easy because of the tourism. And you are correct. I went for the !dea card only because in my particular area that one seemed to have a better connection. People I talked to using other carriers in Goa also had fairly a simple signup experience.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you Keir; I am travelling to Delhi in a few weeks just for a short time so I really don’t want all the hassle of trying to get a sim. Your posts have clarified a lot and made up my mind for me that I will for the first time in my life take a roaming package from Australia for this trip. Probably by the time I did get the sim over there and get it up and running it would be time to come home!

    1. Avatar

      I am a Canadian citizen of Indian origin. I have a house too in New Delhi and also sort of dual citizenship. With all that I had great difficulty getting a SIM Card in New Delhi. Having a house in New Delhi was not enough. Airtel wanted the proof that I own that house. And the proof was any electricity, water or telephone bill on my name and with that house address. I had none of the such documents. All bills for that house come on my sister’s name who stays there. So, it was really tough. Anyway, I am going to India in July 2017 again and hope to do better this time. May be I will go to Reliance this time. Best of luck.

  7. Avatar

    Hi Keir

    Do you know anything about purchasing an international sim for use in India? We’re going in December and spending time in both Rajastan and Kerala.

    1. Avatar

      I bought my sim card after customs at Kochi airport in Kerala activated within an hour

      1. Avatar

        Great to know. I was in several airports and none would sell sim cards. Thanks!

  8. Keir Briscoe

    Hi Adrian. Sorry I’m not familiar with using an international sim in India. However I was using my T-Mobile sim card from the US while I was in India and it worked fairly good. My T-Mobile plan gives me free data and text in many countries. I did find that the service was typically at 2g speeds when using that card but it worked.

  9. Avatar

    Great info. So, can any of this be done online prior to touchdown? Are there sites or services that allow me to land with a card in hand?

    1. Dave Dean

      I don’t know of any reputable companies sending Indian SIM cards overseas, sorry. If you don’t want to deal with the paperwork in-country or roam with your provider from home, maybe look at international SIM cards instead. They’re more expensive, but less hassle. You can find our recommendations here.

    2. Avatar

      I didn’t look for any sim cards that way. However I already had a T-Mobile sim card from the US. The plan I have through them gives me unlimited international data and text. This sim worked if there was signal available but it was slow. Around 2G speeds.

  10. Avatar

    Hey Keir – did you ever look into getting a wifi dongle as an alternate to a SIM? If I’m just looking for data/a wifi connection, would it be easier to get one of those rather than go through the SIM process?

    1. Avatar

      Hi Emily. Yes I did look into the wifi dongle option. They are available on flipcart.com (Indian Amazon like site), and in stores. However, the purchase of a sim is still required. The sim can then be inserted into the dongle or a phone. I opted to just get the sim card for the phone. Then if I needed internet on my computer I turned on the phone’s hot spot.

  11. Avatar

    We will be in India for a month and are looking for recommendations for acquiring a SIM card while we are there. What are the averages prices, and are there companies that you would recommend? TIA

    1. Dave Dean

      The answers to your questions are in this post. As mentioned, company recommendations and therefore prices depend on where you’re going, and we can only advise on the places we’ve been.

  12. Avatar

    If you are traveling to India on eVisa, you will now receive free Bsnl SIM card on arrival to India. BSNL is state run provider with much wider coverage even in rural areas and among the cheapest however the service quality depends on location.

    I think it’s good to get this SIM to remove the hassles of attaining SIM otherwise. It comes preloaded with 50mb data but recharge is easy.

  13. Avatar

    The Indian Government has made it difficult to get a SIM card due to terrorism. However Unregistered SIM cards are available fairly easily and cheaply in the black market. Any terroist methinks would go for these instead of providing his passport details or proof of address.
    So the only ones getting hit is the over billion Indians who have to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to get a SIM card.
    The Indian government can keep every citizen under surveillance by making strict identity requirements on SIM cards, they wish to know the person they are listening in to, intimately, even the colour of your anus.
    There is a move soon to link the Aadaar card to sim. The Aadaar card is a biometric card linking your iris and ten fingerprints to a central computer. This is being increasingly required from all Indians to get services and documents like a driving licence bank account, airline or railway ticket, pay tax etc..
    Thankfully this Aadhaar card is not required from tourists but down the years don’t bet on it…you may have to get one made at an Indian Embassey or Consulate before being issued with a visa. It will be your identity card in India and you will no longer be required to provide proof of identity once you get this all encompassing biometric card issued by the Indian government.

  14. Avatar

    Very recent update. I arrived in Delhi yesterday and picked up an Airtel sim at the airport. It was a pretty easy process – they take a copy of your passport, take a photo of you and then fillin the form for you. Took less than 10 mins. I went for 5 GB data-only at 1,150 ruppees for 30 days….I assume I could get cheaper elsewhere but I like to get these things sorted early.

    The only slight inconvenience is that it takes a few hours before you can activate the service (actually the next morning for me), which you do by dialling a number then entering the last 4 numbers of your passport followed by your date of birth. It was much, much quicker than the e-Visa process at the airport 😉

    I also saw a Ministry of Tourism brochure offering free pre-loaded SIM cards that you could pick up somewhere in the airport (on the BSNL network)…I had a driver waiting so didn’t avail myself of this and so can’t say whether this is a good deal or not.

  15. Avatar

    I arrived in Goa yesterday and it has proved to be impossible to get a SIM card in nothing less than one week for activation. You first need all the expected things; passport and visa copy with a photo and also details of a reference, i.e. Guesthouse or hotel. Apparently since yesterday however these documents need to be checked and it will take one week for the card to be activated. I didn’t see an option of picking up a SIM at the airport, which is something I usually do, so if there’s that option then my recommendation would be do it! My next stop is going into one of the retailers in the city to see if they can do this any quicker. I expect not so a week of local wifi from bars and restaurants, hotel etc… Good luck! 🙂

  16. Avatar

    Just sharing if it helps anyone. I landed in Bangalore international airport and couldn’t find a prepaid or go phone store. It seems there used to be one but has been removed. Anyways, i just managed that evening on WiFi (when available) and visited an Airtel store the next day. They had a simple prepaid package of INR 345 + INR 25 (SIM) ( ~7 USD) which comes with 1 GB data per day, unlimited calls for 28 days. LTE (4G) works provided the handset supports, i was using a Nexus 6P and it worked like a charm. They did ask for a photo, ID, address and a local reference phone number. For tourists, be ready with a hotel reservation, it should help. The SIM was activated the same evening and i had to recharge the FRC package (345) and was ready to go the same evening. If you are planning on traveling to many states in India, it would be considered as National roaming and you might want to add national roaming package for calls.

  17. Avatar

    Buy Vodafone…. I prefer that.. if u are looking for good coverage and high speed data u can choose Vodafone… Because I have a 3G smartphone and I got 5.3 Mbps in 3g phone and I had jio. I put jio sim in modem. I got 2.2 Mbps.. that sim is 4g. so jio is waste. Choose wisely.

  18. Avatar

    Hi ! Everyone
    Indian government has referred this query and now on new delhi airport you can get a activated simcard in association with bsnl loaded with RS 50 and 50 MB of data
    but this facility is only available for those coming with e-visa !

  19. Avatar

    Not sure about other airports, but there is Airtel counter just after baggage and customs within airport especially for tourists. Due to national security and terrorism, this rule of id was introduced in India and is very important to nab the criminals.

  20. Avatar

    I bought Sim card in Delhi airport without any problem. When I traveled in Kerala, I bought one at a small shop in the city. All I need were passport size photo and copy of passport.

  21. Avatar

    I am planning to visit to Chennai during October 2017. Any body have any idea for SIM card store available in Chennai international arrival airport. Thanks ina davnce.

  22. Avatar

    I arrived in the Mumbai international airport with an eVisa.
    The only available phone counter was Airtel. I have my own pocket wifi device so I just wanted to buy a data SIM card. The guy quoted me Rs 5500. I wanted 14 days coverage. He said I get 2Gb per day. He was a little shifty saying my device was locked and if I wanted his, I refuted that and said I’d used it in a couple of countries and also said he hadn’t even tried putting in the sim yet howcan he say it was locked. Anyway he took a copy of my passport, fiddled with a SIM card that he took out from a pack. He made a few calls using the sim. He filled the paperwork for me. All I did was kept on asking him how long it will take. He said “2 mins”. It took 20-30 mins. He got the pocket wifi to work and I had immediate connectivity.He gave me the red pack that presumably contained the sim. I asked for a receipt and he stuffed around trying to get a blank receipt and wrote down the price. I asked him for assurance of usability throughout India for 14 days and 2 Gb per day. The 2 guys confirmed. I have a feeling I’ve been duped …it was late so my brain wasn’t working.

    My hope is that it will work for the 14 days! I think I paid at least 5 times too much but at least I got immediate activation and connectivity.

  23. Avatar

    Hi there, thanks for this article. I am very interested in the free SIM card offered by the Indian government. I have tried finding more information about this but almost no-one in India seems to be aware of this new initiative, not in hotels, not at the embassy. Is it real? Did anyone of you actually get it? And if so, where at Mumbai airport can we get it? We have e-visa. Many thanks!

    1. Dave Dean

      I don’t have any further details for you beyond what’s in the post right now, but one of our writers is heading to India next month and will likely try to pick up one of these free SIMs on arrival at Delhi airport. I’ll update the article afterwards if there’s anything new to add.

  24. Avatar

    I wish I head read this article before going through the last 3 days of dealing with Airtel. The free government SIM card would have been an amazingly simple bonus.
    Airtel provided us with a SIM card and after waiting the required 24hr connection time, we found our our SIM card is already in use. So back we go for a new one. Again after the 24hr connection wait time, we realized that our new SIM card wouldn’t let us make phone calls or text. So back we go to airtel – who told us to take a token and wait our turn.
    We went to Vodafone around the corner and we’re signed up and connected after 2.5 hours.
    The time spent waiting in the queue in these stores really taxes your patience. But the guys in Vodafone gave us some dewali chocolates. How nice is that!

  25. Avatar

    Airtel rip off
    I bought a prepaid Sim in Varanasi. They told me it will work in the evening after 20h. But it didn’t work so I went back to the store and they changed the Sim – it worked, but after one week I got a sms and the Sim was switched off after. The airtel district store and the airtel Internet customers service were asking many questions, gave no answers and didn’t help.

  26. Avatar

    I dont buy the security angle. With nearly a billion sim cards out there and a million or so vendors it must be a doddle for even the amateur crook to get his hands on a SIM.

    India is the kind of place where officials think nithing of punishing a million innocent citizens just so they can block for a little while a handful of crooks.

    If security is the concern then all these checks are nether effective nor necessary.

  27. Avatar

    I arrived in Delhi and jumped in a cab. Asked the driver that I needed to visit a phone shop. He said it was no problem but it was not easy to acquire a SIM. However, that HE could supply an activated SIM! I gave him a 2000 rupee deposit and 1000 for top up. He pulled out a handful of SIM cards and gave me an Airtel one. He called someone to top it up and hey presto my iPhone was in business immediately! 🙂 Booked him for the return trip to airport 10 days later. He picked me up and on arrival at airport I returned the SIM and got my Rs. 2000 back. Moral of the story …. worth asking your cab/hotel if they can do this. For obvious reasons they don’t shout it off the rooftops, but quite a few offer this service according to my Punjabi taxi driver.

  28. Avatar

    I wish I had known about the BSNL option. Just returned home after being stuffed around by Vodafone. I bought 2 sims from a store, giving photo ID and a passport photograph and told it would be activated in 2 hours. Then emailed customer service a few days later when it was not activated, very unhelpful as they did not give any information. I was then told it may take up to 7 days.
    Still didn’t work after 7 days, called someone up and then got it to work by putting it into a local phone and getting it activated.
    After emailing about the second SIM, which I was told was not activated because store person had not submitted my documentation, I was told to wait for 3 business days for activation. I emailed again after 3 days when not activated, and was told to wait another 3 days.

    TLDR Vodafone service is terrible and be prepared for long delays in activation.

  29. Avatar

    Unfortunately, it seems like the free SIM at the airport is no longer an option. We stopped off at the India Tourism Development Corporation desk in the New Delhi airport and were informed that that scheme has been shut down.

    1. Dave Dean

      Hah, that didn’t last long! I’ll try to get some sort of official confirmation of what’s going on if I can, and update the post. Thanks for the info!

  30. Avatar

    I want to buy an unlocked phone to take to India and then buy a sim card there. I know the newer iPhones all have nano sims, and I don’t know what size sim cards are offered in India. Any recommendations on good unlocked phones that will be compatible there?

    1. Dave Dean

      You’ll have no problems getting nano or micro SIMs in India, so there’s no need to worry about that side of things. Our current recommendations for the best unlocked travel smartphones can be found here — if you’re more of an Apple person, then feel free to include the iPhone 8 or X on your list as well — they’re good phones, you’ll just pay quite a bit more for them.

    2. Avatar

      Vodafone unlocked mine for me for free. Not sure who your carrier is but might be worth asking them.

  31. Avatar

    I got a sim card at Vodafone in Mumbai (Bandra branch) this morning. Was pretty easy. Take your passport with your visa and a passport pic to give them. I paid Rs349 and get 2.5GB per day for 28 days. The sim doesn’t expire in three months like I’d heard. It just keeps needing to be topped up to stay alive.

  32. Avatar

    Just got an Airtel card Yesterday. We needed to provide copies of our passports and e-visas. ( They note the date the visa expires and correlate the expiration of your sim). We also peovided Passport photos and had to supply a local residence (the apartment we were staying in for the week) and a local reference which we found in our awesome Taxi driver for a nice tip ($15USD)

    We went to the closest Airtel store to our apartment and were told what we needed. Their passport verification system was down so they sent us to another store at 101,Oceanic Towers, Santhome, Chennai. On the way we talked our taxi driver into being our reference.

    We paid 50Rs for the Sim and another 199Rs for the for the first 28 days. We will top off with the same listed for another 28 days for another 199Rs. The Sime will expire on the same date as our Visa.
    Local + STD Calls – Umlimited
    Roaming INcoming calls – Unlimited
    Roaming Outgoing calls – Unlimited
    Local / national SMS – 100SMS/Day
    3G / 4G Data – 1GB/day

    We left with oour sims and after 4 Hours we inserted the sims into our unlocked phones. They found the Airtel network and we called our own numbers to verify the Information we submitted. (The last four of my passport and my birth year. The next morning the data top off was added and we were good to go.

  33. Avatar

    things has been changed dramatically after new Company came into the market called ” JIO ”
    offering everything for free and force other sim providers to do the same , buy any of the prepaid Sim , recharge 300-555rs for three month unlimited roaming + unlimited calls +1-2gb data daily for 84-90days ….

    1. Dave Dean

      While Jio has indeed shaken up the market in India with low prices and no domestic roaming charges, I don’t have any first-hand information about how difficult it is for foreigners to buy a Jio SIM. That, and OpenSignal’s reported slow data speeds on the Jio network due to congestion, mean I won’t be changing the article at this time. Good to know that even lower-priced options are available, though, and if any foreigner who has bought a Jio SIM wants to report back on the experience, it’d be great to hear about it!

  34. Avatar

    There’s a really simple solution to this problem no matter if you’re traveling in India, or anywhere else. Get Google Fi. Google Fi works in nearly any country. You don’t have to do anything, it just runs like normal and roaming charges are mere cents. Even better, if you’re traveling to a country that has restricted internet, like China, Google Fi gets around their firewall.

    So stop all this nonsense of running around to shops and wasting your travel time and just get Google Fi.

    1. Dave Dean

      Google Fi is great, and we talk about it regularly on the site. It’s only officially available to US residents though, so is useless to the majority of travelers. Even for those from the US, it’s only supported on a small range of phones despite a recent expansion of the program that added limited support for iPhones and a few other devices.

      While it’s very convenient, it’s also significantly more expensive than local rates in many countries, especially if you use several GB of data per month. Many Fi customers I know use it for their first days in a country, but still buy a local SIM after that to keep prices down.

      It’s unfortunately not yet the global panacea you make it out to be.

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