Bali rice paddies

Buying a SIM Card in Indonesia

By Alex Caro Get Connected15 Comments

Indonesia is a nation of over 13,000 islands, but it’s one in particular that gets all the attention from tourists. Whatever draws visitors to Bali — the yoga and healthy living in Ubud, the surf at Echo Beach, the unmitigated partying in Kuta — they come in their millions each year.

While Wi-Fi of some sort has long been relatively common in bars, restaurants, and hotels on the island, the speed and reliablity was poor until recently.

Lately, though, the rollout of fiber connections has improved the situation greatly. If your plans don’t extend much further than wandering between the bar and the hotel pool, you’ll probably be able to make do with whatever your accommodation has on offer.

If you want to stay connected everywhere, though, a local SIM card is the way to go. This used to be a very straightforward process. Unfortunately the government changed the rules a few years ago, making it more expensive and/or difficult for foreigners to get set up.

Data speeds, at least, are generally good. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Bali. Other than the airport purchasing details, most of the information is applicable to elsewhere in Indonesia as well.

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Companies


  • We recommend Telkomsel for most travellers

There are four cell service providers in Indonesia, plus a small number of resellers. Telkomsel has the widest coverage, reaching 98% of the country. It’s also the most expensive, although cell service is pretty cheap regardless of which company you go with.

XL Axiata, IM3, and Tri have reasonable coverage in populated areas like Jakarta and Bali at somewhat lower prices, and less (in some cases, no service at all) elsewhere.

LTE data is available in Bali and other major population centers with Telkomsel, XL Axiata and IM3, and is being rolled out increasingly widely.

I decided to pick up a Telkomsel SIM in Bali, just to make sure I’d have coverage everywhere I went. While that didn’t prove to always be the case, I’m still happy to recommend it for most travelers.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Bali


The best way to buy a SIM card in Bali is to not buy a SIM card in Bali. Rather, if you’re planning to go with our recommended provider, Telkomsel, you’re better off registering for a SIM card before you ever touch down in Indonesia via Telkomsel’s “PraBayar Tourist” (Tourist Prepaid Card) scheme.

Prepaid SIM Costs


The PraBayar Tourist scheme gets you 25 GB of data, 25 minutes of voice calling, and 25 minutes of international calling for 100,000 IDR, or just under $7 USD, ​​with a 30 day validity period.

Screenshot of Telkomsel Indonesia Tourist SIM card pricing and details
Sign advertising the "best tourist simcard" at Bali Airport in Indonesia, with prices for different data packages

By comparison, the rate Telkomsel gives in Ngurah Rai International Airport for those who purchase directly from the counter upon arrival in Bali is 350,000 IDR, or about $23 USD, for 25GB of data. That’s quite the difference!

Note: If you have an iPhone or other supported device, Indonesian eSIMs are also available. They’re more expensive than buying a physical local SIM card, but will work as soon as you get off the phone and avoid the registration hassle.

When purchasing via the PraBayar Tourist scheme online, you can either pay by card at the time or in cash when you pick up the card at the airport. I’d recommend the latter, as there is a 14 day window within which you have to activate the SIM card. If for any reason your travel plans change, Telkomsel has a strict no-refund policy.

Screenshot of invoice for Telkomsel Tourist SIM starter pack with price and package details

Upon landing in Bali, you can show the Telkomsel staff in the airport your invoice and they will complete the registration process for you. If you have prepaid, then you’re all set. If not, just hand over 100,000 IDR to the staff to complete the process.

You can also do this transaction at any GraPARI location, but getting it taken care of at the airport is the most convenient option for most people unless the line is excessively long when you arrive.

As an alternative option, there are representatives from a company called Klook hanging out near the airport taxis. They wear orange shirts, and are very hard to miss. They don’t have a desk like the official Telkomsel staff, but the SIM cards they provide are legit.

These cards cost 100,000 IDR for 18GB of data. That rate is about as good as you’ll find anywhere in town, so I’d recommend it if you can’t use the PraBayar Tourist scheme for some reason, or forgot to purchase ahead of time. If 18GB won’t be enough, topping up is straightforward (more on that below).

Sign at Bali airport with information about registering the IMEI number of your phone or tablet

In order to complete the registration process, regardless of the method used, you’ll need to provide your original passport along with your phone’s IMEI details. If you have a dual SIM phone, you will need to provide both IMEI numbers.

Failure to do so will prevent your phone from working with the Indonesian cellular networks. You can likely access your IMEI number from your settings screen, but it’s just as easy to enter *#06# on your phone’s dialing app: the details will pop up straight away.

If you missed the opportunity to register for a SIM card in the airport entirely, your best bet will be walking around town to find the best deal on a SIM card and bargaining. The best deal I was able to find outside of the airport from a vendor was 35GB of data for 150,000 IDR.

Travel pro tip: if you want to sail through customs and speed up the airport arrival process in Bali, you can do the eCustoms Declaration before your flight and just present the QR code on your phone at immigration.

Topping Up


When topping up, you can either go through a vendor, enter a USSD code, or use the Telkomsel app. The Telkomsel app is the most straightforward of the three options, and the one I’d recommend. Download it from the Google Play store or Apple App store, and sign in with a one-time password received by SMS.

If you prefer to take the USSD approach, dial *363# to get your top-up options. An agent I spoke with recommended checking the “HOT PROMO” section (option #4) for the best rates.

Overall, I’d recommend avoiding agents on the street if possible, both for purchasing your SIM and topping up. The rates vary wildly, and many have no qualms about cheating unsuspecting tourists.

Furthermore, you may not even be getting what you paid for. The agent I referenced earlier who told me about a 35GB package for 150,000 IDR was actually being a bit misleading. On further questioning, I realized the package was only 25GB, with 10GB allocated solely for social media and multimedia.

If you do go with an agent, I’d recommend getting a receipt, checking your data balance in your text messages before handing over any money, and, if possible, paying by credit card. Worst case, if you get cheated and the vendor refuses to refund you, you can contact your credit card company to initiate a chargeback.

Telkomsel sign in Bali, advertising Indonesia's best network connection and 25GB data package
Telkomsel sign in Bali, advertising Indonesia's best network connection and 25GB data package
I took these photos at the location of one official-looking vendor pretending to offer the Prabayar Tourist scheme. According to reviews of the place I read later, they were tricking tourists by selling SIM cards with as little as 3GB and promising upwards of 30GB.

In addition to the above advice, be sure to have your APN settings properly configured. Telkomsel’s APN is “internet” with no username or password. You can enter that APN in both the cellular data and personal hotspot fields.

Coverage and Data Speeds


Telkomsel LTE data speeds were very fast, and it wasn’t unusual to see downloads approaching 100Mbps in Ubud. Upload speeds were much lower, as is often the case, but still quick enough for video calling or pretty much anything else you’re likely to be doing with your phone.

Screenshot of Telkomsel 4G/LTE speeds in Ubud, Bali, showing 84Mbps download and 10Mbps upload
Telkomsel 4G/LTE speeds in Ubud, Bali

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

About the Author
Alex Caro

Alex Caro

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Alex Caro is a Massachusetts native and graduate of the University of Oxford, where he received a Masters of Science in Education and Technology. He has lived throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa and seeks to utilize technology to advance learning opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Unfortunately, this seems to already be outdated. I’m an expat in Indonesia and had to go through the process of registering my phone number a few months back under implementation of the new regulations, it was fairly fast at a “GraPARI” Telkomsel location with a photocopy of my passport, and I imagine Telkomsel will have an official shop at major international airports like Bali and Jakarta for this purpose.

    However, just last week they stopped allowing the data-only cards to be used without registration. I use one in a portable modem and found out the hard way when it stopped working. I thought perhaps I had used up my quota faster than expected, but when I went to 3 different roadside sellers of the cards they all knew of the situation and that now all cards have to be registered before use. This is easily done using a quick SMS for a local with proper ID cards, but a foreigner must go to an office to register.

    At the same time last week that this was implemented, the 15 and 11gb cards you mentioned also became unavailable, and the new options appear to cost 30-50% more for similar anytime data.

    1. Dave Dean

      It looks like you’re right — I’m still in Bali at the moment, and the SIM I bought three weeks ago stopped working this morning. The vendor I bought it from also thinks it’s due to the registration requirement (which she’s obviously pretty upset about herself).

      The 11GB SIM packs were still on sale, for what that’s worth, but I suspect they won’t work for long/at all without registration at an official store. I’ll update the post shortly to reflect what the current situation is, as far as I can tell at least.

  2. Avatar

    I’ve just got back from Bali and want to maintain my SIM card for my next visit. Is it just a matter of waiting until my next visit in 6-24months and topping up, or do I need to periodically top up to stop the number becoming ‘deregistered’?

    1. Dave Dean

      It’ll be deactivated after some period of inactivity, depending on the operator. It’s often around six months elsewhere in the world, but I don’t have the details for Indonesian carriers specifically. You may want to try and contact whichever company you went with via their websites or social media to see if you can get an answer, along with a way to top up from outside the country.

  3. Avatar

    Im in Indo and bought an Indo sim card. Can I trade out the US sim card and check my phone messages on US number? Do I have to sign out of my Apple account? Or is it as simple of just changing it?

  4. Avatar

    My phone from the US only has 5 different LTE bands. After doing some research I realized that Smartfren was the only one that would give me LTE on my phone. Sure enough, I ran an app when I got to Indonesia and Telkomsel would only give me 2.5G speed. So I went to the Smartfren office on Sunset Road and for 65.000 got the Sim card and 8 gigs of data good for a month. Registered with my passport while there. Smartfren had good coverage during my 2 week trip. The only time there was no coverage was when I was in a temple in the middle of nowhere.

  5. Avatar

    Hi, Any updates on the sim card situation in bali? It sounds like the grapari on sunset road is closed now. That means you have to just try your luck at a random store? (probably going to try and avoid the airport purchase)

    1. Dave Dean

      No update that I’m aware of, unfortunately. You’ll need to visit a different GraPARI, or try your luck with a random street vendor, if you don’t want to pay the surcharge at the airport.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Dave thanks for the super helpful article! I am going to Ubud for a month long yoga teacher training and the wifi in the venue seems spotty or non-existent. We also have lessons 6 days a week, so I’m worried I won’t have time to go to an office to register with my passport. Would you recommend doing this in the airport, despite the surcharge? How long does that process normally take? Have you been to Ubud, and is Telkomsel service good there? Thanks in advance for any insights you could share for a first time traveler to Indonesia.

    1. Dave Dean

      I’d suggest getting it at the airport in that case – the surcharge will be worth the certainty. The process doesn’t take very long, but obviously it depends on the length of the line as well! Telkomsel worked well in and around Ubud last time I was there.

  7. Avatar

    Great article update! That’s super comprehensive. Do you know if it’s possible to top up the tourist sim card deal on consecutive trips, or once the initial data package runs out?

  8. Avatar

    Is the Telkomsel tourist SIM allow Hotsport sharing? The Telkomsel tourist SIM that sells by Klook mentioned cleary NOT SUPPORT Hotsport.

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