Bali rice paddies

Buying a SIM Card in Indonesia

In Get Connected by Dave Dean2 Comments


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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 fibre connections has improved the situation greatly, and 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 without a local SIM.

If you want to stay connected everywhere, though, the good news is that getting set up is quick and easy. You’ll need to put in a bit of work to avoid getting ripped off, but if you do, prices are very reasonable, and data speeds generally good.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Bali.

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 on my trip to 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


Cell phone store in Canggu Bali

Buying a SIM card from any of the providers in Bali isn’t difficult, but paying the going rate can be more challenging.

If you don’t care about getting a good deal, vendors at the airport sell SIMs from all major providers, including Telkomsel. Prices are definitely inflated there, and typically you’ll only be able to buy packs with large amounts of data, which isn’t ideal for those on shorter trips.

If you’re happy to wait until you get into town, you’ll have more options, sometimes at lower prices (more on that below). I can highly recommend seeking out a specialist phone shop, even if it’s just a small one, versus buying from a convenience store.

Once I’d found the right shop, getting a SIM with data was straightforward. I picked one of the three Telkomsel packs on offer, the vendor took my money and a copy of my passport, and inserted and configured the SIM for me.

After rebooting the phone, data started working straight away.

APN settings came pre-configured, and didn’t need changing. If you need to add them manually, they were as follows:

  • APN: internet
  • Authentication type: not set

Important note: for reasons best known to itself, Indonesia’s government now requires all prepaid SIM cards to be registered by the provider (at an official store) before they can be used for calls and texts.

There are often long lines to do so, and especially on Bali, some foreigners have found it difficult or impossible to register their SIM, or have had their SIMs re-blocked shortly after registration. 

Unless you really need calls and texts, at this stage we’d recommend sticking with data-only, and using WhatsApp, Skype, etc instead.

 

Can't be bothered with the hassle of buying a local SIM in Indonesia? OneSIM topped our international SIM card comparison.

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Costs


As mentioned, you may need to do a bit of exploring to avoid getting overcharged.

I spent a morning walking around the streets of the Canggu neighbourhood, and was quoted the widest range of prices I’ve ever come across. One convenience store quoted literally three times as much for the same SIM and data package as what I ended up paying 100m down the road.

In the end, I paid 80,000 IDR (~$6) for a Telkomsel SIM with 11GB of data, valid for a month. Of that, 6GB was available for any purpose, with chunks of the rest allocated to video, social media and chat, and so on.

If you think you’ll need more than that for some reason, 15GB and larger packs are also available.

Topping Up


In a populated area, it’s difficult to walk any distance at all without seeing somewhere to buy credit, both on Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia.

You’ll always pay a little more than the amount of credit you’re buying, which is the storekeeper’s profit margin. Locals pay a surcharge too, but if it’s more than 5% of the total, complain.

 

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Coverage and Data Speeds


I spent most of my time in and around the Canggu area of Bali, and while it was very rare to see less than full signal showing on my phone, data service wasn’t as reliable as it should have been.

I’d sometimes go to use my phone, only for web pages or apps not to load. Turning flight mode on and off always fixed the problem, but especially near the beach, speeds would be slow and service would often drop out again soon after.

A mile back from the beach, service was far more reliable, and speeds very good. I was able to make Skype calls and browse web pages without issue. Since everything worked fine away from the beach and elsewhere on Bali, I’m putting this down to a localised problem rather than anything inherent to Telkomsel service on the island.

Telkomsel 3G speeds on the beach in Canggu, Bali

Telkomsel 3G speeds on the beach in Canggu, Bali

Telkomsel 3G speeds away from the beach in Canggu, Bali

Telkomsel 3G speeds away from the beach in Canggu, Bali

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

Everything you need to know about buying a local SIM card in Bali, Indonesia.

About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. 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. Author

      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.

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