Water buffalo on boat, Vietnam

Buying a SIM Card in Vietnam

By Dave Dean Get Connected78 Comments


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Vietnam is easily one of my favorite travel destinations.

With arguably the best street food on the planet, mile upon mile of unspoiled beaches, the crazy energy of the cities and quiet beauty of the countryside, and friendly and welcoming people, it’s not hard to see why.

As with most other things in the country, staying connected is inexpensive: as little as five dollars will keep the data flowing on your smartphone throughout your stay. Data speeds are good, and coverage is widespread.

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

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Companies


  • We recommend Viettel for most travelers

There are four cell networks in Vietnam. Viettel has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone.

Avoid Mobifone if you’re heading too far off the beaten track, and there’s really no reason to go with Vietnamobile. It’s the cheapest of the lot, but has very poor data service outside the largest cities.

I’ve used all three of the major players on various trips, but these days tend to stick with Viettel. With the best coverage, good data speeds, and similar prices to the competition, I’ve found little reason to look elsewhere.

How


Just as in Thailand, the process for buying a SIM card in Vietnam has become a little more complicated in recent years. The government started strictly enforcing registration rules in 2016, and canceled 12 million cards that had been illegally registered.

While there are numerous stalls selling SIM cards at international airports, and tiny stores on most city streets doing the same thing, be careful if you decide to use them. Most unofficial vendors, including those at airports, can’t register a SIM to you.

Cards purchased from these vendors typically either aren’t registered, or are registered to someone else and can be shut down at any time. In either case, you’ll need to visit an official store for (re)registration.

For those only in the country for a few days and staying in the cities, the convenience of buying at the airport or a roadside stall might still be worth the risk. The worst that can happen is the SIM will stop working, and you’ll need to track down an official store to register properly.

If you’re sticking around for a while, or are heading off the beaten track and don’t want to risk your service being deactivated when you’re in the middle of nowhere, however, it’s a different story. Save yourself the hassle and buy from an official outlet instead.

You can check who your SIM is registered to by texting TTTB to 1414. The reply message is in Vietnamese, but will have the name, birthdate, and passport/ID card details clearly shown. My date of birth and passport country were both wrong when I checked, but at least the name was correct!

I’ve purchased Viettel SIMs from official stores both in Hanoi’s old quarter and several blocks back from the beach in the My An district of Danang. There’s a store locator on the website, but Google Maps is more useful. In both cases the process took around ten minutes, and was quite straightforward.

The salesperson showed me the various package options on a piece of paper, I chose one, and handed over my passport and some cash. After taking my photo with a smartphone app, she dealt with the rest of the paperwork, activated the right package, and sent me on my way.

In both cases the staff member was happy to help, and spoke English well enough to answer any questions I had.

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Costs


The SIM card by itself cost 50,000 VND (~$2.20), with no credit loaded. I didn’t need calls or texts on my most recent trip, so opted for the MiMax70 package that provided 3GB of 4G/LTE data valid for 30 days, for 70,000 VND ($3).

Viettel MiMax pricing

With these packages, data speed is significantly reduced once you go over the threshold, but isn’t cut off entirely. For those wanting more high-speed data, several other options are available, up to 15GB for 200,000 VND (~$9). Cell service is cheap in Vietnam!

None of the MiMax packages come with domestic calls or texts included, but they’re equally inexpensive if you need them. Just add a little extra credit at time of purchase, and use it up as you go. 

Topping Up


It’s very easy to top up your credit. You can buy vouchers pretty much anywhere you’re ever likely to go as a tourist, and the vendor will probably offer to sort the process out for you even if they speak very little English.

If not, you just type *100*<code on the top-up card># to add the credit, then send an SMS to 9123 to enable the package you want to use. As an example, texting MIMAX70 would activate the same 3GB pack I used.

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Coverage and Data Speeds


Viettel coverage was very good anywhere and everywhere I tested it. Data speeds were also impressive, and in smaller cities like Danang it wasn’t unusual to see 4G/LTE downloads approaching 50Mbps.

Speeds slowed somewhat in Hanoi and Saigon, likely due to the larger population there. I couldn’t get any data service at all when bad weather caused flight cancellations at Saigon airport, although to be fair it seemed like half the city was crowded into the domestic terminal with me at the time.

I’ve had full signal with both Vinaphone and Viettel in and around Hanoi, Saigon, Danang, Mui Ne, and Hoi An, as well as pretty much anywhere with signs of habitation all through the Mekong Delta.

Viettel 4G/LTE speeds in Danang

Viettel 4G/LTE speeds in Danang

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

About the Author
Dave Dean

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. Avatar

    This information is on the up to date or incorrect in many cities in South Vietnam we have enough to show a passport in order to buy a SIM card. This has proved really difficult at times because the hotel I’m staying in is holding my passport and won’t even lend it to me for short time while I go next door to buy a SIM card.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I don’t really understand what you’re saying, I’m afraid. If you’re suggesting that you need a passport to buy a SIM card on the street, then yes, I mentioned that in the article — “Note that as with many other things in Vietnam, you’ll need to show your passport at anywhere except the smallest and dodgiest of stores.”

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this information. It is very helpful. I am about to go to Vietnam for the first time and was wondering how to use the sim card? Do you put it in your phone and can automatically start making domestic calls? How do you know when your data is about to run out? Will you get charged if you go over your data limit or would it just stop?

    Thanks!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      If you buy the card at the airport or any kind of larger mobile store, there’s a good chance the person who sells it to you will set it up in your phone as well. Basically, as soon as it’s installed in the phone and set up, you can use it as you would at home (with phones, texts and data).

      I’ve never actually run out of data, so I’m not exactly sure what happens when you do. You’ll likely get a text telling you about it, but it may be in Vietnamese. If you’ve only put as much credit as you need on the SIM to buy the packages you want, there’ll be no credit left when you run out of data, so it’ll just stop working. Any remaining credit you did have would go towards paying for data at a casual rate, which would be relatively expensive.

      Either way, though, the company doesn’t have your credit card or other financial information, so they can’t charge you any more than what you’ve already paid.

  3. Avatar

    a very helpful article, thank you. I am about to go to Vietnam. Should I buy an unlocked phone before going (mine is locked), or can I buy one at the airport there, together with a SIM card?
    Regards

    1. Dave Dean Author

      If you can’t get your phone unlocked (either by your cell company or, in a pinch, maybe a company like this), then buy one before you leave. I’ve recently updated our smartphone recommendations section — it still needs some more options added to it, but it’d be a good place to start.

  4. Avatar

    Great tips – thanks very much Dave! I’ll be interested to see what cell service is like outside of the cities – we are heading to Sapa and Phong Nha.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Based on my experiences in isolated parts of the Mekong Delta, I’d be very surprised if you didn’t have at least some sort of coverage. I had signal even when there was nobody in sight, riding a scooter between small towns. Anywhere with more than a few houses had good 3G service.

  5. Avatar

    Thanks for the tips Dave. I’m going to Vietnam this coming June so it’s really help.

  6. Avatar

    i bought my mobifone card, nobody asked me any kind of passport or ID. plus, maybe mobifone has made huge progress because everywhere I roam, reception is very good, even in the most countryside area in the south and in the center (never been in north tho).

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Legally, you’re supposed to be asked for ID when you buy a SIM in Vietnam, but there are definitely some smaller places that don’t check. The Mobifone network isn’t bad in towns and cities, on the coast and some other places, but you’re better off with Vinaphone or Viettel if you’re heading to the mountains. If you’re not spending much time there, though, you won’t have a problem.

  7. Avatar

    I’m going Ho Chi Minh for about 3 days time. Which sim card should I go for? And how much data mobile phone should I purchase and how much will it cost? Thank you very much for helping!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Recommendations and prices are in the article, so there’s not much more advice I can give, sorry.

  8. Avatar

    Does this sim card work in a mobile router as well?
    Would like to share with a friend and also get wifi for my pad.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      You’ll want to confirm with the vendor before purchase (ideally at an official kiosk or store), but I’d strongly suspect it will. Almost all data SIMs do.

  9. Avatar

    I see a lot of double sim card phones on aliexpress.com Most of these are under $100us. Would they work in VN? They all seem to have GSM/WDMA/4G FDD LTE in them.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      You’ll need to check the specs for any of the phones that look appealing, but assuming they’re GSM and not locked to a carrier, you should get calls, texts and some kind of data service out of them. Perhaps not LTE, but 2G and likely 3G.

  10. Avatar

    Very helpful article. Going to buy a SIM card directly at the airport. 5 GB should be more than enough for 14 days.

  11. Avatar

    Helpful article, wish I’d read it before we bought ours. We went with Mobifone and it’s been hell, constant texts and phone calls trying to sell us something, I keep blocking the numbers but they just use a different one the next time. Had 9 so far today. Don’t go with Mobifone !

  12. Avatar

    Hi, this is extremely helpful, thanks. I’m assuming yes, but wanted to confirm that their SIM cards are sized to fit an iPhone 6S?
    Thanks!!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Yep – that’s a nano SIM. Most SIM cards these days have cutouts for all three sizes, and if not, the vendor will be able to cut it down to size for you.

  13. Avatar

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the tips! Quick question, does the Hanoi airport open 24/7 ? My friend and I will arrive at the airport past midnight and we will like to pick up the sim card before starting our adventure.

    Thanks

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Hi Karen,

      The airport is open 24 hours, but unfortunately I don’t know the operating hours of individual stores within it. If you can’t buy a SIM at the airport that late at night, though, you’ll have no problem finding somewhere to sell you one the following morning.

  14. Avatar

    Hello. I am planning to go to Vietnam for 9 days. The cities are Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, and Hoi An. What amount of data do you suggest for Facebook postings of photos and short videos? What carrier is better for those areas? Vinaphone or Viettel for data speeds and coverage?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Given how cheap data is in Vietnam (it’s one of the cheapest places I’ve found), buying more than you need isn’t an expensive exercise. That 5GB/30 day package I mentioned should more than cover you, but if you’re worried about it, pay the extra 50c for 9GB. That’s a LOT to get through in 9 days, even when uploading short videos. You’ll notice no difference in those cities between Vinaphone or Viettel, coverage and speeds will be good with both of them.

  15. Avatar

    Hi, I just landed and bought a SIM card at the HCMC airport.

    I read this article while waiting for my visa.

    Immediately after immigration there’s a money changer and a Vittel kiosk.

    I was worried it might be their only option so purchased for VND 390,00 unlimited 3g data and 40 minutes telephone time that expires in two months.

    I’ll be here 5 days this trip.

    After baggage claim and customs, there are a few more kiosks selling SIM cards and taxi services.

    Outside of the arrivals exit there are a few more options.

    I didn’t price check to avoid remorse and also to avoid the pretty girls at the kiosks hawking rides and SIMS.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Great stuff, thanks for the update. So it looks like the kiosks are still in action at the airport in HCMC at least. Did you need to show your passport?

  16. Avatar

    I just got here and it’s 105,000 now for 5gb/30days. And yes, they asked for my passport. 🙂

  17. Avatar

    That’s great stuff Dave. Thank you for such an informative article. I’m quite ignorant concerning sim cards…
    One question: do you know if my Truemove 1GB package bought in thailand will work in Vietnam?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      In my experience, it won’t. If you’re able to use your Truemove SIM there at all, you’ll need to pay roaming charges — the existing 1GB data package will probably only work in Thailand. Given how cheap Vietnamese SIM cards and data packages are, you’re almost certainly better off to buy a local one when you get there.

  18. Avatar

    I landed Dec 24 and seems nothing has changed. All the usual suspects had 3G sim cards advertising.

    While waiting for my family landing visa to be processed, I picked up one from the center kiosk inside of the immigration counters. They sold Mobifone sim cards for 220,000VND unlimited 3G data 100 voice minutes. No passport required.

    Now when I try to register a Vinasun account to that phone number, the app says invalid number. I guess they are cracking down some how.

    Outside kiosks were selling 3G sim cards for as low as 150,000 VND.

    I’ve used both Mobifone and Viettel and I think Viettel is better. I typically travel in D1, D2, D3, and Binh Duong province.

    YMMV.

  19. Avatar

    If you walk out of the baggage area at SGN and make a left and go the way to the end, you will find Vinaphone and Viettel branded kiosks that register SIM cards with your passport. They appear to be company stores.

  20. Avatar

    Just landed in Hanoi and they don’t sell the vinaphone sim at the airport. Will hopefully get one in the old quarter.

  21. Avatar

    Please,DO NOT BUY VIETNAMOBILE ,it is totally useless!
    Bout ha SIM with this company on arrival just few days ago as a package with 1GB data.Internet stopped on the next day and had a painfull chat with their customer service just to be told that the money in the account is gone and you need to recharge.Went to the same desk at the airport and they changed the SIM.The same happened again.On top of this the coverage was disaster.It was on EDGE most of the time,when my MOBIFON SIM had perfect 3G.Total waste of money.

  22. Avatar

    Hi, thanks for the informative post.
    I’ll arrive in Hanoi Airport, and I guess there’s no official store there.
    The link on the post for the official stores did not open for me. 🙁
    In the Vinaphone webpage there’s a section for “Shops and Agencies” and another one for “Momo agencies”. Do you happen to know which one lists the offical stores?

    Thank you

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Hi — both of those store locator links still seem to work for me. Which one were you referring to?

  23. Avatar

    Hi,

    I have read that many of these companies constantly spam you with texts and calls throughout the day, trying to sell you things. One poster here said the same thing about Mobifone. Did that happen to you, Dave? Which company was the best for NOT spamming you (or spamming you the least)?

    Thanks,

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’ve never had a spammy phone call with Vinaphone, and my traveling companion didn’t get any with Viettel either. There may have been the occasional advertising text, but I don’t remember it being particularly different to providers in other countries. I’ve never used Mobifone, so I can’t comment on the spam there, but yeah, reports aren’t good. 🙂

  24. Avatar

    Hi Dave,
    If I buy a Viettel SIM for data only, can I use the data also in Laos?
    Thanks!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      You can’t use your data package in other countries, but as of the start of this year, roaming has got much cheaper with Viettel. I wrote about the change here — I haven’t had a chance to try it myself yet, but you’ll apparently pay the equivalent of around $9 per GB of data when roaming in Laos or Cambodia. You’ll just need to make sure you’ve got enough credit loaded to cover your expected roaming use before you leave Vietnam, as it’s likely harder to top-up in other countries.

  25. Avatar

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your website, it’s very interesting and helpfull !
    I travel a lot for work and i’m going soon to Vietnam.
    I’m wondering to buy a MIFI Huawei E5770s for my next travel.
    Then for Vietnam i’ll buy a SIM at the airport most probably.
    I’m wondering how to activate the SIM if i place it in my MIFI ?
    It seems that sometimes you need to dial a number to activate the SIM card but it’s impossible to dial with a MIFI…
    What do you think ?
    Thanks !

  26. Avatar

    Hi Dave
    Heading to Hanoi tomorrow for 2 weeks in vietnam from USA.
    Sorry if this is a dumb question, but if i buy a VN sim card, what happens when ppl call or txt my US # from back home?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      If they call, they’ll go straight to voicemail if you have it set up, or get an unreachable/unavailable tone or message otherwise. Texts won’t arrive either, although they will be delivered if you swap back to your US SIM every day or two. Some phones have dual SIM slots to help get around this issue, but those models aren’t particularly common in the US.

  27. Avatar

    Hi, do you know anywhere in Hoi An where i can buy a simcard from a trusted store?

    Thanks,

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I haven’t bought a SIM there personally, so can’t speak for the trustworthiness of any particular store. If it was me, I’d just ask for a recommendation at my guesthouse or hotel. Someone there is sure to know.

  28. Avatar

    Don’t buy from the airport vendors… We got tricked into buying a 10 day sim card (Viettel) for our 10 days in Vietnam that supposedly had unlimited data and 10min of calling for 220k vnd, or $10 USD.
    Little did we know our LTE began getting throttled at 600mb and is nearly unusable with how slow it is now… Silly us for not knowing to ask what the pre-throttling cap would be (1, 2, or 3gb, etc) so she pulled a fast one on us… and there was no WiFi at Saigon Airport to check into the sim cards (I’m usually skeptical of airport vendors, especially in SE Asia, I and obviously for good reason) Too bad our Google Project Fi sim cards don’t work here yet they were great in Thailand and Cambodia

  29. Avatar

    Really appreciate this report on Vietnam SIM cards. Much appreciated. Off to Hanoi and other locations next week, and will use your advice for sure. ?

  30. Avatar

    I was in Ho Chi Minhcity last week. I bought a Viettel data-sim in the airport from one of the many improvised counters there. I chose the 7gb data-only, my partner a sim with 2gb and voice/sms. We did not have to show our passport, even after we insisted. The sims were passcode free. They had some sort of stamp on them. Both worked fine during the whole week we were there. I put mine in a Mifi and that was no more than putting in and switching on. My mifi was on 4G the whole time, except when deep inside buildings with thick walls, then it went to 3g. Download speeds were more than ok, sometimes around 7 mbps, mostly around 20.
    The Viettel shop in the airport was closed. I was prepared to have to go to a Viettel store to register our simcards but htat trurned out ot be unnecessary. It took quite some time before I encountered the first ‘real’ Viettel Store. Vinaphone stores are easier to find in HCM.

  31. Avatar

    I bought a mobifone card in Hanoi. I didn’t have to register or show my passport. Ive had great 4G connection all week. Super reliable. I got 4G for about £10.

  32. Avatar

    Hey Dave. I stumbled across this page when looking at whether to buy a Garmin GPS or use my iPhone 7plus while in Vietnam. I have been many times for short trips and everything you say on this article is bang on point.

    I am going back to Vietnam for around 12 months this time to teach and travel more solo than previous touring trips I have taken so want to be sure I have full access to maps. Downloaded google maps only last 29 days at a time and you need to save all your locations etc each time, do you have any recommendations for ‘maps’ for offline use over an extended period of time?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I wouldn’t be too worried about the Google Maps offline expiry — as long as you connect to Wifi within 15 days of the expiry date, it’ll update automatically and you likely won’t even notice. I don’t recall having to re-save my locations with offline maps — can you clarify that bit for me?

      That said, if you’re looking for an alternative, Here Maps has better offline support, but navigation in general isn’t as good. It might be worth checking out as a backup — we wrote all about it here.

  33. Avatar

    Hi Dave, I’m off to Phu Quoc in the first week of October for about 8 days – do you know which service would have the best 4G on the island?

    I saw this article http://www.vir.com.vn/phu-quoc-gets-4g-connectivity-via-vnpt.html but it mentions VNPT, Vinatel and Viettel all having 4G so I’m a bit confused what is actually available right now on the island.

    On my last visit (May 2017) I got an 8GB Viettel SIM at HCMC airport which worked really well for two weeks from HCMC to Hanoi (and everywhere in between), but just not too sure what I should go for for Phu Quoc, especially to get decent 4G…. any thoughts on this?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’m sorry, I don’t know which 4G service is best on Phu Quoc. Based on that article, though, it looks like Vinaphone would be a fair bet — the thrust of the article you linked to was regarding Vinaphone’s rollout on the island, and since it was dated nearly a year ago, you’d hope the project was pretty advanced by this stage.

      1. Avatar

        Viettel works perfectly well in Phu Quoc, was there earlier this year and going back again after Xmas. No problem with texts, calls or data. Speed seemed very good. Beautiful place too!!

  34. Avatar

    Thanks Dave – I will have to do some googling on VinaPhone vs the others on Phu Quoc.

  35. Avatar

    Hi. I am on a plan in Australia with Telstra. Do i have to get my phone unlocked to use a vietell sim card. Also if i can use one is there a pplan where i will i be able to text my kids in australia for free.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I don’t know whether Telstra locks its phones, and if so, under what circumstances, so you’ll need to speak to a Telstra rep about your particular situation. I’ve not seen any Viettel (or other Vietnamese carrier) plans that include free international texting, although it’d be worth asking at time of purchase. If not, you’re unlikely to pay a lot to send a few texts to Australia, or you could use WhatsApp / Facebook Messenger etc instead.

  36. Avatar

    I am on pay as you go with EE on an apple 6s
    I make very few calls and will do all texting, uploading to blog and facetime etc when on wifi free
    MUST I have a sim for vietnam and cambodia to take a call or make one in an emergency – or to text OR can I just accept that these will cost me if I switch on roaming when away from wifi?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Double-check with EE that your account is set up for roaming in Vietnam. If so, you don’t need a local SIM to text and call if you’re happy with the cost. Just be sure to turn off mobile data while you are away.

  37. Avatar

    Hi! Any chance of publishing a latest on HCMC airport deals on sim cards rhat will work between SGN and Hanoi (in between)? Thank you!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’ll be back in Vietnam early next year, and will update the post then. Based on comments from others, though, little seems to have changed since the last update.

  38. Avatar

    Hi Dave,
    I bought the Viettel data-only SIM card in Vietnam, thinking I could use it in Cambodia and Laos. Unfortunately, now that I’m in Cambodia, I found out that it does not work here. I confirmed this at a local Metafone (Viettel) store in Siem Reap. They told me that it won’t work in Laos either.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      That’s very interesting. Did they say that it’s just the data-only SIM that won’t work, or have they rolled back the roaming changes from earlier this year for all types of SIM card?

  39. Avatar

    Hi Dave, I am off to Da Nang and Hoi An next week. Is it better to buy a sim card from the phone store at the Da Nang Airport? Which one is the best service provider?

    1. Dave Dean Author

      I’m not sure what options you’ve got at Da Nang airport — I’ve only flown in there on domestic flights when I already had a local SIM, so wasn’t looking closely at phone stores.

      In terms of recommendations for service providers, the ones in this article are fine for Da Nang as well.

  40. Avatar

    On my recent trip to Hanoi, I bought the “Way2go Vietnam” Tourist SIM cards by Mobifone.

    It costs 250,000 VND (around USD11) and comes with:

    6GB data (but on the printed material, it shows unlimited with 2GB high speed)
    60 minutes of local call
    100 local SMS
    30 minutes of international calls to certain countries
    Access to 24/7 tourist support hotline
    valid for 30 days

    The staff at the airport money changer that I bought it from, asked for my passport, and did the registration for me. She even requested to take a photo of me for registration, which I am uncertain if it is truly required, since my passport has my photo.

    I had no problem using the SIM throughout my stay in Hanoi.

  41. Avatar

    Hi Dave.

    Great article, lots of useful info.

    It’s got me thinking about a possible alternative to mifi/pocket wifi, will this work? If you have an old phone (so long as its unlocked) kicking about with hotspot capabilities could you take this with you, put a Vietnam sim in it and then share the wifi with the phones you’re actually using. Hope that’s clear.

    Cheers
    Stuart

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Yep, that approach should work just fine. Old phone + hotspot for hours may mean battery life isn’t great — if so, just pick up a portable battery to go with it (which you can use to charge your other devices as well if needed).

  42. Avatar

    Great article! We went in November and based on your advice used Vittel and had service everywhere we went except out on the ocean. I linked to your article on my Vietnam Tips page in my blog. Thanks for the info!

  43. Avatar

    Hi Dave,
    I read some comments about which company’s SIM to work best in Phu Quoc. But those comments are about 2 years old.
    Would you have any update on how SIM cards work in Phu Quoc? And which company is best?I suppose this place, being an SAR, and claiming to be the best Smart city in the country, should have better 4G connectivity for users by now. Appreciate some comments from you, if you have update.
    Thanks, Dave!

    1. Dave Dean Author

      No specific update for you I’m afraid, but given the overall improvement in cell service and speeds throughout the country in the last few years, I suspect either of the largest providers will work well in Phu Quoc.

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