Delicious soup in the Mekong Delta

Buying a SIM Card in Vietnam

In Get Connected by Dave Dean66 Comments

Last updated: 7 January, 2017.

In November 2016, the Vietnamese government started enforcing registration rules for local SIM cards, and cancelled 12 million cards that had been illegally registered. As a result, travellers are now advised to only purchase SIM cards from official carrier stores, where they will need to show their passport to register the card. Links to store locators are given below.

Most other vendors cannot register a SIM card to you, meaning if you purchase from them, you’re either buying a pre-activated card which can be shut down at any time, or an unregistered card that will require a trip to an official store before it will work.

Vietnam is easily one of my favourite travel destinations.

With arguably the best street food on the planet, mile upon mile of unspoiled beaches, the crazy energy of the major cities and laid-back beauty of the countryside and — especially away from the tourist hotspots — friendly and welcoming people, it’s not hard to see why.

Staying connected is inexpensive — as little as five bucks will keep the data flowing on your smartphone throughout your stay. 3G speeds are good, and coverage is widespread.

Here’s what you need to know.

Companies


  • We recommend Vinaphone for most travellers.
  • Consider Viettel if you want to use the same SIM card in Cambodia and Laos.

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 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 3G service outside the largest cities.

I went with Vinaphone due to price and convenience, but was travelling with someone else who picked up a Viettel card for comparison.

Viettel removed roaming charges in Laos and Cambodia in early 2017. It’s still cheaper to buy local SIMs in each place, but it’s now much more affordable for those wanting to use the same SIM in all three countries.

How


We purchased the Viettel card from a large official store in Hanoi’s old quarter (there’s a store locator on the company’s home page). It took around ten minutes, but was quite straightforward. The salesperson showed us the various prices on a piece of paper, we chose one and handed over a passport and some cash, and she dealt with the rest.

We bought the Vinaphone card from a booth at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, but it’s unclear whether this is an official store. If you want more certainty that your SIM won’t be suddenly deactivated, purchase from one of these official stores instead.

 

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Costs


Prices for a data-only Vinaphone SIM at Saigon airport were very reasonable — the SIM card and a 5GB/30 day package cost 100,000 VND (around $5 USD).

If you think you’ll burn through even more data than that, 9GB was available for an extra 10,000 VND ($0.50), and so-called ‘unlimited’ packages (which are throttled to 2G speeds after using a certain amount of data) were also available for a little more.

For those who need calls and texts as well, there were many different packages available. Expect to pay 150,000-250,000 VND depending on how much data, call and SMS credit is included.

Topping Up


It’s very easy to top up your credit. You can buy credit pretty much anywhere you’re ever likely to go as a tourist, and the vendor is highly likely 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 888 to activate the call/data package you want to use.

As an example, DK MAX100 would get you 1.2GB of data for 30 days, for 100,000 VND.

 

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Coverage and Data Speeds


Speeds varied between good and very good, depending on where I was. Places like Hoi An, with less network congestion, saw download speeds close to 10Mb/sec.

Those speeds dropped by roughly half in Hanoi and Saigon, and I couldn’t get any data service at all when bad weather caused flight cancellations at Saigon airport and it seemed like half the city was crowded into the domestic terminal with me.

We had full Vinaphone and Viettel 3G signal anywhere in and around Hanoi, Saigon and Hoi An on this trip. On a previous trip through remote parts of the Mekong Delta, Vinaphone coverage remained good almost anywhere there were signs of habitation.

Vinaphone 3G speeds in Hoi An

Vinaphone 3G speeds in Hoi An

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

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Looking to stay connected in Vietnam? Buying a local SIM card is simple and inexpensive, with good coverage and data speeds. Here's what you need to know.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Thanks for the tips Dave. I’m going to Vietnam this coming June so it’s really help.

  6. 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. Author

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

  7. 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. 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.

  8. 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. 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.

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

  10. 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 !

  11. 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. 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.

  12. 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. 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.

  13. 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. 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.

  14. 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. 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?

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

  16. 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. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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. Author

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

  22. 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. 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. 🙂

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

    1. 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.

  24. 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 !

  25. 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. 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.

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

    Thanks,

    1. 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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. 😀

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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. 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.

  32. 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. 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. 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!!

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

  34. 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. 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.

  35. 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. 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.

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