Thailand is one of the easiest and cheapest places in the world to buy a sim card and a voice/data package for your mobile device. Below is a general outline of how to use your mobile device in Thailand.
1) Your device must be sim-unlocked. In order for you to use a Thai sim, your device must be unlocked. A device is “locked” when it can be used with only one carrier (the company you bought it from), and is “unlocked” when you can put any sim card in the device and it will work. Also, your device must use a sim card (this seems obvious, but if your device only works on CDMA networks and not GSM networks, it will not work in Thailand). Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily easy to have your device unlocked in Thailand. It is recommended to do some research and unlock your device prior to your arrival in Thailand.
2) Service Providers. There are three major carriers in Thailand: (i) AIS (www.ais.co.th/); (ii) DTAC/Happy (www.happy.co.th/home_en.php); and (iii) True Move (www.truemove.com/en). Each company has some benefits and drawbacks over the others, but generally AIS and DTAC have the best coverage, and True often has the best pricing for its packages. Around the urban areas 3G coverage is quite good, while in the more rural areas you will likely only find the slower Edge network. 4G is currently not available in Thailand (with the exception of some very limited trial areas around Bangkok). If you are going to be in the major tourist areas, it really does not make much difference which company you choose.
3) Buying a Sim. The easiest way to buy a sim card and set up your device is to go to a service booth/store for either DTAC, AIS or True. A list of such booths/stores is available on each company’s website. If you are arriving at Suvarnbhumi Airport (BKK/Bangkok Airport), the easiest way to purchase a sim is to visit the booths at the airport located on the 2nd floor of the arrivals hall, near door 7. All three companies have booths at the airport that are open 24 hours a day. The representatives at the booths speak great English and will be able to sell you a sim and set it up with whatever data and voice package you decide to buy. The representative will also put the sim into your device for you and make sure all the settings in your phone are correct. In about 5 minutes (depending on how busy it is), you will have a fully functioning device with a your own Thai number. If you are not arriving at BKK and/or are not able to find a company booth/store, every 7-11 in the country carries sim cards for all three companies, and you can also purchase “top up credit” at the 7-11’s. If you do purchase the sim by yourself, make sure you set up a data package as well, otherwise you will use up your top-up credit extremely fast (there will be a customer service number included the sim card you buy, so simply call customer service and ask them to set up the package you want). Try to save the information that comes with your sim, because it will include your Thai phone number, instructions on how to top up, and the customer service numbers. All of the companies carry micro-sims and nano-sims.
4) Packages/Prices. For the sim card itself, expect to pay anywhere from free (they often hand out free sims at the airport) to about 100 Baht. The more expensive the sim, the more minutes/credit it will include (so getting a “free sim” does not really save you anything since you will have to purchase top-up credit anyways). Once you have the sim, you will have to add “top-up credit” to the sim so that you can make phone calls and/or buy 3G data packages. Each company offers different packages based on your needs. It is typically better to purchase a volume-based data package (instead of a time-based data package), because that way you can leave your device connected to the internet without using all of your minutes. Prices for volume-based data packages are roughly 1 Baht per mb (with it becoming cheaper the more mb’s you buy). Better yet are unlimited data packages, which cost roughly 45 Baht/day, 200 Baht/week or 500 Baht/month. Depending on how many calls you think you will make, you should also buy some extra top-up minutes to use for calls and SMS. To add the package, make sure you have added enough top-up credit to purchase the package, then call the corresponding code number to purchase the packages (see the links below to find out the different codes for each company). For example, to add DTAC’s unlimited data for a month for 399 baht, you would buy 400 baht of top-up for your sim, then dial *104*21*9#. If you ever need to buy more credit/minutes, simply visit the nearest 7-11 and ask for your company’s “top up”, and you will be provided with a code and instructions (in English) on how to top up/refill your sim. If you purchase the sim at the airport or other service center, the representative will also set up the package for you.
5) Using your device. Your device will work exactly the same in Thailand as it does in your home country, except that you will have a Thai phone number. This means that you will notice no difference when using e-mail, Facebook, web browser, etc. However, SMS and calls will be different because you have a Thai number now. Calls within Thailand cost 1 Baht/minute, and when calling outside of Thailand, each company has a special code that gives you reduced rates (about 3-5 Baht/minute to most countries). The special “cheap calling” codes are: DTAC - 004; AIS - 005; True - 006. To use the code, instead of dialing the international access code (001 or “+”), just enter 004, 005 or 006 (depending on your carrier) before dialing the country code. For example, to call the USA, dial 004-1-(area code)-(number). To have people out of the country call you in Thailand (incoming calls are free on your phone), have them dial +66-(your NINE digit Thai phone number). Note that that for people to call you, they must use your 9 digit number, so if your Thai number begins with a Zero followed by Nine numbers, omit the Zero. An international SMS costs 5 Baht to send.
- A list of various helpful codes for all three carriers (e.g., checking your top-up balance): www.huahinforum.com/viewtopic.php…
- DTAC/Happy Internet Packages: dtac.co.th/en/…Happy-internet-package.html
- True Internet Packages: truemove.com/en/wifi-edge-gprs-package.htm
- AIS Internet Packages: http://www.ais.co.th/3g/index_package-en.html