Some instructions on how to save money on calls/SMS when in Bali and also get internet (3G) for less than USD10. Good for those who are as helpless without internet on-the-go as I am! This is meant for people who are in Bali for a short holiday and not long-term stay. For info, I am using an iPhone 3GS, and I usually stay in Kuta or Seminyak when I am in Bali.
1. Buy a simpati 5000 sim card (sorry I am not familiar with the other operators). This can purchased from any little shop including shops that rent motorbikes, independent convenience stores (not Circle K though), mobile shops etc. I usually buy them at Kuta as the shops are everywhere. You will know it as they have signs outside advertising the sim cards or if you look in the display counter they will have the red Telkomsel sim card packets.
2. The sim cards are usually already pre-activated by the sim card seller. That is why the sim card packets are not sealed. The sim card is valid for only a limited period (less than 6 months? It also depends on whether you top up regularly, before the validity period ends. But anyway this is irrelevant if this is for one-time use.)
3. A Simpati 5000 sim card cost me IDR25,000 (not sure if you can get them cheaper? can;t remember how much it was on my previous trip). This includes IDR5000 credit. just to give you can idea how far IDR5000 goes - local SMS costs IDR100 and overseas SMS costs IDR600. Overseas calls on IDD are of course cheaper than using International Roaming. Receiving overseas calls on your simpati sim card is FREE.
4. If you need more than IDR5000 credit, you can ask the shop owner to help you top up the sim card e.g. I paid IDR22,000 for a IDR20,000 credit top up. So in total i paid IDR47,000 for a sim card with IDR25,000 credit.
5. Insert the sim card into your own cell phone. You should be on Telkomsel network.
Tip1: I always bring an extra cell phone for my own telco's sim card so that I can still see who's calling / receive sms, although I reply using the Simpati sim card to save $$ (international roaming charges are a killer).
Tip2: For those using iPhone and forgot to bring their eject sim card tray pin tool, safety pins (or even earrings!) will also work.
6. Dial *888# <dial/send/call> to check your remaining credit before you leave the shop, to ensure that the seller has topped up as promised.
7. Go to your SMS inbox and create a new message. Text "3G" (without quotes) to 3636 to enable 3G. You will get a confirmation message in Bahasa Indonesia, basically saying that 3G has been enabled. You should now see the 3G logo on your phone.
8. Text "flash on 10K" (without quotes) to 3636 to enable data and purchase a 15MB data block for IDR10,000. There are larger data blocks (e.g. 125MB data block for IDR50,000), keep typing "flash on XXK" to check the various sizes. Each time, you will receive a confirmation SMS in Bahasa Indonesia, translated- "You'll buy the 15MB package for RP.10000 (valid for 7 days). Type FLASH<space>YA to continue. Wait for a confirmation SMS."
9. Respond "flash ya" (without quotes) to confirm your purchase. You will get a confirmation SMS in Bahasa Indonesia, translated-"Rp.10000 TelkomselFlash package for 15MB (valid for 7 days) has been activated. Type FLASH<space>INFO send to 3636 for the status of your package." The flash info thing didnt work for me as i kept getting a "system is busy" reply. It would have been good to be able to track my usage.
10. If you don't have any idea how much data 15MB is, I managed to make 15MB last me 3 evenings of email, msn, facebook, and some basic surfing (e.g. checking tripadvisor for restaurants). I didn't use the 3G much during the day as I was out of range (out at sea).
11. My experience: I found the 3G coverage quite reliable in Kuta or Seminyak. The internet dropped to EDGE or GPRS once I ventured further e.g. to Amed. Don't plan on using your 3G for google maps to get to some remote area though, it's likely that there will be no connection at all. This happened to me when I was looking for a restaurant in Kerobokan area (Jl. Batu Belig). Despite its limitations, prepaid sim is really a very economical solution for internet-on-the-go and also for making local restaurant reservations and such. Good luck and hope this helps!