There are so many things to do in Indonesia. You could visit the many temples the country has to offer, go island-hopping because the country consists of more than 17000 islands (making Indonesia the largest island country), and enjoy its beaches because you can find them all over the place. Not to mention the delicious Indonesian cuisine (my partner has been giving me Indonesian snacks – they are delicious!)
Although all of that sounds amazing, roaming in Indonesia does not sound that appealing. Roaming with your provider can be expensive, especially if you are not from a country near Indonesia (the further your home provider is away from Indonesia, the higher the roaming rates will be). Since you are not interested in coming back home with a phone bill in the thousands, you are looking for affordable ways to use your phone in Indonesia.
Many seasoned travelers look for local SIM cards so that they can enjoy local rates instead of roaming rates. As wages in Indonesia are relatively low compared to Western countries, telecom providers have to keep their prices low. Else, nobody can be the providers’ customer. Can you buy an Indonesian SIM card? What is the process and which telecom provider will be the best for you? Let’s find out right now.
Telecom Providers in Indonesia
Indonesia has 4 leading telecom networks: Telkomsel, IM3 Ooredoo (Indosat), 3 (Tri), and XL Axiata. There are 2 4G/LTE-only providers, which are Smartfren and Net1 Indonesia. Telkomsel is the largest provider in terms of market share, 40%, and coverage, 98%. It is also the only provider that is active in all Indonesian provinces.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Indonesia? If you want to buy a SIM card in Indonesia, I would recommend going with Telkomsel. With the best coverage and speed, you do not have to worry about bad reception when traveling around the country. The only downside with Telkomsel is that they have the highest prices, which is a price to pay, considering the quality of service you will get.
IM3 Ooredoo and XL Axiata should be considered if on a low budget and are only staying on the main islands. These providers have good speeds in these areas, but their coverage in more remote places are subpar.
Like many destinations in Southeast Asia, you have to register your Indonesian SIM card before you can use it. You can register yourself in an official store with your passport. I would not recommend buying a SIM card on the mini market, as Indonesians refer to the gray market, because these SIM cards will not be registered properly. As a result, your service could be cut off at any time.
Even if you buy a SIM card on the mini market, getting cut off is not a big deal because you can go to an official store to register yourself. A slight inconvenience when you are in the cities. A big one when you are in remote areas exploring the beautiful nature of what Indonesia has to offer to you.
You should not buy SIM cards at airports. Although registering SIM cards at airport stores will be faster than in town, you will be paying high tourist premiums when getting cards there. Some report that you may pay up to 10 times the local offer when buying cards or plans at airports, which is a total rip-off. The same applies to tourist areas, like Bali, so be aware when getting your card.
Lastly, be aware of internet censorship in Indonesia. The government created a web filter that blocks pornographic websites. However, it blocks non-sexual websites like Reddit. Moreover, dating apps and LGBTQ-related content seem to be blocked too.
You can use a solid VPN (Virtual Private Network) to circumvent this censorship, like NordVPN. NordVPN has servers in Indonesia that help you avoid censorship. If that does not work, you can use servers from Malaysia, Singapore, or Australia, depending on where you are. You can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription today!
Some travelers who are from other Southeast Asian countries or those who visited other Southeast Asian destinations before going to Indonesia decide to roam with their Southeast Asian SIM card. Countries like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand offer attractive roaming plans for Southeast Asian destinations. Although I always prefer to get a local SIM card when possible, not having to be in a queue to register a SIM card or having to deal with which phone package to buy could be worth to roam.
With that out of the way, let’s see what our options are with the Indonesian telecom providers.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
The largest company offering SIM cards in Indonesia is Telkomsel, and its coverage and services can be used throughout the entirety of the provinces. They offer 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE services to their customers alongside some of the fastest internet speeds in the country.
The initial prepaid SIM card options include SimPATI, Kartu AS, or Loop. All can be purchased for the price of 2000 Rupiah (or about 0.14 USD. 1000 Rupiah is about $0.07), although you will eventually need to top-up your card with one of the many packages or deals.
In general, there are three different types of plans:
- Pulsa 777 National credit can be used anywhere in Indonesia.
- Pulsa 369 local credit is ideal if you are staying in one province, as it cannot be used throughout.
- Pulsa is a mixture of both and can be found almost anywhere.
Data packs and add-ons are available for purchase and will land you anywhere from 5000 to 100 000 Rupiah, depending on your needs.
Below are a few of the Pulsa packages that are available:
- 20 000 Rupiah: 400 MB valid for 7 days
- 50 000 Rupiah: 1.3 GB and 1 GB extra for night time use (12 AM – 7 AM) valid for 30 days
- 100 000 Rupiah: 4 GB and 2 GB for night time use valid for 30 days
- 200 000 Rupiah: 8.5 GB and 2 GB for night time use valid for 30 days
- 300 000 Rupiah: 13 GB and 2 GB for night time use valid for 30 days
XL Axiata, while considered to be small-scale, they are the second-largest provider in terms of subscribers. They provide some fantastic coverage in 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE capabilities. The speed is reasonably quick, and the company has some of the best deals to save you money. XL Axiata offers a basic prepaid SIM card for 5000 Rupiah. With this card, you get 2 MB of data right off the bat. From there, you can add on additional data starting at 1500 Rupiah for 15 MB.
For example, for 12 000 Rupiah, you can get 350 MB that is valid for 7 days. Not enough data for you? Spend between 50 000 Rupiah and 220 000 Rupiah to get at least 1.5 GB and a maximum of 16 GB.
Are you a morning owl? Get the XL Axiata morning packs, also known as Super Ngebut, which will give you a lot of data in the morning, midnight to noon, than during the day, noon to midnight.
For comparison, for 25 000 Rupiah, you get 2 GB morning data and 200 MB day data. For 125 000 Rupiah, you will get 15 GB morning data and 1.5 GB day data. All Super Ngebut packages are valid for 30 days, except the 5000 Rupiah package that gives 200 MB morning data and 20 MB day data for a day.
IM3 Ooredoo is another popular company in Indonesia that provides SIM cards and coverage with 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE plans. Their internet speeds are relatively quick as well. Combined with some great data and voice package deals, it is a top choice amongst locals and tourists alike.
When it comes to the prepaid plans, you have three to choose between: the Freedom Internet, Freedom Mini, and Freedom Combo. They all land around 4,000 Rupiah, and you can easily add more data packs if needed.
Data packs will typically range from 2000 Rupiah for 24 hours and 5 MB to 30 days of use with 8 GB for 160 000 Rupiah. If you just need more data period, you can buy add-ons such as 15 000 Rupiah for 22 MB up to 6 GB for 80 000 Rupiah.
Freedom Combo Packages
Below are the Freedom Combo packages that are all valid for 30 days. All combos come with unlimited on-net calls and texts and unlimited social media usage (Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Messenger, Line, Goyek, and Grab):
- 65 000 Rupiah: 2 GB main data, 3 GB 4 G/LTE data, 2 GB streaming data, and 5 GB night data (1 AM – 6 AM)
- 100 000 Rupiah: 4 GB main data, 8 GB 4 G/LTE data, 4 GB streaming data, and 10 GB night data
- 150 000 Rupiah: 8 GB main data, 12 GB 4 G/LTE data, 6 GB streaming data, and 15 GB night data
- 200 000 Rupiah: 12 GB main data, 25 GB 4 G/LTE data, 8 GB streaming data, and 20 GB night data
YouTube, Spotify, and iFlix are apps that count towards the streaming data quota.
Freedom Internet Packages
Below are the Freedom Internet packages, which are all valid for 30 days:
- 55 000 Rupiah: 3 GB main data, 4 GB 4G/LTE data, 8 GB for night time use (1 AM – 6 AM)
- 65 000 Rupiah: 5 GB main data, 5 GB 4G/LTE data, 22 GB for night time use
- 75 000 Rupiah: 9 GB main data, 5 GB 4G/LTE data, 16 GB for night time use
- 110 000 Rupiah: 20 GB main data, 5 GB 4G/LTE data, 10 GB for night time use
3 (Tri) Indonesia
3 (Tri) is another popular choice in Indonesia. They offer their customers with 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE network coverage, which has recently become much better than in the past. They also have the best promotions and deals amongst the competitors in Indonesia, while being a smaller provider compared to the other three mentioned so far.
The Bali prepaid card from 3 (Tri) will run you around 40 000 Rupiah. From there, you have the option of adding more data. For 2000 Rupiah, you can get 20 MB, while 150 000 Rupiah will give you 9 GB of data.
Smartfren & Net1 Indonesia
Smartfren and Net1 Indonesia are the 4G/LTE-only providers that deserve an honorable mention. Unfortunately, I do not know enough about them to say anything useful (and my partner does not know them either). I do know that Smartfren has been growing rapidly in recent years and has more than 10 million subscribers.
With Smartfren, your phone needs to support VoLTE to text and call, or you can use their app to do so. It will not work when on a WiFi network, and it apparently does not work well when using two SIM cards at a time. A Smartfren SIM card will cost you 20 000 Rupiah, but you will get 20 000 Rupiah in credit.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Indonesia
Besides getting an Indonesian SIM card, there are different ways of staying connected when exploring Indonesia, such as using an international SIM card, roaming with your provider, using pocket WIFI, or WIFI networks.
International SIM Cards
You can consider purchasing an international SIM card. International SIM cards are SIM cards that can be used internationally without the roaming charges.
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, SimCorner, and BNESIM. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.
International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple. In most cases, you can use your international SIM when back home, but their rates will be high compared to using your carrier.
Do note that using an international SIM card is often more expensive than using a local SIM card but cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing for those who travel frequently and cannot be bothered with the hassle of purchasing a SIM card each time they arrive at a new destination. Additionally, constantly having to switch SIM cards and using different phone numbers may discourage seasoned travelers from buying local SIM cards.
If you are visiting only one destination for a short period, get a local SIM card (or roam with your provider if they have attractive roaming rates or plans). If you travel often and want to be able to be contacted on one phone number when visiting multiple destinations, international SIM cards could be attractive. Check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyzed the top 10 leading international SIM cards out there.
Roaming with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. If you use your phone in Indonesia without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Indonesia.
You have probably read numerous horror stories of travelers who went abroad for a while and came back home to a phone bill in the thousands because they were roaming. An example of such a story is this individual who received a bill of £8,348.41 for data roaming for 40 minutes. I also found the reason why roaming is so expensive.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Roaming can be convenient because you do not have to wait in line to get a local SIM card, go through the whole SIM card registration process, and can easily be reached when friends and family who are in your home country want to call or text you.
However, this convenience comes at a cost – a high cost if you do not watch out. But this does not always have to be the case.
Some carriers allow you to roam for free in select countries, such as Sprint (American provider). They have a program called Sprint Global Roam, which allows its customers to roam in 205 destinations, including Indonesia, for free at reduced speeds.
Other carriers allow you to use your plan's allowance if you pay a fixed daily fee. For example, Koodo, a Canadian provider, allows you to use your plan's allowance with their program called Koodo Easy Roam International for $12 a day, which can be used in Indonesia as well. This means that if you get 10 GB a month, you can use those 10 GB in Indonesia as well.
However, you should take caution with such plans. They are convenient and inexpensive when done for a few days, but not when going abroad for a week or more. I often argue that one can use these plans if you are staying abroad for a maximum of three days. If longer, than you are better off with a local SIM card, which will give you more bang for your buck. Check out my articles to see if your provider offers roaming bundles.
Finally, you can roam on Pay As You Go roaming rates. With standard roaming rates, you get charged per action on the go. In other words, you get charged per minute, SMS, or KB/MB. Often, Pay As You Go roaming rates are insanely high (which leads to those stories where people got charged into the thousands), and should be avoided in most cases. However, some providers do have reasonable standard roaming rates, especially to neighboring countries.
In general, I would discourage you from roaming on Pay As You Go roaming rates when visiting Indonesia, but it is still an option to explore. If you want to see what your carrier would charge you, check out my roaming with your provider articles with my analysis and verdicts.
If you do not want to get a local SIM card or an international SIM card and do not feel like roaming either, then you can get pocket WIFI. A portable hotspot is a device that acts as your personal router that you can take with you. This hotspot connects to the cellular networks of your destination – just like your phone would do but without the roaming costs.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.
Using Free WIFI Connections
If you do not want to pay anything extra for staying connected while in Indonesia, then you can choose to connect to WIFI networks instead of cellular networks.
Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots. Unlike North America and Europe, Indonesia does not prevalently use WIFI, meaning it may be a challenge to find a hotspot (except for many malls). Once you have found one, they may not even work or are extremely slow.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription today!
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Indonesia
Getting a SIM card from Telkomsel would do you well when considering an Indonesian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in Southeast Asia? Check out my Southeast Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Indonesia
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Indonesia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Indonesia drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Indonesia
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Indonesia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in an Indonesian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Indonesia
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Australia, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!