Planning on visiting the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur? What about enjoying the sun and beach at Langkawi? Do not forget about enjoying the Malaysian cuisine. Whatever the purpose of your trip to Malaysia, there are many things to do, and you will certainly find something that fits your budget and taste.
What you are probably not looking forward to is coming back home and looking at a high phone bill because you accidentally forgot to turn data roaming off. Roaming can be expensive, which is why many travelers want to buy a Malaysian SIM card so that they can pay local prices while enjoying the phone network as a local. As a result, you will have more money to spend on traveling instead of phone bills. Let’s see what our options are in Malaysia, shall we?
Note: this article is in the process of being optimized because it contains outdated information. In the meantime, check out the individual reviews I have done of certain Malaysian operators for up to date information.
Telecom Providers in Malaysia
Malaysia has four big providers: Digi, Maxis, Celcom, and U Mobile. The providers have a 26%, 22%, 22%, and 15% market share, respectively. Their 3G and 4G/LTE coverage is almost the same between 90% and 92%. However, the coverage can be noticeable different depending on the island you are on.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Malaysia? If you want to buy a SIM card in Malaysia, I would recommend going with either Maxis because they have the highest speeds, according to OpenSignal, or Celcom because they have the best 4G/LTE availability in Malaysia.
Other notable telecom providers are Yes, UniFi, and Altel. Additionally, there are many Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) out there, and I will mention a few of them in this article.
Throughout Malaysia, you will mostly find good coverage. The most reliable signals are in the cities, while more rural sections of the country can have weaker ones. You may struggle in rural areas, but for the most part, you can feel confident using your phone from one of the big four providers.
Just like many other Southeast Asian countries, you need to register your SIM card before you can use it. Luckily, unlike most other Southeast Asian destinations, the process is quick and will be done at the point of purchase. Make sure to bring your passport with you.
Keep in mind that the locals refer to SIM cards as ‘SIM’ or ‘SIM Kaa.’ Retailers will be able to help set up the SIM card so that you do not have to figure it out on your own.
Let’s analyze our options.
Digi is the largest company founded in Malaysia that offers SIM cards. They have good coverage and a fair amount of packages and deals to choose from. However, there are two main prepaid SIM card deals offered by Digi: Digi Prepaid Live and Digi Prepaid Best.
Each of the data packs available by Digi comes complete with free WhatsApp use as well as free internet service for social media platforms, which is one of the significant benefits of opting for Digi service.
Data packs are available for a wide variety of prices ranging from 100 MB for 24 hours at 1 MYR to 10GB for 30 days at 48 MYR.
For reference, 1 MYR is about $0.24 and is also known as RM (Malaysian ringgit).
You can also buy one of the two Digi tourist SIM cards at various international airports (Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Senai, Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching). They sell for 20 MYR and 40 MYR.
For 20 MYR, you get the following benefits that will last you for 7 days:
- 2 GB of regular data
- 7 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and WeChat (1 GB per day)
- 10 local minutes for all Malaysian networks
- 10 international minutes for China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand)
- 5 MYR credit from Digi Prepaid Best
For 40 MYR, you will get the following perks that are valid for 15 days:
- 10 GB of regular data
- 15 GB for WhatsApp, Facebook, and WeChat (1 GB per day)
- 30 local minutes for all Malaysian networks
- 30 international minutes for China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand)
- 5 MYR credit from Digi Prepaid Best
I do have to say that the tourist SIM offers are not a bad deal at all. In 2020, I will get the 20 MYR one for review purposes. Stay tuned for that!
Maxis is the second largest company that provides SIM cards in Malaysia. They market their prepaid services under the Hotlink brand. They have many features and deals that can be applied after the original purchase of your SIM card.
When it comes to data packs, there are several different options to suit your needs.
- 1 day, 2 GB for 3 MYR
- 7 days, 1.5 GB for 7 MYR
- 30 days, 6 GB for 35 MYR
- 30 days, 8 GB for 45 MYR
Want unlimited calls too? For 60 MYR, you get 8 GB and unlimited domestic minutes. For 70 MYR, you get unlimited calls too and 10 GB – both plans are valid for 30 days.
Aside from these cost-effective data packs, other options to help you save money include the Happy Hour bonus, which provides for 1 GB internet for an hour every day and Free Weekend bonus that allows for 1 GB of use on Saturday and Sunday.
You have the option of adding data, ranging from 2 GB for 3 MYR (1-day validity) to 15 GB for 79 MYR (30-day validity). To increase your data, you can also purchase specialty Facebook data packages and Nighttime Use packages that range from 1 MYR to 7 MYR.
There are several packages available for purchase:
- 1 day, 2 GB for 3 MYR
- 7 days, 2 GB for 10 MYR
- 7 days, 5 GB for 19 MYR
- 30 days, 5 GB for 30 MYR
- 30 days, 15 GB for 79 MYR
U Mobile is the last and smallest company of the big four in Malaysia that offers great deals with their SIM cards. Although the company is small, they still have some fairly great coverage in Malaysia. There are tons of data packs and packages available for purchase with U Mobile. You can find the following deals:
- 1 day, 100 MB for 2 MYR
- 1 day, 1.5 GB for 5 MYR
- 7 days, 1 GB for 9 MYR
- 15 days, 500 MB for 15 MYR
- 30 days, 1.5 GB for 20 MYR
- 30 days, 7.5 GB for 30 MYR (+30 domestic minutes)
- 30 days, 12 GB for 50 MYR (+50 domestic minutes)
Unifi has its own 4G network in several areas, including but not limited to, Kedah, Melaka, Sembilan, Perak, Sarawak, and Selangor. To get a Unifi SIM card, you need to download the mobile@unifi app and order a card for 10 MYR. It will be ready for pick up at a local TM store. Once you get the SIM card, you can enjoy 2 GB of 4G/LTE data, 10 minutes, and 10 SMS to all local networks.
On Unifi’s own network, you can purchase data packs that come with unlimited data:
- 2 hours of unlimited data for 3 MYR
- 24 hours of unlimited data for 5 MYR
- 7 days of unlimited data for 20 MYR
Unifi has a roaming agreement with Celcom for its 2G and 3G network, which is free to use for Unifi customers. On those networks, you can get the following data packs:
- 1 GB for 13 MYR (2G/3G/4G)
- 1 GB 4G/LTE and 1 GB 2G/3G for 15 MYR
- 2 GB 4G/LTE and 2 GB 2G/3G for 30 MYR
- 4 GB 4G/LTE and 4 GB 2G/3G for 50 MYR
As you have noticed, these plans do not have an expiry. You can use all your data in whatever time frame you want, as long as you reload your card every 90 days.
Yes 4G, just Yes, is a 4G/LTE-only provider that is only active in Western Malaysia, and it covers 85% of the Western Malaysian Peninsula. Normally, I do not mention talk about the frequencies and bands of telecom providers because they are not that interesting to talk about. However, in the case of Yes, they only use the uncommon TD-LTE 2300 and 2600 MHz frequency on bands 38 and 40. As a result, only the latest and high-end smartphones will be able to use the Yes network.
You can get a Yes SIM card for 10 MYR, which will immediately come with 1 GB of data that is valid for 7 days and 5 MYR in credit. You can pick from the following data packages:
- Daily MYR 5: 2 GB valid for 1 day
- Weekly MYR 15: 4 GB valid for 7 days
- Monthly MYR 25:16 GB valid for 30 days
- Monthly MYR 30: 20 GB valid for 30 days
Altel has its own 4G/LTE network in various places. In other areas where Altel has no antennas, it works together with Celcom acting as an MVNO for Celcom’s 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE network (national roaming agreement). You can get a SIM card for 7 MYR, which comes with 5 MYR (valid for 30 days) in credit and 200 MB (valid for 15 days).
You can choose from the following data packages:
- 1 day, 1 GB for 3 MYR
- 7 days: 1 GB for 5 MYR
- 7 days: 2 GB for 10 MYR
- 30 days: 5 GB for 30 MYR
- 30 days: 10 GB for 50 MYR
- 30 days: 20 GB for 90 MYR
Tune Talk, XOX Mobile, SpeakOut & redONE
Tune Talk, XOX Mobile, SpeakOut, and redONE are all MVNOs. Tune Talk is a brand related to the budget carrier AirAsia. AirAsia offers its AirAsia Traveler Plan SIM cards on inbound AirAsia flights to Malaysia. The Lite Plan comes with 5 GB and 5 MYR in airtime for 25 MYR and is valid for 7 days. The Power Plan gets you 10 GB and 10 MYR in airtime and can be used for 14 days.
redONE SIM cards can be bought in various stores but require an initial 30 MYR top-up. It does immediately come with 500 MB of high-speed data and 1 GB of max. 64 kbps slow speed data that is valid for a month. Data packages range from 1 GB for 3 MYR to 10 GB for 50 MYR with validities ranging from 1 day to 30 days.
SpeakOut offers an attractive tourist pack for 50 MYR that comes with 100 GB of high-speed data, 5 MYR in talk time, and low rate international call rates, 15 sen per 30 seconds, to the following destinations:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
They also offer many unlimited data plans, although those speeds get throttled to 64 kbps after reaching a quota.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Malaysia
Getting a SIM card from Maxis or Celcom would do you well when considering a Malaysian 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, Indonesia, Laos, 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 Malaysia
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 Malaysia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Malaysia drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Malaysia
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 Malaysia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Malaysian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Malaysia
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 Malaysia, 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 Malaysian Ringgit 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!