Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Thailand Guide

About to explore Thailand soon? I am sure you will enjoy your time there. Thailand has beautiful beaches, many temples, and plenty of tourist activities. For those who want to get off the beaten track, there will be plenty of things to see and enjoy (especially food-wise). Flights to Thailand may be pricy depending on where you are flying from, but Thailand is known for its low prices, so that can cancel out the expensive plane ticket.

On the other hand, roaming with your provider may not be inexpensive if you are not aware of the roaming conditions and prices. This is why many travelers explore the local SIM card options before taking off to Thailand to eliminate roaming costs. Additionally, telecom costs are so low in Thailand that getting a Thai SIM card will be worth it. Let's explore the best SIM Card options for when traveling in Thailand.

Telecom Providers in Thailand

Thailand has a population of around 70 million people, making it a lucrative market for telecom providers to operate there. That is why it does not surprise me that Thai citizens can choose from around 15 telecom providers: 5 of them are “standard” carriers, while the others are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (also known as MVNOs).

The three largest Thai carriers, in terms of subscribers, are AIS, TrueMove H, and Dtac, respectively. Together, they have a market share of around 99%, which is insane. AIS alone has a market share of close to 50%. Although all these numbers are impressive, we are more interested in knowing which provider will be the best for you when traveling in Thailand.

If you want to buy a SIM card in Thailand, I would recommend getting the 1-2-Call SIM Card from AIS for most travelers. If you are staying in big cities and tourist areas, Dtac and TrueMove H will serve you well too.

I would not recommend going with TOT because they have such a small market share and not that many subscribers (about 1 million). Their coverage may not be that great. MY is bigger than TOT with nearly 2 million subscribers). For part of its 4G network, they roam on TrueMove H, but for its 4.5G network, they have their own network, but it may not provide great coverage. Stick to the big three – they are large for a reason.

In terms of the MVNOs, most seem to be roaming on the TOT network, so you may not want to consider them either.

Also, do not forget your passport when you want to buy a SIM card. The salesperson will also take a picture of you. All of this is necessary to get your SIM card registered and activated.

For now, let's check out the offerings of AIS, TrueMove H, and Dtac.

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!

AIS

AIS Logo

Most travelers will be fine with a SIM card from AIS. In particular, the 1-2-Call SIM card. This SIM card costs 50 baht (around $1.60) and offers many bundles for calling and data. For example, for 427 baht ($14), you will get 3 GB of data to be used on the 4G network of AIS. Additionally, you can connect to the numerous AIS SUPER WIFI networks around the country.

You can purchase the 1-2-Call SIM card at most international airports and at any AIS. I would, however, not recommend getting your SIM card at the airport, as you will be paying a tourist premium. You will get much better deals when you get one at an AIS store in town.

If you need to top up your plan, you can go to any store that has an AIS or 1-2-Call logo sign on it. There, you can buy a top-up voucher or scratch card to top up your plan.

If you do not feel like staying in line at the airport or do not feel like waiting to be connected when arriving in Thailand, you can also buy AIS Smart Topic SIM cards via SimOptions. This way, you will have your SIM card before you head to Thailand and can be online as soon as you land.

TrueMove H

TrueMove H Logo

TrueMove H has extensive network coverage in Thailand. However, you may be on their 3G/HSPA+ network in remote areas (if you are unlucky, 2G/EDGE speeds). Their 4G Sim Card+ costs 49 baht ($1.60) and can be purchased at international airports, TrueMove H stores, and other stores like 7-11 and Tesco.

Just like with AIS, I would not recommend buying your TrueMove H SIM card at the airport because you will be paying a premium. Go to a TrueMove H store or 7-11 and buy your card there. Below is the plan breakdown of TrueMove H:

  • The Tourist Inter SIM plan for 3.0 GB costs 299 Baht or $9.20 and offers unlimited hotspot Wi-Fi as well, all for 8 days.
  • The 4 GB of data plan costs 399 Baht, or $12.75. The usage cap is 128 kbps at no additional charge. This plan lasts one month.
  • Also, the monthly plans with TrueMove H auto-renew, so you will need to request a cancellation code if you wish to cancel your service once you leave the country.
  • 7-11 and Tesco own TrueMove H so that you can pick up these SIM cards at those stores. You can also go to a TrueMove H store and get your SIM card there.

Dtac

Dtac Logo

Finally, we have Dtac, which is the largest wireless bandwidth service provider in Thailand. Once again, if you are staying in populated areas, your connection and speeds will be fine with Dtac.

Like the other providers, you can buy a Dtac tourist SIM card at several airports. Dtac has booths there. However, at Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok) airport, they have a self-service machine where you can get your SIM card in 1 minute. I have not used this machine, so I cannot tell if its prices are higher than at the booth or in town, but I assume you will be paying a premium too.

You can get the SIM card for 49 Baht (seeing a trend here?), which will give you access to the 4G network. With this SIM card, you can choose from many of their bundles. The Happy Tourist SIM card costs 599 Baht ($18.75) and gives you unlimited data f0r 15 days.

You can also order these SIM cards online on Amazon, sold by Dtac themselves. This way, you can be online as soon as you land in Thailand.

Other Connectivity Options When Traveling in Thailand

Getting a Thai SIM card may be a hassle for some travelers. Some prefer to roam with their providers while others would prefer an international SIM card. Then we have those who like portable WIFI devices, and others who will connect to WIFI networks instead.

Roaming in Thailand 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 Thailand without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Thailand.

Roaming can be expensive. This person received an £8,348.41 data roaming bill. I also found out why roaming is so expensive. However, it does not always have to be costly.

Many providers offer roaming plans where you can roam for free in select destinations like Thailand. Others may offer bundles that give you some minutes, SMS, and data. You also have providers that allow you to use your plan's allowance for a daily fee. Every carrier is different, so it is recommended to explore your roaming options before you go out and experience bill shock (which is not fun). Luckily, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers so that you do not have to.

You can also Roam As You Go, meaning that you will pay per minute, text, and MB. In most cases, this is not recommended, as these rates are insanely high (that is how people get bills in the thousands). There are some providers, however, that do have attractive Pay As You Go roaming rates. Do not get too excited though, as the number of carriers that have decent standard roaming rates is rare.

International SIM Cards

International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.

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

International SIM cards are, however, more expensive than using a local SIM card, such as a Thai one. On the other hand, they are often cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or those who are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. In Thailand, you have to show your passport and get a picture taken of you to get a SIM card. Other countries may demand more, which will waste your valuable holiday time. If you are only visiting Thailand, stick to a local SIM (or the AIS ones from SimOptions).

If you are only visiting Thailand, stick to a local SIM – your wallet will thank you. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my comparison post where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers.

Portable hotspots

Portable hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are devices small enough that they should fit into your pocket. These devices turn into your on-the-go WIFI hotspot while they connect to the cellular networks in the country.

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.

Free WIFI connections

Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected: Free WIFI hotspots.

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, Thailand does not prevalently use WIFI, meaning it may be a challenge to find a hotspot. 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 NordVPN subscription today!

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Thailand

Getting the 1-2-Call SIM Card from AIS would do you well when considering a Thai 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, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, 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 Thailand

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 Thailand. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Thailand drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Thailand

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 Thailand. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Thai hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Thailand

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 Thailand, 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!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan due to the current pandemic and does not have any travel plans for after his stay in Taiwan.

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