Planning on visiting Vietnam soon? Good choice! There are plenty of activities in Vietnam and many things to see as well. Although flights to Vietnam may be expensive (but it does not have to be), the cost of living in Vietnam is inexpensive, unlike roaming with your provider that can be expensive if you do not watch out. This is why some travelers tend to explore local SIM cards when traveling abroad. In this article, we will explore the SIM card options for your adventure in Vietnam. Let’s get into it.
Telecom Providers in Vietnam
Vietnam has four telecom providers: Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnamobile, and Mobifone. Viettel is the largest operator in terms of subscribers and network coverage. Vinaphone follows Viettel in terms of coverage but is on the third place based on subscriber numbers, closely following MobiFone.
Many travelers, especially those not staying in the major cities, have reported awful experiences with MobiFone, which is why I will not cover them in this article. This, however, does not mean they are bad (otherwise, they would not be the second-largest operator based on subscribers). It is just that those who want to buy a local SIM card tend to travel around the country instead of only the big cities, so MobiFone would not be relevant for them.
If you want to buy a SIM card and a data plan when in Vietnam, I would recommend getting one from Viettel or Vinaphone for most travelers. Both providers have significant coverage and offer high speeds for low prices.
Do note that you will need to content to a photo taken of you when you apply for your Vietnamese SIM card because of registration rules as of 2016.
Let’s check out the offering of Viettel, Vinaphone, and Vietnamobile.
Viettel is the biggest telecom operator in Vietnam with the most subscribers and the largest market share based on revenue. You can get a Viettel SIM card for 50000 Dong ($2.50) from an official Viettel store. I recommend going to a Viettel store in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City so that the store clerks can properly register your SIM card and set it up for you.
Below is the plan breakdown of Viettel:
- 4G/LTE coverage.
- DMAX Plan 1.5 GB costs 120,000 Dong ($5.30) with 30 days of coverage.
- DMAX 200 for 3 GB costs 200,000 Dong ($8.80) with 30 days of coverage.
- If you want to cancel your plan, text “HUY” then “Y” to 191. Otherwise, the program will auto-renew.
You can get 5 GB of data for 100,000 Dong ($5) that is valid for a month. Do note, however, that like MobiFone, the connectivity with Vinaphone is not that great when visiting remote places. You will get better connections with Vietnam. On the other hand, Vinaphone is cheap – it is a trade-off decision you will have to make.
Below is the plan breakdown of Vinaphone:
- The daily rate is about $0.50 per day.
- Nationwide 4G LTE.
- Costs 50,000 Dong ($2.50), or $2.50, for the SIM card fee.
- You can purchase 2 GB of data at 79,000 Dong ($4.50) with 30 days of coverage.
- You can purchase 6 GB of data at 199,999 Dong ($8.80) with 30 days of coverage.
- To cancel your plan, text “HUY” to 888, or the program will auto-renew.
Unlike Viettel, MobiFone, and Vinaphone, Vietnamobile is not state-owned. Vietnamobile is also smaller than the other three providers in terms of subscribers and revenue. However, this does not mean that they cannot offer good plans for travelers. Below I the plan breakdown of Vietnamobile:
- 4G/LTE coverage
- You can purchase top-ups in stores or online.
- To add data to your package, text “DK Package Code” to 345.
- If you want to cancel your data package, send “HUY Package Code” to 345.
- 5,000 Dong ($0.22 USD) for 4 GB for 1 Day.
- 90,000 Dong ($3.90 USD) for 4 GB per Day, up to 120 GB for one month.
- 10,000 Dong ($0.43 USD) for 1 GB for one month.
- 25,000 Dong ($1.08 USD) for 2 GB for one month.
- 40,000 Dong ($1.73 USD) for 4 GB for one month.
- 70,000 Dong ($3.03 USD) for 8 GB for one month.
- 90,000 Dong ($3.90 USD) for 12 GB for one month.
- 125,000 Dong ($5.41 USD) for 20 GB for one month.
- 200,000 Dong ($8.66 USD) for 40 GB for one month.
Other Connectivity Options When Traveling in Vietnam
Nowadays, we want to stay connected when traveling around the world. There is nothing wrong about that, but it can be challenging and expensive at times. You can, for example, roam with your carrier on Pay As You Go roaming rates, get a roaming plan (if they offer those), get an international SIM card, use a portable hot spot device (also known as pocket WIFI or MiFi), or use free WIFI networks. We will go through each option quickly before exploring the local SIM card options in Vietnam.
Roaming With Your Provider (Pay As You Go Roaming)
I spend a lot of time exploring the roaming options of providers all over the world – it is almost a never-ending exercise, but I enjoy doing it. What I, however, do not enjoy is discovering when carriers charge insanely high roaming fees. 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, such as 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!
Now, this does not mean that roaming should be avoided at all costs. In fact, some providers offer attractive Pay As You Go roaming rates. Unfortunately, the number of carriers that do have reasonable standard roaming rates are low, which is why I often discourage anyone from roaming on Pay As You Go roaming rates, especially when visiting multiple destinations.
Carriers often use roaming zones where the charges are the same for all destinations in this zone or group. However, this is not always the case and usually applies to roaming plans and packages, which makes roaming on standard roaming rates risky.
In general, I would discourage you from roaming on Pay As You Go roaming rates when visiting Vietnam. If you want to see what your carrier would charge you, check out my roaming with your provider articles with my analysis and verdicts.
Roaming With Your Provider (Roaming Plans and Packages)
Unlike standard roaming rates, which are all over the place, roaming with roaming plans or bundles is more predictable because you pay a fixed fee for the package instead of being charged per action (minute, SMS, or MB).
Some providers even allow you to roam for free in certain destinations, although some restrictions may apply, such as roaming on 2G speeds or a daily/monthly roaming allowance.
Others allow you to pay a daily fee so that you can use your plan’s allowance when abroad. For example, Fido, a Canadian telecom provider, gives you the option to use your plan’s allowance in over 160 destinations for 12 Canadian Dollars a day. This means that if you get 20 GB a month, you can use those 20 GB in eligible destinations as well, which is neat.
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.
International SIM Cards
So far, we have discussed using your own SIM card when abroad and local SIM cards of Vietnam. You can also consider purchasing an international SIM card. International SIM cards are, as the name suggests, SIM cards that can be used internationally. In most cases, you can use your own SIM card when abroad, but then you would have to deal with roaming charges – international SIM cards eliminate that.
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, Simcorner, and BNESIM. The way they work is that the company sets up agreements with local providers so that the international SIM card can work in the said country. Multiply this with the number of destinations where the SIM card can be used, and you have gotten yourself an international SIM card.
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.
Not interested in using SIM cards when abroad? No problem, you can use portable hotspots to stay connected. A portable hotspot, pocket WIFI, MIFI, or however you want to call it, 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 without the roaming costs.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Some are good, some are awful. Some are worth the money, while others are expensive. Two reputable MIFI 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.
The first time I got introduced to pocket WIFI was back in 2017 when I went to Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. The Airbnb host offered it for free, and we took advantage of it. It was convenient for both of us as both our providers did not offer free roaming in Thailand. I am personally a fan of local SIM cards because they are more convenient to me, but I will most likely start using portable hotspots when traveling for extended periods where I still want to work but not stay in my accommodation all day.
Using Free WIFI Connections
This is the most cost-effective option to stay connected when traveling – using free WIFI hotspots. This way, you do not have to worry about roaming charges or deal with the SIM card registration process when purchasing a SIM card from Viettel, Vinaphone, or Vietnamobile.
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, Vietnam does not prevalently use WIFI, meaning it may be a challenge to find a hotspot. Once you have found one, you may not be able to connect for some reason, you may have to enter your personal details that could be used for commercial purposes, or it is so slow that it is useless.
Do note, however, that 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 Vietnam
To get the most out of your money, I would recommend getting a local SIM card of either Viettel or Vinaphone. You should also check the roaming options your provider has for you, as they may have attractive roaming bundles for those visiting Vietnam. This way, you do not have to switch SIM cards, and people can reach you easily when they need to text or call you.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are interesting 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 Thailand. 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 Vietnam
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 Vietnam. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Vietnam drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Vietnam
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 Vietnam. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Vietnamese hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Vietnam
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 Vietnam, 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!