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It was a ritual every year. I’d turn my phone off at JFK International Airport and wouldn’t turn it back on again until I returned home from Thailand. I basked in the glory of being disconnected–even for just a few weeks. But this was long before smartphones and GPS and Expedia and Facebook.
But as the years went on, I felt the need to stay connected to family and friends more and more, especially since my trips to Thailand became longer and longer. So I did what most other expats I knew did, I went to MBK, bought a $25 Samsung cell phone, and then went to 7-11 and got myself a SIM card. And walaa! Just like that I was texting within Thailand and making calls back to the states.
A lot has changed since then. Expats can no longer walk into a 7-11 and buy a SIM card without registering themselves. But things have changed for the better as well. You can now unlock your smartphone, buy pre- and postpaid packages, and use all those travel apps you’re just itching to play with.
If you’re visiting Thailand for a short time as a tourist, the easiest solution is to just order a sim card in advance and pick it up at the airport when you arrive Thailand. It’s what I do for my parents when they come visit and given the price and convenience I have yet to find a better solution.
If on the other hand you’re staying long-term, want to replace your internet connection in your Bangkok apartment with a tethering setup or want to do an in-depth comparison of all the options, you’ll find all you need to know in the article below.
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- 1 Before You Buy a SIM Card
- 2 Popular Service Providers
- 3 Tourist SIM Cards
- 4 Long-Term SIM Cards
- 5 Roaming Packages
- 6 Buying a Thai SIM Card
- 7 WiFi
- 8 Checking Data Usage
- 9 Switching Providers
- 10 Getting Help
- 11 Deals and Promotions
- 12 Final Thoughts
Before You Buy a SIM Card
Before you buy a Thai SIM card make sure your phone is unlocked. You can have your carrier unlock your phone for you before you leave. Or you can go to one of the phone shops in MBK and they can do it for you. Or, you can do what I did and unlock it yourself.
Unlock Your Phone at Home
If you don’t have a monthly plan with your home cell phone service, you can ask them to unlock your phone before you move to Thailand. Every phone company has a different policy, so check with your provider.
- Verizon doesn’t lock their phones.
- T-Mobile is more strict with their unlocking policies.
- AT&T requests a bunch of information.
Unlock Your Phone in Thailand
If you can’t unlock your phone back home, then you might be able to unlock it in Thailand. You can go to MBK or Seacon Square or any other IT mall and head to the cell phone kiosks. Someone there may be able to help you.
Unlock Your Phone Online
If the above mentioned methods don’t work, look into an online service. Mobile Unlock claims they can unlock your phone from any provider. Doctor SIM also can unlock your phone, but there service is limited to United Kingdom and South America.
Popular Service Providers
AIS is well-known for it’s speedy internet service and strong signals. But that’s only the beginning for this communications giant. AIS also offers Play, a cable-like subscription in which you could watch movies and tv shows from your phone or tablet. They have Next G, which, at 1gbps is the fastest network in Southeast Asia. AIS has a weekly package called VIU Premium. This package lets you watch your favorite Korean drama tv series, if that’s your thing. And with online privacy always a concern, you can pick up AIS’s Private Message app and send encrypted messages. With the AIS Serenade membership, you can get discounts on food, hotels, and shopping.
Because certain parts of Thailand can’t yet support AIS’s speedy internet and mobile network, check their coverage map by entering your address before you pay for their higher tiered services.
DTAC stands out among other Thailand cell phone service providers because of its Go No Limit packages. Whether you have a prepaid or postpaid plan, you’ll get unlimited internet and free calls. You should also check out DTAC’s reward program in which you get discounts on dining and travel, among other things. DTAC also has Jai Dee service for prepaid users. If you’re a prepaid user and you’ve run out of minutes, you can get emergency access to calls and internet on loan.
To find out if DTAC covers your area, type your address into their coverage map.
TrueMove makes their mark by offering bundles. With these bundles you can get tv, internet, and cell phone service all for one price. And packages differ according to your demands. If you favor cell service over tv, you can allocate your data for better cell service. If you favor tv over cell service, you can allocate most of your data there. And likewise with the internet.
Although TrueMove doesn’t have a coverage map on their website, you could use OpenSignal to check TrueMove’s coverage area.
My by CAT
My is run by CAT, a government communications company in Thailand, and is one of the lesser known cell phone service providers among the expat and tourist community in Thailand. But they can compete with the three service providers mentioned above. For one, they have the cheapest internet package around. And they have competitive prepaid and postpaid packages. Their limitation, however, is their lack of physical locations around Thailand. Their offices are few and far between.
To see if My covers your area, enter your address into their coverage map.
Not all cell phone carriers deliver the same speed. SpeedTest.net holds a speed test competition every year. Since 2015, AIS won the award every year for fastest cell phone network, blowing away True Move, DTAC, and My. Here are the 2017 competition results.
Tourist SIM Cards
Below is a list of popular Thailand cell phone service providers and their tourist SIM card packages. Thailand’s tourist SIM cards let visitors do the same thing that residents of Thailand can do: browse the internet, check email and social media, send messages, stream videos, and yes, even make calls. The difference between tourist SIM cards and monthly SIM cards is that tourist SIM cards expire after thirty days.
Also, if you use your phone to make international calls, the calls will cost you 1 baht per minute. If you use your phone to make calls in the ASEAN community, the calls will cost you 1.5 baht to 3 baht per minute, depending on the country you’re calling.
Although you can buy the SIM cards mentioned by going to one of the phone shops, you can also buy them at the airport kiosks and 7-11.
There isn’t a main different between each provider at all when it comes to a tourist sim card. If you don’t want to wait a long queue buying it at the airport, do it in advance with Klook and grab it when you arrive. They also offer a pocket wifi rental service.
AIS Tourist SIM Cards
|Traveller 49||384 kbps||NA||15 baht/15 minutes||49 baht|
|Traveller 299||2.5gb||8 days||100 baht/100 minutes||299 baht|
|Traveller 599||6gb||15 days||100 baht/100 minutes||599 baht|
Check out AIS for more info about their tourist SIM cards.
DTAC Tourist SIM Cards
|Happy Tourist 49||NA||NA||NA||49 baht|
|Happy Tourist 199||500 mb||7 days||NA||199 baht|
|Happy Tourist 299||2.5gb||8 days||100 baht/100 minutes||299 baht|
|Happy Tourist 599||6gb||15 days||100 baht/100 minutes||599 baht|
Check out DTAC’s Happy Tourist SIM card options here.
TrueMove Tourist SIM Cards
|Tourist SIM 49||90mb||NA||20 baht/20 minutes||49 baht|
|Tourist SIM 299||2.5gb||8 days||100 baht/100 minutes||299 baht|
|Tourist SIM 599||8gb||15 days||50 baht/50 minutes||599 baht|
Check out TrueMove’s list of Tourist Sim cards.
AOT / Suvarnabhumi Airport SIM Cards
|Tourist SIM 299||1.5gb||7 days||100 baht/100 minutes||299 baht|
Check out the finer details of AOT’s tourist SIM card here.
You’ll have to provide your passport when buying a Thai SIM card. The Office of The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission now requires every tourist to register their SIM card. To do this, the SIM provider will take a photo of your passport and upload it to the NBTC database through a phone app.
You can have your Thai wife, husband, or Thai relative buy you a tourist SIM card, but they’ll have to present their national ID card.
Long-Term SIM Cards
Whether you get your long-term Thai SIM card through AIS, DTAC, TrueMove, or MY, prepaid and postpaid plans differ in quite a few ways. As the name says, you pay for prepaid packages before you use the allotted credit. So if you top up your phone with 50 baht, you get 50 baht worth of credit. Once you use all the credit, you’ll need to top up your SIM if you need to use your phone. But most service providers allow for emergency calls.
You pay for postpaid packages at a given price every month. If your package costs 400 baht and you get 400 minutes worth of credit, and you don’t use all the credit, you still pay 400 baht every month. If you go over your allotted credit, you’ll be charged additional fees.
Prepaid SIM cards and packages are perfect if you want to control how much your phone bill costs every month. And you won’t be tied to a one-year contract either. Although, they aren’t for everybody. If you use your phone when not connected to wifi for browsing the web, using GPS, or streaming music and video, this package isn’t for you. To get your prepaid SIM card, you can go to any service provider or 7-11. If 7-11 doesn’t have the package you’re looking for, you can always change the package once you buy the SIM. On the basic end of prepaid SIM cards, here’s what you can expect to get.
Prepaid SIM Packages by Service Provider
|AIS Internet + Call||64kps||1.1 satang/second||free with 50 baht top up||15 baht||50 baht|
|DTAC 55 Free-ver||3g||.55 baht/minute||1.99 baht/mb||100 baht||50 baht|
|TrueMove Super Fun||64kps||.90 baht/minute||1.50 baht/mb||100 baht||49 baht|
|My Super Khum||384kps||.50 baht/minute||.90 baht/mb||100 baht||399 baht/month|
Topping Up Data
If you need to top-up your SIM card in Thailand, you can do so at almost any 7–11 or Family Mart. Outside of convenience stores are Boonterm machines as well, which you can use to top up your SIM card. You can also use an ATM to top up your SIM. Or you can go to cell phone kiosks in the malls, Big-C, or Tesco. Going directly to your SIM card provider is an option as well. And if you don’t want to travel to the mall or store to do so, you can top up your phone online using your bank or the services below. If you choose to pay using a third party, you’ll probably be charged 15 baht to 30 baht.
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AIS gives customers the most options when topping up their cell phone online. Head over to the AIS top up page and see which option is best for you.
You can top-up your DTAC SIM card by going to this page on their website and filling in your cell phone number and payment details.
Topping up data for TrueMove takes seconds. You can go directly to True’s website and top up data on this page.
My by CAT
Topping up your SIM through My is easy. You can use any of the nineteen methods listed on their website.
Thai Sim Top Up
Thai Sim Top Up sells SIM cards for AIS, DTAC, and TrueMove. If you want to top up your SIM through their website, select how many minutes you’d like to add, type in the phone number associated with your Thai SIM card, and then enter your payment method. Thai Sim Top Up with top up your phone within minutes after purchase.
Switching From Prepaid to Postpaid
If at any time you want to switch from a prepaid package to a postpaid package, as long as you meet the requirements, you could do so. Check out the process below, or visit any of the service providers shops and talk to staff.
If you want to upgrade your AIS package at any time, or if you want to switch from a prepaid to postpaid plan, check out your upgrade options here. For upgrading your package, you can get up to 4,490 baht off select phones. When you’re ready to go through with the upgrade, grab your ID or passport and any relevant visas, and head to an AIS shop. AIS staff will convert your SIM on the spot. You could also dial 978, enter your ID or passport number, and then wait three days for AIS staff to make the upgrade.
To upgrade your DTAC prepaid plan to a postpaid plan, check out what deals are available to you. But since DTAC’s webpage on switching from pre- to postpaid hasn’t been updated since 2015, it’s better to talk to staff at any DTAC location.
TrueMove, like DTAC, falls short on making the switch from pre- to postpaid packages as simple as AIS does. So it you’re interested in upgrading your SIM, check out their postpaid packages and then talk to staff at one of the TrueMove branches near you.
My By Cat
To upgrade your prepaid My SIM to a postpaid SIM, visit any CAT shop and talk to staff about your upgrading options. You might want to check out their postpaid packages first, to get a good idea on what’s available.
Postpaid SIM cards and packages can be bought directly from one of the service providers mentioned in this article. The good thing about postpaid SIM packages is that you can pick your package right away and possibly get a discount on a one-year contract and phone. You can pay for your postpaid package every month online or have it deducted from your credit card. The only bad thing about postpaid packages is that if you go over your allotted credit, you have to pay fees.
The table below shows some popular mid-tier postpaid packages.
Postpaid SIM Packages by Service Provider
|AIS 4g Max Speed||4g||250 minutes||4gbs||599 baht|
|DTAC Go NO LIMIT||3g||unlimited DTAC to DTAC||unlimited||699 baht|
|TrueMove Unlimited||4g||300 minutes||unlimited||699 baht|
|My Smart Pack||3/4 g||450 minutes||11gbs||699 baht|
If you want a monthly plan in Thailand, you’ll need to have a work visa or work work permit and your passport. Alternatively, you can have your Thai wife, husband, or another Thai family member sign up to a monthly plan for you. But they must present their Thai national ID card.
Paying Your Bill
Paying bills in Thailand is quite easy. Your first choice is to pay your monthly bill at one of the service providers’ shops. If that’s not possible, you can pay through online banking, at 7-11’s and Family Marts, or ATMs and Boonterm machines. There is a fee for using any of the third party payment providers, so check with each one for rates. Fees are usually less than 30 baht though.
If you have a postpaid plan with AIS, DTAC, or TrueMove, and plan to travel outside of Thailand, it makes sense to get a roaming package. Compared to roaming fees, the price of roaming packages is relatively cheap. And the peace of mind you get knowing you won’t be hit with heavy roaming charges makes paying for a roaming package well worth it. The table below is an example of how much roaming packages cost for an eight to ten day trip around Asia.
Roaming Packages by Service Provider
|AIS Big Pack||10 days||10gb||1,990 baht|
|DTAC Non Stop||5 days||unlimited||1,400 baht|
|TrueMove Travel SIM Asia||8 days||4g||399 baht|
Because prices vary depending on travel destination, days, and usage needs, you can click on one of the links below to find out what your roaming package would cost.
Buying a Thai SIM Card
Whether you’re in Thailand or at home, you can buy Thai SIM cards. Your first choice is to buy the SIM card before you leave. If you want to buy a Thai SIM card online, check out the websites below.
You can buy a Thai SIM card online. But be forewarned. The price you’ll pay online is sometimes double the price you’ll pay by going directly through AIS, DTAC, or TrueMove. But if you want to buy a SIM before you leave your home country, check out SIM Easy and Sim Corner.
Your next choice would be to buy a SIM card as soon as you land in Thailand. AIS, DTAC, and TrueMove have kiosks at the airport. Just look for their logos.
If you’re in Thailand and wish to go directly to the cell phone service provider’s shop, you can do that as well. Except for My by Cat, the service providers mentioned in this article have shops in every major mall in Thailand. Where you’ll find TrueMove, you’re likely to find AIS and DTAC. And vice-versa.
If you’ve already left the airport and ventured into Thailand, you can still get a SIM card. Most 7–11’s and Family Marts sell SIM cards. And with over 10,000 combined locations and 24-7 access, it shouldn’t be a problem to find one. Most Big-C’s and Tescos have kiosks where you can buy SIM cards from independent sellers.
AIS, DTAC, and TrueMove offer public WiFi for a premium price. Each has it’s benefits and limits, so let’s take a look at each one in detail.
AIS offers public access throughout major department stores and malls in Thailand. For a listing of AIS wifi access areas, check their coverage area. You can get one hour of AIS wifi access for 9 baht. Or you can get up to one month of AIS wifi access for 99 baht. Take a look at all AIS wifi packages on their website.
DTAC also offers public access throughout major department stores and malls in Thailand. To see if your area has DTAC wifi coverage, check their coverage map. You can buy one hour of DTAC wifi for as little as 19 baht. Or you can buy one month of DTAC wifi access for 99 baht. Check out this listing of DTAC wifi packages.
TrueMove boasts the largest public WiFi access in all of Thailand. You can find their wifi coverage area using this map. They also have a variety of WiFi access packages. One day passes start at 50 baht and five months of access starts at 1,000 baht. For a complete list of TrueMove’s packages, check out their wifi packages page.
Checking Data Usage
Keeping up with your data usage is important. If you’re traveling through Thailand and won’t be able to top-up until you get to a city center, you’ll be out of luck if you’re left in the middle of nowhere with no minutes left on your SIM.
To check how much data you’ve used on your prepaid, tourist, or postpaid SIM, dial 12111# from your phone.
To check how much data you’ve used on your prepaid or tourist SIM, dial 10389# from your phone. To check how much data you’ve used on your postpaid SIM, call 12169#.
To check how much data you’ve used on your prepaid or tourist SIM, dial #123# from your phone. To check how much data you’ve used on your postpaid SIM, call *900#.
My by CAT
To check how much data you’ve used on your prepaid or postpaid SIM, dial 1652# from your phone.
Service providers hate losing customers. But what they love even more is gaining new customers. AIS, DTAC, TrueMove, and My all offer enticing promotions to get you to switch to their network. The info needed to switch from your current provider to a new provider are listed below. You’ll also find out how to switch from prepaid to postpaid packages.
Switch to AIS
You can switch to AIS and get yourself one of three deals. With their first promotion, you’ll get an AIS Lava 4g phone. With their second promotion, you’ll get 50% off your monthly bill for twelve months, plus one month free. And with their final promotion, you’ll get a select smartphone for 1,000 baht. You can also get other high end cell phones at a discounted price. To switch to AIS, or to check out their promotions, head over to their Switch to AIS page.
Switch to DTAC
If you want to switch to DTAC, you can get yourself one of three promotions as well. DTAC’s first promotion gets you 50% off your monthly package for twelve months. And you’ll get unlimited iflix streaming at a discounted rate for twelve months as well. With their second promotion, you can get up to 13,000 baht off of an iPhone or Samsung. And with their third promotion, you’ll get a free DTAC phone. To switch to DTAC, check out their latest promotions here.
Switch to TrueMove
TrueMove doesn’t offer new customers free or discounted phones when switching to their service. But they do have three promotional packages that get you up to 50% off the monthly cost. Check out those promotional packages here to decide of TrueMove is a good fit for you.
Switch to My by CAT
My doesn’t have any promotions for new customers looking to move to their network. So check out their packages page and see which plan best suits your needs.
If you need help with your Thai SIM card, here’s a list of ways to contact the carriers mentioned in this article.
AIS Contact Info
- Phone: +662–271–9000
- Call Center: 1175
- Line App: Line Messenger
- Facebook: AIS
- Twitter: @12Call_Fan
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
DTAC Contact Info
- Phone: +662–202–8686
- Call Center: 1678
- Facebook: DTAC
- Line App: Line Messenger
- Twitter: @dtac
- Email: email@example.com
TrueMove Contact Info
- Phone: +668–9100–1331
- Call Center: 1331
- Facebook: TrueMoveH
- Line App: Line Messenger
- Twitter: @truemoveh or @Mytruemove
- Contact Form: Contact Form
My by CAT Contact Info
Deals and Promotions
AIS regularly runs promotions for their TV, internet, and phone packages. Check out AIS’s packages section for more promotions.
If you buy a new iPhone through DTAC and sign up for a one-year contract, you’ll get a discount on the iPhone and the package price. Check out their Best Deal page for regular promotions.
TrueMove offers promotions similar to DTAC. If you sing up for a one-year contract, you can get a Samsung Galaxy at a discounted rate. Check out their Top Deals section on their front page for regular promotions.
My by CAT
My runs promotions regularly. You can visit their promotions page and take a look on the left sidebar for all available promotions.
This is an old trick, but it still works. If you call your service provider and tell them you want to cancel your package or switch to a new provider, they might offer you a discounted rate of up to 50% to stick with them.
Also, Queen Sririkit Convention Center has cell phone expos each year. Not only could you check out the latest in cell phone gadgetry, but you can get yourself up to 50% off cell phone packages.
Even though requirements have changed over the years, getting a Thai SIM card is still an easy and straightforward process. If you have an alternative way to get a Thai SIM card, or would like to share your experiences with any of the methods mentioned above, leave a comment.