Getting a SIM Card in Vietnam: Viettel vs Vinaphone vs Mobifone

Best SIM Card Providers in Vietnam

There are three main SIM card providers in Vietnam, which are Viettel, Vinaphone and Mobifone. There’s also a fourth provider called Vietnamobile, but I personally wouldn’t recommend them at this point in time as their coverage isn’t quite up to scratch outside of major cities.

Here’s a quick summary:

ViettelVinaphoneMobifone
Best coverageGreat coverageGood coverage
Fast speedsFast speedsFast speeds
Very cheapVery cheapVery cheap
Roaming in Laos/CambodiaNo free roamingNo free roaming

The short version summary is that Viettel and Vinaphone are about the same in terms of coverage and speeds, but Viettel takes the edge in terms of rural areas. These two providers are what I’d suggest you stick with. Mobifone has patchy coverage in rural areas, and Vietnamobile’s mobile internet is unusable if you leave major city centres.

Viettel

Viettel is the market leader in Vietnam, owned and operated by the Ministry of Defence. This also the network of choice for the Vietnamese Army, which is a great endorsement for anyone thinking of getting a SIM card in Vietnam. If you plan to travel around the country, this should be your first choice.

Pros:

  • Best coverage in Vietnam (3G/4G/LTE)
  • Best regional coverage in rural areas
  • Free roaming in Laos and Cambodia
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Not much

Viettel has the best 3G coverage in Vietnam, even in extremely rural areas. To top it off, they’ve covered 95% of the country with 4G/LTE towers – making it the market leader in terms of both customer share and coverage.

Vinaphone

Vinaphone is also government-operated, this time by the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group. They’re the second largest carrier and the local partner of Vodafone in Vietnam, holding 30% market share of the country. While Viettel still has the edge, Vinaphone has good network coverage and speeds across most of Vietnam.

Pros:

  • Great coverage in Vietnam (3G/4G/LTE)
  • Great regional coverage in rural areas
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • No free roaming

If you can’t find a Viettel store, Vinaphone is a reasonably good second choice.

Mobifone

Mobifone holds around 20% market share of the country and is currently in the process of becoming privatised, which may mean improvements in the future. It was possible to roam onto the Vinaphone networks up until early-2018, but this appears to have been shut down. This makes Mobifone the third-place provider in Vietnam with somewhat patchy coverage across regional areas.

Pros:

  • Good coverage in Vietnam (3G)
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • 4G/LTE network needs some work
  • Patchy regional coverage
  • No free roaming

Note: if you’re staying in Vietnam for a shorter period of time (less than a week or two), special tourist SIM packages are available. I personally think the regular packages are still better value, but be sure to ask if you’d like to get more details.

How to Buy a SIM Card in Vietnam

As of November 2016, the Vietnamese government started enforcing registration rules for SIM cards more seriously, which resulted in tens of millions of numbers being deactivated.

This means that any SIM cards that the airport vendors and corner stores might sell are at risk of being deactivated a few days after you’ve handed over your money. The only people who can legally register a SIM card to your name are the official company stores operated by Viettel, Vinaphone, Mobifone, and so on.

Also see: Best Dual SIM Android Phone for Work & Travel

That being said, a large number of people that I know that are living in Vietnam have not had an issue with their number being deactivated, so it’s up to you whether you want to take the risk of buying a SIM card off the first person you see.

Getting a SIM Card in Vietnam

To find an official company store, simply head to Google Maps and type in the provider of your choice.

Once you’ve found a store that’s close by to your location, make sure you’ve packed your passport before heading over, as this is a requirement for the registration process.

My experience has been that all shop assistants are very helpful and speak English quite well, regardless of where you are – so you shouldn’t have any major issues with asking questions about which SIM card package to get.

The monthly SIM cards typically offer far better value and more data, especially when compared to the “tourist” packages. Be sure to ask questions if you’re not sure what you’re getting into.

Once you have your SIM card, all you need to do is open up the SIM card slot (usually located on the side or under the battery) and pop in the new one.

How Much Are SIM Cards in Vietnam?

Since Vietnam’s networks are typically owned and operated by the government, there’s very little price competition between the three major carriers. Since this is the case, I’d suggest going with Viettel as they have the best coverage and speeds. Vietnamobile is cheaper option, but I wouldn’t recommend it as you’re seriously sacrificing quality – and SIM cards in Vietnam are very cheap to begin with.

So, how cheap is cheap?

At the time of this article, Viettel’s 5GB data plan with 4G/LTE costs 125,000 VND. That’s about US$5-7. The same 5GB with 3G only costs the equivalent US$3.

The SIM card itself sometimes have a fee too, usually to the equivalent of a dollar or two. This means you get 5GB of 4G/LTE data per month for under 10 dollars.

So – very cheap.

How to Top Up on Phone Credit

To get more data credit (or to get phone calls as well), simply head into a company store. Some kiosks and corner stores might be able to help you out as well, but I prefer going to an official store to get mine directly from the company.

If you buy a top-up off the street, they’ll give you a receipt with instructions on how to recharge your SIM card – in Vietnamese, of course. But if you ask, most sales assistants should be happy to do it for you.

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