SIM cards are getting easier to obtain all around the world, but few make it as easy as tech-savvy Thailand.
It’s a country of beautiful beaches, amazing food and stunning landscapes, bringing in millions of tourists every year. And the fact is that almost all of these visitors experience some sort of scam during their time there – whether it’s getting ripped off at the markets, the infamous tuk-tuk tours, or simply getting a local SIM card. It’s all part of the experience!
Having the right information is the best strategy to stay on top of the hilarious, organised chaos that Thailand has to offer, so today, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about getting a SIM card in Thailand.
SIM Card Providers in Thailand
There are three main companies in Thailand, and who you choose depends on what you’re planning to do, where you’re planning to go, and for how long. These three companies are AIS, Dtac and TrueMove.
Here’s a quick summary:
|Best coverage||Great coverage||Good coverage|
|Slowest speeds||Fast speeds||Fastest speeds|
|Reasonably priced||Most expensive||Least expensive|
|Free* wifi hotspots||Paid wifi hotspots||Free wifi hotspots|
*only on the more expensive packages
I’ve tried all three networks for the purposes of this article, and my personal preference is TrueMove – but read on to see what suits you best.
AIS is the largest company in Thailand with the biggest market share of customers. In terms of pricing, they’re in the middle ground between Dtac and TrueMove, but their 4G/LTE networks are almost non-existent and the speeds aren’t that great. Still, they have the best coverage across the entire country, so if you’re planning to leave the main tourist areas, AIS is a good choice.
- Great coverage
- Reasonably priced
- Free hotspots on the more expensive packages
- No 4G/LTE
- Relatively slow speeds (3G)
- No free hotspots on the cheaper packages
Dtac is a good balance between great coverage and network speeds, and is the network choice for many tech-savvy travellers. However, they’re also the most expensive – the 299 Baht package that gets you 4GB on TrueMove gets you 2.5GB on Dtac. Their hotspots also aren’t free, even if you’re a paying customer. But if you can afford it, Dtac is a great choice that has the best of both coverage and network speeds.
- Great coverage
- Fast network speeds (4G/LTE and 3G)
- Most expensive of the three networks
- No free wifi hotspots (but still quite cheap)
TrueMove is the cheapest network in Thailand, has the fastest 4G/LTE and 3G, and has thousands of free wifi hotspots all around the big cities. In Bangkok, it’s almost impossible to find somewhere without a hotspot – in fact, the first draft of this article was written using a TrueMove hotspot. The downside of TrueMove is the coverage: it’s not as comprehensive as Dtac, and definitely not as good as AIS – but you’ll have no problems if you’re heading to popular destinations such as Chiang Mai and even Pai.
- Fastest network speeds (4G/LTE and 3G)
- Free wifi hotspots for all packages
- Cheapest network in Thailand
- Coverage could be better in rural areas
Note: if you’re staying in Thailand for less than seven (7) days, all three networks have special tourist packages for around 299 Baht for 1-1.5GB data. These can be found at the airports, convenience stores, branded company stores and most resellers.
Getting a SIM Card in Thailand
If you’re flying into Thailand, the easiest way to get a SIM card is the pick one up at the airport. The only problem is that some of these stores only carry the tourist packages and not the month-long SIM cards. If that’s the case, I’d generally recommend holding off until you reach the city.
Getting a SIM card is a simple process, and the shop you buy it from should be able to set up everything for you. Most shops will have sales staff that speak great English, and they should be able to guide you from start to finish.
All you need to bring are the following:
- Your passport
- 49 Baht for the SIM card
- Your choice of data package
The monthly SIM cards offer far better value and more data, so if you’re staying for longer than a week, your best bet is to find a branded company store. Keep an eye out for a big logo and (often) bright company colours with dozens of staff walking around inside.
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.
A problem that you might encounter is a sales staff member telling you that the SIM card you want is “out of stock”. Other stores might even try to tell you that 7-day SIMs are the only option for tourists – this is simply not true.
If you run into this issue, simply try another store and ask for “one month SIM card with data” until someone can help you out. I found it rather odd that so many stores didn’t have SIM cards (which is their main product, after all) – but this is just one of many strange things that you’ll encounter during your time in Thailand.
How Much Are SIM Cards in Thailand?
The SIM card itself is 49 Baht, but the more confusing part is figuring out which data package to get. Data packages typically range from 199 to 599 Baht, though there are some more expensive options as well.
I generally recommend the 399 Baht option, which should be more than enough data to get you through a month.
This will get you:
- AIS: 3GB
- Dtac: 2.5GB
- TrueMove: 4GB
Once you have a SIM card, make sure you hang onto it until your next visit to Thailand to avoid paying the 49 Baht SIM card fee again.
How Do Wifi Hotspots Work in Thailand?
The sales staff that’s helping you set up your SIM card should be able to give you more specific information, but getting yourself set up with wifi hotspots around the city is a simple process. Keep in mind that hotspots for AIS customers are limited to the most expensive packages (from memory, 499 Baht and above), while hotspots are totally free for all TrueMove customers.
If you’re planning to get some work done, TrueMove is probably your best bet. A lot of digital nomads that spend a lot of time in Thailand vouch for TrueMove for this reason (and so do I). In city hubs, it’s difficult to find a place that doesn’t have the “.@ TRUEWIFI” hotspot name on your list of available wifi connections.
Using one of the hotspots on TrueMove is as simple as checking your text messages for an automatically generated 4-digit passcode, and using this with your phone number after connecting to the network. Within seconds, you’ll stop using data and start using TrueMove’s wifi hotspot – completely free of charge.
How to Top Up on Phone Credit
To get more data credit (or to get phone calls as well), simply go to your network’s company store and ask for your options. Some convenience stores and resellers should also be able to help you out, but I personally prefer going to an official store to get my information straight from the source.