Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia for a variety of reasons. I spent over a month visiting Thailand and one of the first things I did upon landing was buying a mobile sim card to travel the country with.
Thailand has a very high quality and fast mobile infrastructures that I’ve come to expect from most of SE Asia. The networks are robust, reliable, and very affordable. You can get 4G and even 5G speeds in Thailand that are upwards of 1 Gbps. Way more than anyone needs in my opinion but the options are there!
It’s not quite as cheap as the mobile providers in Georgia. That country still blows my mind on how cheap data is. Nevertheless, let’s get started with how to obtain your Thai sim card here!
Thailand Mobile SIM card providers
Thailand has three main mobile providers: Tue (Truemove), AIS, and DTAC. All of these providers are well represented in the main cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the main tourists islands. In fact, from the coverage maps, it seems that the providers cover most of the country from the jungle to the beach.
Here is a general breakdown of the three providers as I actually experimented with all of them (purely out of curiousity)
- TrueMove: Probably the fastest network in Thailand. This was recommended to me by all the locals as the mobile company to get.
- AIS: AIS has the most comprehensive network. However, unless you’re going deep into the jungle, you probably won’t require the extra coverage.
- DTAC: Another reliable and fantastic option in Thailand. Great speeds but not as fast as Truemove
Below you can see the mobile coverage maps for the various networks and just how good they actually cover the country.
Truemove Coverage Map
AIS Coverage Map
DTAC Coverage Map
As you can see, TrueMove and AIS have 5G coverage quite extensively throughout the country. DTAC is mostly on 4G+ which I think is more than sufficient for all of your needs.
Get your sim card at the airport
As part of Thailand’s big tourism push, the three major mobile providers offer a SIM card packages at the Airport. There is no difference between getting the SIM card at the airport versus getting them at the shops in town.
If you have some extra time when you land, I would definitely go to one of these stores at the airport to get it taken care of. Not only will you have service right away, but the people at the airport will probably speak better English. This was a bit of a problem when I got my SIM card in Bangkok as the person spoke little to no English (and this is in the Sukhamvit tourist area!
Do you need a sim card in Thailand?
Thailand is a very developed tourist hotspot. There is wifi readily available everywhere from the hotels, to cafes, to restaurants and the like.
However, I think when you are in a place like Bangkok, a lot of the places you’ll visit will not have any service because they are just street vendors! I found myself without wifi in many circumstances and I had to walk around to either a Starbucks or a Western style restaurant to get service. This was super annoying as all I wanted to was just call a Grab taxi back to my hotel!
If you are traveling all around the country, I’d definitely recommend a SIM card especially given how cheap they are in Thailand. If you’re just staying at a beach in Phuket or Koh Samui without much intention of traveling around, then you are probably fine just going from wifi network to wifi network.
Another fantastic reason to get a SIM card is the ability to make WIFI hotspots when you are traveling in areas with limited wifi. For those planning to do the digital nomad thing in Thailand which has become very popular, wifi is questionable when you get into more remote areas.
You’ll want to get an unlimited plan from the providers which can be much more costly however.
How much does mobile data cost in Thailand?
I’ll just preface this section by saying, not much. Mobile service is very affordable in Thailand albeit not crazy cheap. I’m not sure where it ranks among the cheapest data options in the world but it has to be up there.
Each provider has different mobile packages to choose from but you’ll find that all of them are affordable. You can easily get two weeks of unlimited data for about $10-15 and you can spend much less if you don’t want unlimited.
Prepaid vs Postpaid mobile packages in Thailand
I was confused about the difference between prepaid and postpaid for Thai mobile providers as all of them use this verbiage.
Prepaid is essentially what you’ll want as a tourist. This means you are prepaying the data/voice before use.
Postpaid is only for Thai citizens or residents. Postpaid just means you are paying for your usage at the end of the billing cycle. You will typically see better prices for postpaid packages since you generally have to sign up for a longer time period. However, if you’re a tourist visiting Thailand for a few weeks to a few months, prepaid is where you’ll be focusing your efforts.
As of writing this in 2021, these are examples of current prices on offer:
Truemove’s website is incredibly confusing when it comes to packages and prices. There is just too much choice in how you can customize your plan.
Here is the price chart of AIS.
As you can see, these are just prices for the tourist sim card which I guess is just supposed to get you easy choices and prices laid out simply.
Finally, DTAC also has competitive prices:
The prices for the tourist SIM is quite similar to those provided by AIS.
What about calling minutes?
It’s unlikely you’ll be making many normal phone calls in Thailand. However, I wanted to have a few minutes available just incase I needed to call a hotel or a restaurant while traveling around Thailand.
I ended up just loading my account with “credit” which is just an amount of Thai Baht. Each minute for calling is 1.5 THB. I only loaded 50 THB because I didn’t feel like I would be calling many people besides maybe restaurants to make reservations.
Which package should I buy?
For those that don’t want to do much research, you’ve come to the right place. You might be tempted to just buy the tourist SIM packages because they are already quite cheap and reasonable.
However, it’s unlikely you’ll need unlimited calls and texting and it’s more likely you’ll just need data.
With prepaid sims, you can simply just buy data based on how much you’re using. If you know you’re a data consuming freak, then just go for an unlimited package but these will be quite pricey. If you know you’re not going to watch Netflix on the beach, then a fixed data allotment will be more than enough.
For example, I figured I could get by on 8 GB of data over two weeks so I purchased the data only 8GB for 120 THB. This is 1/3 the price of the tourist SIM package.
Speeds of Mobile Data in Thailand
I had TrueMove in Thailand and the speeds were damn fast. I had trouble getting the 5G working on my phone but I turned off the 5G feature and decided to just use 4G+. In addition, I only bought 8GB of data for 15 days so it’s not like I would have taken advantage of my 5G anyhow given how fast I would have used it.
I used the speedtest app for both sim cards and this is what I got:
Truemove mobile speeds
228 Mbps Download | 41 Mbps Upload
If you’re worried about working in Thailand and not having good enough internet, calm yourself down now because you will be well taken care of.
How to get a SIM Card from Truemove
So now that you know all there is to know about Thai SIM cards, it’s time to go and get one. The process for obtaining a sim card is straight forward. I was recommended Truemove from others so this is the first sim card I got and also the one I would recommend you get as well.
Getting sim cards at the 7/11
My hotel told me I could just buy a SIM card at the 7/11 down the street. Don’t worry, there are literally thousands of 7/11s in Thailand so you’ll never be too far. When I went to the store, the clerk pulled out a stack of different sim cards. Sadly, she spoke no English and I just couldn’t get the message across or completed without some sort of guidance.
However, after talking to other travelers, apparently the process is quite easy to just buy one of these SIM packs and completely DIY. So don’t be scared off from doing this on your own!
Go to the Truemove store
There are a ton of mobile stores in places like Bangkok. As this was my first stop in Thailand, I went into the Truemove store near my hotel in Sukhamvit.
I went up to the clerk and just told her I wanted a SIM card with data only. She spoke little English so I couldn’t really ask her questions to understand my options. She just pulled out a list of prices on her phone with the different options. I opted for the 8 GB of data for 15 days which I figured would be enough for my needs.
The whole process was long and tedious however. She took forever to activate my SIM and get it set up. I’m not sure what she was doing that it took that long to be honest. It almost felt like she had never activated a sim card before and was just winging it. It should be an easy process but it took almost 1h to get my card!
Hopefully you’ll have better experiences.
What you need to bring with you
Here are the things you’ll need to provide in order to buy a mobile SIM Card in Georgia:
- Passport: First and foremost, you’ll need your passport. This has to be your physical passport as a digital copy on my phone didn’t cut it (I forgot to bring my passport)
- Card or cash for payment (Visa/Mastercard only). I had to use cash for buying the actual data but could use my credit card to pay for the sim card itself.
How much did I pay for mobile service in Thailand?
In total, I paid data only in two week intervals for about 1 month of traveling through the country.
- SIM card = 49 THB
- 30 minutes of calling over 30 days = 50 THB
- 8 GB of data over two weeks = 120 THB * 2 = 240 THB
- Total = 49+50+240= 339 THB (~$10)
So as you can see, I paid very little for a prepaid plan. For 16 GB at these crazy speeds for $10 is quite a good deal. I had service with Truemove all over Thailand from the mountains in the north to the islands in the south.
Topping up your account with the Truemove app
Download the Truemove app once you get your account activated. You can register an account with your new phone number and your account will be ready to go.
You can reload credit for making calls or purchase new data plans. When my plan expired after two weeks of use, I simply added my credit card and purchased another two weeks of the same data allotment. Was very easy and straight forward. Thankfully, I never had to visit the store again.
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