Generally getting a SIM card abroad is a pretty easy process and can be done either in the airport or at the service providers store. The best option for travellers are the Pre-Paid plans. Now, you can obviously skip this and just stick to Wi-Fi, but you wouldn’t be here if that’s what you’re planning to do, right?
Rule 1 – Make sure your phone is unlocked
Before leaving your home country, you need to make sure your phone isn’t locked to your current provider. If you’re unsure, the easiest way to check is to get a different provider’s SIM or ask a friend if you can try theirs. If you can make a phone call with another SIM in your phone then you’re good to go, if not contact your provider about unlocking it.
Rule 2 – Research before you go
Find the package that you want before you go to the store/leave home and screenshot it. This helps save on communication issues and means you won’t be rushed into buying a package that later doesn’t fit your needs.
Do you need calls & texts or just data? We’ve found it useful on occasion to have at least some credit for calls but in general most accommodation providers will let you borrow the phone for local calls.
Rule 3 – Go to the SIM providers official store
Yes, you can go and buy your SIM from street vendors in many countries, but at what risk?
For example: In Vietnam, registering with your ID before November 2016 wasn’t enforced and since then the government has shut down over 12 million falsely registered SIM cards.
If you don’t buy from the provider directly, you risk having to take a trip to their store to register the SIM anyway, (not easy if you’re out in the countryside) or it being falsely registered under someone else’s ID and getting shut down after a few days.
Rule 4 – Take your passport when purchasing a SIM
Some places may accept your other forms of ID, but don’t rely on that being the case.
Rule 5 – Make sure it works!
If you have time on your hands, wait until you know your SIM works before leaving, or stay in the vicinity.
It generally doesn’t take that long for a SIM to be activated, we’ve had it be instantaneous or take up to 20 minutes. Chill out with a coffee nearby to save later hassle! (Learn from our mistakes!).
If after an hour, it isn’t working, go back and harass them until it is.
Rule 6 – Try a hard reboot
If your SIM is taking forever to activate, something that the majority of people seem to miss trying is a hard reboot. Try this before you storm back to the store to whoop some ass.
|Android||Hold the power and volume down button simultaneously till the phone reboots|
|iPhone 8 and above||Press volume up, volume down, then side button|
|iPhone 7/7+||Hold the power and volume down button simultaneously|
|iPhone 6S and below||Hold the power and home button simultaneously|
Rule 7 – There’s an App for that!
We download the SIM providers app for tracking our package usage straight away. If it’s possible, ask them to change the language to English, or have them show you how to find the information you are looking for (data usage etc…).
Language barriers can be a struggle in person, trying to use technology in a different language is a ball ache!
So far in our travels, Vietnam was the only place that we weren’t able to change the language settings. We still managed to use the app for tracking our usage and even topping up without issues.
Rule 8 – What’s my number?
Whether you write it down, take a picture or save it in your phone contacts, make sure you know what your number is before leaving.
Not every provider we used gave us the SIM packaging that had our number on. Luckily with a quick google of “what’s my number *INSERT PROVIDER NAME*” you should be able to find a USSD code that you can dial to retrieve your number.