Getting A SIM Card in Thailand 2024 (No Affiliate, No Bull Guide)

So you need to buy a sim card in Thailand for 2024? After googling this and looking at the top results littered with terrible choices for travelers that make them pay more for an affiliate commission we knew we had to share this. So, do you want the real, no bullsh*t guide that’s going to save you money AND give you more data + more days for that money? If so, read on, and we’ll share everything you need to know.

Why should you trust us? We’ve taken a trip to Thailand 3-4 times now and each time this saves us $15/month just following this technique.

We’d love to hear your input! We are actively updating this guide with new information from travelers. If you’d like to be a part in helping other travelers get the most helpful information, share your story below in a comment. We’ll be looking and adding! And if you have anything you’d like to promote we’ll do that too!

  • Update 24/01/24 (BKK time) – arrived in Thailand, and couldn’t find 1-month plan in 7/11, but you can get 7-day plan, then add data once it runs out for the same 300 baht for unlimited 1-month usage!
  • Update 07/04/24 – How to top up section added

Getting A SIM Card in Thailand (Quick Didn’t Read Guide)

Here’s how to get a SIM in Thailand:

  • Don’t get a SIM Card at the Airport unless you really need or really want the convenience
  • Get a Taxi or a Grab (using the Airport WiFi) to your accommodation
  • Ask where the nearest 7/11 or phone shop is, (7/11 should be one within walking distance, phone shop at any mall)
  • Take your passport and phone with you
  • At 7/11 ask for a True SIM Card 30-day/ 1-month (you can also get 7-day for 49baht, then top up later on) OR, at a branded phone shop (AIS or True) purchase an SIM card, then plan using the app
  • You will pay around 200-300 baht for this, but it depends on the package you choose.
  • The store clerk with activate it for you.

The airport will charge 300+ baht for 8 days of data and more for 15 days. Additionally, it won’t be unlimited. For the same price (or lower) you can get an entire month, with unlimited data, calls, and texts.

Here are the latest prices for SIM cards directly purchased from the airport:

Something to note: some people online have reported that convenience stores like 7/11 will not be able to help you set up SIM Cards. This has not been our experience at all. Every time we have been to Thailand, the 7/11 employee has helped us set up our SIM Card and made sure it was working before we left the shop. If not, we just put the SIM in the phone, and it worked right away!

Remember to bring your passport! They need it to activate your local SIM Card!

@wehatethecold The language barrier was real ???? #travel #thailand #tourists ♬ Run Boy Run – Woodkid

Language barrier exchange trying to get a SIM in 7/11

Which is The Best Thailand SIM Card?

Either get an AIS SIM card from a branded phone shop outside of the airport or go to 7/11 and get a True SIM card with 30 days of unlimited data. AIS is the better SIM card of the two, but True Move is the most convenient since you can get it from any 7/11, whereas with AIS you will have to head to a mall/shopping centre to find a phone shop.

If you get the AIS SIM:

  • DON’T purchase a prepay plan, get the SIM only for 49 baht.
  • Then download “My AIS” from the app store
  • Click “change main package”
  • Choose your package
  • You can also just get an already set up prepaid package at the store, but it’s a little bit more expensive and offers lower data speeds.

You can get unlimited internet in Thailand, free calls, and texts at 319.93 baht per month on AIS (weird prices in the app, will not sign you up for a monthly contract).
That is a huge saving from the airport scam.

If you get the 7/11 SIM:

  • Don’t get a SIM Card at the Airport
  • Get a Taxi or a grab (using the Airport WiFi) to your accommodation
  • Ask where the nearest 7/11 or phone shop is, (7/11 should be one within walking distance, phone shop at any mall)
  • Take your passport and phone with you
  • At 7/11 ask for a True SIM Card 30-day/ 1-month (you can also get 7-day for 49baht, then top up later on). OR, at the phone shop purchase an AIS SIM plan
  • You will pay 200-300 baht for this.
  • The store clerk with activate it for you.

What You Shouldn’t Do – Don’t Get A Sim At The Airport

SIM cards at the airport have been designed for tourists to extract extra money from them. They give you less data, cost more, and give you a smaller plan time. One of my friends fell for this and paid 1000 baht for a 30-day plan at one of these kiosks in Phuket. If you just go 5km out of the airport to a 7/11 or phone shop you can get 30 days for 200-300 baht.

Screenshot of my grab booking using the BKK WiFi to book (first time in Thailand)

In most of South East Asia, there are very few scammers, which is why we suggest it’s safe to go data-free until you reach your hotel/destination. In other parts of the world where there are elaborate scams on arrival (India), we’d recommend just getting a SIM on arrival to avoid falling for this by using your phone connection to check real prices and real information.

But What If I Need Data To Get Out of The Airport?

All airports you will fly into in Thailand provide free WiFi. You can use this WiFi to book a Grab or a Bolt directly to the airport and the accommodation you booked prior to landing. Once you get there, you can ask the hotel staff to direct you to a 7/11 or phone shop (there is one on every corner in Thailand), then grab yourself a sim card there. You could also get a low data plan E-SIM to book a grab. We recommend Nomad or SimOptions.

If you can’t get a Grab/Bolt on the WiFi, go to the taxi stand and get them to take you to your hotel. You will still pay less for the metered taxi than paying for a sim at the airport.

If you’re in a situation where you really need to pick up a SIM card at the airport, go for True or AIS. These are the most used providers and offer the best speeds and coverage. Throughout our whole trip we used all AIS, True and DTAC. AIS and True were much faster and more reliable than DTAC.

Ok, But I Want A SIM From The Airport For Convenience – How Do I Get it?

When you arrive at the international airport, just before immigration, there will be several AIS stands. You can get a SIM card from here, but you need to have withdrawn Thai baht beforehand. If you don’t have Thai baht (and if you do), it’s best to head to immigration, pass through, then withdraw from the cash machines located in the baggage collection area and purchase a SIM. You will also find SIM Card stands here.

The prices do not vary between the SIM card stands before immigration and after. However, you can only get AIS before immigration. This is not an issue because AIS is really the SIM you want if you’re traveling around Thailand as it has the best speeds and best coverage in Thailand. However, it is the most expensive option of the three available at the airport.

Where Are The SIM Card Stands Located?

There are 3 areas where you can buy a prepaid SIM card in the international airport (BKK):

  • Before immigration after you’ve passed the final moving walkway
  • After immigration in the baggage area (best location)
  • After baggage collection in the arrivals area

Before Immigration

There are 3-4 AIS stands before immigration as you pass the final moving walkways. There are only AIS stands here, so you won’t be able to get DTAC or True which is not a problem because AIS is the fastest and has the greatest coverage. However, it is the most expensive. And, if you’re not going off the beaten path both True and DTAC are fine. True being the better of those two.

It’s best to head to immigration first, get through, and then purchase a buy a Thailand SIM plan here. There are more options on the other side, and you’ll have your tourist visa. Additionally, if you don’t have cash there are ATM machines here and SIM stands only accept cash.

If you want to get a SIM before immigration, don’t stop at the first AIS stand.

There are many more on the walk to immigration, and these are far less crowded than the one located to the right of the last moving walkway. As you’ll see below at the final moving walkway (pictured left and taken facing backward), there is an AIS stand to the right (pictured right and taken facing forward).

Many tourists will crowd here to get a SIM here. Don’t. You’ll waste your time waiting in a huge queue for no reason. Just push on forward and there are several more AIS SIM stands before immigration.

Top tip: the least crowded stand is about 50m ahead of the one pictured above, located by the tourist information stand, just beyond the “visa on arrival” sign, just before the “baggage claim sign” and near the 2nd Kingpower Duty-Free shop.

You will avoid the queues this way and get through immigration quickly.

Look for places in the images below.

After Immigration Baggage Area

Here you will find all stands, DTAC, True, and AIS. You will also find cash machines here where you can withdraw baht for a 220 baht fee. If you haven’t withdrawn baht before arriving in Thailand, you should wait to arrive here before you purchase a SIM as all stands only accept Thai baht in cash.

At both baggage area “18” and “22” you will find cash machines. You will find 4 cash machines by baggage area “22”, so if the others are taken at “18”, head here to withdraw some money. After you’ve done that, you will find all SIM card stands (DTAC, AIS and True) scattered around and in between baggage areas “18” and “22”.

We’ve left pictures of all of this below.

After Baggage Collection and Exit

After you’ve collected your bags, head forward to the exit. Here you will find all SIM Card providers again – DTAC, AIS, and True have stands in a line pretty much directly in front of you as you walk out of the final exit and customs declaration bit.

After this point, the next stand you will find is just before the airport rail link. As you’ve guessed this is the best way to get out of the airport. Even if you’re going to get off one stop ahead, Grab and Taxi prices will be much cheaper than they are from the airport.

How Much Do They Cost?

All prices for tourist SIM cards in Thailand are below in a picture. You can click the pictures to enlarge them.

The best value for money is the AIS or True plans. AIS has the best coverage and speeds.

Should I Buy A SIM Card Before I Fly To Thailand – What Are My Options?

If you want to get a sim before entering Thailand, you have two options:

  • Pre-paid SIMs – can be ordered online and sent to your door
  • E-SIMs – any iPhone newer than 2018, and any Samsung or Google Pixel newer than 2020 can use

These are a very similar price to what you’ll find at the Airport and offer tourism packages, so if you’re looking to shoestring budget it, we’d personally avoid all pre-paid and E-SIMs.

There is the advantage with E-SIMs that you don’t have to remove your original SIM, reducing the risk of losing your current one, but personally, I don’t think it’s worth the cost, just chuck your SIM in a place where you won’t touch and where you know it is safely waiting for you when you arrive home. Electronics cases are good for this.

Should I Get An E-Sim? | Thailand eSIM

The main providers for E-SIMs in Thailand are:

The two cheapest and best options for an E-SIM are Nomad and SimOptions. We’ll explain why in the next few paragraphs.

Nomad is specifically the best for travellers, because if you are on a long trip, you can purchase either a SEA or an APC package (APAC is better), and use your plan across the listed countries that it covers. This is why APAC is better because it covers Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam etc. SEA doesn’t cover Laos, Myanmar, or Cambodia even though they are SEA countries.

It is also the cheapest for a 30-day plan, with the highest data usage.

Nomad

Nomad not only does APAC plans (which you can use in Thailand & 22 countries across Asia), but they also do Thailand-specific plans. They are the cheapest out of the lot, and if you go for the Thailand-specific plans, they also offer you the possibility to use DTAC or AIS. None of the other E-SIM providers offer this yet and, as you know, AIS is the fastest network in Thailand, with the most coverage.

We would personally recommend getting the APAC plan if you are on a long-term trip around Asia. This saves you having to change your SIM card over in each country and paying for plans, getting set up, getting SIM cards, and keeps you connected 100% of your trip.

APAC covers 22 countries including:

  • Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore
  • China, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea
  • India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh

SimOptions

SimOptions is the next best choice simply because of the larger range of available plans, which cost around the same price as their competitors. Unfortunately, they only provide DTAC, but so does every E-Sim provider apart from Nomad.

What’s The Benefit of An E-SIM?

An E-SIM is a virtual SIM card, which allows you to keep your current card in your phone. Therefore, you won’t lose it, and you’ll additionally be able to get verification texts for logins like, PayPal, Mobile Banking etc.

This is extremely useful because changing from your travel SIM to your old SIM every time you need to get into your accounts with 2FA is very annoying and often you forget your home SIM when out and about. If you’re staying a while, and working while you’re on holiday (or a digital nomad), this option is very useful. However, if you’re long term staying in the country, it’s best to get a SIM from a phone shop, then use a cheap spare phone for verification texts.

Buy A Prepaid SIM Card in Thailand

You can additionally get a Prepaid sim card for Thailand from Sim Options or your home country. These are generally quite expensive and we would personally advise against doing this. Another option is going into your contract store and seeing if they offer any data roaming bolt-ons for travelling. This way you can keep your current SIM and just travel without having to worry about anything else.

Which Network Has The Best SIM for 2024? | AIS, DTAC, or True

The best SIM providers in Thailand (in order):

  • AIS – fastest most reliable. Best for travelers going off-beaten path more
  • True – fast speeds, but coverage is not as good as AIS.
  • DTAC – limited to 4g speeds, coverage not as good as others

After using both True and AIS in Thailand, we can say that AIS wins the trophy for fastest speeds and best coverage. Little to no coverage drop-off happened using an AIS SIM. We haven’t personally used DTAC, but from asking Thai friends about SIM cards and connection, they all say the same thing. AIS is best, True is 2nd and DTAC is the worst, but you will be fine on all three if you are in the city.

Now a recent report from Opensignal, has found that DTC, True, and AIS all now have the same coverage across Thailand, finally de-throning AIS’ massive hold on the market in that respect. However, whether this is actually true in practice is up for discussion, and in fact, many still report that DTAC is not great for speed, or coverage compared to True and AIS.

AIS

AIS is by far the best network, it has the most coverage around Thailand and provides the fastest speeds. Unfortunately, you can only get AIS at the Airport, or at a designated phone shop. These are pretty easy to find and you’ll find an AIS shop in pretty much every mall in Thailand.

If you go there, they have a full list of the options you can purchase and they’ll have a shop assistant help you set it up.

Below is the coverage of AIS in Thailand:

Here’s a map of the coverage you’ll get with AIS

Below I’ve left some speed tests of AIS conducted in the outskirts of Bangkok beyone the BTS links. These are phone and hotspot tests:

True

True has similar speeds to AIS, but a little less coverage. If you are going to extremely rural areas your connection might drop. However, we experienced almost 100% coverage during our travel to Thailand and journeyed to rural villages in Khon Kaen, as well as through the mountainous regions in Yala. The only time it dropped was in the mountainous regions.

We even experienced a very slow connection, just across the border in Laos at Huay Xai.

Here’s a map of where we went while visiting Thailand and where we tested the signal (the blue is great coverage, the yellow is some difficult areas, the orange is bad)

True is also great because you can get it at any 7/11, and if you’ve been to Thailand you will know that there is a 7/11 on every corner, sometimes across the street from each other. You can go in, ask for a SIM, and, when it’s not busy, the shop attendant will help you set it up.

Below is the coverage of True in Thailand:

When testing True speeds on LTE on my iPhone XS Max in Bangkok, here are the speed that I got. Pretty quick speeds for a mobile data connection. Although you’re not going to be downloading anything too quickly on this, I didn’t think this was too bad. Especially considering the pocket WiFi devices you can rent in Bangkok do much worse.

phone hotspot pocket wifi speed test
This was True on a computer hotspot

DTAC

DTAC has slower speeds and less coverage. A recent report shows that currently, all three networks are neck for neck in coverage and speed. However, the actual, daily experience is much different. If you are going out of the city, going to the Islands, going to rural areas, don’t get DTAC. It is the cheapest option for tourism SIMs, so make use of it if you’re going to urban areas.

We haven’t personally used DTAC, but from asking Thai friends about SIM cards and connection, they all say the same thing. AIS is best, True is 2nd and DTAC is the worst, but you will be fine on all three if you are in the city. Do not get the “DTAC happy tourist” package.

Below is the coverage of DTAC in Thailand:

When we return to Thailand we will update this article with speed tests from all three providers and test all three properly. We will return on the 18th of September, so expect an update in a month or so.

Best Pre-Paid SIM Cards for Thailand

Here are the best pre-paid SIM cards for Thailand:

  • Most convenient – True 7/11 Unlimited 30-day package
  • Highest speeds – AIS Unlimited 30-day package (found at phone shops)

The most convenient SIM with good speeds, unlimited data, and great coverage, is True Network. It’s most convenient because you will find them at any 7/11, the shop assistant will help you set it up, and they only cost 200-300 baht. Ours cost 249 baht ($7 USD) for 30 days of unlimited data with download speeds of 24mb/s+.

AIS is better than True, but you can only find it at branded phone shops, so if you arrive late it’s unlikely they are open and they are less common than 7/11. So for convenience, True is best. If however you want AIS, it is leaps and bounds faster for both hotspotting and direct phone use.

If you can get an AIS SIM, do it. Get one, and keep it, then top it up every time you come to Thailand. To get the best deal, buy just the SIM card. Don’t buy a plan with it. This will cost you 49 baht. Then you’ll want to download “My AIS” from the app store.

This is real, no affiliate link, not trying to sell you any thing advice. We don’t make a penny from recommending this, but it is simply the best option and we couldn’t sleep knowing that we were ripping people off for our own gain.

If you can’t be bothered with the hassle of going to the 7/11, then your next best option is the airport tourist SIM card, or the E-SIM (any iPhone newer than 2018, and any Samsung or Google Pixel newer than 2020 can use).

If you are on a long-term travel around Asia, Nomad E-SIM APAC package is by far the best. It covers all of the countries you might potentially visit in SEA and more. So, if you want to pop over to Japan, China, India or Pakistan you can still use your plan and stay connected.

How To Top Up A SIM Card in Thailand

This is extremely simple. Just go to the shop of the network provider you purchased your SIM from and ask for a Top Up. They will ask you how much you would like, show you a menu of prices, and then ask for you to put your number in on the card reader/keypad. You then pay, and your plan will be activated straight away.

You can additonally top up using apps such as AIS smart app, True etc. I personally find it much easier to go to Big C, or 7/11. Like mentioned above, the 7/11 SIM card is by far the easiest, cheapest and most convenient option in Thailand as 7/11’s are everywhere. Big C’s are a little harder to find, so if you get AIS or DTAC, it’s better to use the app, however, the apps don’t always take all foreign payment options.

10 thoughts on “Getting A SIM Card in Thailand 2024 (No Affiliate, No Bull Guide)”

  1. Hello Wehatethecold team,

    Came across your blog while searching for AIS and 7-11. Just found out that 7-11 no longer sell AIS SIMs. Not an issue as I can always buy one at a AIS Store.

    But I am a bit confused. Is your article aimed more at Digital Nomads or Tourists too?

    You repeatedly say “Don’t get a SIM Card at the Airport” because they give you less for more.
    You also said “The airport will charge 300+ baht for 8 days of data and more for 15 days. Additionally, it won’t be unlimited. For the same price (or lower) you can get an entire month, with unlimited data, calls, and texts.”

    As a Tourist I don’t want to be locked in to any monthly plan or contract. I am only there for a few days so a Tourist Sim will do me fine. But if I am not locked into a monthly contract, then buying the SIM only for 49 Baht and then getting a plan through the App is a no brainer.

    I am interested in knowing more about this – “You can get unlimited internet in Thailand, free calls and texts at 319.93 baht per month”. But why is it ‘per month’? Sounds like a 12 or 18 month contract. Or am I misunderstanding this completely.

    If I am only there for 8 days but would like more data than just 15GB, whats my best option?

    Before I came across your article I was set on the AIS Tourist 8 day SIM for 299 Baht. But your article is making me rethink.

    Cheers

    Glenn K

    1. Hey Glenn,

      Thanks for your comment! I understand your concern. Apologies for the confusion on the AIS, I will update that for future readers!

      As for the tourist SIM from the airport it’s a lot more money than getting one from the AIS shop or other phone shops. For the 49 baht SIM, and the extra added package on top, you are not locked into a monthly contract, it’s a simple Pay As You Go monthly package you purchase in the app after you’ve purchased your SIM.

      You can alternatively sign up for a PayG package at the shop and they will set it up for you, but I think it’s a little more expensive and you get worse speeds when compared with the plans in the app (not a problem for me, but I understand for some it’s important). I personally did this for AIS (signed up at the shop) and it was something along the lines of 300 baht for 30 days unlimited data.

      Once you’ve used your month, the plan ends unless you purchase more inside the app (it will not automatically take money from your account).

      I only recommend this because it saves you a hell of a lot of money and it’s not difficult to find these SIM Cards close to the airport (especially the True SIM cards as they’re at pretty much any 7/11 apart from the airport ones).

      This way is better for someone who is staying long term in Thailand, someone like a digital nomad or long term traveler. If you’re just going for a holiday, the True SIM Card from 7/11 will be absolutely fine (which you can get from most 7/11s). You don’t need to change anything in an app, you just buy, put it in your phone and off it goes to work.

      If however you want to be connected from the very very start of your trip, just get one at the airport. I have previously done this to test the package for this article. If you’re there for 8 days and only need 15GB, and don’t mind paying the overpriced fees at the airport, it might be best for you to just get it from the airport for ease of use.

      I hope that helps clear this up mate and hope you have a wonderful trip in Thailand! It’s a great place and I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

      Cheers for the comment!
      Harry

      1. Hi Harry,

        Thank you for getting back to me with your feedback. As I won’t be needing to connect straight away, I will go to the AIS shop and buy the 49 Baht sim-only deal. I think it is similar to the Lebara deals in the UK.

        If it doesn’t work as planned, then I can just get the 8-day tourist SIM and get on with my trip.

        You said “If however you want AIS, it is leaps and bounds faster for both hotspotting and direct phone use.” What is direct phone use?

        Going off topic, what do you suggest when it comes to currency exchange in Thailand. I don’t know how digital nomads get paid but if its in foreign currency, then I am sure they will need to convert sometime.

        1. No worries Glenn! Sounds like a good plan to me. By direct phone use, I just mean by using the phone’s connection. For currency exchange I usually just use the ATMs, they will charge you about £3-5 per withdrawal so withdraw as much as you can. Exchanges charge roughly the same amount to change money. Best way to avoid the foreign card fees is use a Revolut card.

  2. Hello wehatethecold team,
    I found really interesting your post, thank you very much for all your voluntary help. I just want to ask you a question. When you talk about “You can get unlimited internet in Thailand, free calls and texts at 319.93 baht per month” it sounds like the plan I would go for since I’m staying there for some months. So I went to the website and check all the option in the Main Package site, but I couldn’t get the conditions you were telling about. I could find a package for 300 baht per month but is only 1 GB of internet. Do you know how could I get the package you are telling about? Do I have first to activate the SIM to look for all the possible packages? Thanks a lot. Have a nice day!

    1. Hey Pablo, thanks for your question. To find this unlimited plan you can find it on the “My AIS App”. This can be downloaded on the app store. When you have an AIS SIM and Thai phone number, you’ll be able to look at the plans in the app. You’ll have different packages to choose from, the one I chose prioritised unlimited data.

      If you go to the AIS store, you’ll be able to buy a prepaid SIM for about 300-500 baht (can’t remember the exact cost and it might have changed since Mar 23) which they will set up for you, with unlimited internet for the entire month.

      If you can’t be bothered to find a specific phone shop, just drop into a 7/11. You can get a True SIM card, unlimited data for 30 days for 300 baht at the shop. Some clerks will set it up for you, some won’t. Everytime I’ve gone they’ve helped me set it up. AIS is better for coverage, but True is great too, and especially if you’re not going trekking or anything like that, it’s much more convenient since you can get one at almost every 7/11 which are everywhere in Thailand.

      Hope that helps you Pablo, and have a great trip!

      1. Hey team,
        Thanks a lot for the quick answer, I really appreciate it. I think I will probably go for the 7/11 then, it sounds more accessible and enough for me, and also cheaper. But yes, I will also check the price once I’m there because I’ve heard everything is a bit more expensive now. Thanks again for everything.
        Have a really good day!!

  3. Hello, today i bought Ais simcard, without data for 50baht and tryed buy some data package. But i am so confused. I dont know which one package to choose,. I am here in thailand only for 17days total, so 15would be ideal. But dont know, how exactly to do it. Its prepaid or postpaid or charging cash. I am new to this, so help will be apreciated. For some reason, there is only thai langouge in shop. Sim card is activated, but thats it. Thank you ,David

    1. Hey David, I apologise for the late reply. To add data, simply download the AIS app, then pick a pre-paid plan. There are many to choose from, so I can understand it can be confusing. I usually just choose the internet packages because I never need to call anyone in Thailand. The unlimited AIS internet package for 30-days at a limited speed of 2mbps is something like 300 baht/month (at least last time I checked). Anyway, I hope you had a good stay!

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