Don’t Get The Tourist SIM Card in Thailand! Do This Instead

So you’re looking to get a tourist SIM Card in Thailand. After reading the guides that ranked top of Google, I was annoyed. Annoyed at the same thing over again. A blog recommending you something that puts money in their pocket, instead of what’s the best option for you. So, do you want to know how to save money, and get more data for that money? If so, read on, I’ll share everything you should know.

Key Takeaways About The Tourist SIM Card in Thailand:

  1. Avoid getting a tourist SIM card at Thailand’s airports as they tend to double the price of those available outside the airport.
  2. Instead, take the airport metro to a nearby 7/11 store and ask for a 30-day SIM card plan, which costs around 300 baht (£6-7/$8) and offers unlimited data, phone calls, and texts.
  3. True Move and AIS are two popular SIM card options in Thailand. True Move is conveniently available at 7/11 stores, while AIS can be found in malls and shopping centers.
  4. If you need better coverage, AIS is recommended for its superior speeds and reliability.
  5. Download the respective network provider’s app after purchasing the plan, as plans do not auto-renew. You can also buy another data plan using the app, which can be cheaper than visiting a physical store.
  6. Different network providers in Thailand serve different purposes:
    • AIS: Best for travelers going off the beaten path, offering the fastest and most reliable network with the best coverage.
    • True Move: Good for fast and reliable network, suitable for city and town travelers, but coverage is not as extensive as AIS.
    • DTAC: Limited to 4G and not as widespread as AIS and True Move, making it less suitable for most tourists.
  7. True Move SIM cards are the most convenient because they are available at 7/11 stores, which are easy to find throughout Thailand.
  8. Avoid buying SIM cards at the airport if you plan to stay longer than 14 days, as you can get better deals with unlimited data and faster speeds at 7/11 or phone shops.
  9. Opt for AIS for superior coverage and speeds in Thailand, especially if you plan to go hiking or visit rural areas.
  10. Consider the detailed “SIM Card Thailand guide” for more information on finding SIM card stands, cash withdrawal options, and avoiding long queues at the airport.

Do This To Get A Thai SIM Card Instead (More Power For Your £Pound)

The most convenient way to save money is to get the airport metro to any station outside the airport and go to a 7/11. On 7/11 ask for a 30-day SIM card plan. This will cost you around 300 baht (£6-7/$8). For this, you will get unlimited data, phone calls, and texts. You can only get a True Move SIM at 7/11, so if you want AIS, you’ll have to go to a Supermarket (Like Big C) or the Malls to find a phone shop.

True Move has worse coverage than AIS, but this is not a problem unless you’re going trekking in the jungle or to more rural areas. For instance, when I tested coverage in the Deep South of Thailand, on both, I found that AIS was slightly better at keeping signal in the mountainous/jungle regions. Both have great speeds, so if you’re staying in the town, it’s more convenient to go to 7/11 to get your SIM card.

You will need a passport to show them before you can get a SIM. Most employees will help you set it up, but if they’re busy they might not have time. This is not a problem, as every time this has happened to me, you just put the card in, restart your phone and you’ll have data.

Important note: you cannot buy other people’s SIM cards using your passport. So if traveling as a couple, you need to have both passports for 2 SIM cards. This is to prevent criminals or visa overstayers from being given phone connections.

If you want better coverage, get an AIS SIM card. To get an AIS SIM card, you will have to go to an AIS shop. These can be found in any mall, but will not be open 24/7 like 7/11 is. For unlimited data for 30 days, this should cost no more than 500 baht.

However, with AIS you have different plans that give you better speeds than others. So, if you want unlimited data, with the highest download speeds for 30 days, you will pay more than 500 baht. This can all be discussed with an employee at the AIS store.

Whichever you get, be sure to download their respective apps. After you have purchased the plan, the plan does not auto-renew. So, if you’re staying longer than 30 days, you can buy another data plan using the app on your phone. This is slightly cheaper to do than going to the shop, so you might actually want to do this on arrival.

If you want to do this, you can buy a SIM card from AIS for 49 baht, without any plan added. You can then download the app and add your own plan.

Which Network Provider Should I Choose For Thailand?

To put it simply, different networks in Thailand are better for different things, here’s what you should get:

  • AIS – fastest most reliable phone network, with best coverage. Best for travelers going off-beaten-path
  • True Move – fast, reliable phone network. Coverage is worse than AIS, but you will get similar speeds. Don’t get if going to rural areas.
  • DTAC – limited to 4G, not as good coverage as other, but if in the city or a town you will be fine.

The most convenient is True Move, just because it is sold at 7/11 and they are 24-hour convenience shops, which can be found on almost every single corner of any city/town in Thailand. This means they’re easy to find, easy to top up and if you lose it, easy to buy again.

AIS is the best with speeds, but you’ll have to specifically seek out an AIS store. These are commonly found in Shopping Malls. You can additionally find AIS shops in Big C’s (not Big C Mini’s). You’ll rarely find them in any other supermarket, which is why True Move 7/11 card is the most convenient.

As for DTAC, there’s no point in bothering. The decision is really between AIS and True.

A Note on Getting SIMs in Thailand’s Airports

SIM cards are very easy to find and get in the airport. However, they are double the price you’ll find in shops just outside. It’s the most convenient option, and if you’re staying for 14 days or less, it’s probably you’re the best option. But what about those of you staying for longer periods of up to a month or more? Your best choice will be to head to a 7/11 or phone shop.

Why?

You can pick up a monthly Pay-as-you-go package (no-contract), with unlimited data and better data speeds, for a lower price than the 7-day Thailand Tourist SIM you’ll find in the airport. For instance, the 7-day plan is 299 baht, you can get unlimited data for 30 days for 1 baht extra at 7/11.

If you don’t mind paying for the convenience of a SIM card in the airport, don’t get the Happy Tourist SIM by DTAC. Go for AIS or True Move. AIS is best for coverage and speeds in Thailand, while True Move is great for speeds, but lacks coverage in more rural areas. If you’re staying in cities or towns you’ll be fine with True Move, but if going hiking, or visiting tribes, get AIS as the signal is far superior.

Important note: To get a SIM in the airport follow our more in-depth SIM Card Thailand guide that covers where to find the SIM cards stands, where to withdraw money (they only take cash), and which ones to choose to avoid the crazy queues on arrival.

There are a lot more SIM shops than shown on this interactive map, but they’re not listed on Google. Maybe because a lot of the SIM shops are located before you pass through immigration on arrival.

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