3G SIM Card for 1 Month Trip to India?
November 22, 2009 6:06 PM   Subscribe

How to get a 3G SIM card for a 1 month trip to India w/out signing a 1 or 2 year contract?

I have an unlocked iPhone, and my experience with internet cafes in India has been spotty. I would really like to have 3G access on my phone for a trip that will take me to at least 4 or 5 states across North and Central India. I have relatives in India who could help - but I'd like to avoid having to sign a year long or multi-year contract.
posted by Kerim to Shopping (5 answers total)
I've only have experience with non-3G SIM cards, but they're really, really easy to come by. A cursory Google search seems to indicate that pre-paid 3G cards are available, too. Just show up at an Airtel, BSNL, or what have you, store (they're literally everywhere) and pick up a pre-paid SIM card with a balance. Stores are chock full of gaudy little activation kits plastered with photos of SRK and such. There's a fee for the SIM card that's not more than a couple hundred rupees, if I remember correctly. After that, it's mere couple of paise per minute (probably more per minute for a data plan, though). You can recharge via your phone or any of the ubiquitous mobile-phone stands across the country. The card's good for a set period of time, usually a pretty short one: half a month, a month, maybe two months, maybe more. And there might be a form to fill out, but it's pretty simple. It might ask for a local contact address; I doubt the vendor would care if you just made something up, but hold on to your relatives' addresses as a backup.

One thing: You might be charged more per minute when you cross state lines and are thus "roaming," in a way, which is bothersome. And if you're planning on going to J&K or some of the northeastern states (and maybe some other areas I don't know about), pre-paid phones from the rest of the country simply won't work; you'll have to go through a local vendor.
posted by SpringAquifer at 6:27 PM on November 22, 2009

I've only had experience with non-3G pre-paid SIM cards

Emphasis on grammar and the fact that it's easy to get everything pre-paid.
posted by SpringAquifer at 6:33 PM on November 22, 2009

I would suggest either having someone local get the SIM for you before you arrive, or be your "front" and accompany you to a shop after you've arrived. If you're not a local, it can be kind of difficult to get a prepaid SIM -- security-related reasons and the like.

That said, coverage is really stellar in India. Even in a Himachal Pradesh village that's so remote that it doesn't show up on any online maps, doesn't come up in Google (except when mistaken for another village of the same name in Rajasthan), and is only known to people within 30ish miles of it, I had my pick of 3-5 GSM networks on my unlocked iPhone. This was actually fairly typical during my travels around India last year. Would that we could say this about the US . . .
posted by CommonSense at 7:43 PM on November 22, 2009

You also need to take i.d. and a spare passport photograph with you to buy sim cards. Well, you used to when I was last there three years ago... and all the times before that.
posted by taff at 11:19 PM on November 22, 2009

3G isnt available widely yet in India. The only providers currently are the state-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL and not for pre-paid. It might take 1-2 years for your application to go through for one :) GPRS is widely available on all operators but the speed will make you weep
posted by epiphinite at 4:47 AM on November 23, 2009

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