Best carrier for traveler with unlocked iPhone in Vietnam?
January 1, 2010 2:38 PM   Subscribe

I am going on a trip to Vietnam for three weeks this month and am wondering: what my best bet is in terms of carrier and coverage for a prepaid SIM for my unlocked iPhone 3G?

I would like both voice and data (preferably unlimited, or just cheap). Fallback (or only) normal GPRS is fine. In the end, coverage is more important. Some of the areas I will be visiting are:

• Quỳnh Lưu province of Nghệ An (250km south of Hà Nội)
• Huế
• Nha Trang

Thanks in advance!

posted by jesseendahl to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I hope you have fun in Vietnam, I love it there. I split my time between Canada and Vietnam, where I live and conduct research. I've been all over the country, including the ones listed about.

Vinaphone is one of the largest mobile networks in the country (the others being MobiFone and Viettel), and recently upgraded from GSM to 3G networks. I have an iPhone in Canada, but use a cheap mobile phone in Vietnam. I use Vinaphone and never have had a problem, or dropped call. My VNese co-worker at the research university where I work however bought a jailbreak iPhone from the US when he was at a research conference and came back to Ha Noi with it. In the year that he has had it, he has had no problems with it in Vietnam (where iPhones aren't sold yet). He loves it so much in fact that he wants me to assist him in getting his wife one since she loves it so much, so that should say something.

As for prepaid SIM, that shouldn't be a problem. Walk into any Bưu điện (Post Office, there is one on almost few blocks for larger cities) and show them your phone and whatever amount of money you want on your phone. They'll understand what you want, and happily will swap the SIM cards for you on the spot. You might have to show them how the first time with the iPhone (since it's not widespread in Vietnam), so be sure to bring a paperclip with you.

Sorry for the slow response, but it's been a busy few days. Hope it helps!
posted by carabiner at 9:55 PM on January 2, 2010

I forgot to add that there are lots of free wifi cafes in Hanoi (especially in the city core, near Hoàn Kiếm Lake), such as Highland Coffee Shops which cater to the rich VNese and expat/tourists. There are loads of free wifi places in Hanoi and Hue and other places you're going, but that's one I can think of off the top of my head.
posted by carabiner at 10:00 PM on January 2, 2010

Best answer: Thank you so much carabiner. Your replies were a huge help =) I got 5 bars of coverage practically everywhere, including remote villages, and no dropped calls. It is worth noting that although Vinaphone advertises 3G, the rollout only began in October 2009, and I did not once get a 3G signal. With that said, EDGE was rock solid 90% of the time, occasionally falling back to GPRS in very rural areas.

FYI, for future mefites visiting Vietnam... there were some tricky steps to setting up the data portion of the plan. Although some of the Vinaphone site is in English, the parts on how to setup GPRS/EDGE/3G were not. In the end it was pretty simple:

1. Text "GPRS ON" to the number 888.
2. Text the data plan you want to use to 888. For example, "U30 ON" would enable the unlimited data/30 day plan on your account. As of January 2010, to see the available data plans and pricing, you have to go through a flash page available here.

then choose the 4th option in the menu on the left, titled "Gia cuoc."

Here is a screenshot of the plans as of today.

Tip: Use Google Translate if necessary.

3. To install the correct data settings for internet on the iPhone itself and also for iPhone tethering, visit this website on your iPhone.

At the top of the page there is a section titled "iPhone 3.0 Setup Tool." Select your carrier and install the profile. Reboot your iPhone. Now internet on your iPhone, as well as internet tethering should be enabled on your iPhone.

posted by jesseendahl at 7:39 PM on January 31, 2010

Response by poster: Oops, the screenshot I included of the plans did not include the current pricing. Here is the correct screenshot with available plans and pricing as of January 31, 2010.
posted by jesseendahl at 7:43 PM on January 31, 2010

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