How do I make sure my iPhone isn't a brick in India(prepaid SIM plans)?
December 1, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be travelling to India soon and I wanted to get a prepaid cellular connection for my iPhone to avoid roaming charges and for internet access. What's the cheapest/best prepaid connection in India (going to be travelling around South India)? Is there some way I can buy it in the US so I can have cellular access from when I immediately arrive?

(I will be using a lot of data because I will not be near wifi and would prefer not to go to an internet cafe every time I need to access the internet)

I know T-Mobile offers no roaming charges now but this will not work for me because it looks like the plans are much cheaper in india and I've got an unlocked phone.

What's the cheapest/best prepaid connection in India? Is there some way I can buy it in the US so I can have cellular access from when I immediately arrive?

I've found the following: (Looks like a prepaid Airtel SIM). Are there any other websites that sell these SIM cards as well? Does any have any experience with this site?
posted by touareg to Travel & Transportation around India (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no experience with SIMs in India, but a recent Boing Boing post about traveling and SIMs had a link to this traveling SIM wiki in the comments. Here's their page for India.
posted by bluecore at 10:43 AM on December 1, 2013

That wiki is seriously outdated and should not be trusted. You'll probably hear from a lot of people insisting that it's easy to obtain a SIM card in India, but the truth is that in November 2012 the government started cracking down on prepaid SIM cards for foreigners (for security reasons) and has made it extremely difficult for visitors to get them. If you check Flyertalk or another forum you'll find dozens of people who were unable to get a SIM card. And now activation can take several days or up to a week.

Some people have reported that their hotels have been able to help them so maybe you could contact your hotel beforehand and see if they can obtain one for you.
posted by acidic at 11:32 AM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just got a SIM two weeks ago in India, through Vodafone. I've had 3G in a couple very big cities and Edge everywhere else. Coverage has been very good. I got the card from a vendor on the street. The sim itself was 250 rupees to set up ($4) and I got a 6 Gigabyte data plan for 700 rupees ($11). There's some bureaucracy; bring two recent passport-style photos of yourself, a copy of your passport and visa, and fill out a couple forms. I had to wait a few hours for the card to activate, then call a number to verify my identity, and had a working card within the same day.
posted by Theiform at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm actually in India at the moment. But I'm in Himachal Pradesh.

You can get SIM cards at the airport and that's the easiest and fastest way to do it. We didn't need passport photos when getting ours at the airport, but we did when we went to buy a second one when we got to my mother in laws house...of god, Indian bureaucracy... how had I ever forgotten about it?

My iPhone is Aircel and that is what I got in Delhi. Up in the mountains Aircel is much better, and that is what my iPad. (Upon which I now type.) They use a hole punch kind of thing to make normal sims in to the minis. Don't be freaked out. As with any telco activation may take an hour or so to turn on... but it's absolutely fastest to do it with the big outlets like you see at an airport. I speak from bitter, and frustrated, experience.

My hotel had reasonable wifi in Delhi, but we've been Edge the rest of the time.

My extraneous advice is that downloading apps, videos, podcasts and music is really hard on Edge. Get your iPhone ready to rock and roll before you go. Facebook is ok and doesn't count on my download limit on Aircel.

Data here is really cheap compared to Australia. We got 2 gigs of data at allegedly 3G (and lots of calls) for less than $30USD. I forget how much.

We also found out that the laws changed since we were last here so that, at least in HP, you need a local residents ID card to buy a sim. I figure it's because we're so close to the Pakistan border. Fortunately my mother in law has one or we'd have been stuffed.

Happy to answer any further questions that are general about sims in India, but we're north dwellers in a tiny village.
And it's getting bloody cold.
posted by taff at 3:28 AM on December 2, 2013

Or yeah....on post-view...acidic speaks the truth, at least for us. But I look very foreign and I was lurking about with my husband. I didn't get the impression it was because I was a foreigner, but then I don't speak a word of Hindi and have no idea what they said to my husband.

But India is the country for all things cell phone, for sure. The change in the almost 20 years that we've been flitting between Australia and India is extraordinary. There used to be private phone booths absolutely everywhere...and now they seem to be replaced with cell phone vendors. And while the driving conditions were always you can add in EVERYBODY driving, walking and riding while on the phone. Without hands free equipment. Terrifying. And I bloody love it.
posted by taff at 3:36 AM on December 2, 2013

For posterity... I just realised my autocorrect fail.

Aircel is what we got in Delhi. Airtel is what we're happily using in Himachal.
posted by taff at 1:48 AM on December 4, 2013

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