Need a vacation cell phone
October 18, 2006 5:42 AM   Subscribe

I will be going to Thailand for most of the month of January and I was wondering if anyone could recomend a cell phone provider for the month that I could use to call back home to the states. I would like to be able to talk for roughly 10-20 hours and spend less than $100 (including the phone) if possible.
posted by thebwit to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (13 answers total)
The New York Times just wrote a lengthy article about international cell phone services and such. You may find the article relevant.

click here
posted by Paleoindian at 5:53 AM on October 18, 2006

Not really answering your question: If you're going to all the way to Thailand, why not truly "Go On Vacation"? Leave the cell behind. Disconnect. Relax.
posted by unixrat at 6:27 AM on October 18, 2006

Response by poster: The reason I can't disconnect unixrat is because it is for a month. I will have some business that I will need to take care of, and also I will need to make sure that if something was to happen, my parents would have at least some sense of where in Thailand I was.
posted by thebwit at 6:44 AM on October 18, 2006

When I was in Thailand our host lent us a local pay as you go sim. It worked fine in my (UK) cellphone, and cost next-to-nothing to make calls. Why not pick one up whilst you are out there?
posted by handee at 6:46 AM on October 18, 2006

Pay as you go is the way to go. Buy the SIM card when you get there. Note you'll need a GSM phone that's on the right frequency (looks like 900 but maybe 1800 and 1900 will work too?) Also your phone has to be unlocked. Also your phone number will change to the number that's assigned to the new SIM.
posted by drmarcj at 7:20 AM on October 18, 2006

The best way to do this is to buy an old used Quad-band (sometimes called World-Band) phone. I don't have time to find one for you at the moment, but there are some online sellers selling them in stores, and there are also many models on ebay. I've seen some as cheap as 79$.

Then when you get to your foreign location, you can just buy a SIM of a certain prepaid value, and bum on that. It's super convenient and will do what you ask exactly.
posted by fake at 7:45 AM on October 18, 2006

I live in Indonesia and use Skype and internet cafes to call the US at least weekly. Two-point-one cents a minute to a regular US phone (landline, cell, whatever), free if you're doing Skype-to-Skype. Nothing else - calling cards, US/Indonesian cell phones - is as cheap.

Internet access in Thailand is probably as cheap as Indonesia (usually about 50 cents an hour) and almost every internet cafe is going to have headsets. SkypeIn lets your family call you on a US number so they don't pay international fees; they can even leave you voicemail - it's $10 for 3 months. SkypeOut is credit you can buy in $10 increments to call any phone anywhere. I've been using it for a few months now and have had zero problems with the exception of crackliness on the line sometimes.

Also, this lets you control the cost pretty well - no nasty bills when you get back, no hours on the phone with customer service.

If you're all about the cell phone thing still, I have a Nokia 1108, which was designed for the developing-world market: long, LONG battery life (I charge it for an hour or so once a week!), pretty durable design, compact, basic text/calls/contacts/alarm/calculator functions. It's everything I need, nothing I don't. It's GSM 900/1800.

It cost me the equivalent of $50 US new/sealed/authentic at the local giant technology mall, and a new SIM card and oodles of credit that lasts me months set me back another $15. You could easily set yourself up on your first day in Thailand (especially if that first day is in Bangkok: perhaps ask on the Lonely Planet Thorntree where you'd have an easy time finding one), and when you get home you'll have a GSM phone you can use when you travel abroad again and again. Here's the phone on the Nokia India website. The 1100 is even more feature-stripped, but might be a lower-budget option.

Have a great trip!
posted by mdonley at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2006

Or just do what fake said. Maybe buy it in Thailand; anyone know if it'd be cheaper that way?
posted by mdonley at 7:48 AM on October 18, 2006

For a place to get electronic goods in Bangkok, take the sky train to Siam Square, go to the MBK centre (huge shopping centre) and one of the floors (level 4 I think) has all the electronics shops. (There's also an internet caff on the top floor, and a great food hall too.)
posted by handee at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2006

handee is right, but fair warning: MBK is quite possibly the most difficult to navigate and frustrating to deal with place in the universe. I lived in Thailand for seven months and to have any place emerge as the craziest is saying something. I'd recommend Skype before I'd go back into that place -- we're talking wall to wall cell vendors, none of them of any apparent credibility (I had two phones die within a week of purchase, and one of the vendors had closed or moved within that week, so I had to eat the bunk phone). the food hall is decent, though.
posted by andifsohow at 10:46 AM on October 18, 2006

Skype is nice but it's not as nice as having a phone on you at all times, especially when you're travelling and meeting new people and navigating new places.

Don't let andifsohow scare you, MBK is not that hard to figure out and the vendors aren't all crooks. Just head to MBK, go to the fourth floor, and look for a vendor who might speak English. They'll set you up. One-2-Call is probably the best pay-as-you-go provider; there are others, but their prices won't be much lower and One-2-Call has the best nationwide coverage.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:26 PM on October 18, 2006

Oh, and $100 should get you a decent second-hand phone. If you explain to the vendor that you'll only be in country for a month they might be willing to buy it back from you when you're leaving.

There's no paperwork to fill out for a pay-as-you-go phone. Just buy the phone, buy the sim card and you're all set.

And you don't need to go to MBK, although that is Bangkok's cell phone headquarters. Almost every department store has a cell phone vending area. But if you go to MBK you'll be able to stock up on anything else you might need, including cheap clothing.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:33 PM on October 18, 2006

does anyone know if the unlocked, quad band cell phones in mbk are cheaper than prices in the u.s.? if so, i'd like to buy one when i visit at the end of the month. thanks ;-)
posted by wondering at 12:56 AM on March 8, 2007

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