Lonely Planet says that 80% of you bring your (unlocked) mobile phones on holiday. No idea who this smug off-the-grid 20% might be, but you clearly have a healthier relationship with Instagram than me! Add an iPad here and there – you need to be connected. So, how to use your phone in Thailand?
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How to use your phone in Thailand?
1. Thailand vs your phone
If you’re coming to Thailand with hopes of beach exploration, water-sports (or you’re coming in rainy season or at Songkran), a waterproof phone case is really recommended. Nature tends to win in the tropics, so err with caution and bring your phone some extra protection. If you’re caught in an unexpected downpour or drop it in the pool – no problem. The FRiEQ Waterproof Case fits just about every phone in existence and will be very happy to join you for a snorkelling trip – it’s certified to 100 feet deep.
2. Set a reminder
To avoid incurring phone bills with many, many zeroes – set a reminder or alarm on your phone to turn off your data once you board your flight to Thailand. It’s really easy to forget – and then you’ll cry many tears. Local Thai pay-as-you-go phone plans will be a much more affordable option. Indeed, using your phone in Thailand on a local plan will cost around the price of a Starbucks.
Before you leave home, make sure your phone is unlocked and know what size of SIM card you need (normal/micro/nano, etc).
3. What’s your itinerary?
If you rely on your phone heavily, I’ll flag these two things as supremely useful while you’re out and about exploring in Thailand. While the SPIbelt is actually for runners (bought for a very short-lived jogging career), I use it at the beach when I want to go for a walk or play beach tennis but don’t want to (A) leave my phone on my towel or (B) bring a bag with me. The second, the portable phone charger, is the size of a lipstick tube and is a great ‘just-in-case’ piece of electronic back-up. If you often drain your phone through heavy camera use, you’ll be very happy together.
4. How to get a pre-paid SIM card in Thailand
You have a few easy options for getting a pre-paid (aka pay-as-you-go) tourist SIM card (with data) in Thailand. Just choose your plan (depending on how long you’ll stay and how much data you want), flash your passport, pay, switch your SIM card and you’re off. Set-up and top-up menus are all offered in English – Thailand has very kindly idiot-proofed our tech-heavy vacations.
No matter where or when you purchase your Thai SIM card, you’ll have to show your passport. Otherwise, it’s an extremely quick and simple transaction.
Pay-as-you-go phone options in Thailand: Nothing on earth is easier and more tourist-centric than getting a Thai SIM card for the duration of your holiday. Each of the major Thai carriers offers a handful of ‘Traveller SIM’ options including those for solo travellers and families:
- One of the larger carriers, AIS, has these three options. If you’re travelling as a couple or a group, these packages cleverly offer 7 days’ free calls between other Traveller SIMs.
- DTAC and TrueMove, other large Thai carriers, have similar options.
Pay-as-you-go phone prices in Thailand: The cost of using your phone in Thailand is very reasonable.Most carriers have pre-paid options at similar price points, with frequent special offers.
- AIS packages start at 199 THB (US$5.60 / £4.20). For this, you get 7 days’ unlimited internet and calling amongst other Traveller SIMs, with 30 days’ validity.
- For faster internet, look at a 299 THB package (US$8.40 / £6.40).
- For all your bells and whistles (3gb data speed), expect to pay about 699 THB (US$20 / £15) for 15 days.
5. Where to buy your Thai SIM?
(A) Buy at the airport: At BKK, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui Airports, it’s easy to buy a tourist SIM card before you even leave the airport. (Assume this is possible at any Thai airport with high-volume tourist traffic). At BKK, the kiosks are in the arrivals hall between gates 6 and 7. At Koh Samui Airport you’ll find the kiosks after you collect your baggage, as you walk towards the arrivals hall. They’re easier to find than popcorn at the movies, I promise! Many airport kiosks stay open as late as 12 am.
(B) Buy at a convenience store or phone shop: Pop into a convenience store like Family Mart or 7-Eleven (there’s one on every corner), or at one of the many mobile phone shops in a mall (like Central Festival) or a supermarket complex (like Tesco or Big C). At the latter, if you ask nicely, the staff will often help you set it up – Baby Boomers, I’m looking at you.
6. Charging your phone in Thailand
^ That travel adapter totally looks like a Scream mask, right?
One last thing – while a local SIM means you can forget roaming rates, don’t forget your travel adapter. Learn about Thai plugs here, but – briefly – if you’re coming from the UK, with either a lot of tech gear and/or a lot of people – the UK-to-Thailand 4-plug + USB travel adapter (above) is a beautifully convenient piece of kit.