Taking your mobile phone with you to Thailand is incredibly useful. It’s the ultimate travel guide: always there in case you’re lost or if you need to book a room. In this article we’ll tell you why having a Thai SIM card is so useful and how to get the most out of your mobile phone while in Thailand!

Finding your way using Google Maps, checking out a nice restaurant on TripAdvisor, booking a hotel room at Booking.com – these days, traveling without your mobile phone is pretty much unheard of. Well, for us at least!

This article is divided into two parts. First we’ll explain everything you need to know about Thai SIM cards, second we’ll provide you with some handy recommendations for apps and settings to help you get the most out of your mobile phone.

Contents of this article. Click to see the answer:

Taking pictures at the Crystal Stream

Can’t I just use my own SIM card?

Yes, you can – but expect a very high phone bill if you do.

Of course the costs can vary depending on when you’re from, but usually making calls and data roaming is really expensive in different countries or continents.

On the other hand, using a Thai SIM card is ridiculously cheap. And because tourist SIM cards are prepaid, you won’t have to worry about unexpected expenses or a huge phone bill. Out of credit really does mean out of credit.

And finally: do you really want to be dependent on free – but often slow – wifi?

For a Thai SIM card you will need a mobile phone that doesn’t have a SIM lock. This website explains how to check for that.

Which Thai provider should I choose?

In our experience, it doesn’t really matter. Thailand has three major providers: AIS, dtac and TrueMove H. All three are good, have 4G data coverage in virtually the whole country and have low rates.

What is important, however, is choosing a prepaid package that’s best suited to your traveling needs. For instance, if you’re staying in Thailand for two weeks, take a fortnightly package and if you don’t use the internet a lot, choose a small data packet.

We always get:

  • A 30-day package.
  • Minimum of high speed 4-8 GB internet.

Depending on which package you choose, you pay a one-time fee of 500-1,000 Thai Baht.

AIS dtac    TrueMove H

Where do I get a Thai SIM card?

Easy.

Walking out of the arrivals hall at Bangkok’s international Suvarnabhumi Airport, you’ll immediately come across the AIS, dtac and TrueMove H kiosks. The same goes for all other Thai airports.

Go to one of the kiosks, choose a package, show your passport (standard procedure) and let one of the employees – who speak English – set up your phone. It will take less than five minutes and afterwards you’ll be able to make phone calls, use 4G internet and send Whatsapp or Facebook messages.

If you use WhatsApp, it’s good to know what you will keep your number and your contact list, meaning you can message everybody at home that you’ve landed safe and sound straight away. You don’t have to change any settings for this.

Didn’t get one at the airport?

No problem, in Thailand markets such as the 7-Eleven, Family Market, Big C, Tesco, and phone shops such as Telewiz, sell SIM cards. The only downside is that not everyone in these places speaks English very well. This means that the task of setting up your phone and your internet package will often fall on you.

Getting a simcard at the airport

Photo credit: aroimakmak.com

How do I top up?

If you’re out of credit or if you’ve used all your data, you can do a top up of your SIM card. This isn’t difficult to do.

It’s possible to top up your phone at any 7-Eleven, but also at Family Mart, BigC, Tesco or any phone shop. At the 7-Eleven you usually need to enter your mobile number into the ATM near the cash register, after which the credit on your SIM card will be automatically activated. If you don’t know your mobile number, look for it in your received text messages. Other shops will provide a receipt with a code with which you can activate manually.

You can also top up online with your credit card:

In case you only want to use your credit to make phone calls, you’re done. But if you want to use the internet as well by topping up your data, you’ll need to activate an internet-package, also known as a “main-package”.

For this you use a code (a different one for each provider) and choose the size of your internet bundle. The codes can be found on the websites of the providers.

Thai providers’ 4G data codes:

Confused? We feel ya. If you can’t figure it out, the best thing to do is call your provider’s customer service department. They can advise you (in English) on what to do and activate a data bundle for you.

Phone numbers call-centers Thai providers:

  • AIS: 1175
  • dtac: 1678
  • TrueMove H: 1242

7-Eleven in Pai

How to get the most out of your mobile phone

1. Apps for Thailand

The right apps can make your journey through Thailand even more fun and easy. Do you want to know what’s on our phones? These are the ten free apps we use the most when in Thailand!

1. MAPS.ME – Offline maps and navigation. Also provides routes and trails not found in Google Maps.
Google PlayApp Store

2. TripAdvisor – For searching nice and nearby restaurants and sights.
Google PlayApp Store

3. Booking.com – For quickly booking nice hotels and reading hotel reviews.
Google PlayApp Store

4. Airbnb – For renting your own apartment or house. Click here for $ 38 off.
Google PlayApp Store

5. Google Translate – For translating from English to Thai.
Google PlayApp Store

6. Uber – For taxi rides in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pattaya.
Google PlayApp Store

7. Grab – For taxi rides in, among other places, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya and Phuket.
Google PlayApp Store

8. Exchange TH – Check out which bank has the best exchange rate (click on the small baht icon in the top right-hand corner)
Google PlayApp Store

9. Xe Currency – For the euro’s current exchange rate against the Thai baht.
Google PlayApp Store

10. Learn Thai – For practicing Thai words and phrases, including their pronunciation.
Google PlayApp Store

2. How to create a wifi hotspot

Creating a wifi hotspot can be incredibly handy if you need to use of your mobile phone’s data connection. This way you won’t need to purchase another SIM card for your tablet, plus you can go on the internet without needing a wifi-connection. For us it’s a great way of working on Go To Thailand, wherever we are in Thailand, without having to depend of a wifi connection.

  • Android: Settings > Networks (tap “More” in the “Wireless & networks” section) > Tethering & mobile hotspot > Click on the “Wi-Fi hotspot” switch > Choose “YES” > Click on “Wi-Fi hotspot” > In “Set up Wi-Fi hotspot” enter a name and a password.
  • iPhone / iOS: Settings > Personal hotspot > Tap the switch and enter name and password.

3. Keeping track of data usage

When you’re in Thailand, it’s always good to know how much data (GB’s) you’ve used up already, so you’ll know exactly how much is left for the rest of your trip. You can do this simply by selecting the following settings after your Thai SIM card has been installed:

  • Android: Settings > Data usage > Data usage cycle > Click on the data to change the cycle.
  • iPhone / iOS: Settings > Cellular > Scroll down and select “Reset Information” > Check how much you’ve used in “Cellular Data Usage”.
Tip: Wherever there is a good (fast) wifi connection, use it so you won’t spend as much data.

4. Important phone numbers

Before leaving it’s a good idea to put the following numbers in your address book; you never know!

Emergency numbers in Thailand
General: 199
Ambulance: 1669
Tourist police: 1155
Traffic police: 1196
Dutch embassy in Bangkok
General 8:30 AM -5:00 PM: +66 (0) 23 09 52 00
Emergency number 24/7: +66 (0) 819 20 13 29

Blocking your credit card
American Express
MasterCard
Visa

Don’t forget to add the phone number(s) your debit card(s)!

Travel insurance emergency center
Your health or travel insurer’s phone number is on the back of your insurance card.

Taking a photo at Aow Kao Kwai in Koh Phayam

Any questions? Additions? Leave a comment below!

Mariska

Author Mariska

Traveler, entrepreneur, book lover, foodie. In Thailand, you'll find me driving around on my motorbike, on the lookout for new hotspots.

More posts by Mariska

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Avatar for Mariska Lynelle says:

    Do you have any post on Vietnam or Cambodia? My husband and I are traveling for 5 weeks

  • Avatar for Mariska Ben says:

    Hi, can you confirm that any Thai prepaid SIM card will allow the phone to be used as a WiFi hotspot so that I can connect my iPad to it and use the internet? If yes, which company do you think is the best? I ask this because in many countries, I cannot use prepaid SIM cards as a hotspot. Thanks.

    • Avatar for Mariska Sander says:

      Hi Ben,

      Yes we can confirm that you can use your phone – with a Thai SIM card – as a WiFi hotspot for your iPad. We do that all the time in Thailand. We normally use dtac as a provider. Works excellent.

      Have a nice trip,
      Sander

  • Avatar for Mariska Andrew says:

    Hi, loving the blog by the way, I’ve been reading it all,

    I’m moving to Thailand and I know in some places (the UAE for example) the attractive packages available for tourists aren’t available to those with a residency visa in their passport rather than a tourist one.

    Is this the case in Thailand, do you know?

    • Avatar for Mariska Mariska says:

      Hi Andrew, sorry for my late reply. I don’t think they check your passport to see which visa you have, but I’m not 100% sure. Only one way to find out 😉. Good luck with the move!!

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