One of the most frustrating things while traveling is not knowing how to stay connected. Historically it has been very difficult to get a SIM chip in India, however I am happy to report things have been streamlined and it’s getting much easier. In addition, there are also other great options that previously didn’t exist for tourists coming for a short duration. Read on to find out how to get a SIM chip in India for your next visit.[box]What is a SIM and why do I need it?
For most people in the world, their mobile phone is equipped with a small chip that houses the phone’s data including the phone number and often even contacts and photos, known as a SIM chip. Users can switch their chips in/out of any phone with problem.
However, in America, many service providers do not provide phones with SIM capability. AT&T and a few other carriers do, but chances are your phone is “locked” to your specific chip. This means that even if you take out your SIM, your phone will not work with another chip. Because of this, when you travel, you cannot easily get a local SIM chip to use while abroad.[/box]
Stay Connected in India with Trabug
One of the coolest services I came across in my search for phone and internet service in India was Trabug. It is similar to the service I used and raved about in Ireland, except instead of sending a wireless pocket WiFi device, they actually send you a smartphone. While I don’t really want to carry around two phones this really helps take care of the issue of locked phones (something most AT&T customers in the US have to contend with).
HOW IT WORKS
Before your trip, head over to Trabug’s website to order your phone with the plan you want to use. There are three different plans that are available for visitors – Eco, Hero and Power. I opted for the Power plan so I could really test it out and see how much data I would need. The idea was to use the phone only for my daily Skype calls home to my husband and son, but I ended up using it a lot more as a hotspot since the internet on the Palace on Wheels wasn’t as reliable as I had hoped!
For me it was a win win. I could still get and receive my iMessages on my US phone without international data charges through the hotspot on the Trabug phone as well as have local access to a phone number that was not reliant on WiFi.
For me using the phone for video talking and for WiFi during the day, I definitely needed all 3 GBs every day. Other travelers on my trip got by with 1 GB per day. I did not make any international calls or texts, but those are great options to have if you think you will need it.
GETTING YOUR PHONE
Trabug is a really convenient service in that they send you the phone to your hotel in time for your arrival. The Trabug phone comes loaded with your data and apps that you will most likely need with very clear instructions on how to activate the phone and set up your password. Within minutes of receiving the phone, you will be connected and ready to use it.
When you are finished with the phone and/or your trip, you pop the phone into the envelope provided by Trabug and leave it at your hotel reception for a courier to pick it up once you have left. Easy peasy!
The phone itself is a pretty simple smartphone that includes everything you will need during your visit. Unless you plan to take photos with your own personal phone, you could reasonably put your phone away for the duration of the trip using only the Trabug phone.
I loved that this phone included all my social media apps with an easy way to “disconnect” from them at the end. There was no worry that someone using the phone after me would be able to get into my accounts.
The Trabug phones also come equipped with things you didn’t even know you would need. Local apps like Ola, a car share service like Uber is preloaded and ready to go on your phone. You just need to purchase credits to start taking rides. The phone also includes really cool apps that provide information about emergency services, shopping and eating nearby.
For a visitor planning a trip to India, Trabug is a really useful phone providing not only phone service, internet but also helpful apps to make your stay easier.
Trabug is not the cheapest option out there, but convenience never is. For all users, regardless of the plan, you will need to provide a deposit for the phone, which is approximately $65. This will be returned as soon as the phone is retrieved by the courier. If you lose the phone, it will not be returned.
In addition to the deposit, you will pay a flat fee based on the plan you choose as well as a $1 per day usage charge for each day that you have the phone. For the most expensive plan, it will run you approximately $60 plus $1 for each day of your trip. For my visit, it was almost $70.
Get Your Own SIM Chip
If you have an unlocked phone, one you own outright, and that you have asked to be unlocked by your carrier, you have the option to get your own local SIM chip. Having the ability to get a local SIM is great when traveling abroad, however, in India it has always been extremely difficult for a foreigner to get a SIM chip without proof of a local address (and without a million other documents!)
Times are a changin’. These days it has gotten much easier, although it’s still more complicated than it needs to be to be honest.
Upon arrival in Delhi Airport and many larger airports, you will see various phone company stalls that will sell local SIM chips. You will need passport size photos (2×2), a copy of your passport and a copy of your visa. Come prepared as it greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to set this all up. You will also need approximately 1000 rupees to get started on your plan.
In general getting your SIM chip at the airport will cost a bit more money than if you do it at a local shop, however, it is much easier to do it at the airport as they know you have just arrived and will guide you through the process quicker. Note, new SIM chips will take from 2 -8 hours to activate depending on your arrival time. There have been cases where this can extend to a couple of days due to document verification issues.
It is also important to note that when you insert a new SIM into your phone, you will no longer receive your iMessages from home. Additionally, I found that with the local SIM chip, your daily data limit is a max of 1 GB per day, whereas I almost always used my 3 GB per day on the Trabug phone.
Which One Do I Choose?
As with everything, there are always pros and cons. I will give you my list as I see it for both of these options, however in general it really depends on your comfort level, what you need the phone for and how long you will be in India.
Overall, Trabug is a hassle free service that is delivered to your doorstep providing the ultimate in luxury service. In addition to being delivered and picked up, if you have any problems while you are using the phone, their customer service is quick and efficient.
The cons for using the Trabug phone is that it is more expensive than getting your own SIM chip. However like I mentioned previously, you are paying for convenience as well as service and support. An additional negative is that you will not have a phone at the airport if there are any flight changes or delays. Even if you go back to your hotel, you will have already wiped the phone clean of it’s password and memory so it will not be usable. Lastly, it is sort of cumbersome to walk around with 2 phones, however for folks who do not rely on their phone to take photos, they may not need their home phone at all!
On the other hand, the main benefit for getting your own SIM chip is cost. It is significantly cheaper, but also requires you to be more proactive about your usage and making sure you are getting the best plan for your needs. The only other benefit I see is that you can continue to use the phone right up until you board your flight. This can be quite handy in some circumstances.
My general recommendation for people visiting India for a short duration with limited knowledge of the country is to get the Trabug phone for convenience and great service. For backpackers spending a longer amount of time in India, securing your own SIM chip even with some hassle, will be the most economical in the long run.
How did you stay connected on your last trip abroad?
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