Indian Visitor SIM Cards: Which is the Best SIM Card for India?

Best SIM Card for India

Macaques on the roofs of holy city Varanasi

India has many mobile operators and a very competitive market, but for visitors which is the best SIM card for India?

For tourists on an e-visa, the easiest way to get a local SIM card in India is to pick a free one up on arrival, curently being issued by BSNL.

Other Operators

If you do not choose to get a free SIM, or want to pickup another, then be aware that the process of getting a SIM card in india can be bureaucratic, and require several documents to prove your identity:

  • Proof of local address
  • Two passport photos
  • Copy of India Visa
  • Passport
  • Copy of passport
  • Current phone number

Ensure that you have all of these prepared in advance to help the process go smoothly. You may also need a local reference, for which you could ask your host or hotel proprietor. They should receive a call from the salesman in order to verify your identity.

The most popular Indian mobile operators are:

  • Vodafone
  • !dea
  • Reliance
  • Airtel
  • BSNL (state owned)

All the networks are similar in terms of cost, but vary in coverage – so make a decision based on the area you will be traveling in. Using a phone in India is generally very cheap; SIMs should cost no more than 250 rupees (4 USD), and may come preloaded with data and credit.

Where to buy?

On leaving customs in most of the large international airports in India you will see kiosks selling SIM cards. If you have already prepared the required documents, then you should be able to get a SIM card here. If not, then you can buy from official carrier stores or smaller electronic stores in towns and cities.

Scams

Be careful of vendors selling already used SIM cards. If vendors don’t ask for paperwork, then the SIM may already have been activated by someone else, and the credit nearly all used! The best option if you are concerned is to go to the main shop from one of the carriers.

 Best SIM Card for India - BSNL

 

 

‘Most Convenient Option’

State-run telecom operator BSNL are now handing out visas to arrivals on display of their e-visa and passport. This has recently started at New Delhi airport and is being rolled out across the country.

The SIM card will be pre-activated, and preloaded with 50 rupees talktime and 50 MB data. It will remain active for one month and there is a 24hr helpline available in 12 languages.

Although BSNL has some of the widest 3G coverage in the country, it is not complete – so be sure to check the coverage map for your area of travel. While this is the most convenient option for most people, if you are travelling extensively in the country then it might be wise to have another SIMs as no single network has extensive coverage over the whole country.

So which is the best SIM Card for India Visitors?

As rates are extremely cheap by western standards and similar across different providers, we recommend choosing a SIM by its coverage of the area you plan to visit.

Airtel or Vodafone are both good options if you will be mostly visiting metropolitan areas. BSNL, while not so reliable in cities, has the widest coverage in rural areas. In South India, ‘idea’ has good coverage.

Note: If you plan on traveling to Jammu and Kashmir state, the political climate means you will need to buy a SIM exclusively for this area.

Phone Numbers in India

Mobile phone numbers in India are ten digits long and start with 7,8 or 9. The country code for India is +91

To call your mobile in India from abroad, callers will need to dial 0091 and then your number. 00 (International Access Code) 91 (India Country Code).

Useful Contacts

Emergency: 112
Police: 100
Ambulance 102
Fire: 101