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.
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
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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.