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Thailand for beginners

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Getting a Thai SIM card

Published on: 17th March, 2011

The real benefit of social media is the ability to make friends and loved ones jealous of your toes in the sand from thousands of kilometres away. The first step to making that happen is to get a Thai SIM card and set it up to use the data network.

Sim Cards for Everyone!

Sim Cards for Everyone!

Due to internal government squabbling, there is still no comprehensive 3G network in Thailand. The EDGE (sometimes called 2G) network that Thailand does have will be sufficient for all but the most hopelessly internet addicted. I use the Dtac/Happy network, and have been pleased with both their coverage and the ease of use, although visiting friends have used True and reported no problems.

Step 1: Choose a network. All of them are pretty much the same, with True, Dtac/Happy and AIS having the widest coverage. A pre-paid SIM card will cost 50-100 baht and come with a small amount of credit on the card and can be purchased at 7-eleven, Family Mart, at the airport, or any shop selling mobile phones. Insert it into your unlocked GSM smartphone. (Attention Americans, Japanese, and Koreans: check to see if your phones are compatible with the GSM mobile networks — most aren’t.)

Step 2: Choose a data package and load enough value to cover the price of the package. Call the service centre number listed on the package the SIM card came with for current prices and packages.

All three companies have English-language customer service. Be aware that Thai providers charge either by the time you are connected to the network or by the amount of data you use. It’s normally better value to buy a package that charges by the amount of data transferred versus time the internet connection is active. As a guide, 150 MB normally cost 250 baht and have a validity of 30 days, while 3 GB cost 650 baht.

Step 3: Call the service centre number back and ask for the package you decided on. In a few minutes you should receive a text message confirming that the internet is active and your access should start immediately.

Step 3b: Like many things to do with technology, sometimes activating your phone to use the mobile internet using the call-in service centre goes horribly, horribly wrong and ends in weeping and gnashing of teeth. Head to a service counter and have them perform the necessary incantations in person: each company has a service counter at Suvarnabhumi airport, at MBK in central Bangkok, and scattered liberally across Thailand.

Not travelling with your phone? USB modems are available as well in Thailand. Just pop a SIM card into the modem, plug it into your laptop, and follow the instructions included to activate and top-up.

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