Photo: Handy advice.

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.

In the last few years Thailand’s phone network and cellphone coverage has developed considerably and while it still isn’t a patch on say Singapore, it is still considerably better than Malaysia or Indonesia. 3G is available across the country and 4G in more developed centres (like Bangkok).

Takes just five minutes at a kiosk.

Takes just five minutes at a kiosk.

The country’s primary telecom operators most likely to be of interest to foreign travellers are True, AIS and DTAC. All have kiosks that can provide (and set up) sim cards at Thailand’s intentional airports. Alternatively, you can grab a sim card from a minimart like 7-eleven or go to one of the telecom company outlets to get one.

Important note: The following assumes that your phone is unlocked. If your phone is locked to a provider in your home country, you’ll need to investigate their roaming plans as a foreign sim card will not work in your phone.

Kiosks sell sims in commonly required sizes (standard, micro and nano) and generally the sim card is free with little to no credit, or prepaid with some degree of credit preloaded onto the card, which you can then use to pay for the services you desire.

Prices are reasonable for the region. And while you may be able to hunt down deals better than the following, on an early 2016 swing through Bangkok’s main international airport, we saw the following on offer.

True 30-day plans
1.5 GB data (4G/3G), 80 baht of phone credit: 300 baht
2.5 GB data (4G/3G), 30 baht of phone credit: 350 baht
4 GB data (4G/3G), 70 baht of phone credit: 500 baht
8 GB data (4G/3G), 50 baht of phone credit: 800 baht
12 GB data (4G/3G), 140 baht of phone credit: 1,000 baht

7-day plan
1.5 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 299 baht

AIS
7-day plan
1.5 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 449 baht

10-day plan
1.5 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 299 baht

30-day plan
4.5 GB data (4G/3G), 50 baht of phone credit: 549 baht
9 GB data (4G/3G), 50 baht of phone credit: 849 baht
12 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 1,049 baht

DTAC
7-day plan
1.5 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 299 baht

10-day plan
2.5 GB data (4G/3G), 95 baht of phone credit: 449 baht

15-day plan
4 GB data (4G/3G), 100 baht of phone credit: 599 baht

30-day plan
4.5 GB data (4G/3G), 85 baht of phone credit: 549 baht
9 GB data (4G/3G), 65 baht of phone credit: 849 baht
12 GB data (4G/3G), 160 baht of phone credit: 1,049 baht

It is important to note that with all these plans, if the provider determines you’re burning through your allotment (say by downloading a movie or two) they throttle your connection savagely. We’ve found True’s throttling to make the service near unusable (we felt like we were back in Bali!) So be sure to buy enough data if you are a heavy user and we would suggest not using a sim to download a movie — use your hotel or guesthouse WiFi for that.

If you’re buying your sim through a kiosk or outlet, the staff member will ask for your ID (passport is the standard) as they’ll need this to activate your service. It is not possible to activate a sim card without ID in Thailand. You can though buy multiple sims on one ID without problem.

Achievement unlocked: Activating phone with instructions in Thai.

Achievement unlocked: Activating phone with instructions in Thai.

If you’re doing this yourself, having bought the sim in a convenience store, once you’ve inserted the sim card, you’ll need to wade through a series of activation menus to get your phone working. The step flow is a little different with each phone company. Try to buy a sim card that has “Tourist” emblazoned on the packaging — that way, hopefully the package will include instructions in a few languages along with Thai.

Once you are up and running, if you do burn through your data or need more credit for calls, convenience stores sell top up cards which you can use to add to the credit on your phone.

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