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iPhone SIMs in SEA

Posted by TravelMoo on 2/6/2014 at 16:55

Hi everyone,

Apologies if this has been covered elsewhere but after a search round the forums I have struggled to find a definitive answer. Pretty much every other question I have had I have managed to get an answer to from the website and forums so thanks - it's been invaluable so far!

I am planning a solo trip in SEA from Oct 2014 to March 2015 visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos. Then depending on time to spare and recommendations I get on the way may visit Indonesia or the Phillipines. I'm from the UK.

It is my first time travelling and as a young female doing it alone I am going to have a lot of worried people back home who will want to know they can get a hold of me fairly quickly if need be. Therefore, I am keen to ensure I have a plan in place for how I will call/text/email/Skype back home.

I am planning on taking and iPad mini (wifi only) and an iPhone 4s. I will use the iPad for skyping when I have access to wifi (hopefully fairly regularly) as well as general internet browsing when I am not out and about. I'd like to use the iPhone for calls and texts (both to home plus others I may meet along the way in country). Ideally I'd also have some data allowance on there for things like quick emails (to worried parents) where wifi isn't available or a quick check of google maps if I get lost.

It seems I have two options:
1) buy an international SIM in advance (I know STA travel have one)
2) buy SIM cards in each individual country that come with data allowances

I wondered what everyone's recommendations would be? It seems like it might be a bit of a hassle changing up in every single country but is that the cheapest option? Or am I being unrealistic and should I just take a cheap Nokia or something for calls/texts and rely on wifi for internet?

Any advice would be much appreciated!


#1 TravelMoo has been a member since 2/6/2014. Posts: 6

Posted by goonistik on 2/6/2014 at 23:50

It is always cheaper to get a local SIM rather than pay roaming charges. In many SEA countries it is easy to get a prepaid SIM. I know that Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines will be easy. I'm not sure about Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is also cheaper when you need to make a local call.

Roaming offers the convenience of retaining of your telephone number but that convenience comes at a cost. Retaining a phone number is important for people traveling on business (and their phone bill is on the company's tab).

#2 goonistik has been a member since 7/1/2010. Location: Philippines. Posts: 563

Posted by ElleH on 22/7/2014 at 20:00

In my experience, I think buying a SIM before you leave for your travels is most wise. I feel more prepared once I land in a foreign country. Since you're going to be traveling to so many different countries, make sure your SIM is flexible and compatible in all of those countries-- I go with G3 Wireless because I haven't visited a country where the service doesn't work and I love staying connected while I'm traveling. Happy travels!

#3 ElleH has been a member since 22/7/2014. Posts: 1

Posted by savorygal on 22/7/2014 at 22:00

I'm with Goon, buy a local sim when you arrive. easy & cheap. Vietnam has sim cards in the airport, I just bought the sim for a nominal amount, chose a data amount & for the equivalent of about 20 USD I had unlimited 3G & texting. 20 international talking minutes & 40 local minutes for one month. Laos & cambodia were no problem either. all the small shops seem to carry them.
happy travels

#4 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by exacto on 24/7/2014 at 07:57

we just did the same thing savorygal mentioned for our recent trip to indonesia, picking up a local sim card. there was free wi-fi almost everywhere, so we didn't use all that much data, but having a local telephone number really came in handy a few times when people needed to call us back to confirm reservation or give directions, etc.

#5 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,814

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