Purchasing a SIM card is a top priority for many visitors on arrival in HCMC. While the cards are readily available, prices and options can vary wildly and many sellers have set themselves up to take advantage of the less than savvy travellers. If you can manage to steer clear of purchasing an overpriced SIM from the airport upon landing, here are a few places around Saigon where you can find better deals.
Saigon is serviced by at least seven carriers: Viettel Mobile, MobiFone, VinaPhone, S-Fone, Vietnamobile, Beeline and EVNTelecom. Viettel, MobiFone and VinaPhone are the major carriers. Most cell service is provided on a pay-as-you-go basis, where you buy minutes that you manually add to your phone. All carriers seem to provide decent coverage for the downtown area and its surrounds but sticking with the three majors is your best option, as finding extra minutes will be easier. Also, if you’re carrying a smartphone, the major brands sport expanded 3G coverage. Any of the major three should be more than serviceable; I personally have MobiPhone for no reason other than it’s what my brother got me my first week in the city.
Finding a SIM in Saigon is by no means hard; all you need is a compatible phone and a little cash. Unlike neighbouring countries like Cambodia, no identification is needed. SIMs are sold all over the city but some places are better than others.
In the Pham Ngu Lao area, as well as other streets around the city, many small pop-up shops sell SIM cards. Probably the easiest to spot, with their cardboard signs labelled SIM, these vendors typically carry a variety of SIMs for a variety of carriers. Typically, the price of the SIM will depend upon the amount of credit that comes preloaded, ranging from 50,000 VND to 500,000 VND, with the actual prices brightly displayed on the packaging.
But be warned! These shops are notorious for taking advantage of first-time SIM buyers. While you won’t be taken to the proverbial cleaners, comparing prices shop to shop could save you as much as 200,000 VND on the same SIM. The advantage of visiting one of these carrier stores is that you have the ability to choose your own number instead of something randomly generated. Most short-term travellers probably won’t care about their number though, especially since some of the more desired numbers carry an extra, multi-million VND, price tag.
Throughout the city you’ll also find cell phone stores; a high concentration is found at the beginning of CMT8. A little more respectable than the fly-by-night stands in Pham Ngu Lao, these stores are generally more reliable and honest when it comes to pricing. Still, it’s best to stay on your toes just in case. Some of these stores are branded by mobile carriers.
Finally, post offices are another good choice for finding a SIM card, with the Saigon Central Post Office being one of the better. At the post office, SIMs from all HCMC carriers will be available, and you can have some peace of mind knowing they have consistent prices. The drawback to shopping at post offices is the limited number of their locations and their early closing times, mostly around 18:00.
By Max Murta