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3 Easy Ways To Get a Sim Card in India For Tourists!

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Is it hard to get a Sim Card in India? You may have heard, or you may read online that getting a sim card in India for tourists is hard. This used to be the case and although it’s still not as easy as getting a sim card in other countries, things are changing and how to get a sim card in India and how to buy a sim card in India is now pretty easy.

So in this India travel blog, let me help you work out which prepaid India sim card is best for you, what the best sim card in India for tourists is, and how to get a sim card in India in 3 easy ways!

Quickly though, let’s cover the question – Do I need to get a sim card in India? My answer – YES!

Sim Card in India

Sim Card in India
Keep Reading for how to get a Sim Card in India!

Best Sim Card in India

Airtel and Vodafone are India’s biggest network providers however because of how big India is the coverage is not the same all over the country.

I found that Vodafone and Airtel work well in North India but Airtel worked better for me in South India than my Vodafone India sim card did.

Jio is another popular network provider that I have not tried.

sim card in India, airtel, vodafone and jio logos for Indian network providers

You must have an unlocked phone! If your phone is not unlocked you will not be able to get a sim card in India. Instead, your best choice for internet in India is hiring a wireless device so you can still be connected in India! A lot of American’s have locked phones and you cannot buy an Indian sim card in the USA so you will need to hire a wifi device.

VISA FOR INDIA!

Remember you need a visa to enter India! If you haven’t got a visa yet, here’s my step by step easy guide on how to apply for an e-visa for India.

How To Get A Sim Card in India:

1. Getting a Sim Card in India at the Airport

You can buy a sim card at Delhi Airport which I have done many times, and I have been told recently you can also buy a SIM card at Mumbai Airport.

Getting a SIM card at the airport is always the best idea because the shops are as you leave arrivals, the process is quick and easy and you’ll be connected with plenty of data with 2-3 hours of arriving in India.

Here’s my full blog post on how to get a sim card in Delhi airport with prices and packages.


Based on my past visits, the only Indian sim card provider at the airport is Airtel but the coverage and package they offer is pretty much the best sim card in India for tourists to get so that’s all you need.

If you’re flying into Delhi, I 100% recommend buying your sim card in India at Delhi Airport as it is the easiest way to get a sim card in India, you don’t need to bring copies of your passport and photos to them as you have to do in the options below, they do it all for you.

But make sure you read my post on getting a SIM card in Delhi here because the men often scam tourists with the price so make sure you don’t get caught out!

At the moment I only know of Delhi Airport and Mumbai Airport as Airports in India to get a sim card in.

But if you arrive at Amritsar, Bangalore, Goa or any other main international airports, look for an Airtel store when you leave arrivals as there may be one!

And let me know in the comments section of this post if you see one!

Related Post: 10 Delhi Travel Tips to See & Enjoy Delhi as a Tourist!

Sim card in India, Delhi Airport Airtel
The Airtel Store in Delhi Airport.

2. Getting a Sim Card in India at your Hotel or Hostel

Another good option and the second-best way to get an India prepaid sim is to ask your accommodation to help you.

This works best if you are staying in a hostel in India as they are set up for travellers arriving and wanting a sim card.

For example, Backpacker Panda in Mumbai, Colaba offers this service which I used when I first arrived in India. Moustache Hostel New Delhi also offers this service. (I recommend both of these hostels as great places to stay in India by the way!)

Getting an India sim card for tourists this way will cost you a bit extra as they have to add on a commission for the hostel and you literally have someone from Vodafone Sim Card India or Airtel visit the hostel to complete the paperwork with you.

You will need photocopies of your passport and India visa, along with a passport photo to give to the sim card guy but the hostel can help you with these.

sim card in India, buying a sim card in india vodafone sim
This Vodafone Prepaid Sim Card in India is one of the most popular options.

3. Getting a Sim Card in India from a Store

Vodafone and Airtel are India’s largest network provider but I would avoid going into an actual Vodafone store or Airtel store which is how I initially assumed you would get a sim card.

This is because you’ll likely be asked for more information like an Indian number and Indian address to register your sim.. which you do not have!

Instead, if you can’t get a sim card at the Airport, or through your accommodation, go to a small shop in a local market for example which seems to dabble in everything phone-related and lookout for signs that say they sell sim cards.

This is what I did in Kochi in South India and it was so easy. If you have trouble finding one be sure to ask your accommodation for help.

I asked for a sim, he gave me a card of the options. He copied my passport, I gave a passport photo, I filled in the contract, handed over the money (which was a much better price than my first time), put my sim in 1 day later, called the number he gave me to verify it was me using my passport number, and I had internet!

However, this is still a more difficult option than the ones above as these stores are used to Indian people buying sim cards rather than foreign tourists looking for a mobile sim card in India.

sim card in India, rates and prices of sim cards in India
These were the rates and prices for a sim card I was offered in Kochi in 2019

Prices of Prepaid Sim Card in India

When it comes to the cost of sim cards in India, there are different international sim card packages in India.

Generally, you can get packages for 28 days, 60 days, 82 days and 90 days.

You may be offered a certain one, you may just be given what you’re given (which you’ll get used to in India!). If you are staying in India for a few months as I did for 4 months, make sure you get a 90-day sim card in India!

What I love about the data sim cards in India is that the data is PER DAY! For example, when I last got Delhi Airport sim card package, the deal was:

  • 900Rs / £10.00 / $12.50
  • 1.4gb of data each day which refreshes each day.
  • Unlimited calls to Indian numbers.
  • Validity for 82 days.

*Note this price and packaged might have changed as this was pre-pandemic.

There is talk about there being a Delhi Airport free sim card but I didn’t see this in Delhi Airport and wasn’t offered it at any point so I wouldn’t rely on this, to be honest.

Remember to read here how to get a Sim Card in Delhi Airport.

I hope this helped you with how to get a sim card in India!

K.zurstrassen

Wednesday 26th of October 2022

E-sim Problem. Before entering India I knew excactly what to do, what to bring and what to pay for a simcard. The airport counter was crowded and singlehanded and the Airtel shop in town was situated next to my hotel. So for the shop I went.After 2 hours in the shop with 4 guys helping me, pasport photo's are not needed anymore, they make digital ones themselves, they send me off to the opposite streetvendor , and it took him 1,5 hrs. The problem in the shop was due to ignorance and later to the fact that I needed an E-sim. Prepaid esim doesn't excist for foreigners!! So first buy a prepaid simcard and later change it to E-sim!! My advice will be... stick to the airports if possible, they have dealt with this before.

Dave

Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

@TheWanderingQuinn,

Any idea how long it takes if you wait in the line? Someone told me it takes them 20min to serve a single person? Also do you know the cost of the SIM card they sell at Delhi airport? I want to make sure I have enough rupees.

TheWanderingQuinn

Tuesday 1st of November 2022

Good tip! Thank you

Hassan

Wednesday 19th of October 2022

I am still trying to get my Sim Card and its a nightmare. They asked to me to show my Visa. Since I am from Maldives we dont require a visa to visit India and Visa is free. Yet they couldnt accept that. They havent issued me a visa

Maureen Blake

Saturday 17th of September 2022

Thanks for your helpful tips I bought a 60 day Indian SIM in Kalimpong ((West Bengal) for Rs400. It was in a small shop in the bazaar. At first they said they couldn't do it as they had never tried. I persuaded them that it's good to learn new things, and in half an hour it was all done.

Kris

Sunday 9th of October 2022

@Maureen Blake, what was the trick and steps to get it done

TheWanderingQuinn

Monday 19th of September 2022

Ooh well done for pushing them and getting it done! And thank you for letting me know.

Stuart B

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

Please could you tell me if the process in Mumbai airport is the same as for Delhi ie no documents or photos needed. Many thanks. Stuart

Bruno Fernandes

Saturday 12th of November 2022

There is an Airtel booth in arrivals. You’ll find it after baggage reclaim.

I didn’t have the time to buy a SIM card there because I had to catch an internal flight. So I can’t comment on the experience.

If it makes people here feel any better, getting your first SIM card is difficult even for citizens and OCI card holders.

TheWanderingQuinn

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Hello, I'm afraid I haven't been to Mumbai Airport to get a SIM card before and the last time I was in India, just before the pandemic, I couldn't find out from anyone whether Mumbai Airport did SIM cards like Delhi does.

Manas Patil

Wednesday 15th of June 2022

Hello!

I loved this article and I'm from India. The talk about the free sim card that you're referring to is the JIO sim card where when they first opened up their company, they offered free phones, sim cards, and even free internet for a good amount of time. Now, there's nothing free, but the prices are still reasonable!

Regards, Manas Patil

Madman's Journey