Skip to Content

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

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links.

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.

A few years ago when I was last in India, 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.

Do I need an unlocked phone to visit India?

To get a local sim card (in all countries), 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 Americans have locked phones and you cannot buy an Indian sim card in the USA so you will need to hire a wifi device.

SIM CARD FOR INDIA

I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!

WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA

If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!

DON’T GET SCAMMED IN DELHI

Most people arrive for the first time into Delhi and get scammed within a few hours! Read my Delhi Travel Tips to help you enjoy Delhi, and the best places to stay in Delhi which is so important!

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!

Sim card in India, Delhi Airport Airtel
The Airtel Store in Delhi Airport to get a simcard in India

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.

BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA

India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.

BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA

I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.

GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA

Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!

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 Cards 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 package 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!

Mat

Saturday 18th of May 2024

Here an update of mid March 24 since I was getting hints from your blog: Arrived at IGI airpoirt Delhi, well prepared not to miss the Airtel counter, I found it easily. Result based on checking and insisting with various staff there: GETTING A SIM AT IGI AIRPORT AT AIRTEL COUNTER IS NOT POSSIBLE ANYMORE UNLESS you have somebody with a local mobile number to get the activation code.

I also tried the option with the pension manager at local phone shop. He said they did that in the past but would not offer it anymore since they would be held accountable if anything unlawful happened with that SIM.

Luckily previous investigation led me to Shigeta Travels https://shigetatravels.com/sim-card, a Japanese/English tour operator in Delhi. They confirmed they could immediately provide Airtel SIM in their office in Paharganj for a fee just 200-300INR more than at Airtel shop (~500INR). Another option is to have it delivered to hotel for a small additional fee by driver depending on availability. I decided to pick it up at their shop. The process was painless with passport and took about 45min-1h for 2 SIM cards incl some waiting time.

Not quite related, but increasing to difficulty at airport was that connecting to AP WIFI with passport after some effort worked, but I did not get ANY traffic through, so was unable to contact anyone local by Whatsapp.

San

Monday 6th of November 2023

Hi, thank you for this psot. However, do you know if I can get a SIM card at the Delhi airport transit area? As I have a 7 hour transit to the next connecting flight out to another remote city. Also, do we need to bring the copies and photo you mentioned or will they do it?

TheWanderingQuinn

Monday 6th of November 2023

Hello, no, I don't believe you can get a SIM card without leaving the airport completely into arrivals unfortunately. They will make the copies.

Fab

Saturday 9th of September 2023

Hi, I can confirm the shop at Delhi Airport. [September 2023] They take cash only. You may pay in Dollars or Euro, too. The plan by now is 1.5Gb per day, inside India phone flat for ~6 Dollars (28 days). Passport is copied, photo taken. They assist very kindly with the form. Even with cue still worth it. Faster with groups of travelers.

Helen

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

@Fab, thankyou I'm worrying about this as I am on my own , although with a group i know no one. I will just be hoping no big que.

TheWanderingQuinn

Sunday 10th of September 2023

Thank you for the update

Tc

Monday 3rd of April 2023

Bangalore this week, there was a shop selling SIM cards at arrivals but when we asked him he said, "system down,," and I still don't have one. Grateful for your post!

TheWanderingQuinn

Monday 3rd of April 2023

Thanks for letting me know!

Nick

Monday 3rd of April 2023

Second time I have done this.

In late March 2023, travelled from Australia landed at New Delhi airport went to the Airtel counter and asked for a tourist sim card. Was told 450rupees for 1mth (28 days?) and 1.2 GB download per day (the app says 1.5GB per day). They took a photocopy of my passport and they took a photo of me as well.

You will be advised to call a phone number after a couple of hours and you be provided with the details you need.

This process took about 5mins.

At the hotel room put in the sim card, called the number and followed the prompts to set up. Took less then a couple of minutes to do that.

Jessica

Tuesday 16th of April 2024

@Nick, thank you!!!! Will be arriving in Delhi on Thursday.

Helen

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

@Nick, hi I'm due to go to Delhi in 3 weeks time . Single women . I'm really struggling with the phone SIM card dilemma. I'm with a tour from the UK so the airport will be busy with the Heathrow flight all probably wanting Sims . With having a guide meeting us I'm just wondering if they do all that for you . I have ordered a lebera SIM which I can activate in India I'm hoping that may be an alternative. Have you any experience with lebera .? Thankyou