The Best Prepaid SIM Cards When Traveling

* Updated 2 March 2016. Added Thailand plan and updated Malaysia plan.

* Updated 4 April 2014. Do note, telco plans do change often and the content may be outdated. New telcos will be added as I travel.

I travel a fair bit and it gets expensive to roam and make calls through my home carrier, and even more expensive to use data while roaming.

A simple solution that has worked in many countries, is to get a prepaid SIM card in the destination country. Oftentimes, it costs a mere $5 or thereabouts, and you top it up with some credit. I carry a spare phone with me on my travels, just in case I still need my home carrier to be alive.

How it works for me is, I transfer my home carrier SIM card into my secondary phone, which could be a non-smart phone even. After all, I only need to receive SMS text messages and calls. On my primary smart phone, I’ll put the new SIM card in and switch it on. If you’re on WhatsApp, take note of these settings when you change SIMs.

Here are some of my preferred carriers for various countries. I rank them based on coverage, start-up cost, call rates, data plans and ease-of-purchase. All information is accurate at the time of writing – after all, mobile carriers change their plans fairly often.

Singapore

Starhub, Singapore

Recommended Mobile Carrier: StarHub
Start up cost: SGD8, SGD15, SGD50
Top up locations: 7-Eleven stores, major shopping malls, post offices, online

Local call rates: 1st minute – 22¢, subsequent minutes – 8¢
Local / international SMS rates: 5¢ / 15¢ (Global SMS)

Data plans:
SGD2 for 30MB with 3 days validity
SGD4 for 200MB with 3 days validity
SGD7 for 1GB with 7 days validity
SGD15 for 600MB with 30 days validity
SGD30 for 1.2GB with 30 days validity

Tethering / WiFi Hotspot: Yes

* validity for data plans refers to the duration of time before the data service is terminated

SIM card validity: 180 days from the previous top up

To check your balance: *123#

Australia

Optus, Australia

Recommended Mobile Carrier: Optus
Start up cost: AUD2 (do not buy SIM cards at the airport. They only sell more expensive plans)
Top up locations: 7-Eleven & telco stores, major shopping malls, online

Local call rates (all Australian carriers): FREE
Local / international SMS rates: FREE / 35¢ (Global SMS)
Data: 500mb per day

Recommended plan: $2 Days 4G Ready

Tethering / WiFi Hotspot: Yes
4G speed: Yes

SIM card validity: 6 months from the previous top up

To check your balance: Text “1” to 9999

New Zealand

Skinny Mobile, New Zealand

Recommended Mobile Carrier: Skinny

Start up cost: NZD4
Top up locations: 7-Eleven, Dick Smith stores, major shopping malls, online

Local call rates (all New Zealand carriers): 39¢ per minute
Local / international SMS rates: 8¢ / 9¢ (Global SMS)

Recommended plans
Monthly combo:
$16 for 90 minutes of talktime, unlimited texts, 500MB data (lasts 30 days)

Weekly combos:
$4 Love Bytes (200MB data) or $4 Loose Lips (60 minutes of talktime, 100 texts, 60MB data (lasts 7 days).
Add-ons: $4 TALK 80 (80 minutes talktime), $4 DATA 200 (200MB data), $8 DATA 600 (600MB data)

Tethering / WiFi Hotspot: Yes
4G speed: No

SIM card validity: 6 months from the previous top up

To check your balance: *888*2#

Malaysia

Maxis Hotlink, Malaysia

Recommended Mobile Carrier: Maxis Hotlink (Plan #Hotlink)
Start up cost: MYR10.00 (Approx USD2.50)
Top up locations: 7-Eleven stores, petrol kiosks, major shopping malls, online

Local call rates: 12 sen per 30 seconds
Local SMS rates: 7 sen

Comes with:
MYR5 Pre-loaded airtime
FREE Social Chat (WhatsApp, WeChat, KakaoTalk, Line, ChatOn (Does not apply to VoIP calls)
FREE Basic Internet (Speed is limited to 64kbps)

Add-on data
Daily:
MYR3 for 150MB

Weekly:
MYR6 for 150MB
MYR10 for 500 MB

Monthly:
MYR20 for 500MB
MYR30 for 1.5GB
MYR48 for 3GB
MYR65 for 4.5GB

* When you reach your quota for all plans, you will merely experience a reduced speed of 64kbps.

Tethering / WiFi Hotspot: Yes
4G speed: Yes

SIM card validity: 50 days from the previous top up

To check your balance: *100#

Thailand

TrueMove H

Recommended Mobile Carrier: TrueMove H (Try to get a Tourist SIM pack)
Start up cost: 0 THB (Get a SIM card from the airport).
Top up locations: 7-Eleven stores, Family Mart, petrol kiosks & major shopping malls

Local call / SMS rates: Varies greatly between their numerous plans but it is inexpensive

For the Tourist SIM pack
199 THB – 7 days 500 MB data, 7 days of unlimited calls between Traveller SIM users, 15 THB credit with 30 days validity

299 THB – 7 days 1.5 GB data, 100 THB credit with 30 days validity

459 THB – 3 SIM cards sharing 3 GB data and unlimited calls between sharing cards.

* When you reach your quota for all plans, you will merely experience a reduced speed of 64kbps.

Tethering / WiFi Hotspot: Yes
4G speed: Yes

To check your balance: #100#
To check your mobile number: *933#

2 Comments

  1. international sim card - May 11, 2014

    Great job.. I purchase these sims last week they work really very well.

  2. Prakkash - March 11, 2016

    Any recomendation on SEA/ASIA-travel sim.I’m currently using chatsim-working well on all chat apps-haven’t tried call function yet-need to pay more-reasonable.

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