It’s at the point now where the girls working at the Indian sim card store know the password to my phone. When I walk up I can read their eyes.

Their piercing brown eyes are saying “oh great, this guy again”. But the fact is, when you want something done in India you have to be on it. If not, it won’t happen.

Getting a sim card in India, much like anything here, doesn’t come without its share of paperwork, hassle, and things just not going the way they are supposed to.

It has been close to week but I am happy to say I am now proud holder of my very own Indian phone number!

Where to Buy a Sim Card in India

For the purpose of our little story, I will recap the events that have taken place over the last week involving getting an Indian sim card activated, as well as the tale of troubles that this involved.

It has been exactly one week since my return to paradise, aka living on the beach in India. I am getting things set up and organized for the next few months of roaming around this crazy country.

Finding the Indian Sim Card Store

As I walk around Arambol, my Goan Indian base, I notice that nearly every store is painted with the colours and advertisements of the major carriers. Don’t let this confuse you; these brightly painted shops are just for recharging the balance, not for getting a sim card in India activated.

After some hunting and some decent directions from my guest house, I finally made it to the store in the picture at the beginning of this article. It was located on the main street heading towards Arambol.

The lovely young ladies inside would see me daily as they helped me in my task of getting an Indian sim card activated.

Can a Foreigner Buy a Sim Card in India

The simple answer is yes. But it takes time. After they inspected my phone, tried to explain the plans and pricing (something I still don’t fully understand) I was told it would take 4 days to activate.

I was also told that they needed copies of my passport and visa, as well as passport photos. Of course these are services they offer in house at a slightly inflated price.

The signature on the forms you fill out has to be the exact same as in your passport. Paperwork in India can be a real pain. This holds true when getting a sim card in India.

The signature must be a perfect match or it is not accepted. I always just scribble it, and it’s different every time. This wasn’t going to fly around here and it took a few tries to get the signature close enough to where they felt it was match.

The Cost of a Sim Card in India

Sim cards and data packs are relatively cheap in India. Keep in mind that this will largely depend on where you buy the Indian sim card.

Every sim card in India you get as foreigner will be prepaid.

The listed price on the sim card pack will be something like Rs 5. You will never pay this though. I ended paying Rs 500 ($10) for the sim card, 1GB of data, and Rs 350 credit on the phone. Not a terrible deal, but I am sure outside of Goa it could be had for a lot cheaper.

Check out the picture bellow to get an idea of the cost of 3G data in India.

getting a sim card in India

What is the Best Sim Card in India for Internet

This again, depends on the state or region of India you are getting a sim card in. The 3 major companies are Idea, Vodaphone, and Airtel.

I asked the girls working the counter and they told me that in Goa, Idea was my best bet. It would have the best 3G coverage, and I can now say that I am sitting on the beach surfing the web while other are surfing the waves.

Life just got sweeter.

I have been told that when I head south I should switch to Airtel, this is also the best bet for the mountains in the far north.

My plan is to use this sim in Goa then just buy a new sim when needed and keep the old one as a backup.

Can you use Micro or Nano Sim Cards in India

I am rocking a new Sony Xperia Z3. I am officially over the iPhone craze, and after less than 5 minutes with this new phone I can’t believe I was such a fool for so long  and over paying for an inferior product.

Point is, this phone has a nano sim.

Most sim cards in India will be full size. Luckily the store should have a device, that sort of resembles a hole punch, that they insert the sim card into and it cut’s down to size.

Some will want to charge for the service, some won’t. That depends on the shop.

buying a sim card in India

My Story of Getting a Sim Card in India

After I had found the store, had my passport copied, pictures taken, signature perfected, and said goodbye to my Rs 500; I was told to return in 4 days to activate it. Getting a sim card in India was in progress, so I thought.

I said “sure no problem”.

When I returned 4 days later there was Russian man in the shop loosing his mind on the poor girl inside because he didn’t want to wait the 4 days.

“Well guess what pal”, I thought to myself, “you’re in India, and this is how it works. If you don’t like it pack up your man speedo and take it back to Russia.”

Getting a sim card in India takes patience.

Anyways, It was a Monday when I paid and it was Thursday when I came back to activate. She messed around with the phone, and said “sim not ready, come back tomorrow morning”.

I sighed and agreed and returned the next day.

Friday morning she tried again, and this time called someone. I have no idea who but then said to come back at 7pm. Let me just say that it’s about an hour walk to get there and back, so it’s a bit of a pain. Especially at 7pm in the dark with no street lights.

So Friday at 7pm I returned, I was told “sim not ready, come back tomorrow morning”.

At this point it’s obvious it’s just not going to work. Maybe they didn’t like the paperwork, or maybe the sim was cut wrong. Whatever the case I said that I would come one more time, and if it wasn’t working the next morning they needed to give me a new one. She agreed.

So that brings us to this morning. I did my, now daily, walk to the sim card store; past the same guys offering to rent me scooters or sell me things I don’t need. But today they didn’t ask. The must have recognized me.

She tried again, still not working. She made a phone call and said wait 10 minutes. I waited.

A man on a scooter pulled up, he handed her an envelope with an open sim card package. She removed the sim card, cut it to size and put it in my phone.

It is clearly a used sim but whatever, it comes with 2GB of data on it and it works. What more could I ask for? Perhaps that is doesn’t just stop working after 30 days or something, who knows, time will tell.

If you enjoyed my story about getting a sim card in India here are a couple of other suggestions;

The time a friend and I crossed overland from Turkey to Iraq on a local bus

When another blogger and I rented a car drove it around Southern Albania

Or, how about an article I wrote in Berlin about the difference between street art and graffiti

If you want to follow along on my Indian journey or are interested in other travel tips and advice please subscribe to receive the latest posts delivered right to your email! 

Is there anything I missed about getting a sim card in India? Or have any questions? Let me know in the comments section below.

5 Responses

  1. Pavan

    Alex, I liked how you described your journey of getting a sim card in India. It made for an interesting read. I am from India, and I agree when you say, ‘Paperwork in India can be a real pain’. You need to be very patient in getting your work done. And as in your case patience finally pays off;-)
    Pavan recently posted…5 Impressions of Spiti ValleyMy Profile

    • Alex

      Hi Pavan.

      Thanks for the comment! Patience is key here it seems and will go a long way on the trip.

  2. Dolly

    Its ‘Passport Size photos’ and not Passport photos. Similar to stamp size, post card size etc.
    Somehow that is a standard size here than actual measurements:)

    Sometimes something as simple as a SIM card can get very tricky to get (to activate and use) 😛 But you have a load of people to explain how to get it straightened up! Is it still that bad?! May be not:P

  3. Evan Watts

    I know how it is! I spent days walking around to every store trying to buy a sim card. Everyone said ‘dont sell. Go here’ sending me all over town. finally found a guy, filled in all the paperwork and then the sim never ended up activating 🙁 lucky things are relatively cheap in india and its a good story to tell :p