Thailand and Cells

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I haven't needed my own cell phone for several years now because my employers gave me one. But, like all the good perks, those days are a thing of the past. So, reluctantly, I found myself venturing out recently to purchase a cell phone and plan. That introduced me to the world of the SIM card, something with which I was completely unfamiliar.

I was amazed at how simple these cards have made it for non-technical users to buy, activate and use new phones. It made me start wondering about using a cell phone while visiting Thailand, for short- or long-term. It's possible I'm the last person in America to whom this stuff is new, but in case I'm not, I'll pass on what I found.

When you are traveling to Thailand, you have a few basic options.

1. You can take your US cell phone and have your carrier set it to international roaming. But apparently that isn't always available, and even if it is, it's prohibitively expensive...something like $3 or $4 a minute. The one pro, though, is that you will still get at least some of your calls from anyone in the States trying to reach you.

2. You can go online and buy or rent an 'international cell phone' such as the National Geographic Travel Abroad phone or one similar. However, these also are very expensive -- $200 just for the phone -- and the SIM cards can run you another $50 or $60. That's a lot of money, especially if you are going for less than a month.

3. You can rent a cell phone online, or while in Thailand, usually from booths at the airport. Again, this is going to be expensive. You can see an example here that charges $60 to $70 just for the phone for a month. And you have to pay hefty deposits on the phones at the airport. Then, you still have to buy a SIM card and minutes.

4. You can buy a cell phone in Thailand and get a SIM card with minutes from a 7-11. A cheap phone at one of the shopping malls will cost you less than $30, then you can just buy a SIM card with minutes at a 7-11.

5. You can take your US phone, find someone in Thailand to unlock it (so it can be used on another network), and buy a local SIM card. It's my understanding, and I'm not sure how accurate this is, so you'd best check with some of the guys who live there, that the malls are full of little shops where you can get your phone unlocked for less than $10. The SIM card and minutes will probably run you another $25 or $30 and last you a while, if you don't spend too much time on the phone.

Incoming calls won't cost you, either. Only outgoing calls will.

It sounds simple and reasonably inexpensive. Funny how fast things change. I'd be willing to bet that 10 years ago, this would have been a complicated experience that would cost a fortune, if it was even possible.

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I use my cell phone from the US. Have your carrier unlock the phone before you leave. It is free and very easy. Just ask for the code and put it in the phone. Once in Thailand, buy a sim card at 7-11 and you are good to go. If you travel to Indonesia or the Philippines, simply buy a sim card there and talk until your heart is content.

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My old US mobile didn't have a SIM card. I had to pay monthly for incoming as well as outgoing calls. What a rip off that was!

I hope you switched carrier, quickly. You can buy a T-mobile, "pay as you go" cell phone and sim card for about $30 at Wal-mart or Target. That might be something to look into.
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I have lived in Thailand for 5 years now and have not returned to the US, so no need for a US mobile.

You are so lucky to have lived in Thailand for five years now. No wonder your "old US mobile didn't have a SIM card." And you "had to pay monthly for incoming as well as outgoing calls. What a rip off that was!" For others not living in Thailand, you may be able to take your home country mobile home and use it in Thailand.
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After going over all the plans that were available, and all the stranglehold contracts, I just went down to Wal-Mart, paid $29.99 for a no-frills Samsung and got on the AT&T GoPhone plan. I pay a $3 access fee only on the days I use the phone. There are no other charges, and that gives me unlimited calling and long distance. So far, working out ok.

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After going over all the plans that were available, and all the stranglehold contracts, I just went down to Wal-Mart, paid $29.99 for a no-frills Samsung and got on the AT&T GoPhone plan. I pay a $3 access fee only on the days I use the phone. There are no other charges, and that gives me unlimited calling and long distance. So far, working out ok.

Before I had my present plan, I had a cheapie "pay as you go" phone from Wal-mart. I bought the card with the most minutes for about $100 and it kept me active for a year. Never used up those minute in a year. At the time, it was the best way to go for me.
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So, if you have to make only one call in a day, it costs you $3.00? Not exactly cheap!

If I only made one call a day, yes. But when I have to use the phone, it's rarely just one call. So, based on how many days I usually use my phone, I get unlimited calling for about $65/mo. I can live with that.
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With my SIM card I usually spend less than $20 a month.

Christ...I'm not sure you can turn on a cell phone in the States without going over that. Not without signing a 10-year contract that has to be sealed in blood -- and requires your left testicle, the sacrifice of an unwilling virgin and angry loofah sex with Bill O'Reilly if you break it.
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