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How to get a SIM card for India


Date01 Sep 2021


We have all become so accustomed to our mobile phone always giving us advice when we don't know what to do. The only annoying thing is when the mobile phone lacks juice - namely the internet. That's why it's useful to get a SIM card for India. While your travel,you need huge data of your SIM card even if you do not have access to WIFI.You need internet to locate and to be mobile. If you are planning a longer stay in India, an Indian SIM card is an absolute must!

In this article, we explain how to get a SIM card for India, what you need and what you should look out for when using it.

Where to buy a SIM card for India

In many other countries, you can easily buy a SIM card with credit directly at the airport. However, we do not recommend this in India. The prices at the airport are much higher than elsewhere.

The best option to buy a SIM card for India is in a Vodafone or Airtel shop. These two are the largest mobile phone providers along with Jio, which is only available to Indians. It is best to find a Vodafone or Airtel shop near you before you travel or as soon as you have Wi-Fi. You will find many in the big cities. However, don't be misled by the signs in small shops on the street. You can't buy a SIM card for India here, only get top up credit and data package.

In smaller shops or on the street it is common to be offered a second hand SIM card. Or someone offers you to get a new SIM card for India under another name. This can work, but we don’t recommend it, as you can easily be ripped off. 

What you need to buy a SIM card for India

The otherwise very bureaucratic process has become much simpler, so you no longer need to fill out various forms and bring numerous documents with you. What you always need is your passport with your visa, or the entry stamp for the e-visa. If you have an e-visa, you should also bring the document with the ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization), which you have to print out and show on arrival anyway.

In addition, you will have to give the address of a hotel or a friend. You will also sometimes be asked for a copy of your visa and two passport photos (not biometric). So to be on the safe side you should bring these, too. Some shops will simply take photos of you, your passport and visa to avoid all the paperwork.

The only difficulties when buying a SIM card for India may arise because Vodafone and Airtel sometimes need someone to vouch for you. Due to the government’s concern that the SIM card is used for terrorist activities you need someone with an Indian SIM card who vouches for you. For travellers the rule is often not applied so strictly. By the way, the vouching person for travellers doesn’t have to be an Indian citizen, as long as he or she has an Indian phone number. 

It’s more difficult with work, business or journalist visas. Here you need an Indian vouching for you who has to provide a copy of his or her passport. The mobile company might even call to confirm the voucher is valid. 

In addition to the SIM card, you also have to buy credit and/or a data package. With most offers, you have 1-2 GB of data volume per day, which is always replenished at midnight. Since it is a prepaid card, you should choose a package that runs for a long time. That way you don't have to top up as often.

How to activate the SIM card

Once you have received your SIM card, you need to activate it. This process has also become much easier. Often, the shop assistants take care of the activation, which takes about 15 minutes. This way you can make sure everything works in the shop itself. 

If the activation is not done in the shop, you will be given the number of a service hotline to call after a few hours. When you call, you will usually have to give your passport number (or part of it) and other data that you entered when you bought the card. This data could be anything from your address in Germany to your father's name.

Here we have an important tip! If you are asked for this information in the shop, keep it as short and simple as possible. For example, it makes sense to give your address Hauptstraße as “Haupt Street” and leave it at the father's first name. Because when you speak to the Indian service employee a few hours later, these short details will make the communication process much easier. After the activation has been successful, you should switch the mobile phone off and on again and can then use your data, free minutes and credit as you wish.

To activate your SIM card for India, please note that you can only activate it in the state where you bought it. So if you arrive in Delhi and buy a SIM card there, and then go on to Agra or Varanasi, you will not be able to activate the card there. This is because Agra and Varanasi are in different states. However, once the card is activated, you can use it and recharge it in all Indian states without any problems!

Roaming charges for different Indian states only apply for telephone calls, not for the use of data.

How to recharge your SIM card’s credit 

Recharging your credit and data works in every state. You can get a top-up at the small shops on every corner with big signs like Vodafone and Airtel. To do this, you have to tell them the mobile provider of your SIM card, say or write down your number and choose one of the data packages. You pay the amount due and should wait for an SMS confirming that the process was successful.

We recommend buying data packages with a long duration (e.g. 3 months) so that you don't have to keep looking for a shop to recharge. It also makes sense to buy a package with 1 to 2 GB data volume per day, as you won't have Wi-Fi everywhere. In contrast to Germany, data in India is incredibly cheap and reliable.

Regardless of whether your data package has already expired, you can top up your credit or data at any time. A few days before your data expires, you will receive a reminder via SMS.

How long is your SIM card for India valid

If you are travelling in India on a tourist visa, the SIM card will only be valid for three months, no matter how long your visa is valid for. However, it is usually possible to extend the validity of the SIM card after three months at a Vodafone or Airtel shop.

NOTE: You can only renew your SIM card in the state where you bought it. So if you bought your SIM card for India in Maharashtra, you cannot renew it in Tamil Nadu, but have to get a new SIM card there.

The validity of SIM cards issued on other types of visas varies. It is usually linked to the duration of the visa. If you are able to get a SIM card through your company, this is the most convenient option.

What you need to know about using a SIM card in India

Indian SIM cards are compatible for all mobile phones as standard, micro or nano cards.

The mobile phone network in India is pretty good everywhere. Even in rural areas you usually have a good network. The fact that you don't have a network in remote forest areas or on a peak in the Himalayas, on the other hand, can give you quite a pleasant break.

We hope you found our article on the SIM card for India useful. We would be very happy if you shared your experiences about buying, using and the provider of the SIM card with us so that all readers can benefit from it.

Written by: Tanja Holbe

Cover Photo: SIM Card for India (Credit: Ibrahim Rifath - Unsplash)

Photo: Phone and Sunset in India (Credit: Darshan Gajara - Unsplash)

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#sim card for india#sim card#internet in india