Planning a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand? Buying a prepaid Chiang Mai SIM cards or eSIM with data plan to keep you get connected during your Chiang Mai vacation is highly recommended.
Chiang Mai is a famous destination in Northern Thailand, known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural scenery. The city welcomes a large number of tourists annually.
One important thing to consider when traveling to Chiang Mai is your communication needs.
Getting a Thai SIM card can be a great option for tourists, providing access to affordable and high-speed data plans that allow them to make calls, send messages, and access the internet on the go.
In this article, we will discuss everything about getting a Thailand SIM card and eSIM for tourists in Chiang Mai, including which type to choose, where to buy, what to look for in a plan, and useful tips to stay connected during your trip.
A quick start about Thailand SIM cards in Chiang Mai:
- Chiang Mai is called “home to digital nomads” because Internet speed here is very fast.
- Top 3 best mobile network operators in Chiang Mai, Thailand: AIS, TrueMove H, and DTAC. In Chiang Mai, only AIS, TrueMove H have reliable 4G signals, especially in the remote areas.
- Recommended travel SIM: data only
- Best Thailand SIM cards for travelers: prepaid SIM card or eSIM with a data plan
- Newest Thailand travel SIM card form: eSIM
Now, we will go into details to see why we give these advice:
In terms of forms, there are 02 types of Bangkok SIM cards types, which are:
- Physical SIM card, and
- eSIM profile (digital SIM)
Let’s see in details:
Table of Contents
I. Overall about physical Chiang Mai SIM cards for tourists
1. Types of physical Thailand SIM cards for Chiang Mai
There are several types of physical SIM cards available for purchase in Chiang Mai, Thailand, each with its own features and benefits.
Here are the most common types of physical Thailand SIM cards that tourists can choose from:
- Prepaid local SIM cards: they are popular for tourists in Thailand, including Chiang Mai because they offer flexibility and affordability. These cards can be found in airports, convenience stores, mobile shops, and can be topped up as needed. They also come with a variety of data plans, typically with different amounts of data, voice calling time, and validity durations.
- Postpaid SIM cards: this option is suitable for those with longer stays in Chiang Mai because they require a more long-term commitment because they come with a monthly bill. Normally, the rates for data usage and voice calls of postpaid SIM cards are better compared to prepaid ones.
- Data-only SIM cards: They are ideal for both locals and tourists who do not plan to make any voice calls or text SMS but need high-speed Internet access.
- Tourist SIM cards: this type of SIM is designed specifically for short-term visitors to Thailand (including Chiang Mai) and comes with features like unlimited data, free voice calls, SMS, and discounts on attractions and services.
- Multi-country SIM cards: this type is ideal for travelers visiting multiple countries, including Thailand. It offers roaming services and allows tourists to stay connected throughout their trip.
Consider your specific needs and travel plans before buying a SIM card to make sure that you have the right plan for your trip.
All 3 internet providers offer SIM cards that provide unlimited internet and data for a specific amount of time. You can choose from certain add-ons like call credit.
2. What to prepare when buying a SIM card for Chiang Mai as a tourist?
When buying a SIM card in Chiang Mai, you need to provide evidence of your identification when buying a Thai SIM card: your passport, especially if you buy it from official resellers. Always bring it because the seller will take a copy of your passport in the store or take its photo for their administration.
Your Thai SIM card will be registered on your passport and your name. You can only buy 1 prepaid SIM card per passport.
3. How much does Chiang Mai SIM Card price?
The price of a Chiang Mai SIM card for tourists can vary depending on the mobile network operator and the type of plan you select. Generally, you can expect to pay from 100 to 300 Baht (about $3 to $10 USD ) for a basic prepaid SIM card plan which features a limited amount of data and voice minutes.
It is noted that some mobile network operators may offer special tourist plans that include data, voice, and other perks.
Pro tip: If you want to save money, avoid buying SIM cards at the airport.
4. Which SIM card is the best in Chiang Mai?
The three main internet providers in Chiang Mai are AIS, DTAC and TrueMove H. Their 3G coverage is the same in the whole of Chiang Mai, but only TrueMove H and AIS has fast 4G signals in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. However, DTAC offers cheaper rates than the other operators.
Which SIM card in Chiang Mai for tourists to choose in terms of type?
Data-only SIM (either physical or digital SIM): this ideal for tourists, especially for those who just need internet access without the need of calling or texting SMS.
Which Chiang Mai SIM cards/eSIM for tourists to choose in terms of provider?
Choose a tourist SIM card /eSIM from DTAC. It is a good choice in general, because its plans are cheaper and various. This provider offers both physical SIM and eSIM with the same features to tourists, such as unlimited data with a maximum data on specific amount of time, ready credits for calling, free usage of specific apps,… These features are really beneficial for tourists.
II. Chiang Mai travel data eSIM for tourists (virtual/digital SIM)
1. What is Chiang Mai eSIM?
An eSIM refers to a digital SIM card that is integrated into a mobile device. It is a practical choice for tourists visiting Bangkok since it eliminates the need to insert a physical SIM card to activate mobile services.
Several mobile network providers in Thailand cater to tourists by providing eSIM services that enable them to use their phones for calls, texts, and Internet access during their trip.
Selecting an eSIM with a data plan is a popular choice among travelers to Bangkok because it enables them to stay in touch with their loved ones while also being cost-effective.
2. Types and features of Chiang Mai eSIM
In terms of functionality, Thailand eSIM is divided into two types:
- Data eSIM (for internet access only), and
- Voice, text and data eSIM (for analog calls, SMS, and internet access).
Here are some main features of Thailand’s data eSIMs in Chiang Mai:
- Most data eSIMs in Thailand do not include a Thai phone number, so making analog phone calls or sending texts is not possible. However, these services can still be accessed through apps.
- The eSIM data plan will automatically connect to a supported mobile network, giving you instant access to the Internet.
- The eSIM can only be installed once, so if it’s removed, it cannot be set up again on any mobile device. However, some eSIMs from certain providers can be reinstalled once the old one is removed. In such cases, their validity is accumulated and remains unchanged.
- Multiple eSIM profiles can be added to a phone depending on its memory storage, but only one can be activated at a time. It’s recommended to have a maximum of three eSIMs on a phone to optimize its performance.
- The top-up ability varies depending on the eSIM provider. When data is used up, a new data plan must be purchased or the option to top-up may be available.
III. Where to buy Thailand SIM for Chiang Mai as a tourist?
You can find it easy to buy a SIM Vietnam in Chiang Mai, consisting of:
- Buying upon arrival at the airport,
- Buying online, and
- Buying at convenience stores in the city.
Getting a SIM Thailand in Chiang Mai is easy. You can get a SIM card for Chiang Mai just about everywhere in the city.
You may want to know:
Thailand sometimes offers a free SIM card for tourists and even hands them out at the airport in Chiang Mai, but remember that nothing is free. This type of Thailand SIM card is just a gift without any credit on it. You need to top up after inserting them in your phone.
Here are 3 popular ways to find Thailand SIM in Chiang Mai:
1. Buy at Chiang Mai International Airport
Buying SIM cards for tourists at Chiang Mai international airport (CNX) is the traditional way to stay connected during your trip to the destination.
Remember that Chiang Mai airport is the largest in Northern Thailand, near the city center.
There are counters providing SIM cards of all Thailand mobile network providers at Chiang Mai airport. If you want to save money,
Steps to buy Thailand SIM cards for tourists at the airport:
► Step 1: Research to choose the mobile operator you want
It is best to research the packages and prices of 3 mobile operators in advance before deciding which one to choose.
► Step 2: Choose the package that fits your needs
The packages offered by mobile network operators vary from data-only to voice and data bundles. Select the one that suits your needs based on the length of your stay and the amount of data you need. Note that some operators offer unlimited data plans for a certain period, which may be useful if you plan to use your device frequently.
► Step 3: Buy and register at the airport
Buy from the kiosks located near the exit gates. Then, you can register the SIM online or in-store. Remember to provide your passport and local address where you will stay in Chiang Mai. Some providers even require additional info like photos.
► Step 4: Top up your SIM card
After registering, you need to top up your SIM card with credit to activate the chosen package. Do it at the kiosks located at the airport or at any convenience store or mobile shop in the city.
- Easy and convenient since you have your passport ready on hand.
- Service-oriented staff can speak English and guide you through the installation process.
- You have access to the internet right after landing.
- It’s more expensive than other places.
- The data plans are not varied.
2. Buy online
If you want to save money and effort, you can buy Thailand SIM cards online and pick it up at the airport because it will be significantly cheaper. Moreover, buying SIM cards online can give you time to evaluate and compare the features between plans and buy the right one with ease.
Alternatively, you can buy a SIM card online and have it delivered to your hotel or a pickup location in Chiang Mai. A SIM card for Chiang Mai Thailand costs for less than $10 USD with unlimited data for 8 days. Perfect for a short trip to Chiang Mai.
Apart from SIM cards, when buying online, you can choose to buy Thai eSIM for tourists. This choice is flexible no matter where you are. You can even buy Thailand eSIM for Chiang Mai travel before your departure date in many online stores on the Internet. ThailandeSIM.com, Airalo, Gigago, Digital Nomad, Holafly, and Mobile Connect,… are some of the most popular eSIM providers available now.
Steps to buy eSIM for Chiang Mai travel are:
- Visit the website of provider, be it Thailandesim.com
- Select the package that suits your needs and pay
- Receive eSIM details and installation guide in your registered email
- Set up the eSIM before departure and make sure to activate it right after landing
- Enjoy Internet connection
Here are some highly recommended eSIM plans for a Thailand trip:
- Thailand eSIM 15GB Ultd, with 8-day validity -$8.9
- Thailand eSIM 30GB Ultd, with 15-day validity – $17.9
- ASIA eSIM, covers 8 countries – from $7.5 – ideal for people traveling multiple countries in Asia
- GO Inter eSIM, with 6GB Ultd, 10-day validity, $11.9 – work in 27 countries including Asia, Australia and USA
Note: Your phone needs to be unlocked and compatible with eSIM in order to use eSIM Thailand. Check eSIM-compatible device list.
3. Buy at convenience stores: 7Eleven, Tesco, Family Mart
In Thailand, in general, and Chiang Mai, in particular, you can buy a SIM card for tourists at mostly well-known convenience stores, namely 7Eleven, Tesco, Family Mart.
But, some notes are:
- 7Eleven only sells TrueMove and DTAC
- Family Mart andTesco sells AIS, DTAC and TrueMove H (but it is not convenient as it may seem)
- Cheaper price
- Various data plans
- Staff may not communicate with you (not speak English)
- Staff have no time to guide you because the line can be quite long
Actually, it is not highly recommended to buy a Thailand SIM card in a convenience store as a tourist because there is no service agent to help you out. You need to activate the plan by yourself and packages are displayed mostly in Thai language.
► In case you are going to travel other places in Thailand, check out more useful guide to buying (e)SIM cards in other Thailand city.
IV. Must-know tips for tourists to staying online in Chiang Mai
1. Internet connectivity in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is now considered one of the main digital nomads cities of Asia. So many digital nomads call Chiang Mai home because the Internet is so fast. The local community has jumped on the high-speed Internet bandwagon in a major way. The download speed is 15 – 25 Mbps is the standard Internet speed in Chiang Mai – at least in most cafes and workspaces. In fact, there are some places that have speeds in excess of 25 Mbps.
There are a lot of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the city. You can find public Wi-Fi hotspots available across the city, including cafes, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, public parks, transportation hubs like airports and train stations.
To save your data usage, you can take advantage of public WiFi whenever possible. However, be noted that WiFi hotspots are widely available in Chiang Mai, but they are not always secure.
It is recommended to use a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi networks to ensure privacy and security.
Free Wi-Fi hotspots in Chiang Mai:
|Woo Cafe||Charoenrat Road|
|Rachamankha Hotel||Rachamankha Soi 9|
|May Kaidee Restaurant and Cooking School||Chang Moi Kao Road|
|Ristr8to²||Nimmana Haeminda Road|
|Akha Ama Coffee||Soi Hussadhisewee 3|
|The Good View Village||Somphot Chiang Mai Ched Roy Pi Road|
|Namton’s House Bar||Chiang Mai – Lam Phun Road|
|Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa||Charoen Prathet Rd|
|barefoot||Tha Phae Roadd|
|Central Chiangmai||Super Highway Rd|
|SS1254372 Cafe||Nimmana Haeminda|
|The Larder Cafe and Bar||Sukkasem Rd|
|David’s Kitchen||Bumruang Rajd Rd|
|Coffee or Me||Khai Luksuea Soi 5|
|Oxotel||Wua Lai Road|
2. Restrictions on Internet use in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Travelers should be aware of the restrictions before using the internet in Chiang Mai or other destinations in Thailand. For example, the Thai government has implemented strict laws regarding online content deemed offensive to the monarchy or national security. Accessing such content can result in severe penalties. In addition, websites or social media related to gambling, pornography, and illegal activities are also blocked or restricted.
3. Mobile data in Chiang Mai
There are 3 main internet providers in Chiang Mai, which are AIS, DTAC and TrueMove H. Each has pros and cons. The 3G coverage of three providers is rather the same in Chiang Mai. You can also get 4G virtually everywhere you go. But, 5G signal coverage of DTAC is poor in comparison to its competitors.
However, don’t worry that whenever you are traveling to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Tao or Bangkok or any other main tourist destinations in Thailand, you will pretty much be able to enjoy fast cellular internet with any of these providers.
But, be noted that data speed always depends on your location and time of the day. For example, during peak hours when everyone is online, the speed may be significantly slower than during the middle of the day when one is asleep.
V. FAQ about Chiang Mai SIM cards and eSIM
Can you buy a SIM at Chiang Mai airport?
There are counters that sell SIM cards of all Thailand mobile network providers at Chiang Mai Airport (CNX). If you want to save money, you can book Thailand 4G SIM card online or pick it up at the airport. Alternatively, you can buy eSIM online right from your hometown to be active for your trip.