Planning a trip to Thailand? Buying a prepaid Thailand SIM card or eSIM with data plan to keep you get connected during your Thailand vacation is highly recommended.
Thailand is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. When visiting Thailand, staying connected with family and friends, accessing maps and navigation apps, and using social media platforms can be necessary for a comfortable and convenient trip.
You can ensure this by buying a Thailand SIM card or eSIM. While SIM cards have been the standard choice for tourists, eSIM are now getting more and more popular thanks to its convenience and ease of use.
So, which one is the best for travelers to Thailand? Discuss the pros and cons of each option and how to choose the most suitable one for your trip in the Land of Smiles.
Let’s get into all you need to know about the e(SIM) cards for your trip in Thailand.
Table of Contents
I. Should You Get a New SIM Card When Traveling to Thailand?
When traveling to Thailand, you may need a new local sim card if you want to access local mobile networks and use your current phone to make calls, send text messages, or surf the Internet.
It is because your current sim card may not be compatible with the local mobile networks in Thailand or the roaming fees for using your main sim card may be too expensive.
By buying a new SIM card for Thailand, you can reap some benefits as follows:
- Taking advantage of Thailand’s 4G/5G networks to have better coverage
- No need to switch between multiple SIM cards and being able to keep your contacts in a single device.
- The price of using a local sim card will be much cheaper than the internal roaming fees
- Even it helps you save more money in case you do not want to make calls or texts, that is when you can buy a data-only SIM card in Thailand
II. Types of Thailand SIM Card
Before buying a new sim card, make sure that your phone is unlocked so it can receive the signals of cellular operators in Thailand.
Before buying a new sim card, make sure that your phone is unlocked so it can receive the signals of cellular operators in Thailand.
In terms of forms, Thailand SIM cards for tourists are now available in the following types:
- Physical SIM,
- eSIM (virtual SIM)
1. Physical SIM (mini-sim, micro sim, nano sim)
This type of sim cards in Thailand include:
- Prepaid local Thailand SIM cards
Prepaid Thailand SIM cards are popular among tourists. You can buy it at the airport and many convenience stores. This type of sim offers a certain amount of data, calling and texting credits that could be used during your trip.
Where to buy: at the Thai airport, in official stores of mobile network operators or in convenience stores in Thailand.
Requirements: passport and probably personal information like ID card.
- Tourist SIM cards with calls, texts and data
Tourist Thailand SIM cards are specifically designed for those traveling to Thailand and offer special rates for calls, texts and data. These cards are readily available at the Thailand airport and many convenience stores.
Where to buy: buy online, at Thai airport, in mobile carriers’ official stores, in convenience stores
Requirement: passport and probably personal information.
2. Prepaid Thailand Tourist eSIM
This type of sim card sounds new to many of you, but it is the most updated and convenient way of communicating for travelers abroad these days. Prepaid Thailand tourist eSIM is 100% online and can help you stay connected in Thailand almost wherever and whenever you are in Thailand. It has the same function like a traditional tourist sim card but you do not need to swap a new sim card.
Oftentimes, tourists will choose data-only tourist eSIM for their trip to save money while still maintaining contacts with others via apps.
It is recommended to compare the plans and rates offered by different mobile network providers to find the best option for your needs.
Where to buy: buy at online stores of eSIM providers like Gigago, Airalo, Holafly, etc.
Requirement: an unlocked and eSIM-compatible device
Which type of SIM to choose when traveling to Thailand?
Quick advice: You should choose a prepaid data eSIM for your Thailand trip
III. What is a Tourist Thailand eSIM?
eSIM stands for embedded sim, a virtual SIM card which is embedded directly into a mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet, rather than being a removable, physical card. If you travel to Thailand, an eSIM can be used to offer cellular data connection while staying in the country without having to swap a physical sim card.
Tourist eSIM is available in Thailand and provided by 3 major networks in Thailand (AIS, DTAC and True Move). All these network operators are offering high-speed eSIM data services.
It works well everywhere in Thailand, no matter if it is in a big city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai or in an island like Phuket.
Before your trip, you can buy an eSIM plan from a mobile network operator of your choice. After you arrive, your device will automatically connect to the local network using the eSIM, and you will be able to use data for activities like internet browsing, social media, maps, and more.
However, it is important to note that not all mobile devices can work with eSIMs. So, you had better check with the provider or carrier to confirm whether or not your device is supported with eSIM technology.
IV. Why eSIM for Your Thailand Trip?
An eSIM is not a requirement for traveling to Thailand, but it comes with some advantages and conveniences for travelers.
Here is a brief comparison between Thailand eSIM vs physical SIM card. Let’s see how similar and different they are!
eSIM vs SIM Card in Thailand
|Factors||eSIM for Thailand||Thailand SIM cards|
|Form||An eSIM is a digital sim that allows users to activate a mobile data plan from the network provider without having to use a physical nano-sim.||A sim card is a chip which is physically inserted or removed inside the phone with your carrier’s plan.|
|Where to buy||online||Picked up at a store or shipped to you|
Which place / city in Thailand will you go in your trip? See useful guides on buying SIM cards or eSIM by place?
V. Thailand eSIM Types and Features
Advice: A data eSIM is highly recommended for those who just visit Thailand for tourism purposes because they can still keep their original phone number to receive urgent calls, and have Whatsapp, Telegram, Viber and other apps to stay in contact with your family, friends.
In terms of function, Thailand eSIM is divided into 2 types:
- Data eSIM (for internet access only), and
- Voice, text and data eSIM (for both analog calls, SMS and internet access)
Below are some main features of Thailand data eSIMs:
- Most data eSIMs for Thailand do not come with Thai phone numbers, so you cannot make analog phone calls or texts, but you can do it via apps.
- The eSIM data plan will automatically connect to the supported mobile network and give you instant access to the Internet.
- eSIM can be installed once only. So if you remove it, you cannot set it up again on any mobile device. However, there are some eSIMs from certain providers which can be installed again once the old one is removed. In such cases, their validity is accumulated and remains unchanged.
- You can add multiple eSIM profiles on a phone, depending on the memory storage of the phone. But only one is activated at a time and maximum 3 eSIMs in one phone is recommended so as to optimize your phone performance.
- Top-up ability: depending on the eSIM provider, when you use up your data, you will need to buy a new data plan or be able to top up.
VI. Popular Thailand SIM Card and eSIM Data Plans and Costs
How does SIM card in Thailand cost?
The prices of SIM cards in Thailand vary based on each Thailand mobile operator. You can check out the SIM card and mobile internet plans on their official websites. Then, the prices of each Thailand SIM card provider will be just slightly different.
You just need to prepare around $5-$10 for a SIM card in Thailand, but you may need to prepare more credit for top-up and register data plans when using.
How does eSIM in Thailand cost?
The cost of eSIM in Thailand can vary depending on different factors like the service provider, type of device and data plan.
The following eSIM data packages are currently available for tourists to Thailand that can give you a quick overview of the eSIM cost.
|eSIM provider||Data plan||Validity||Cost||Network|
|Gigago||500 MB/day||7 days||$8.8||DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||5 days||$19||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||10 days||$34||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||15 days||$47||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||20 days||$54||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||30 days||$64||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||60 days||$84||TrueMove / DTAC|
|Holafly||Unlimited||90 days||$99||TrueMove / DTAC|
Note: It is recommended to compare the available prepaid plans and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.
How much data does a tourist need when traveling in Thailand?
- Oftentimes, 3GB to 5GB of data will be enough to cover a trip of those with regular data usage. If you want to use more data or travel for a longer duration (about 1 month), you may want to get the plan with higher data volume or longer validity.
- Wifi networks in Thailand is very friendly, so, to save data, you should make use of Public WiFi as long as possible.
VII. Thailand eSIM Supported Devices
As mentioned earlier, not all devices can work with eSIM. The eSIM now can be set up on smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and laptops. Similar to eSIM of other countries, to use Thailand eSIM, you should make sure that your device is:
- unlocked, and
- supported with eSIM
Some popular devices that are compatible with eSIM technology in Thailand include:
- iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max, 13, 13Pro, 13 Pro Max, 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max
- iPad Pro (11-inch) and iPad Pro (12.9-inch) (3rd generation and later)
- Apple Watch Series 3, 4, 5, 6, and SE
- Google Pixel 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4 XL, 4a, 4a 5G, and 5
- Samsung Galaxy Fold series, Z Flip series, S20, S21, S21 Ultra, and Note 20
Please note that this list is under continual update, so to check if your device is compatible with eSIM, look up here.
VIII. Best Mobile Network Operators Offer Thailand SIM Card and eSIM
In Thailand, there are some major mobile carriers that provide Thailand SIM card and support eSIM services to prepaid customers:
1. AIS (Advanced Info Service)
AIS (Advanced Info Service) is the largest mobile network operator in Thailand, providing 3G, and 4G mobile services to customers.
AIS is known for its widespread coverage, offering excellent network quality throughout the country. It is one of the largest providers of both voice and data services, and is considered to be the largest mobile network operator in Thailand. With the speed at 43.52 Mbps as reported in Q1 2022, AIS offers the fastest mobile data in Thailand.
AIS’s tourist SIM offers unlimited data, local and international calls, and SMS at affordable prices.
2. DTAC (Total Access Communication)
Dtac (Total Access Communication) is the second-largest mobile network operator in Thailand, offering voice, data, and mobile internet services.
Dtac has extensive coverage similar to AIS, but with a focus on urban areas. It is also known for its good network quality and reliable service, making it a popular choice for many consumers.
DTAC’s tourist SIM card provides unlimited internet access and a limited number of local and international calls and SMS.
3. TrueMove H (True Corporation)
TrueMove H (True Corporation) is a subsidiary of True Corporation and provides mobile and broadband internet services in Thailand. It operates under the “TrueMove H” brand name and is known for offering affordable mobile services to its customers.
TrueMove H is known for its high-speed 4G network and . It has a strong focus on data services, and is a popular choice among those who need fast and reliable internet access. The coverage of TrueMove H is considered to be good, but not as extensive as that of AIS or Dtac.
TrueMove H tourist SIM card offers unlimited high-speed internet, free incoming calls, and low-cost outgoing calls and SMS.
Note that: The availability and support of eSIM technology may vary depending on the device and plan, so it’s always best to check with the carrier for the most up-to-date information.
Here is a quick summary of those 3 Thailand SIM card providers in Thailand:
|Factor||AIS Mobile||DTAC||True Move H|
The quick brief above shows that:
- DTAC is the mobile network operator with the best 4G coverage. It also gets awards related to core consistent quality.
- DTAC has good coverage in urban areas.
- AIS is the mobile operator with the best 5G coverage and fastest Internet speed, followed by TrueMove H and DTAC.
- TrueMove H has good 5G coverage, after AIS
IX. FAQs about Thailand SIM Cards and eSIM
Do I need to unlock my phone to use eSIM in Thailand?
It depends on your phone and carrier. Some phones and carriers may require you to unlock your device to use eSIM, while others may support eSIM straight out of the box.
Can I use my eSIM in other countries besides Thailand?
Yes, you can use an eSIM in other countries, as long as your mobile network operator offers international roaming services. However, it’s important to check the rates and coverage in advance, as they may vary by country.
Is it cheaper to use eSIM in Thailand compared to a Thailand SIM card?
It depends on the plan and carrier you choose. Some eSIM plans may offer cheaper rates compared to traditional SIM cards, but it’s best to compare the different options available to determine which one is the best for your needs.