After having read articles on other websites about how to use a cell phone in Thailand, I realized none of the people who have written them have ever used a cell phone in Thailand, and probably have never visited Thailand either. So, I decided it was time I wrote an article about how to use a cell phone in Thailand giving correct information about Thai cell phone networks and how to get a cell phone connected.
Using a cell phone in Thailand is incredibly easy. There are certain tips you should follow and easier ways to do things but, if you follow these tips, using a cell phone in Thailand should be as easy as picking the phone up and dialing it.
1. Using a US Cell Phone in Thailand – Most American cell phones are locked. What that means is you can only use them with a certain carrier so, if you’re using your cell phone with AT&T, you can’t just come to Thailand, buy a Thai SIM card and connect to a Thai network. Your locked phone won’t let you. However, you can get the phone ‘unlocked’ for as little as $3 at any cell phone shop or stall in Thailand (and there are millions of them!)
If you are in Bangkok, the easiest way to do this is go to the MBK Mall next to National Stadium sky train station and go up to the cell phone floor. Any stall on that floor will unlock it for you. It takes five minutes, while you wait, and from then on you will be able to use that phone anywhere in the world.
2. Buy a Cell Phone in Thailand, Don’t Rent One – Some articles on this subject recommend renting a cell phone in Thailand. That’s a stupid recommendation as renting a cell phone is at least $35-$50 a week. You can buy a cell phone anywhere in Thailand for less than $50. You then have that cell phone to use not only in Thailand but in any country in the world you might travel to.
3. Getting a Thai Cell Phone Service – Once you have a cell phone (either your own phone unlocked or you’ve bought a new phone) then all you need to do is get it connected. Unlike the US, where it’s a complicated process, Thailand is incredibly easy to get phone service in. Just go to any phone shop or any 7-11 and buy a SIM card. You can choose AIS, DTAC, Orange or any other cell phone company (they’re all pretty much the same, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose). SIM cards are around $5 and they often come with 15-30 minutes telephone time.
Also, buy a phone card for the same company as you bought the SIM card from. Phone cards come in denominations of 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 baht (around $3, $5.50, $9, $11.50 and $16)
Now, install the SIM card in your phone and turn your phone on. Within 2 minutes, you’re set up and ready to go. Take the phone card you just bought and scratch off the userid and password on the back of the card to reveal the codes. Dial the number the phone card tells you to dial, wait for the menu in English, key in your userid and password and wait until the recorded message tells you the new amount has been added to your account. Disconnect the call and you have a cell phone that works.
When your phone is getting low on credit you will get a recorded message when you try to dial a call telling you you have “less than 25 baht credit” and need to buy more. Buy another phone card at any phone shop or 7-11 and refill.
4. Dialing the USA from Thailand – To make a call to the US from Thailand, dial 001 then 1 and then the phone number in the USA.
5. Incoming Calls Are Free in Thailand – Unlike the US, where cell phone customers get gouged, in Thailand the only person who pays for the call is the person making it. So, if you receive a telephone call on your cell phone, the person calling you pays for it, even if the call comes from overseas.
6. Don’t Use Your USA Telephone Service in Thailand – Several articles I read have mentioned asking your US telephone company to set you up with international roaming when you travel in Thailand. Unless you absolutely must keep that same US phone number, using US international roaming services is a really dumb idea.
Not only would it cost you about 10 times the cost of using a Thai cell phone company, the sound quality is often bad, causing you to have to spend even more money keep getting your calls reconnected.
7. Don’t Rent or Buy an International Cell Phone in the USA – Some US companies recommend you buy or rent an international cell phone from them before you travel to Thailand. Don’t. As I said, cell phones in Thailand are much cheaper than in the US, so why spend more money if you don’t have to?
Using a cell phone in Thailand is incredibly easy and very cheap. Follow these quick tips and you will have a cell phone connected and working in less than 30 minutes.