For visitors to Thailand, buying a new mobile or cell phone in Bangkok is often on top of the list of things to do. Cheap, with thousands of brands, colors and designs, and easy to get cell phone service for, buying a mobile phone in Bangkok is a breeze.
But, before you rush off to MBK Mall or Fortune Town to buy one, there are some important dos and don’ts everyone buying a cell phone in Bangkok should know, before they hand over their hard-earned money.
Do Know Which Band You’ll Use Your Phone On – Just because you buy a phone in Thailand, it doesn’t mean it will automatically work in America. In Thailand, phones operate on 900 and 1800 bands, which are the bands most commonly used all over the world. In America, however, the bands 850 and 1900 are used, so a phone bought in Thailand that will only work on 900 and 1800 bands will not work in America.
That’s why, when you purchase any cell phone (mobile phone) in Thailand, you need to make sure you buy a 4-band phone, also known as a ‘quad-band phone’. That way, you can use it on your vacation in Thailand and also when you get back home to America.
Just ask the phone seller when you’re looking at phones, and he’ll point out the ones that are quad-band.
Do Know Best Places to Buy Cell Phones in Bangkok – There are three main places that everyone goes to buy a cell phone, two I recommend, one I do not.
The two I recommend are Mahboonkrong (MBK) Mall, the enormous cheap shopping mall next to National Stadium sky train station. There’s one entire floor dedicated to electronics, with well over 500 stalls and shops selling mobile phones – both new and used – and at unbeatable prices.
Related: The best and cheapest things to buy at MBK mall
The other place is Fortune Town Mall. Similar to MBK, there are many stalls selling cell phones, sellers are generally honest and prices are good. You’ll find Fortune Town Mall right next to Phra Ram 9 underground train station.
The third and largest mall for cell phones is Pantip Plaza. While tens of thousands of people shop there every day, they have a dubious reputation as a place where honest deals are hard to come by, sellers are too pushy and pickpockets operate en masse.
For those reasons alone, I don’t recommend them.
Do a Price Comparison – Don’t just buy the first phone you like from the first shop. There are hundreds of shops at MBK and almost as many at Fortune Town. Find a phone you like, then get competing prices from other stalls. If they know they’re competing against each other, they’ll often come down even more.
Don’t Buy From a Department Store or Mobile Phone Network Store – The worst mistake you can make is to buy a cell phone in Bangkok from a department store or a mobile phone network store like DTAC or AIS.
Prices will be at least 20% higher than a typical market-stall style phone shop at MBK or Fortune Town, and the phone is exactly the same.
Do Make Sure It’s New – If you’re looking for a new phone and shopping at a large mall like MBK or Fortune Town, make sure you are buying a new phone before you hand over your money. A new phone will come in an already shrink-wrapped box, (which they’ll open to test) and should also have all the applicable warranty cards.
Do Test it First – Almost every store will let you test a phone before buying it. They have a Sim card they use for these purposes so make sure you know it can get a clear signal and has no annoying echo or crackling on the line before you buy it.
The seller will also test it for you just to make sure it’s working correctly before you buy it.
Do Bargain – Even with new phones, bargaining is possible at all market-style phone stalls in Thailand. Don’t pay the first price that’s asked. It’s marked up at least 10-15%.
Related: How to use a cell phone in Thailand — bring your unlocked phone, or buy one cheap
Don’t Set it Up Yourself – The first phone I purchased in Bangkok, I decided to set up myself. How annoying that was. If you buy a phone in Bangkok, get the seller to set it up for you as the initial set up (ie: done at the factory) will be in Thai.
He’ll ask you which language you want and, in a faster time than you can say “Trump is a bigot”, he’ll have your phone set up and working in English, French, German or any other language that comes with the phone.
Do Buy a Thai Sim Card – Once you’ve decided on a phone, make sure you also buy a Thai Sim card to go with it, so you can use the phone in Thailand. A Thai Sim card is currently around $8, and comes with a few free minutes too.
Plus, as long as you top that Sim card up at least once every six months (you can do it outside Thailand in most cases), you’ll keep that phone number permanently.
Don’t Forget to Get it Charged – If you buy a new phone from a seller, it won’t be charged. That’s why most sellers will charge it for you if you ask. You just have to pay, then leave the phone with them for about 30 minutes and, when you come back, it’ll all be charged up and ready for use.
Do Check Charger, Adapter etc. – Don’t forget, just about everything that comes with the phone will be with electrical plugs for Thai electricity. If you’re going to be using the phone outside Thailand, make sure you buy an adapter before you leave the store, so you can easily recharge it when you go on to another country or back home.
Buying a cheap cell phone (mobile) in Bangkok, Thailand is dead easy. Just follow these dos and don’ts before you set off to shop for one and you should have no problems.