Buying a SIM card in India

Getting a SIM Card in India

Great! You found us looking for a sim card to use in india, but did you know that getting a sim card in india can be quite a daunting task. And then, trying to find the cheapest SIM card in India for a heads up can be absolutely exhausting with so many options available even when the SIM card price in India is mostly affordable.
Before getting a sim card, it is important to understand how telecom works in India, It could be very different from what you are used to.

Types of SIM card in India

Here are two types of SIM cards available in India to help you narrow down the choices.

1. Postpaid SIM Card

A postpaid SIM Card is the one where you are billed after having used the services like calling, data, texting. Postpaid plans cost more than prepaid plans generally. Your billing details are given to you in the end. The bill is usually sent to you at the end of a month long cycle.This works out well for residents and not available for foreign travellers.

2. Prepaid SIM Card or Pay as You go SIM Card

A prepaid sim card in india for foreigners or a pay as you go sim india is where you pay before hand to avail services like calling, data, texting. The plans on this one are comparatively cheaper. Billing details aren’t provided so expenses remain vague.
Most Indians use Prepaid sim cards. This works out better for foreigners as well. However, there are some downsides of getting a prepaid sim card. It needs constant topping up. You will get unwanted SMSs because the service provide does not differentiate between an Indian resident and a tourist. So, you need to register your number for DND, which for a shorter stay may not work out. Also, for indians the activation of SIM card is almost immediate based on their unique identity number called Aadhar. But for foreigners the activations takes a long time. In some cases even about 2-3 days.

How to Top up a Prepaid Card?

When you run out of credit on your prepaid card, you will only be able to take incoming calls (only those that don’t cost you roaming charges) and you won’t be able to make calls or text or use data.

Topping up or recharging your prepaid sim card can be done by following up with a service provider of your telecom anywhere in India. For example; if you have an Airtel phone, you will only be able to get it topped up or recharged from someone who is providing services for Airtel. There are also a few online options to get a recharge done immediately and some applications like My Airtel (you can look for apps specific to your telecom provider) that help you do it from your phone itself.

Top up options are also of two types. For instance; you can either get a Rs 500 recharge and avail 500 minutes of calling or use some of that recharge for texting and data (calling minutes will reduce in proportion of usage of these services). Or, you can get value packs that come with combinations of services. So for example; a Rs 500 recharge value pack will come with x minutes of calling, y sms and zGB data.

Now, even if you have acquired a SIM card, it might just not work with your phone or your phone might just not work at all and with any Indian SIM card.

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Why Your Phone Might Not Work in India?

Your phone may not work in India with any of the local sim cards unless it is unlocked.

It is not necessary that your phone will work with an Indian SIM card . This could be because either the GSM band of your phone is not compatible or your phone is locked to your carrier. In most of the parts of the world, mobile phones are locked to their telecom carriers and only they (your telecom carrier) can unlock the phones for you. You will not be able to insert another sim or use it with another carrier unless you pass their criteria of getting the phone unlocked.

In India, the compatible GSM bands are as follows:
2G capabilities: GSM 900, GSM 1800
3G capabilities : UMTS 900, UMTS 2100
4G capabilities : LTE 850 (5), LTE 1800 (3), LTE 2100 (1), LTE 2300 (40), LTE 2500 (41)

Therefore, one needs to identify their home GSM bands and compare it with India’s for a functional phone.

Due to security reasons, getting a regular SIM card in India or an international sim card requires foreign tourists to furnish a lot of documents and there are as many as 7 steps involved in the process.
Here’s what that process looks like;

Firstly, to get a international mobile sim card in india, you need to produce a local reference who is ready to verify for you. Once verified, you have to activate your SIM by calling an activation number. Your sim card to use in india will be activated after 15 hours or so. And post that, you can recharge and choose plans.

Read our blog post on ‘How to get a SIM card in India for calling and data?’ to know the process in detail.

Free BSNL Tourist SIM Card

Lastly, the free sim card in india for foreigners 2018 that BSNL used to provide, has now been discontinued. There is no such free sim card India that you can avail and we warn you to be careful from such fraudulent claims. It was offered with Indian e-visa earlier but has been discontinued now for a very long time. So if you were hoping to get this, you need to look up for a different option.

As of October 2018, a new method of verification called ‘e-KYC’ was made available to foreign tourists trying to buy a sim card.

What e-KYC Means for Foreigners/Tourists

The latest direction issued by the Department of Telecommunication, allows for fulfilment of E-KYC without a government issued Aadhaar (identity) number. This new provision, coupled with the term ‘E-KYC’ has led to some ambiguity.

Taken at face value, ‘ eKYC’ suggests an electronic or digital method for submitting pertinent documents via the internet in order to fulfil the KYC requirements needed to buy a local sim card.
To help clarify the new regulation, we’ve outline the new eKYC method below:

  1. The Entire process of eKYC verification will be undertaken by Licensees ( shops that sell sim cards) through authorised and official apps.
  2. e-KYC is done at Points of Sale or shops.
  3. Perhaps the most important omission in discussions about the new eKYC process is that a potential customer must be physically present at the Point of Sale ( PoS) or shop, where an Officially Valid Document for identification must be furnished. For example, an original and valid passport or a Driver’s License .
  4. At the Sim Card store, the merchant or shopkeeper Will take a live photo of the customer, that shall be embedded in a Client Acquisition Form ( C.A.F) by the storeowner. Further, this live photo of the customer shall be watermarked and must be geo tagged. i.e. include GPS coordinates along with time and date. These details are then embedded in the CAF by the shopkeeper, and sent to the regulatory telecom body for verification.
  5. Once a person’s KYC details are verified, that customer will be given access to an operating sim card.


Getting a SIM Card in India is not as easy getting one in other countries like USA, Singapore, UK, Germany, France etc. It will be better if you look for an alternative rather than wasting your precious vacation time.

You can get Trabug!

Trabug saves you all the above hassle. All you have to do is book Trabug online and submit your KYC documents online. You get a Phone with a 4G connection that works across India and is compatible with all the networks of the country. You can recharge your phone on the go in case you run out of data or calling. This can be done from any location in India.
Trabug is one solution to all your problems. Check the plans and prices at this link and book it online.

For more information about Trabug’s requirements, visit our FAQ Page

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Review from a happy customer

“These guys are the real deal - my phone was Brilliant!!!!! Data saved me and having a local number was pure gold! I wast sure how it would go, but it was worth a go, and to have this sorted before leaving is a no brainer! Now, i would highly recommend it for anyone going. Dont waste you bucks on global roaming calls and data. Well done guys and thank you so much!”

You might also want to read these:

  1. e-Tourist Visa for travel to India
  2. Roam like a Native using Trabug
  3. 20 Reasons why you should get Trabug