Prepaid India SIM Cards For Tourists

Planning a trip to India soon? Make staying connected easy by getting a tourist-friendly prepaid SIM card for calls and data. We’ll cover the different India SIM cards for tourists, pricing, best plans, and where to purchase so you can communicate stress-free while exploring incredible India.

India SIM cards for tourists

I. Where to Buy a Tourist SIM Card for India?

Tourists can buy a SIM card for India through four options: buy online, buy before departure, buy at airports, buy in cities.

1. Getting an India SIM card at the Airport, upon arrival

You can buy SIM cards at the airport in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

At the Delhi airport, only Airtel offers SIM cards. Getting a SIM card from the airport kiosks is fast and simple. You will be connected within 2-3 hours of landing.

However, prices of SIM card at the airport are generally higher though, and data plan options may be more limited.

Requirements: no need passport or photo because staff at the airports do it all for you

Pros: Convenient if you need data upon arrival. No need to go elsewhere.

Cons: Higher prices. Limited package options.

Airtel booth at Delhi airport - India sim cards
Airtel booth at Delhi airport

2. Getting a SIM card in India in hostel/hotels in Indian cities, after arrival

You can either buy a SIM card for India travel from your hostel or hotel or from a store of one of Indian mobile network operators.

Many hotels and hostels, especially backpacker hostels, offer SIM card registration services. Hotels may arrange for mobile operators like Airtel or Vodafone to come to the property to assist you. You need to provide a passport photocopy, and photo and fill out registration forms. Commissions are added.

Requirements: an unlocked phone, a passport photo, a photocopy of passport and India visa,

Pros: Convenient if you don’t want to go out. Hotels provide registration assistance.

Cons: More expensive than other options due to commissions. Need passport photocopy and photo ready.

3. Getting a SIM card in India from a Store

If you buy a SIM card in official stores of network operators, you will be likely asked for more details like Indian address, Indian number for registration process. Of course, as a tourist, you do not have them. So, this is not what travelers to India choose when it comes to buying an India SIM card.

Alternatively, you can also go to a store in local markets to buy SIM card. Prices are usually cheaper than at airports or hotels. Wide range of data package options. But, you need to give your passport, passport photo, fill in a contract and pay. But, this is not a convenient option for foreigners. So, we do not recommend this.

Pros: More affordable. Wider package selection. Shops familiar with tourist registration.

Cons: Need to locate suitable shops. The process may be less streamlined than in airports.

4. Getting a SIM card in India Online

Websites like Amazon India sell prepaid SIM cards that can be delivered. Portals like SimOptions and Airalo offer eSIM options that don’t require a physical SIM. More flexibility of activation dates and data packages than airports.

Pros: Activate anytime. Wider package selection than airports. No need local SIM.

Cons: Higher prices than local SIM. Need a compatible device for eSIM.

Our recommendations: Here is some advice on choosing where to buy India SIM for tourists:

  • If immediate connectivity is crucial and you’re willing to pay a premium, getting a SIM card at the airport might be suitable.
  • If you don’t mind paying slightly more for hotel assistance, obtaining a SIM at your hotel may be convenient.
  • Visiting a local store offers affordable rates and plan options.
  • Online purchases, especially eSIMs, allow flexibility if activation timing and plan changes are important and for those comfortable with online transactions.

II. What Are The Best SIM Cards for Tourists?

Vodafone prepaid sim cards for tourists - India SIM cards
Vodafone prepaid sim cards for tourists

Good to know: As of January 2024: $1 USD = 83.3 ₹ (INR)

The major cellular networks in India – Airtel, Jio, VI, and BSNL – offer prepaid SIM plans for tourists. Plans vary in price and include services, giving travelers flexibility. Note that plan details may evolve, so consider this a general overview as we explore the options each network provides.

1. Best Airtel SIM Card Plans and Price

2992GB/day84 daysUnlimited Talktime, 100SMS/day₹719
4792GB/day84 daysUnlimited Entertainment, 100SMS/day₹199

Insight: Airtel’s plan provides good value for basic use with reliable connections and services. The plans work well for essential uses. However, the plans cost a little more than similar plans from other companies.

2. Best Jio SIM Card Plans and Prices

2991GB/day24 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/dayJio apps₹179
4991.5GB/day23 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/dayJio apps₹199

Insight: Jio offers affordable plans with good quality service. It has become a leading telecom operator by aggressively pricing its plans to attract customers with inexpensive options.

3. Best VI (Vodafone Idea) SIM Card Plans and Price

2992GB/day28 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/dayVI movies, Hungama music₹179
4793GB/day30 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/dayVI movies, Hungama music₹195

Insight: VI plans seem to cost somewhat more. Following the merger, VI must improve its network functioning to compete, as it aims to enhance connectivity and speed issues after combining operations.

4. Best BSNL SIM Card Plans and Price

2491GB/day26 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/day₹153
4852GB/day30 daysUnlimited Calls, 100SMS/day₹199

Insight: BSNL plans are very cost-effective but the network needs upgrading to match the performance of others, especially in rural regions.

Our recommendation: Though purchasing a physical SIM card from Airtel, Jio or BSNL stores is convenient, consider using an eSIM if your phone supports it. eSIM provides instant activation without waiting for delivery and is more pocket-friendly for short trips. Always check a provider’s eSIM support before activating a plan to ensure digital SIM cards are offered.

III. Do I Need to Buy a SIM Card for India Travel?

Yes, certainly. It’s great to buy a SIM card for India Travel.

Using a local SIM card can be a cost-effective alternative to expensive roaming services, offering affordable rates for calls, texts, and data. It provides continuous connectivity, unlike Wi-Fi, which limits you to specific hotspots.

Additionally, SIM cards are simple to set up and use, giving you flexibility throughout your trip. With a local SIM card, you can easily access maps, local services, and information, ensuring you stay connected without interruptions.

Pro Tips:

  • To save money on calls/texts in India without needing a regular SIM card, purchase a data-only SIM card. Ensure your phone is unlocked for the India SIM. If locked, contact your network provider to unlock or use a costly local roaming plan.
  • In case your phone supports eSIM, consider using an India eSIM which is 100% online. You can buy, activate it online without hassle. We will tell more below.

IV. What to Prepare to Get a SIM Cardin India – Registration Process

To get a tourist SIM card in India, you’ll need to provide some information for registration. Here’s what you need to prepare when buying a prepaid SIM as a visitor:

  • Passport – This is needed for identification and address proof since tourists won’t have an Indian address. A photocopy of the passport is also required.
  • Visa – Photocopy of the valid tourist/short-term visa for India. This proves the legitimacy of the visit.
  • Photo – a recent passport-sized photo is needed for KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements.

V. Types of India SIM Cards for Tourists

Types of India SIM cards

Categorized by their form, tourists in India can opt for either a physical prepaid India SIM card or a prepaid eSIM for India. 

1. Physical prepaid SIM card for India (mini SIM, micro SIM, nano SIM)

Tourists have the option of two main variations when it comes to physical prepaid India SIM cards (plan types):

Data-only plans:

  • Provide internet access via data
  • Do not include calling or texting
  • A cheaper option for light internet users
  • Best for those who communicate via apps

Data + voice & text plans:

  • Include internet, calling, and texting
  • Come with an Indian phone number
  • More full-featured communication option
  • More expensive than data-only
  • Best for longer trips or frequent callers

2. Prepaid eSIM India (Virtual SIM)

An eSIM is a digital SIM card built into your device, removing the need to swap physical cards when changing carriers or plans. Prepaid eSIMs for India work like regular SIMs. Activation is easy via scanning a QR code or clicking a link. Plans offer data-only or data with talk/text, similar to physical SIM options. Check the comparison table below for a simple guide to choosing the best India connectivity solution for your needs.

Prepaid India SIM CardPrepaid eSIM for India
ProsWide availability for purchase in India
Cheap rates for data and calls
Works on all unlocked smartphones
No need to purchase a physical SIM card
Convenient activation process
Can pre-order eSIM before travel
ConsNeed a physical SIM card
Activation requires scanning the QR code
The device must support Nano-SIM
Not available for devices without SIM slot
Limited carrier availability
Higher purchase/activation costs
The device must support eSIM profiles
Reliability depends on the device/network

Our recommendations: 

  • If you’re visiting India and your phone doesn’t use eSIM, go for a PREPAID DATA SIM CARD. It’s good for basic stuff like maps, internet, and app calls.
  • If your phone supports eSIM, choose PREPAID DATA eSIM. It’s the best way to get the internet on your phone in India in 2024.

VI. India eSIM – Best Alternative to Getting Internet in India for Tourists

Gigago eSIM for India - India SIM cards
Gigago eSIM plans for India

For tourists in India, opting for a prepaid eSIM is the ideal choice for high-speed internet access. Here are some key advantages of choosing a prepaid India eSIM over other alternatives:

  • Avoid expensive international roaming fees: Using a roaming SIM card or data plan from your home country can rack up high costs very quickly in India. A prepaid eSIM offers affordable rates without roaming charges.
  • No queues or paperwork: Getting a physical SIM card in India often requires documentation and waiting in long queues. An eSIM lets you start using data instantly without this hassle.
  • Fast and reliable connectivity: eSIMs provide access to high-speed 4G/LTE networks of local operators like Airtel or Reliance Jio directly. This is more reliable than free or pocket WiFi with less speed.
  • Wide coverage across India: Physical SIMs are often regionally locked but eSIM plans offer pan-India coverage so you stay connected throughout your trip.

Gigago is a top choice for prepaid India eSIMs, operating through the network operator Idea. Their plans offer both data and call credits, making them stand out from providers which only offer data plans.

For India, Gigago offers multiple data plan options, starting from a 30-day plan with 3GB for $14.50 $14.50 . They also have 30-day plans with 5GB and 10GB of data, with prices ranging from $14.50 up to $29.90.

To get the most updated information about these plans, visit Gigago SIM for India to explore!

VII. How long does a tourist SIM card last in India?

The duration of a tourist SIM card in India varies depending on the provider and the specific plan. Here are some common options from four major operator in India:

  • 23 Days: Suitable for short-term visits, providing essential data, calls, and texts.
  • 24 Days: Another short-term option, slightly longer than the 23-day plan.
  • 30 Days: Ideal for a full month, offering a balance of data, calls, and texts.
  • 84 Days: Best for extended stays, providing up to nearly three months of service with generous data and call allowances.

These durations and the specifics of what each plan includes can vary between providers, so it’s always best to verify the details when purchasing a SIM card in India.

VIII. How to Use India Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM

1. Using Prepaid India tourist SIM Cards

Once you have purchased an India SIM card, follow these steps to use it:

  • Purchase a prepaid SIM card from airport kiosks or retail stores near your accommodation. Popular options are Airtel, Jio or Vi.
  • Provide your passport details for verification as required by Indian law.
  • Activate the SIM by inserting it into your phone and turning it on.
  • Recharge the SIM online or through retailers by choosing a suitable plan as per your needs. Popular long-validity packs start from Rs. 199.
  • Start calling and surfing using the data benefits from your new local Indian number.

2. Setting up and activating India eSIM 

To use an eSIM in India, follow these steps:

  • Purchase an eSIM plan online from a provider like Gigago before your trip.
  • Download the QR code or setup file before reaching India.
  • On arrival, scan the QR code using your phone’s eSIM settings to activate the service.
  • You can now use data, call and text benefits directly without any physical SIM card.

IX. FAQs about India SIM card

Do I need an unlocked phone to travel in India?

To use an India SIM card, you must have an unlocked phone. If your phone is locked, it will not able to receive the signals of Indian cellular networks. If so, either you need to unlock it or you can use an alternative to SIM card, which is a pocket wifi device.

What documents do I need to buy a SIM card in India?

You need to provide a valid passport and submit a copy of your passport identification page for verification. Some stores may also ask for a visa copy.

Can I use my India SIM card abroad?

No, prepaid SIM cards issued in India can only be used within the country. You need to purchase international roaming packs for use outside India.

Is cell phone service reliable throughout India?

Major cities have strong 4G coverage but connectivity may be patchy in remote areas. Operators like Airtel and Jio have the widest networks covering most parts of India.

Which Indian network operator offers the best value plans for tourists?

Jio is known for ultra-affordable plans with high data limits. Gigago’s eSIM plans to provide good value by bundling data and calling minutes together. BSNL also has long-validity plans for budget travelers.

How Much does a Prepaid SIM Card for Travelers to India Cost? Prices ?

The prices of Indian SIM cards vary depending on the provider, the plan, the trip duration. For example, it cost 900Rs (about $12.5 USD) for 1.4GB of data daily plus with unlimited calls to Indian numbers, used for 82 days.
The price and data features are subjected to change. Contact your provider to get more updated information.

X. Conclusion

In 2024, getting a SIM card from a major Indian provider like Airtel, Jio, VI or BSNL is important for affordable mobile access as a tourist in India. Consider Gigago’s digital SIM which includes data, minutes and texts for great connectivity. The easy-to-use app allows recharging and managing your plan. Get a Gigago eSIM before your trip to stay connected without roaming fees or language issues.

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