If you’re a digital nomad visiting Thailand, this ultimate guide should help you get data on your phone as soon as you arrive in Thailand, wifi on your computer and even the mythical Super Wi-Fi fibre speeds, and all at a super low cost price.
With data support for your phone, finding your way around is much easier as well as finding cool hangout spots, meeting up with friends, as well as documenting your trip. UK phone networks charge something like £2-4 per MB of data in Thailand – so for the same price you can get a few GB of data in Thailand. Its a no-brainer to buy a SIM!
- What network to go with
- When and where to get a SIM card
- Which plan to get
- Adding add-ons to your plan
- Extra data hacks
- AIS Wi-Fi Guide
- Post-paid Plans
- Miscellaneous problems
What network to go with
There are three key mobile phone networks:
I am a big fan of AIS. They give consistent 3G/4G signals, even on the islands, even out in the middle of the sea. They have basic data plans, but with some hacks and codes, you can get a lot of data and fast speeds. In Chiang Mai, AIS sponsor the biggest free coworking space (CAMP), plus have Super WiFi hotspots in various places, so I think its a strong network to be with.
When I was on Koh Samui, I found True/3BB had a lot more WiFi hotspots you could connect to, but you can login to most of them with your AIS details for a small fee (25 baht per week). So AIS seems to be the best in my opinion. If you find yourself in a place that you need to change SIMs, its a few hundred baht to swap, so not a big mistake or change to make.
When and where to get a SIM card in Thailand
Coming in to Thailand, you will most likely find yourself in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport. I would strongly advise you to buy your SIM as soon as you exit Arrivals.
Why buy at the airport?
- You will have your passport in your hand – which is needed to get any SIM
- There are lots of phone networks stands (possibly all?) in the Arrivals hall
- Its going to be right in front of you as you leave – locating the store elsewhere will be a hassle
- The staff are super quick at understanding what you want and quick at doing it – 5-10 mins and you will be sorted
- Most importantly – it will save you hours of time and hassle and let you find your hotel or hostel easily (I guarantee you your taxi driver won’t understand where you want to go)
To buy an AIS SIM card at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, visit the AIS stand in the International Arivals Hall between gate 6 and 7.
Depending on the sales agent dealing with you, they may make you buy a SIM card package first, then apply credit and then a package, or they just apply a package to an empty SIM. Wait and see, but “This is Thailand” so don’t expect consistency, hopefully some of the below will guide you. As an estimate, you will spend 200-300 baht on your mobile plan per month, so perhaps add this amount as credit at the stand.
To buy a SIM Card at Chiang Mai International Airport, head to the International Arrivals section of the airport. Its a 2-3 minute walk from domestic arrivals (Chiang Mai airport is a very small airport). Directly opposite the international arrival doors, there is a small shop called AIS Buddy. This is the only mobile phone shop at Chiang Mai airport, and will try to sell you a tourist SIM.
Which plan to get
Thailand has a plan for everyone – as in, there are about 50 million different packages you can use. OK, maybe not that many, but its certainly not easy to understand, so don’t worry if you get confused straight away.
As a tourist just arriving you can only get prepaid (“pay as you go”) SIM cards. The plans come in two formats – daily usage and monthly usage. I would avoid daily usage plans unless you are very very tight on cash and rarely use your phone, and as a “farang” the shop attendant will assume you want monthly.
Avoid the traveller SIM card they will try to sell you
The AIS Traveller SIM (tourist SIM) includes lots of stuff, but at a slightly inflated price and features only last for 7-14 days. They are great if you are in a group and passing through Thailand for just 7 days, but practically this isn’t great for many digital nomads who may be staying longer.
I have seen DTAC and True networks give away SIMs in Arrivals at the airport, and that seems like a great deal, right? But the top up and tariff you are on is over inflated so you will burn through credit much quicker. Maybe grab them if they are free (as a backup) but I wouldn’t use them unless desperate.
New SIM card packages for 2017
AIS have introduced a new set of SIMs. A lot of these SIM plans are aimed at Thai customers, offering free internet use of certain apps, like Facebook, LINE, YouTube and Thai-only music and video streaming services. SIM cards are typically 50 baht plus any options you may activate. The Traveller/Tourist SIMs are 299 baht upwards.
My recommended SIM to buy is the AIS 4G Net Sim
Includes: 2GB of data, AIS Super WiFI for 7 days – renews at 99 baht per week
Other plans you can look at:
Includes: 500Mb of data (6GB/12 Months), AIS WiFi free for 4 months, YouTube viewing free up to 2GB
Super Play 4G
Includes: 1GB internet, 52GB YouTube streaming
Super Social 4G
Includes: Unlimited usage of Facebook, LINE, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Twitter. 1GB internet p/m use only between 11pm-6am.
Easy Free Net
Includes: Free unlimited internet – BUT only up to 64Kbps speed (very slow)
Read the small print of any plan – for example, ZEEd SIM offers “6GB internet” but in the small print, this is per year and divided per month! Any plan you get will auto-renew one week/month from the date of activation.
Adding add-ons to your package
AIS have a range of data net packages that auto-renew each month. Add-on data packages start at 299 baht per month. You can see all the options on the AIS website. These packages are good if you want a solid guarenteed amount for a fixed cost with minimal work required.
- As above, your package allowance will be doubled (roughly) for the first 6 months on each plan
- Any package that includes AIS WiFi and that costs more than 500 baht gets upgraded for free to AIS Super WiFi (Unlimited)
- The speeds mentioned in the grey text underneath each allowance is what your speeds default too after your allowances runs out
Extra data hacks to get maximum data for minimum cost
If you want maximum data for minimum costs, check out some of the deals below. They take a bit more work with top-ups, renews etc but not much more if you top-up your phone with a decent amount of baht.
Get 4GB of data for 2 weeks for 99 baht
Dial the below code to get 4GB of data that lasts for 2 weeks. It will subtract 99 baht from your balance.
Per month: 198 baht for 8gb data per month
Get 5GB of data for 7 days for 159 baht
If you are a heavy user, get 5GB to power through in 7 days by dialling the following. It will cost you 159 baht.
Per month: 636 baht for 20gb data per month
Get 5GB of data for 3 days for 105 baht
Ideal for last minute intensive needs:
There are lots of these codes, all available on the AIS website.
AIS WiFi Guide
AIS have Wi-Fi hotspots all over the place – malls, coffee shops, high streets, bars. They offer the ability to connect to the spots as part of many of their SIM card plans, or you can pay extra for access.
There are 2 types of AIS WiFi connection:
- AIS Wi-Fi: N speed Wi-Fi, data speeds around 20Mb/5Mb maximum
- AIS Super Wi-Fi: AC speed Wi-Fi , fibre data speeds 100Mb/100Mb minimums
If you are working in Thailand, the AIS Super Wi-Fi is really worth investing in and seeking out – it adds a whole new dimension to your working speed!
How to access AIS Wi-Fi
If you are an existing AIS customer with an AIS SIM you should have free access to AIS Wi-Fi
Your username and password will be sent through via SMS
How to get AIS Super Wi-Fi
To access Super Wi-Fi you need to signup to it and you will probably get a new password sent through via SMS that you should use instead of your standard AIS Wi-Fi password.
To get 20GB of data of Super WiFi that lasts for 30 days for 99 baht:
Once done, you will get a password sent to you via SMS so you can login straight away.
Where to find Super AIS WiFi
This handy directory lists many Super AIS wifi hotspots, but more are being added daily and this directory is not always up to date, which is a shame. However as AIS is promoting Super WiFi a lot, any cafes or shops that have it should have big signs up saying they have it (its still a big deal when most homes in Thailand don’t even have internet). I find the following chains of coffee shops are good places to start if you are looking for it:
- Cafe Amazon
- Tom N Toms
- Black Canyon Coffee
If you are staying a longer time in Thailand and have already got a bank account, the very best deals comes on postpaid plans. Similar to a “contract” model, it means they bill you after use. To pay, go to an AIS shop and pay it there or transfer through any ATM machine. Its super straight forward.
Postpaid plans offer by far the best options for the best value – AIS have just launched 4G MAX SPEED packages which are great.
- All the plans come with Super AIS Wi-Fi
- You get double the data for first 6 months
- The package is half price for the first 3 months!
- Even includes some free calls
- Free extras like AIS streaming and cloud services (but can’t access from UK Apple Store)
I opted for the 488 baht package – 10Gb of data + Super WiFi + 300 mins of calls. So with the offers applied – I am getting 20GB of data + Super WiFi + 300 mins of calls for just 245 baht per month!
Some of the often asked questions I’ve heard. Got a question? Drop it in the comments.
Why are the text messages I get from AIS in Thai?
You can change these to English by dialing *700 on your phone. More information on this is on the AIS website but its hard to follow so you are better off just phoning the number.
Do the SIM cards allow tethering?
Yes. As far as I know, all the networks allow tethering so you can connect to your phone and use the data from your laptop.
How do I top up my phone or check my usage?
You can login on the AIS website – you use something called eService (located at the top corner of the page). Put your phone number in the box, it will text you a password, use this password and your number to login.
For quick and simple ways to top-up, you can go to any AIS store. Every mall in Thailand should have one.
Supermarkets like Tesco Lotus or Family Mart allow you to top-up (update: November 2016, you can no longer top up AIS at 7-11).
A large majority of small convenience stores have an orange machine outside – Boonterm top up machine – which allows you to add money to your account, and pay various other bills.
What if I have a problem?
AIS have customer support in English on the phone – dial 1175. You can also walk in to any AIS store or booth, tell them your problem, smile and nod and wait until they fix it – don’t get impatient or lose your temper. You can probably also go to any other mobile shop and they will help you – Thais understand how bloody complex their phones system are for non-Thais.
Getting a SIM card with data is easy and cheap in Thailand, the 4G Net SIM card is a steal at just 99 baht per week (396 per month – about £10). With the ability to quickly add more data any time, you will never not be able to work somewhere!
Got any questions about getting extra data or mobile phones in Thailand? Let me know in the comments