Communication, Telephony, Internet, and SIM Card in Vietnam

If you need to stay connected during your stay in Vietnam, whether to call your loved ones, order a taxi, find a good hotel, or receive last-minute information from your travel agency, using your regular SIM card can quickly become very expensive! Therefore, it is recommended to get a local SIM card. Why, how, and at what price? Here’s everything you need to know!

Buying a SIM Card Before Departure

If you prefer not to search for a SIM card upon arrival, you can order one before you leave. Then, simply insert it into your phone upon arrival to use the internet (provided your smartphone is unlocked for all carriers – check with your usual provider). Although this solution is more expensive than buying a SIM card locally, it offers convenience and peace of mind.

Why Get a Local SIM Card?

There are many reasons to opt for a local connection: staying in touch with your loved ones and local contacts, calling a taxi, finding your way or a hotel on Google Maps, or simply passing the time during long bus or train rides. All these activities will be much cheaper using a local card rather than the roaming data from your usual card. And if you’re only staying for a short time, given the low cost of a prepaid card here, don’t hesitate to enjoy this convenience!

That said, there is Wi-Fi almost everywhere, even in the most remote hotels and most restaurants. Just ask for the password. If you’re not addicted to being connected, a local SIM card might not be necessary.

How to Use a Local SIM Card in Vietnam

Three major providers dominate the telecommunications market in Vietnam: Viettel Mobile, VinaPhone, and MobiFone. Each offers its own rates and packages, averaging 50,000 VND/60,000 VND (about €2.20/€2.40).

Upon arrival at the airport, choose to get a local SIM card. If needed, you can recharge it at a shop later. For example, upon arriving in Hanoi, you will find the stands of the three operators in Hall 2 of the international arrivals, at each end. You can’t miss them. Moreover, they won’t miss you either!

Note: If you arrive by land, you will find many shops selling SIM cards, recognizable by their 4G signs, or in convenience stores (Circle K, 7-Eleven, etc.). Especially in the well-known yellow and black “The Gioi Di Dong” stores, where staff can install and set up your phone in English. You will also find them in all post offices across the country.

Prerequisites for Using a Local SIM Card

  • Have an unlocked phone (unlocking can be done by your operator, for a fee).
  • Register with your passport.

In a kiosk, registration takes only a few minutes. Also, note that you can only have three active SIM cards in your name in Vietnam.

Which SIM Card to Choose?

Viettel offers the most extensive network coverage and the best signal, making it the choice of many travelers. Vinaphone is close behind in terms of coverage, and Mobiphone is considered an outsider (not always very reliable, according to some travelers). All three offer call/data packages.

For short stays, you can opt for a special prepaid SIM card, but you will need to provide your passport. These packages, like “SIM Tourists,” are available at the airport or in the official stores of the operators. You can get a 7, 15, or 30-day package with a certain number of local and international calls, varying by operator. Most packages also include around 2GB of data per day, with reduced speed beyond this limit. These are slightly more expensive than standard SIMs and do not include SMS.

Generally, it is recommended to choose a SIM card from your preferred operator with a data package that best suits your needs. For example, if you choose a 150,000 VND package, you could opt for a 70,000 VND data package, leaving you with a balance of 80,000 VND for calls and SMS, which is usually sufficient. Typically, a 3GB or 5GB data package will cover regular internet use.

To choose the best option, consider:

  • Total data amount you can use (more internet use means more data consumption – a webpage consumes less data than a YouTube video).
  • Data transfer speed (how fast internet pages load on your device).
  • Duration (days, hours) you will have internet access.

Recharging Your Local SIM Card

Increasingly, the process is simplified in specialized stores: simply request a recharge, specify the amount, and the operator. The seller will ask for your phone number (and sometimes your passport, so have it on hand just in case). In a few minutes, your account is credited!

Alternatively, use a scratch card system: buy a card of the desired amount and operator at a store displaying the 4G logo or a convenience store. Enter the code on your smartphone: 100# to add credit, followed by a SMS to 9123 to activate the package. The seller can do this for you if you can communicate in English or Vietnamese.

To check your balance, dial *101# on your keypad and call.

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