How to buy a sim card in India

Zorica Lončar

Planning a trip to India? Whether it’s a short holiday, backpacking adventure or a longer stay, you’ll need to be able to use your smartphone.

To avoid overseas roaming charges from your mobile network operator, it could be a good idea to get an Indian sim card for your phone. But where’s the best place to buy a sim card in India, and how much does it cost?

Read on to find out everything you need to know about buying a sim card in India.

We’ll even throw in a handy tip to help you save money on your holiday spending too. Get a Wise international debit card to spend in Indian rupees just like a local, with your money automatically converted at the fair exchange rate.

But first, let’s focus on getting hold of that Indian sim card.

Indian sim card providers

There are four major mobile network providers to choose from in India. These are Airtel, BSNL, Vodafone Idea and Jio¹.

When choosing a provider, you’ll need to look carefully at coverage. As India is such a large country, coverage isn’t the same across all networks. So, look for a provider which covers the area you’ll be visiting or travelling through.

Where to buy a SIM card in India

You could visit a store for one of the major mobile operators mentioned above to buy your sim card, with Vodafone Idea and Airtel being best represented in major cities.

However, many of these stores are mainly for locals buying their sim cards. The store may ask for a local address and phone number, which as a tourist you’re unlikely to have. Other documentation may also be required, including copies of your visa, passport and photos².

This is why your best option as a visitor to India is to buy your sim card either at the airport² or at your hotel. It may not be the cheapest, but it could be the most convenient.

Can I get an Indian sim card at the airport?

Depending on which airport you fly into, you should be able to buy your Indian sim card as soon as you land. Most sim cards on sale at the airport are tourist packages lasting 90 days³.

Here are a few options:

  • New Delhi Airport - buy your sim card from Stayconnect (T3 International Departures), Airtel (T3 International Arrivals and Departures) or Matrix (T3 International Departures)⁴.
  • Mumbai Airport - buy an international sim card from Stayconnect (Level 4, T2) or a domestic sim card from Airtel (Level 2 Arrivals, T2)⁵.

Can I buy an Indian sim card online?

As quite a lot of documentation is needed to buy a sim card in India as a non-resident, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buy an Indian sim card online.

However, you could look into getting an international sim card or an e-sim card, checking that India is covered by the plan. You should be able to buy both of these options online.

Can I buy an Indian sim card in the UK?

It’s unlikely that an Indian mobile operator will ship a sim card over to the UK, so you probably won’t be able to buy one in advance of your trip.

However, as we’ve mentioned above, you could look into ordering an international or e-sim card.

Buying a sim card in India - how much does it cost?

Prices for prepaid cards in India vary depending on the provider and where you buy your sim card from.

If you’re living in India and have a residential address, you should be able to get a better deal by visiting a mobile operator’s shop. For example, Airtel offers a prepaid plan for just 299 INR (£3.11) a month for 1.5GB data a day, unlimited calls and 100 SMS a day⁶.

However, if you’re a tourist and don’t have the documentation to buy a sim card at a store, you’ll need to get it from the airport. This can cost around 1000 INR (£10.41) for the same package as above, for 28 days³.

What is the best sim to buy for tourists?

If you’re not staying in India long, your best bet is to accept the higher cost and buy your SIM card at the airport. It will be quicker and more convenient than attempting to buy prepaid cards in India by visiting a shop.

Compare the options available, and opt for the best value package that suits your needs.

Alternatively, you can look into international or e-sim cards which works in India.

Save on holiday spending with the Wise international debit card

At the same time as sorting out a sim card for your trip, you’ll also need a convenient and cost-effective way to spend during your time in India. The Wise debit card could be the perfect solution.

Open a Wise multi-currency account onlineand you can get a Wise debit card for spending in 175 countries, including India.

This clever contactless card automatically converts your GBP to INR at the mid-market exchange rate at the moment you spend.

So, there’s no need to change currency or carry cash around with you. There’s just a small conversion fee to pay, or it’s free if you already have INR in your account.

Join Wise today

“Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing: Only Pay for What You Use for the most up to date pricing and fee information.”

Sources used for this article:

  1. Selectra - operators
  2. The Broke Backpacker - best sim cards in India
  3. Twins on Toes - how to get a local sim card in India
  4. New Delhi Airport - services
  5. Adani Airport - services
  6. Airtel - prepaid 4G sim

Sources checked on 02-Aug-2022.

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more
Travel Tips

ATMs in India

If you’re travelling to India on holiday, you can’t get cash ahead of time. Indian law doesn’t allow foreigners to bring Indian currency into the country,...

08.05.17 3 minute read

Tips, news and updates for your location