Will my mobile phone work in India?

Yes, you’ll be able to use your mobile/cell phone while in India, but only if you have activated global roaming or purchased a local SIM card. If you choose to activate global roaming, be sure to check with your carrier as to what costs will be incurred – it's often prohibitively expensive – to avoid any unwanted surprises when you get your phone bill! You should also make sure you check that your phone is unlocked before leaving home or the local SIM will not work.

Buying a local SIM card

For many travellers, buying a local SIM card instead of a roaming plan is the way to go. You can buy an Indian SIM card at airports and phone retail shops. There are several carriers to choose from, with both prepaid and postpaid options available. Though postpaid is slightly cheaper, it requires a commitment of three months, so most travellers will be better off going with the prepaid option. As far as carriers go, Airtel and Vodaphone are readily available and have decent coverage across the country, though reception for all providers may be patchy or non-existent in very rural or remote areas like the Himalayas, particularly in the higher regions.

Activating your Indian SIM card

Once you've bought a SIM card, you'll then need to activate it with the vendor. This process can take a day or two to complete, but it's totally worth it when you have a phone you can use on your trip. To activate your SIM, travellers must:

  • Provide original identification as well as a photocopy of your passport details page (including the photo)
  • Provide two passport-sized photos
  • Provide a photocopy of your Indian visa details
  • Show proof of your home address (such as a recent utility bill)
  • Show proof of your Indian address (such as your hotel or guesthouse)
  • Provide a reference from a local person in India (such as a hotel or tour operator)
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