Buying a prepaid SIM card in India

Although SIM cards in India are cheap, getting a registered prepaid SIM card in India can be a long and painful process.

In recent years there have been numerous terrorist attacks and attack attempts in India, therefore the Indian government and security agencies have taken steps to make sure every SIM card is registered and traceable to the true owner.

This makes getting a registered SIM card in India problematic for foreign visitors and tourists, but if you try hard enough it's not impossible.

In this guide we're explaining how to get an Indian SIM card.

Operators in India

After numerous mergers in the recent years the mobile operator market in India somehow stabilized and how there are four main mobile carriers in India with Airtel having the largest coverage overall:

Competition among operators is stiff in India leading to very low prices, so we highly recommend getting a local SIM card when visiting India to significantly reduce your calls and data transfer costs.

As mentioned above Airtel seems to have best coverage thorough the country so we recommend choosing this network for your India stay.

How to buy and register Indian SIM card

Indian SIM cards are widely available at shops in every city, but the problem is when you try to register them.

You can buy a SIM card only if you're able to produce a valid passport with full name current photo, an extra passport photo that you give to the seller and a document confirming your address of residence in India. If you're not an Indian resident it might be extremely difficult to get a SIM card unless you ask a local to help you out and register it in their name.

Card registration will take up to 48 hours after which you receive an SMS with activation code you need to give to the agent for verification.

How to top up

The best way to top up is through any mobile shop or convenience store. They will issue you a receipt with the top-up code and instructions how to add credit to your account.

Please bear in mind that in India data top-ups are separate from voice calls and SMS topups, so keep track of their usage in your account. Data credit is usually only valid for 30 days and after that it expires, so keep an eye on that.

Also be prepared to receive lots of promotional texts from your operator all the time. Sometimes it makes sense to use the promotion, but most of the time the SMS they send will only cause annoyance because they like to send them also in the middle of the night.