Having a stable internet connection on the go can make or break a work trip. We’ve done the research to bring you the most reliable SIM cards in every city across Southeast Asia.

Let’s face it—nobody really uses data roaming.

Getting SIM cards has gotten too easy for us to be tiptoeing around the notorious data limits and penalty charges. It has become the first order of business when we travel, even before food and lodging. Clearly, 4G connection now lies in the Maslow hierarchy’s bottom tier.

SIM cards cost way less in Southeast Asia than in European or Australian airports, but even within this pool, some are more suitable than others for business travellers.

In this article, we tell you which service providers’ kiosks you should be making a beeline for.

What makes a good SIM card?

Coverage is the top consideration on a work trip. After all, travelling abroad for business puts enough on your plate to worry about, and staying connected shouldn’t be one of them.

These service providers are highly-rated for having strong networks across the country, covering even remote areas you may visit during R&R.

However, if your destination isn’t a main city, OpenSignal is a handy tool that will help you assess the service provider’s network coverage in the area.

On top of coverage, only the largest data bundles with long periods of validity (more than seven days) have been shortlisted. All the prices stated are accurate at time of writing, and are subject to change with time or across retailers within the country.

🇲🇾 Malaysia

Service provider: Maxis
Plan: Hotlink RED Plan
Inclusions: 10GB internet + unlimited calls + free non-stop red*
Validity: 30 Days
Price: RM70

Things to note
No unlimited data? No problem. The Hotlink RED Plan lets you choose from three non-stop red bundles to enjoy unlimited usage of selected apps.

Maybe you’re planning to spend long, interstate commutes binge-watching Korean dramas on Viu, or your work involves transferring large files through Telegram. Depending on your needs, or your most frequently used messaging apps, your choice could save you a great deal.

🇹🇭 Thailand

Service provider: DTAC
Plan: Happy Tourist SIM (15-Day)
Inclusions: Unlimited internet (at 6GB speed) + 100 baht call credit
Validity: 15 Days
Price: 599 baht

Things to note
Like the perks that frequent flyer programs offer, there’s a slew of privileges exclusive to customers of DTAC’s Tourist SIM, including a week’s worth of travel insurance, discounts on DHL international shipping, and even car rentals.

And, if the counters at the airport get too crowded, you can easily get your SIM cards from one of these self-service machines at Gate 7, Arrival Hall, Suvarnabhumi Airport.

All you have to do is select, register and pay, and you can be well on your way to beat the taxi queues. If you’d like an even more seamless process, make an advanced online purchase and present your code at the kiosk!

🇮🇩 Indonesia

Service provider: Telkomsel
Plan: simPATI Best Deal Combo 25GB
Inclusions: 25GB internet + 100 minutes voice call + 200 SMSes
Validity: 30 Days
Price: 143,000 rp

Things to note
Many kiosks in and near Indonesian airports are known for charging tourists higher prices. While turning to unlicensed streetside vendors was once an option, a regulation implemented in May 2018 now requires foreigners to be formally registered with their passports and visas, or risk getting their network cut off. Unfortunately, these vendors don’t always practise the black-and-white.

Our advice? Better be safe than sorry, and get yours from an official retailer — be it an airport kiosk or a convenience store. Besides, after currency conversion, the “premium” is going to be marginal, and a small price to pay for assurance.

🇸🇬 Singapore

Service provider: Singtel
Plan: Singtel hi! Tourism SIM
Inclusions: 100GB internet + unlimited usage of select apps (Facebook, WhatsApp, LINE, WeChat) + unlimited local SMS/calls + 90 minutes international calls + 3GB data roam for Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand + Free Singtel WiFi
Validity: 12 Days
Price: $30

Things to note
Like many other things, data is probably the most expensive in Singapore. This package may appear overpriced at first glance, but you get a whopping 100GB—which is pretty close to unlimited data.

Plus, there are several ways to get your money’s worth. For starters, there are plenty of free Singtel WiFi spots in the city—almost every other train station is one—so you can work remotely with ease.

With the 3GB data roam for countries in the region, it’ll cover multi-city work trips too. Either that, or you just found the best excuse for a holiday!

🇵🇭 Philippines

Service provider: Globe
Plan: Travelallin 700
Inclusions: 8GB internet + local calls + local/international SMSes
Validity: 15 Days
Price: $10

Things to note
SIM cards in the Philippines are readily available at the airport, street vendors, local shops and supermarkets. There are only two main telcos here (Globe and Smart) so that leaves you with little dilemma. However, some areas outside metro Manila only receive signal from one.

You could look up your destination on OpenSignal before purchasing, ask the locals, or simply see if there’re more Globe or Smart outlets within the city.

🇲🇲 Myanmar

Service provider: Telenor
Plan: 150 kyat Tourist SIM
Inclusions: 5GB internet + 50 local minutes
Validity: 14 Days
Price: 15,000Ks

Things to note
While Telenor branches can be easily found on the streets, not all stores stock nano SIM cards. We recommend getting yours at the airport, or bigger stores in the city if you’re out of luck there. Because Myanmar is among the slowest in Southeast Asia to build telecommunications infrastructure, so you can expect erratic network coverage with varying speeds across the country.

🇱🇦 Laos

Service provider: Unitel
Plan: 4GU30 Package
Inclusions: 60GB internet
Validity: 30 Days
Price: 300,000 KIP

Things to note
All four telcos in Laos are owned by the government, and you can easily obtain SIM cards from official stores and approved retailers even without an ID. Their rates don’t differ that much across the board, but networks tend to be stronger in the main cities.

If you’re venturing to the northern provinces in Laos, a traveller’s tip is to carry multiple SIM cards with you, and keep your fingers crossed that one of them work.

🇻🇳 Vietnam

Service provider: Viettel
Inclusions: Unlimited internet (7GB) + Free incoming calls
Validity: 30 Days
Price: 300,000 VND

Things to note
Like Indonesia, Vietnam also has its fair share of regulations. To avoid having your SIM cards deactivated after purchase, only approach official company stores operated by Viettel, Vinaphone, or Mobifone with your passports for registration.

Or, if you’re based in Singapore, you can make things easier by pre-ordering one of Viettel’s SIM cards on Changi Recommends. It costs $15 for 15 days of unlimited internet, and you could just pick it up right before departure.

🇰🇭 Cambodia

Service provider: Metfone
Plan: MetTravel Tariff
Inclusions: Unlimited internet (7GB)
Validity: 30 Days
Price: $10

Things to note
Even within the airport in Cambodia, SIM cards are best purchased from the telcos’ official stores at the airport, to avoid falling for tourist traps at makeshift kiosks.

The authorities want to make sure that tourists are buying from approved retailers only, so like most registration processes, your passport and visa stamp will have to be presented.


Stay connected everywhere

Buying SIM cards in Southeast Asia may be tricky for international travellers. While cosmopolitan cities like Singapore and Bangkok have long gotten up to speed, there’s a handful that still lacks infrastructure.

As a general rule of thumb, always do your homework on Open Signal before flying, buy from official retailers, and overstate the amount of data needed. This saves you the hassle of top-ups, which is especially frustrating in countries with language barriers.

If all else fails, well, just pop by a 7-11 outlet and get a prepaid SIM!

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