Getting a Prepaid Data SIM in India (with Vodaphone)

Last year, Jon Brown turned me on to getting local data SIM cards while traveling internationally.  We’re in Mumbai now, on our first international adventure of the year, so I dug in to figure out how to get a data SIM in India.

Receiving some mixed information from both people and the internets, we set out this morning to get Indian data SIMs for my Samsung Note 4 and Becky’s iPhone 6 (both from Verizon).

We asked about the requirements at 4 different shops, and they were all the same.  You need:

  1. A photocopy of the photo page of your passport
  2. A photocopy of the visa page of your passport
  3. A passport-sized photo (we saw a number of places that will take these for you– we got ours done for 50 — about $0.80 — and received 8 passport photos)
  4. The address for your hotel

Not super fast, but it’ll work!

We elected to go with Vodaphone because they reportedly have the best data speeds, they have a store just down the block from our hotel, and we’re not going to be leaving Mumbai.  If we were going to be touring in the countryside, we would probably get Airtel.  There is currently no 4G LTE cellular in Mumbai (as of March 2015), but Airtel seems to be putting 4G into more and more Indian cities, so hopefully it will be here before too long…

Once you get set up with an account in the store, expect the process to take about 3-4 hours before your phone is ready to use.

You’ll need to:

  1. Complete the paperwork in store (takes 10-15 minutes)
  2. Put the SIM card in your phone
  3. Wait until you start showing bars of service– this took 30-45 minutes.  During this time you can set your APN to either “www” or “internet” — both seem to work
  4. Once you’re seeing bars of service, call “117”, press “2” for English.  Note that, after pressing “2”, you may hear a message in Hindi, but you WILL be connected to an English-speaking operator
  5. Wait.  You’ll receive a couple of text messages immediately, then you’ll receive a couple after a while– the final one will say “Your Internet pack is valid now”.  Ours arrived two hours after the first text message came through.
  6. Restart your phone

We paid about ₹1400 for 5gb of data.  Had I realized the speeds and that it’s not able to be used as a mobile hotspot, we probably would have opted for less data– there’s no way we’ll use this much in a week.  But still, we now have essentially unlimited data for less than Verizon charges for 100mb.

Are you traveling to India?  I hope this is helpful!  If your experience varies from mine, please drop a comment below.  You can also find a wealth of useful information on plans and prices here.

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