Getting a Vietnamese Simcard can be incredibly confusing for a tourist. Here is an up to date guide to show you everything you need to get yourself a Vietnamese Simcard in the right way.
In November 2016, the Vietnamese government started enforcing registration rules for local SIM cards and canceled 12 million cards that had been illegally registered. As a result, travelers are now advised to only purchase SIM cards from official carrier stores, where they will need to show their passport to register the card.
If you purchase your SIM card from a vendor who cannot register your SIM card for you, it means that you’re either buying a pre-activated card which can be shut down at any time or an unregistered card that will require a trip to an official store before it will work.
You can check whether your SIM has been registered by texting ‘TTTB’ to 1414 on all major operators. If registered, the response will include the name, birthdate, and ID number (Vietnam ID or foreign passport) of the registered individual.
Staying connected in Vietnam is quite cheap — just from 5 to 10 USD will keep the data flowing on your smartphone throughout your stay.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Vietnamese Carriers
There are four major cell networks in Vietnam. Viettel has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone and Mobifone, the least popular one is Vietnamobile.
Two other providers not on the list are Gmobile (formerly Beeline), operating only on 2G so far (they received a 4G/LTE license in 2016, but haven’t started yet). Former CDMA-operator S-Fone has gone bankrupt and its license was revoked.
We recommend Vinaphone for most travelers due to price and convenience.
Viettel removed roaming charges in Laos and Cambodia in early 2017. So you can use Viettel SIM card if you want to use the same SIM in three countries. Viettel is also considered as the best choice when you are going to rural areas
Avoid Mobifone if you’re heading off the beaten track, and there’s really no reason to go with Vietnamobile — it’s the cheapest of the lot, but has very poor 3G service outside the largest cities.
2. How should you get your SIM Card
No matter which carrier you choose, you should always purchase your SIM card from an official store. You can find your nearest official stores here (There is no English list but it’s quite simple and the only information you need is the store address)
Viettel Official Store in Ha Noi
Viettel Official Store in Ho Chi Minh city
Vinaphone Official Store in Ha Noi
Vinaphone Official Store in Ho Chi Minh city
I myself purchased my Vinaphone card from a large official store in Hanoi’s old quarter.It took around ten minutes but was quite straightforward. The salesperson showed us the various prices on a piece of paper, we chose one and handed over a passport and some cash, and she dealt with the rest. The process is likely to be the same in other outlets.
3. Data feature package
Data feature packages
You may need to activate data first by texting “GPRS ON” to 888. Speed on 3G is a max of 14.4 Mbps. Default data rate outside of packages is 1.5 VND per KB.
They have two new daily packages valid for 24 hours:
- 1.2 GB: 7,000 VND, activation: D7
- 2 GB: 10,000 VND, activation: D2
For overuse, speed will be throttled. There is a new weekly package for 7 days:
- 1 GB: 20,000 VND
Overuse on the weekly pack is 0.5 VND/KB. You can book these monthly packages for 30 days:
|Hard-capped packages: Overuse: 0.5 VND/KB|
|50 MB||10,000 VND||M10|
|150 MB||25,000 VND||M25|
|500 MB||50,000 VND||M50|
|1.5 GB||120,000 VND||M120|
|Soft-capped packages: Overuse: throttled speed|
|600 MB||70,000 VND||MAX|
|1.2 GB||100,000 VND||MAX100|
|3 GB||200,000 VND||MAX200|
|Big packages: cut-off, need to buy add-ons|
|1.6 GB||70,000 VND||BIG70|
|2.5 GB||100,000 VND||BIG100|
|5.5 GB||200,000 VND||BIG200|
|10 GB||300,000 VND||BIG300|
To subscribe text “DK”<blank><activation code> to 888. All packages auto-renew. To stop text “HUY” <blank><activation code> to 888. To check data balance, text “DATA” to 888. All texts to 888 are free.
The Big Packages will be cut-off. For more data, they offer these add-ons for the rest of the running time:
- 350 MB: 15,000 VND – activation: X15
- 600 MB: 25,000 VND – activation: X25
- 1 GB: 35,000 VND – activation: X35
On the soft-capped MAX packages, you can add these volumes to avoid the throttle:
- 350 MB: 19,000 VND – activation: X19
- 550 MB: 29,000 VND – activation: X29
- 850 MB: 39,000 VND – activation: X39
- 1.2 GB: 49,000 VND – activation: X49
For all activation text DK<blank><activation code> to 888.
In 2017 they have introduced an own Tourist SIM through their subsidiary GCS Vietnam called ‘Global Connection SIM’. It’s sold already pre-activated and doesn’t seem to require any registration.
The starter pack is 300,000 VND and comes with 8 GB data (up to 3G, no 4G/LTE), 80 minutes domestic call, 80 SMS and 50 minutes international call to these countries: landline and mobile calls to the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia; landline calls to Japan, Taiwan, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and Russia.
The validity is strictly for 30 days only and it doesn’t seem to be extendable in volume or time. It’s available in the Vinaphone booths at Hanoi International Airport at the arrival levels of both terminals or in Hanoi center. For more info in English call (+84) 91 38 8111 or check their website. http://gcsvietnam.com/en/
Data on 3G is up to 21.2/5.76 Mbps, 4G/LTE is only slightly faster. You may need to activate data by texting “3G ON” to 161. Type *101# to check your call balance. Default rate outside of packages is 75 VND per 50 KB by default.
These following monthly packages on 3G can be booked through your device
|50 MB||10,000 VND||MI10||25 VND/50KB|
|200 MB||30,000 VND||MI30||25 VND/50KB|
|450 MB||50,000 VND||MI50||25 VND/50KB|
|600 MB||70,000 VND||MiMax||0 VND|
|1.2 GB||90,000 VND||MiMax90||0 VND|
|1.5 GB||120,000 VND||Dmax||0 VND|
|3 GB||200,000 VND||Dmax200||0 VND|
Text activation to 191 or thought USSD “*098#” and follow intructions on screen. The first three packs are hard-capped, overuse is charged by 25 VND per 50 KB. The last 4 packages are soft-capped and speed will be throttled when reached quota (128 Kbps download and upload). To subscribe, text activation code to 9123 for free. All packages auto-renew, if there is credit.To stop auto-renewal, text “HUY” to 191, but all packages will be cancelled immediately and the rest of your data volume will be lost. If you use up your high-speed data before your 30 days is up and want to re-subscribe to regain full-speed data, you must first cancel your current subscription (sending “HUY” to 191) before it will let you re-subscribe.
MiMax and DMax packages can be extended by add-ons giving you more data volume for one day only at high speeds:
- 150 MB: 8,000 VND, activation: MT1
- 20 MB: 2,000 VND, activation: MT2
- 100 MB: 4,000 VND, activation: MT3
You can check your current data balance by sending the text “KTTK” to 191.
Viettel introduced a tourist SIM for visitors sold mostly at the airports and their big stores. It’s sold for US$ 5 or 10 and needs to be added with one of these plans:
|Price||Data||Domestic calls||International calls||Validity|
|100,000 VND||1 GB||20 mins||10 mins||5 days|
|200,000 VND||2 GB||40 mins||20 mins||10 days|
|300,000 VND||3 GB||60 mins||30 mins||15 days|
|500,000 VND||5 GB||100 mins||50 mins||25 days|
International calls are to 25 countries only. Both mobile and landline: USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea;
Data overage charge is 9.76 VND per 50 KB.
One thing to note is that the Tourist SIM does not include SMS texting. To add texting, you need to add a scratch off card to the account to pay for SMS messages.
To check account balance *101# (free), to check remaining data capacity, USSD Code: *102#(free)
Data-only SIM: Dcom Edit
Their Dcom service is for Mobile Broadband in 3G: data-only for any devices. It can be used in smartphones too but doesn’t have voice and text. SIM cards can be switched from/to Tomato. They sell these data bundles for Dcom only:
|2.5 GB||30 days||30,000 VND||D30|
|3.5 GB||30 days||50,000 VND||D50|
|5 GB||30 days||70,000 VND||D70|
|7 GB||30 days||90,000 VND||D90|
|10 GB||30 days||120,000 VND||D120|
|20 GB||30 days||200,000 VND||D200|
|4 GB/month||6 months||300,000 VND||DC300|
|5 GB/month||12 months||500,000 VND||DC500|
Daily packages will renew every 30 days until out of credit. DC10 is the default package when no other bundle is booked. Packages are hard-capped with 9.76 VND per MB overuse fee.
To activate, text the name of the bundle to 191. All bundles auto-renew. To stop text “HUY” to 191, to check balance text “HTTK” to 191. The same daily add-ons as mentioned above can be added.
It’s very easy to top up your credit. You can buy credit pretty much anywhere you’re ever likely to go as a tourist. Language barrier shouldn’t be a problem because most of those stores just sell cards and top-ups only, and besides, they’ll be in a glass case, so you can just point and wave your phone about.
If not, you just type *100*<code on the top-up card># to add the credit, then send an SMS to 888 to activate the call/data package you want to use.
Coverage and Data Speeds
Speeds depend on where you stay. Places like Hoi An, with less network congestion, download speeds can be close to 10Mb/sec.Those speeds dropped by roughly half in Hanoi and Saigon, and it’s very hard to get data service at all when the weather is bad.
You should be able to have full Vinaphone and Viettel 3G signal anywhere in and around Hanoi, Saigon and Hoi An.
That’s it! Hopefully you should be all set to use maps and social media during your trip. Have fun, but take your eyes off your phone once in a while.