Mobile Phones in Thailand

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Is mobile phone use very common in Thailand? Yes, it is. It sometimes seems that everyone in Thailand owns and uses at least one mobile phone. 

If I come to Thailand, can I bring my mobile phone with me and use it in Thailand? It is possible but it must be remembered that all Thai service providers operate with the GSM900/1800 network. You need to check and see if your mobile is compatible before you come. You will probably need to have your phone “unlocked” before you can use it. This is probably cheaper to have done in Bangkok than one’s home country. If your mobile is compatible with the Thai network, you should be able to use your sim card. 

Can I buy a mobile phone in Bangkok? Yes, you can. It is very easy. There are many small shops that sell mobile phones, and all large department stores have mobile phone kiosks and markets. In Bangkok, one can find the complete product line of phones produced by all the world’s leading producers: Nokia, Samsung, Erickson, Motorola, etc. There are also local producers although these are more geared toward Thai users. 

Where is the best place to buy a mobile phone? The best and most economical place is the 4th floor of the MBK shopping center in the Siam Square shopping area. MBK has what seems like hundreds of small sales outlets. There are many sales outlets all over the city, though, so one need not feel that they must make a special trip to MBK just to get a phone. It might pay, however, to get more than one quote before buying. 

How are mobile phone prices in Thailand? Mobile phones in Thailand probably cost less than they do in Australia, the USA or most European countries. You can get a basic brand name phone such as Nokia for around 1000 baht, which would be somewhere over thirty US dollars. The prices rise according to the features one wants. 

Can I get a used mobile phone in Bangkok? Of course. Thailand is a mobile phone culture and people are “trading up” all the time…or they are selling their mobiles due to financial need. Almost all kiosks have a line of used phones to go along with the new ones they sell. 

Can I rent a mobile phone? Yes, there are rental services at the Bangkok airport and at major tourist hotels. The deposit fees are rather high, however – usually between 30,000 and 40,000 baht – so most people consider renting a rather bad deal. It is usually better just to buy one. 

Is it difficult to get a mobile phone account in Bangkok? No, it is not difficult. You must pick a service provider and decide if you want “prepaid” versus “contract” service. You might have to show you passport when you open an account.
Who are the service providers? How do I find them? Well, there are four or so…in recent years there have been consolidations. The oldest and most extensive is AIS (Advanced Info Service). The second largest is DTAC (D Total Access Communications). They have offices in major shopping centers but, depending upon the service one desires, it might not be necessary to go to a service provider shop to open an account. 

Why don’t I have to go to the service provider to open an account? This is because you can either have a “prepaid” or a “contract” service. If you select the contract service, in which you receive a monthly statement charging you for all the services you used in that month, then you must go to the provider. If you select the “prepaid” option, you can open an account virtually…anywhere. 

Oh, that sounds good. Tell me more about the “prepaid” option. You simply buy a sim card at a mobile phone shop or kiosk – you can even buy them on the street!! When you buy the sim card, you will receive a telephone number. To use the sim card, you will need to buy “airtime top-up cards.” These can be purchased almost anywhere, even at convenience stores such as 7-11. Then, the amount of time that is paid for is transferred to your account. 

How much do the top-up cards cost? The prices of these cards varies from company to company. AIS top-up cards come in two denominations, 300 and 500 baht. Other providers have smaller purchase requirements. One is generally required to use a certain amount of “call-time” every month, or to buy a new card even if the time has not been used. If one uses less than the required time, then one can “save” it as long as one purchases additional time. 

Do I need an address to use the prepaid option? No. 

Do I need a passport to use the prepaid option? You might be required to show you passport when you buy you sim card but you will not need it to buy top-up cards. 

The prepaid service sounds much better for me than the contract service. Are there any advantages to the contract service? Well, for most foreigners, the prepaid service is probably best. The contract service does offer several nice features that are not available with the prepaid service, such as voice mail and sim card protection. Remember, that one can always switch to the contract service if one wishes. 

How much are mobile phone rates in Thailand? Rates vary from company to company, and depend on different factors, but assuming the call is within Thailand, should be in the range of 2 to 5 baht per minute with each faction of a minute charged at the rate for an entire minute. Most of the providers offer free or discounted time, although one must generally be able to read Thai text messages to take advantage of these offers. 

Are international calls from Thailand expensive? Cost can vary considerably depending upon things such as the country one wishes to call, but generally speaking, calls to most English speaking countries, Germany, France, South Korea and Japan should be around 10 baht a minute using a Thai service provider. If one wishes to call Afghanistan or North Korea, costs are much higher. 
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