Traveling to India is cheap and frugal, and while you’re there, getting a local SIM card for your cellphones is easy, but because of the mind-boggling bureaucracy, you may not be able to get it activated instantly. The current process may take anything between 24 hours to 5 days!
The tourism minister announced on Monday that India will hand out free SIM cards to tourists on arrival. This is applicable for all the tourists who arrive in the country using electronic tourist visas, which covers about 150 countries.
Having a working cellphone in any country is a huge convenience, especially in case of emergencies. And in the era of technology used for practically everything – from communication via email to using maps for navigation, it is a wise decision to use a local number rather than spending hundreds on your country’s SIM card for data & call roaming.
Currently, you need to be prepared to submit a lot of documents to the SIM vendor – application form, color passport photographs, photocopy of the personal details page of your passport, photocopy of your Indian visa, photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence (passport, driver’s license or any other Government issued document), and proof of where you will be staying in India. Once the documents are “verified”, you can purchase the SIM immediately and you will get a 10-digit mobile number. Although the SIM card should be activated within 24 hours, that may not be the case.
Cellphone companies in India do not work the way they do in several country, where you can use one company across the nation. If you plan on traveling to several locations in India, be sure to get roaming activated on your SIM. Otherwise, you will have to buy separate SIM cards at every new place that you visit.
The Welcome-to-India SIM card will be valid for 30 days only with pre-loaded talk time and data, but no international roaming facility. This means you will not be able to call your home country from the local number.
There are no immediate reports on which network company will be issuing the SIM card, but could be possibly one of the government-owned companies like MTNL (in Mumbai). Also, we have contacted the ministry for questions like – can you recharge the SIM for voice calls & data? How much will that cost? How much data and calls will be pre-filled?
Also, no reports on when this scheme will be in place.
Stay tuned for more details as we get it.