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roaming in thailand

Travelers cautioned about roaming charges

roaming in thailandThe Boston Globe recently had and article about traveling abroad, specifically if you are on a US carrier. From the article:

Before I left home, Verizon told me that calls would cost $1.99 a minute in Thailand and $2.89 a minute in Cambodia.

No, thanks. I’ll just text people instead. To avoid text charges, I signed up for three free services: WhatsApp, Line, and Viber. The catch is that you can text only with people who use the same service, so your contacts will also have to join.

Where international use can get expensive is in data charges.

Verizon was charging $20.48 per megabyte in either country. Just opening the Facebook app uses more than half a megabyte. Five minutes of scrolling through friends’ posts can eat up more than 10 megabytes, or more than $200. That’s before sharing a single photo. Bills can reach thousands of dollars in no time.

The author suggests keeping an eye on data charges in your smart phone or sing an app called Onavo Count.  Since the USA is still the home of carrier locked phones, the author does not hit upon the fact that a local SIM can be purchased until the end of the article.

It will probably be cheaper if you buy a phone package at your destination. Local carriers typically have shops at airports. In Thailand, the True mobile company offered 3 gigabytes for less than $35. Had I used Verizon’s plan, I probably would have needed a second or third block of data for $25 each. True gave me much more for much less. One drawback is I must use a temporary phone number, not my regular one back home.

If you go this route, turn off data roaming on your phone before you leave so you’re not inadvertently charged. Leave the phone on airplane mode until the local plan is set up. If you forget, some carriers will warn you by text, but sometimes after you’ve started accruing charges.

The catch – You need an unlocked phone to use another carrier’s SIM card.

While obvious to most, not everyone realizes you can get a cheap data package once you arrive in Thailand.  But of course to take advantage you either need your phone unlocked or travel with a pocket wifi device.

Our advice if you’re coming with a country with locked phones.

  1. Get your phone unlocked, then buy a local Thai SIM.  You now have data and voice everywhere.
  2. Buy and unlocked pocket mifi device.  You now have data everywhere.

As for getting a SIM, you can easily do that on arrival, or get one before you come on Amazon with 1 day shipping.

 

 

 

006 true move

International calling from Thailand

While in Thailand, you might find the need to call your family friends or business associates back in your home country.  Doing so these days easier than ever before.  From VoIP options, Skype, or carrier discounted international calling programs, the options are plentiful.  Finding the right calling tool for you will depend on who you’re calling, what type of a call it is, and your quality expectations.

 

App Options

These options are ways you can use an app on your smart phone make international calls.

Skype

By now most of us are familiar with Skype and it’s abilities.  Loading Skype with some credit, gives you the ability to call any number in the world directly from the app on your smart phone.  This can be done with Wi-Fi or over the 3G.  Call rates are competitive, and for the ease-of-use definitely worth it.  Rates are however almost double some of the hard-core VoIP rates.   If you really need to do a lot of international calling you may want to check some of the sit providers or, sign up for one of Skype’s package pricing deals.

Google Voice

talkatoneWhile and exciting option, Google voice is only available for US customers, or savy individuals can use the USA VPN or proxy, and have access to USA phone number.  One set up you have a USA phone number that anyone can reach you want.  Google voice has many features, but one of the best for outbound calling is the ability to call any number in the US and Canada for free.   To take advantage of this ability directly from your smartphone you need an app called Talkatone.  Once set up, you can use the keypad to call any USA number and make a free call.  As for caller ID, your Google voice number will show on the destination phone.

Line

line naverLine is the latest multi-messaging app sweeping the world. Line has both a desktop and smart phone client, with chat, voice recording and live voice options.  It works exactly like Skype in the way you can make a free call to anyone on your contact list.

Viber

viberViber’s popularity maybe on the decline, but it is the original smart phone calling app. While it came out before Line and provided a very easy to use service for calling anyone in your address book, its user base has now been surpassed by the popularity of line.

Facetime and Facetime audio

facetime audioMany Apple users are already familiar with FaceTime. FaceTime audio simply FaceTime without the video connection.  This means this is simply a direct phone call.  This works over 3G or Wi-Fi.  In the test I have done here the only major problem is the connection time, while the call quality is quite good with only an occasional lag.  To use FaceTime audio need iOS 7 update.  The downside is the person you’re calling also has to have iOS 7 and FaceTime audio.

Tango

Tango is an audio and video chat app.  Again both parties will need to have this installed to make a free voice or video call.

3CX Phone

3cx sip clientWhen you have the need to call any number anywhere, what you need is a sip VoIP client for your smartphone.  There are many SIP clients available for your smart phone but the one I’m currently using is the Free 3CX phone app.  Like any sit client, you will need to have a VoIP account with a SIP provider.

Carrier Options

All the Thai carriers have ability to call internationally from your mobile phone.  While the prices have become more competitive, there are ways to get even better rates when making a call from your Thai mobile phone.   All of these free fax services ask you to dial a number prefix and then the number you want to call like this: dial cheap prefix –> Country Code –> City Code –> Local Number

True Move

006 true moveTruemove users can use an International direct dialing service.  By using the prefix 006, you can get rates of 3 baht per minute 22 international destinations.

You can check the rates by dialing *006*Country Code#  dial.

To make premium grade international call via true 006 to fixed line or mobile number all over the world.
Just dial 006 –> Country Code –> City Code –> Local Number
(without the “0” before local number)

Example: Call Tokyo, Japan
Dial 006 –>81 –> 3 –> 67XXXXXX

More Details

AIS

ais 005AIS offers several international direct dialing service.  Please include dialing 005, 00500, 001, 009, 007 or 008.

International call service is the service that enables you to use your AIS One-2-call! mobile phone to make international outgoing call to the foreign destination numbers.

You can make international call by yourself.

  • Make call via AIN network : 005 Globaline , 00500
  • Make call via CAT network: 001, 009
  • Make call via TOT network: 007, 008

AIS customers can now make international call by pressing “+” to represent access code 005 from AIN GlobalComm
or by directly pressing 001, 005, 007, 008, 009 or 00500 to access international call services from other providers.

DTAC

dtac 004Dtac has the same international discounted calling service by dialing 004.

  • Dial access code 004 = call through Dtac Network Co., Ltd
  • Dial access code 001 or 009 = call through  CAT Telecom PCL.
  • Dial access code 007 or 008 = call through TOT PCL.

Prices to the US start at 8 Baht per minute, and you can check prices to any country here.

Software options

 

SIP Providers

This is protocol is a non-proprietary system for making international calls.  While a company like Skype uses their proprietary method for making calls, the SIP protocol is used by thousands of companies offering various types of calling programs and packages.  In general you will need an account with a sip provider, and then a hard or soft phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting at true move shop

Getting a Thai phone number upon arrival

When you arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport ( BKK ) one of the first things you’ll want to do after you’ve landed is get connected. You can do this one of 2 ways – roaming or buying a local SIM card.

Roaming

Considering roaming means you will use your existing home SIM on local Thai networks.   Usually you can choose any of the 3 major networks you want, but your local telecom company may have negotiated rates with one of the local providers.  (Likely the one that sends you a welcome SMS when you first turn on your phone in Thailand.)

Be sure to have International Roaming turned on before you http://torasap.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=14119&action=edit&message=10leave your home country.  Call the call center and ask them to turn it on, and also ask about their charges for data and voice roaming in Thailand, and their preferred partner network.  Data roaming can be as cheap as $15 a day, on the right network.

Buying a Sim

The way to get a local Thai number and local Data is by buying a Thai SIM card.  SIM cards slide into the back of most phones unless you’re on a CDMA system found in USA or Japan.  In Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK),  the 3 Thai Telcos have shops where you can buy a Thai SIM card.  First, right outside of the International gates, there are kiosks for DTAC (blue), AIS (Green ) and True Move (Red).  The base price of all basic SIM cards is 50 thb.  Yes, less than $2. So yeah, that’s dirt cheap!

sim card shop

 

To get an idea of what these phone kiosks look like, here are a few photos of the actual shops:

 

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