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Complete Information & Guide for Visiting India
by Virendar Chand

Guide to Cell Phones in India

Use your foreign cell phone in India and avoid paying long-distance and roaming charges for use of your foreign cell phone.



 How much does a cell phone cost in India? Check sample prices at end of page.

NEW How to convert Full size Sim to Micro Sim.

Cell PhoneHaving a cell phone while traveling does provide some of us with a sense of security and it is great to be able to stay in touch with family and friends.

Some companies sell global sim cards and also rent cell phones for tourists and businessmen visiting foreign countries.

If you have a unlocked dual, tri or quad band GSM cell phone that can work on 900/1800 MHz You can use your cell phone in India without paying roaming charges to your foreign phone company.  

Sim Card Restrictions for Tourists in India

As of September 2012, The Government of India has issued a directive to mobile phone service providers that Sim cards for mobile phones that are purchased by tourists should not have a validity beyond the validity of the Indian tourist visa held the purchaser of the Sim Card.

The maximum validity of a Sim card should also not exceed three months at a time regardless of the duration of the visa.

Documents required to get a Sim Card in India by foreign tourists are copies of:

Passport, Indian visa, Photo of applicant, Local address of the place of stay, signed application for Sim form.

To use your phone in India, buy a new prepaid Sim Card (available at most phone retailers all over the country) The cost of the Sim Cards is approximately Rupees 100.

The Sim Card will give you a new local phone number. The retailer you buy the Sim Card from will also install it for you free of charge and within a short time you have a working phone with a new local number.

Roaming is already activated and the phone allows you to make local as well as international calls. When you are ready to leave India simply revert back to your original foreign Sim Card.

I have found that sometimes long distance rates for calling overseas are cheaper when using cell phones from India.

A new phone has recently been released in India that is capable of working with two Sim cards simultaneously. Details at the bottom of the page.

Best Sim Card in India - Which Sim Card to buy?

Airtel Sim Card Some of the cell phone companies, to entice customers to buy their Sim cards offer promotional packages such as including a number of minutes of talk time or offering a longer validity time before recharging is required.

I bought a Sim card in Mumbai for Rupees 100 on February 8, 2011 with a validity of one year from the date of purchase.

How to use your cell phone in India: Once you have installed your new sim card in your cell phone you will have a local Indian phone number. Cell phone numbers in India usually have ten digits.

Making Local calls: To call any landline phone in India. Dial the relevant STD code (STD code is similar to what is called the Area Code in USA/Canada) followed by the number. India Sim Card Packet

For example to dial a Delhi landline phone number you must first dial the Delhi std code, which is 001 and then dial the phone number you are calling.

To call phone number 23454321 in Delhi you need to dial 01123454321.

To dial other cell phone numbers you can just dial the full 10 digit cell phone number and area codes are not required.


Calling Indian cell phone from foreign countries: To call any Indian cell phone from overseas, you only need to dial India's country code (91) followed by the cell phone number. There is no need to dial the city std code when calling a Indian cell phone number.

Free incoming calls to your cell phone in India

The way cell phones work in India is slightly different from some of the western countries. In the United States or Canada, if you had no money left in your prepaid cell phone like for the prepaid cell phones at tracfone.com, your cell phone would not allow you to receive or make calls until money was added to your cell phone account.

However, India has a different system. Most cell phone companies in India allow free in coming calls to their sim card users. So even if you have no prepaid time left for your phone and cannot make outgoing calls, you can still get incoming calls. The only condition is that the validity period of your sim card should not have expired.

For example if your Sim card is valid for another month and your prepaid account balance is nil, you will not be able to make outgoing calls until you add money to your account. However as your sim card validity has another month to go, you will still receive calls on your telephone and use it for incoming calls until your sim card validity runs out.


Children on Cell PhonesFree incoming call syndrome seems to have caught on amongst many cell phone users. Apparently this is a cheap way to have a cell phone and get others to call you as incoming calls are usually free in India.

My taxi driver in Delhi said he had no money on his sim card for the last three months. He continues to get free incoming calls until the expiry date of his sim card validity.

Here again he smiled and told me that before the expiry date he will spend about Rupees 100 to recharge his sim card and then his sim card validity will again be extended for another six months.

To sum it up, he would charge his prepaid phone with a minimum amount of money twice a year and get free incoming calls all year.

When deciding on which Sim Card to buy, one needs to check what is important to them. The longer validity of the sim card or other bonuses like more talk time, offered by the phone companies try to sell their sim cards.

How to get a new Sim card in India for your foreign cell phone.

  1. Visit a phone sim card retailer. Most retailers carry sim cards for all the major GSM phone companies. Major companies are Airtel, Hutch, Idea and MTLN.

  2. Select the sim card of your choice. Cost of sim card with a new local phone number for India is approximately Rupees 100 to 125. (US$ 3 approximately) Mother talking on Telephone

  3. Take a photo copy of the first page of your passport (the pages showing your details and photograph) or drivers license. This photo copy is required by the cell phone companies as proof of identity.


4. Fill out the Sim Card purchase application form that will be provided by the sim card retailer, ( name, address etc.) As proof of identity use the photo copy of your drivers license or passport.

5.Dealer will install the sim card you purchased in your telephone and you will have a local phone number immediately.(Some outlets due to changes in identification laws now need about 24 hours to activate your new number.)

6. Add prepaid calling time to your new number in the amount you wish to. Additional call time can be added as you desire during your stay in India. The phone retailer you buy your sim card from should be able to explain the various choices and denominations of prepaid vouchers for phone.

PLEASE NOTE: The recharge coupons that are sold have three components, "Call time," "Processing Fee" and "Service Tax".

So if you are buying a Rupees 500 talk time voucher for your phone. Don't be deceived into believing  that you can make calls worth Rupees 500.

Check exactly how much of the Rs 500 actually goes towards giving you call time. The call time varies between different amounts.

Also when buying recharge coupons for cell phones in India keep in mind the validity of the recharge coupon.


NOTE: If your foreign cell phone has a setting that blocks your user ID being transmitted (your cell number being displayed to the person you call) your cell phone will not work in India unless you turn this setting off in your phone. I found this out the hard way when my cell phone would only accept calls and not allow me to dial out. As soon as I changed my settings the phone was back to normal and worked fine.

Remember that your cell phone will work only if it is unlocked. Most cell phone companies when they sell their phones to subscribers want them to stay with their company and usually have their phones locked so as to prevent subscribers from switching phone companies.

If your phone is locked you cannot use a Sim Card of an Indian phone company unless you get the phone unlocked. This can be done by speaking to your foreign phone company and getting them to unlock your phone or getting it unlocked by a technician in India.

There are some web sites that also claim to unlock GSM cell phones for approximately $10.

I personally use a Nokia 5100 model that I purchased from Amazon about three years ago. It is a tri-band phone and when I purchased this phone it was already unlocked. I have used this phone on many occasions in India, USA, Canada and Europe and it works very well. However many new models are in the market now and buyers should shop around to find what suits their needs and budget

BUYING SECOND HAND CELL PHONES: Cell phones are refereed to as Mobile phones in India. If you wish you can always buy a second hand GSM phone in India.

As new models come out so frequently now the older models prices have dropped considerably and second hand phones are available at most dealers selling sim cards. With the right shop owner you may be able to sell the phone back to them when leaving the country.

Almost every kind of cell phone is now available in India. Some models are even cheaper in India than overseas prices. I find that low end phones are cheaper in India. To give you an example:

1. Nokia 1100 GSM900/1800 Retail price in Delhi Rupees 1900. (Cost in USA $65.)

2. Sony Ericsson P990i GSM900/1800/1900/UMTS Retail price quoted in Delhi Rupees 36,500. (Cost in USA $650)

DO NOT buy a cell phone from strangers who approach you on the street. While walking down on a street near Flora Fountain in Mumbai last year I was approached several times by people wanting to sell cameras or cell phones at very low prices. These phones have no warranty and may be stolen. So if you wish to buy a second hand cell phone, buy it form a store that will install the sim card for you and let you test the phone before you make the purchase.


CAMERA CELL PHONE WARNING: Some temples and tourist attractions like museums, aquariums have a policy of not allowing cameras into their premises or charge extra to allow cameras.

Cell phones with cameras sometimes become a problem. Authorities are aware that people take pictures with cell camera phones where cameras are not permitted. Some places will not allow you to enter if you have a camera phone. In the Indian state of Jammu when we went to see a Hindu temple. One member of our party who had a camera phone had to leave it at the gate. Cell phones without a camera were allowed in.









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United Kingdom



Please Note: While the countries listed above use the same SM cell phone frequencies as India. Cell phones should be unlocked so that Sim cards provided by Indian cell phone companies can be used. If your cell phone is locked by a phone provider in your home country you will have to get it unlocked if you wish to use it in India.  

Dual Sim Card Phones

Dual sim card phones are available worldwide. These cell phones (referred to as mobile phones in India) have slots to insert two sim cards.

Dual Sim Card GSM PhoneThe user can switch to the sim card of his choice manually without switching sim cards. The only drawback is that only one sim card can be used at one time.

A new phone being marketed in India eliminates the need of manually selecting a sim card as both sim cards are simultaneously active.Dual Sim Card CDMA Phone

The Spice Mobile dual sim card phone (Model D-88) sells in India for Rupees 9849 which is approximately US$230.

The Spice Dual handset also has a 1.3 mega pixel; camera that is capable of capturing high quality images. Other features of the Spice Dual mobile phone include a special integrated music and video player and video recording and playback.

The presence of the in-built option for two SIM cards allows the user to make or receive calls from any SIM at any time as well as receive and send text messages.

The Spice Dual phone has a 256MB built-in memory card. But, the phone also offers the option of expandable memory.

Converting Full size Sim Card to Micro Sim size

The majority of Sim cards tourists will find in India are the regular size. The trend of micro Sim cards in now becoming popular as new smartphones come to the market. While micro Sim cards are now becoming available in India, they are treated as a special order and have to be ordered from the service provider. This can take several weeks and since tourists visiting India do not normally have the time to go through the red tape to get a micro Sim card in India. There is an alternative in some cases that may work for such tourists.

How to fit Full size Sim card in a Micro Sim card slot

If you have a phone, such as a Lumia 710 that I have, then your phone uses a micro Sim card. When traveling to India, this creates a problem. The phone frequencies of the Lumia 710 are compatible with the Indian phone system however; the Sim card purchased in India is larger and cannot fit in the Lumia 710 smartphone.

The solution here is to simply cut the Indian Sim card to convert it into a micro Sim. While a simple scissor can be used to cut Sim card, it is not that easy for most people as they run the risk of ruining the Sim card if cut improperly. The alternative is to either get the person from where you buy the Indian Sim to cut it for you for a small charge, or buy a Sim cutter. The cost of a Sim cutter can vary anywhere from just two dollars to twenty dollars depending on where you buy it.

How much does a cell phone cost in India?

Nokia Cell Phone Prices SignboardJust about everyone in India seems to own a cell phone. Even though many poor class people use their cell phones to receive calls (incoming calls are usually free) there is of course the cost of buying the phone.

I was quite curious to find out what the people on the street shell out to buy a basic phone.

First of all you can buy just about any type of phone in India today. Prices are surprisingly cheaper on some phones when compared to USA prices.

The cheapest phone I found here was a brand new Nokia for Rupees 750. This works out to approximately 19 US$. This is WITHOUT any contract with any cell phone provider in India.

Just about any phone can also be repaired in India and the repair costs for very reasonable price.

Check out the prices of some of the prices advertised outside a store for Nokia phones. While they may not carry the Nokia Windows phone, the Nokia phones they sell are still reliable to use.

The Nokia N-73 being sold for Rupees 11720 in India is being advertised for 212 British pounds in the UK which works out to approximately 16500 Indian Rupees. 

When buying good quality phones, it's always better to purchase phones in the country where you reside. This will ensure that you receive appropriate customer and warranty service.