How To Get SIM Card For NRI Visiting India

One of the first things an NRI needs upon landing in India is a local SIM card for making phone calls from their mobile phone. This is useful right from the first phone call upon reaching India to family or to call a local taxi.

There are four ways to get a local SIM card:

  1. Get a SurfRoam SIM delivered abroad even before you travel to India
  2. Buy a local SIM at the airport in your Indian destination city
  3. Visit a mobile service provider or vendor where you live in India
  4. Upon reaching India, order the SIM online at 10digi.com and have it delivered to you

Though getting a mobile SIM card in India is a slightly longer process, it is certainly not difficult and once you get the service, the monthly charges are very low compared to most other countries.


Most NRIs prefer getting a mobile SIM from a local mobile provider after reaching India. Just remember to carry a voltage converter for use with your smartphone or notebook charger.

NRI Woman Making phone call
NRI Woman Making phone call

Here are the pros and cons of the different ways of getting local SIM card:

1) SurfRoam website

SurfRoam Advantages

SurfRoam Disadvantages


1. You will have global data SIM card even before reaching India

2. This can be used as your India travel SIM card or as a data SIM card in multiple countries that you travel to.

1. Voice calls cannot be directly made though you can use Skype for phone calls

Pay about 15 Euros online and get the SIM delivered to you abroad. Use it on your tablet or smartphone for internet connection.


2) Indian Airport

Airport Advantages

Airport Disadvantages


1. You will get local mobile connection within one or 2 days of landing in India

1. This is more expensive.

2. Sometimes there can be few days delay in getting the SIM activated.

3. You will have to wait in line at the airport and do all the paperwork when you are tired from the jet lag.

1. Choose a mobile provider such as Airtel, Jio or Vodafone.

2. Submit copy of passport, visa/PIO/OCI, id/address proof and 2 photos.

3. Pay the SIM activation money to vendor at the airport and get a receipt.


3) Mobile provider/ outlet near where you live in India

Mobile Outlet Advantages

Mobile Outlet Disadvantages


1. You will likely have someone who can refer you to a good outlet and give you guidance

2. In case of delays or any issues, you can approach them quickly to get things resolved with the SIM.

3. This will be less expensive than getting the SIM at the airport.


Submit copies of your passport front pages, 2 photos, visa/OCI/PIO copy and your current address proof.

You may also need a local contact but that can be easily taken care of by the person referring you, or the outlet staff themselves.


4) 10digi.com

10digi.com Advantages

10digi.com Disadvantages


1. This is a fast and easy process.

2. You can get your SIM on the same day

3. The SIM card will be personally delivered to you where you live in India

4. Get additional discounts and cashback

1. This will work as long as you are an NRI and have some Indian Id or address proof in addition to your other foreign documents.

2. Its best to visit a mobile outlet for foreign non-NRIs.

Provide your id/ passport and a local address proof.

The delivery executive will take your photo and they will try to activate SIM within 3 hours, but sometimes it may take longer.



If you need a local phone and cannot add the SIM to your foreign smartphone, there are 2 options:

  1. Buy a new basic phone for about Rs.5000 at a good mobile outlet. One such robust phone in this price range available in India is Samsung Galaxy.
  2. Get a used phone from a reliable mobile outlet which you trust. Be sure to let them know that if the phone stops working within a month, they will have to refund all the money. Used phone can probably be purchased for about Rs 2000 or so.
  3. Just note that your phone in India may not work abroad, so don’t end up spending too much money on it for the short duration use in India.

Getting Smartphone in India
Getting Smartphone in India


Here are the main differences between prepaid and postpaid mobile service plans in India:

Prepaid Mobile service

  1. Prepaid is cheaper you have to pay in advance with prepaid.
  2. Customer service takes long in prepaid.
  3. Prepaid is a fixed-plan service and a change in plan will affect all future months.
  4. With prepaid, daily and monthly limits are fixed.
  5. For single users, prepaid is the most affordable plan.
  6. There are no additional perks with prepaid.
  7. Prepaid is hassle-free and a money-saver
  8. It’s easy to cancel a prepaid service by calling the customer service.
  9. Here is the prepaid from Airtel, or Jio, or Vodafone, or BSNL

Postpaid service

  1. Postpaid is more expensive and you get to pay for the services after use.
  2. For postpaid, you can directly call the store manager from where you signed up for the postpaid service and they will work to resolve your complaint quickly.
  3. With postpaid, you can change the plan every month.
  4. There are no daily limits with postpaid and the minutes carry over from one month to the next.
  5. For family group plans, or multi-user company plans, postpaid also works out quite affordable.
  6. Postpaid usually comes with additional perks such as free prime videos or some such options.
  7. Postpaid bills can suddenly shoot up with usage and can cause unnecessary additional expenses
  8. It’s much more difficult to cancel a postpaid service and it requires a physical visit to the center where you signed up for the service.
  9. Here are the postpaid plans from Airtel, or Jio, or Vodafone, or BSNL


The first thing to do is to keep sufficient balance in the prepaid/ postpaid account before you travel back abroad from India, say at least Rs.1000 or more. Then turn on international roaming and make a call or receive messages once in one or 2 months.

Keeping Indian SIM Active From Abroad
Keeping Indian SIM Active From Abroad

Just be sure to check the account balance once in about 3 months and top up with additional balance when it starts running out.

In the past, I’ve made sure to add about Rs.1500 before leaving for the US. After 2 years, the service was still active. But usually its best to just keep it active with international roaming if possible.

Also choose a good mobile shop vendor who is friendly so that they do not disconnect or at least send you a message to top up to avoid disconnection. If you have a friend or relative recommending a particular shop, be sure to take them with you when signing up for the mobile plan.


Happy NRI Youngster Using Indian SIM for Phone call
Happy NRI Youngster Using Indian SIM for Phone call

1) What is SurfRoam?

SurfRoam is a data-only SIM card which can be used in most countries all over the world. So its an ideal companion when traveling and the charges are also quite nominal. To use it with voice, just signup to a Skype-to-phone service or use Whatsapp for phone calls.

2) Is there a free temporary mobile SIM available to NRIs or foreigners arriving in India?

Temporary free SIMs were available at airports around 2017-2018 but that option is not available any longer. In any case, it has become much easier now to get a mobile SIM and the costs are quite affordable.

3) What can I do if the foreign mobile phone is locked?

Ask your mobile service company abroad or in the US to unlock the phone so that you can replace the SIM in India. If this is too much trouble, just purchase a small basic phone in India for local use. Instead of a smartphone, just purchase a basic Nokia or Samsung phone for about Rs.1500 or less.

4) How to get SIM card in India for foreigners?

The best way for foreigners to get a prepaid SIM card for India is directly from the SurfRoam website, or upon arrival at an Indian airport. The SurfRoam SIM is a data card but you can still make voice calls with Whatsapp of Skype. Alternately, you can get a local India SIM card at the Indian airport at your destination.

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