Getting mobile and mobile internet whilst travelling in India

A word of warning to those wishing to travel to India and use a local SIM card, or stay connected to the net whilst on the move: getting a prepay mobile or GPRS / 3G SIM isn’t as easy as it might be in your own country.

In the UK, for example, prepay SIM cards can be picked up pretty easily by walking into any shop, with no questions asked. However, in India you’ll need:

  • A passport-sized photo
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • A local reference (your homestay or hotel will do)

It took us the best part of two weeks to get the above sorted out, since the places that offer photography, photocopying etc. tend to be spread out and difficult to recognise. It’s perhaps better to get the above sorted out before you travel to India, as you’ll probably have easy access to such facilities.

We’re in Kerala, and have come up against some vendors claiming that you must have a valid Kerala ID. Some shopping around soon sorted this out for a prepay mobile SIM.

Yet to find a place that sells the fabled BSNL 3G mobile Internet SIMs. A 3G service was launched in Kerala this year by BSNL so I’m guessing that only the major vendors sell the devices. Also haven’t managed to use the TATA Docomo GPRS connection with a laptop yet, though it works on the phone. I think this could be to do with our handset, which is a cheap Samsung C3050. We were told by one shop that the Samsung USB connection would automatically work with TATA Docomo, but this sadly wasn’t to be.

Will head to Ernakulam (large city in Kerala) soon to try to get this BSNL 3G thing going. Would be good to have the freedom to choose accommodation without asking annoying questions about broadband and where the wireless / wired connection can be used.

Homestay people take note: Internet is really important to travellers! Especially those working remotely.