Internet Access with Your iPhone in Thailand

49 comments

Post image for Internet Access with Your iPhone in Thailand

I’ve had a few people ask me for details on this, so I thought I’d write up a brief mini-tutorial on how I did it. I’m no expert, so caveat emptor, but I did manage to get it working without too much hassle.

I have an iPhone 3G with the 3.1.2 update — I had canceled ATT’s service,  but had not unlocked it. Unlocking was pretty easy — I just followed the directions found here. About the only thing I would add is to make sure you’ve turned off auto-syncing in iTunes so it doesn’t keep launching as you’re working through the steps. iTunes has to be closed for it to work.

I bought a DTAC Simple SIM from 7-11 for 49 baht. Rates are 1 baht per minute,about $2 US per hour.

Once my phone was unlocked, I bought a DTAC Simple SIM from 7-11 for 49 baht. While you’re at it, go ahead and buy a refill card of 100 or 500 minutes, as the SIM only includes a half hour of time or so. The rates are 1 baht per minute – about $2 US per hour. DTAC centers in the big cities apparently sell a data plan that gives you full-time unlimited access for a week or a month (1,000 baht), but I could only find the per-minute cards here in the islands.

After powering down your iPhone, the old SIM can easily be removed with the use of a toothpick or a thumbtack. Simply push the toothpick into the small hole by the headphones jack and pull out the card. Swap the cards and power up your phone and follow the English directions that come with the SIM. In about 5 or 10 minutes, you’ll get a confirmation SMS from DTAC and now you should be able to make calls. Adding minutes is easy and the directions are in English.

To get internet access, grab your phone and go to Settings/General/Network/Cellular Data Network and enter www.dtac.co.th for the APN setting. I had to call their support line for that step — they were very helpful. With that change, you should be online.

DTAC doesn’t support tethering but I really wanted to be able to use the iPhone for net access on my laptop. This following step is obviously not supported or approved by DTAC. A little internet sleuthing found a hacked DTAC profile that makes this possible. The instructions are in Thai but I fumbled around and figured it out. Simply copy and email this link to your iPhone email address:  http://www.bommy999.com/iphone3g/dtac.mobileconfig and then open the mail on your phone. Click the link and your phone will offer to install the new profile. Reboot your iPhone (not sure if you need to but I did anyway) and tethering is now available under General/Network/Internet Tethering.

Keep in mind that your iPhone will burn through your minutes even when you’re not using it. I keep mine in Airplane Mode to save my minutes and turn it off when I want to go online. If you manage to get one of the all-you-can-eat access packages, you won’t have to worry about this. Dial *101*9# on your phone to check your minutes.

Edge speeds are pretty slow, so you won’t be streaming video or downloading music, but for checking your email or even uploading a simple blog post, it works fine. Sitting at a beach, drinking a cold beer and working online makes for a pretty damn nice office setting. Enjoy!

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

John Berns March 22, 2010 at 3:33 am

Good post.

It’s amazingly easy to get a SIM for a GSM phone in Thailand and get internet access via your phone–no wired traveler should be without that while they are in Thailand–it’s too convenient and too easy not to have it wherever you go. Wait… that might be bad! ;-)

My suggestion, as a Bangkok resident, would be to buy a One-2-Call SIM card instead of DTAC–their coverage is better and their Internet packages are very cheap.

You can get a One-2-Call SIM at any mini-mart of 7-11 (and there are a lot of 7-11′s in Thailand–surprise!), they are also 49 baht. One-2-Call Internet packages last for up to 30 days. A 20 hour package is 100 Baht (US$ 3) and a 50 hour package is 200 Baht (US$ 6). That’s amazingly cheap Internet access!

To sign up for the packages, install the SIM and call *138 then follow the voice prompts. (There is an English option.)

Happy trails!

Reply

Nomadic Chick March 22, 2010 at 3:43 am

Wes, this info is gold! I was chatting with my gf’s about this at my bday dinner last night. One said I’d definitely need a data plan for the phone to work. Eureka! Once I unlock it and insert DTAC [from said country] I should be good to go. I want the iphone, but want to bypass an NA plan. I won’t be using the dang phone really until I leave, so this works out well! Thanks!

Reply

wes March 22, 2010 at 4:50 am

funny timing – I’m working on yer twitter page right now :)

Reply

Joel March 22, 2010 at 3:48 am

Great info Wes. I’d been considering doing something similar in Europe (although not so inexpensively I would guess).

How has the tethering been working for you? Speed not too slow?

Reply

wes March 22, 2010 at 4:43 am

tethering works fine. The Edge network is fairly slow, certainly not like having a 3G pipe, but manageable. It helps when I can control my natural urge to have 8 tabs open at once ;)

Reply

wes March 22, 2010 at 4:00 am

nice! Dammit, now I’m going to have to write a followup ;)

Thanks for the tip, John.

Reply

Dustin Main March 22, 2010 at 6:58 am

Great info! I’ll def make use of this when I arrive in Thailand. Any other commenters have any advice for other SE Asia countries?

Reply

Chris - The Aussie Nomad March 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

Nice post Wes just remember to not update your iphone to version 3.1.3. I used a similar hack here in Australia as Optus wanted to charge me for tethering. Worked fine on the 3.1.2 firmware but once you get to 3.1.3 the hack no longer works.

Reply

wes March 22, 2010 at 7:35 am

I had the same thing happen to me last go-around. annoying, too, since there’s no easy way to downgrade to the previous patch.

Reply

Colin Burns March 24, 2010 at 3:56 am

Hey @theaussienomad,

I am still on an Optus plan and I called them from Bali and asked them to unlock my iphone. They did it within a day, even though they said it might take a week or so. They didn’t ask any questions etc.

This means I am upgrade my software without any problem and plug in any SIM and I am away.

In malaysia I am not tethering (bought a USB modem instead) to free my iphone up so that the kids can watch movies [yes I am a bad father for letting them watch TV].

So glad I have mobile internet though, makes a world of difference.

Thanks for the post Wes.

Cheers,
Colin

Reply

Chris - The Aussie Nomad March 24, 2010 at 4:02 am

Hey Colin,

yeah I got my optus iphone unlocked the day after I went on a contract with them. Contract is up in August so will cancel it then.

I love that we can get our iphones unlocked so easily while the rest of the world ties everybody to their provider.

Did you have any luck getting them to give you tethering for free? they keep wanting to charge me for it

Reply

Colin Burns March 24, 2010 at 6:18 am

Yes, A friend of mine told me he complained to the Telecommunications Ombudsman so I followed his path.

I initially complained to Optus and I said I thought it was unfair given that it was a feature of the phone but that they choose to limit the phones ability. As expected they said bad luck.

Then I put in a complaint (via the website) to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. They pass the complaint on to optus and give them about 48 hours to respond to your complaint.

They called me the next morning and asked how they could fix/help me. I told them I want tethering and they gave me two years worth of tethering for free.

They then tried to scam me to overcharging me on downloads the next month which I luckily noticed.

They say tethered downloads versus iphone downloads are on different accounts and they tried to charge me extra. Unfortunately for them there bill can’t discern between the two so I told them to prove it and they refunded me.

Anyway, I hope this helps people on Optus in Australia get tethering for free (LIKE IT SHOULD BE).

Cheers,
Colin

wes March 24, 2010 at 5:53 am

Yeah, mobile internet just makes things so much easier. I’ve posted several times now via my tethered phone without having to find a internet cafe or run back to the guest house for wifi. Love it!

Reply

Brian March 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing Wes. Even for those of us not going to Thailand soon it may be helpful other places.

Reply

Michael March 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

folks over on the ThornTree might be interested to hear about this as well

Reply

wes March 23, 2010 at 12:31 am

good call. just posted a link — thanks.

Reply

ayngelina March 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

It’s so hard not to bring an iPhone on my trip, especially when all the people traveling now say it’s the best thing they packed. But great post for all those who will make me jealous and I travel without one :)

Reply

wes March 23, 2010 at 12:32 am

they’re handy, but we somehow managed to survive without them before. I think you’ll be fine :)

Reply

lonelywalks in phuket March 23, 2010 at 4:07 am

I used this mobile card when in Phuket.
It is very cheap with comperable speed, but i would suggest to top up/reload before your remaining minute reach zero. Otherwise, it will be painful to get it connected again. If you forgot to top up your minute, they will disable data feature on your card. Get a new simcard then.

Reply

wes March 23, 2010 at 6:15 am

another good tip — thanks!

Reply

Dave March 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm

good posty

Reply

Stephen March 25, 2010 at 12:34 am

Another advantage of going with the DTAC “Simple” sim for 49 baht, is that once you top up, it has a 1 year validity (while most other sims, both on DTAC and other carriers, have only a 30 day validity). That means if you return to Thailand within a year, you can use the same sim and have the same mobile number, enabling you to save 49 baht (not a big deal), but also give friends and family your mobile number prior to traveling.

I was able to sign up for the 1 week unlimited plan for 249 baht by taking my iphone to the DTAC Service Center in the Bangkok Airport when I arrived. The representative spoke perfect english, and was able to set up my iphone with unlimited edge/data for a week, all for 300 baht (49 for the sim and 249 for the data). The whole process could not have been easier- I handed him my iphone and 300 baht, and in under 5 minutes I was walking out of there with a fully functioning iphone.

Reply

wes March 25, 2010 at 1:38 am

yeah, that’s the ticket! I wish I’d known about it while I was in BKK. Have not found a service center out here in the boonies.

Reply

Kaitlyn Dickie April 1, 2014 at 8:01 am

Hello Stephen! I will be in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam in a month or so and I was wondering what I should do for a phone plan! Once I saw your post it seemed perfect! So for 300 baht I can use my phone while in Thailand, like I would here in Canada? I am with Rogers so do I need to get a plan for roaming or texting? Any reply would be greatly appreciated!

Reply

wes April 1, 2014 at 8:30 am

Who’s Stephen?

Reply

Kaitlyn Dickie April 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

The one who posted the comment I replied to! Either way, can someone give me sond information please?

Stephen April 1, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I AM STEPHEN! The world’s foremost authority on Thai sims ;-)
Kaitlyn, it’s a 3 step process: (1) make sure your phone is unlocked; (2) remove your sim; (3) once you arrive in Thailand (or Laos/Vietnam), find the booth in the airport selling sims, and have them install it for you and put enough credit on the sim for your intended use. Those three steps may be an over-simplification, but that is the basic process. For a much more detailed description, here is a post I made on Tripadvisor: http://goo.gl/87xLVa

Winnie May 13, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Just to help out other travellers to Thailand, you can view the available dtac internet packages here: http://www.happy.co.th/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=332&Itemid=367&lang=en & call 1687 to activate any of them. :)
.-= Winnie´s last blog ..Life is beautiful =-.

Reply

wes June 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm

nice! thanks — very handy…

Reply

Nicky June 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

hey thanks for sharing your experiences! Now you really make me wanna go to thailand! I will once i get the money to travel! Would you like to check out the list of the most beautiful beaches in Australia ?

Reply

Matt July 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Hey, great advice here. I have just made a post about getting unlimited EDGE/GPRS on 1-2-Call prepay SIM cards here in Thailand.

I’m thinking you and your readers might find it useful:

http://www.undolifestyle.com/mobile-business/4-steps-for-unlimited-edgegprs-data-on-one-2-call-in-thailand/

(sorry for hijacking your post :))
.-= Matt´s last blog ..4 Steps For Unlimited EDGE-GPRS Data on One-2-Call In Thailand =-.

Reply

wes July 15, 2010 at 5:56 am

Very handy! Thanks.

Reply

Cody Daniels July 18, 2010 at 4:28 am

Wow – just wanted to let you know that you’ve presented some great info on this blog. As someone who is thinking about traveling the world, I love to read about your experiences. Thanks again!
.-= Cody Daniels´s last blog ..Other Options for iPhone Downloads =-.

Reply

wes July 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

You’re welcome. Good luck :)

Reply

Neale October 6, 2010 at 11:21 am

I came over from the states to Phuket with an iPhone after canceling AT&T & was eventually directed to a small shop that unlocked the phone and jail broke it all for about 400 baht, they then set me up on an unlimited data plan with AIS I believe the first month was about 1,000 baht including setup, now the cost is 650 baht each month and I just have to make sure I have 650 in credit easily obtainable from any 7/11.

As to tethering just Google “iPhone Modem” set up is pretty simple
iPhone needs to be jail broken though as to speeds it is not fast and in some places downright slow was in a rural place and getting something less than edge and speed was hideous around 14k on the other hand you can often get around 256k which is more than enough for basic stuff.

iPhone with data is great in Thailand allows you to go off a wondering and never get lost with the built in GPS has enhanced my life greatly.

A couple of things to watch for… as mentioned dont upgrade iPhone firmware..
Also is you are hopping over to Malaysia or the likes watch for roaming charges they are huge….

Reply

Vana February 3, 2011 at 2:13 pm

This may be a very dumb question but I need to ask because I’m going to Thailand next month. Is there a separate texting plan or is it included? Also, for the Internet service, can I turn on the airplane mode so I can save the time I have on the data plan?

Reply

Stephen February 3, 2011 at 2:24 pm

There is no separate texting plan. Texts are about 3 baht, and are just subtracted from your balance. And yes, you can turn your phone on airplane mode to save your data minutes.

Reply

Annonymous February 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

This is an offshoot of your posting. Were you able to find/use free wi-fi? I have an Ipod Touch and I was thinking about bringing just that and buying a normal/non-smart phone for my trip.

Reply

Stephen February 23, 2011 at 6:30 am

There is free wifi available all over Thailand, especially in the touristy areas. A good portion of hotels now offer free wifi, along with restaurants and bars. You can also just walk around with you iPod hunting for an open wifi signal and use that. In sum, it is definitely not hard to use/find wifi in Thailand.

Reply

wes February 23, 2011 at 8:16 am

Agreed! Very available and usually free at cafes, hotels and restaurants.

Reply

Jake January 1, 2012 at 1:48 am

Truewifi is all over Bangkok. Everywhere, literally, and for 300 Baht ($10) a month you get unlimited access. It works in lots of places outside of the city too, as I discovered taking a 1,200 kilometer trip down to Surat Thani and then to Ko Panang island.

All I use is an iPod and True, covers all my Web needs.

Reply

Quinn June 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I see that this postings are quite old now, is anyone still paying attention to the thread who knows whether this will work with the iphone 4gS?

Reply

Stephen June 27, 2013 at 12:03 am

Quinn, it will work fine with an iPhone 4S. Please see this post I made on a tripadvisor forum. It should answer all your questions. http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293915-i3686-k6222502-Sim_Chips_Smartphones_iPhones_and_Tablets_in_Thailand-Thailand.html

Reply

Quinn June 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

Nick of time! I leave tonight! Please forgive my ignorance, but i want to make aaaaabsolutely sure I understand this. Doing those things means having a local phone with local fees. I will NOT come back to the states only to find a several hundred dollar bill, so long as my SIM card is Thai, correct? And is unlocking my phone the same as jailbreaking it?
Thanks again!
Quinn

Reply

wes June 27, 2013 at 10:04 am

if you use a Thai SIM, your local carrier will have no way of knowing what you’ve been up to. Unlocking allows you to use another SIM, jailbreaking allows you to run non Apple-certified software (I *think* that’s the difference).

Reply

loading... October 6, 2013 at 11:56 am

So you will be able to unlock the 3G i – Phone aas well as 1.
Teir products are usually the same size as the SIM card foor
GSMphones. Clickiing on those options then allows you to
change the overall look of thee battery, fonts andd backgrounds.
loading… recently posted..loading…My Profile

Reply

wes April 2, 2014 at 4:52 am

That about sums it up. I bought a DTAC ‘Happy’ SIM at a 7-11 — the ‘tourist plan is 300 baht and gets you 100 minutes, a week’s unlimited data and 1GB of 3G data. I only use my phone for surfing and texting, so this works well for me. And when I can’t find wifi, I can slave my phone to my laptop via bluetooth and continue working…

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 2 trackbacks }