If you’re travelling to India, having the right SIM card can save you time and money. We review the best value SIM cards for using your mobile phone in India.

Each year, almost 2 million Brits make a visit to India. Whether it’s for tourism, backpacking or visiting friends and family, you’ll probably want to use your mobile phone whilst you’re there. This makes it easier to stay in touch with friends and family and for getting around (e.g. finding directions or calling a taxi).

Thankfully, it’s now really easy to use your UK phone in India as there’s inclusive roaming available on the plans from Lebara Mobile and Lyca Mobile. This means there’s no need to get a local SIM card on arrival. On Lebara, you can use the KEN3 voucher code at checkout to get 3 months half price, making it possible to get a one-month plan from just £2.50.

In this article, we’ll look at the multiple ways to use your smartphone in India and the best value SIM cards for use whilst you’re there.

Best India SIM Card: Lebara Mobile (UK-based SIM)
Recommended Plan:

(includes 3 months half price with the KEN3 voucher code)

Inclusive Features:
  • Set up & activate your SIM card in the UK, before you depart.
  • Use up to 30GB data, plus all of your minutes & texts at no extra cost in India.
  • No contract & no credit check.
  • Comes with inclusive minutes for making calls to India.
Compatibility: Works with most unlocked smartphones (including iPhone & Android)
Free SIM Card: Get Lebara Mobile SIM card →
eSIM Alternative: £1.29 for 5GB data on a Lyca Mobile eSIM
(instant delivery & use your data at no extra cost in India)

Using Your Mobile Phone In India

If you’re planning a trip to India, there are three ways to use your mobile phone whilst you’re there:

  • You can roam on a UK-based SIM card. This is the easiest and the most straightforward way to use your phone in India. You’ll have a UK-based phone number (+44) and you’ll pay your UK mobile network for usage.
  • You can buy a local SIM card upon arrival in India. This will come with an Indian phone number (+91), along with a larger allowance of data. However, it’s more hassle as you’ll need to buy your SIM card on arrival. You’ll also need to register and activate the SIM card, which normally takes about 24 hours.
  • You can buy a data eSIM for India. You can get an eSIM for use in India, either from the UK-based Lyca Mobile or from a specialist provider like Airalo. You’ll be able to use this alongside your current UK SIM card.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the three options:

Roaming on your UK SIM card Buying a SIM card on arrival Buying a data eSIM for India
Best for short-term & occasional visits to India.
Best for extended trips & heavy data users.
Best if you’re departing soon and want an eSIM quickly.
You’ll have a UK-based number (beginning with +44). You’ll have an Indian number (beginning with +91). Data-only service. Use your normal SIM for calls (roaming fees apply).
We recommend a Lebara Mobile SIM. Get a plan from £2.50 per month with no contract & inclusive roaming in India. Get a SIM card from Jio, Airtel, Vi or other local mobile networks. Prices vary by store & negotiation. You can get an eSIM from Lyca Mobile UK or from Indicomm (via Airalo).
You’ll need to set up & activate your UK SIM card before you depart. You’ll need to buy your Indian SIM card on arrival. Activation takes around 24 hours. You can set up and activate your plan on any compatible eSIM-ready phone.
There’s no need to register your SIM card with the authorities in India. You’ll need to register the SIM card with your ID, proof of UK address and proof of local address in India. There’s no need to register your eSIM with the authorities in India.
Inclusive calls to both UK and Indian phone numbers. Inclusive calls to Indian phone numbers only. Extra charges apply for calling UK-based numbers. No calls. You’ll need to use your normal SIM card for calling.
You can continue to use your SIM card in the UK after the end of your trip. The SIM card you buy from India will normally stop working after you return to the UK. Your eSIM plan will expire at the end of the validity period.

For most people, we’d recommend roaming on a UK-based SIM card as this will be a lot less hassle than buying a local SIM card in India. However, it might be worth getting a local SIM card in India if you need a local Indian phone number (+91).

At present, Lebara Mobile is the best UK mobile network for roaming in India. You can get a one-month rolling plan from just £2.50 on Lebara when you use the KEN3 voucher code at checkout. This comes with international roaming at no extra cost in India (up to 30GB data per month). There’s no contract and no credit check on your Lebara Mobile SIM card.

Get Lebara Mobile SIM card →

It can take a couple of days for your Lebara Mobile SIM card to arrive in the post. If you need a faster solution, consider getting a Lyca Mobile eSIM instead. This comes with instant online delivery. You’ll also be able to use it alongside your current SIM card.

Through the rest of this article, we’ll look at the three options in more detail.

Roaming On Your UK SIM Card

The easiest and most straightforward way of using your phone in India is through international roaming on a UK-based SIM card. Although you might end up paying a little bit more, there are four major benefits to doing this:

  1. You can set it up before you depart. When you roam on a UK-based SIM card, there’s no need to find a phone shop on arrival and to negotiate with the staff there. You’ll also know your phone number in advance, making it easier to stay in touch with others.
  2. There’s no need to register your SIM card with the authorities in India. When you buy a local SIM card in India, you’ll need to register it with the government authorities. This involves providing a copy of your passport and your visa for India. You’ll also need to provide proof of your UK address, along with proof of your address in India (e.g. a letter from the hotel to confirm your stay there, or a letter of invitation if you’re staying at a private address). This registration process isn’t necessary when you roam on a UK-based SIM card.
  3. There’s no need to wait around for your SIM card to be activated in India. It normally takes about 24 hours for a new locally-purchased SIM card to be activated in India. In contrast, a UK-based SIM card will work straight away.
  4. You’ll be able to call both UK and Indian phone numbers using your plan. In contrast, most local SIM cards in India will only give you an inclusive allowance of minutes for calling inside of India.

Best India Roaming Deals

Lebara Mobile

At present, a Lebara Mobile UK SIM card is our recommended method of roaming in India. On Lebara, you’re able to use your plan allowances at no extra cost when you travel to India. Their plans are available on a one-month rolling basis, with no contract and no credit check required.

As a special offer for April 2024, you can get 3 months half price on all Lebara Mobile plans. To benefit, you’ll need to enter KEN3 as your voucher code at checkout. With this offer, you’re able to get the following plans from just £2.50 per month:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly Cost
Lebara Mobile1,000
+100 intl.
1,0005GB£2.50
for 3 months, then £5/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited8GB£3.50
for 3 months, then £7/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited15GB£4.50
for 3 months, then £9/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited20GB£5.00
for 3 months, then £10/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+unltd intl.
Unlimited30GB£7.50
for 3 months, then £15/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+unltd intl.
Unlimited30GB£10.00
for 3 months, then £20/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
UnlimitedUnlimited£12.50
for 3 months, then £25/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+unltd intl.
UnlimitedUnlimited£15.00
for 3 months, then £30/month

The international minutes on your Lebara Mobile SIM card can be used for calling India and 41 other countries.

When you’re using your UK allowances in India, there’s a fair use limit of 30GB data per month. This only applies if you’re on Lebara’s unlimited data plan. You can see the full terms and conditions on Lebara’s website for more information.

Lyca Mobile

Lyca Mobile also offers inclusive roaming in India, but this only applies to your data allowance (it excludes your minutes and texts). All of Lyca Mobile’s plans are available on a one-month rolling basis, with no contract and no credit check required.

The following table shows Lyca Mobile’s best SIM-only deals:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly Cost
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited5GB
(5GB roaming)
£1.29
for 3 months, then £5.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited10GB
(10GB roaming)
£1.49
for 3 months, then £5.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited15GB
(12GB roaming)
£1.80
for 3 months, then £8.50/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited20GB
(12GB roaming)
£2.39
for 3 months, then £7.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited30GB
(12GB roaming)
£5.99
for 6 months, then £12/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited88GB
(12GB roaming)
£8.00
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
UnlimitedUnlimited
(35GB roaming)
£9.99
for 6 months, then £25/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited200GB
(12GB roaming)
£9.99
for 12 months, then £25/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited100GB
(12GB roaming)
£10.00
for 6 months, then £20/month

Get Lyca Mobile SIM card (from 99p) →

Although you aren’t able to use your minutes or texts in India, you’ll still be able to use WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime and similar apps to stay in touch with friends and family.

Other Networks

You can also get special rates for international roaming in India on the following UK mobile networks:

  • VOXI: On VOXI, you can buy a Global Roaming Extra which will allow you to use your mobile phone in India at a discounted rate. It costs £15 for an 8-day Global Roaming Extra (with 2GB data, 100 minutes & 100 texts included) and £25 for a 15-day Global Roaming Extra (with 4GB data, 200 minutes & 200 texts included). If you buy the 15-day Global Roaming Extra, this will allow you to use your mobile phone in India from just £1.67 per day. There’s no contract and no credit check required when you join VOXI.
  • Vodafone UK Pay As You Go: Like VOXI, Vodafone UK also offers an 8-day and 15-day Around The World Extra if you’re a Pay As You Go customer. It’s exactly the same as what you’ll get on VOXI, but you’ll get less data included on your UK plan. You can order a Vodafone Pay As You Go SIM card online. To buy the Extra, text ROAMEXTRA8 to 2345 (for the 8-day Around The World Extra), or ROAMEXTRA15 to 2345 (for the 15-day Around The World Extra).
  • Vodafone UK Pay Monthly: If you’re a Vodafone UK Pay Monthly customer, you’ll pay £6 per day to use your allowances in India.

Standard Roaming Rates

If your current provider doesn’t have any roaming offers for India, the following table shows the standard rates you can expect to pay for using your phone in India:

Network Making a Phone Call Receiving a Phone Call Sending a Text Accessing the Internet
EE £2.05/minute £2.05/minute 67p/text £6.85/day for 500MB
giffgaff £1.00/minute £1.00/minute 30p/text 20p/MB
O2 £2.00/minute £2.00/minute 50p/text £7.20/MB
iD Mobile £2.40/minute £2.40/minute 60p/text £1.50/MB
Lebara Mobile Included at no extra cost
Lyca Mobile £2.10/minute 96p/minute 48p/text No extra cost
SMARTY £1.00/minute 30p/minute 40p/text 25p/MB
Sky Mobile £2.16/minute £1.80/minute 50p/text £2.16/MB
Tesco Mobile £1.49/minute £1.49/minute 40p/text £5/MB
Three £2.00/minute £1.25/minute 35p/text £3/MB
Virgin Mobile £2.60/minute £1.50/minute 50p/text £5/MB
Vodafone Pay Monthly £6/day to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts & data
Vodafone Pay As You Go 60p/minute 36p/minute 8p/text 12p/MB
VOXI (without Extra) 60p/minute 36p/minute 8p/text 12p/MB

Comparison of roaming charges when using your UK-based SIM card in India. The costs shown are for calling the UK and sending a text message to the UK. It’s always free to receive a text message wherever you are in the world.

In the UK, the average smartphone user can normally expect to use around 100MB (0.1GB) of data each day. Therefore, the costs of roaming in India can add up very quickly unless you have a suitable deal for roaming.

Buying A Indian SIM Card On Arrival

You can also use your mobile phone in India by getting a local SIM card on arrival. This has the advantage that you’ll get a local phone number (beginning with +91). You’ll also get a larger allowance of minutes and mobile data. The caveat is that there’s a lot more hassle involved. You’re also unlikely to save much money compared to using a UK-based SIM.

Here are the key things to know about buying a local SIM card in India:

  1. You’ll need to buy your SIM card on arrival, with prices varying based on location and negotiation. You’ll need to pay an upfront fee when you buy a local SIM card in India. This will vary based on the location and store. For instance, in the city centre, you might be able to get a SIM card for about 100 Indian rupees (about £1). However, this might be 1000 Indian rupees at the airport (about £10). On the contrary, it’s normally a lot less hassle getting a SIM card at the airport as they’re more used to dealing with foreign visitors.
  2. You’ll need to register your SIM card with the Indian authorities. When you buy a local SIM card in India, you’ll need to provide a copy of your passport and your travel visa for India. You’ll also need to provide proof of your UK address, along with proof of your address in India (e.g. a letter from the hotel to confirm your stay there or a letter of invitation if you’re staying at a private address). You may also need to provide a passport-sized photo.
  3. It takes around 24 hours to activate a local SIM card in India. In contrast, a UK-based SIM card will work straight away. If you’re buying a local SIM card, it’s still worth bringing your UK-based SIM card to use on the first day of your trip. Alternatively, you can get an eSIM for use on your first day.
  4. You won’t get inclusive calls to the UK. When you get a local SIM card in India, this will only give you inclusive minutes for calling other phone numbers in India.

If you choose to get a local SIM card in India, there are three main providers that you’re able to choose from:

All three providers offer fairly similar plans so it’s mainly a matter of the coverage available in the places where you’re visiting. There’s also the convenience of finding a location where you’re able to actually buy the SIM card.

Once you’ve purchased your SIM card, you can expect to pay between 239 Indian rupees (about £2.40) and 299 Indian rupees (about £2.80) for a 28-day plan. This will come with unlimited minutes, 100 texts and 1.5GB data per day:

Network Minutes Texts Data Cost (INR)
Unlimited
within India
100
within India
1.5GB
per day
₹239
(~£2.40)
valid for 28 days
Unlimited
within India
100
within India
1.5GB
per day
₹299
(~£2.80)
valid for 28 days
Unlimited
within India
100
within India
1.5GB
per day
₹299
(~£2.80)
valid for 28 days

Alongside the three main providers, there are also a number of smaller providers such as the state-run BSNL and MTNL networks. However, these networks tend to have much poorer coverage so most people will choose one of the big three networks instead.

For more information about the plans available, see the official websites for Jio, Airtel and Vi.

eSIMs For India

If you’re using an eSIM-compatible phone (including the iPhone 11, Galaxy S20, Pixel 3, and later devices), you can get an eSIM for use in India.

With eSIM, there’s the convenience of instant online delivery to your phone, and there’s no need to register your eSIM with the authorities in India. However, the disadvantage is that you won’t be able to make any phone calls on it (you’ll need to use your regular SIM card for calling, for which additional fees may apply).

If you’re based in the UK, the best option is to get a Lyca Mobile eSIM. That’s because you’ll pay as little as £1.29 for 5GB data per month, with the ability to use this in India at no extra cost.

All of the following Lyca Mobile plans are available on eSIM:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly Cost
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited5GB
(5GB roaming)
£1.29
for 3 months, then £5.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited10GB
(10GB roaming)
£1.49
for 3 months, then £5.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited15GB
(12GB roaming)
£1.80
for 3 months, then £8.50/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited20GB
(12GB roaming)
£2.39
for 3 months, then £7.90/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited30GB
(12GB roaming)
£5.99
for 6 months, then £12/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited88GB
(12GB roaming)
£8.00
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
UnlimitedUnlimited
(35GB roaming)
£9.99
for 6 months, then £25/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited200GB
(12GB roaming)
£9.99
for 12 months, then £25/month
LycamobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited100GB
(12GB roaming)
£10.00
for 6 months, then £20/month

See Lyca Mobile eSIM deals →

Alternatively, you can get a data-only eSIM from Indicomm (via Airalo). At present, the Indicomm eSIM plans start from US$4.50 (approx £3.60) for 1GB of data. This comes with 4G LTE coverage on Jio. However, for most people, we’d recommend the 3GB plan which costs US$10.50 (approx £8.40) for up to 30 days of use.

NetworkMinutesTextsDataPlan
Cost
IndicommNoneNone1GBUS$4.50
(~£3.60)
valid for 7 days
IndicommNoneNone2GBUS$8.00
(~£6.40)
valid for 15 days
IndicommNoneNone3GBUS$10.50
(~£8.40)
valid for 30 days
IndicommNoneNone5GBUS$15.00
(~£12.10)
valid for 30 days
IndicommNoneNone10GBUS$25.00
(~£20.10)
valid for 30 days
IndicommNoneNone20GBUS$40.00
(~£32.10)
valid for 30 days

As a special offer for April 2024, you can enter the KEN10 voucher code at checkout to get a 10% discount on your Indicomm eSIM (new customers only). Existing Airalo customers can use the KEN5 voucher to get a 5% discount.

See Indicomm eSIM deals →

For more information, see our Indicomm eSIM review.

Handset & Network Compatibility

Most UK smartphones will work in India without any problems. This is because the main bands and frequencies used in India are also in use in the UK (including band 3 LTE for 4G coverage).

The following table shows the bands and frequencies that are used by the mobile networks in India:

Network Provider 4G Bands 3G Bands 2G Bands
Jio LTE bands 3, 5, 40
Airtel LTE bands 1, 3, 40 GSM 900, 1800
Vi LTE bands 3, 40, 41 WCDMA 2100 GSM 900, 1800

You can check your handset manufacturer’s spec sheet to see a list of bands supported by your phone.

If you’re using a different SIM card for the duration of your trip abroad, you’ll need to make sure your handset is unlocked.

More Information

At present, our recommended networks for roaming in India are Lebara and Lyca Mobile UK. For more information about their roaming offer, please refer to their individual websites.

Your Comments 4 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I have just spoken to Lebara and they have confirmed that you can use ALL of your data allowance (max of 30GB) whilst roaming in any of locations including in India. The link above confirms this.

    https://www.lebara.co.uk/en/help/roaming/roaming-in-india.html

    Lebara have also confirmed that it is possible to make unlimited calls and texts to the UK whilst abroad, including in India. It is also possible to use all your international minutes whilst abroad.

  • Hi Ken,

    I have been reading about Lebara and their customer service. Looks like they are a real headache to deal with when something goes wrong. And they have issues with coverage throughout India. You would be very lucky if it actually works.

    I would like to hear from some of your readers about their experience on using Lebara roaming in India.

    Cheers

    • Hi Vince, I bought a Lebara SIM 15GB citing £10 at our local corner shop as I was travelling the following day in January 2023. I slotted the the SIM in my iPhone 12. The SIM was activated and it worked in UK. However, when I tried to use it in India, I could neither make or receive calls – the reason I bought the SIM! Tried the Lebara online helpline which promised to respond in 24-48 hours but they never did. I called at a Vi centre for help but they couldn’t resolve it , instead suggested I contact Lebara UK customer services in spite of my informing them I had failed to get any help. Eventually a friend loaned me an lical Airtel SIM for the duration of my stay.I don’t know if others had similar problems but based on my experience I will not be buying a Lebara SIM again. Cheers Krish

  • Very informative and in simple language.
    1. Can you add something about how long are pre-paid SIMM’s valid for? For example is there a Pre-paid SIMM for 2 months (60 days) rather than the standard 28 days?
    2. When you mention STD calls, does this mean land lines numbers only or it covers calling mobile numbers as well

    Thank you

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