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 when you get a Lebara Mobile SIM card for it. 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 per month. This comes with international roaming in India at no extra cost so there’s no need to get a local SIM card on arrival.

In this article, we’ll look at the multiple ways to use your smartphone in India and the best value SIM cards for usage 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 10GB data, 200 minutes & 200 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 →

Using Your Mobile Phone In India

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

  • You can roam on a UK-based SIM card. This is the easiest and 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 give you an Indian phone number (+91) and a larger allowance of data. However, this tends to be a lot more hassle as you’ll need to buy your SIM card on arrival. You’ll also need to register and activate the SIM card (this normally takes around 24 hours).

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

Roaming on your UK SIM card Buying a SIM card on arrival in India
Best for short-term & occasional visits to India.
Best for extended trips & heavy data users.
You’ll have a UK-based number (beginning with +44). You’ll have an Indian number (beginning with +91).
We recommend a Lebara Mobile SIM. Get a plan from £2.50 per month with inclusive roaming in India. Get a SIM card from Jio, Airtel, Vi or other local mobile networks. Prices vary by store & negotiation.
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.
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.
Inclusive calls to both UK and Indian phone numbers. Inclusive calls to Indian phone numbers only. Extra charges apply for calling UK-based numbers.
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.

For most people, we’d recommend roaming on a UK-based SIM card as it will normally be a lot less hassle than buying a local SIM card in India. However, it can be worth getting a local SIM card if you need an Indian phone number (+91). Alternatively, it can be better value if you need to make lots of phone calls on your trip (more than 200 minutes per month) or if you need lots of data (more than 10GB per month).

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 per month when you use the KEN3 voucher code at checkout. This comes with international roaming at no extra cost in India (up to 10GB data, 200 minutes and 200 texts per month). There’s no contract and no credit check on your Lebara Mobile SIM card.

Get Lebara Mobile SIM card →

Through the rest of this article, we’ll look at the two 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.
  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 Indian visa. 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 around 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 Indian SIM cards will only give you an inclusive allowance of minutes for calling inside of India.

Best India Roaming Deals

Lebara Mobile UK is our recommended network for roaming in India. On all of their plans, you can use your UK plan allowances at no extra cost when you travel in India. Their plans are available on a one-month rolling basis, with no contract and no credit check required.

As a special offer for June 2022, 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.
1,0003GB£2.50
for 3 months, then £5/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+100 intl.
Unlimited4GB£3.00
for 3 months, then £6/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.
Unlimited15GB£5.00
for 3 months, then £10/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+500 intl.
Unlimited6GB£5.00
for 3 months, then £10/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+unltd intl.
Unlimited15GB£7.50
for 3 months, then £15/month
Lebara MobileUnlimited
+unltd intl.
Unlimited20GB£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 42 countries including India.

When you’re using your UK allowances in India, there’s a fair usage policy of 200 minutes, 200 texts and 10GB data. Beyond this, you’ll pay a surcharge of 10p/minute, 10p/text and 5p/MB. You can see the full terms and conditions on Lebara’s website for more information.

You’ll get 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from Vi (Vodafone Idea) when you travel in India and use a Lebara Mobile UK SIM card.

Get Lebara Mobile SIM (from £2.50) →

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’ll cost £15 for an 8-day Global Roaming Extra (with 2GB data, 100 minutes & 100 texts included) or £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
BT Mobile £1.59/minute £1.42/minute 44p/text £6/day for 500MB
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
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. The costs of roaming in India can therefore 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 be able to get a local phone number (beginning with +91). You’ll also get a larger allowance of minutes and 4G mobile data. The caveat is there’s more hassle involved and you may not save very 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 the store. In the city centre, you might be able to get a SIM card for around 100 Indian rupees (about £1). However, this might be 1000 Indian rupees at the airport (about £10). Saying that, it’s usually 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 and 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.
  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 decide to get a local SIM card in India, there are three main providers you can choose from:

All three providers offer fairly similar plans so it’s mainly a matter of the coverage available where you’re visiting, as well as convenience finding a location where you can buy a SIM card.

On the three providers, you can expect to pay between 239 Indian rupees (about £2.40) and 299 Indian rupees (about £3) 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₹ (~£3)
valid for 28 days
Unlimited
within India
100
within India
1.5GB
per day
299₹ (~£3)
valid for 28 days

Alongside the three main providers, there are also a number of smaller providers in India such as the state-run BSNL and MTNL networks. However, these networks tend to have poorer coverage and 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.

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 within 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, Lebara Mobile UK is our recommended network for roaming in India. You can find out more about their offer of free roaming in India and the best Lebara SIM only deals.

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