Getting connected to phone and internet

Mobile phones are cheaper than these in Thailand

Thailand is fairly up-to-date with telecoms technology, making it easy for visitors and long term residents to stay connected, either by phone, handheld device or wireless and cable broadband. The ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was a telecoms tycoon and there are four major companies locally developing networks.

You can find wireless broadband offered in most good hotels, and offered free or for a reasonable hourly fee (sometime free with a purchase) in coffee shops and some of the other social venues, so it is worth bringing your notebook along. Cyberpoint is one of several broadband suppliers managing wireless in numerous hotels and guesthouses. Access cards are sold at receptions (100 baht for 60 minutes), and you can take the remaining minutes with you as you move on to another partner hotel.

You can also easily pick up a phone SIM card, including those that connect to the internet using GPRS technology. Wi-Max or 3G is unlikely to be introduced until late 2010. Unfortunately, however, the broadband services are oversubscribed and unreliably maintained so you might have to be patient with speeds and ‘up time’. It depends entirely on the area you are staying in as some of the remoter spots do not yet have broadband offered.

There are internet cafes everywhere and it's easy and practical to even pick up your own SIM card (and phone) while here. If you have your own computer and a phone line in your apartment, you can be online minutes after picking up a prepaid ISP card from convenience or computer stores.

Long stay residents can arrange broadband monthly subscription on most densely-populated areas of Phuket provided there is a pre-existing phone line. Usually only one company will be available to choose from, and packages are about 1,000 baht per month for one or two meg speeds, although this is not guaranteed and can be slow in the afternoons and evenings.

Mobile phones in Thailand

Thailand has an obsession with mobile phones, and to almost all urban Thai people, their phone is an important status symbol and essential accessory. Many foreigners come here to escape and opt not to carry a phone. But getting one is easy: they are cheap, pre-paid cards are widely available, and you can get connected within minutes of buying the phone.

Even short-term visitors find it practical to buy a SIM card and slip it into their existing phone, making it convenient for making bookings and enquiries while travelling in Thailand. A mobile phone is also useful for contacting other travellers and SMSing home to let mum know you're still alive, plus you can utilise internet lines by prefixing with the likes of 009 or 007 to make cheap calls. Some places may even do the SIM card for free if you buy enough credit, say 500-1,000 baht.

Mobiles are found everywhere and a compact, reliable phone can be had for as little as 800 baht (Chinese), even end of line brands such as Nokia, Siemens and Motorola are no more than 2,000-3,000 baht. Since they are manufactured in Asia, even the most sophisticated models with Bluetooth are widely available at numerous shops all over the city, probably cheaper than your home country. There is also a thriving second-hand phone market and an abundance of iffy Chinese-made iPhones and Blackberries, and the like.

Updated and correct: January 2011

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