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Best SIM Cards for Backpacking in Malaysia 

Geographically, Malaysia is a country split in two; Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Once upon a time, mobile service varied dramatically depending on whether you were travelling through Eastern or Western Malaysia, however, much has changed in recent years.

It is now quick and easy to pick up a decent Malaysian SIM card, no matter where in the country you are. SIMs offer decent value for money and connection is generally reliable. 

Our Recommended SIM Card in Malaysia

If you’re in a rush, make sure you pick up a Celcom SIM, ideal for visiting both Eastern and Western Malaysia. After spending over two months in the country, we’ve tried a few and think this is the best SIM for backpacking in Malaysia. If you’re only visiting Peninsula Malaysia, a Digi Tourist SIM is recommended. 

Related: (opens in new tab)

A Guide to Malaysian SIM Cards

Where to Buy a Malaysian SIM

SIM cards are easy to find in Malaysia and most major carriers have booths in the arrival areas of each airport. Unlike in some other Southeast Asian countries, there does not seem to be any markup for SIM cards bought at the airport so if you can face the queues, get one up upon landing. 

If you don’t want to pick up a SIM straight away, you will still be able to find one easily in most shops. SIM cards must be registered, but anywhere selling them can do this. If you are arriving in Malaysia overland from another country, you will likely find local SIM cards for sale at your arrival bus station. 

Some providers will take a copy of your passport for the registration process but this is not always the case. Data is cheap across all the networks, especially when compared to some other Southeast Asian countries.  

Network Coverage

Generally, Malaysia is a very well-connected country and as such, there are a lot of carriers operating. The problem is that many of them are too localised to be of much use to travellers. In this list, we have focused on the ones that give the most coverage across the entire country, including in Malaysian Borneo.

Best SIM Cards in Malaysia


  • Where to get a SIM: Digi stores across the country, airports, bus stations and sometimes smaller shops
  • Where to top up: Anywhere displaying the Digi logo or through the Digi app
  • Cell network: 3G/4G/5G
  • ID Required: Sometimes
  • Bands/Frequencies: Band 1, 2100Mhz (3G), Bands 7 (4G), 700Mhz, 3.5Ghz, 26/28Ghz (5G)

Digi is a hugely popular carrier in Malaysia but lags behind in Borneo. Whilst the coverage they provide is better than many of their competitors in the eastern part of the country, it is still patchy.  

They offer many bundles and deals, varying from social media specific to voiceover internet packages. Be sure to have a good look at the deals offered before choosing which one you will purchase. 

Some Digi packages will auto-renew so will need to be cancelled to protect your balance. DiGi offers a tourist-only SIM that is available in airports and only to foreigners. Copies of your passport will be taken for these. 

The SIMs are valid for 7 or 15 days depending on how much you spend and come with a decent amount of data, plus free extra data for social media, including WhatsApp. Prices start at 19MYR (approx. $4USD). You can also add any of the normal bundles onto these SIMs to extend their validity and usefulness, making them a great choice for backpackers in Malaysia, particularly those visiting the eastern part of the country. 


  • Where to get a SIM: Airports, official stores and most small shops
  • Where to top up: Anywhere displaying the Maxis or Hotlink logo or HotlinkRed App
  • Cell network: 2G/3G/4G
  • ID Required: Sometimes
  • Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz & 1800MHz (2G), 900MHz & 2100MHz (3G), Bands 1, 3, 7 & 8 (4G)

Maxis prepaid SIMs are branded as Hotlink so keep an eye out for this when looking to buy or top up your SIM. They are available all over the country from official stores, 7/11’s or other small vendors. Maxis often ranks as the country’s fastest network in consumer tests and you can expect decent download speeds. 

Maxi/Hotlink have a tourist SIM which is valid for 15 days. It costs around 99MYR (approx. $22USD) and includes 8GB of data, plus a further 10GB for Facebook and 60 minutes of call time. Bear in mind that the minutes are only valid when calling Malaysia, China and India. 

The simplest way to add credit and buy bundles is to download the Hotlink Red app, which comes in English and is available from the app or Google Play Store. The app also gives you more options for bundles than are otherwise available including ones that give you free, unlimited data for social media. 

Maxis also offer roaming for Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand for a fee of 10MYR a day (approx. $2USD), which is a nice touch if your trip itinerary lines up. There is no opt-in necessary for the roaming service. 


  • Where to get a SIM: Booths in most shopping centres and airports
  • Where to top up: Anywhere displaying the Celcom logo and in the official app
  • Cell network: 2G/3G/4G
  • ID Required: Occasionally
  • Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz & 1800MHz (2G), 2100MHz, Band 1 (3G), Bands 3 & 7 (4G)

Celcom offers the best network coverage out of all the Malaysian service providers. They offer very good coverage in Borneo so this is the best option if you are visiting both Eastern and Western Malaysia. 

SIM cards are sold in the mini size as standard, so be sure to ask for either a nano or micro SIM, if that is what your phone requires. These may not always be an option which leaves you with two choices, look elsewhere, or cut the mini-SIM down to size.  

Tourist SIMs are available in Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Penang International Airport. The SIM is valid for 10 days and comes with 10GB of data, unlimited WhatsApp and 1GB of free internet roaming in Thailand and Singapore. It costs around 30MYR (approx. $6USD). You can top up at the normal places, such as 7/11 and 99Speedmart. 

If this doesn’t suit you, a range of prepaid SIMs are also available. High-speed internet can be purchased in bundles lasting 1, 7 or 30 days and offer varying amounts of data. Be aware that the daily bundles automatically renew so be sure the cancel them if you want to save a few pennies.  

U Mobile

  • Where to get a SIM: Airports, 7/11 and stores
  • Where to top up: 7/11 and other supermarket chains
  • Cell network: 2G/3G/4G/5G
  • ID Required: Sometimes
  • Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz & 1800MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), 2600Mhz, Band 7 (4G), 200Mhz & 1600Mhz (5G)

U Mobile is the smallest of the four main players and neither their coverage nor internet speed is quite up to par with the others. To compensate for this, they have significantly cheaper data tariffs and offer some fantastic deals that change frequently. 

They offer two types of tourist packages, a 7-day specific to travel in Malaysia and a 14-day multi-country which covers Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. Both offer unlimited data, max 6mbps and unlimited local calls. The 7-day package costs around 12MYR (approx. $2.50USD) – a hard-to-beat deal! There are add-ons for hotspot and higher speeds. Packages can be added in the MyUMobile App. 

At present, they are not the best choice for travellers in Malaysian Borneo, however, with plans to expand their network in Sabah, things are changing. Watch this space.

E-SIMs in Malaysia:

If you’re looking for a hassle-free way to stay connected in Malaysia, there is also the option to purchase an E-SIM. While buying a local SIM is far cheaper, these can be a good option for travellers with limited time who don’t want to spend time in a mobile shop when they arrive. Read more about E-SIMs here.

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind Winging The World, a blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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