Vietnam is many a backpacker’s favourite Southeast Asian country and provides enough natural marvels to keep tourists amazed long after their trip has ended. Mobile coverage and data speeds are good across most of Vietnam and prices are slightly cheaper than in many of its neighbours.
The state controls the prices so they remain very similar between carriers. SIM cards are available all over the place, from street vendors to convenience stores to official outlets. You are never far away from someone wanting to sell you access to the internet! All SIM cards must be registered and only official shops can do this for you so it is worth going straight to them.
If you buy your SIM from an unofficial location, then it will still work but chances are, this will only be for a limited time. Save yourself the stress of being cut off and visit a proper shop. Top-ups are available on almost every street corner, just follow the instructions on the top-up card to add the credit to your phone. Some top-ups won’t come with English instructions so in these instances, try to make it clear what you need to the shop owner and they will generally add the credit for you. If they don’t speak English, don’t worry. You are not the first tourist they have dealt with so chances are, they know what you’re after!
If you are only in Vietnam for a short period or can go without having constant access to the web, don’t worry about picking up a SIM card. WiFi is plentiful across the country and is usually much faster than the mobile networks. The Vietnamese government has announced that they will close down all 2G networks by 2022, so by this point, all carriers will be 3G and 4G only.
The SIM we recommend for backpacking in Vietnam is Viettel. Keep reading to see why we think this one is the best for travellers!
Best Vietnam SIM Cards:
- Where to get a SIM: Available in any shop but recommended to visit an official store to register the SIM.
- Where to top up: Any shop or street vendor.
- Cell network: 2G/3G/4G
- ID Required: Yes.
- Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz & 1800MHz (2G), 2100MHz (3G), Bands 3 & 7 (4G).
Viettel is owned and operated by the Vietnamese army and is the largest carrier in Vietnam. Their coverage is excellent in all but the most remote locations and the connection speeds are the best you will find in the country.
One huge bonus with Viettel is that you can use their SIM card in Laos and Cambodia for no extra cost. If you are heading to one, or both, of those countries following your visit to Vietnam, Viettel is your best choice. Data packages are available but 3G and 4G packages are separate so check you have sufficient coverage on 4G before buying a 4G bundle, lest your money be wasted.
Some of these packages are hard-capped, so your data will stop working once you have run out. The more expensive options, however, have unlimited slow internet after you have used your allowance. The throttled speed depends on which bundle you choose but the most expensive option, 300,000VND ($12USD) comes with unlimited 1MBPS internet after the 30GB of fast internet has been used up.
There is a tourist SIM available but these are more expensive to buy and the bundles cost more than a regular SIM. Avoid these where you can.
- Where to get a SIM: Available in almost all shops but it is recommended to visit and official store for registration.
- Where to top up: Anywhere displaying the Vinaphone logo.
- Cell network: 2G/3G/4G
- ID Required: Yes.
- Bands/Frequencies: 900MHz (2G), 1800MHz (3G), Band 1 (4G).
Vinaphone is the second-largest operator within Vietnam and partnered early with Vodafone to help build their infrastructure. They are owned and run by the Vietnamese government, so their prices are kept very close to all of their competitors.
They have a few different SIMs available but unlike with many other operators, this doesn’t really matter to travellers. Every SIM has the same data packages available so unless you will be making a lot of local calls or texts, there is little difference between them.
Both 3G and 4G data packages are available with the former being slightly cheaper and not having a hard cap. If you run out of data in a 4G package, the internet will either stop working or start costing a bomb! With most of the 3G packages, when you are out of data you can still use the internet for free, it is just slowed dramatically.
There is a data-only SIM available, this provides cheaper internet bundles and even on 4G, you get a slowed-down service once you hit the limit. All packages on the Data Only SIM are valid for 30 days and will auto-renew after this period. Remember to cancel the bundle if you do not want this to happen!
Vinaphone also produces a tourist SIM but this is quite costly for the package you receive and is only valid for 30 days. It is much cheaper for you to grab a regular local SIM than bother with the tourist option.
- Where to get a SIM: Available anywhere displaying the Mobifone logo but best to visit an official store for registration.
- Where to top up: Anywhere displaying the Mobifone logo.
- Cell network: 2G/3G/4G.
- ID Required: Yes.
- Bands/Frequencies: Bands 3 & 7 (4G)
Mobifone is the 3rd largest carrier in Vietnam with a solid network in big cities and around the coast. The northern parts of the country are not well covered by Mobifone so if you are planning on spending time around Halong Bay or Sapa then you are better off looking elsewhere for your SIM.
As with Vinafone, Mobifone has different SIM cards available but as data packages are the same with each it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. You should be aware though, not all Mobifone SIM cards are 4G enabled, so make sure you choose one that is.
Mobifone is the same as the other Vietnamese carriers in that they sell 3G and 4G data packages separately. Be sure to pick the correct one so you have the best connection possible wherever you are. When you run out of data, whilst using the 4G bundles especially, you will be cut off so make sure you have plenty of data left if you will be using maps, or if you just cannot be without your social media hit!
They also sell a tourist SIM under the brand name Way2go. These actually offer a pretty good deal for travellers but are only valid for 30 days. If you are a heavy data user or in the country for more than a month, pick up a normal sim. If you are only in the country for a few weeks and don’t use a lot of data, the tourist SIM is a good choice. Just remember, the signal in the north isn’t great!