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Steve

Travelled to 40 countries / regions

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Visited Penang in August 2018

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Asia > Malaysia > Useful Info
Updated on Aug 23, 2018 Useful Info

How to get a local SIM card in Malaysia (and why you absolutely should)

  • Cellphone data is probably the single most useful thing to have while travelling. On my travels I rely on data mainly for:
  • Google Maps to look up directions and opening hours
  • Grab/Uber to get cheap, reliable and scam-free taxi service (with regular taxis you never know if they're inflating the fare, and you have to haggle to get a good price; in some places - like Thailand - drivers might also take you on unwanted shopping trips)
  • Tether my laptop to do work when there's no wifi
  • Reddit/Facebook/YouTube/Flipboard/etc for when I'm bored on train / bus rides or waiting in line for things
  • Google Search to check exchange rates
  • Costs: in Malaysia, data is ridiculously cheap compared to what I'm used to in Canada. When I went to Penang, I got a 7-day plan for ~$10CAD. Included in this was 4GB of data every day. The internet speed was very fast (it's 4G+) I was streaming YouTube with it the entire time. All providers are roughly the same price range
  • How to get it:
  • It's super easy; takes less than 5 minutes and you literally don't need to know anything technical because they do everything for you. Just do it at the airport. Steps:
  1. Your phone needs to be unlocked. If you bought your phone from your telecom provider at home, you should check with them. If you bought your phone directly from the manufacturer (i.e. Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc), then it's definitely unlocked
  2. After you leave the luggage pickup area at your arrival airport (at any international airport in Malaysia), you will see at least 2-4 counters offering SIM cards (signs are all in English; look for words like "SIM", "data", "phone", etc.) The 4 major Malaysian telecom companies are:
  3. Digi - check official coverage map (this was the one that my friend recommended and I used in Penang; it was pretty good I have no complaints)
  4. Maxis - check official coverage map
  5. Celcom - check official coverage map
  6. U Mobile - check official coverage map
  7. Exchange some cash: they won't take credit card. Get 50RM if you're in Malaysia for 7 days or less. 100RM if over 7 days
  8. Go to any of the providers (they're all similarly priced) and just ask for a SIM card. They will ask you how many days you'll be needing it for. The options will be 1, 7, 15, or 30 days no matter which provider you go with
  9. They will take care of the set up for you. You just need to turn your phone off and give them your phone. The switch will take less than 5 minutes. But make sure they have tested it and it works
  10. Keep your own SIM card safe. They'll give you back your own SIM card (unless you have a dual-SIM card phone, in which case your own SIM card will just stay in your phone). You'll need to switch it back to this SIM card when you leave Malaysia. If you don't know how to switch SIM, you can just go back to the booth again when you leave the country and ask them to switch it back for you.