The other day I thought it was about time to buy myself a new mobile phone. Actually, it would be my first phone. For about five years now I have been using a Siemens mobile supplied by my school. It had done me proud, though the last six months it had been extremely unreliable. Lately it had developed this anti-social habit of turning itself off everytime someone rang. I had already changed the battery but now it looked like it could be something else.
Contrary to popular belief, mobile phones are not that cheap here compared to Western countries. Buying spare parts and paying for repairs on a Siemens phone also wasn’t worth doing for too long. In the end I decided it was better just to buy a cheap new mobile phone. After all, I have had mine for many years and some people I know buy a new phone every year. So, on Thursday night, I drove off to Central City Bang Na to find myself a mobile phone. It turned out harder than expected.
Judging by the large number of phone shops at Central, you could say that just about everyone in Thailand has a mobile phone these days. In MBK Center in Bangkok there are literally hundreds and hundreds of small mobile phone shops. Everyone is buying them. Even samlor and tuk tuk drivers seem to have enough money. From the shops I looked in at Central, the cheapest were around 3000 baht. However, if you buy second hand you can get a lot cheaper. Good ones seemed to start at around 5000 baht so that is the price I aimed at.
I spent about an hour walking around the different shops and, as usual, I ended up going back to the shop I first started at. The brandname I chose was Nokia. This is mainly because everyone seems to have one and you would then presume that it would be easy to have repairs done. I told the shop assistant which model I wanted and then prepared my money. It wasn’t that simple.
I am not sure about other countries, but here they give you a free sim card with your mobile phone. In theory, you can use this same card in different phones so that you can always keep your own number. I could have kept my sim card from the Siemens phone, but, apart from the fact that it wasn’t mine, it was also now quite expensive. Rental was 500 baht per month and calls were 5 baht per minute. There used to be a promotion but that only lasted for two years.
Anyway, for a foreigner to get a Sim card you have to jump through some hoops. Not surprisingly I suppose. I had to show my work permit and passport and also give them a letter from my school. Obviously I didn’t have all of these with me at the time. So, I had to get everything together and then go back again on Sunday.
Back at the shop things went more smoothly this time. The only slight hiccup was that they neglected to mention that I should have a passport photo as well. But another shop assistant came to the rescue and took a picture of me and said he would print it out later.
They then asked me which network I wanted to use for the sim card. More decisions to make. I hadn’t really given this one much thought. In the end I made the decision based on the kind of promotions they were offering. I went for GSM Advance which was asking for 250 baht monthly rental and 3 baht per minute. There were also offering the first 50 minutes per month free. This is the main reason I wanted to get a new sim card and not stick with the old one. The final decision I had to make before they gave me the phone was to pick a phone number from a short list of numbers. That wasn’t too hard.
For tourists and people staying here short term, you don’t really have to get this proper sim card. I know some people who brought their own mobile phones from abroad or bought one here. They then bought a “rechargeable” sim card from places like 7-eleven. They also needed to get their phone “unlocked” in order to use it in Thailand. But, apparently this is quite cheap and can easily be done in MBK Center. For me, it just made more sense to get a proper sim card.
[i]Paknam Weather report: Dry days and nights with a refreshing wind. Minimum temperature 26 Celsius and maximum 32 Celsius. The other night it was hot and humid with a temperature of 31 Celsius at 9 p.m.[/i]