Lonely Planet Writer

India to hand out free SIM cards to foreign tourists at airports

Tens of thousands of travellers to India will be in for a pleasant surprise when they arrive for their next holiday. As part of a plan to make sure visitors can stay connected, free SIM cards will initially be handed out to tourists travelling to New Delhi Airport.

The SIM cards will let newly arrived passengers call home, send texts, check their email, or just make their friends jealous with an update on Instagram or Facebook. The cards will work for up to thirty days but are only intended for short-term use with only enough credit for a couple of calls or texts, and 50MB of data to get online.

To start with, the SIM cards will be offered at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the capital New Delhi. However, there are plans to extend it out to fifteen of the country’s other international airports in the coming years. For the moment, the offer is only for travellers using the Indian e-visa programme, which is already available in 150 countries and has helped cut down red tape for visitors. To get the free SIM card, people flying to New Delhi just have to show a copy of their e-visa and the first page of their passport when they arrive.

Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said he had been inspired by a similar idea that had been made available by Sri Lanka. “The initiative will help tourists to immediately communicate with their relatives at home, hotels, tour operators and so on,” he explained.

Normally, it takes about two hours for an international phone to get up and running on Indian mobile phone networks. And so the new SIM cards will prove a godsend during that period when newly arrived travellers could find themselves left incommunicado.

This Lonely Planet guide will also help if you’re planning a trip to India and wondering about staying connected throughout your holiday.

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