India Internet and mobile Phones
Staying connected whilst you are on your India holiday is very high on most people’s priorities. It allows you to stay in touch with friends and family, but also, to get support should you need it. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this in India.
The India mobile phone network is very good, I suspect, that like many developing countries, it is jumping straight to the new technologies. In my experience, the key to staying well connected for all your needs is your mobile phone. By setting up tethering, creating a Wi-Fi hotspot from your phone, all your devices can access the internet. I will explain what you need to do below in detail but, in short, you will need to install an India SIM card.
Calls to home will be a lot cheaper with an Indian SIM as well as calls to other members of your group, these may even be free if you buy cards from the same provider. But also, crucially, this will be a very economical way of accessing the internet. If other members of your party are close by, in the next hotel room for example, they can share your connection.
Our excellent tour providers used email via the mobile network to keep us informed on our itinerary. This included such things as the name and phone number of the driver for the next leg as well as any changes to flight times etc.
On my travels I have found that almost everywhere I have been in India I have had mobile data connection, and this includes the lodges at the Tiger reserves. Sometimes that connection has been slow “G” but often it has been “H+” or even “4G”. I am referring here to the little letter that comes up next to your mobile signal strength and this indicates the speed of your data connection. However, even “G” is enough to send and receive simple emails.
For an explanation of these letters read this or search the web. Mobile data speed explained
Most, but not all, hotels will offer Wi-Fi but the majority charge for it, typically Rs600/day, and it is often very slow. If it is free you should use it if you can, but if they are charging at the sort of rates indicated here it is usually much better to use your phone. The exception is if it is a fast connection and you are using a huge amount of data.
Even in the remote areas, where the hotel was not able to offer Wi-Fi, I was usually able to get a basic connection through my mobile phone.
What you Need:
An Unlocked phone of the correct specification. If you have a phone on contract you will need to contact your phone provider and get it unlocked. You will probably have to pay but it will be useful to have it unlocked for all your travels. I prefer to buy a phone outright, with no contract as it is unlocked from the start.
A modern Android smart phone will normally be fine but if you are in doubt you may need to do a bit more research here.
An India SIM card. Your tour provider can advise and help you get one shortly after your arrival in the country. You will need the following documentation
2 colour passport photographs of yourself
A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification.
A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original.
A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
Proof of where you will be staying in India. A letter from your hotel confirming that you are a guest for example.
At the time of writing it is possible to get a package, from Vodafone India, with 2GB of data and a good talk time allowance, valid for 28 days, for Rs1100. This includes India wide roaming. On a recent trip of four weeks, and heavy usage, I used just over 2GB of data. So this is excellent value and, as I say, it is very often faster than the paid hotel connection and only costs the equivalent of a couple of days paid hotel connection. Vodafone India
Wi-Fi Tethering from Your Phone:
It surprises me how many people don’t know about the ability of their Smartphone to create a Wi-Fi connection for other devices as this is an incredibly useful feature. You are able to create a wireless link to the internet as if you are connecting to a normal router.
Your phone will allow you to set up a password and even decide if the network is visible so you can ensure that no one else uses your data.
Setting up tethering will differ slightly by phone type but here is how you would do it for my android phone.
Settings – Tethering & mobile hotspot –Set up Wi-Fi hotspot.
From here you can use the network name suggested, or change it to one you prefer. You will also be asked to set up a password.
Then: Settings – Tethering & mobile hotspot – mobile Wi-Fi hotspot (turn it on)
Now simply go to your laptop or other Wi-Fi connected device and look for the network and log-on as you would for any other wireless connection.
I find even when travelling in my own country it is usually better to use Wi-Fi tethering than pay for it. You do need to check if your mobile phone provider charges for tethering though!