What is Trabug?
Staying connected during your travels has never been easier. Most hotels and an increasing number of cafes worldwide are offering free Wifis. You can also buy a local SIM card and add on mobile data package or top-up to get connected with local networks. A more expensive option is to use international roaming service of your home country’s network.
Buying a local SIM card appears to be the easiest and cheapest option that will work like plug-and-play (as long as your phone is unlocked). However, when in India, buying a local SIM card and getting connected is not that straightforward.
If you are looking for an easier, more convenient and of course, legal, route, then consider Trabug, India’s first travel phone rental service provider that goes with a 4G data and voice plan. Trabug also provides rental of Wifi hotspot device if you are interested only in internet access.
Trabug caters to foreigners traveling to India for business, leisure and to meet family and friends. It provides a phone or hotspot device with a working India SIM card so you could skip the hassle of getting your own India SIM card and data package. Read below the normal procedure for getting a SIM card in India.
Getting a SIM card in India: The Process
Here is the typical process of getting a SIM card in India as a foreigner or tourist.
Obviously, getting an Indian SIM card is not as straightforward as in other countries, where all you need to do is buy the SIM card, insert it into your cellphone and you’re good to go. You will find the process of getting an Indian SIM card a hassle if you do not come prepared with the complete documents. Furthermore, you need to be within the area where you will buy your SIM card for 2 days, at most, to be able to have your SIM activated.
Prepaid tourist SIM card remains active for a maximum of 90 days only. The service will automatically be deactivated after the maximum validity period. Postpaid SIM cards are available, with 3 months as the minimum plan period. Hence, a prepaid SIM card is ideal if you are spending less than 3 months in India.
Trabug: The Best Alternative to Buying an India SIM Card
Trabug is the easier alternative to buying a tourist SIM card in India. Here is Trabug’s short cut version of the normal process for obtaining a working SIM card in India.
When buying your own SIM card, it is possible that your mobile phone won’t work if it is locked to your home country’s cellular network. Your phone also needs to be compatible with India’s GSM bands, as follows:
2G: GSM 900, GSM 1800
3G: UMTS 900, UMTS 2100
4G: LTE 850 (5), LTE 1800 (3), LTE 2100 (1), LTE 2300 (40), LTE 2500 (41)
Network bands and frequencies are the radio signals sent out by carriers, which your cell phone will pick up to make calls and use data. Hence, compatibility of your mobile phone with Indian GSM bands will determine the coverage and data speed on your mobile phone.
Trabug helps eliminate issues of non-compatibility by providing you with a compatible travel phone and a local SIM card. There will only be a one-time activation process when you first turn on the phone, which involves encoding your birthday and passport number. The SIM card will be activated instantly once you have entered the correct codes.
I was notified by e-mail 5 days prior to my arrival in India that my Trabug phone is on its way. The pack arrived at my indicated accommodation address 2 days after. I informed my host that they should expect the package, just to make sure they will be able to receive it and keep it safe until my arrival.
How much does it cost?
Check here to check Trabug’s pricing and plans. Compared with using international roaming from your home country, Trabug will definitely be cheaper. Data roaming from my country for 1 GB will cost around USD 6 to 8, excluding rates for international voice calls. Trabug’s plan at USD 3.99/ day will already give you 1.2 GB data/ day, 120 minutes voice calls/day, 5 SMS/day and free incoming calls and texts.
Why Trabug is More Than Just a Phone with SIM Card
You will find, however, that using a local SIM card and your own mobile phone will be much cheaper. An India SIM card should cost about INR 100 to 300 (about USD 1.4 to 4). The cost of data and call package varies depending on where you buy and what network you choose. Some are able to buy SIM card that is already loaded with data, voice calls and SMS credits. For example, data worth 1 GB per day, unlimited calls and 100 SMS, valid for 28 days, can be obtained at INR 300 to 500.
Trabug rental may be more costly compared with buying a SIM and package plans. On the other hand, in addition to the convenience, you also get more than what just a SIM card could offer. Here they are:
Trabug phone as a Wifi hotspot
The Trabug phone is also a WiFi hotspot from which to share internet connection with up to 2 other devices like your own mobile phone, tablet or laptop. If you’re traveling with someone, why not share not just your internet connection but also the cost of the plan?
I found it useful to hotspot to my personal phone when checking e-mails, using social media and doing online banking transactions. In that way, I don’t need to re log-in my username and password to another device.
Trabug phone’s pre-installed applications
Trabug phone already comes with popular social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, You tube, Skype, Twitter, Snapchat and Whatsapp. The usual tools such as calculator, clock, calendar and Google Maps are also pre-installed. Don’t worry about retaining your personal details at the end of the service period because all data will be wiped off upon checking out.
Trabug's pre-installed Applications
The most useful Apps for me are Ola (India’s popular taxi booking App), Uber (you can also use this for booking taxis) and the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited) App, where you can search and book your train tickets.
Services made especially for travelers
Aside from transportation booking, Trabug includes other Apps that are especially useful for travelers. These include location-based application as follows:
- Eat – shows you a list of restaurants and best places to eat, a map view showing their locations, opening hours and distance from your current location
- Shop – returns a list of nearby shopping malls, markets, location map and distance from current location
- Visit – provides recommendations on places to visit, shows opening hours, location map and distance from current location
- Change currency – allows you to exchange currency and have the cash delivered to you. I did not use this feature though because I got my local currency through ATMs. You can still find use of this App to get an idea of the current exchange rate.
- Hospital, Embassy and Police – a tap on these icons will give you contact information and location maps of nearby hospitals, embassy and police stations in case you need them.
An Audio Tour icon also appears in my Trabug phone. It is supposed to provide audio tour guides for attractions in India. I called up the Support number when I tried to tap the icon and couldn’t get through. Unfortunately, they informed me that this service has been discontinued and they are still looking for an alternative replacement. It was quite disappointing as this would have been a great feature.
My Trabug Experience
The Trabug phone I rented arrived on time and in good condition. I did not recall the brand. That being said, the phone must have been a local brand. Battery life is good, even better than my personal phone, which is 2 years old. I usually turn on mobile data and GPS while in transit for a helping of my usual lack of sense of direction.
I have only been to Rajasthan region during the time I had the Trabug phone. Connectivity for calls and internet was good. There were a few instances when the signal dropped to one bar or got totally lost but it lasted only for seconds and was probably due to some places having really weak spots.
My plan includes 1.2 GB data daily and found this sufficient for checking e-mails, using Google maps while on the go, checking my Instagram and Facebook accounts, uploading some images, and browsing through Google. I’m not fond of watching You Tube videos, so I think 1 GB per day is more than enough for me. If you do run out of data or voice call minutes, there’s a Trabug icon from the phone for recharge or top-up. If you get the SIM card on your own, you will have to top-up from recharge shops.
As a solo traveler, having an Indian phone number and voice plan offered me the advantage of being able to connect with my homestay or accommodation contacts to ask pick-up arrangements from the train station. They would also sometimes give me contacts of trusted tuk tuk drivers whom I can contact should I need a ride back to the accommodation.
Being able to stay online and track my location also gives me the confidence that I or my tuk tuk or cab driver is moving in the right direction and not intentionally misleading the way to find a reason to overcharge me. Having mobile data also gives me the opportunity to make travel arrangements for my next destination while on a long train ride.
Trabug is a great option for getting connected in India but it is not also the cheapest option. I think the greatest advantage of renting Trabug over buying a SIM card in India is the convenience of having an “instant” SIM card while having the benefit of all the added services of the Trabug phone for travelers in India.
If you are willing to go through the processes of getting a tourist SIM card in India, then make sure to prepare all the necessary documents prior to your travel. That way, you can save time and just have to deal with procedures controlled by your SIM card retailer and your chosen carrier.
Read about the Lessons I Learned from my 10 Days in India
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Disclosure: Trabug provided me complimentary services in exchange for this review but all opinions are my own. No one from the company reviewed or approved the article. This post also contains Affiliate Links. This means if you book hotels, flights, or purchase product or services using the link(s) in this article, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your continued support!
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