Best Singapore Prepaid SIM Card for Travellers in 2019
Who can live and travel without data SIM card? I CAN’T. SIM card is my second priority when I arrive in a new country, after local currency. Having a local SIM card with data gives me confidence and assurance that I can survive in a new country even if I don’t speak the language.
When my family and friends visit me in Singapore, they’re always asking me to help them buy SIM cards. Choosing the best Singapore SIM card is both easy and hard! Easy because there are only 3 major phone operators in Singapore, namely Singtel, M1 and StarHub. It’s hard because every operator offers so many different SIM cards with different features and validity, it’s so hard to choose what’s the most suitable card for you.
I’ve been there, I’ve had my share of headache when choosing a SIM card. In this post, I’ll do comparison and breakdown of each SIM card, then provide you with my recommendations! Let’s dive in!
Singtel’s normal prepaid SIM card is called hi!SIM card, while Singtel’s tourist SIM card is called hi!Tourist SIM card. Below is the comparison of Singtel’s normal prepaid and Singtel’s tourist prepaid.
I would say that some great features of Singtel Tourist SIM cards are:
- Free Singtel WiFi at shopping malls and certain public places
- Generous data roam which is very useful if you travel to Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand
- The ability to share the SIM card over 2 devices with $50 Tourist SIM (they give 2 SIM cards)
- Also, it’s possible to extend Singtel hi!Tourist SIM Cards just by topping up with $3/day.
The cons of Singtel Tourist SIM:
- The cheapest SIM costs 15, which is $3 more expensive than Starhub’s and M1’s Tourist SIM. This could be a deal breaker for hardcore budget travellers.
In December 2018, Singtel launched a new $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card which is a 2-in-1 Tourist SIM and EZ-Link travel card. It means, you don’t even have to purchase a separate EZ-Link to use public transport. You’ll also get:
- $3 free credit in the EZ-Link card. But, since the minimum balance you need to maintain in EZ-Link card is $3 (below $3, you can’t take any MRT or bus with it), you still have to perform a top up of minimum $10 to the EZ-Link in order to use it for public transport. It’s better than nothing!
- Free round trip with Singapore Cable Car – Sentosa Line. Before you get too excited, Sentosa Line is different from Mount Faber Line. Sentosa Line only operates within Sentosa and it has 3 stops: Merlion station, Imbiah Lookout station and Siloso Point. It’s a good experience if you’ve never been on a cable car.
- Discounted meals and attractions
My Recommendation for Singtel cards:
Budget travellers: Choose $8 hi!SIM, then purchase 7-day 1.5GB data plan or 30-day 1GB data plan.
Heavy usage travellers: Choose $15 hi!Tourist SIM, $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card or $30 hi!Tourist SIM.
Long-term travellers: Choose $50 hi!SIM
Where to buy Singtel SIM Cards?
Normal Prepaid SIM (hi! SIM Cards):
- Singapore Changi Airport (Terminal 1, 2 and 3): Travelex Currency Exchange Counters, Changi Recommends Counters. ($38, $50)
- Singtel shops ($8, $15, $38, $20)
- Singtel Exclusive Retailers ($8, $15)
- Selected Authorised Singtel Prepaid Retailers ($8, $15, $38, $20)
- Selected Cheers ($38)
Tourist SIM card (hi!Tourist SIM Cards):
- Singapore Changi Airport (Terminal 1, 2 and 3): Travelex Currency Exchange Counters, Changi Recommends Counters.
- Singtel shops
- Singtel Exclusive Retailers
- Selected Authorised Singtel Prepaid Retailers including Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, HarbourFront Ferry Terminal, Causeway Points, Sentosa FUN Shops
- Selected 7-Eleven and Cheers
StarHub’s normal prepaid SIM card is called Happy Prepaid, while StarHub’s tourist SIM card is called Happy Travel Prepaid. Below is the comparison of StarHub’s prepaid cards.
* For $15 Happy Prepaid (2.2GB), free data comprises of 1.2GB first month; then 200MB/month for next 5 months. FREE WeChat App, Whatsapp Messenger and LINE App is valid for 180 days from activation date.
** For $50 Happy Prepaid, the free 5G data roam can be used locally as well as overseas in countries listed in the Happy Roam destinations
# Free overseas calls can be used to make a call to the countries listed in the IDD 018 destinations
^ Free data roam can only be used in countries listed in the Happy Roam destinations
++ Top-up for all prepaid cards can be done online, through Happy Prepaid App or offline. See the complete Top up options for Tourist SIM and Top up options for Happy Prepaid.
@ WeChat Go SIM gives unlimited WeChat & Lingcod TV
The advantages of buying StarHub prepaid cards are:
- It’s pretty affordable to call overseas, especially to those countries listed in IDD 018 destinations.
- Happy Roam feature gives Tourist SIM users free data roaming that can be used in over 15 countries.
- Happy Roam also gives normal prepaid users a chance to use data in over 15 countries with Singapore data rates. To do so, users have to top up with the data plan specified in their Happy Roam page.
The downside is that they have too many promotions, bonuses and different top-up prices. Some promotions last for a long time, others disappear after a while. It’s hard to make the right decision when trying to choose the best StarHub card or the best StarHub plans at any given time if the variables keep changing. To make it simple, I recommend that you ignore all the bonuses when trying to decide which card/plan is the best.
My Recommendation for StarHub cards:
Budget travellers: Choose $8 Happy Prepaid, then purchase a 3-day 1GB data plan or 30-day 1GB data plan.
Heavy usage travellers: Choose $12 Happy Travel Prepaid or $32 Happy Travel Prepaid.
Long-term travellers: Choose $15 or $50 Happy Prepaid.
Where to buy StarHub Cards?
- Pre-order Starhub $12 Happy Travel Prepaid, and collect at Singapore Changi Airport.
- StarHub Shops
- StarHub’s Exclusive Partner outlets
- StarHub Authorised Retailers
- 7-Eleven stores
- Cheers convenience stores
- Changi Airport
- StarHub Counters (Terminal 1, 2, 3 and 4)
- UOB Currency Exchange Counters (Terminal 1, 2, 3 and 4)
- Travellers Counters (Terminal 2 and 3, Arrival Halls)
M1’s normal prepaid SIM card is called M Card, while its tourist SIM is simply called M1 Tourist SIM Card. Below is the comparison of all M1’s prepaid cards.
## For use in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia and Taiwan, you can use your existing data from your local data packs without extra charges (but you need to activate data roaming first). For other countries, you need to purchase a roaming pack.
^ Top up options for M Card
The target users of M1’s Tourist SIM is very clear: $12 for shorter stay (7 days), $30 & $50 for longer stays (12 days & 14 days) with visit to other countries.
Basically, the basic features of M1 Tourist SIM are Similar to those of Singtel’s. However, M1 Tourist SIM offers data roam to 5 countries for $30 and $50 card, namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan (while Singtel offers data roam to 4 different countries). The disadvantage of M1 Tourist SIM: top-up not available.
For M1’s normal prepaid M Card users, you can use your existing local data packs for roaming in 5 countries. StarHub has a similar feature (Happy Roam) and Singtel doesn’t have this feature for its normal prepaid users.
My Recommendation for M1 cards:
Budget travellers: Choose $5 M Card Prepaid SIM.
Heavy usage travellers: Choose any of M1 Tourist SIM.
Long-term travellers: Choose $15 M Card Prepaid SIM.
Where to buy M1 Cards?
M1 Tourist SIM Card:
- Pre-order $12 M1 Tourist SIM and collect from Changi Airport or city areas.
- M1 Shops ($12/$30 Tourist SIM)
- Changi Meet & Greet ($30/$50 Tourist SIM) at Changi Airport Terminal 1, 2, 3 & 4 Arrival Halls (Public Area)
- Changi Recommends ($30/$50 Tourist SIM) at Changi Airport Terminal 4 Arrival Hall (Public Area)
- Selected 7-Eleven and Cheers ($12 Tourist SIM)
- M1 Shops
- M1 Exclusive Distributors
- Appointed Authorised Retailers
- 7-Eleven and Cheers stores
- FairPrice Xpress
- Selected SingPost Branches
What’s required to purchase SIM card in Singapore?
You need to bring passports during registration of the SIM card.
Different people have different length of stay, data usage and other preferences. To simplify, here are my recommendations for different scenarios.
One thing to take note about Tourist SIM: they don’t give free overseas SMS.
Best card for up to 12 days of visit: M1 $30 Tourist SIM, Singtel $30 hi!Tourist SIM Cards, Starhub $32 Happy Travel Prepaid (depending on whether you need data roam, and in which country you need to use data roam)
Best card for up to 15 days of visit: M1 $50 Tourist SIM, Singtel $50 hi!Tourist SIM Cards (the latter if you want to share the usage amongst to 2 users)
Internet SIM (for WiFi device or tablet):
Best internet SIM for 5 days: StarHub $18 Internet SIM
Best internet SIM for 7 days: Singtel $20 hi! Data SIM
Best internet SIM for 15 days: StarHub $32 Internet SIM
Long-term travellers or residents:
Budget/low-usage users: M1 $5 M Card
Normal-usage users: StarHub $15 Happy Prepaid or M1 $15 M Card
High-usage users: Singtel $50 hi! SIM or StarHub $50 Happy Prepaid
Regarding coverage, personally I have used the service of all three operators, and what I can say is, each operator performs well at certain locations and bad at other locations. No operator is truly better than other operators. This is just my opinion 🙂
Purchase on the spot or in advance?
First of all, not all SIM cards can be purchased in advance. For those cards that can be booked online, I highly recommend that you do, because you’ll never know how long the queue can be. In busy city/tourist areas like Bugis or Orchard, queues at telecommunication shops can be insane (at least 30 mins of waiting). At the airport, not every SIM card is available for sale (#truestory: they only sell the more expensive ones, but they keep changing strategy so you’ll never know).
If the SIM card that you want can’t be purchased online, I think your best bet is to go to not-so-busy 7-Eleven or Cheers convenient stores, or go to telecommunication shops in the morning (between 10 to 11am) or late at night (9pm onwards).
I hope I have provided you with enough information to make your decisions 🙂 If you have any questions, let me know in the comment.
Planning for a trip to Singapore? Read my best articles about Singapore.
Last updated: 8 Jan 2019
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