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 SIM card in Singapore 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 at the end, I’ll provide you with my recommendations based on the length of your stay! 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 SIM card and Singtel’s tourist SIM Card.
* Here’s the full list of where top up hi! SIM card.
# Local calls & SMS are free between the main line and supplementary line
^ hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card is a 2-in-1 Tourist SIM and EZ-Link travel card
I would say that some great features of Singtel Tourist SIM cards are free Singtel WiFi at shopping malls & certain public places, as well as generous data roam which is very useful if you travel to Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
The $50 Tourist SIM comes with 2 SIM cards which are valid for 15 days. So, you and your friend/family member can share the usage over 2 devices.
Also, it’s possible to extend Singtel hi!Tourist SIM Cards just by topping up with $3/day.
The cons of Singtel Tourist SIM is the price. 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.
About $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card
The new $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card is a 2-in-1 Tourist SIM and EZ-Link travel card. Basically, you peel off the SIM card from the EZ-Link card, so you have 2 physical items: 1 small SIM Card and 1 EZ-Link.
The validity of $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card doesn’t affect validity of EZ-Link card. The SIM card validity is 7 days (see comparison table above) while the EZ-Link validity is 5 years from the manufacture date.
The EZ-Link card has $3 free credit. However, please note that minimum balance you need to maintain in EZ-Link card is $3 (below $3, you can’t take any MRT or bus with it), so you still have to perform a top up of minimum $10 to the EZ-Link in order to use it for public transport.
You’ll get 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. So, you need to make your own way to Sentosa first, then redeem your ticket from the ticketing counter. You can read my guide about things to do in Sentosa Island.
Meanwhile, Mount Faber Line (which is not included in this EZ-Link SIM Card) serves Mount Faber Station, Harbourfront Tower and Sentosa.
Here’s the full info about hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card including benefits of the card and where to redeem the cable car ticket.
If you’re not getting the $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card but want to ride the scenic cable car, you can get this Singapore Cable Car Sky Pass which includes BOTH Mount Faber Line and Sentosa Line.
My Recommendation for Singtel cards:
Budget travelers: Choose $8 hi!SIM, then purchase 7-day 1GB data plan or 30-day 1GB data plan with the main wallet credit.
Heavy usage travelers: Choose $15 hi!Tourist SIM, $18 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card or $30 hi!Tourist SIM.
Long-term travelers: 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 the 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.
~Here’s the info about Happy Roam.
***Here’s the full list of where top up Happy Prepaid SIM card.
# 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 and Top up options for Happy Prepaid.
@ WeChat Go SIM gives unlimited WeChat & Lingcod TV
One of the advantages of buying StarHub prepaid cards is that it’s pretty affordable to call overseas, especially to those countries listed in IDD 018 destinations.
Secondly, Happy Roam feature gives Tourist SIM users free data roaming that can be used in over 15 countries. That’s a lot of countries compared to the 4 countries that Singtel Tourist SIM’s users can get. If you are not visiting other countries after Singapore, you don’t need to consider this data roam feature.
StarHub’s Happy Roam also allows normal Happy Prepaid users (not Tourist SIM 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 of StarHub 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 3-day 1GB data plan or 30-day 1GB data plan with the main wallet credit.
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.
* International call rates
## 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
M1’s Tourist SIM comparison is very easy to be understood. The $12 Tourist SIM is meant for shorter stay (7 days validity, data roam & top up not available)
Meanwhile, M1’s Tourist SIM $30 and $50 are meant for longer stays (12 days & 14 days validity, data roam & top up available)
Basically, the basic features of M1’s $12 Tourist SIM are similar to those of Singtel’s $15 and StarHub’s $12 Tourist SIM, but with slight twist. M1’s $12 doesn’t allow data roaming! If you aren’t planning to go to other countries, you can ignore M1’s lack of data roaming for $12 SIM.
For the $30 and $50 M1 Tourist SIM, data roam is available for 5 countries, namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan. For comparison, Singtel offers data roam to 4 different countries and StarHub offers data roam to 15 different countries.
For M1’s normal prepaid M Card users, you can use your existing local data packs for roaming in 5 countries. This feature is similar to StarHub’s Happy Roam for $50 Happy Prepaid SIM and Singtel’s $38 hi!SIM.
My Recommendation for M1 cards:
Budget travellers: Choose $5 M Card Prepaid SIM and purchase 1GB 3-day or 300MB 30-day with main wallet credit.
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.
So, what’s the best card for travellers?
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).
These are some of the most common questions that readers have asked me over the years.
1. What are local data and roaming data?
Local data is the data that you can use in Singapore. Roaming data is the data that you can use when you’re outside Singapore.
2. Are incoming calls free?
Unfortunately, no. You will be charged when you receive local calls. If you have a lot of free local calls minutes, then these will be deducted when you receive incoming calls.
3. I want to maintain the validity of my SIM card so I can use it when I come back to Singapore in the future. How can I do so?
Get any prepaid SIM card, not the tourist SIM card. Then, download the apps (either Singtel hi! App, StarHub Prepaid App, or M1 Prepaid App) to check your card validity.
Finally, monitor your card validity consistently so that you can top up before its expiry date. These apps allow you to top up with credit card so it’s ok if you’re outside Singapore.
So… that’s it!! 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.
PS: Have any questions regarding traveling in Singapore, Malaysia or Southeast Asia? Join Trevallog Community on Facebook where we can discuss about traveling in Southeast Asia.
Last updated: 19 August 2019
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