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 mobile 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 detailed breakdown of each SIM card from each operator. Then, I’ll do comparison of SIM cards for different scenarios based on length of stay and provide my analysis and recommendations. Finally, I’ll have some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) to answer common queries that I often receive. Let’s dive in!
Overview of all Prepaid SIM Cards in Singapore
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 prepaid SIM card and Singtel’s tourist SIM Card.
Useful links for Singtel Prepaid hi! SIM Card:
- List of Data Plans.
- hi!SIM rates (including local call, overseas call, SMS, roaming charges) as of January 2020.
- List of data roaming packages.
- List of ways to top up hi! SIM card.
For the $30 and $50 Tourist SIM, you can top up to the Main Account to extend the validity of the card, however the hi!Tourist values (100GB data, 3000 mins local call, 5000 SMS, overseas data roam) will not be extended. In other words, the hi!Tourist SIM becomes a normal prepaid hi! SIM card after expiry and upon top-up. I hope it makes sense.
All hi! Tourist SIM cards offer unlimited usage of Facebook, Whatsapp, LINE and WeChat, however, if you read the fine prints, it says the usage of this is limited to 1GB a day. I’d say just ignore this gimmick because when you have 100GB free local data, why should you care about free 1GB data for social media.
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 $12 hi!Tourist SIM, $15 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card or $30 hi!Tourist SIM.
Long-term travelers: Choose $50 hi!SIM card.
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)
- 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 StarHub Prepaid, while StarHub’s tourist SIM card is called StarHub Travel Prepaid. Below is the comparison of StarHub’s prepaid SIM cards.
Notes about StarHub Prepaid SIM cards:
- For $15 Prepaid, free 2GB data comprises 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.
- List of data plans.
- StarHub Prepaid SIM card rates.
- Here’s the info about Happy Roam.
- For $50 StarHub Prepaid SIM, the free 5GB data roam can be used locally as well as overseas in countries listed in the Happy Roam destinations.
- List of ways to top up StarHub 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 StarHub Prepaid App or offline. See the complete Top up options.
Based on my past experience, I think StarHub is the most competitive operator, they often provide better value compared to other operators with their promotions. But, I feel that they have too many promotions, add-ons, 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
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 the best Tourist SIM for short-term travellers?
Now that I have covered every prepaid SIM card from each operator, it is time to compare these SIM cards across different operators, based on several scenarios.
Different people have different length of stay, data usage and other preferences. To simplify, I’m going to assume that short-term travellers are leisure travellers who use a good amount of internet (1GB to 3GB) on a daily basis for the purpose of navigation, on-the-go research and social media. For these people, Tourist SIM cards are the best option because it’s affordable and it gives 100GB which is more than enough for 2 weeks of stay in Singapore.
If you think you don’t belong in this category because you can survive without internet when exploring Singapore, then you can skip this section and jump to the next section where I discuss about normal prepaid SIM card (not Tourist SIM).
In this section, I’m going to compare all Tourist SIM cards in Singapore based on different lengths of stay.
Before I dive into the comparison of tourist sim cards, I want highlight one thing that you should take note about Tourist SIM: they don’t give free overseas SMS.
Best SIM Card for 7 days of stay
There are 4 Tourist SIM cards that are designed for short-term travellers visiting Singapore for up to 7 days, namely:
- Singtel $12 hi! Tourist SIM Card
- Singtel $15 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card
- StarHub $12 Travel Prepaid SIM Card
- M1 $12 Prepaid Tourist SIM Card.
If you’re just staying in Singapore within the 7 days, you can get any of the $12 Tourist SIM card from Singtel/StarHub/M1 Tourist SIM.
However, if you’re planning for a day trip to Malaysia or Indonesia within the 7 days, both StarHub $12 Travel Prepaid SIM and Singtel $12 hi!Tourist SIM card gives you 1GB data roam to Happy Roam destinations, which include Malaysia and Indonesia.
The best thing about StarHub $12 Travel Prepaid SIM is the Happy Roam feature, which gives tourist SIM users free data roaming that can be used in over 17 countries. That’s a lot of countries compared to the 4 countries that Singtel Tourist SIM’s users can get.
If you are visiting any of these 17 countries after Singapore (Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America), consider getting StarHub $12 Travel Prepaid SIM.
If you don’t need a lot of data because you can use your hotel or hostel’s wifi, or if you’re a budget traveler and you think paying $12 for data is a waste of money, but you need a SIM card to make calls, forget the Tourist SIM and get M1’s $5 Prepaid M Card.
If this is your first time visiting Singapore and you want to explore the country using public transportation, you need to have a travel card. To understand all the different travel cards in Singapore, read: Singapore Tourist Pass, EZ Link or Standard Ticket? Which One is Better?
If you have read my guide about travel cards and decide that you want an EZ-Link card, I recommend that you get Singtel’s $15 hi!Tourist EZ-Link SIM Card. Here are some details about this card:
- It 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 SIM card validity is 7 days 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.
PS: If you’re a first-timer visitor to Singapore, I recommend you check my comprehensive library of Singapore Travel Guide to help you plan your trip.
Best SIM Card for 12 days of stay
There are 3 Tourist SIM cards that are designed for travellers visiting Singapore for up to 12 days, namely:
- Singtel $30 hi! Tourist SIM Card,
- StarHub $32 Travel Prepaid SIM Card and
- M1 $30 Prepaid Tourist SIM Card.
All 3 SIM cards offer similar local data, local calls and SMS.
For data roaming, StarHub $32 covers more countries than the other two. Both Singtel and StarHub offer 90 mins international calls while M1 offers only 50 mins international calls.
If you’ll be travelling to Malaysia or Indonesia or just staying in Singapore during trip, you can get either Singtel $30 or M1 $30 SIM.
If you’ll be travelling to Australia or Thailand during your trip, you can get Singtel $30 Tourist SIM.
If you’ll be travelling to Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan during your trip, you can get M1 $30 Tourist SIM.
If you’ll be travelling to countries not covered by Singtel $30 or M1 $30 SIM, but covered in StarHub’s Happy Roam, you can get StarHub $32 SIM.
Best SIM Card for 14 days or 15 days of stay
There are 2 Tourist SIM cards that are designed for travellers visiting Singapore for up to 14 days and 15 days, namely:
- Singtel $50 hi! Tourist SIM Card
- M1 $50 Prepaid Tourist SIM Card
Both cards have similar offering, except for the data roaming coverage and international calls duration.
If you are visiting Malaysia and Indonesia during your trip, you can opt for either card.
If you are visiting Australia or Thailand during your trip, you can get Singtel $50 Tourist SIM.
If you are visiting Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan during your trip, you can get M1 $50 Tourist SIM.
To be honest, I think both cards are too overpriced for leisure travellers. One can simply purchase either Singtel’s $30 or M1’s $30 Tourist SIM, then perform top up to extend its validity to 15 days. But do take note that if you top up a Tourist SIM, the Tourist values (i.e. 100GB data, 3000 mins local call, 5000 SMS, overseas data roam) will not be extended.
The only difference between the $30 cards and $50 cards are the data roaming quota. The $30 cards give you 3GB data roaming while $50 cards give you 5GB data roaming. So, I think the $50 cards are more suitable for business travellers or luxurious travellers who need more data roam.
What’s the best card for budget travellers, long-term travellers or residents?
Best SIM card for budget repeat visitors or budget long-term travellers
If you’re a budget type of person who keeps coming back to Singapore at least once a year, it’s likely that you want to get a cheap SIM card that’s valid for months rather than the Tourist SIM card which is only valid for several weeks (I do the same thing with Malaysia and Indonesia because I visit both countries often!). But you have to remember to top up the card before it expires!
For this case, it looks like the best SIM card for you is the M1’s $5 M Card simply because it is the cheapest, it’s valid for 90 days, it has quite a competitive price for data plans. However, if the free 200MB for 20 days is not enough for you, then the second best choice is M1’s $8 New M Card, which gives you free 1.5GB for 30 days.
If you’re a budget long-term traveller who uses mostly hostel’s free wifi, doesn’t need a huge amount of data on your phone, needs just enough data to check Google Maps to make sure you’re not lost, and are conscious about budget, then I feel that the best card for you is also the M1’s $5 M Card. If the free 200MB is not enough for you, I suggest going for M1’s $8 New M Card or Singtel’s $8 hi! card.
Best SIM card for long-term travelers or residents who use data frequently
So, if you’re not too budget, and you want to keep a Singapore number because you visit about every 6 months, you need to use data and you don’t want to rely on wifi, I think the $15 category is suitable for you.
Personally, I think that M1’s $15 gives too little free data (only 4 GB) so you can forget about it. StarHub’s $15 gives 6GB + 2GB but the 2GB is not immediately available when you first purchase the card, so I think you can forget about StarHub’s too.
Now we are left with Singtel’s $15 and M1’s $14. Singtel’s $15 only gives 3GB for 120 days and 5GB for 30 days. Meanwhile, M1’s $14 gives 4GB for 120 days and 4GB for 30 days. With the same amount of free local data, I would choose M1’s $14 because it’s cheaper.
Now, let’s move to the next analysis!
If you’re a resident in Singapore, I presume you’ll be using data most of the time, so the criteria to choose the best SIM card for you would be the price of data plans, especially the monthly plan.
If you’re like me who uses a mobile phone to browse websites, use social media and watch YouTube videos, you probably need 20 GB a month.
For usage of 20GB or less in a month, I would say that the most suitable SIM card for you is Singtel’s $15 hi! card because 20GB costs $25/month and it’s valid for 30 days. StarHub’s data plan is only valid for 4 weeks, meanwhile M1 doesn’t have a 20GB data plan.
If you think 20GB is too much for you, and you can survive using just 4.5 GB or 15GB a month because you don’t really watch youtube videos or use Instagram, then I recommend that you choose M1’s $14 M Card, then purchase the monthly data plans of 4.5GB for $14.
If 20GB a month is too little for you, then the best choice is M1’s $14 M Card and the best monthly data plan is 50GB which costs $28 a month.
Regarding coverage, personally I have used the service of all three mobile 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’s required to purchase SIM card in Singapore?
You need to bring passports during registration of the SIM card.
2. How many sim cards can I buy?
Each person is only allowed to have 3 prepaid SIM cards under their name, regardless of the service provider.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. What is the cheapest SIM card in Singapore?
M1’s $5 M Card.
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 or ask me in Trevallog Community on Facebook.
Planning for a trip to Singapore? Here are some essential information to read next:
- Read my best articles about Singapore
- Awesome Places in Singapore You Can Visit for Free
- A Weekend Itinerary for Budget Travellers in Singapore
Last updated: 27 September 2020
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