Samui Wining & Dining
ISLAND CONNECTIVITY
How to make sure you can use your smartphone or tablet on Samui.


Page-76

Thailand is one of the simplest and most straightforward places in the world to get connected. But the first thing for you to know is that the approach here is not the same as you’re probably used to back home. Very few Thai people have a monthly or yearly contract with their service provider. Everyone pays-as-theygo. This is the reason that the Thais have to buy their own phones and pay full retail price for them – there are no tempting promos or deals tying subscribers to a contract. But that also means it’s super-easy to get a SIM card and a number, and phones are not ‘locked’ to any provider. The downside is that most Europeans are shocked that package deals of free call minutes and free text messages don’t exist. And a short SMS to a friend back home will cost them 5 baht a time.

        Today, Tom is the owner and manager of Samui’s Football Golf. And part of the story led to Tom now being on Samui. “When we started planning The Bergkamp Trail,” Tom explained to me, “We had no idea what was about to happen. First of all the local paper got hold of it and made a big thing about local lads heading off on the road to Japan. Then the national press turned up, plus TV crews from the BBC and ITV. We thought that was pretty

neat but much later, when we eventually arrived in Japan, there was a Japanese national TV crew waiting to meet us! They wanted to make a documentary about the crazy Englanders that they reckoned had ‘walked’ all the way to the World Cup. Quite honestly, by that time we were broke and had only enough to see England’s first game. But the TV station paid our expenses, food and accommodation, and then FIFA picked up on the story and gave us free VIP seats to each game. We ended up staying for three weeks!” And Samui? “Well,” Tom continued, “we stopped off here en route. Within the hour, I knew that I was coming back. It wasn’t just one of the loveliest places I’d ever seen, but it had a feeling like nowhere else. I eventually returned two years later, teaching English to the staff of a big hotel. That was just before the fateful tsunami hit the west coast of Thailand. Then suddenly I was sitting in an empty classroom each day. Samui was swamped with the tourists who’d planned to go to Phuket, and the staff were all run off their feet and working overtime. That was when I knew I needed find new work. And it was also when I realised that I wanted to set up something that was unique – where I had no competition.”

        What this means is that it’s really straightforward to use your own device in Thailand. But – it has to be unlocked. Many people who regularly travel abroad are aware of this and have gone down this path already. The only alternatives are to put up with expensive roaming charges, or simply to buy a cheap phone locally for the duration of your stay. You can hold onto it for your next visit, or give it to your favourite waiter or cleaning lady when you leave – they’ll be delighted! One thing to be aware of however, if you want to use your own phone - Thailand has a 4-band GSM network and CDMA-based devices won’t work over here. However, these seem to be predominant in the USA and most Euro-based phones will accept Thai SIM cards with no problem.

         There are three main service providers in Thailand, AIS, True Move and DTAC. It’s very much a case of ‘swings and roundabouts’, with each company regularly shaving pennies off costs with slightly different monthly promotions. These are all directed at the Thai people, however, and not generally broadcast in English. But as you’re not going to be bothered about saving a quarter of a baht-perminute off calls anyway, it’s not of much significance! Generally – and this is true for Samui – AIS and DTAC/Happy have the best coverage, although some of you might miss your 4G: Thailand hasn’t quite got there yet!

          Unless you’re flying direct to Samui, canny visitors have realised that they can get set up at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport when they arrive. You’ve probably got some time before your Bangkok Airways flight to our island, so head to the 2nd floor of the arrivals hall, near door 7. You’ll find that all of the three companies mentioned have stalls there that are open 24 hours, and they’ll provide you with a SIM that has a Thai number, explain the various voice and data packages available, install the card, activate and check it for you. It’s really very cheap to do as the SIM card itself is usually free and you can preload it with 1,000 or 2,000 baht, which is more than enough to make calls back home for a few weeks. The same goes for the internet connection (i.e. the ‘data packages’), all of which are applied to the same SIM card.

          Exactly the same facilities are available here on Samui, with the service-providers having zeroed-in on the big supermarkets to place their kiosks. You’ll find that Big C and the branches of Tesco Lotus are the places to go to get set up. And if you’re running around with esoteric hardware, such as some of Apples more unusual devices, you can breathe again as all three service providers stock micro and nano SIMs. But after that, if you need to top up either your voice or data package, head for any 7-11. All of them now have staff who’ll understand your request and program your added hours into your phone for you. But do make certain that you have data credit too; if you haven’t, or it runs out, your time on the internet will deplete your pre-paid voice-call credit at an alarming rate.

          And don’t forget to save the little leaflet that came along with your SIM card. It contains your Thai number and details of what numbers to call to add or change a data package. Talking about data packages, it’s preferable to opt for one that is volume based (in megabytes) rather than time based (in hours). Doing it this way means that you can stay connected to the internet for email or SMS notifications without using up your time package. Believe it or not, 3G is a comparative newcomer to Samui and was quite expensive to start off with. But now that it’s become established, prices of data packages seem to be dropping almost monthly. The way to go about making changes to your data package is And don’t forget to save the little leaflet that came along with your SIM card. It contains your Thai number and details of what numbers to call to add or change a data package. Talking about data packages, it’s preferable to opt for one that is volume based (in megabytes) rather than time based (in hours). Doing it this way means that you can stay connected to the internet for email or SMS notifications without using up your time package. Believe it or not, 3G is a comparative newcomer to Samui and was quite expensive to start off with. But now that it’s become established, prices of data packages seem to be dropping almost monthly. The way to go about making changes to your data package is

          Your smartphone or tablet will then function as usual, with the only difference being that you’ll have a Thai phone number associated with it. So if your mum wants to call you, all she has to do is to dial the country code for Thailand (+66) then your Thai number, but omitting the zero it begins with. It’s all really quite straightforward as long as you keep in mind that voice calls and internet access involve different activities, with two combined packages and costs on your Thai SIM card. Once you’ve got it sorted, you’ll realise that worldwide connective on our island is really very easy indeed!

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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