Laos Unitel Sim Card – Enabling 3G Internet For The iPhone

Buying a Unitel Sim Card in Luang Prabang is easy peasy. Pretty much every shop in town stocks them. The Unitel 3G Cell Carrier is the biggest provider in Laos, so look for the sign that says "Unitel" ask for a sim card and away you go.

However, not all shops will be able to sell you a Unitel Sim Card that fits your iPhone 4 model. The iPhone 4 takes the micro sims. So you may have to go to a mobile phone shop to get one cut for you. They just use a sim card cutter. Kind of like a hole puncher but for sim cards. Dara Market in the city centre, found easily on a map, has mobile phone shops that will be able to supply you with a micro sim punched sim card.

Ok, you have your Unitel Sim Card. Congratulations. You have a Laos mobile phone number. This is where it gets annoying. Unless your mobile phone shop guy (or girl) can speak great English and is willing to help you out. You will need to set up your phone to use 3G Data yourself.

To enable 3G on your phone to access FaceBook or Twitter or your email or Google Maps... Oh yes, being able to work out exactly where you are on Google Maps is awesome... you first need to purchase a 3G package.

As of April 2012, Unitel's 3G Packages are... The "M--" are the 3G Package names -
MI0 – pay per use
MI5 – 5,000 kip/day, receive a free 50mb per day
MI15 – 15,000 kip/month, receive a free 100mb per month
MI40 – 40,000 kip/month, receive a free 500mb per month
MI150 – 150,000 kip/month, receive a free 2GB per month

To check the most up to date 3G Data Package Prices check out Unitel's website.

So, you need to choose exactly how much 3G Data you think you would use in your time in Laos. For us, we just went for the "MI150 - 150,000 Kip for 2GB of Data".

The cost works out to be about $18 USD for the month. Not entirely cheap but you do get 2GB of 3G Data to use in a one month period and well, we were going to be heading out into the possible nether lands of Laos and wanted to know that we could use the 3G on our iPhone if we needed to.

The next step after choosing what 3G Package you require is to put that amount of credit on to your phone's sim card. Buy the amount of credit, in our case 150,000 Kip worth, take all the scratchy cards they give you, and then input each amount by following the instructions on the scratch card.

Your Unitel Sim Card is now full of credit.

The next thing you do is send the package name of the 3G Package to Unitel... they will then add that 3G Package to your phone number:

Open Up a Text then Send: "MI150" in the message body TO receiver "209" (without the quotes)
You will receive a message back approving the 3G Package on your phone.

Congratulations.... But there is more to do yet.

You need to rejig your 3G Data settings on your phone. On the iPhone, follow as below:
Go to Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data, and input ‘unitel3g’ on the APN field.
If you want to enable personal hotspot, (which we recommend) make sure you do the same with ‘Tethering’.

And there you go, you have a local Laos cell phone number as well as 3G Data.

6 comments

  1. Blorg 7 July, 2012 at 00:45 Reply

    If you can live without voice the data specific SIMs are much better value for internet. A Unitel data SIM costs 30,000k and comes with 1.5gb free data over three months (eg you get 512mb each month for three months- at least this was the offer 6 months ago.)

    Apart from that on a data SIM there is a 1.2gb/month data plan for only 50,000k or unlimited data for 120,000k/month. You can get a data SIM easily from any Unitel office, or somewhat less easily from other shops; it can be a bit difficult to explain and get the right one. It should say 3G somewhere on the on a sticky label on the outer packaging; the actual SIM looks identical to a voice one. SMS works on these SIMs but no voice (Skype works.) They are marketed for laptops/USB sticks but work fine in smartphones.

    http://unitel.com.la/index.php/service/package/id-6

    Also, worth pointing out Unitel monthly plans run according to the calendar month; they are NOT a month from when you start them (unless you happen to start on the 1st.)

    • Tanya 9 July, 2012 at 08:19 Reply

      Hi! Thanks for adding your wealth of knowledge to our blog post. You certainly know a lot more about unitets options that what we do!

  2. Dror 8 October, 2012 at 01:49 Reply

    Thank you very much. Tried to call the service line but they didn’t know English.

    What’s your experience with the 3G in Laos, is it fast enough for Skype?

    Btw, the Unitel rates got a lot cheaper for the internet: (link removed as it was broken)

    • Tanya 10 October, 2012 at 14:15 Reply

      Thanks for the update about unitel prices 🙂 We found that the 3G was fast enough for skype while in Luang Prabang. We didn’t attempt skype in the more remote parts of Laos so we cannot comment. Thanks for reading!

  3. Stan 5 December, 2012 at 20:55 Reply

    I recently traveled overseas. When I traveled from the USA I was able to get ATT worldwide, Roaming costs were very cheap. I went to Spain, and my costs were $.09 USA. Would it have been cheaper to buy a SIM card.

    • Tanya 10 December, 2012 at 07:43 Reply

      We are unsure about any sim card costs in USA. We just believe that it is always cheaper to buy in each country that you are in. However, if you are only going to be in another country for a few days you may as well just turn your phone off and enjoy your holiday!

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