How to buy a mobile phone in Bangok

One of the first things that many expats will want to do after moving to Bangkok is get yourself a mobile phone and the most popular place to buy one is on the 4th floor of the Mahboonkrong (MBK) shopping centre. Inside you will find hundreds of stalls selling thousands of phones from cheap 1000 Baht models to the latest Blackberries and iPhones.

Getting a phone is as simple as choosing a model and negotiating a price, there is no paperwork or contract needed. Once you have your phone the next step is to choose a number and purchase some credits so you can start making phones calls. There are 3 major carriers in Bangkok, AIS, DTAC and True who all offer different types of calling plans depending on if you want a prepaid or post paid calling plan.

The most popular pre-paid credit plan is the AIS One-2-Call package. You can buy One-2-Call top up cards at most 7-11’s and all you do is enter the PIN and your phone in instantly credited and you can start making calls, sending SMS messages or browsing the web.

One word of caution is that while many of the pre-paid phone plans do allow you to access the web over their EDGE or 3G network they charge for the time and not the bandwidth. Some users of the Apple iPhone have reported that since their phones are connected to the net all the time that it can quickly drain the credit they had purchased.

If you are a heavy internet user switching to a post paid plan is probably a better option as many of the plans come with an internet package. The difficulty with getting a post paid plan is that you usually are required to have a work permit or a Thai guarantor but if you are looking to get a post paid plan all 3 major carriers have store outlets in Paragon shopping center.

One particular group of products that are extremely popular is the products from Apple. Within day of a new Apple product being released in the US you can usually find it for sale here in Bangkok, months ahead of the official international launch. Such is the case with the new Apple iPad. Apple recently announced that the international sale of the iPad would be delayed but you can find plenty of grey market ones here.

One word of caution about buying a phone or any Apple product at MBK is that many of the phones have a dodgy history and just because the vendor offers you a guarantee doesn’t mean that they will actually honour it. The phones bought in MBK are good short term phones but for something you want to keep and have work over a long time I would suggest the visiting the official retailer in either Paragon or Central World shopping mall.

So whether you are after the latest offering from Apple or a cheap holiday phone the 4th floor at MBK is a good place to start.