When you come to live in Vietnam you really only have two options to choose from if you want to use a mobile phone. The first is to bring a phone which is un-locked with you that allows you to use a local sim card, or alternatively, you purchase a phone locally.
Bringing an unlocked phone with you and using the sim card from your home country will result in extremely high roaming charges.
You should take note that any phone you bring from abroad will need to be a GSM enabled phone, although most of them are nowadays.
Get a Sim Card
Once you have your phone you will need to get a local sim card. There are stores, stalls, carts, booths and you can even find bicycles that sell these. You will find most of the aforementioned as soon as you step of the plane and into the airport. You do not need to buy at the airport, instead you can wait until you arrive at your final destination where you can simply navigate your way to a telecommunications store.
The staff at the store can help you to choose the best sim card and help you install it in the phone. If you want the best phone coverage, try and ensure that your sim is from the Mobifone, Vinafone or Viettel network providers. Between them, these companies control about 90% of the mobile market in the country. Always make sure the phone is working before you leave the store.
Get to Know the Network Rules
There isn’t much difference in costs between the 3 major providers when it comes to local calls, SMS messaging and International calls. Local calls and SMS is quite cheap. You can find the exact cost of calls detailed on each of their websites.
When you purchase a sim card it will come with a pre-paid limit. The amount of minutes you get will depend on how much you choose to pay. Sim cards also have an expiry date so choose your sim wisely. If you pay 100,000 VND you can expect the card to expire in as little as 7 days. 200,000 VND will usually get you a month. When you top up the sim card the expiry date will be extended.
To top up your minutes you can simply purchase a scratch card from a number of retailers. You simply scratch the card to get the 12 digit number. All you need to then do is dial *100*code# and click send. Once you have topped up your balance you will receive a confirmation SMS message. To check your remaining balance simply dial *101#.
Set Up 3G
The 3 main network providers in Vietnam also provide a decent 3G service. If you have a smart phone then 3G can be extremely beneficial, especially if you plan to use a service such as Google Maps to navigate your way around.
Having 3G is also beneficial if you plan on using a service such as Skype to contact your family and friends back home, while social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be easier to use too.
Understanding Phone Numbers
When you have finished setting up your phone, it is important that you know how to call numbers while staying in the country. It will likely be very different to what you are familiar with back home. Below is a list of the basics.
Country Code: + 84
Trunk Prefix: 0
International Prefix: 00
Land Line format: Area Code (This is between 1 and 3 digits) + Phone Number (This is between 5 and 8 digits)
Cell Phone format: 09y xxx-xxxx or 01yy xxx-xxxx
If you are calling from a Land Line to a Local Land Line
Area Code + Phone Number
If you are calling from a Land Line to a Mobile
09y xxx-xxxx or 01yy xxx-xxxx
If you are calling from a Mobile to Land Line