Cell phones are an essential part of travel nowadays.  Whether it be for calling home, calling hotels, planning logistics, map surfing, navigating, or Facebook-ing, your cell phone is the one-stop resource for it all.  Of course, every country has their own system, so for your stay in Vietnam, we have put together a simple 5-step process in understanding the ins and outs of cell phone usage.

5 steps to using a cell phone


You have three options: bring an locked phone with you, bring an unlocked phone with you, or buy a relatively cheap phone here.  If you bring a locked phone, make sure you understand the terms for international roaming.  With an unlocked phone or a phone that you buy here, you can simply purchase a SIM card and have a local number.  Keep in mind that the unlocked phone that you bring must be a GSM phone, but most phones are these days.  Smart phones are beneficial here because you can have access to the 3G network.


There are stalls, stores, booths, carts and even bicycles that will sell SIM cards the minute that you land in Vietnam (we are not exaggerating… there are establishments in and around the airport!).  If you can wait a bit, ask the staff at your hotel or hostel to point you towards the nearest telecommunications store.  The associates at the store will provide a SIM card for you, cut the card according to your phone and install it for you.  For the best coverage, ensure that the SIM card you get is either on the Viettel, Mobifone or Vinafone networks.  These three companies control 90% of the mobile market in Vietnam and offer great coverage throughout the country.  Before you walk out of the store, make sure you check that the phone works.

Alternatively, check out this service – www.simcardasia.com.  They will send you a SIM Card in the mail before your trip so that you can pass on your temporary number to family and friends before embarking on your journey.  For Vietnam, the SIM Card they provide to you is on the Viettel network.

3.  SET UP 3G

Fortunately, the three top mobile companies also provide decent 3G service in Vietnam.  Having 3G can be extremely beneficial to navigate around, especially since Google Maps works very well in the cities.  More importantly, you can be in constant touch with the outside world via Facebook, Twitter, or social outlet of your choice!  And if you find yourself in a bind, you can access our XO Tours blog for travel advice on the go!  The set up is a little bit tricky but not difficult.  The basic procedure is the same for all companies but the details might differ.  In general, you will have to send a text message along the lines of “3G ON” to a special network number (eg. *888) and then configure your phone’s settings, but many mobile stores will do it for you.  If not, they will give you the detailed procedure so you can do it on your own.


There are very few differences between the companies as to how much local calls, international calls and text messages cost, and they are quite low.  To give you an idea, on Mobifone, a phone call to a cell phone on another network is 1800VND/min and an international text message is 2500VND/text.  The exact details can be found on their respective websites.

The initial SIM Card that you purchase will come with pre-paid minutes in a denomination that you choose.  It will also come with an expiration so choose wisely.  For instance, the 100,000 VND card may expire in 7 days and the 200,000 VND card may expire in 30 days.  If you plan on being in Vietnam for around 1 month, it might be beneficial to choose the option that spans the entire time you will be here.  Topping up your minutes is also quite easy.  In order to top up, you can purchase a minutes card that looks like a ‘scratch-n-win’ card in any denomination that you want.  When you scratch the card, it will reveal a 12 digit activation card.  Then, simply enter *100*code# and ‘Send’.  You will get a message instantly saying that your minutes have been topped up.  Dial *101# to check your balance as you go.


Once you have your phone ready to go, you will need to know how to dial phone numbers here as it may be different than what you are used to.  Here are the basics –

Country Code: + 84

Trunk Prefix: 0

International Prefix: 00

Land Line format:  Area Code (1 to 3 digits) + Phone Number (5 to 8 digits)

Cell Phone format: 09y xxx-xxxx or 01yy xxx-xxxx

FROM: Land Line  TO: Local Land Line

Area Code + Phone Number

FROM: Land Line  TO: Cell Phone

09y xxx-xxxx or 01yy xxx-xxxx

FROM: Cell Phone  TO: Land Line

0 + Area Code + Phone Number

FROM: Cell Phone  TO: Cell Phone

09y xxx-xxxx or 01yy xxx-xxxx

FROM: Anything  TO: International Phone Number

00 + Country Code + (Area Code + Phone Number) or (Cell Phone format)


We hope you found this Vietnam travel tip useful!  To find more useful information about XO Tours and Vietnam, take a look at our FAQ section!

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  1. Very nice and informative post. This really amazes me that we still have people who will sit down and write great information just to educate others. Thanks for this

    • Melina Wood

      Wonderful article, and I had such a blast when I went to Ho Chi Minh 🙂 I second everything the blog mentioned, particularly about the unlocked phone. There’s nothing worse that realising when you get there that you can’t use a local SIM and have to opt to pay roaming charges instead. I would definitely recommend making sure your phone is unlocked before the trip. Call your phone network and have them do it for you. If the cost and time of wait is too much, you can also try the websites. There are plenty of websites that offer to give a code to unlock your phone, and they’re often relatively cheaper than going to a phone network… it doesn’t take as long too! I personally used http://www.unlockyoursim.com and it was very helpful. I just needed to fill up a short survey before getting the code, but that’s about it. Hope this helps anyone planning to go to Vietnam. Happy trip!

      • XO Tours

        Thank you for sharing your experience with unlockyoursim.com Melina! I’m sure it will be helpful for many other travelers to Vietnam.

  2. Thanks for this!!! 🙂

  3. I’m off to Vietnam tomorrow, this was amazingly helpful! 🙂

  4. Vincent

    I’m leaving for Vietnam in few days and this information is very helpful! 🙂

  5. Brinn

    Hi, thank you for sharing – is there any way to figure out remaining credit and remaining 3G data volume? Using Viettel dialing *101# and *102# only show prepaid credit but nothing on the 3G data.

  6. Leonie

    The info on mobile phones answered all my questions – I am a mobile/techno dummy but think it would be handy while travelling
    Thank you for all the tips

  7. Alternative to the simcardasia website mentioned here. There is a website vietsimcard.com which only specializes in Vietnam SIM cards with many services and options, the service is fast and reliable, plus there price is the best on the entire internet.

  8. Benjamin

    Dear Brinda, thank you so much for all of your articles. I will be leaving to Vietnam in 2 weeks where I plan to be living there for quite some time. I am truly excited about this adventure and your articles are beyond helpful for my pre-arrival research. Thank you so much!

  9. John

    http://www.simcardasia.com sucks….it’s so hard to navigate around. Try vietsimcard.com or ebay. I used their cellphone services and it was great

  10. Harry gill

    Thank u for ur helpful tips abt Vietnamese telecommunication network. It’s very useful.

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