How to Use a Mobile Phone in Vietnam in 5 Easy Steps

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How to use a mobile phone in Vietnam

Mobile phones, especially smart phones are an essential part of international, inter-connected travel nowadays. Whether it be for calling home, contacting hotels/tour operators, planning travel logistics, map surfing, navigating, or just using social media, your phone will be an invaluable tool during your Vietnam trip.  Although most unlocked phones should be able to work in Vietnam, each country has its own unique cellular network system, so we have put together a simple 5-step process in understanding the ins and outs of how to use a mobile phone in Vietnam.

5 steps to use a mobile phone in Vietnam

Table of Contents:

(Please click on the links below to jump directly to the topic you want to explore)

  1. Think about your phone
  2. Buying A Vietnam SIM card
  3. Setting up 3G/4G
  4. Understand the Usage Rules
  5. Understand the Phone Numbers

1.  THINK ABOUT YOUR PHONE

To use a mobile phone in Vietnam, you have three options: bring a 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 (this can expensive depends on your service provider; for example, T-mobile charges several dollars a minute and does not offer mobile data here).  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.  Smartphones are beneficial here because you can have access to the 3G/4G network if you get a SIM card with a data package.

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2.  Buying A Vietnam SIM Card

The easiest way to buy a SIM card is to buy it at one of the many SIM kiosks located in the airport you fly into.

** The information provided in this section is specific to the Tan Son Nhat International Terminal in Ho Chi Minh City however the general locations of the kiosks in other Vietnam airports should be similar. **

When you get off the plane and head towards Immigration, there will be a single SIM card booth in this area. We recommend skipping this booth however and waiting until you get past Immigration to purchase a SIM card since there will be many more SIM kiosks there, offering more choices and most likely less wait time.  The staff at all the kiosks usually speak good English, and should be able to describe all the various voice and data packages to you and help you install and test the SIM.

Shown below is a basic layout of the area inside Ton Son Nhat International Terminal where the SIM kiosks are located.

Where to find Sim Card at the international arrival hall of Tan Son Nhat airport
Location of the SIM card kiosks at the Tan Son Nhat airport international arrival hall

Once you decide which kiosk to buy your SIM Card from (we recommend sticking with Viettel or Mobifone), let the kiosk staff know what you want to do with your mobile phone, so they can determine if you only need a SIM for only phone calls, a data only SIM or a SIM that includes both a calling and data plan.

When you know which SIM card package you want to purchase, ask the kiosk staff to help you install the card in your phone immediately so that you can test it to make sure everything is working correctly. We recommend that you write down your mobile number  somewhere so you can easily share it with friends or family. We would also advise that you learn how to check the remaining balance on the sim card.

Sim card counter located at second floor (Before you get in line for imigration custom)
Sim card counter located on the second floor (Before you get in line for immigration)
Sim Card Counters at first floor ( After you pass the baggage custom)
Sim Card kiosks on the first floor ( After you pass the baggage checkpoint)

WHERE TO BUY A SIM CARD OUTSIDE THE AIRPORT IN VIETNAM

In Vietnam, there are 5 phone carriers:  Mobifone, Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnammobile, and Gmobile however we recommended sticking with the 2 largest carriers Viettel and Mobifone to get the best coverage. Viettel and Mobifone control 90% of the mobile market in Vietnam so it will be easier for you to find mobile phone shops for these 2 companies if you need assistance.

If you didn’t get a chance to buy a SIM while at the airport you can easily buy one from one of the many mobile phone shops found throughout the country. For the purposes of this blog post, we will only focus on mobile phone shops in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City

 Viettel StoresMobiphone Stores
HanoiAddress: 32 Phan Chu Trinh Street, Hoan Kiem District
Working hours:
7:30AM to 07:30PM 
Address: 80 Hang Ma Street, Hoan Kiem District
Working hours:
Monday to Friday: 07:30AM – 08:00PM
Saturday to Sunday: 08:00AM – 06:00PM
DanangAddress: 95 Hung Vuong Street, Hai Chau District
Working hours:
08:00AM to 08:00PM
Address: 153-155 Nguyen Van Linh Street, Hai Chau District
Working hours:
07:30AM to 09:00PM
Ho Chi Minh CityAddress: 166C-D-E Tran Hung Dao Street, District 1
Working hours:
08:00AM to 08:00PM
Address: 80 Nguyen Du Street, District 1
Working hours:
Monday to Friday: 7:30AM to 6:00PM
Saturday to Sunday: 8:30AM to 4:00PM

Aside from the stores listed above, you can also buy a SIM Card at the many TheGioiDiDong mobile phone stores found throughout Vietnam.

SIM cards can also be purchased at thegioidiong stores
SIM cards can also be purchased at thegioidiong stores

** NOTE: Most places will require that you provide your passport information when you purchase a SIM Card. **

OTHER PLACES YOU CAN BUY SIM CARDS

If for whatever reason you cannot locate a Viettel, Mobifone or Thegioididong shop, you can also easily purchase a SIM card at almost any mobile phone store in Vietnam. You will also often find signs in front of local mom and pop grocery stores in Vietnam (Tap Hoa) that advertise Mobifone/Viettel SIM cards and top-off scratch cards. We would be cautious about buying a SIM card at these places however because you might be sold an unregistered or expired SIM card and the vendor probably won’t provide a refund or help you get the SIM card working under these circumstances.

These “black market” SIM cards offer one convenience however in that you probably won’t need to provide a passport to buy one.

**NOTE: The initial SIM Card that you purchase will come with pre-paid minutes in the denomination that you choose.  It will also come with an expiration date 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. **

WHAT KIND OF CALL+ DATA PACKAGES ARE AVAILABLE?

Most travelers to Vietnam will probably opt for SIM packages that include both local calling + data so we have listed the most popular calling+data packages offered by Viettel and Mobifone in the table below:

MOBILE CARRIERDATA PLANDESCRIPTION
MOBIFONEBIG 70 ( Data and Call)
Price:
VND 170,000
~ USD 7
DATA: 3gb high speed data/days. After using up 3gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: FREE less than 10 minutes for in-network call and FREE 20 minutes for out- network call. Top-up with scratch card to make more calls.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 70000/month
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTALL send to 999
MOBIFONEBIG 100 ( Data and Call)
Price:
VND 200,000
~ USD 8.6
DATA: 6gb high speed data/days. After using up 3gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: FREE less than 10 minutes for in-network call and FREE 20 minutes for out- network call. Top-up with scratch card to make more calls.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 100000/month
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTALL send to 999
MOBIFONEMOBI DATA 5GB (Data and Call)
Price:
VND 150,000
~ USD 6.5
DATA: 5gb high speed data/30 days. After using up 5gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: NO FREE CALL. Need to top-up with scratch card.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 50000/month
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTALL send to 999
MOBIFONEMOBI DATA 9GB (Data and Call)
Price:
VND 190,000
~ USD 8.2
DATA: 9gb high speed data/30 days. After using up 9gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: NO FREE CALL. Need to top-up with scratch card.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 90000/month.
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTALL send to 999
VIETTELGÔ GÔ 4G (Data and Call)
Price:
VND 190,000
~ USD 8.2
DATA: 3gb high speed data/30 days. After using up 3gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: FREE less than 10 minutes for in-network call and FREE 20 minutes for out- network call. Top-up with scratch card to make more calls.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 70000/month.
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTTK send to 191
VIETTELDATA 10GB (Data and Call)
Price:
VND 220,000
~ USD 9.5
DATA: 10gb high speed data/30 days. After using up 10gb, speed lowers to 256 Kbps.
CALL: NO FREE CALL. Need to top-up with scratch card.
Valid for 30 days after registered. For the second month usage: add VND 100000/month.
*Check call balance: call *101#
*Check data balance: sms syntax: KTTK send to 191

HOW TO CHECK YOUR SIM CARD’S BALANCE:

Checking your phone + data balance in Vietnam is as simple as making a call or sending a text message. Keep in mind that the reply message you receive from the carrier will be in Vietnamese however (except the Mobiphone SIM offered by Way2Go), so you need be able to decipher the meaning of the message yourself. We have provided instructions below on how to check your balance for both call+data SIMs and data only SIMs offered by Viettel and Mobifone.

HOW TO CHECK YOUR REMAINING BALANCE ON VIETTEL (CALL + DATA PLANS):

Call *101# and you will receive a message like the one below:

Sample Viettel remaining balance text for call+data plans

FOR VIETTEL DATA ONLY SIMS: send a SMS text message “KTTK” to number 191 and you will receive a message similar to the one below:

Sample Viettel remaining data text

HOW TO CHECK YOUR REMAINING BALANCE ON MOBIFONE (CALL + DATA PLANS):

Call *101# and you will receive a message similar to the one below:

Sample Mobifone remaining balance text for call+data plans

FOR MOBIFONE DATA ONLY SIMS: send a SMS text message “DATA” to number 888 and you will receive a message similar to the one below:Sample Mobifone remaining data text

Need to add credit to your phone? See section 4 of this blog post: Understanding the Usage Rules.

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3.  SET UP 3G/4G

4G Viettel SIM
4G Viettel SIM

If you’ve been to Vietnam in the past decade, you will know that free and fast wifi is available throughout the country, so many travelers don’t feel the need buy a SIM that includes data. If you’re moving around a lot though, using free wifi means having to constantly search for wifi networks and asking for passwords. For an additional cost of only 100,000-200,000 VND ($4.50-$9.00) to buy a SIM that includes a generous data package, we feel it’s a no-brainer and more convenient to get a SIM that includes 4G. Fortunately, the three top mobile carriers in Vietnam provide good 4G service in Vietnam.

Having uninterrupted internet access on a smartphone can be extremely beneficial to navigate around, especially since Google Maps works very well in the cities. More importantly, you can access the Grab app (like Uber for Asia) so that you can arrange a driver from practically anywhere in the country without the risk of being scammed.  Additionally, you can be in constant touch with the outside world via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and local apps like Now (food delivery).

And if you find yourself in bind, you can also access the XO Tours blog for travel advice on the go!  If you didn’t buy a SIM with a data activated, setting it up latter can be 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 “4G 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 can provide you with instructions so you can easily set it up on your own.

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4.  UNDERSTAND THE USAGE RULES

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO SEND TEXT MESSAGES AND MAKE CALLS IN VIETNAM?

There are very few differences between the local carriers as to how much for 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 VND1780/min and a phone call to the same network is VND1580/min. An international call will cost VND3960/min and an international text message is VND2500/text. The exact details can be found on their respective websites.

HOW TO ADD CREDIT TO YOUR SIM CARD:

To add credit to your phone you can purchase a top-up scratch card in almost every mobile phone shop, most grocery stores, most convenience stores and most local neighborhood shops. Look for a small sign advertising the 5 mobile carriers: Mobiphone, Viettel, Vinaphone, Vietnammobile and Gmobile. The top-up cards can be bought in values from 20,000 VND to 500,000 VND.

Make sure that you buy the same scratch card as your Sim card ‘s phone carrier. For example, if you have a Viettel SIM, you CANNOT top-up your balance using a Mobifone scratch card. The phone carrier’s name and logo is clearly shown on the scratch card.

Topping up your minutes is quite easy. When you scratch the top-off card, it will reveal a 13 digit activation number.  Simply enter *100*thedigitnumber# and press ‘Call’.  You will get a message instantly saying that your minutes have been topped up.  Dial *101# to check your balance as you go.

Example of a Viettel scratch card
Viettel top-off card

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5.  UNDERSTAND THE PHONE NUMBERS

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

LandLine format:  Area Code (2 to 3 digits) + Phone Number (8 digits)

Cell Phone format: 09y xxx-xxxx or 03y / 07y / 08y / 05y xxx-xxxx

FROM: Land Line  TO: Local Land Line

Area Code + Phone Number

FROM: Land Line  TO: Cell Phone

09y xxx-xxxx or 03y/ 07y/ 08y/ 05y xxx-xxxx

FROM: Cell Phone  TO: Land Line

0 + Area Code + Phone Number

FROM: Cell Phone  TO: Cell Phone

09y xxx-xxxx or 03y/ 07y/ 08y/ 05y xxx-xxxx

FROM: Anything  TO: International Phone Number

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

The Table Below Provides The Main Area Codes Used in Vietnam:

No.ProvinceArea code
1Ha Noi24
2Ho Chi Minh28
3Thua Thien-Hue234
4Da Nang236
5Dong Nai251
6Ba Ria - Vung Tau254
7Lam Dong- Da Lat263
8Hai Phong225
9Can Tho292
10Son La212
11Lai Chau213
12Lao Cai214
13Dien Bien215
14Yen Bai216
15Quang Binh232
16Quang Tri233
17Quang Nam235
18Thanh Hoa237
19Nghe An238
20Ha Tinh239
21Quang Ninh203
22Bac Giang204
23Lang Son205
24Cao Bang206
25Tuyen Quang207
26Thai Nguyen208
27Bac Can209
28Hai Duong220
29Hung Yen221
30Bac Ninh222
31Ha Nam226
32Thai Binh227
33Nam Dinh228
34Ninh Binh 229
35Ca Mau290
36Bac Lieu291
37Hau Giang293
38Tra Vinh294
39An Giang296
40Kien Giang297
41Soc Trang299
42Binh Thuan252
43Quang Ngai255
44Binh Dinh256
45Phu Yen257
46Khanh Hoa258
47Ninh Thuan259
48Kon Tum260
49Dak Nong261
50Dak Lak262
51Gia Lai269
52Vinh Long270
53Binh Phuoc271
54Long An272
55Tien Giang273
56Binh Duong274
57Ben Tre275
58Tay Ninh276
59Dong Thap277
60Vinh Phuc211
61Phu Tho21
62Hoa Binh18
63Ha Giang 19

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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!

10 COMMENTS

  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

  2. 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.
    Cheers

  3. 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

  4. 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!

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