I plan to fly from San Francisco to Hyderabad (Telangana, India) with a layover in Delhi.

I read here (mirror):

The home ministry's new year gift to its foreign tourists from 161 countries will be a pre-loaded sim card at 12 major airports of the country after home minister Rajnath Singh formally launches the scheme this weekend.
The ready-to-call sim cards will be available to foreign tourists arriving at airports in Panjim, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi and Varanasi to start with.

Will I get a free card during my layover in Delhi?

  • 1
    I don't know the answer, but it seems likely to me that SIMs would only be distributed to those who deplane, then pass through immigration and customs. If you stay airside, I doubt you'd receive one. Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 23:49
  • Delhi is the OP's point of entry to India so he'll have pass through customs and immigration there.
    – user79658
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 0:19
  • @CannonFodder I didn't read the question carefully, thanks for the correction. I suppose the OP will receive a SIM. Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 2:21

2 Answers 2


The said scheme has been discontinued from July 2018 so you will not receive a SIM card.

Source is a news report in Times of India and Hindustan Times dated 9-Jul-2018

A scheme to provide free SIM cards to foreign tourists arriving in India to help meet their communication needs has been “discontinued” as it was felt “unnecessary”, tourism secretary Rashmi Verma said on Monday.

  • That's too bad, since it's often difficult for foreigners to find local SIM cards for sale. Also, to access Wi-Fi, one often needs to give their phone number and receive a text message, and thus end up paying roaming charges whereas the whole purpose is to avoid said roaming charges.
    – gparyani
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 5:28
  • I don’t know about India, but in many places (especially areas with lots of tourists and very high roaming charges) there are lots of stands selling SIM cards either in the baggage claim area or just after customs. Is that not the case in India?
    – jcaron
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 10:03

This article from toomanyadapters.com contains a great deal of the author's experience and advice. Some of the significant take-aways from the text are these:

  • India is by far the cheapest country I have ever traveled in, but its also one of the toughest. This goes for the SIM card market as well. Prices are cheap, but to get one involves an awful lot of bureaucracy.

  • Consider Vodafone, Airtel and !dea, but the best cell provider depends on where in the country you’re going.

  • All listed networks offer both prepaid and postpaid, and none do contracts. Prepaid is best unless you have an extended stay. A tourist SIM is only valid for three months, and the postpaid plans require a three month commitment to start with.

  • Before I came to India, I heard it was difficult to get a SIM card. All I can add to that is: it was even harder than I imagined. I ended up buying cards from two of the major networks, Airtel and !dea, and had very different experiences with each purchase. It had more to do with where I bought the card, and not so much about which network I chose.

  • Neither cards nor top ups are sold at Indian airports. I passed through eight of them, and none sold SIM cards. I did find a Samsung store in Mumbai airport that sold phones, but even they couldn’t sell SIM cards with them. Instead, you can buy from official carrier stores, or one of the many smaller shops licensed to sell the network’s products.

  • For the Airtel SIM, I went to one of the larger branded stores. The sales person who talked to me flatly refused to sell me a card, saying I needed to have a local resident buy it for me. Fortunately I was staying in Vadodara with a local Indian friend who was willing to help out. He had to provide his passport, an extra passport photo, proof of local address, his current valid phone number, and his father’s name.

  • Buying the !dea SIM was much easier, although slightly more expensive...I had to supply my passport, an extra passport sized photo and the name of the hostel where I was staying. I waited 48 hours for the SIM to be active. Once the waiting period was up I returned to the store, they called a number using their phone, and within 20 minutes my card was active on their network.

  • One thing to watch for with smaller stores is being sold a SIM that is already active. This means it’s used, and you’ll have no idea when the three month tourist limit will be up. I heard of people buying cards like these, and within a week it expired. They were unable to retrieve any of their credit.

  • You already have a similar answer for this question. You can add all this information to that answer by editing it. Or you can choose to delete that answer and keep only this one
    – RedBaron
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 1:57
  • @RedBaron Yes, I see that. I deleted the duplicate answer. It's shown on a pink background and marked (at least on my screen) "deleted by owner 6 hours ago." Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 3:41
  • While containing a lot of helpful detail, it does not answer the question, whether or not the OP will get a free sim card on this travel.
    – Willeke
    Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 14:48
  • You're correct again, my answer is nonresponsive to the original question. But do note that the free-SIM issue was disposed of on August 26, when RedBaron posted that the scheme had been abandoned by the Indian government. Commented Sep 2, 2018 at 14:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .