Global SIM Options when you Travel from India

If you think most mobile operators are fleecing you with ridiculously high roaming tariffs, this post is for you.  The good news is there are quite a few options now. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Matrix and Clay, both provide country specific SIM cards. The obvious advantage is that you get a local number for the country you plan to travel to.  The offerings are quite similar and more or less equally priced. However,  both do not provide tariff details on their web site and you have to call them instead. The customer service rep than transfers you to a sales rep who in turn promises to get back with tariff details. C’mon folks, this is 2010! They also provide data services (GPRS and/or Blackberry) for some countries but that seems to be quite expensive ($ 4 per MB in case of Matrix).
  2. Airtel WorldSim: Airtel offers a global SIM that works in many countries. The advantage is that you don’t have to change SIM when you are traveling to multiple countries.  Your Indian Airtel number is mapped on to forward calls to this SIM. So your folks in India can dial a local number to reach you. The negatives are that this is more expensive (per call charges as well as initial SIM card charges) than other alternatives (although less expensive than normal roaming). Also, you will need to have an Airtel connection before you can opt for this service. Since it is a single SIM that works everywhere, you get just one number (a UK number). That is probably good if you are traveling to UK but may not be a good option if you are traveling elsewhere. No GPRS/data services.
  3. Reliance Passport World SIM: This is the cheapest option. Like Airtel, you get one global SIM that works everywhere. But you can’t forward calls from your India number. This also gives you one UK number and so the same issue that applies to Airtel applies here as well. Another big disadvantage is that it works on call back mechanism – which means when you dial a number, the service connects that number, calls you back and bridges you. Not sure if that’s convenient! Even though the web site says they provide data services (GPRS), they don’t.
  4. You could of course stick with standard roaming facilities provided by your cell phone provider. That’s possibly the most convenient option if you are okay to pay that much.
  5. Finally, you could buy Skype credit and use that or buy a SIM card locally.

So what’s been your experience with these? Is there anything else that i’ve missed out?

Mobile Navigation Options in India

Best part about driving on chaotic roads of Delhi (and India) is that you will never get lost. Okay you will – but there are so many people out there that you can always stop anywhere and ask for directions. But if like me, you don’t like stopping every 100 meters to ask an auto driver for directions, you  have quite a few options now as the GPS navigation scene has improved quite a bit.

I’ve been using many such options for a while and here’s a summary. If you get lost or are traveling to India, this would be of use.

Google Maps: I’ve used it the most, primarily because till recently, it was the only free option available. The directions are quite accurate although the routes are not always the best (or the shortest) ones. But then who cares as long as you get to your destination? The search is obviously the strongest aspect of Google Maps and it is usually able to search whatever destination i try to find. On my blackberry, it would show my location within 3 meters but on a Nokia handset, it can only show the location within 20 meters. I am not sure if that is a handset issue or something else. 20 meters is also not too bad unless you are on a round about with six exits! There are some other problem as well. If you take a route which is different from what Google shows, it won’t recalculate. So you’ll need to manually do it. Also,  there are no voice  prompts to guide you. Google Maps also integrate with some other google apps like Buzz.

Nokia (Ovi) Maps: Nokia has changed the game by making navigation free (for Nokia handsets). The maps are good and voice navigation is quite helpful. You can even chose to have the voice in Hindi. The problem is that half the time, you’d be unable to search the destination. If you can’t find the destination, you can’t obviously get driving directions. I wish it was possible to search in Google and use Nokia Maps for directions. Maybe it is possible but i’ve not been able to explore that. The other problem is that the directions are sometimes “technically correct” but “impractical” – like it  asks me to turn right when there’s no way you can do that on a flyover. The reason it shows that is that there is a road below the flyover which goes to your right! They don’t support all the handsets and getting maps to work on your handset is like black art – just like Nokia messaging.  The good thing though is that you can transfer maps to your mobile via your computer and so it can be light on your data costs. The other advantage is that if you take a different route, it automatically recalculates  directions from your new location.

SatGuide is another option. The website mentions FREE license for Nokia but i’ve not been able to figure out how to get that. My emails did not get any response from them.

In the past, i’ve also tried mapmyindia. It was pretty good in terms of accuracy and search results but then it’s not free. I actually found it to be much more accurate than others.

Here’s a list of GPS maps (thanks Lokesh) but i’m not sure if they have the ability to show you driving directions as well.

Have you used any of these or something else? what’s been your experience?