Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hello, Vietnam... Hello? Can you hear me now?

So you are coming to Vietnam on vacation/business and would like to make local calls but aren't sure how to get started?  Never fear, I'll go ahead and walk you through all the information you need to start calling up your friends, family, or business contacts.  It's actually quite easy.

This article assumes you know what the difference between CDMA and GSM cellphones are.  So I won't go into detail regarding that.  If you don't know the difference then read this first. Now that we got that out of the way here are the details:

  • Vietnam uses the GSM cellphone technology in the 900 and 1800 bands.
  • There are 3 major service providers in Vietnam; MobiFone, Vinaphone and Viettel.
  • There are other service providers such as S-Fone, Vietnamobile.
  • 3G/2G service is widely available from the 3 major providers.

    If you are bringing a phone from abroad into Vietnam make sure it's unlocked and supports the proper GSM bands 900/1800.  Also, most people over look this, Vietnam uses a 220v as it's standard outlet.  So make sure your cellphone charger can accept 220v.  Seeing as how most people now use smart phones and most smart phones charge using a USB cable you shouldn't have a problem if you use your computer to recharge your phone.  If you are not however just keep that in mind.  You wouldn't want to fry or damage your phone/charger.

    NOTE:  The following has been my experience using Viettel Mobile and may not apply to all carriers.  The information here should be similar for other carriers but is not implied.

    In order to start using your cellphone in VN you must first buy a SIM card from your network of choice.  You can simply walk into their respective store front and ask to buy a SIM card.  The staff may or may not know English but it's becoming more common that they do know English.  The staff member will then allow you to choose a cellphone number.  The Vietnamese actually charge a premium for numbers that are "pretty", "nice" or "lucky".  These are numbers that are in successive or almost successive order, 12356789, 01335689, 11144478 would be considered nice.  I didn't really care about that especially considering the premium over the "ugly" numbers.  Expect to pay anywhere from 50K-200K or more depending on the number you choose.

    After you pop in the SIM card you will be automatically given credit to your account.  You can use that credit to talk.  Once your account goes dry it's time to recharge (to find out what your account balance is dial *101# then the talk button, this is true for Viettel not sure if it will apply to other carriers).  Most Vietnamese use prepaid services so if you would like to add more credit to your account you must buy a recharge card.  A recharge card can be bought almost anywhere.  A hole in the wall restaurant, sidewalk vendors, grocery stores are all places where you can buy a recharge card, however, if you wanna play it safe then go to your respective service providers retail store.  Fake cards are not that common but you should be aware of their existence.

    The following process is required to add new credit to your account using a recharge card.  This process was done using a Viettel recharge card but the process should be similar for other carriers.

    1. Scratch off the back side of the card.
    2. Dial *100*card number#  Where "card number" is the number on the card you scratched off.  So if your card number is 123456789 then you would dial *100*123456789#
    3. After punching in your card number press TALK or OK on your phone.
    You are given 5 tries to enter the correct number when recharging your account.  If after 5 tries the SIM will lock and you will have to give customer service a call.  You can check your account balance to make sure that the credit was applied to your account by dialing *101# and then TALK or OK on your phone.

    Cellphone service providers are always having deals and promotions.  If you do happen to take advantage of a promotion you can check your promotional balance by dialing *102# and then TALK or OK on your phone.

    I hope you found this article useful.  If you have any other questions or comments please let me know.  I'll be going over how to activate 3G service on Viettel Mobile in the next couple days.

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