I am so excited to share this post and it’s been a long time coming. My readers have been using these Trabug phones during their travels in India and the feedback has been awesome. I wanted to walk you through ordering and using a Trabug phone, information about travel SIM cards in India, how Trabug works, explain what it is, how much it costs, which plan suits you, why it’s a good deal, and why a Trabug phone is a perfect tool for travelers in India.
How Trabug Works: A Phone for Travelers in India & an easier way to get a travel sim card in India
What is the Trabug Phone?
When you travel in India it’s imperative to have good internet. Five years ago, I traveled without it but things have changed and now you can use Uber in India, book great hotels online, and find awesome places to eat travel blogs like mine! These days, I can’t imagine traveling without internet, especially in India. It makes things SO much easier and in the end saves you money.
The Trabug is a smart phone which you buy for a set trime frame. It is delivered to your hotel before you arrive and is picked up from wherever you want, before you leave. They offer that service for free. The phone has a local SIM card inside which means you have internet, calls, and SMS while you travel India from the moment you arrive – no visiting shops, buying a SIM, and worrying about recharging it.
There are a few things you need to have in order to have internet while you travel in India (if you don’t get a Trabug) which I’ll detail below:
- An Unlocked Smart Phone
- A Local SIM Card
- Proper Paperwork
An unlocked phone means it’s a phone that is not stuck with one provider (like in the USA: Verizon) and has a SIM card slot that you can take out your SIM and use any other SIM cards. Sometimes you can pay a fee to get your phone “unlocked” by your provider or you might have a plan that already is.
What I used to recommend if your phone was not unlocked, was to buy a cheap unlocked smartphone ($50-100) then you can get a SIM card – but now, I recommend a Trabug phone as it’s easier and way cheaper.
Next, I’ll explain how to get a SIM and the paperwork.
First off, you might want to check out my article on how to get a SIM card in India. It walks you through the whole process which is not easy. I get so many emails from people who tried to get their SIM cards but after two weeks or a month, their number was shut off. You need to have the passport and visa copies, a 2×2 color photo, local address (hotel), and go fill out a form when you by the SIM card. You can do this at any phone shop and choose the provider you want (Idea, Vodafone, Airtel, Aircel). As a foreigner, you cannot get Jio.
As you travel, you can add recharge (top-ups) at these same types of shops.
The problem I faced and others is that because we don’t stay at an address long, when they try to verify your information after a couple weeks, the card can get cut off. You can go to the main office of the provider you chose, but as a foreigner, they probably won’t be able to turn your SIM back on. Then you have to buy a new one and start over.
They were giving out SIM cards at the airport but only for a month duration and I’ve been told by many poeple they didn’t have them on offer when they arrived.
If you have an unlocked phone, then you can come to India and then get a SIM here, do the paperwork the best you can, and hope it stays on or you can try Trabug. If you don’t have an unlocked phone, a Trabug is 100% your best option rather than buying a cheap unlocked smartphone. I’ll explain prices further down.
How Does Trabug Work?
You buy the Trabug phone online. It is a smartphone with all the apps you might want, guides (video, text, and audio) for cities and monuments, and information for travelers in India. It has a local SIM inside. They deliver it to your hotel before you arrive and it works right away. You leave it at your last hotel/hostel and they will pick it up. Delivery and pick-up are free. If you want more apps, ask them ahead of time, and they will add them.
It has a lot of unique features and defeats the purpose of carrying a Lonely Planet around with you or buying audio guides at the Taj Mahal or the City Palace in Udaipur. You don’t have to go to shops and can recharge directly on the phone.
How Much Does Trabug Cost?
You can see all the plan details above. Previously, Trabug had plans like “eco”, “hero”, and “power” however now they have an easier, cheaper pricing scheme (yay!). In fact, before it was more expensive and I still thought it was the best deal – so now, it’s even better and I really tell all my friends who visit to get this phone rather than go through the hassle of a SIM card.
Now, the plans are simple: you either get the travel phone or the travel hotspot, then you choose mega or ultra. The phone is what I’ve been talking about and it does hotspot up to 5 devices as well. The price is $3.99 per day so you’re looking at the following prices:
- $27.93 for one week
- $55.86 for two weeks
- $119 for one month
- $239 for two months
There is a $9.99 fee for delivery and pick-up which is waived (free) if you spend over $50.
If you compare these prices to the other devices I’ve reviewed (TEP, Roaming Man, SkyRoam) these are 1/10 of the price. Most travel phones and hotspots charge upwards of $10 USD per day and they won’t even work well in India. This phone has an Indian SIM in it and will work perfectly.
The plan includes being able to hotspot to 5 devices (your friends, or a computer), 1.2 GB of 4G data per day (which is well enough), 120 minutes of calls in India each day, 5 texts/SMS’s each day, plus all incoming calls and texts are free.
I don’t see any reason you’d want the hotspot instead unless you are getting both because you work online and want more GB’s every day. Since the travel phone can let you hotspot is is just a touch more expensive (.50 cents per day) I would get this as the MAIN reason of having this phone is being able to make calls to guesthouses, hotels, drivers, etc in India.
If you’re thinking “I can just use Skype to make calls”, you cannot. Calling Indian numbers are blocked on Skype! How crazy is that? You need an Indian phone number.
Plus, this phone comes with built-in audio and video guides (offline) that you can watch and read about during train and bus rides to the next destination or monument tours you can take while at specific places.
With 1.2 GB a day you can browse Instagram and be online all day, but you’d likely be able to watch only 1 30 minute show on Netflix before you ran out of data. If you want more data, you can upgrade when you buy from the standard “mega” plan pictured above to the “ultra” plan which is 4.99 per day ($1 more) and has 2.5 GB per day, 250 minutes calling per day, and 10 SMS per day.
Click here to order and see the pricing plan options for your travel dates. It is more expensive than if you had a local SIM card but when I think of the USD amount, to me it’s worth it. You’ll have to weigh out your pro’s and con’s to see if you want it.
Who is the Trabug Phone Good for?
- The obvious choice for people who do not have an unlocked phone because with data it’s cheaper than buying an unlocked phone (at least $50), buying a SIM, and adding data.
- People who want the phone immediately. SIM’s take hours or a couple of days to activate. It’s random!
- People who don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a SIM card. This shows up ready to use at your hotel before you do and is picked up when you leave for free. A SIM card is going to be cheaper than this; so this is for people who don’t want to hassle or are stressed about traveling in India.
- People who want to have an Indian phone number while they are here and not just be on WiFi.
- People who have wiggle room in their budget. You’re looking at $119 for a month of calls and internet while you are here with a phone that shows up at your hotel when you arrive.
- If you are traveling with a friend or multiple friends. You can “hotspot” this WiFi to up to 5 devices, so if you are traveling with a friend you can cut that $119 in half, $60 each.
- People coming for just a week or two because it’s not really worth the hassle to get a SIM for that short of time & that would cost just $27 for one week. That’s not much in the grand scheme of things.
Ordering & Payment Information for the Trabug Phone
I’m going to go through all the steps from start to finish for ordering and using your phone.
First, go to the Trabug website.
Click on plans and pricing, choose your plan and click “check dates”. Now, fill in a little information like how many phones you want, your email, your plan choice, and your dates. You’ll then click check availability. Your total price will come up, as well as a refundable security deposit of $65 in case you don’t return the phone. You’ll just click “accept terms and confirm”.
Once you order your phone, the emails will start rolling in. You’ll get about 5!
The first one saying thanks for ordering and that a PayPal invoice will follow. You will get the PayPal invoice and pay them either by your PayPal account or bank card. For India, this is pretty advanced!
Next, you’ll get another asking for your free drop-off and pick-up address. You can change this up to 48 hours before going and change the drop-off address as well or not put one if you don’t know where you’ll be.
The next email will be a request for your personal information to activate the SIM. They need this because it’s the law in India to have any real SIM card.
The last email has your tracking information and your Indian phone number! You are now legit!
The phone comes with a plug (Indian of course), an addressed bag to put it in when you leave, and a little one page (front and back) manual to set it up.
Using Trabug and Special Features of the Trabug Phone
The phone has a paper inside telling you what the buttons do and how to turn it on.
The phone has a password, which is your birthday (date then month – the way it’s written in India). The first time that you turn on the phone, you’ll have to confirm it is you by entering your passport number.
I immediately got a notification that I was on Idea 4G. I sent a test SMS and phone call to my actual Indian cell and it worked perfectly. The internet also loaded fine straight away. When you use a cell phone in India, you will get an alert after every call/SMS that says how much credit you used.
The first page has restaurants, shopping, and sites. These photos I guess are quite small but you can open them in a new tab to see them larger. I’m going to tell you with words, though, what each part of the phone has because it’s really cool.
On your homepage you have your phone number, location, temperature, and a search bar. The contacts in the phone are for both support and Trabug support so you can call them directly.
The middle part is a slider with a lot of options: Explore, Service, Hotspot, Stay Safe, Recharge, and Support
At the bottom, you have calls, text, apps, browser, and camera. Apps installed are listed below. You can ask them to add any other apps you use ahead of time.
- Calculator, Clock, Radio, Photos
- Google Plus, Translate, & Hangouts
- Facebook Messenger
- IRCTC (booking Indian trains)
I’m going to go into the slider options, because they are the coolest part: Explore, Service, Hotspot, Stay Safe, Recharge, and Support
There are three things under this page: Restaurants, Shopping, and Sites. Since your phone GPS knows were you are, you can sort by closest or top ranked and see what cool around you. I searched around for Goa and it’s pretty accurate with noting top places. It uses it’s own technology for this, not Google or TripAdvisor. You can also ask them to add TripAdvisor if you would rather look on there.
Audio tours, change currency, and get a taxi are the three options under the Service page. The currency exchange is something you can order it, but I recommend just using ATM’s and taking out local currency – but it is good to use as a current currency exchange calculator. The tax goes to OLA which is like a local Uber (Uber is also on the phone).
The audio tours are really cool, though! You can get overall intro’s to states and cities, or detailed guides to monuments, forts, and palaces all over India. It’s a great addition and a big selling point of the phone.
You can turn your phone into a WiFi hotspot here or in the settings. You then can have your friends use your WiFI, other travelers you meet, or you can use the WiFi from your laptop. There is a password in here so other people cannot mooch it.
Hospital, embassy, and police are under this page. You will have their contact information and location on Google maps so you can make a call in the case of an emergency or visit the embassy if you need to.
This is an option to add extra data and calling/text to your phone as you go in case you are going to go over your limits. You can add the recharge here for your convenience or you can go to a shop (paying cash) and add to your SIM card by telling the shopkeeper your number and the amount you want to add.
Guide, contact, and checkout are on the support page. Here you can get in touch with the Trabug team, and set up the pick up location for where they should get the phone when you leave town. You can update that all through the app.
Overall Opinion and Review of the Trabug Phone
I think this phone is a fantastic option for travelers coming to India. Particularly for solo travelers who have anxiety about not being connected when they first arrive or don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a phone. While the price for this is higher than getting a SIM here, it reduces your hassle to the point where I think it’s pretty easy money to spend for that off your to-do list. If you are traveling with a friend and can split the cost, it’s even better. I think the 1 GB plan is ideal for people who use an average amount of internet each day, like checking Instagram, uploading some images to Facebook, and scrolling the web for travel tips.
Click here to read more on their website.
This post is not sponsored/paid for by the brand, but I am an affiliate of theirs and If you buy a Trabug phone, I will get a small percentage of the sale. I only recommend products I love on Hippie in Heels and think this is genius for travel here.
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Yep! I like the sound of this. Can you use it in any part of India? If you can, when it’s closer to the time, I’ll probably opt for 3 trabug phones so I’ll be keeping your post to refer back to it in the summer!
p.s. Did I say that I was coming to India again, but only to the North. No time for the South. Besides, we’re in India during the height of monsoon…!
Perfect! You might not need all 3 unless you want your own device because you can “hotspot” and share – but then the battery will die a lot faster. But yes any part of India it works! :) It’s really cool, the girl who runs in Sunali came up with the idea herself and told me about it on the phone one day – I was like I have to try it because SIM’s are such a pain in the butt here! Definitely bookmark this post for later :) be sure prices haven’t changed on their website
Great news! Oh, I would definitely need all 3 individual devices as my husband and teen would all need one each as we all have Ipads, Kindles, smart phone, etc, and I will also be taking my laptop! I’ve heard that SIM’s are notorious to get and since we’ll be travelling independently, but more upmarket, this phone would be invaluable for calling our hotels, restaurants, planning, local areas, etc. And besides, I usually organise all the big travel stuff, so my husband would love the planning on the ground!
Yes, that sounds like this phone would be perfect for you guys. The thing is it is expensive compared to Indian local SIM’s if you think in Rupees but in USD it’s really not bad at all and is cheaper than any WiFi hotspot I’ve ever seen which are like $10 / day.
I used your affiliate link to order 3 Trabug phones as we have a lot of devices and a teenager…
I thought for the reliability of having fast wifi wherever we go, it’s certainly worth it! :D
Aw thank you!! I hope you love it – I remember when we talked about this and considered just getting one and hotspotting and you were like not with a teenager! lol
p.s. Always a pleasure!
HI! I can’t even describe how invaluable your posts have been for me planning my trip to India next week! Was looking in to this phone and wondering if it would work in the middle of nowhere in Punjab (Phagwara?) where I am going to visit family. You may not know, but I would hate to spend 65$ and it not work through half my trip. Any idea?
Kaitlyn, it should work everywhere in India – you can just tell them where you’ll be and they can get you the proper connection of what local SIM people there use :) just mention it in your emails with them when you tell them where to send it.
Great article. Thank you. I am going in one week’s time and hope I have enough time to go thru all these steps!!! I will be using my phone and an ipad for a bit of research. Cannot fathom if I need the wi fi hotspot as well. Hope you are having a great time in Mexico.
This may seem silly, but is there an option to turn off the data and just use the available WIFI through a second party wherever I may be? i.e. Hotel, cafe, etc free wifi.
On your own phone you mean? yes you can – there is a big lack of wifi though that works!
Hi Rachel, have you used this product personally? I made a payment to Trabug a month ago to order a phone and have received no correspondence from them since despite a sending them several emails – I’m quite concerned this is a money scam. Just wanted to check what your experience using this product has been? Thanks!
Yes, have used them personally (that’s what this blog post is about) and so have hundreds of Hippie in Heels readers. If they aren’t replying perhaps your emails are going to their spam as that would be very unlike them. Try from another email address or reach out via their many social media channels.
We’ve applied for a traditional visa (sticker in passport). I’m on their website and it only says e-visas. Any ideas on how else we can access a hot spot for our month long trip?
Hello – thank you for the article. You mention that the phone is only $0.50 per day more expensive than the wifi hot spot, however the phone can also be used to hot spot up to 5 devices. However the price difference seems to be actually $1.50 per day ($3.99 per day vs. $2.49 per day), which can easily add up depending on the number of days one is traveling.
Can the wifi hot spot be used in conjunction with your U.S. phone to send and receive calls and tests through apps like WhatsApp and Skype? Wouldn’t this be cheaper and allow you to use your current phone in India?
Hippie in Heels – I LOVE your blog, but I have to disagree with your review of Trabug – and WARN other customers before they get ripped off! Maybe it’s changed over time, because they are more expensive than your review shows, and the service was horrible.
I would highly recommend avoiding Trabug at all costs — while it offers convenience and peace of mind on the surface, it’s ridiculously expensive and I found it to be totally unreliable during my trip to Delhi and other parts of India. Most of the time it would show “NO SERVICE” and I spent hours emailing and calling the company for support. They claimed service was poor because I had maxed out my daily usage (which is totally impossible since I rarely had service to even use the phone!) I was barely using the phone (I relied on WiFi in my hotel) and they claim I went beyond 2GB in a day, which is unreal! – I believe they are fraudulently calculating usage to support poor service and overcharge people.
I ended up getting a local Idea SIM card for a few hundred rupees (it was not as difficult as I expected it would be to purchase from a local vendor in Goa) and it worked perfectly the rest of my trip.
Despite spending hours calling and emailing in an effort to secure at least a partial refund (I felt that 50-60% of the total cost would be a fair refund, given the extraordinary markup and highly profitable business model they are running), Trabug offered zero refund for the lack of service. While they appear to be legit on the surface, they are just another Indian company that’s out for money and their bottom line with no regard for customer satisfaction.
I like this blog, I really do, it’s very helpful. However I don’t understand the recommendation of Trabug. Because of this post I rented a phone at this company and this is what happened.
We had a medical emergency on our trip (me and my girlfriend). It was so critical the emergency team of our insurance got us back home on a plane as soon as possible, (plus they paid back all of our costs after it, I’m talking about a real health issue here). However since we rented the phone we couldn’t deliver it at the right place and the right time (we were leaving India two weeks in advance). However for our final night the insurance had arranged a hotel for us in New Delhi. I let Trabug know of the new adress, and when we’d be leaving. However, when I tried to leave the phone at the hotel the next morning, they didn’t want to accept it. They told me they had never heard of the company, and they did not accept electronic devices. This was a huge, famous and fancy hotel by the way.
I tried to contact Trabug to mention this, and ask what to do next. They did not answer the phone. This was around 10am in the morning by the way. Not knowing what to do I took the phone with me back home to Europe, since we had a plane to catch, and I couldn’t waste much time waiting for them to reply (they did not reply the whole time I was waiting at the airport by the way).
Yes when I finally landed back in Europe, they had called me at some point. Through mail I explained how the hotel didn’t want to accept the phone, and how I had to bring it home, and would send it to them by postal mail. Their communication had been poor the whole time by the way. First of all, they did not seem concerned about our health status. Second of all, they were angry I took the phone home. What else was I supposed to do though? Why didn’t they reply an call at 10am? Also they said to me that the hotel I was at in New Delhi was ‘well familiar’ with their company. (they really were not though.)
And if that isn’t enough, the phone was eventually stopped at the douane of India. I mail Trabug trying to fix this, but they no longer reply. So in other words, they just decided they want the 100 euro deposit fee, rather than the phone.
Next time I’m just going through the trouble to get a SIM card. I’ll never use this company again. The phone is definitely not worth the rental price either (I didn’t have 4G a lot of times, and it’s a pretty old phone when it comes to smartphone standards).
As a Newbie, I am constantly searching online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you