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Phones, staying in touch and SIM cards in India

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I'm planning for our upcoming third long trip to India and saw the new info quoted below in another thread.

From wanderlust 86--"I could text US numbers for free and had data so could text Indian numbers through whatsapp/viber for free. I could make calls to US numbers for free over WiFi and Indian numbers for 20 cents a min. Data was free. I was initially going to get a SIM card as well, but when I called T-Mobile and they gave me the above info, I opted not too."

From lcuy--"T-Mobile's plan includes free texting and internet in most countries. Phone calls that you make locally or to most countries are 20 cents per minute. When people call or text you from your home country, there is no charge to them.

If I think someone in that country will need to contact me, I tell them to email.

It's very nice, especially if you'll be covering several places that would need different SIM cards."

From crosscheck--"No matter what service you have, Whatsapp (which works on wifi) has taken over the world, especially Asia, Europe and Latin America. If you rely on texting, the way you'll probably communicate with your guides, there is really no need for a local SIM. Whatsapp is free the first year, and $1 after that. Viber and Facetime, also free if you're in a wifi area, remain popular for voice calls (this allows you to keep your US number - if you don't have an intl data plan, just turn off your roaming).

India has the most users of Whatsapp in the world - 70 million a year. <In India...people are picking the best software — the ad-free, easy to use, well-designed WhatsApp.>"

Thought I'd add my own experiences on past trips with phones, internet access and staying in touch.

Our first trip was three years ago and the second just last year. On both we purchased SIM cards in Delhi and moved between states--UttarKharand, Rajasthan, Madhaya Pradesh.

We have unlocked Android phones. On our first trip we got a SIM card. They are cheap to get, but due to security issues, they are a bit of a hassle and time consuming to get. You need a passport size photo to get one, and allow at least a half an hour to do all of the paperwork and get the verification. On that trip we had our driver in Delhi just take us to a phone shop. On that trip we also discovered that there was not readily accessible Wi-Fi in quite a few places so we wanted to have that capability and kept switching the SIM card between our phone and our small travel computer (after we went to a computer store to purchase a dongle).

That was a pain. So, on trip two we just bought two SIM cards, one for the computer and one for the phone. We were staying at a B&B in Delhi for our first day and asked the owner to direct us where we could find a shop. We walked around and found a shop (after being mis-directed several times) and did it on our own.

I have heard some people say that your travel agent can get a SIM card for you, so you could ask your agent about this if you are planning on this option.

One more thing: if you do get a SIM card, make sure to tell them you want a plan that will work throughout India. We had difficulty with the phone transitioning between the different states, and we had told them to make sure the plan would work anywhere. We ended up calling the Delhi center quite a few times to get this straightened out.

And, two final thoughts: As one whose professional area of expertise is English and the non-native speaker, I'd be leery of assuming that a driver would know enough written English to text info back and forth.

We are going to southern India on our upcoming trip, and I have read over and over again that the only service that works in some of the more remote areas is BSNL.

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