Indian government has recently decided to provide free, pre-activated SIM cards to tourists on arrival in the country. According to the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), foreigners with e-visas landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi will be provided with a SIM card from state-run telecom operator, BSNL. Initially, they will be available at the New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport, before being rolled out to 15 other major airports around the country. The cards will reportedly be loaded with 50MB of data, also additional credit for phone calls; also they’re available to tourists from around 160 countries that come to India on an e-visa.
According to the government, the move will also promote hassle-free travel, and will provide guaranteed safety to the tourists. According to the India’s tourism minister, Dr Mahesh Sharma, he got the idea when he was given a similar card while visiting Sri Lanka. “The initiative will help the tourists to immediately communicate with their relatives at home, hotels, tour operators and so on. I got this idea when I had got a similar card when I had visited Sri Lanka”, tourism minister Dr. Mahesh Sharma was quoted as saying. The minister further said the facility will provide ease to the tourists who have to spend about two hours to get their SIM cards activated after they land in India.
Getting a SIM card has been a pain point for foreigners who have been until now required to go through a fairly lengthy procedure for that. A range of documents including a proof of identity, a photocopy of passport with valid visa stamp, proof of address along with the address of local reference, and photographs among other details were previously required at the time of applying for a new mobile connection, which took days to get activated.
As per the new facility, the tourists will now have to show their passport and a copy of their e-visa to get their hands on one of the new SIM cards. The initiative will also help foreigners access a 24-hour government helpline with information available in 12 different languages including Russian, German and Japanese. The Indian government offers e-visa facility to over 150 countries, giving those people an option to apply for the visa only four days ahead of their arrival in the nation.
The Union Minister had announced his intentions to introduce this program last year. The move could also help the country attract more tourists. According to the National Council for Applied Economic Research, India was the 38th most visited place in 2014 and tourism contributed as much as 6.77 percent to the country’s total GDP in 2014.