Free SIM Cards for Foreign Tourists on e-visa by Indian Government
The New Year brings good news for foreign travelers in India. Visitors arriving on e-tourist visa in India are to be presented with a free SIM card as a part of a welcome kit. Foreign travelers in India on arrival in the country will be issued pre-loaded SIM cards with talk time and data at 12 major airports of the country.
Travelers arriving in India on an e-tourist visa, that is available to residents of 161 countries, will be automatically be issued a SIM card, along with a welcome packet that includes a “dos and don’ts” list, maps, and emergency contact information. The ready-to-call SIM cards will be available at international airports in Panjim, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Lucknow, Delhi and Varanasi to start with. The scheme plans to cover all major airports in India in coming time.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has formally launched the scheme. The Ministry of Home Affairs will issue the SIM cards through BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited), the state-owned telecommunications company that is also the sixth-largest mobile service provider in the country. The SIM card on activation will be valid for 30 days. The talk time and data are available for use in India. For international calling you require your own SIM of your home country.
“Foreign tourists face problems while procuring a Sim card, making them dependent on telephone booths. The cards can be recharged as and when required and will be functional from the moment they step out of the airport.” Tourism Secretary Vinod Zutshi said.
Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma proposed the project on the World Tourism Day on 27 September. The service started from the 26th December 2016. The move is aimed at projecting India as a global tourist destination among foreign travelers as well as addressing the security concerns by equipping the tourists with mobile phones to make calls in case of any distress, an official said.
Sources said that after a detailed inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from Tourism, Home, Telecom and Finance Ministries, the idea was given go ahead. This new initiative will boost tourism on the international level.
An official of Ministry of Home affairs stated, “There were some security concerns but after consultations we have taken the required the steps and decided to implement the programme. Mandatory checks have already been done with the documentation required for e-visas.” Under the e-tourist visa scheme, an applicant receives an email authorizing him or her to travel to India and he or she can travel with a print-out of this authorization. On arrival, the visitor has to present the letter to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country. The e-visa facility covers 161 countries under this facility.