Roaming in Sri Lanka

Yup, Samsung is everywhere

For anyone who will ever visit Sri Lanka (and you totally should) here’s a quick guide to getting mobile service there. Although carriers in both Canada and USA offer “roam like home” packages—where you access your plan’s data bucket anywhere in the world for an additional daily fee—it’s often cheaper to get a local SIM when you arrive. Case in point: for the equivalent of about $9 USD each my girlfriend and I were able to get 4GB of data (plus an extra 5 GB of “overnight” data) that lasted through the entirety of our 10 days on the island.

This special tourist package is available through Sri Lanka’s number one mobile carrier, Dialog. Getting set up was easy but not an experience that I would call pleasant. There’s a Dialog shop right in the Arrivals Hall of Bandaranaike International Airport that’s open 24 hours—perfect for us as our inbound flight from Hong Kong didn’t land until close to midnight. They only accept cash but fortunately for us there was a currency exchange in the same Arrivals Hall that was also open.

After taking our money the Dialog rep robotically set up the SIM on one of our phones and then left it there on the counter without telling me it was ready; he didn’t even bother with the second phone. I eventually got the hint and set up the second SIM myself, using the settings from the first one. In so doing I noticed that the home SIM on my first phone—a dual-SIM OnePlus 3—was disabled for absolutely no reason. Thanks, jerk…

I did speed tests all over the island (when I remembered to) and not once did I ever see a 4G signal while I was there. That in itself wasn’t a problem, but the sometimes spotty coverage took a huge hit on our phone batteries, as they desperately hunted for a signal to lock on to. To keep my phone juiced up for the next photo opp I got into the habit of keeping it in airplane mode until I actually needed data for something.

In other words, Sri Lanka might not be the best holiday destination for the obsessed Instagrammer or YouTube Livestreamer but it’s definitely worth visiting for its Cultural triangle, friendly people and amazing food!

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