My fiancee and I are at month #3 of our travels around South East Asia, and like I did with Australia and New Zealand, I’d like to tell you about my experience traveling with my iPhone in Bali, Indonesia.

Ignorance Will Kill Me

When I first arrived in Bali about 3 weeks ago, I didn’t have much hope to get my iPhone hooked up to a local carrier. Sure my iPhone is jailbroken and unlocked but I thought that Bali would never be able to provide me with what I really wanted: 3G.

I was way too judgemental and didn’t deem necessary looking into a pay-as-you-go plan. I simply assumed that Indonesia didn’t have 3G. How stupid was I!

Then one day I met with the owners of the hotel we were staying at (Villa Bintang in Nusa Dua). It all started with me being curious about their computer set up. After exchanging a few words, I realized that they were French, so we kept chatting in French.

It turned out that Bamboo (the wife) owned an iPhone and couldn’t figure out a few things with it. I told her that I knew my way around an iPhone and in 2 minutes, all her iPhone issues were just gone. I asked her if Indonesia had the iPhone and she said that they don’t, but she had bought hers in France on her last trip back home. She also confessed that she had paid about $30 to unlock it.

So I asked her what service she used and she told me to get XL, one of the many carriers available in Indo. She advised that I’d go get a SIM card in one of these little shops across the street from the hotel.

Getting Hooked Up With 3G and Talk Time

I first went to the shop by myself and I asked the woman about a SIM card and Internet for my phone. She said she could give me a SIM card and talk time, but to get Internet on my iPhone, I would have to go to the company’s headquarter in Denpasar, 30 minutes away. That sounded kinda strange so I asked her again and she confirmed that I needed to “activate” the Internet plan in Denpasar.

I didn’t buy anything and I went back to the hotel to ask Bamboo about this. She explained me that these little stores don’t want to deal with Internet for some reasons I didn’t really understand. But she said that she would walk me through it.

Bamboo then came with me and helped me set up my plan. It just took a few seconds. We walked in the shop (note that there are literally hundreds of these in Bali), I paid about $2.5 for a SIM card and an additional $30 for 3 million pulsas (units).

After doing a quick manipulation on the phone – dialing *123# – and selecting an Internet package, I was all good to go. These 3 million units I bought for $30 actually got me 1.5GB of data.

I was surprised how quick it was. At no time I was asked for an ID or anything. It took about 2 minutes from the time we got in to the time we left, and this included me practicing my “thank you” in Balinese…

I was also suprised by the massive amount of data I had for about $30. 1.5GB is huge! That sure was a change from Australia where every MB costs you a fortune.

The Downside

Getting a SIM card and 3G in Bali sure is easy but I have to admit it’s not as reliable as I would hope. 3G here is pretty slow and I noticed that it just disconnects every few minutes.

I tried tethering my iPhone over 3G on a few occasions but it just didn’t do it. It would work for 2 minutes, then lose connection, then come back for a minute, then break up again, etc… I don’t have the patience for this and when I really want to be productive, I don’t mind paying $1 or $2/hour to access the web in an Internet Cafe (they are everywhere).

Conclusion

All in all, getting a SIM card in Bali was probably the most pleasant experience I had dealing with getting a phone plan. It was fast and cheap. Even though the network is not very reliable and makes me miss AT&T, I am still glad I got my iPhone hooked up with a local carrier. I can now tweet, check emails and read the news from almost anywhere on the island, which to me is priceless. After my lovely fiancee, my iPhone really is my best travel companion!

If you have experiences traveling with your iPhone, please share them in the comments. I always enjoy reading your stories.

  • Rusadi

    Hi Sebastien, nice to have you here in Indonesia. I guess you are using Pro XL SIM CARD. Use Telkomsel instead. It’s easy and fast, at least here in Jakarta. Just buy the sim card at local phone shop and top up like $ 20 and dial *100# and then pick no. 3 at your screen (3.Data Mania) and then choose No. 2 (Big Deno) and then choose your data plan. It is around $40 for 1,5 gb but the Telkomsel has more reliable network.
    Maybe its like comparing between AT&T and Verizon in US. How long will you stay there? I might went to Bali next week for work.

  • @Rusadi Rhank you for your comment. I’m actually out of Bali now. I’m currently in Thailand for about a month. We might go back to Indo in 2-3 months though, depending on our schedule.
    Sebastien

  • Jin

    If you have a chance try to stop by Vietnam,,,it almost Chinese/Vietnamese New Year, and there will be alot of fun…

  • Jin,

    We are definitely going to Vietnam. Do you live there? If so, what service should I get for my iPhone? Do you guys have 3G. I’m currently in Thailand and they only have Edge (no 3G) but it’s very fast.

    Anyways, my fiancée and I are really looking forward to our trip to Vietnam (and Laos Cambodia).

    Sebastien

  • Colten

    Hey sebastien, I really enjoy reading your stories about your traveling in the foreign countrys, I am very jealous. Lol! I wish I could afford a nice trip over to Europe but stupid college. You should one day when you get back to the states write a story how you and your wife met and everything. It’s all interesting to learn about someone elses life.

  • Colten

    Oh hey sebastien I have another question about tethering. Does it matter what website u go to download the mobile carriers? I went to http://m.peacefulinsanity.com/Tether.mobileconfigand it worked, it let me download the profile although it is not in network, it’s in general at the bottom. But when I went to http://www.benm.at/help/help.php and selected USA and AT&T it said profile unavailable or something like that. So does it Metternich where I go and will the first website work fine or should I wait for the second one work correctly.
    Btw if it helps I have iPhone 3Gs 3.1.2 FW and JB with newest redsn0w

  • Anton

    how long were u in bali?? its like the best island in the world =P did u do lot of shopping, the price there is so cheap especially when its near chinese new year (SALE!) where else are u gonenr go (after viet,laos,cambodia)

  • Colten

    Oh hey sebastien I have another question about tethering. Does it matter what website u go to download the mobile carriers? I went to “http://m.peacefulinsanity.com/Tether.mobileconfig” and it worked, it let me download the profile although it is not in network, it’s in general at the bottom. But when I went to “http://www.benm.at/help/help.php” and selected USA and AT&T it said profile unavailable or something like that. So does it Metternich where I go and will the first website work fine or should I wait for the second one work correctly.
    Btw if it helps I have iPhone 3Gs 3.1.2 FW and JB with newest redsn0w

  • @Colten Thank you for your comment. If the first mobileconfig file you downloaded works, there is no reason to download another one. Try it and see how it goes.

    @Anton We were in Bali for one month. We liked it a lot and we might even go back there is a few months. After all these countries, we will fly to Malaysia for a few days then we’ll go to France to visit my family for a little over a month. After that, we’ll fly back to the States to visit my fiancee’s parents in Chicago. Then, we’ll FINALLY go back to San Diego where we’ll have to look for an apartment before moving in. Busy busy 🙂

  • Robin

    Hi Sebastien, I love reading your blog! Im Indonesian but live in Medan North Sumatra

    Bali is the best place in Indonesia, Ive been there once.. dont miss the food like “Ayam Betutu Gilimanuk” (Stewed Chicken with bali spice) and “Babi guling ibu Oka” (Balinese roasted pork).

    I believe u are in US already. Do you went there for sufing? I guess so! A lot of foreigner is there for that particular reason… Its good to have you in Indonesia..

    Are u getting married soon? congrats! u should come back to bali for ur honeymoon!

    Cheers

    Robin
    3Gs (3.1.2 jb)

  • Hi Robin,

    thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    I’m not in Bali anymore but as I said in a previous comment, we might go back to Bali in 2-3 months.

    The surf wasn’t great when we were there so hopefully it will be better next time 🙂

    Sebastien

  • Great article. I just did the same with my iPhone on our trip to South Africa this past December. I will have to blog about it at http://www.techstumbler.com when I get a chance. The biggest issue I had was that the weak 3G signal really tapped out my battery. I found for some reason that that my iPhones battery life in South Africa was almost half of what I get here in the States. I wonder if it has something to do with the strength of the signal? Any like your experience in Australia I found myself missing AT&T although I have to admit living in Baltimore I don’t find the AT&T experience nearly as frustrating as many other places in the US. Too be honest where we are north of Baltimore it is quite good and reliable. Keep the stories coming. I always enjoy following your postings.

  • Jin

    Hi Sebastien,

    No Sebastien I don’t live in Vietnam, but i just got back from there. I used Mobifone. They do have 3G, but I did not use their internet. I heard it quite fast actually.

    PS>>Bargain everything that do not have a price…

  • hi Sebastien, when you come back to bali, be sure to stay here, its very affordable and good for backpacker :), here in Bali, Telkomsel operator is most reliable network

  • Kelly

    is this for the iphone3?? i have heard its hard travelling anywhere with an iphone4, which I have, as it has the smaller simcard….