Prepaid 3G data in Malaysia

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 in Hints, iPhone

We went to Malaysia for our honeymoon a few weeks ago. We had booked hotels and internal flights for the first five days of our holiday, but wanted to be somewhat flexible so needed to book more hotels and flights on the go.

Getting a SIM card and choosing a carrier

I spotted a Maxis booth in Kuala Lumpur International Airport and headed over to purchase a prepaid SIM card and data plan. Maxis, Celcom and DiGi are the three largest providers in Malaysia and from what I have read, Maxis has the best 3G coverage. Their prepaid plans are marketed under their brand “Hotlink“, and you can find shops selling Maxis/Hotlink top-ups all over Malaysia.

The helpful staff at their sales booth had a micro SIM cutting tool and configured the data plan for me using the “day plan” option, which comes with 500MB of data a day. I assumed it would auto-renew and the total cost would be about €20 for 2.5 weeks.

My wife booking hotels on the iPad at Kuala Lumpur airport with Maxis 3G and personal hotspot

Pick a data plan

It turns out that the day plan needs to be renewed every day after exactly 24 hours, which is a bit annoying after a while. Plus, if you forget you’re charged by the megabyte, which will quickly wipe out your prepaid credit.

Fortunately, while topping up credit in a mobile phone store in Melakka, the dealer recommended I switch to the “internet broadband 1 week” plan instead. I think it’s intended for laptop users with USB 3G sticks, but it worked fine with the iPhone as well. The one week option comes with 1.5 GB of data, which should be more than enough for casual use on holiday.

Coverage & Cost

Coverage was brilliant, with 3G service and full bars nearly everywhere we went – the only time I couldn’t get 3G was on a tiny tropical island 45 minutes off the mainland. There’s no way we could have travelled around as much as we did without a data plan and access to TripIt, TripAdvisor, and other services.

Overall I think I spent about 120 ringgit on the SIM card and various top-ups (about €28/ $39). That’s a bit more than necessary, as I lost quite a bit of credit the first few days due to not renewing the day plan in time.

Don't forget your iPhone SIM tool

Worth it?

If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, I’d definitely recommend picking up a Maxis/Hotlink prepaid card for your stay. Hotel wifi was often flaky and sometimes only available in rooms near the reception desk, so I ended up using Maxis 3G almost everywhere. Be sure to look up the best data option on their website – the day plan is easiest but not necessarily the most affordable.


1 Comment

  1. Thanks for coming to Malaysia Adrian:)