The unofficial guide to Vinaphone, mobile carrier in Vietnam

If you do a quick search on the Internet, you can probably find some guides on mobile plans in Vietnam – but they’re probably out of date or incredibly confusing to follow. Now that I’ve been stationed in Vietnam for a while, I thought I would contribute a bit to the body of knowledge and share my experiences on Vinaphone, my carrier of choice.

Why Vinaphone

If you plan to travel into the rural parts of Vietnam, Viettel is actually a better choice – it’s the network run by the military and they have good coverage out there. Otherwise, the two better-known carriers in cities are Mobifone and Vinaphone. I find that too many people recommend Mobifone so it has gotten quite congested and slow. Hence, I switched to Vinaphone and have been pretty satisfied with my data speeds ever since.

Getting Started

First, you need to get yourself an unlocked phone and a SIM card. The phone is best brought on your own, but many stores sell cheap unlocked phones all over the place. (Maybe stolen? Who knows!)

You can buy a SIM card from an official store (there’s probably one here) but you’ll need to bring a passport so they can tie your identity with the card. If you don’t want to do that, you can ask around touristy districts (like District 1 in Saigon) and many street vendors will be happy to sell you one without any ID. (Maybe stolen? Who knows!)

Expect to pay around 100,000₫ for a SIM card with no credit.

Checking your balance

Whether you’re travelling for a short time or even staying long-term, it’s easiest to just go with the prepaid plans. This means you keep a balance on your SIM card and use it for purchasing short term plans with set amounts of data and calling. I’m going to assume you don’t really care about calling or texting these days, so I’ll just walk through how to subscribe to data.

You can check the amount of money you have by going to your phone’s dialer and making a “call” to *101# – this triggers a “check balance” action and you should see something like this on your screen:

Vinaphone - checking your funds

Most of those numbers don’t actually matter – for data, you just care about the first value in VND (₫). In the screenshot above, it is 71076 VND.

Review the data plans

You can find details about Vinaphone’s current plans here, but it’s incomprehensible so I’ll describe what the deal is.

Data plans on Vinaphone
Data plans on Vinaphone

There are three kinds of plans here (A, B, and C on Vinaphone’s table). “A” is just pay-as-you-go data, 75₫ per 50 kilobytes. That’s a terrible deal and you will easily burn through your money if you stay on that plan — which is the default and what you will be reset to when any other plans expire.

“B” plans are set amounts of data with hard caps – this means that when you use up all the data, you are charged per 50 kilobytes again. These plans can only end badly, so I don’t recommend them.

“C” plans are set amounts of data with soft caps – this means that after you use up all your data, you just get throttled to 2G speeds until the end of a set term (one month). This is effectively unlimited data – I’m not sure why anyone would choose any other type of plan! If only US carriers were this generous…

The last section “D” refers to how you purchase additional ‘data packs’ once you exhaust your high-speed data supply. Keep those handy for when you run out or get throttled.

Once you identify the plan you want, note the code (for example, “MAX100” is my plan of choice) and the amount of money required to subscribe (100,000₫ for “MAX100”).

Adding credit

You can add credit using scratch cards, which are set amounts of value that you purchase and literally scratch to reveal a 14-digit code to redeem. Most convenience stores sell them.

Example of a scratch card with monetary value
Example of a scratch card with monetary value

To redeem the code, you go to your phone’s dialer and punch in *100*(14 digits)# where “(14 digits)” is the code you revealed by scratching.

After receiving a success message, go back to your dialer and enter *101# again to verify your new balance.

Sometimes, there will be promotional days where you get a bonus for refilling (only on that day). You’ll get notifications about these promotions in the form of texts:

Vinaphone - getting a promo

If you apply a scratch card on the day mentioned, you may see some increases in your other balances — which, by the way, I believe are used for calling and texting.

Subscribing to a plan

You need to know the SMS codes to enable data and subscribe to one of the data plans mentioned above – otherwise, you’ll be stuck with nothing or the default pay-as-you-go plan.

Open up your text messaging app and start a conversation with “888”. Send the following commands:

  1. GPRS ON — this enables data
  2. DK XXXXXX — subscribe to the plan “XXXXXX” or add data to an existing plan
  3. DATA — to check your data balance

    Vinaphone - Subscribing to a plan

After you apply the changes, you might need to restart your phone (or disable/enable Airplane Mode) to have it register correctly with the network.

Stopping spam

After you subscribe to a plan, you might start receiving a lot of random text messages in Vietnamese. If you translate these, you’ll find they are mostly spam – often identified with a “(QC)” at the beginning of the message. To stop these, text “HUY” to the number you received the spam from.

That’s it! Hopefully you should be all set to use maps and social media during your trip. Have fun, but take your eyes off your phone once in a while. 😉

37 thoughts on “The unofficial guide to Vinaphone, mobile carrier in Vietnam

  1. Thank you! Ended up in that Vinaphone crazy table without getting a single thing… This was very helpful! And by the way, I am surprised by how reasonable the prices are! 🙂

  2. A friend gave me a Vinaphone sim. He does not know the number or the balance on the sim. I am in South Africa and will visit Vietnam in August. How do I find out what the number on the sim is and how much money is on the sim? Remember, I am in South Africa.

    1. If you put the SIM into your phone, you might be able to see the phone number in the system settings or even the Contacts app (on iOS). But in order to check the account balance, you’ll need to be on the Vinaphone network to issue those SMS commands I described above.

  3. Hi, thank you very much for the informative guide above; it is very useful for me 🙂
    One question though, for plan B option D1 above; surely this is a more better bargain for the data plan? Since you have basically 1GB of data per day at the rate VND 5000 only.
    I pretty much sure that I have more than enough data (1GB) to spend per day. Especially if my stay in Vietnam is only for a short period only, i.e. 5-10 days. Is my understanding correct?

    1. Yes, you’re correct – plan D1 seems like a better bet for short-term stays. But 5000₫ a day = 150000₫ for a month, which would be excessive for me even if it nets me 1 GB of data per day. I’m assuming you’d have to sign up each day as well, which may be a minor inconvenience.

      If it works for you, please report back here!

      1. I am thinking similar on this, I am only there for 4 days, do I go for the 7 day pass and get 1gb for 20000 or get 4 1 day passes and get 4gb for 20000, granted it will be unlikely I use more than 1gb but its nice to get moneysworth!

        One question I do have is do you get 1gb for 24 hours from activation or does it just last till midnight. I.e if I land around 7pm and activate a simcard at 8pm do I lose the first day at midnight or do I get a full 24 hours to use the 1gb?

  4. Thank you for all your helpful information, which plan for data do you recomend ? Do they have an unlimited one for a month?

    1. In the post, I recommended the “MAX100” plan because it gives you 1.2 GB of data for a month with a ‘soft cap’ – that is, even if you go over, it won’t charge your account. It will just reduce the speed to 2G but let you stay online for the rest of that month, which is fine for me.

        1. Yes, you can actually make and receive calls – these plans usually come with extra credit for calls and texting that I don’t cover in this guide.

    1. Auto-renew means that whatever balance is on your SIM will be tapped to subscribe to the same plan again, after the initial time period. For example, if you subscribe for a month and have auto-renew, the next month Vinaphone will attempt to debit the same amount to continue the subscription.

      If you don’t want this behavior, just don’t put any more credit on your SIM than necessary. I always buy as I go.

  5. Nice write up. Thanks as well. We are about to leave Saigon after a four day visit and can confirm Vinaphone is the way to go. We both had 9GB sim chips for 100,000 VND each (less than 5 USD) More than enough data. Used Skype, WhatsApp, Line et al for calls and messages. Worked in all parts of HCMC without issue.

  6. Three learnings from me – I’m in Saigon every month for a few days.

    1/ I got the data only SIM – which allows no voice out calls, but you can receive calls and send and receive SMS.

    2/ For the few days I’m in VN every time I activate the D7 package (1.2 GB / day – 7,000 VND). I never exeeeded that. Simple activation by sending an SMS with ‘D7 on’ to 888. When In leave I deactivate it with ‘D7 off’ to 888.

    3/ The SIM and my top ups I always get from the very friendly lady at the Vinaphone booth at the airport in Saigon. After customs before leaving the building go to the very end on the left hand side. The last booth is from Vinaphone. There is even a small discount for the top up.

  7. Simon I usually put in the code and it works but my phone keeps sending a message to me that says that it can’t complete the action. Do I need more data? Has my sim card expired?

    1. It depends on exactly what the message is, but I’m guessing you either don’t have enough credit to complete the subscription or the SIM card has been de-activated. (They expire if not used in a long time.)

  8. Hi Simon,
    Great guide, it was very helpful, many thanks!
    I found an updated table here http://3g.vinaphone.com.vn/wap/index.php/mobile-internet/goi-cuoc-mobile-internet
    Otherwise all the other things worked fine for me.

    Also quick experience sharing.
    I got a SIM card from a local corner shop for VND 10k with 500MB, bought 100k and upgraded to big100. This way was easier, shorter and cheaper then to go to an official vinaphone shop. Which I did with my wife taking passport, paying 34k only for the card etc.
    But that’s only my experience.

  9. Hello,
    My data doesn’t work anymore, I don’t understand why, even when I trying to check my balance it says “connexion failure” or something like that (in French), maybe you have an idea about what is the problem and/or how to fix it?
    Thank you

    1. Your card might be expired, your phone might be misconfigured, or you might just be out of range of service… I’d recommend looking up the nearest Vinaphone retailer near you for assistance. Best of luck!

  10. Hi can I ask just wondering what the “KM1” means? I notice there were always few digits of figures equivalent to it ? Just the like the first image you or Everytime you check you’re balance (*101#)

  11. Your guideline still work till today. Thanks !

    Take note: I was initially registered under MAX200 but it suddenly change to M0. My recharge value being suck out quickly, weird. Lesson learn always check out what package you subscribe to every time you recharge

  12. Hi Simon
    Your guidline is very helpful. Thank you.

    I am living now in HCM and looked for the right SIM card. But it was not so easys.

    I need only data but fast and big packages because I want use the phone as hotspot for my computer.

    I had a Viettel SIM from the airport which was registred on an unknown name. Because the Viettel app is only in Vietnamese, I decided for a new Vinaphone SIM card. The Vinaphone app is in English. But unfortunately I found out that I can’t top-up by credit card. So the app is not very helpfull.

    I bought a “only data” SIM card (5GB for 70’000 VND).
    But after I bought it, the lady in the Vinaphone shop told that the card is only valid for one year.
    But experience date I see in the app is 25/11/2017 and don’t changed after top-up.
    The SIM I bought is a EZCOM SIM card and I can only load some packages (e.g. DMAX and some X… extensions). The Vinaphone lady said I can’t load e.g. SPEED199 package.

    Do you know more about this EZCOM SIM card and the the difference to other SIM cards?

    And do you know whether it’s possible to change the Vinaphone SMS messages from Vietnamese to English by a USSD code like with Viettel (call 191)?

    And do you know something about top-up via e-banking?

    Generally I could top-up my SIM by Sacombank e-banking. But it doesn’t work and I don’t know why. I get an SMS but after one minute I get another SMS that the top-up was rejected. Maybe I must send any SMS code.

    Thank’s in advance for some helpfull information.

  13. Wow, I have been in Vietnam for 30 days struggling to understand this crazy cellphone stuff (and I have a PhD!). I kept buying different sim cards because I didn’t know what I was doing! I understand I need to buy a scratch card and add a plan to my phone. But I need more 1714 international minutes so I can call US companies for personal business once in a while. How do I add more 1714 international minutes? Thank you for your excellent and down-to-earth explanation on VinaPhone service!

    1. Have you considered getting a Nettalk device from the US and then just use their app to make all your calls using wifi/data? I’m from Canada and that’s what I do. It costs me about $70/year for unlimited calling to Canada/US and very good rates worldwide.

  14. Hello can i send pre paid card to vina phone to vina phone.. cause i have 500vnd in my phone and i want to send 250vnd to my friend they same vina phone thanks

  15. Update Jan 2019:
    None of the above worked for me. What did work was using recharge.com to put some money onto my sim, then sending a SMS with “tracuu VD89” to 900.

    I *think* that gets me 2 GB of data per day for 89,000 dong. It’s hard to be sure.

  16. Hi I just buy my vinaphone sim last week. But now I cannot use . I cannot make calls I cannot use data. When I try to make call it always say” cannot make outgoing call while the call barring is on” even I insert the sim into another phone its same I still cant use it. But I can receive calls. Please kindly help advice

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