Last updated 6 January 2019
Welcome to the digital world of Thailand! Many volunteers are overwhelmed when they first are presented with their PC issued “smart” phone. How do I pay for minutes and data? Can I use my personal iPhone or Android device I brought from the US? Is there a banking app for me?
This guide has been written to cover the topics of:
- Transitioning to your own personal phone (that you brought from the US).
- Setting up the cellular service app (so you can check and change your plan and balance)
- Choosing an unlimited data plan.
- Setting up the bank app (to check your balance, pay for cell service/online purchases, and send money to other volunteers)
- Ordering items online. [COMING SOON]
- Other miscellaneous information.
Transitioning to Your Own Phone
There are many reasons to use one's personal phone from American instead of the PC provided phone: having a device that is already familiar to you, better data speeds (the PC phone is limited to anemic 3G speeds), better quality photo and movie shooting, general device quality and responsiveness, and many other reasons. That said, you certainly can stick with the PC-provided phone; it can run most apps (including any apps mentioned here), provide a (slow speed) hotspot, and make phone calls. Keep in mind that to use a phone from America, it MUST be unlocked. If your phone is carrier locked it will (obviously) not work with other carriers (like AIS, your Thai carrier).
Changing over to your personal phone can be as easy as moving the SIM card from the PC phone to yours, but it is worth taking a few extra moments to make sure that the PC staff contacts are moved as well. While there are several ways to accomplish this, the below is relatively foolproof and does not require internet access on either phone. Emailing the contacts to yourself or syncing them to a Google account that you also plan on using on you personal phone will also work. The main idea is to move the PC phone's contacts over to you new phone.
- Tap on the white circle at the bottom of the PC phone's screen. You will see all of the phone's apps; tap on the "Contacts" app. Look for the three dots in the top right corner and tap them. A menu will appear. Select "Import/Export". Select "Phone Contact", tap next, and then select "Phone SIM". You will be presented with a list of all the phone's contact entries. Tap to put a check mark next to each one, then tap "OK". At this point you have copied all the contacts from the phone's internal address book to the SIM card. Once completed, turn off the phone by holding the power button on the side until you are presented with the option to shut down. If this option is not available you can email the contacts to yourself if you have setup email already.
- Now comes the physical part! Open the back of the PC phone (the cover snaps off) and remove the battery (big black and grey block). Remove the SIM card (small plastic card in the slot labelled "SIM1"). Turn you personal phone off. Insert the SIM card into your personal phone. The location of your SIM card slot or tray depends on the phone model you have. A Google search for "Insert SIM in [you phone model]" will most likely tell you what you need to know. If you have a SIM from an American carrier still in your personal phone, you may want to save it in a safe place for when you return home. If the SIM card from the PC phone looks too big for your phone's slot, you can break away the outer edges of the card (it is perforated for this purpose). It's a good idea to return the outer edge bit of the card to the SIM slot in the PC phone in case you ever need to swap back.
- Almost there! Turn your phone back on and confirm that it shows a connection to AIS at the top of the screen. Follow the appropriate procedure to import the PC staff contacts from the SIM card to your phone. Instructions for iPhones / Instructions for Android. If you have emailed the contacts instead, open the email attachment and import the contacts.
Now your personal phone is ready to rock! Your phone number will be the one PC provided you (same as on the PC phone). You will want to download the apps we recommend (WhatsApp, Line, MyAIS, Bangkok Bank). Save your PC provided phone- it can come in handy if you need a backup phone, and you can always find other uses for it.
Setting Up the Cellular Service App
Traditionally, PCVs have had to use a confusing array of dialer codes to check account balances, change plans, and confirm packages. Luckily, now volunteers can use the "MyAIS" app for iPhone and Android devices. Every volunteer should set this app up on the phone that they plan on using during their service (PC-provided or personal).
- Go to your phone's app store (Play Store on Android, App Store on iOS), search for and download the "MyAIS" app.
- Open the MyAIS app, once it's downloaded to your phone. Look for the EN/TH button on the right side of the screen, midway down, if you need to switch the language to English.
- Enter your phone number. AIS will then txt you a security code to enter. Once you've done so, you'll arrive at the main screen for the app. The most important thing to note is your remaining balance partway up on the left side of the screen.
- Tap on the "Package" tab. Here you can check/add/remove your current packages.
You can "top up" your AIS account balance using machines located at 7-11s and elsewhere or by using the Bangkok Bank app. The machines charge a fee and you may not be placed at a site with one nearby, so all trainees should setup the Bangkok Bank app while they are still at the training site.
Choosing an Unlimited Data Plan
Almost every volunteer will want an unlimited data plan. Many homes will not have Internet service provided, and using your school or SAO's WiFi to watch Netflix may (or probably?) be... unrealistic. Luckily, there are several options and price points affordable to volunteers.
- Make sure you have topped up at least 300 Baht to you AIS account. You can do this via machine (located around the community and charges a fee) or with the Bangkok Bank app (always available and free).
- Open the MyAIS app. Login, if asked (the previous section describes this process).
- Tap the "Packages" tab. Find the "Apply Internet On-Top Package" menu option and tap it.
- You'll now be presented with various options. Look for the "Unlimited max speed" section and tap on it. You'll be presented with a table of packages to choose from. We recommend that trainees start with the "300 Baht / 1 Mbps / 30 Day" package. You can change to a different package at a later date if you want.
- Once you've confirmed the selection, your AIS balance will be deducted the corresponding amount. You can check you current package, and it's renewal date, by tapping on the "Your Current Package" menu option under the "Packages tab".
We recommend trainees stick to the "300 Baht / 1 Mbps / 30 Day" package for several reasons- You have limited "walking around" money to be spending on data plans, if you decide to end your service during training you won't have wasted money on a multi-month plan, and you'll have the chance to decide if 1Mbps meets your needs before you commit to a faster plan. After swearing-in, settling down at site, and deciding that you'll be staying, you should shift to a different plan. If 1Mbps is fast enough for you, the "600 Baht / 1 Mbps / 6 Months" plan is a very good deal. If you need to feel the speed, the "1800 Baht / 6 Mbps / 6 Month" plan essentially works out to the same 300 Baht per month, but with 6 times the speed- zoom!
Setting up the Bank App
Peace Corps Thailand will provide you with an ATM card for your Bangkok Bank account shortly after you arrive for training. Once you have your card, we recommend that you setup the Bangkok Bank app (also called "BualuangM"). Due to security concerns, it requires a few extra steps. You should complete this process while you're still in your training community, since not all sites will have a Bangkok Bank ATM (required to complete the setup). Once ready, this app will let you check your account balance, top up your phone (without fees), pay for online orders, send money to other volunteers, and much more.
- Download the Bangkok Bank app (sometimes referred to as "BualuangM") to your phone using the Apple App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store (Android). Follow the instructions in the app to setup a basic account. At this point, you will simply be able to check your balance.
- To enable all of the other features, you need to visit a Bangkok Bank ATM (it cannot be another bank's ATM). Insert your bank card, enter your PIN, select English, and then select "Enable M Banking / PromptPay". The ATM will ask you to set a PIN code for use in the app, and then print out a code for you to enter into the app.
- Enter the code into the Bangkok Bank app. It will then confirm that you have full access.
Once you have complete this setup process you can take full advantage of the app:
- The 'homepage' will show your balance and options to add accounts/credit cards (not necessary).
- To transfer money to someone else, click the 2nd icon on the bottom labeled "Transfers". If the person you are transferring to is another volunteer (or otherwise has a Bangkok Bank account)- tap the middle icon labeled "mBanking mobile no". If you know the account number of the person you are transferring to, tap Account Number (works for transferring to other banks).
- To Pay Bill/Top Up (for internet purchases, AIS phone services, etc.), click the 3rd icon on the bottom labeled "Pay Bill/Top Up". Any orders made on the internet can be paid via "Pay Bill"*if you chose that option during checkout (see the Online Shopping section). To top up, tap the 2nd icon labeled 'Top Up' and select "AIS12C". On the following screen, you can input the desired amount of money.
Trainees are strongly encouraged to fully setup the banking app ASAP. You'll save money topping up your phone plan, always know your balance, and be better prepared for sites that don't have banking facilities. If you put the wrong phone number or account number in during a transfer and the banking system detects it, the money will not be transferred automatically. It will require you to use a pin code to confirm that the phone / account number is correct. You don't need to worry about contacting the bank for your money back in these cases.