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Welcome to India, here’s your free SIM card

Asia

New Delhi - Foreign visitors to India using electronic tourist visas will soon get free SIM cards on their arrival in the country, government officials said this week.

The move is aimed at attracting more tourists and raising India’s image as a global tourist destination.

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Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, at the Taj Mahal in Agra. Visitors to India will soon enjoy free SIM cards to send their own selfies from the famous attraction.

It also aims to address security concerns, helping tourists access telecom services to make calls in times of distress, a tourism official said.

“The scheme was recently approved by the home ministry. A few more final clearances are awaited, following which we hope to implement the scheme shortly,” the official said.

Foreign tourists face difficulties buying SIM cards in India with service providers requiring paperwork and a list of documents, making them dependent on phone booths.

The SIM card, to be handed out along with a welcome kit that includes maps, will be valid for 30 days and have preloaded talk time and data, but no international roaming facility.

India’s e-tourist visa scheme, available to citizens of 150 countries, has been described as a “game-changer” for tourism.

Foreign tourist arrivals surged from 6.3 million in 2011 to 8.03 million last year.

The move comes as India’s telecom industry is on the verge of a major price war. Reliance Industries has promised free calls and data services until December 31 on its Jio network and begins with rock-bottom tariff plans from January 1.

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