Prepaid Tourist SIM card
Being able to connect to the internet and make phone calls is a must when visiting another country. While some visitors manage with just the WiFi provided it hotels, cafe’s and restaurants, others prefer to have their own network at all times. Especially in Iran, it can be quite convenient; to plan your next activities during long-distance bus rides, find your way in unknown cities, call a guesthouse to make a reservation on the go or to keep your friends and relatives updated at all times. This blog post covers everything you need to know to buy a SIM card with data in Iran.
* December 2018 Edit; unfortunately it’s become increasingly difficult to register a local sim card on your name. Especially first time visitors have difficulties getting their sim card registered. And often need an Iranian friend to do the registration process for them. Because some travelers do manage to get a sim card by their selves it’s still worth a shot! The information about mobile operators, packages, coverage and (re)-charging are still the same.
Mobile phone operators
Hamrah-e Aval and Irancell are the two largest phone operators in Iran. Both companies offer SIM card services to foreign visitors and have an extended network coverage in Iran. I mention extended as most cities, highways and popular tourist destinations are covered, but connection might get lost once you wander deep into the desert, the Kurdish mountains or the Mazandaran jungle. Basically, coverage will be guaranteed if you stay within reasonable distance from, and in between large cities.
Also known as the ‘Mobile Telecommunication Company’, is Iran’s first telecom provider and has been operating since 1992! Although they have an extended network and good service, only limited information is available in English.
What package do they offer tourists?
Visitors to Iran can get a registered prepaid SIM card. Depending on the location the price of the SIM card varies between 5000 and 1000 tomans. The SIM card comes with 800MB free data and gives you 5000 tomans extra charge when you re-charge for the first time. Airtime and data can be bought separately according to your needs. Price for phone calls per minute is 67T for Hamrah-e Aval numbers and 93T for other providers.
Where can you buy it?
Buy the SIM card directly at the Imam Khomeini airport after arrival or at one of the Hamrah-e Aval service centers in the cities. In order to activate your SIM card, you need your passport with valid visa for registration. For questions about your SIM card in English, you can also call 9990 (for Hamrah-e Aval customers) or 09129990 (for other numbers)
How long is your SIM card valid?
The SIM card will only expire once it’s unused for three months and has less than 5000 tomans credit on it. So unless you come below this credit, you can keep your SIM card and use it again for your next visit to Iran.
Irancell and Hamrah-e Aval re-charge vouchers
Travelers who don’t have access to the Iranian bank system can buy credit vouchers from newspaper shops or (mini) markets everywhere in the city. Vouchers can be bought from 1000 tomans to 20.000 tomans. In order to re-charge; scratch the silver seal open, dial *140*#15 digit pin number# and press OK. You can now use this credit as airtime or to purchase a data package as described below.
Hamrah-e Aval offers different data-packages from one day to one week, one month, three months, six months and one year. Dial *100*2# to check the price of your desired data package, top it up with the vouchers, dial *100*2# again and make your purchase. You are now ready to surf online.
Iran’s second largest telecommunication company is part of the MTN group. (you will see the MTN sign everywhere!) Irancell also has a good coverage and offers better service in English, making it overall easier in use compared to Hamrah-e Aval.
What package do they offer tourists?
Irancell offers visitor three different SIM card packages as shown in the photo below. The price for phone calls are between 67 and 92 tomans per minute.
Where can you buy it?
You can buy the SIM card directly at the Imam Khomeini Airport or at one of the MTN/Irancell service centres in the cities. In order to activate the SIM card, you need to register with your passport.
For questions about your SIM card in English, you can also call 09377070000 or 09377000000.
How long is the SIM card valid?
The visitor SIM packages will expire automatically after one month. If your trip is longer than one month you can buy a regular prepaid SIM card at the airport or at the MTN/Irancell service centers. The price for a regular prepaid SIM card is 5000 tomans plus the regular cost for airtime and mobile data.
Travelers who don’t have access to the Iranian bank system can buy credit vouchers from newspaper shops or (mini) markets everywhere in the city. In order to re-charge; scratch the silver seal open, dial *141*15 digit pin number# and press YES/OK. You can now use this credit as airtime or to purchase a data package.
Irancell offers different data-packages from one day, three days, to one week, one month up to several years. Dial *555*5# to check the price of your desired data package, top it up with the vouchers, dial *555*5# again and make your purchase. You are now ready to surf online.
Renting a Pocket Wifi Router
There is a new service which is a mobile WiFi hotspot device. You can connect all your devices to it wirelessly and use the internet while traveling.
It is important to note that some social media websites (like Facebook and Twitter) are filtered in Iran. You would need to use a VPN service to access those websites.
If you go to the service centers to get a SIM card; please note that not all centers are equipped with English speaking staff. It might be useful to bring an Iranian friend who can help out in Farsi.