Bhutan is probably not the most popular travel destination in South Asia, mostly because of stringent visa requirements. However, it still has a lot to offer.
But it is not a cheap place to be 🙃.
What you should not do, in many cases, is roam internationally in Bhutan.
International roaming can be expensive, which is why using local and travel eSIMs is recommended to save money.
And if you get a travel eSIM, you do not have to deal with the SIM card registration bureaucracy and skip the queues in Bhutan.
How much will a local or travel eSIM for Bhutan cost you?
You can get an eSIM for Bhutan for as little as 5 USD for 1 GB data (7 days) from Airalo (Paro).
Those are some generous data allowances, right?
In this guide, I will go over the eSIM options offered by the Bhutanese mobile operators & Airalo. Let's do this.
Original publication: 20th of September 2022. Last updated: 18th of October 2023.
Table of Contents
eSIMs offered by the Bhutanese Mobile Operators
To get the best service available, in terms of reception and speeds, you want to go with the local mobile operators directly instead of with a travel eSIM.
That is because you will have a higher priority on the network in case of network congestion.
However, that does not mean travel eSIMs will always be slow.
In fact, some mobile operators throttle (prepaid) on select plans or all plans for “optimization” reasons (read: we cannot be bothered to invest in our network).
You have an option for getting an eSIM for your trip to Bhutan: You can choose from Airalo (with Paro).
Not only can you set up these eSIMs before arriving in Bhutan and activate them upon landing, but you can also avoid Bhutan's SIM card registration scheme, which is mandatory for anyone using Bhutanese SIM cards and (future) eSIMs.
While mobile data is already affordable in Bhutan, getting a travel eSIM will not break the bank – not at all.
Plus, I have plenty of experience with Airalo, and I can assure you they work well – and other Phone Travel Wiz readers also had pleasant experiences with them.
So let's see what these travel eSIM providers have to offer in Bhutan, right?
Airalo eSIMs for Bhutan (Paro)
If I could only get a travel eSIM during my trip because I do not have the time or opportunity to buy a local SIM card or eSIM, then I would always get an eSIM from Airalo.
Airalo has eSIMs for around 190 countries, offers eSIMs at the lowest prices (on average compared to the competition) & has good service.
Airalo usually partners with the local mobile operator with the best coverage, the fastest speeds, or both.
And if it needs to partner up with multiple mobile operators, it does so, allowing you to have the best reception at all times.
Anyway, you can get a Paro eSIM for 9.50 USD, with 1 GB of data.
Those prices and data allowances are not too bad, right?
Especially knowing that the Paro eSIM uses the TashiCell network.
So, which Bhutanese TashiCell eSIMs are available? You have this one option:
- Bhutan/Paro 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 9.50 USD
Now, you may think this is a sad selection or that 1 GB of data is insufficient.
Both points are true… I agree – but you can make unlimited top-ups with the Paro eSIM through the Airalo website or apps.
So if you need 5 GB of data, you can purchase the Paro 1 GB eSIM and get four 1 GB top-ups.
Yes, it is a bit inconvenient for now; Airalo may offer 3 GB, 5 GB & 10 GB plans with a 30-day validity for Bhutan soon, as it did for many other countries it supports.
The Airalo links will automatically get you the available Phone Travel Wiz exclusive offers – a code is unnecessary.
- Check out my Airalo eSIM reviews
Airalo Paro eSIM Pros
Are there any other reasons why you should get the Paro eSIM for your trip? For sure:
- You can activate your Paro eSIM as soon as you land in Bhutan
- You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to TashiCell's network
- Paro eSIMs are affordable (especially compared to roaming)
- SIM card registration is not a thing you have to worry about with the Paro eSIM, saving you time
- Multiple top-ups can be purchased when you are out of data or when your initial plan expires easily on the Airalo site or apps
There are many other small pros, but these are the major ones.
It would be disingenuous not to mention some cons, so here we go.
Airalo Paro eSIM Cons
So, why should you not get the Paro eSIM?
- The Bhutanese mobile operators, including TashiCell itself, have much more generous data allowances
- There is only one plan available, the 1 GB one, meaning you have to keep topping up when you are out of data instead of buying a larger data plan from the start
- While you get access to TashiCell's network, your speeds may not be as fast as going with TashiCell itself because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
- There is no 5G NR access with the Paro eSIM (yet)
- You cannot call or text with the Paro eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)
Airalo Paro eSIM Overall Thoughts
The Paro eSIM is a convenient eSIM that can be purchased before going to Bhutan and can be activated upon arriving.
You get access to one of Bhutan's best networks with the Paro eSIM.
The main flaw, for now, is that you have to purchase multiple top-ups if you need more data than just 1 GB.
While getting a top-up is straightforward, some tourists, like myself, prefer to just buy one big data plan so that you do not have to worry about data allowances.
But besides that flaw, the Paro eSIM is fine.
Remember, you cannot call or text with the Paro eSIM, as it is a data-only eSIM.
Best eSIMs for in Asia (not just Bhutan)
Unfortunately, you cannot use your Airalo Paro eSIM in any country than Bhutan.
There are some eSIMs out there that allow you to use your allowance in several East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
Sadly, Bhutan is not one of them, but I still want to introduce them to you because they will be much cheaper than buying multiple eSIMs, or SIM cards for that matter, per country.
I highly recommend these Asia/APAC eSIMs if you plan to visit multiple East- and Southeast Asian countries to save money!
Airalo recently heavily improved its Asia eSIM, which used to offer a meager 4 GB of high-speed data before allowing for unlimited data at snail speeds, following the popular Eurolink eSIM for 39 European countries.
The Eurolink eSIM is the most popular eSIM for Phone Travel readers, and I have no doubt that the Asialink eSIM will be popular too.
Just like in Europe, many readers tend to visit multiple Asian countries, so they would rather have a travel eSIM covering multiple countries than just one (like Bhutan).
The Asialink eSIM can be used in the following 14 countries:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Below is an overview of how much each Asialink eSIM costs:
- Asia/Asialink 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 5 USD
- Asia/Asialink 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 20 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 10 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 37 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 50 GB eSIM for 90 days, costing 100 USD
- Asia/Asialink 100 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 185 USD
Note: Phone Travel Wiz reader popularity ranking was updated in October based on data up to the 11th of October (2023 data only).
I aim to use the Asialink eSIM in all supported countries in 2023 (and probably 2024 too), giving you insights into how the eSIM performs in each nation.
As this will be ongoing until I finish somewhere next year, I suggest you check out the review every now and then to see if I have used it in the country you plan on visiting.
I also list my East- and Southeast Asia travel plans for the year and when I expect to write the review for the relevant country too!
- Check out my Airalo Asialink review ((being) tested in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, (Singapore), South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand & Vietnam
So yeah, you can say I (will) have some experience with the Asialink eSIM 😏.
Holafly & Nomad eSIMs for Bhutan
Because of Airalo's previous Asia eSIM, I used to recommend Nomad's APAC eSIMs instead (to be used in 8 countries).
This eSIM can be used in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore & Thailand (1 GB/7 days/15 USD – 20 GB/30 days/69 USD).
As you can see, this eSIM cannot be used in Bhutan, so it would be useless here but useful in the aforementioned countries.
The Holafly Asia eSIM has only one variant: 8 GB for 30 days, costing 47 USD/49 EUR/34 GBP/69 AUD/64 CAD.
This eSIM can be used in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand & Vietnam.
Basically, the same countries as the Airalo Asialink eSIM with just fewer options (1 variant (8 GB) vs. 6 variants (1 GB/3 GB/5 GB/10 GB/50 GB/100 GB) and much more expensive.
So yeah, the Asialink eSIM is superior, I would say.
Remember, the Airalo links above will automatically offer you the best deals.
Overview of the Best eSIMs for Bhutan (Airalo)
In this guide, I went over Airalo's Paro as the only (reasonably priced) eSIM for Bhutan.
I recognize that there are other eSIM providers that do offer services for Bhutan.
But they are either crazy expensive or the quality of service is whack (based on my experience or the experiences of other Phone Travel Wiz readers).
But you are free to try them out and let me know if they were any good 😀.
Buying a SIM Card in Bhutan
Want to just use a SIM card but not your current one because roaming will be criminally expensive?
Consider getting a Bhutanese SIM card instead – local SIM cards are the cheapest way to stay connected abroad.
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