Afghanistan is a travel destination for those who love adventure and thrill nowadays. There are plenty of YouTubers who visit this country, and it amazes me how friendly the locals are towards travelers.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan may not be a travel destination for the regular traveler. Travel restrictions, expensive plane tickets, and the high probability of kidnappings, bombings, or petty theft make many not want to go to the country, which is understandable.
However, that does not mean you should not visit Afghanistan at all. Drew Binsky, for example, had a good time while visiting Afghanistan back in 2019. I assume many will wait until the situation will get better. Or you are planning on going soon because you are reading this article right now 😉 .
Anyway, there are plenty of things to do in Afghanistan. Kabul, the capital, is full of palaces and gardens. Bamyan has many archaeological sites. Mazari Sharifs has many shrines, and Band-e Amir National Park is a must-see, I would say.
There is not much information about buying SIM cards in Afghanistan. If you search buy SIM card Afghanistan (which you probably did to find this article), you will find many results about expensive international SIM cards covering Afghanistan, or outdated information from the 2000s.
With a lot of effort trying to contact locals and chats with friends who are still in Afghanistan or who were in Afghanistan recently, I managed to write this guide for you so that you can easily select the Afghan SIM card of your liking.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Afghanistan. Let's get started, shall we?
Telecom Providers in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has 6 telecom providers: Roshan, MTN Afghanistan, Etisalat Afghanistan, Afghan Wireless, Wasel, and Afghan Telecom. Wasel uses CDMA, which is incompatible with GSM (most phones use GSM), which is why they will not be discussed any further in this article.
All the other operators have 2G and 3G networks. Afghan Wireless was the first operator to start 4G/LTE services in 2016. Others have started too, but their 4G/LTE coverage may be lacking.
Speaking of coverage, coverage is decent with all providers in the capital, Kabul, in the north and east of Afghanistan.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Afghanistan? If you want to buy a SIM card in Afghanistan, I would recommend going with Roshan because they have the best coverage throughout the country.
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Despite popular belief, it is relatively easy to get an Afghan SIM card. The telecom industry is booming right now. Just like most countries in South Asia, you have to show your passport when buying an Afghan SIM. Additionally, you need to bring a colored passport-sized photograph as well.
Make sure to buy your SIM card at official retailers, as there are a lot of bogus resellers out there.
Afghan SIM cards are sold for around 300 AFN ($4) nowadays. It used to be a couple of hundred dollars a few years ago.
With that said, let’s see what Afghanistan has to offer to us.
Video Guide for Buying a SIM Card in Afghanistan
Roshan is the largest operator in Afghanistan. They have more than 6 million subscribers, and their network covers all Afghan provinces. 60% of the population is covered by Roshan.
Roshan is building its 4G/LTE network, but it is mainly limited to large cities and towns at the moment.
Roshan sells 2 types of SIM cards. Aali and Yaaran. Aali SIM cards are available to everyone, while Yaaran is targeted for the youth. Yaraan SIM cards come with unlimited off-peak calls (after being billed for 2 minutes), and cheaper rates for SMS.
The following short-term Roshan Aali data bundles are available:
- 15 AFN: unlimited data for 1 hour. Activation: text 1Hr to 555
- 30 AFN: 200 MB for 1 day. Activation: text D200 to 555
- 75 AFN: 512 MB for 1 week. Activation: text W512 to 555
You can also get one of the following Roshan Aali monthly data bundles:
- 250 AFN: 1 GB and 200 MB for Facebook. Activation: text M1 to 555
- 350 AFN: 2 GB. Activation: text M2 to 555
- 450 AFN: 3.5 GB and 300 MB for Facebook. Activation: text M3 to 555
- 600 AFN: 5 GB and 500 MB. Activation: text M5 to 555
- 800 AFN: 7 GB and 700 MB. Activation: text M7 to 555
- 1100 AFN: 10 GB. Activation: text M10 to 555
- 1500 AFN: 15 GB. Activation: text M15 to 555
- 1500 AFN: 30 GB (1 GB/day). Activation: text 30GB to 555
To deactivate a Roshan data plan, add U in front of the activation code. For example, if you want to deactivate the 1500 AFN 15 GB plan, you would text UM15 to 555.
You can also get one of Roshan’s Aali Facebook bundles, which all auto-renew when there is enough credit:
- 5 AFN: 50 MB and 50 SMS for 1 day. Activation: text S5 to 555
- 6 AFN: 100 MB for 1 day. Activation: text DFB to 555
- 15 AFN: 200 MB for 1 day. Activation: text S6 to 555
- 45 AFN: 200 MB for 30 days. Activation: text FB50 to 555
- 60 AFN: 300 MB for 30 days. Activation: text FB A to 555
- 100 AFN: 500 MB for 30 days. Activation: text S100 to 555
The deactivation codes for these Roshan Facebook bundles are US5, UDFB, U6, UFB50, FB D, and U100, respectively, to 555.
In case data does not work with your Roshan SIM card, you have to do the following. Text GPRS ON to 167. Then you have to send your phone’s model to 167. Afterward, text 3G to 555 and restart your phone. 3G will be activated now.
MTN Afghanistan, just MTN, is a large operator in Afghanistan. They have more than 6 million subscribers, which makes them a popular provider amount Afghans.
MTN, a South-African company, is mainly active in Africa, but also has a small presence in the Middle East (Syria and Yemen) besides Afghanistan.
MTN seems to have more towers than Roshan, especially in the north and east.
The following MTN data bundles are available:
- 15 AFN: 1200 MB (“unlimited”) for 1 hour. Activation: dial: *344*6#
- 15 AFN: 85 MB for 24 hours. Activation: dial: *344*12#
- 90 AFN: 425 MB for 1 week. Activation: dial: *344*22#
- 300 AFN: 870 MB for 1 month. Activation: dial: *344*30#
- 400 AFN: 2.1 GB for 1 month. Activation: dial: *344*31#
- 500 AFN: 4 GB for 1 month: Activation: dial: *344*32#
- 725 AFN: 7.3 GB for 1 month. Activation: dial: *344*35#
- 1400 AFN: 12.7 GB for 1 month. Activation: dial: *344*34#
All plans, except for the hourly plan, auto-renew. To deactivate a plan, dial *344*8#. You can check your data balance by dialing *344*7#.
Etisalat Afghanistan, just Etisalat, is another popular operator in Afghanistan. It is not clear whether Etisalat or MTN has more customers. Either way, Etisalat is loved by the locals as well.
When Etisalat was allowed to enter that Afghan market in 2007, it rapidly built its network and became the fastest-growing operator for many years.
It covers 30 of the 34 provinces and has more than 12 000 outlets, meaning that you will easily come across an Etisalat store.
The most towers can be bought in the north and east, just like with the other providers.
Etisalat sells 3 types of SIM cards: Mumtaz, Mubarak, and Elite. In terms of data, it does not matter which SIM card you choose.
The Etisalat site is outdated (and looks like it was last updated in 2013, based on its design). It mentions different types of data packs that are conflicting with each other. Either way, I will list the ones that seem to be active (based on the chats I had with some Etisalat customers) them.
The Etisalat Mukammal bundles are combo plans that come with a lot of on-net-only minutes:
- 20 AFN: 100 MB and 50 minutes for 1 day. Activation: text 806 to 3378
- 45 AFN: 500 MB and 100 minutes for 1 day. Activation: text 45 to 3378
- 299 AFN: 500 MB, 1500 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days. Activation: text 299 to 3378
- 450 AFN: 2 GB, 2000 minutes, and 2000 SMS for 30 days. Activation: text 450 to 3378
- 499 AFN: 3 GB, 500 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days. Activation: text 499 to 3378
- 799 AFN: 6 GB, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS for 30 days. Activation: text 799 to 3378
All these plans auto-renew when there is enough credit. To deactivate a plan, add PU in front of the activation code. For example, if you want to deactivate the 450 AFN plan, you would text PU 450 to 3378.
There are also standard Etisalat data packs:
- 40 AFN: 25 MB for 1 day. Activation: text GD to 3378 or dial *661#
- 150 AFN: 125 MB for 1 week. Activation: text GW to 3378 or dial *662#
- 350 AFN: 500 MB for 1 month. Activation: text GMS to 3378
- 850 AFN: 2 GB for 1 month. Activation: text GMM to 3378
- 1400 AFN: 4 GB for 1 month. Activation: text GMF to 3378
- 3500 AFN: 20 GB for 1 month. Activation: text UNL to 3378
But there are also these data bundles, from hourly bundles to monthly bundles.
The following hourly Etisalat data bundles can be purchased:
- 0.5 AFN: 20 MB. Activation: text HS to 3378
- 5 AFN: 200 MB. Activation: text HL to 3378
Want data for a whole day? Then these daily Etisalat bundles could be interesting:
- 5 AFN: 50 MB. Activation: text 50MB to 3378
- 50 AFN: 1 GB. Activation: text D50 to 3378
Staying in Afghanistan for a whole week? Get one of these weekly Etisalat data packs:
- 45 AFN: 200 MB. Activation: text 200MB to 3378
- 150 AFN: 1.5 GB. Activation: text 149 to 3378
You can also get a monthly Etisalat data pack:
- 100 AFN: 3 GB at night only (10 PM until 6 AM). Activation: text NBS to 3378
- 250 AFN: 1 GB. Activation: text A1 to 3378
- 300 AFN: 1.5 GB. Activation: text 1HGB to 3378
- 450 AFN: 3 GB. Activation: text 3GB to 3378
- 500 AFN: 4 GB. Activation: text 4GB to 3378
- 600 AFN: 5 GB. Activation: text 5GB to 3378
- 800 AFN: 7 GB. Activation: text 7GB to 3378
- 1000 AFN: 10 GB. Activation: text 10GB to 3378
- 1500 AFN: 20 GB (15 GB high-speed data), then throttled to 265 Kbps for the remaining 5 GB). Activation: text 20GB to 3378
Afghan Wireless is Afghanistan’s first mobile operator. It started in 2002 and used to hold a monopoly until the other operators started, but they still have more than 5 million subscribers (including broadband subscribers).
If you decide to roam with your provider in Afghanistan, you will most likely be roaming on the Afghan Wireless’ network because they have roaming agreements with more than 400 providers in more than 120 countries.
Afghan Wireless was also the first operator to launch 4G/LTE to its customers in 2015. It is also the provider with the most towers in the Southeastern part of the country, but the best coverage can be found up north or east.
Afghan Wireless has 3 monthly combo packs, called Kahkashan Combo, which come in the following variants:
- 200 AFN: 1 GB, 30 on-net minutes, and 300 SMS. Activation: dial *477*198*1#
- 350 AFN: 1.5 GB, 60 on-net minutes, and 500 SMS. Activation: dial *477*349*1#
- 500 AFN: 3 GB, 120 on-net minutes, and 1000 SMS. Activation: dial *477*499*1#
All plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. Do note that 50% of your allowance is reserved for nighttime use only from 12 AM until 7 AM. This means that if you get the 1 GB plan, you can use 512 MB whenever you want and 512 MB at night only.
Additionally, Afghan Wireless has many data packs you can choose from. The following daily packs are available:
- 10 AFN: 60 MB. Activation: dial *477*1*1#
- 30 AFN: 200 MB. Activation: dial *477*2*1#
- 45 AFN: 1 GB. Activation: dial *477*46*1#
You can also get a weekly data pack:
- 100 AFN: 500 MB. Activation: dial *477*3*1#
- 150 AFN: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *477*30*1#
Finally, these monthly packs are available:
- 250 AFN: 2.5 GB. Activation: dial *477*4*1#
- 400 AFN: 4.5 GB. Activation: dial *477*5*1#
- 600 AFN: 7.5 GB. Activation: dial *477*6*1#
- 800 AFN: 9.375 GB. Activation: dial *477*8*1#
- 1100 AFN: 15 GB. Activation: dial *477*10*1#
- 1800 AFN: 20 GB. Activation: dial *477*16*1#
- 2700 AFN: 30 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *477*27*1#
Those who love Facebook can get one of these Facebook plans:
- 2 AFN: 35 MB for Facebook. Activation: dial *232*1*1#
- 15 AFN: 140 MB for Facebook. Activation: dial *232*7*1#
- 40 AFN: 250 MB for Facebook. Activation: dial *232*2*1#
Night owls can get one of these night plans, which can be used between 12 AM and 7 AM:
- 25 AFN: 500 MB for 1 night. Activation: dial *477*25*1#
- 75 AFN: 1.5 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *477*75*1#
- 200 AFN: 4 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *477*199*1#
All plans, except for the monthly plans, auto-renew if there is enough credit. You can deactivate a plan by replacing the 1 in front of # with a 2. For example, if you want to deactivate the 2 AF 35 MB for Facebook plan, you would dial *232*1*2# instead of *232*1*1#.
To check your data balance when a plan is active, replace the 1 in front of # with a 4. Using the same example, you would dial *232*1*4#. Confusing? I think so too.
Salaam by Afghan Telecom
Afghan Telecom is the smallest operator in Afghanistan. Their mobile brand is called Salaam. There is not much more to say about the operator, except for the fact that they bought 70 of Etisalat’s towers to improve their own coverage.
Salaam SIM cards are sold for 100 AFN in Salaam and Afghan Telecom stores. They come with 50 AFN in credit as well.
Salaam has 2 monthly combo packs:
- 500 AFN: 1 GB, 1000 on-net minutes, 50 off-net minutes, and unlimited SMS. Activation: text A 500 to 741
- 1000 AFN: 3 GB, 3000 on-net minutes, and unlimited SMS. Activation: text A 1000 to 741
These plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. To deactivate a plan, replace A with D. For example, if you want to deactivate the 1000 AFN plan, you would text D 1000 to 741.
Salaam offers 5 different data packs:
- 35 AFN: 250 MB for 2 weeks. Activation: text A 250MB to 740
- 115 AFN: 1 GB for 1 month. Activation: text A 1GB to 740
- 230 AFN: 3 GB for 1 month. Activation: text A 3GB to 740
- 345 AFN: 5 GB for 1 month. Activation: text A 5GB to 740
- 520 AFN: 10 GB for 1 month. Activation: text A 10GB to 740
All these plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. To deactivate a plan, replace A with D. For example, if you want to deactivate the 230 AFN 3 GB plan, you would text D 3GB to 740.
Finally, there are Salaam night bundles, which can be used from 11 PM until 7 AM:
- 50 AFN: 1 GB for 7 days. Activation: text A SML to 740
- 90 AFN: 2 GB for 30 days. Activation: text A MDM to 740
- 200 AFN: 5 GB for 30 days. Activation: text A LRG to 740
- 350 AFN: 10 GB for 30 days. Activation: text A XTR to 740
Unlike the other plans, Salaam night plans do not auto-renew and cannot be deactivated.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Afghanistan
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Afghanistan, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Afghanistan, but you can also roam with your provider in Afghanistan, use an international SIM card in Afghanistan, or use a mobile hotspot in Afghanistan. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Afghanistan
Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.
In the case of Afghanistan, you can mainly find hotspots in the bigger cities and towns.
Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.
What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription now!
Roaming with Your Provider in Afghanistan
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Robi-Airtel from Bangladesh, then you would be roaming with Robi-Airtel in Afghanistan.
Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Afghanistan, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.
Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Afghanistan, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Afghanistan. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.
If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.
One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.
If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Afghanistan, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy an Afghan SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Afghanistan
International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.
International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.
Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.
Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Afghanistan, so you cannot be taken advantage of.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using a Mobile Hotspot in Afghanistan
A mobile hotspot is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Afghanistan
Getting a SIM card from Roshan would be your only when considering an Afghan SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in South Asia? Check out my South Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other South Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Afghanistan
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Afghanistan. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Afghanistan drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Afghanistan
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel. I would not recommend staying in an Airbnb in Afghanistan, however, because of safety reasons. Instead, get a hotel that has private security on-site and at their gates.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Afghanistan
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. I always recommend World Nomads because they have been pleasant so far. Unfortunately, they do not provide coverage in Afghanistan (which is understandable). Do note that if you manage to find an insurance provider, you will pay a steep premium. That is how it is, unfortunately.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!