Azerbaijan has been my favorite country name forever for some reason. I do not know why, but I LOVE saying Azerbaijan – try it yourself. I just like it as much as I like the medieval town in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the ancient ruins in Ganja, and the palaces in Sheki. If you love history, you will not be bored when visiting this lovely country.
What may not be lovely, however, is roaming with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers who go to the Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, want to buy a local SIM card. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Azerbaijan. Let's go.
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Telecom Providers in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has 4 telecom providers: Azercell, Bakcell, Nar Mobile, and Aztrank. Aztrank uses a CDMA network, which is not compatible with most phones out there. As a result, they will not be discussed in this article.
Nakhtel, also known as Naxtel, used to operate in Nakhchivan with a CDMA network only. They started a GSM network in 2014, but not much is known about this operator. Therefore, they will not be discussed in this article either.
All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. Coverage and speeds with all providers are extensive. However, 4G/LTE is still being developed throughout Azerbaijan, so you will not be able to find it all over the country.
Best SIM Card in Azerbaijan
If you want to buy a SIM card in Azerbaijan, I recommend going with Azercell because they have the best network and fastest speeds in the country.
I will also discuss Karabakh Telecom (KT), which operators in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It is part of Azerbaijan, but they declared independence a while ago. KT is the only operator that operates in this region and uses a different currency than Azerbaijan itself. KT will briefly be analyzed in this article.
Just like other countries in the Caucasus, you have to show your passport when buying an Azerbaijani SIM card. Do not buy SIM cards from street vendors because they will either give you a SIM card registered to someone else (and have a package activated you may not like) or an unregistered SIM that can be shut down at any time. Additionally, every individual, including visitors, can have up to 5 SIM cards to their name. This should not be an issue for most travelers.
Azerbaijan introduced an IMEI registration scheme, which forces everyone who wants to use an Azerbaijani SIM card for more than 30 days to register with the authorities. Although the government says this will help reduce phone theft, it is also a surveillance tool.
If you are visiting Azerbaijan for less than 30 days, then you do not have to register. The same counts for those who roam with their provider for more than 30 days. If you are staying for more than a month and want to use an Azerbaijani SIM card, then you can register your phone online (if you understand Azerbaijani) for 5 AZN ($2.95) or go to a post office for 5.5 AZN ($3.25).
If you fail to register within 30 days and keep using an Azerbaijani SIM card, then your phone will be shut off from any network. It is unclear whether you can get the ban reversed or if your device will be barred from Azerbaijan indefinitely. If so, then you would need to use a different device for using an Azerbaijani SIM card.
With all of that said, let’s see what Azerbaijan has to offer.
Azercell is the largest provider in Azerbaijan and has the best network and speeds. The company is operated by Telia and Turkcell. You may have seen the logo in other countries where Telia is active. Azercell covers 99% of the population, meaning that you will be covered throughout Azerbaijan.
Azercell SIM cards are sold for 5 AZN in Azercell stores. Top-up vouchers are sold from 1 AZN to 100 AZN. The following data packs can be added:
- 0.25 AZN: 50 MB for 24 hours
- 0.40 AZN: Unlimited data for 1 hour
- 1 AZN: Unlimited data for 3 hours
- 1 AZN: 50 MB for 30 days
- 1.20 AZN: 500 MB for 24 hours
- 3 AZN: 500 MB for 30 days
- 5 AZN: 1 GB for 30 days
- 10 AZN: 5 GB for 30 days
- 15 AZN: 10 GB for 30 days
- 50 AZN: 50 GB (“unlimited”), throttled to 128 kbps after full use, for 30 days
Bakcell was the first Azerbaijani operator and is partially state-owned. They are now the second-largest operator with a market share of more than 30%. Their coverage is good, which makes them a good option for those on a budget.
Bakcell SIM cards are sold for 5 AZN in Bakcell stores. Recharge vouchers can be bought from 1 AZN to 50 AZN. The following monthly data packs are available, which also entitles you to use the Bakcell WIFI network for free:
- 0.99 AZN: 1 GB (per day – auto-renews daily)
- 1 AZN: 50 MB (for 15 days)
- 2 AZN: 150 MB
- 3 AZN: 500 MB
- 4 AZN: 750 MB
- 5 AZN: 1 GB
- 7 AZN: 1.5 GB
- 9 AZN: 3 GB
- 10 AZN: 5 GB
- 15 AZN: 10 GB
- 22 AZN: 20 GB
Bakcell also sells data-only SIMs for tablets and modems, but they can be used for phones too. You can get a lot more data. Be sure to mention that you are getting this SIM card for a tablet. Else, they may not sell it to you. The following monthly data packages are available for the data-only SIM cards:
- 12 AZN: 10 GB
- 20 AZN: 30 GB
- 30 AZN: 50 GB
A bit more about the Balcell WIFI network. Bakcell hotspots can be found in many locations throughout the country in restaurants, hotels, and parks. When connecting to your hotspot, you have to fill in your number to retrieve your password that will be sent via SMS. Then you can log in and use the hotspot for an hour. You can use the same passport multiple times throughout the day, but you will automatically be disconnected every hour.
Nar Mobile by Azerfon
Nar Mobile by Azerfon is the third operator in Azerbaijan. They have the “worst” coverage, but they may be the only operator in some remote areas. They claim that they cover 98% of the population with their 3G network and 92% with their 4G/LTE network.
Nar Mobile SIM cards are sold for 5 AZN in Nar Mobile stores. Top-up vouchers can be obtained from 2 AZN to 50 AZN in credit. The following data packs are available:
- 0.10 AZN: 30 MB until midnight
- 0.40 AZN: 200 MB until midnight
- 0.59 AZN: 100 MB (and 25 minutes) until midnight
- 1 AZN: 60 MB for 15 days
- 2 AZN: 200 MB for 20 days
- 3 AZN: 600 MB for 30 days
- 6 AZN: 1.5 GB for 30 days
- 12 AZN: 7 GB for 30 days
- 20 AZN: 20 GB for 30 days
- 30 AZN: 40 GB for 30 days
Karabakh Telecom, also known as K-Telecom and KT, is the only operator that operates in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The region is also known as the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh but is often referred to be part of Azerbaijan. In this region, they use the Armenian Dram (AMD) instead of the Azerbaijani Manat (AZN). Therefore, the prices will be listed in AMD. 1 AMD is around 0.20 USD.
None of the previously mentioned operators have a roaming agreement with KT or work in Nagorno-Karabakh. You can use an Armenian SIM card and roam in this region. However, I assume it is cheaper to buy a SIM card from KT than to roam here.
Karabakh Telecom SIM cards can be bought for 1200 AMD in KT stores. Recharge cards are sold from 500 AMD to 9000 AMD. The following data packs can be added:
- 500 AMD: 25 MB for 10 days
- 750 AMD: 50 MB for 20 days
- 1250 AMD: 100 MB for 20 days
- 1900 AMD: 200 MB for 30 days
- 2300 AMD: 300 MB for 30 days
- 6500 AMD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 7800 AMD: 3 GB for 30 days
- 9800 AMD: 5 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Azerbaijan
Below are some other options to consider.
Roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, and people at home can easily reach you on your current phone number.
However, roaming has many downsides as well. It can be insanely expensive.
International/Travel SIM Cards
International SIM cards or travel SIM cards are SIM cards made for travelers. The rates charged are often lower than international roaming, but they are almost always higher than what local operators will charge you.
Mobile hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are small devices that connect to the local operators of the country you are visiting. Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.
Free WIFI Networks
Nothing beats free, right? Paying nothing to stay connected may be the best option. Until you remember that free hotspots are not available everywhere (especially when on the move) and that free connections are often extremely slow.
Just make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN when connected to open WIFI connections. It is worth it.
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Azerbaijan
Getting a SIM card from Azercell would do you well when considering an Azerbaijani SIM card.
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Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
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