Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Bangladesh Guide

Logos of Telecom Providers in Bangladesh: Grameenphone, Banglalink, and Robi-Airtel

Bangladesh is the world's 8th-most populous country in the world while being the 92nd largest country in the world. You can expect it to be crowded on the streets in Bangladesh, but that should not discourage you from visiting the country.

There are plenty of things to do in Bangladesh. You can visit the Lalbagh Fort, which is a 17th-century fort, or the Ahsan Manzil Museum. Additionally, Jaflong has a nice waterfall, and you cannot forget about visiting Samoapura Mahavihara, a UNESCO-listed ancient Buddhist temple.

What you perhaps should not do is roaming with your provider in Bangladesh. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a Bangladeshi SIM card.

Depending on where you are from, data prices in Bangladesh are cheap, which is another reason why travelers wish to purchase a SIM card in Bangladesh.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Bangladesh. Let's get started.

Telecom Providers in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has 4 telecom providers: Grameenphone, Robi-Airtel, Banglalink, and Teletalk. All operators have 2G and 3G networks. Grameenphone, Robi-Airtel, and Bangalink have started to develop their 4G/LTE networks. Teletalk has yet to get started.

Although Robi Axiata and Airtel Bangladesh merged into one company in 2017 called Robi-Airtel. They still operate as separate brands for the time being.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Bangladesh? If you want to buy a SIM card in Bangladesh, I would recommend going with Grameenphone because they have the best coverage throughout the country.

Do note that you will pay for the reliability and service for Grameenphone because they are the most expensive operator. However, compared to many other countries, data prices in Bangladesh are cheap.

Teletalk is a state-owned company and is the most unreliable operator in Bangladesh, their coverage is bad, and their market share is minuscule. As a result, they cannot be recommended. However, the Bangladeshi government is currently trying to improve their network and their image through various means. Perhaps they can become a solid competitor in the future, but that will not be the case anytime soon. As a result, Teletalk will not be discussed in this article.

Like most countries in South Asia, you have to show your passport when buying a Bangladeshi SIM card. Additionally, you need to have over a passport size color photo, a copy of your passport, and a copy of your Bangladeshi visa. Together with Pakistan, Bangladesh has one of the strictest requirements for buying prepaid SIM cards.

SIM cards can be bought in official stores, from authorized resellers, or in convenience stores. I would recommend going to an official store or an authorized reseller, as you do not want your passport data to be in the hands of the wrong person.

Bangladesh does not actively censor the internet, but the government has blocked social media apps every now and then. Most notably, back in 2015. According to Freedom on the Net, the internet in Bangladesh is considered to be partially free.

With all of this, I would recommend using a VPN to browse the web in peace. I use NordVPN because I get high speeds with their servers. They have around 5500 servers in 59 countries. They have servers in India, Malaysia, and Thailand (there are many more, but these are the closest to the Bangladesh). You can get up to 70% off your NordVPN subscription if you get yours today!

Some operators do not display their prices with the necessary taxes (21% in total – 15% VAT, 5% telecom tax, and 1% supplementary duty). If a provider does not do this, then I will do it for you and will clearly mention it when I have done so.

With that said, let’s see what Bangladesh has to offer to us.

Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!

Grameenphone

Grameenphone Logo

Grameenphone is the largest operator in Bangladesh with a market share of almost 50% of the customers. If you are a frequent traveler, then you may recognize the logo because it is the Telenor logo, which is a company from Norway. Grameenphone is a joint venture between Grameen Telecom and Telenor.

Grameenphone expects to cover 100% of the population with its 3G network in 2020. Right now, it covers more than 95% of the population. 4G/LTE can be found in places like Dampara, Chittagong, Narisabad, and Khulshi.

There are several Grameenphone starter packs you can choose from, such as djuice, Bondhu, and Nishciento. It does not matter which one you choose if you are only interested in data. A Grameenphone SIM card should cost you 100 BDT ($1.20). I say should because some stores, especially convenience stores, may try to sell it for much more.  

Recharge cards are sold in almost every corner store or at Grameenphone stores.

Grameenphone sells many data packs. I have grouped them into short-term packs, up to 7 days, and long-term packs, up to 30 days). The company has incorporated all the necessary taxes into its prices, including the price for SIM cards. You can select and deactivate a pack by dialing *121*3000#, online, or with the USSD activation code that will be listed behind each plan.

The following short-term Grameenphone data packs are available:

  • 2.50 BDT: 5 MB for 2 days. Activation: dial *121*3002#
  • 12 BDT: 35 MB for 3 days. Activation: dial *121*3003#
  • 31 BDT: 250 MB for 3 days. Activation: dial *121*3083#
  • 37 BDT: 85 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3004#
  • 86 BDT: 1 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3056#
  • 104 BDT: 1.5 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3344#
  • 129 BDT: 2 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3058#
  • 179 BDT: 4 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3084#

If you are in love with Facebook, then you are in luck. Grameenphone sells Facebook data passes that come with unlimited Facebook usage. The following passes are available:

  • 1.5 BDT: unlimited Facebook and 20 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *121*3022#
  • 6 BDT: unlimited Facebook and 75 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *121*3023#
  • 18 BDT: unlimited Facebook and 300 MB for 28 days. Activation: dial *121*3024#

Robi-Airtel

Robi-Airtel Logo

Robi Axiata and Airtel became the second-largest operator after merging into one company back in 2017. Before that, Robi was the third-largest, and Airtel was the fourth-largest. Network integration is still underway, even 3 years later, and the Robi and Airtel brands will still be used for a while. For now, I will discuss each operator separately.

Robi Axiata

Robi Axiata Logo

Robi Axiata, just Robi, is part of the Axiata group from Malaysia. If you explored other places in Southeast Asia and South Asia, then you may recognize the logo. Robi’s 3G coverage has improved significantly since they integrated their networks with Airtel. Before that, their coverage was not the best but usable.

Robi SIM cards are sold for 100 BDT in Robi stores. Recharge cards can be bought from 10 BDT to 1000 BDT. To activate a reload voucher, you have to dial *111*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *111*123456#. You can check your balance by dialing *222#.

Robi has many data packages, which are all inclusive of the necessary taxes. There are over 30 of them, but I will mention a few. I have grouped them into short-term data packs, up to 7 days, and monthly data packs (30 days). The following short-term Robi data packs are available:

  • 3.44 BDT: 10 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *123*004#
  • 12.20 BDT: 45 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *123*782#
  • 20 BDT: 200 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *123*0020#
  • 27 BDT: 2 GB for 2 days. Activation: dial *123*027#
  • 41 BDT: 3 GB for 2 days. Activation: dial *123*041#
  • 101 BDT: 1.5 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *123*101#
  • 108 BDT: 4 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *123*0108#
  • 129 BDT: 6 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *123*0129#
  • 199 BDT: 10 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *123*0199#

You can also choose from any of these monthly Robi data packs:

  • 119 BDT: 500 MB. Activation: dial *123*0119#
  • 316 BDT: 2 GB. Activation: dial *123*085#
  • 649 BDT: 7 GB. Activation: dial *123*7168#
  • 911 BDT: 20 GB. Activation: dial *123*0996#

All Robi data plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. To deactivate a plan, dial *8444#. You can stack up multiple data plans if you want. You can check your data balance by dialing *8444*88#.

Airtel Bangladesh

Airtel Logo

Airtel Bangladesh, just Airtel, was always a small player in Bangladesh. It was, luckily, bigger than Teletalk, but Airtel had a market share of 7% before they merged with Robi. Since then, their coverage and speeds have improved, which is also how they managed to get more customers over the years.

Airtel SIM cards are sold for 100 BDT and come with 50 MB valid for 10 days and 5 BDT in credit for 90 days. These SIM cards can be bought in Airtel stores. Recharging can be done at recharge kiosks, or you can buy a top-up card.

Just like any provider in Bangladesh, Airtel has many data packages. I have grouped them into short-term packages, up to 7 days, and long-term packages, 28 days. I have added the taxes to the prices, which is why they may look odd.

The following short-term Airtel packages are available:

  • 20.57 BDT: 60 MB for 3 days
  • 32.67 BDT: 150 MB for 7 days
  • 42.35 BDT: 1 GB for 2 days
  • 107.69 BDT: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 192.39 BDT: 3 GB for 7 days
  • 216.59 BDT: 4 GB for 7 days

These long-term Airtel data packages, 28 days, can be bought:

  • 252.89 BDT: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *123*209#
  • 277.09 BDT: 2 GB. Activation: dial *123*299#
  • 360.58 BDT: 3 GB. Activation: dial *123*298#
  • 481.58 BDT: 4 GB. Activation: dial *123*398#
  • 602.58 BDT: 5 GB. Activation: dial *123*498#
  • 1087.79 BDT: 10 GB. Activation: dial *123*899#
  • 1692.79 BDT: 15 GB. Activation: dial *123*1399#
  • 2055.79 BDT: 25 GB. Activation: dial *123*1699#

You can check your balance by dialing *8444*88#.

Banglalink

Banglalink Logo

Banglalink is the last operator to be discussed in this article and are, if seeing Robi-Airtel as one company, the smallest operator on this list. Banglalink has a market share of around 26% and is active in all 64 districts.

Banglalink SIM cards are sold for 100 BDT in Banglalink stores. They have several starter packs, like Play, 1 sec pulse, and Desh, but it does not matter which one you get if you only care about data. Recharge cards are sold from 10 BDT to 1000 BDT in Banglalink service centers, but you can also top-up online with a credit card.  

It is a trend that all Bangladeshi providers have more than 20 different data packs. I will list a handful of them below, which are inclusive of the necessary taxes:

  • 13 BDT: 50 MB for 1 day
  • 26 BDT: 150 MB for 7 days
  • 36 BDT: 250 MB for 7 days
  • 209 BDT: 1.5 GB for 30 days
  • 399 BDT: 3 GB for 30 days
  • 499 BDT: 5 GB for 30 days

You can check your data balance by dialing *5000*500#.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Bangladesh

Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Bangladesh, 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 Bangladesh, but you can also roam with your provider in Bangladesh, use an international SIM card in Bangladesh, or use a mobile hotspot in Bangladesh. Let’s see what our options are.

Using Free WIFI hotspots in Bangladesh

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 Bangladesh, you can find a lot of hotspots in the bigger cities, but they can be slow.

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 Bangladesh

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 Jazz from Pakistan, then you would be roaming with Jazz in Bangladesh.

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 Bangladesh, 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 Bangladesh, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Bangladesh. 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 Bangladesh, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Bangladeshi SIM card.

Using an International SIM Card in Bangladesh

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 Bangladesh, 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 Bangladesh

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 Bangladesh

Getting a SIM card from Grameenphone would do you well when considering a Bangladeshi 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 Afghanistan, 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 Bangladesh

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 Bangladesh. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Bangladesh drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Bangladesh

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, especially in Bangladesh. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Bangladeshi hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Bangladesh

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Bangladesh, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

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 Bangladeshi Taka 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!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia.

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