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2 Best Prepaid SIM Cards in Bhutan: Buying Guide

Bhutan is a difficult country to visit. The country has a “High Value, Low Impact” tourism policy in place, meaning that tourist arrivals and impact is heavily regulated. Only citizens from three countries, Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives, can visit Bhutan without a visa or booking with a licensed tour operator – speaking of a strict visa policy!

Even with such a policy, Bhutan managed to process more than 200 000 tourists in 2017, with the majority coming from India (172 000+ visitors) and Bangladesh (10000+ visitors). Both are citizens of Freedom of Movement countries.

Besides the visa conditions, you need to know how to use your phone when visiting Bhutan. Roaming with your provider can be expensive depending on your provider. In many countries, travelers buy a local SIM card so that they can use their phone and use data at local rates. Can you get a Bhutanese SIM card with its strict regulations on tourism? Let's find out.

Telecom Provider in Bhutan

Bhutan has two telecom providers: B-Mobile and TashiCell. B-Mobile is state-owned and ran by Bhutan Telecom. TashiCell is privately owned. 2G is extensive in the country. The 3G network is alright, but patchy outside the capital. 4G/LTE is being deployed by both providers, although TashiCell uses the 700 MHz (band 28).

It is not essential to know what that means, but what you should know is that the frequency is not that common around the world. As a result, you may not be able to use 4G/LTE, even though there is coverage in your area.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Bhutan? If you want to buy a SIM card in Bhutan, I would recommend going with B-Mobile because their coverage is much better than TashiCell. TashiCell is somewhat cheaper than B-Mobile and should only be considered when staying in the capital.

Just like other destinations in South Asia, you have to bring your passport with you when buying a SIM card. Additionally, you have to hand them a photo of you. If you buy your SIM card at the airport, the office can handle the paperwork, including taking a picture of you, for you.

As there is nothing more to add, let’s see what B-Mobile and TashiCell have to offer to us.

B-Mobile

B Mobile (Bhutan Telecom) Logo

Usually, state-owned companies are not the leading providers in many countries. However, in Bhutan, that is not the case. Bhutan Telecom is the clear leading provider in Bhutan in terms of fixed-line telephony and internet service. Additionally, their mobile brand, B-Mobile, is the preferred provider because of their extensive coverage.

Earlier, I mentioned that B-Mobile is building its 4G/LTE network. If you buy a 4G SIM card, you can experience 4G/LTE in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Punakha, Paro, Wangdue, and Dzongkhags. More towns will be added in the future.

You can buy your SIM card at Paro International Airport for 100 BTN ($1.40) and can choose from the Tourist SIM and the regular Prepaid SIM – both cards come with 100 BTN in credit. The major differences between the tourist and regular SIM cards are that the tourist SIM is valid for one month only and cannot be extended, which is fine for most visitors, and no regular data packages can be added to it.

The following tourist packages are available. The numbers represent the price in BTN:

  • 100 Plan: 100 BTN credit for calls and SMS valid for 1 month
  • 200 Plan: 1 GB and 100 BTN credit for calls and SMS valid for 7 days
  • 300 Plan: 2 GB and 100 BTN credit for calls and SMS valid for 14 days
  • 500 Plan: 3 GB and 200 BTN credit for calls and SMS valid for 1 month

The Prepaid SIM card comes with many options. Below are some of the packages:

  • 29 BTN: 265 MB for 24 hours
  • 49 BTN: 425 MB for 7 days
  • 99 BTN: 860 MB for 30 days
  • 199 BTN: 1770 MB for 30 days
  • 299 BTN: 2910 MB for 30 days
  • 499 BTN: 5370 MB for 30 days
  • 699 BTN: 14500 MB for 30 days

A data package will automatically be activated depending on how much you top-up. For example, if you add 300 BTN to your account, the Monthly 299 package of 2910 MB for 30 days will be activated.

TashiCell

TashiCell Logo

TashiCell has a market share of about 30% and worse coverage than B-Mobile. 4G coverage can be found in Paro, Wangdue, Phuntsholing, Thimphu, and Punakha Dzongkhag. TashiCell SIM cards are sold for 200 BTN at Consumer Care Centers and come with the same amount in credit. The card is valid for 3 months. They do not sell tourist SIM cards.

Various data packages are available, which are listed below:

  • 19 BTN: 100 MB for 1 day
  • 49 BTN: 340 MB for 7 days
  • 99 BTN: 300 MB for 30 days
  • 199 BTN: 1700 MB for 30 days
  • 299 BTN: 2700 MB for 30 days
  • 499 BTN: 5000 MB for 30 days
  • 777 BTN: 1500 MB for 30 days
  • 1299 BTN: 30000 MB for 30 days

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Bhutan

Being redone.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Bhutan

Getting a SIM card from B-Mobile would do you well when considering a Bhutanese SIM card.

Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other Asian Countries

Visiting other countries in Asia? Check out my SIM card buying guides for individual Asian countries:

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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