Israel is a unique destination in the Middle East because it is not an Arab country. Regardless, there are many things to do in Israel. Jerusalem is a must-see and Tel Aviv-Yafo will be an experience in itself. The Dead Sea has plenty of resorts to relax.
What could make you stressed is getting back home from a lovely holiday in Israel and seeing your extremely high roaming bill. Roaming with your provider can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers who want to explore Israel want to buy an Israeli SIM card. In this article, we will go everything you need to know about buying SIM cards in Israel.
Telecom Providers in Israel
Israel has 3 operators: Cellcom, Partner, and Pelephone. Several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can be found too, which are HOT Mobile, 019, Rami Levy, Golan Telecom, and 012 Mobile.
The 3 operators all have more than 2 million subscribers, but Cellcom is the biggest, followed by Partner and Pelephone. Hot Mobile has more than 1.5 million subscribers, while Golan Telecom has around 1 million.
4G/LTE can be found in most cities with all providers, including the MVNOs. Pelephone is the only provider that does not have a 2G network anymore. For data usage, 2G speeds are too slow, so it is nothing to worry about (unless you have an old phone. Then you should not go with Pelephone).
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Israel? If you want to buy a SIM card in Israel, I would recommend going with either HOT Mobile, 012 mobile, Pelephone, or Rami Levy Mobile because they offer a high amount of data for low rates while providing good coverage. Finding SIM cards from Pelephone and Rami Levi Mobile will be easier than finding the other ones, but they are all cheap.
Unlike most Middle Eastern countries, you do not have to register your passport details when buying an Israeli SIM card, which is neat. The SIM cards of Cellcom, Partner, and Pelephone can be found in many stores, including official stores, authorized dealers, and kiosks. It may be harder to find SIM cards of the MVNOs, though, but it is possible.
Israeli SIM cards are sold between 30 NIS ($8.60) and 50 NIS. At Ben Gurion Airport, you will find tourist SIM cards, which are overpriced and should be avoided. Remember, there is no registration required for buying a SIM card, so there is no need to buy inflated SIM cards with bad perks in Israel.
You can also get an international SIM card that covers Israel. SimOptions sells 3 Smart Silver, Gold, and Platinum SIM cards from $29.90. You will get at least 10 GB with a validity of 30 days. The SIM card gets shipped to your home address so that you can be connected as soon as you arrive in Israel.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Israeli providers have 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!
Cellcom is the largest telecom provider in Israel in terms of customers. Once you have bought your Cellcom SIM Card, which is called TalkMan, you have to recharge it with credit because it comes with no credit upon purchase. Cellcom offers data-only plans and all-inclusive plans. All data-only plans are valid for 30 days, while the all-inclusive plans are valid for up to 30 days, depending on the package you decide to choose.
Below are some of the packs Cellcom offers:
- 29 NIS: 150 MB, unlimited calls, and unlimited SMS for 2 days
- 49 NIS: 3 GB, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS for 7 days
- 59 NIS: 30 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS for 30 days
- 60 NIS: 5 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS; 55 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 70 NIS: 10 GB and 65 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 79 NIS: 50 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS; unlimited data on select apps, and 25 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 99 NIS: 100 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS; unlimited data on select apps, and 40 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 160 NIS: 200 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS, unlimited data on select apps, and 100 NIS for international calls, all valid for 30 days
The selected apps for unlimited data are Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Waze, and Google Maps.
Looking for data only? The following Cellcom data-only plans can be added, which are all valid for 30 days:
- 99 NIS for 15 GB
- 129 NIS for 20 GB
- 149 NIS for 100 GB
Partner, which was known as Orange, is the second-largest operator in Israel. Partner SIM cards are sold for up to 40 NIS in many shops around the country. Just like with Cellcom, your SIM card comes with no credit, so you want to top it up to use it.
Several all-around Partner packages can be bought, and a handful of them are listed below:
- 29 NIS: 1 GB, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS for 2 days
- 45 NIS: 5 GB and 50 on-net minutes; 10 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 7 days
- 50 NIS: 10 GB, 1500 minutes, and 1500 SMS for 7 days
- 59 NIS: 35 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 75 NIS: 15 GB, 500 minutes, and 500 SMS; 40 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 79 NIS: 50 GB, 3000 minutes, and 300 SMS; unlimited data for select apps, and 40 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 99 NIS: 100 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS; 40 NIS credit for international calls, all valid for 30 days
- 159 NIS: 200 GB, 5000 minutes, and 5000 SMS; unlimited data for select apps, and 110 NIS for international calls, all valid for 30 days
The apps for unlimited data are WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Waze, and Google Maps.
Just need data? The following Partner data-only plans can be added:
- 39 NIS: 30 GB for 7 days
- 69 NIS: 25 GB for 30 days
- 149 NIS: Unlimited data for 30 days (although speed will be throttled after using 200 GB)
Check out SimOptions' Israel SIM card, starting from $19.90
Pelephone is the Israeli legacy operator, which was founded back in 1986. It is the only operator without a 2G network because it used to use the CDMA technology for a while. Almost all countries use GSM, so Pelephone decided to switch to GSM in 2009 with their 3G and 4G/LTE network. As a result, the 2G network became obsolete.
Pelephone offers many packages. Most of them are valid for 30 days, except for two. If nothing is mentioned about the validity, then the pack is valid for 30 days:
- 25 NIS: 300 MB, 300 minutes, and 300 SMS for 3 days
- 55 NIS: 1 GB, 750 on-net minutes, 250 all-net minutes, and 250 SMS for 45 days
- 59 NIS: 35 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 SMS, and unlimited data for select apps
- 72 NIS: 20 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS; 30 NIS for international calls, and unlimited data for select apps
- 79 NIS: 55 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 SMS, and unlimited data for select apps
- 99 NIS: 85 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 SMS, and unlimited data for select apps
- 140 NIS: 100 GB, 3000 minutes, 3000 SMS; 70 NIS for international calls, and unlimited data for select apps
The select apps for unlimited data are WhatsApp, Waze, Google Maps, Facebook, and Instagram.
HOT Mobile by Altice started in 2012 and run on 3G and 4G/LTE only. They have an agreement with Partner to use Partner’s 2G network in case you need it. To use Partner’s 2G network, you need to enable data roaming on your phone.
HOT Mobile SIM cards are called Hottalk and can be bought for 49 NIS in many stores around the country. The following packages can be added:
- 29 NIS: 10 GB, 500 minutes, and 500 SMS for 10 days
- 35 NIS: 3 GB, 1000 minutes, and 1000 SMS for 10 days
- 50 NIS: 20 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 59 NIS: 25 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 69 NIS: 50 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 79 NIS: 35 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 99 NIS: 50 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 299 NIS: 60 GB every month, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 180 days
The last package last for 180 minutes. In total, you get 360 GB, but you can only use 60 GB every month.
Not interest in calling or texting? Add HOT Mobile data-only plans, which are all valid for 30 days:
- 20 NIS for 10 GB
- 49 NIS for 20 GB
- 140 NIS for 100 GB
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019 mobile is an MVNO using the Partner network, which allows them to use Partner’s 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE network. They offer attractive plans that come with unlimited calls and SMS (with a fair use policy of 3000 minutes and SMS per week or month, depending on the plan):
- 35 NIS: 1 GB for 7 days
- 49 NIS: 30 GB for 30 days
- 59 NIS: 6 GB and 30 NIS for international calls for 30 days
- 69 NIS: 100 GB for 30 days
- 74 NIS: 20 GB and 40 NIS for international calls for 30 days
- 75 NIS: 2 Gb and 500 international minutes to landline phones for 14 days
- 99 NIS: 45 GB and 45 NIS for international calls for 30 days
- 150 NIS: 30 GB and 100 NIS for international calls for 30 days
- 170 NIS: 14 GB with unlimited international calls to select countries for 14 days
Are calls and SMS unnecessary for your visit to Israel? Get 019 mobile’s monthly data-only plans:
- 29 NIS for 1 GB
- 42 NIS for 6 GB
- 70 Nis for 30 GB
019 mobile sells airport plans at Ben Gurion International airports, but you can also book them online. They allow you to make unlimited calls and SMS to Israeli numbers, and unlimited calls to various countries. Moreover, 10 GB to 100 GB of data is added to these plans to0. The plans are sold in US dollars. I have listed the price in Israeli New Shekel (NIS) for easy comparison.
- $29 (100 NIS): 10 GB for 10 days
- $49 (170 NIS): 30 GB for 30 days
- $59 (205 NIS): 100 GB for 30 days
(Pelephone’s 100 GB plan is sold for 140 NIS… just letting you know)
Unlimited calls can be made to the following countries on landline phones:
- Canada *
- Czech Republic
- Eswatini (Swaziland)
- Hong Kong
- India *
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- South Korea
- The United Kingdom
- The United States *
*Unlimited calls to mobile numbers
Golan Telecom is another operator in Israel. They started mid-2018, which makes it harder to find Golan Telecom SIM cards around Israel. They offer four different packages, all valid for 30 days:
- 39 NIS: 10 GB
- 45 NIS: 9 GB, 2000 minutes, and 1000 SMS
- 49 NIS: 30 GB, 2000 minutes, and 1000 SMS
- 69 NIS: 50 GB, 2000 minutes, and 1000 SMS
012 Mobile is operated by Partner but offers lower rates. They started around the same time as Golan Telecom did. Just like with Golan Telecom, it may be challenging to find 012 Mobile SIM cards in Israel. The following packages are offered by 012 Mobile:
- 25 NIS: 6 GB for 14 days
- 45 NIS: 1 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 50 NIS: 20 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 60 NIS: 25 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 70 NIS: 30 GB, 3000 minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog to be notified when there are cheap flights to Turkey from your preferred airport. It is free!
Rami Levy Mobile
Rami Levy is an Israeli supermarket that started an MVNO on the Pelephone network. Remember, Pelephone has no 2G network, which means that Rami Levy does operate on a 2G network either. The following 30-day packs are sold, which all come with unlimited calls and texts:
- 25 NIS for 1 GB
- 28 NIS for 3 GB
- 30 NIS for 5 GB
- 40 NIS for 15 GB
- 50 NIS for 25 GB
- 60 NIS for 40 GB
- 80 NIS for 50 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Israel
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Israel. However, that is not the only way to be online in Israel. I have already briefly mentioned that you can roam with your provider, although it can be expensive in most cases. Besides that, you can use free WIFI connections, mobile hotspots, or international SIM cards.
Roaming in Israel with Your Provider
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 Batelco from Bahrain, then you would be roaming with Batelco in Israel.
You may have read horror stories of people coming back from a lovely holiday, only to be confronted with a roaming bill in the thousands. This can still be the case if you do not review your roaming options before going on a holiday. Luckily for you, I have written about the roaming options you have with various providers around the world, which you can read here.
Some operators offer roaming plans. Others allow you to roam for free in Israel, while several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee. As you can see, roaming does not have to be a horrific experience. If your provider is generous and lets you roam for free in Israel, then you do not even need an Israeli SIM card (although I would still recommend doing so, as your connection speed will be much slower as a roamer than someone who is a customer of the network).
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Pay As You Go roaming should be avoided, as that is how travelers get high roaming bills. One provider charges you about 1000 USD per GB in certain destinations, which is insane. If you really want to roam, check whether your provider has attractive roaming plans. Else, you will be better off with buying an Israeli SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Israel
This does not require a lot of explanation, but using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to connect to the internet because you do not have to pay anything. Nothing beats free stuff, right? Well, not so fast.
First, you need to find hotspots in Israel. In some countries of cities, you will find so many hotspots that you can try them out one by one and find the one with the fastest speeds. In other places, however, WIFI connections do not seem to exist.
In the case of Israel, you can find hotspots in the big cities, but they may not always be the fastest out there.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. 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 subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
Using a Pocket WIFI (Mobile Hotspot) in Israel
Pocket WIFI 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.
Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Israel
International SIM cards are, as the name implies, SIM cards for international use. Well, that does not explain anything. Although most providers allow you to use your card abroad, some actually restrict this possibility. An international SIM card lets you go abroad without having to change SIM cards when visiting multiple destinations. They have been made with the traveler in mind.
All of this sounds lovely, but international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Israel. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard and SimOptions.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in the Middle East require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, 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.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Israel
Getting a SIM card from HOT Mobile, 012 mobile, Pelephone, or Rami Levy Mobile would do you well when considering an Israeli 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 the Middle East? Check out my Middle Eastern SIM card buying guide, covering other Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. 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 Israel
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 Israel. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Israel drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Israel
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 Israel. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in an Israeli hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Israel
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 Israel, 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 the currency of your destination 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!