Kazakhstan is one of the 10 largest countries in the world, making it a diverse country. With popular destinations like Almaty and Astana, there is plenty of things to do in the country. Let's not forget the Bayterek tower in Nur-Sultan or the famous mosque in Turkistan – you will not be bored when visiting Kazakhstan.
What may bore you is figuring out if you can roam with your provider in Kazakhstan. In most cases, you can, but roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers want to buy a local SIM card so that they can enjoy local rates. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Kazakhstan. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has 3 telecom providers: Kcell, Beeline Kazakhstan, and Tele2 Kazakhstan. All providers have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE coverage throughout the country. 4G/LTE can be found in most cities in Kazakhstan nowadays.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Kazakhstan? If you want to buy a SIM card in Kazakhstan, I would recommend going with Beeline Kazakhstan because their coverage is almost as good as the one of Kcell, who has the best coverage, but with far lower rates.
Just like most countries in Central Asia, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Kazakhstan. Since 2019, your IMEI number gets sent to a government database that gets linked to your ID. As a result, you cannot use another Kazakhstani SIM card that is not registered to your name.
For example, I have a Kcell SIM card and am thinking of switching to Beeline Kazakhstan. This would only be possible if I deregister from Kcell, who will deregister me from the database, sign up with Beeline Kazakhstan (with passport and all), and sign up to the national database again so that I can use my Beeline Kazakhstan SIM card.
As most travelers usually only need 1 SIM card, this should not be an issue for most. However, some travelers like to have multiple SIM cards and switch to the best network of the region when necessary. In Kazakhstan, this would only be possible if you have multiple phones because of the IMEI registration.
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!
Kcell is the largest operator by users and has the best coverage throughout Kazakhstan. If you look at Kcell’s logo, it may remind you of the logo of Telia. This is because Kcell is partially owned by Telia, a Swedish operator that has a large presence in Northern Europe, West Asia, and Central Asia.
Kcell SIM cards are sold for 1500 KZT ($3.90) and can be bought in Kcell stores or from vendors. The SIM card comes with 1300 KZT in credit. Top-up vouchers are sold from 500 KZT to 5000 KZT. The following data packs can be added:
- 59 KZT: 100 MB until midnight
- 1490 KZT: 5 GB for 30 days
- 1990 KZT: 10 GB for 30 days
- 2990 KZT: 20 GB for 30 days
- 3990 KZT: 30 GB for 30 days
- 4990 KZT: 40 GB for 30 days
Kcell also sells long-term packages that give you 20 GB per month for 3, 6, and 12 months for 8990 KZT, 11990 KZT, and 14990 KZT, respectively. All packages, except for the one lasting until midnight, come with throttled unlimited data at 64 kbps, which is too slow for modern data browsing. You can add more high-seed data with the following prices:
- 200 KZT: 500 MB
- 400 KZT: 1 GB
- 600 KZT: 2 GB
- 1490 KZT: 5 GB
- 1990 KZT: 10 GB
Beeline Kazakhstan, just Beeline, is another operator with an extensive network in Kazakhstan. They are, however, cheaper than Kcell, which is why I recommend Beeline. Beeline, as a company, is active in multiple countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia.
Beeline’s 4G network covers more than 50% of the population. Its 2G and 3G are more comprehensive. Beeline SIM cards are sold up to 1000 KZT (much lower if you can buy it from a vendor). The following data packs can be added:
- 30 KZT: 100 MB for 1 day
- 890 KZT: 3 GB for 30 days
- 1190 KZT: 5 GB for 30 days
- 1790 KZT: 12 GB for 30 days
- 2590 KZT: 20 GB for 30 days
- 3290 KZT: 30 GB for 30 days
Unlike Kcell, Beeline data packs cut off after using up your allowance. More data can be added:
- 790 KZT: 2 GB
- 1290 KZT: 4 GB
- 1590 KZT: 8 GB
Tele2 Kazakhstan, just Tele2, is the smallest operator in Kazakhstan, covering around 90% of the population with its network. 4G/LTE can be found in major cities and towns throughout the country. Tele2 SIM cards can be bought in Tele2 stores or from authorized resellers. They sell the following combo packs:
- 440 KZT: 2 GB and unlimited on-net calls for 7 days
- 1390 KZT: 5 GB, 50 domestic minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
- 1790 KZT: 10 GB, 100 domestic minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
- 2590 KZT: 20 GB, 200 domestic minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
Just want data? The following Tele2 monthly data packs can be added:
- 590 KZT: 2 GB
- 990 KZT: 4 GB
- 1390 KZT: 8 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Kazakhstan
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Kazakhstan. However, that is not the only way to be online in Kazakhstan 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 Kazakhstan 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 MegaCom Kyrgyzstan, then you would be roaming with MegaCom Kyrgyzstan in Kazakhstan.
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 Kazakhstan, 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 Kazakhstan, then you do not even need a local 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 a local SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan. 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 Kazakhstan, you can find plenty of hotspots in the big cities. It may be a challenge to find free WIFI in towns, though.
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 Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, and Surfroam.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in Central Asia 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 Kazakhstan
Getting a SIM card from Beeline would do you well when considering a Kazakhstani 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 places in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)? Check out my CIS SIM card buying guide, covering the CIS with nations like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
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 Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Kazakhstan drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Kazakhstani hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Kazakhstan
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 Kazakhstan, 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!