What also should be history is coming back from a holiday and facing an expensive roaming bill. Roaming with your provider can be expensive if yoEu are not aware of the prices and conditions. That is why a lot of travelers want to buy a local SIM card of the destination they are visiting so that they can enjoy domestic prices. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Lebanon. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Lebanon
Lebanon has 2 operators: Touch managed by Zain and Alfa managed by Orascom. Both providers are owned by the Lebanese state, but companies can run and manage these companies through some sort of a franchise agreement. Right now, both providers are run by two foreign companies.
Compared to other nations in the Middle-East, phone usage prices are high in Lebanon. So much so that the government had to ask the providers to lower some of their prices, like the price of a SIM card. From 25 USD to 3 USD.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Lebanon? If you want to buy a SIM card in Lebanon, I would recommend going with Alfa. Because both Touch and Alfa are somewhat state-owned companies, the government sets the prices for both providers. Alfa is, however, slightly cheaper, while having slightly worse coverage than touch.
Just like most Middle Eastern countries, you need to bring your passport with you when buying a SIM Card. Be prepared to be called by your operator, as they would want to confirm your identity upon purchasing your SIM card.
As of 2019, the Lebanese government introduced a whitelist IMEI registration to combat tax evasion, just like Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey (I have the feeling more countries in the Middle East will be doing the same soon). This means that if you plan to use a Lebanese SIM card for more than 90 days, you have to register your phone and pay an import tax, which is about 15% of the phone’s original price on the market. Those using tourist SIM cards, which are valid for a year, will not have to register their phones and pay the import fee.
The Lebanese Pound, LBP, is pegged to the US Dollar. 1507.5 LBP is 1 USD. As a result, all prices in this article are mentioned in USD. Otherwise, the prices for some of the packages will “look weird.” Do note that the USD is not an official currency in Lebanon, but they are accepted in many places. Also, the 10% sales tax is not included in the prices.
At the end of 2019, Lebanon was facing a currency crisis. The peg between the LBP and USD slipped for the first time in many years, which forced banks not to dispense USD from ATMs anymore. Do note that this happened when there were many protests in the country, so things may be stable or worse when you get to Lebanon.
My advice is to have dollar bills with you before arriving in Lebanon. If you do want to withdraw USD, just $ from now on, from ATMs, you may get a few 100-dollar bills (depending on how much you wish to withdraw), which will make things a bit challenging for everyday spending. Try to get smaller bills before arriving in the country.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Touch and Alfa have to offer.
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!
Touch managed by Zain
Touch, which was known as MTC in the past, is managed by Zain, a Kuwaiti company. It has a market share of more than 66%, making it the market leader in Lebanon. Their 4G/LTE network covers about 90% of the population.
Touch SIM cards can be bought in official Touch shops. A SIM card costs $3 (+10% tax) and comes with $3 credit for 5 days. You can also buy a data-only SIM card for $19, which comes with $19 in credit.
Touch sells various prepaid plans, which are only relevant for making calls in Lebanon. As most of those visiting this website are interested in data usage, I will not discuss them in this article.
Several data packs can be added for the following prices:
- $1: 50 MB for 24 hours
- $2: 200 MB for 48 hours
- $4: 700 GB for 4 days
- $7: 1 GB for 7 days
You can also add monthly packs, which will get you much more data. A few of them are highlighted below:
- $10 for 500 MB
- $19 for 1.75 GB
- $26 for 6 GB
- $33 for 10 GB
- $39 for 20 GB
- $109 for 100 GB
Touch also sells social media bundles, which are, in my opinion, expensive for what you get. For example, 300 MB for WhatsApp costs $6 per month. Unless you video call a lot, WhatsApp does not consume that much data, so I would not recommend getting any of the social media packs.
Finally, you can buy a Touch tourist SIM card called Visitor Line. It can be bought at Beirut International Airport and Touch stores. The card is valid for a year and costs $39. You will get 10 GB, 100 minutes and 100 SMS for local and international use for 14 days. You cannot add any other data bundle to the Visitor Line.
Alfa managed by Orascom
Alfa is the other provider in Lebanon with a market share of more than 30%. It is managed by Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian company. Their coverage is almost as extensive as touch while offering lower prices and options.
Alfa SIM cards are sold for $3 (tax included) and come with $3 in credit for 3 days. Data-only SIM cards, called Prepaid Mobile Broadband, is sold for $17 with the same credit available.
The following Alfa data packs can be added:
- $5: 500 MB for 7 days
- $7: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- $15: 5 GB for 7 days
If you need more data, data boosters can be added:
- $1 for 50 MB until midnight the next day
- $3 for 600 MB for 3 days
- $5 for unlimited data for the next 2 hours
Want more data? The following monthly data packages can be added. Not all of them are mentioned below:
- $10 for 500 MB
- $17 for 1.5 GB
- $23 for 5 GB
- $30 for 10 GB
- $39 for 20 GB
- $47 for 30 GB
- $107 for 100 GB
- $194 for 200 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Lebanon
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Lebanon. However, that is not the only way to be online in Lebanon. 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 Lebanon 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 China Telecom from China, then you would be roaming with China Telecom in Lebanon.
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 Lebanon, 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 Lebanon, then you do not even need a Lebanese 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 Lebanese SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Lebanon
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 Lebanon. 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 Lebanon, do not expect to find many hotspots because you will not.
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 Lebanon
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 Lebanon
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 Lebanon. 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 Lebanon
Getting a SIM card from Alfa would do you well when considering a Lebanese 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, 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 Lebanon
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 Lebanon. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Lebanon drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Lebanon
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 Lebanon. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Lebanese hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Lebanon
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 Lebanon, 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!