Mongolia is a landlocked country between China and Russia. With about 1.7 people per km2, Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world. This, however, allows travelers to experience a true nomadic feeling when visiting Mongolia, as there will be many times where you will be alone for a while.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia and has Buddist ruined. Gorkhi-Tereji National Park is a wild park with hot springs. Khuvsgul is a beautiful lake. As you can see, Mongolia has many things to experience.
What you should not experience, however, is experiencing bill shock after coming home to an expensive roaming bill. Roaming with your provider is, generally, expensive, especially in Mongolia for some reason. As a result, you would be better off getting a Mongolian SIM card when visiting Mongolia. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Mongolia. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Mongolia
Mongolia has 4 telecom providers: MobiCom, Unitel, Skytel, and G-Mobile. Skytel and G-Mobile use CDMA. Almost every smartphone around the world uses GSM, which is why these two providers will not be discussed in this article.
MobiCom and Unitel have similar subscriber numbers. In 2014, MobiCom had 115000 subscribers more than Unitel. I believe the numbers have changed by now, but I was unable to find a source to confirm this.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Mongolia? If you want to buy a SIM card in Mongolia, I would recommend going with Unitel. They have better signal and speed than MobiCom with lower prices, even though coverage is almost the same with both providers.
Mongolia is a large country but not densely populated. According to some, it is the least densely populated country in the world. Most of the population can be found in Mongolia’s population, Ulaanbaatar, meaning you will have the best coverage and speeds there. Luckily, coverage can be found in other provincial capitals, but do not expect much when traveling in smaller towns or just on the road.
Just like most East Asian countries, you need your passport or any other form of ID to buy a SIM card.
With that out of the way, let’s see what MobiCom and Unitel have to offer to us.
Unitel, or United telecommunications, was founded together with South Korea in 2015. Since 2010, it became fully Mongolian because the Mongolian shareholders bought the Korean shares. Unitel covers almost 90% of the population. Remember, most of the Mongolian population live around the capital or provincial capitals, so coverage may be non-existent when staying in towns and villages. 4G can be found in Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan City, Erdenet, Dalanzadgad, and Tsogttsetsii.
Unitel SIM cards are sold for 3000 MNT ($0.36) and come with 1000 MNT preloaded credit. Unitel sells several pay-as-you-go prepaid plans, which are:
- Smart Data: 70 MNT per minute, 20 MNT per SMS, and free data
- Smart Time: 70 MNT per minute, 20 MNT per SMS, and 0.09 MNT per MB
- Smart Talk: 35 MNT per minute, 20 MNT per SMS, and 0.09 MNT per MB
The following Unitel data packages are available:
- 1500 MNT: 1 GB for 24 hours
- 4000 MNT: 512 MB per day for 3 days
- 4000 MNT: 500 MB for 7 days
- 8000 MNT: 512 MB per day for 7 days
- 10 000 MNT: 1 GB for 30 days
- 20 000 MNT: 3 GB for 30 days
- 25 000 MNT: 512 MB per day for 30 days
MobiCom started as a Mongolian-Japanese venture and became the first telecom provider in Mongolia back in 1996. It covers 95% of the population and is the more expensive option when traveling in Mongolia. Their prepaid SIM card is called MobiCard and is sold for 5000 MNT without credit, or 10000 MNT with 5000 MNT in credit, and can be bought at MobiCom stores.
The following data packs are available, which all come with the same amount of data for 4G/LTE. For example, the 3500 MNT plan comes with 1.5 GB regular data and 1.5 GB 4G/LTE data for 3 days. If you go over your quota, your speed will be reduced to 128 kbps, which is annoyingly slow:
- 1500 MNT: 600 MB for 1 day
- 2000 MNT: 1 GB for 2 days
- 3500 MNT: 1.5 GB for 3 days
- 7000 MNT: 3 GB for 7 days
- 11 500 MNT: 5 GB for 15 days
- 16 500 MNT: 3 GB for 30 days
MobiCom also sells tourist combo bundles. They are expensive but come with lower international call rates. The following plans are available:
- 20 000 MNT: 600 MB and 5000 MNT credit valid for 15 days
- 35 000 MNT: 1.1 GB and 10 000 MNT credit valid for 30 days
- 60 000 MNT: 5 GB and 15 000 MNT credit valid for 30 days
Extra data can be added with the regular MobiCom data packs. The tourist SIM cards are only valid for max. 90 days.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Mongolia
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Mongolia
Getting a SIM card from Unitel would do you well when considering a Mongolian SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other 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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