In recent years, Myanmar has opened itself to the world, including tourism. It is a beautiful country with many things to see. More importantly, it is a “cheap” country (depending on where you are from, of course).
What you do not want to see, however, is an expensive roaming bill you will get from roaming with your provider. Telecom providers in Southeast Asia offer good packages for affordable local rates, which makes it interesting for seasoned travelers to get a Myanmar SIM card for their Myanmar exploration. In this article, I will explore all the SIM card options you have in Myanmar. Shall we?
Telecom Providers in Myanmar
Myanmar has 4 telecom providers: MPT, Telenor, Ooredoo, and Mytel. MPT has the largest market share with 22 million subscribers. Telenor has close to 20 million subscribers and is MPT’s main competitor. Ooredoo is doing well with almost 10 million subscribers, while Mytel is the smallest player in Myanmar with 6 million subscribers.
When Myanmar was still ruled by the military, the country was isolated from the rest of the world. Apparently, only the military and those who paid a bribe of more than 1000 USD could buy a SIM card. Travelers visiting Myanmar had their phones confiscated at the border too, which, luckily, is not the case anymore.
Back then, MPT, which is still a state-owned company, could charge whatever they wanted, making mobile communications expensive. In 2013, the government issued licenses for foreign companies to build networks, which were Ooredoo and Telenor. Later, Mytel joined the scene. As a result, MPT has to lower its prices to compete. The people of Myanmar did not forgive MPT for charging them 200 USD for a SIM card and joined the other networks. Until this day, however, MPT still has the most subscribers, but Telenor is catching up.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Myanmar? If you want to buy a SIM card in Myanmar, I would recommend going with MPT because they have the best coverage in the country. Otherwise, Telenor is another option with offering great service for slightly lower rates.
Do not get me wrong about MPT. Although locals may still not be a fan of MPT anymore, MPT has improved a lot in the past few years and even won Ookla’s fastest mobile network award in 2016. There is more to be said about MPT, but that will be done later.
4G/LTE can be found in the capital, Naypyidaw, and parts of Mandalay, Yangon, and other areas.
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, you do need to show your passport when buying your SIM card from resellers. You are only required to do this when buying your card in official stores. All package rates are subject to a 5% commercial tax. Ooredoo and Telenor list their prices with the tax included, while MPT does not. I am not sure what MyTel does.
Let’s see what these providers 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!
MPT was, as established in the introduction, the bad kid in Myanmar until it got competition. In 2013, SIM cards were sold for 200 USD. Now, because of the competition, you can buy a SIM card for 1.45 USD. As the company still wants to make profits, it changed its strategy when the other providers joined the market and has improved its service. MPT has a head start in terms of building their network, which is why they still have the best coverage in Myanmar (although Telenor is catching up quickly).
For 1500 MMK ($1.45), you can buy an MPT SIM card at Yangon International Airport and various stores throughout the country that comes with 500 MMK in credit. You will get a bonus of 1000 MMK if you top-up 1000 MKK within 7 days. Top-up vouchers are sold from 1000 MMK to 30000 MMK
4G/LTE can be found in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.
Various monthly MPT data packs are sold, which are listed below:
- 700 MMK for 400 MB
- 900 MMK for 900 MB
- 1500 MMK for 1.5 GB
- 2500 MMK for 2.5 GB
- 3500 MMK for 3.5 GB
- 7000 MMK for 7 GB
- 15000 MMK for 15 GB
- 25000 MMK for 25 GB
MPT also sells a tourist SIM card at Yangon International Airport for 10000 MMK, which gets you 1.5 GB and 5000 MMK credit to be used for 10 days. As you can see, this is a bad deal compared to their regular SIM cards and should be avoided.
Telenor, a Norwegian telecom provider, has been making things challenging for MPT. Telenor started to operate in Myanmar in 2014 and has been stealing customers from MPT (to be honest, all providers have been taking customers away from MPT). Right now, Telenor has the biggest 3G network in Myanmar. They planned on covering 80% of Myanmar by the end of 2019. Unfortunately, the coverage map on their website is a bit buggy, so I cannot tell whether they have achieved their objective. 75% of the population is covered by Telenor’s 4G/LTE network.
SIM cards can be sold at various places, including Yangon International Airport, for 1500 MMK and come with 500 MMK in credit. Top-up vouchers are sold from 1000 MMK to 10000 MMK, and you can get up to 120 MB for your first top-up of 100000 MMK.
Monthly data packs, 30 days, are sold that include roll-overs if you renew your plan. Below are Telenor’s data packs:
- 900 MMK for 565 MB
- 800 MKK for 700 MB
- 1000 MMK for 920 MB
- 1500 MMK for 1.5 GB
- 2500 MMK for 2.5 GB
- 4000 MMK for 4 GB
- 6000 MMK for 6 GB
- 15000 MMK for 15.5 GB
Tourist SIM cards are sold at Yangon International Airport, Mandalay Airport, and Nay Pyi Taw Airport. For 15000 MMK, you get 5 GB for 50 minutes to be used within 14 days. A much better deal than MPT’s tourist plan, but you can get 15.5 GB of data for 15000, which makes the tourist plan not that attractive either.
Ooredoo is a Kuwait- and Qatar-based company that launched its Myanmar network in 2014. They started before Telenor, but Telenor has surpassed them relatively quickly. Either way, Ooredoo is doing well with 10 million subscribers.
Ooredoo has no 2G network. For most travelers who want to use data, this is not a problem because 2G is too slow to do anything useful on the internet. However, locals mainly use their phones to call, so not having a 2G network and going straight for a 3G network proved to be problematic for Ooredoo. In short, providers do not need as many antennas to deliver 2G coverage compared to 3G. As a result, the roll-out of Ooredoo’s network was slow compared to if they started building a 2G network first.
By now, Ooredoo covers 85% of the population with its 3G network. 4G can be found in Mandalay, Yangon, and Naypyidaw.
Ooredoo SIM cards are sold for 1500 MMK and come with 10 MB. Top-up vouchers are sold from 500 MMK to 50000 MMK. You do not need a special 4G SIM card to use Ooredoo’s 4G/LTE network.
Ooredoo sells monthly packages that have data roll-overs. A few of them are listed below.
- 700 MMK: 450 MB and 50 Facebook MB
- 1000 MMK: 900 MB and 124 Facebook MB
- 1500 MMK: 1 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 2000 MMK: 1.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 3000 MMK: 2.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 5000 MMK: 4.5 GB and 500 Facebook MB
- 10000 MMK: 9 GB and 1 Facebook GB
MyTel is the smallest player in Vietnam. They have 2G and 4G/LTE networks, no 3G. MyTel covers 90% of the population. 4G/LTE can be found in all states and regions but primarily in Naypyitaw, East Bago, and Kayin.
MyTel uses two unusual frequencies, 900 MHz and 2100 MHz (bands 1 and 8). It is not relevant to know what that means. You do, however, have to check whether your phone supports those frequencies and bands, and supports VoLTE calls. Else, you will have to use the other providers who use much more common frequencies and bands.
MyTel SIM cards are sold for 1500 MMK in various stores. You get 500 MB and 50 on-net calls every month for 3 months upon activation. The following data packs can be added:
- 111 MMK: 111 MB for 24 hours
- 300 MMK: 300 MB for 24 hours
- 955 MMK: 1 GB for 7 days
- 866 MMK: 900 MB for 30 days
- 2888 MMK: 3 GB for 30 days
- 5000 MMK: 5 GB for 30 days
- 10000 MMK: 10 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Myanmar
Some travelers do not want to get an Myanmar SIM card for various reasons. Some prefer to roam with their providers while others would prefer an international SIM card. Then we have those who like portable WIFI devices, and others who will connect to WIFI networks instead.
Roaming in Myanmar 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. If you use your phone in Myanmar without changing SIM cards, you would be roaming in Myanmar.
Roaming can be expensive. This person received an £8,348.41 data roaming bill. I also found out why roaming is so expensive. However, it does not always have to be costly.
Many providers offer roaming plans where you can roam for free in select destinations like Myanmar. Others may offer bundles that give you some minutes, SMS, and data. You also have providers that allow you to use your plan's allowance for a daily fee. Every carrier is different, so it is recommended to explore your roaming options before you go out and experience bill shock (which is not fun). Luckily, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers so that you do not have to.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
You can also Roam As You Go, meaning that you will pay per minute, text, and MB. In most cases, this is not recommended, as these rates are insanely high (that is how people get bills in the thousands). There are some providers, however, that do have attractive Pay As You Go roaming rates. Do not get too excited, though, as the number of carriers that have decent standard roaming rates is rare.
International SIM Cards
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
There are many international SIM cards out there, such as OneSimCard and SIM cards from SimOptions. These SIM cards with the same as roaming with your provider, but the charges are often way less than actually roaming because they have been set up for international travel.
International SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. As in, not having to get numerous SIM cards, you will not use again, and being reachable on one number instead of multiple
International SIM cards are, however, more expensive than using a local SIM card, such as a Myanmar one. On the other hand, they are often cheaper than roaming with your provider. International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or those who are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. If you are only visiting Myanmar, stick to a local SIM as discussed in this article.
Portable hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are devices small enough that they should fit into your pocket. These devices turn into your on-the-go WIFI hotspot while they connect to the cellular networks in the country.
There are many portable hotspots out there. Two reputable pocket WIFI companies I know are Skyroam (use coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ) and Vision Global Wireless. WIFI access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
A pocket WIFI device is ideal for those who are traveling with families or multiple individuals. This way, everyone can connect to the device and enjoy the WIFI network on the go. Some companies will charge you per GB while others will give you unlimited data. Be aware of the data restrictions of your device so that you will not receive a high bill after your travels.
Free WIFI connections
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected: Free WIFI hotspots.
Although using WIFI hotspots may save you money, it may not be convenient as using a SIM card. First, you would have to find WIFI hotspots, which will be hard to find. Once you have found one, they can be incredibly slow.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. I would recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to an unfamiliar network. The VPN will encrypt your data and will keep your data private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get yours today or find out more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Myanmar
Getting a SIM card from MPT or Telenor would do you well when considering a Myanmar 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 Southeast Asia? Check out my Southeast Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other Southeast Asian countries, such as Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. 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 Myanmar
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 Myanmar. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Myanmar drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Myanmar
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 Myanmar. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Burmese hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Myanmar
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 Myanmar, 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 local currency 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!