Nepal is a small country and recently reached a million yearly tourists, something the country has been trying to achieve since 2011. It is an incredibly mountainous country located between India and Tibet. Nepal is known for its magnificent temples and the towering Himalayan mountains, in fact, extreme travelers who want to conquer Everest can do so in Nepal. The locals are kind and peaceful people with a rich and relatively diverse culture and religion.
All of this sounds lovely. What is not lovely is the potential roaming charges you would have to pay if you decide to roam with your provider in Nepal. Roaming can be expensive, which is why those traveling to Nepal want to buy a Nepalese SIM card. Today, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Nepal. Shall we?
Telecom Providers in Nepal
Nepal has three telecom providers: Nepal Telecom (NTC), Ncell, and Smart Cell. According to the latest figures, Ncell and Nepal Telecom have almost the same market share. In 2017, Ncell had a slight upper-hand, but that may have changed. Even if it did, the difference would be small.
Ncell also has better 3G coverage than Nepal Telecom. 4G is being rolled out by all providers, including Smart Cell, and is available in select cities (which will be discussed with each provider individually). Ncell is the only provider that sells traveler SIM cards.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Nepal? If you want to buy a SIM card in Nepal, I would recommend going with Ncell because they have better coverage. If you are planning on going into the mountains, however, you should go with Nepal Telecom, as they have better coverage in the mountains, although coverage can still be spotty and slow.
In general, coverage and speeds in Nepal are subpar because of its mountainous territory. You should experience better service in Kathmandu Central Valley and Pokhara.
Just like most other countries in South Asia, you need to register your SIM card upon purchase. You have to bring your SIM card with you when visiting the operator’s store. They will also take a photo of you. If you, by any chance, walk around with passport-sized photos, you can speed things up.
With that being said, let’s see how we can stay connected in Nepal.
Ncell is the preferred operator when visiting Nepal because of better speeds and coverage. However, speeds may not be as great as other South Asian countries (and certainly not as fast as Southeast Asian or East Asian countries).
Ncell’s 2G network covers 90% of the population. 2G is too slow for most data activities. Even sending or opening emails will be slow. 3G is found in 20 of the biggest towns in Nepal, while 4G/LTE can be found in more than 20 cities (covering 15% of the population).
SIM cards can be bought in official stores or from street vendors for 99 NPR ($0.87) and comes with 50 NPR in credit, 60 SMS, 40 minutes, and 20 MB, all to be used within 7 days. Recharge cards can be bought from 50 NPR up to 500 NPR.
Do note that for tax reasons, you cannot use the full amount of the recharge. For example, if you top-up with 50 NPR, you get 49.** in credit.
Various data packages are available. There are even unlimited packages… that have a limit. You will get throttled to 32 Kbps if you go over your “unlimited” limit. You would be better off not using your phone at all after going over your limit or buy a new package because 32 Kbps is frustratingly slow.
Below are all the data packages you can choose from. These do not include the packages for the traveler SIM card – they will be mentioned separately.
Ramro data packs, which are the cheapest Ncell data packs. You get the same data for 4G/LTE use. For example, the NPR 11.49 plan comes with 35 MB and 35 MB on the 4G/LTE network for 1 day. I will just mention the data allowance once:
- 11.49 NPR: 35 MB for 1 day
- 32.03 NPR: 120 MB for 3 days
- 88.11 NPR: 300 MB for 7 days
- 343.49 NPR: 1.3 GB for 30 days
Gajjabko data packs:
- 19.15 NPR: 75 MB for 1 day
- 44.69 NPR: 200 MB for 3 days
- 95.77 NPR: 500 MB for 7 days
- 453.30 NPR: 3 GB for 30 days
Daami data packs:
- 24.26 NPR: 220 MB for 1 day
- 62.57 NPR: 500 MB for 3 days
- 113.64 NPR: 1 GB for 7 days
- 573.33 NPR: 5 GB for 30 days
Sahi data packages, which all come with 60 minutes of YouTube streaming per day:
- 49.80 NPR: 750 MB for 1 day
- 126.41 NPR: 2 GB for 3 days
- 254.10 NPR: 4 GB for 7 days
- 1020.24 NPR: 16 GB for 30 days
Unlimited internet packages (with limited – overuse gets throttled to 32 Kbps). All valid for 30 days:
- 892.55 NPR for 1 GB high-speed data
- 2552.52 NPR for 5 GB high-speed data
- 3829.42 NPR for 10 GB high-speed data
The traveler SIM card can be bought for 110 NPR at the airport, Ncell stores, or other stores near tourist attractions. The SIM comes with 30 NPR in credit and 300 MB to be used in 3 days. The following packages can be added:
- 490 NPR: 20 minutes and 7 GB for 7 days
- 980 NPR: 30 minutes and 14 GB for 14 days
- 1470 NPR: 40 minutes and 21 GB for 21 days
- 1960 NPR: 50 minutes and 28 GB for 28 days
As you can see, the packages for the traveler SIM cards seem more expensive than regular packs, but you get more data for almost the same price (or for less).
Nepal Telecom (NTC)
Nepal Telecom is the first provider in Nepal because it is state-owned. It has more 3G antennas than Ncell, more than 60, and 4G is still being deployed throughout the country. The Prepaid SIM card, Namaste (which means welcome), can be bought for 90 NPR in official stores and from resellers. You get 50 NPR in airtime as well.
Recharge cards are available from 50 NPR to 1000 NPR. The more you add to your account, the longer your account will be valid (from 30 days to 2 years). This is not a big concern if you are visiting Nepal for a short period.
Various data packs are available, including packs for data use at night (not discussed in this article), for social media use, and for YouTube.
Below are some of the standard data packs:
- 9 NPR: 55 MB for 24 hours
- 20 NPR: unlimited data for 1 hour
- 25 NPR: 100 MB for 1 day
- 30 NPR: 30 MB for 3 days
- 60 NPR: 190 MB for 7 days
- 100 NPR: 500 MB for 7 days
- 140 NPR: 1.5 GB for 28 days
- 250 NPR: 7 GB for 7 days
Are you a real social media fan? Then you should consider these social media packs, which are for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter:
- 6 NPR: 36 MB for 1 day
- 30 NPR: 150 MB for 3 days
- 60 NPR: 325 MB for 7 days
Like to watch many YouTube videos? Special YouTube data packs are offered:
- 12 NPR: 150 MB for 1 day
- 30 NPR: 400 MB for 3 days
- 60 NPR: 900 MB for 7 days
Smart Cell deserved an honorable mention, even though they are a small provider in Nepal. They have a decent 2G network in 26 districts and a limited 4G/LTE network. If you are in an area without 4G/LTE coverage, you will experience awfully slow 2G speeds, which is why it is not a recommended provider for travelers. 4G/LTE coverage can be found in 19 districts.
Smart Cell SIM cards, Sath Sath Smart Cell Packs, are sold for 99 NPR and come with 90 NPR in credit, 10 minutes, 10 SMS, and 200 MB, all to be used within 30 days. Buy their 4G SIM card if you want to experience the 4G network (which you want, trust me). Recharge cards are sold from 20 NPR all the way up to 1000 NPR. When you recharge with at least 100 NPR, you get the following bonuses:
- 100 NPR: 98.08 in credit, 400 MB, 10 minutes, and 10 SMS – bonuses to be used within 7 days
- 200 NPR: 196.08 in credit, 800 MB, 20 minutes, and 20 SMS – bonuses to be used within 15 days
- 500 NPR: 490.20 in credit, 3 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS – bonuses to be used within 30 minutes
- 1000 NPR: 980 in credit, 6 GB, 200 minutes, and 200 SMS – bonuses to be used in 30 days
If the data bonuses are not enough, the following data packs are available:
- 11.49 NPR: 200 MB for 1 day
- 37.03 NPR: 1 GB for 1 day
- 88.11 NPR: 2 GB for 7 days
- 113.64 NPR: 2 GB for 15 days
- 254.10 NPR: 4 GB for 30 days
- 407.33 NPR: 10 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Nepal
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Nepal
Getting a SIM card from Ncell would do you well when considering a Nepalese 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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