Pakistan is the world's 5th most populous nation in the world while being the 33rd largest country in the world. With a population of more than 200 million, it will be rather crowded on the streets in Pakistan.
But that is not a reason to remove Pakistan from your travel bucket list. There is so much to see in Pakistan that it would be foolish not to visit Pakistan. From the Badshahi Mosque to the Sheesh Mahal, and from the Kaghan Valley to Said-ul-Maluk Lake, you will not be bored in Pakistan.
What would not bore you either is getting an expensive roaming bill from your provider if you decide to roam in Pakistan. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a Pakistani SIM card when visiting all of the country's landmarks.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Pakistan. Let's get started.
Telecom Providers in Pakistan
Pakistan has 4 telecom providers: Jazz, Telenor Pakistan, Zong, and Ufone. All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
The telecom situation in Pakistan was not so colorful not too long ago. Until 2014, Pakistan only had access to 2G networks, which is extremely slow for data, even at 2014 standards. Since then, the operators have quickly been building their 3G and 4G/LTE networks. 4G/LTE speeds are not super fast, averaging at 15 Mbps according to OpenSignal, but you can browse the web without issues with those speeds.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Pakistan? If you want to buy a SIM card in Pakistan, I would recommend going with either Jazz or Telenor. Jazz’ 2G network is the most extensive one in the country, while Telenor’s is lacking. Telenor is winning the 3G coverage race, while Jazz is struggling to stay ahead. 4G/LTE with both providers can only be found in major cities and towns.
4G/LTE in Pakistan is not as widespread as in other countries, which is why I talked about 2G and 3G in the previous paragraph. 2G is only useful for calls and texts, as EDGE speeds (2G) are up to 100 Kbps, which is practically useless. 3G provides decent speeds, but it will be significantly slower than the 4G/LTE networks you are used to at home.
You should not expect to find coverage in the mountains or mountainous areas in the north. Sometimes, only one operator is active in the countryside, which is why many Pakistanis have multiple SIM cards.
Speaking of having multiple SIM cards, unfortunately, Pakistan experiences terrorist attacks every now and then. After the attacks in 2014, the Pakistani government mandated that all SIM cards have to be registered biometrically.
Like most countries in South Asia, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card. In Pakistan, they will also take note of your visa (checking whether you have one or not and if it is valid), take a photo of you, and take fingerprints. Pakistan has the strictest SIM card registration scheme in South Asia, even stricter than Bangladesh and India, and also in the world.
The whole process may take a while, so be sure to schedule enough time for this process. The operator may call you to verify whether you are a real person or not and to verify your data and identity.
Even all of this is not enough. As of 2017, Pakistan wants everyone using a foreign phone and a Pakistani SIM card to register their device, IMEI number, or else your phone will be blocked by the regulator. This has to be done within 15 days. Otherwise, your device will be blocked.
You can register your phone on the PTA website (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority). You can find your IMEI by dialing *#06#. Once you have registered, you will get a certificate of conformity from the PTA that your device has been whitelisted within 24 hours. Be aware that the operator cannot register your device for you, which is why you have to go to the website and do it yourself.
You can register up to 5 devices per year, which should not be a problem with most travelers.
If you decide to roam with your provider in Pakistan or use an international SIM card, then you do not have to register your device with the PTA.
In some states, you have to add up to 19% to the prices for additional taxes.
With all of that said, let’s see what Pakistan has to offer to us.
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!
Jazz is the largest operator in Pakistan. Until 2016, Jazz was known as Mobilink and Warid before they merged into one company. Jazz has the most extensive coverage throughout the country.
You can buy a Jazz SIM card at Jazz stores starting at 200 PKR ($1.30). Once you go through the whole registration procedure, your SIM card will be ready to use immediately. You can check your balance by dialing *111#.
Although it is unlikely you will see Mobilink or Warid vouchers, you can use them to top-up your phone if you manage to find one without any issues. You will most likely see Jazz vouchers instead.
The following Jazz All in One plans are available:
- 13 PKR: 20 MB, 300 Jazz minutes, and 300 SMS for 1 day
- 17 PKR: 150 MB and 300 Jazz minutes for 1 day
- 28 PKR: 500 MB, 500 Jazz minutes, 5 local numbers, and 500 SMS for 1 day
- 115 PKR: 500 MB, 1000 Jazz minutes, 20 local minutes, and 1000 SMS for 7 days
- 155 PKR: 1 GB, 1000 Jazz minutes, 50 local minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 199 PKR: 3 GB, 1500 Jazz minutes, 50 local minutes, and 1500 SMS for 7 days
- 222 PKR: 10 GB (5 GB for between 2 AM and 2 PM), 5000 Jazz minutes, 50 local minutes, and 5000 SMS for 7 days
- 444 PKR: 1 GB, 10 000 Jazz minutes (333 Jazz minutes/per weekday and unlimited calls on Sunday), 50 local minutes, and 1000 SMS for 30 days
- 577 PKR: 3 GB, 3000 Jazz minutes, 150 local minutes, and 3000 SMS for 30 days
- 977 PKR: 10 GB, 5000 Jazz minutes, 300 local minutes, and 5000 SMS for 30 days
If you are feeling creative, then you can make your own Jazz All in One bundle. This page explains how to do so.
Just want data? The following Jazz data plans can be added:
- 12 PKR: 50 MB for 1 day
- 24 PKR: 100 MB and 1.1 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM for 1 day
- 95 PKR: 1 GB for 7 days
- 147 PKR: 3 GB for 7 days
- 200 PKR: 7 GB for 7 days
- 215: 4 GB (2 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM) for 30 days
- 250 PKR: 20 GB (10 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM) for 7 days
- 375 PKR: 8 GB (4 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM) for 30 days
- 600 PKR: 12 GB (6 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM) for 20 days
- 885 PKR: 20 GB (10 GB from 2 AM until 2 PM) for 30 days
You can also get one of Jazz’ social packages:
- 6 PKR: 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp for 1 day
- 7 PKR: 500 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp for 1 day
- 60 PKR: 5 GB for IMO, WhatsApp, and Facebook for 7 days
- 80 PKR: 5 GB for YouTube for 7 days
All of these Jazz packs can be activated online or at a Jazz store.
Telenor Pakistan, just Telenor, is the second-largest provider after Mobilink and Warid merged into Jazz. Its 3G network is competitive compared to Jazz. However, like all providers, the 4G/LTE network is still limited, but it can be found in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and various other large cities and towns.
You can get a Telenor SIM card for 300 PKR. Ask for a 4G SIM card if you want to use Telenor’s 4G/LTE network, as they may not immediately give it to you (because not that many locals have 4G/LTE compatible devices). If you accidentally get a 3G SIM card, go to a Telenor store, and they will replace your 3G card for a 4G card for free.
The following Telenor packages are available:
- 14.30 PKR: 50 MB for 1 day
- 18 PKR: 1.5 GB for 1 day (between 12 AM until 12 PM)
- 44 PKR: 1000 MB (500 MB from 12 AM until 8 AM) for 3 days
- 50 PKR: 4000 MB for 7 days (only between 6 AM and 6 PM)
- 100 PKR: 4000 MB (2000 MB from 1 AM until 11 AM) for 7 days
- 130 PKR: 1500 MB and 1000 on-net minutes for 7 days
- 150 PKR: 2000 MB and 1000 MB for WhatsApp for 30 days
- 175 PKR: 7 GB for 7 days
- 190 PKR: 5000 MB and 100 local minutes for 7 days
- 200 PKR: 20 GB (10 GB from 1 AM until 11 AM) for 7 days
- 300 PKR: 8000 MB (4000 MB from 1 AM until 11 AM) for 30 days
You can also get one of Telenor’s monthly SIM Internet plans that come with more data at higher prices:
- 750 PKR: 15 GB
- 1500 PKR: 30 GB + 30 GB from 1 AM to 7 AM
- 2500 PKR: 75 GB + 75 GB from 1 AM to 7 AM
- 3800 PKR: 150 GB
Finally, you have Telenor’s 4G MBB monthly bundles:
- 1500 PKR: 30 GB + 30 GB from 1 AM until 7 AM
- 2500 PKR: 75 GB + 75 GB from 1 AM until 7 AM
- 3800 PKR: 150 GB
- 4000 PKR: 108 GB (max. 36 GB per 30 days for 90 days)
- 6000 PKR: 275 GB
All of these Telenor packs can be activated online or at a Telenor store.
Zong is an operator owned by China Mobile Pakistan. You will see the China Mobile logo on their website and in some stores. Zong has a decent 3G coverage, and you can find 4G/LTE in more than 300 cities and towns.
You can buy a Zong SIM card for 500 PKR, and it comes with 300 PKR call credit. They can be bought in Zong stores. Ask for a 4G SIM card if you want to use Zong’s 4G/LTE network.
The following Zong data packs are available:
- 16 PKR: 1200 MB for 1 day between 4 AM and 7 PM
- 16 PKR: 2.5 GB for 1 day between 1 AM and 9 AM
- 17 PKR: 100 MB for 1 day
- 38 PKR: 500 MB and 500 MB for YouTube for 1 day
- 50 PKR: 150 MB for 30 days
- 120 PKR: 2.5 GB for 7 days
- 150 PKR: 500 MB for 30 days
- 164 PKR: 7 GB for 7 days
- 223 PKR: 25 GB (10 GB + 5 GB for between 4 AM and 4 PM AND 10 GB for YouTube) for 7 days
- 372 PKR: 5 GB for 30 days
- 744 PKR: 15 GB + 15 GB for YouTube and TikTok
You can activate a Zong data pack online or by dialing *6464# and selecting the preferred package through the menu. You can check your data balance by dialing *102#.
You can also get a Zong combo pack for 200 PKR that comes with 3000 MB and 50 minutes for 15 days. You can activate this combo pack by dialing *15#.
Finally, there are Zong All-in-1 bundles:
- 200 PKR: 1000 MB, 1000 Zong minutes, 40 local minutes, and 1000 SMS for 7 days. Activation: dial *6464#, and select 4, 1, and 2 in that sequence, or text Weekly150 to 6464.
- 250 PKR: 3000 MB, 3000 Zong minutes, 80 local minutes, and 3000 SMS for 7 days. Activation: dial *70#
- 650 PKR: 2500 MB, 1 GB for YouTube, unlimited WhatsApp data, 2500 Zong minutes, 150 local minutes, and 2500 SMS for 30 days. Activation: dial *50#.
Ufone is the smallest operator in Pakistan. They also have the “worst” coverage of all providers. Ufone was also the last operator to turn on 4G/LTE in February 2019, which can be found in a handful of cities.
You can get a Ufone SIM card for 250 PKR at Ufone stores. Ask for a 4G SIM card if you want to use Ufone’s 4G/LTE network.
The following Ufone data packages are available:
- 6 PKR: 50 MB and 500 MB for WhatsApp and Line for 1 day between 1 AM and 9 AM. Activation: dial *3461#
- 12 PKR: 40 MB and 500 MB for WhatsApp and Line for 1 day. Activation: dial *2256#
- 15 PKR: 2 GB for 1 day between 1 AM and 8 AM. Activation: dial *550#
- 30 PKR: 100 MB and 500 MB for WhatsApp and Line for 3 days. Activation: dial *3350#
- 130 PKR: 1.2 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *220#
- 175 PKR: 3 GB + 3 GB from 1 AM to 8 AM for 7 days. Activation: dial *260#
- 390 PKR: 1 GB and 2 GB for WhatsApp and Line for 30 days. Activation: dial *7807#
- 780 PKR: 3 GB and 2 GB for WhatsApp and Line for 30 days. Activation: dial *803#
- 1560 PKR: 10 GB and 2 GB for WhatsApp and Line for 30 days. Activation: dial *5100#
You can also get a Ufone Content Bundle:
- 6 PKR: 100 MB for WhatsApp for 1 day. Activation: dial *4422#
- 6 PKR: 500 MB for WhatsApp and 10 000 SMS for 1 day. Activation: dial *3465#
- 10 PKR: 500 MB for YouTube for 1 hour. Activation: dial *78#
- 60 PKR: 1 GB for WhatsApp for 30 days. Activation: dial *5858#
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Pakistan
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Pakistan, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Pakistan, but you can also roam with your provider in Pakistan, use an international SIM card in Pakistan, or use a mobile hotspot in Pakistan. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Pakistan
Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.
In the case of Pakistan, you can find a lot of hotspots in the bigger cities, but they can be slow.
Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.
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 NordVPN subscription now!
Roaming with Your Provider in Pakistan
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 Afghan Wireless, then you would be roaming with Afghan Wireless in Pakistan.
Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Pakistan, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.
Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Pakistan, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Pakistan. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.
If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.
One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.
If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Pakistan, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Pakistani SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Pakistan
International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.
International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.
Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.
Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Pakistan, so you cannot be taken advantage of.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, 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.
Using a Mobile Hotspot in Pakistan
A mobile hotspot 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.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Pakistan
Getting a SIM card from either Jazz or Telenor would do you well when considering a Pakistani 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 South Asia? Check out my South Asian SIM card buying guide, covering other South Asian countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. 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 Pakistan
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 Pakistan. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Pakistan drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Pakistan
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 Pakistan. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Pakistani hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Pakistan
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 Pakistan, 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 Pakistani Rupee 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!