Although you may have heard about some unpleasant things happening in Palestine, it is still a fascinating destination to visit. It is, however, recommended to only visit the West Bank.
What you do not want to do is to roam with your provider in Palestine because roaming can be expensive. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about SIM cards in Palestine. Let's go.
Telecom Providers in Palestine
Palestine has 2 providers: Jawwal operated by Paltel and Ooredoo Palestine. Due to conflicts going on between Palestine and Israel, Palestine was not able to set up a 3G network for more than 10 years. However, this does not apply to the Gaza Strip, where the operators only have a 2G network.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Palestine? If you want to buy a SIM card in Palestine, I would recommend going with either Jawwal or Ooredoo. Palestine has only two operators. 3G was not developed until 2018, meaning that both operators are still in the process of improving their 3G network. Jawwal has the most subscribers and the best coverage. Ooredoo has faster speeds, and their SIM cards cost less. The rates for data packages are the same for both providers.
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You are probably well aware of what is happening between the two countries, so I will not go in-depth about that. However, although many Palestinians used to get Israeli SIM cards so that they could use fast 4G/LTE because Israeli operators had extensive coverage in Palestine, importing or selling Israeli SIM cards is against the law. Using Israeli SIM cards is not a problem (for visitors, at least), but you should not buy an Israeli SIM card on the black market in Palestine – you could get arrested for that.
If you want fast data in the Gaze Strip, you would need an Israeli SIM card. Just be careful when you do so.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Jawwal and Ooredoo have to offer to us.
Jawwal is owned by the Patel Group. It has a market share of 2.5 million customers and a market share of more than 80%. You can use their 3G network in the West Bank, and speeds are decent.
Jawwal starter packs are sold for 29 NIS ($8.35) in the Jawwal stores, and they come with 1 NIS in credit.
Jawwal has 6 data packages, which can be activated by dialing *999#:
- 18 NIS: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- 25 NIS: 2.5 GB for 30 days
- 40 NIS: 4 GB for 30 days
- 45 NIS: 8 GB for 30 days
- 60 NIS: 16 GB for 30 days
- 70 NIS: 32 GB for 30 days
Do note that these data bundles auto-renew. You can terminate auto-renewal by dialing *999$.
Ooredoo Palestine, just Ooredoo, is run by the company from Kuwait and Qatar and is the second operator in Palestine. It is the smaller operator in the country, but often has higher speeds than Jawwal. Just like with Jawwal, 3G can be found in the West Bank but not in the Gaza Strip.
Ooredoo SIM cards, called Super Card (if translated from Arabic) are sold for 20 NIS in various Ooredoo stores and from authorized dealers.
There is also a SIM card for the youth, for those between 16 and 25, called Super Youth (if translated from Arabic). The differences between the Super Card and Super Youth are the standard rates you pay and the age requirement. You also get a few other perks with the Super Youth SIM card.
The following data packs can be added by dialing *406#:
- 2 NIS: 20 MB for 1 day
- 3 NIS: 50 MB for 1 day
- 6 NIS: 150 MB for 7 days
- 10 NIS: 250 MB for 30 days
- 15 NIS: 500 MB for 30 days
- 20 NIS: 1 GB for 30 days
- 30 NIS: 2 GB for 30 days
You can check your Ooredoo data balance by dialing *106#.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Palestine
I have discussed the relevant providers in Palestine in this article because using a Palestinian SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Palestine. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Palestine.
Roaming in Palestine 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 Optus from Australia, then you would be roaming with Optus in Palestine.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Palestine, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Palestine and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Palestine.
Using an International SIM Card in Palestine
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
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.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Palestine. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, 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.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Palestine
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow 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.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers. 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. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Travelwifi 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. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
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.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Palestine
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Palestine, which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of Palestine, you can find a hotspot here and there, but not many.
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.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Palestine
Getting a SIM card from Jawwal or Ooredoo would do you well when considering a Palestinian 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, Lebanon, Oman, 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 Palestine
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 Palestine.
Book Your Accommodation for Palestine
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 Palestine. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Palestinian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Palestine
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 Palestine, 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!