Syria – home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, rich cultural heritage & for having impressive train stations.
While the current situation of the country is less than desirable, Syria used to be a thrilling travel destination.
It is, however, still possible to visit the country.
Most who do so are Syrians living abroad visiting family back home.
But there are many others who travel to the country for tourism purposes.
Especially Aleppo and Damascus, which are considered safe (for local standards, that is).
Even then, Syria may be one of the few countries where staying connected is a must – mostly for your safety.
Luckily, the mobile telecommunications infrastructure is still intact (in highly populated areas).
And anyone can still buy SIM cards – including tourists.
So, how much will a Syrian SIM card cost?
You can get a Syrian SIM card for 250 SYP (0.50 USD) from MTN, currently the only mobile operator, in their stores (called Service Centers). You may be able to get SIM cards at Damascus International Airport and Aleppo International Airport.
That price is not too bad, huh?
What if I told you that a data-featured plan with 1 GB of data valid for 30 days will cost you around 3 USD (4000 SYP).?
Things are not too pricey in Syria… because of inflation and the Syrian Pound becoming more worthless by the day.
Hopefully, that will reverse… one day.
In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Syria. Let's do this.
Original publication: 1st of November 2021. Last updated: 1st of November 2021.
Table of Contents
Can You Buy a SIM Card in Syria?
Anyone 18 years old or older living in or visiting Syria can buy a Syrian SIM card from MTN Syria, currently the only option, with no restrictions.
You do have to comply with the SIM card registration regulations.
Moreover, you need a phone that supports the frequencies used in the country (preferably all of them to have the most optimal experience while in Syria).
Furthermore, you need to have a SIM-lock-free device.
Where Can You Buy a SIM Card in Syria?
You can get a Syrian SIM card in MTN stores (called MTN Service Centers). It may be possible to get SIM cards at Damascus International Airport and Aleppo International Airport.
You can expect to pay the following for Syrian SIM cards:
- MTN Syria: 250 SYP
Can You Use Your Phone in Syria?
Syria uses GSM technology for mobile communications. CDMA phones will not work in Syria. If your phone has a SIM card slot, then it supports GSMA (99% of the phones do support GSM nowadays).
If you bought your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU regions 1 and 3), you should not experience any issues with using your phone in Syria.
If you purchased your phone in the Americas (ITU Region 2) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then there is a possibility you cannot use your phone when in Syria or can only use slower networks (3G or 2G).
If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone in Syria (to some extent) – also on 4G/LTE.
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Syria
Syria currently has one mobile network operator:
- MTN Syria (إم تي إن سوريا)
The following frequencies are used in Syria:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 2100 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)
You can learn more about frequencies in the video below.
To check whether your phone will work in Syria, check out this page by Will My Phone Work (may be outdated or inaccurate at times).
Again, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator (meaning you have to roam internationally or buy another unlocked phone that does support the frequencies listed above).
If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.
A Note About Syriatel
Syriatel used to be the largest mobile operator in Syria until 2020.
The then CEO of Syriatel, Rami Makhlouf, was critical about the Syrian government's action.
He made several videos on Facebook in May 2020 criticizing the Al-Assad regime.
While explaining what exactly happened between the president and Makhlouf is beyond the scope of this guide (but this article can explain it in brief), this public feud resulted in Al-Assed shaking down Makhlouf – trying to limit the Billionaire's influence.
It mostly started with a Syriatel tax debt of around 134 billion SYP, which Makhlouf claimed was false.
Eventually, Makhlouf's (domestic) assets were frozen, and the government (somewhat) revoked Syriatel's license.
Now, MTN Syria is the only player left in the Syrian telecom market (and the MTN Group has already sold off its last 75% stake in the Syrian division).
The Syrian Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection has approved the establishment of a potential third mobile operator in June 2021.
Even if the license were to be granted tomorrow, this new mobile operator would still take years to have nationwide coverage.
5G NR in Syria
5G NR is not available in Syria as of 2021, and the Syrian government has not made any indications of when it will auction 5G licenses.
Best SIM Card in Syria
If you want to buy the best SIM card in Syria, then MTN Syria is your only option. It is currently the only mobile operator in Syria.
SIM Card Registration in Syria
SIM card registration, with the use of your passport information, is mandatory in Syria. This will be done at the point of sale.
Internet Censorship in Syria
There is internet censorship in Syria. The government censors various things, such as LGBTQ content, pornography, political criticism & escort services.
Unlike some other countries in the region, internet censorship is prevasive in Syria.
Surfshark is insanely cheap for the price they charge.
Neither VPNs have servers in Syria (obviously), which makes sense, but connecting to nearby countries will still result in fast browsing speeds.
(oh, by the way – VPNs are not illegal in Syria, but the authorities may not like it. But what are they going to do? You will be private anyway 😉 just do not do anything silly like insulting government officials… the Syrian Electronic Army will be after you if you do so).
Syria Mobile Speeds, Mobile Internet Prices & Insights
Earlier, we learned that the cost of Syrian SIM cards is low (at least, if you do not live in Syria).
I also mentioned that mobile data rates are low.
The average price for 1 GB of data in Syria is 7.15 USD, above the Middle Eastern average of 3.94 USD. The world average is 4.07 USD.
At least, that is according to Cable.co.uk.
This could have been true when Syriatel was still in the market.
This mobile operator was the best and probably charged a premium for its services.
However, currently, the average cost of 1 GB of data is close to 3 USD – in line with the Middle Eastern average.
So, let's talk about mobile speeds. Are mobile data speeds fast in Syria?
No, but it is not excruciatingly slow either.
Syria's average mobile download speed is around 19 Mbps, about 1/3th the global average.
If you stay in the big cities like Aleppo and Damascus, you do not really have to worry about reception and speeds.
Outside of the big cities, coverage and speeds will significantly decrease.
And you should, of course, except no reception at all in the deserts, especially in the Homs district/Governorate.
With extremely cheap SIM cards, good nationwide coverage (in populated areas), decent mobile speeds, and low mobile data rates, you should have a decent network experience in Syria.
Currency in Syria
Syria uses the Syrian Pound with the symbol SYP (which will be used throughout this article).
However, prices are often listed as £S or LS. For example, 25 SYP = £S/LS 25.
For reference, below are some exchange rates between SYP and USD (US Dollars):
- 10 SYP = 0.01 USD
- 100 SYP = 0.10 USD
- 1000 SYP = 0.80 USD
- 10 000 SYP = 8 USD
For up-to-date SYP:USD exchange rates, search SYP to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.
Because of the current situation going on in Syria, the country is experiencing high inflation.
While 48.40 SYP used to be worth 1 USD back in 2005, you will get 2512 SYP for 1 USD (the official rate, the free market range is around 3300 SYP for 1 USD).
This situation can be favorable for visitors with any other currency than SYP – the case for the locals is not pleasant at all with these unfavorable rates
Because of inflation, MTN adjusts its prices regularly.
However, when considering the exchange rate, a price increase will most likely still result in lower prices for you.
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.
Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).
Syrian Prepaid SIM Cards
Below, I will guide you through MTN Syria and go through:
- Background information
- Mobile coverage
- SIM card types, prices, and availability
- Recharge/top-up information
- Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)
With that being said, let’s see what Syria to offer to us.
MTN Syria (إم تي إن سوريا)
MTN Syria, just MTN but officially إم تي إن سوريا, is currently the only mobile operator in Syria after Syriatel collapsed in 2020.
As part of MTN's focus on Africa, it decided to sell its remaining 75% of shares of its Syrian division to TeleInvest – a Saudi company that had the other 25% remaining shares.
While the government is talking about allowing a new entrant into the Syrian telecom market, you will have to deal with MTN for the foreseeable future.
MTN uses the following frequencies:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 2100 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz
Coverage – MTN Syria
MTN has decent coverage throughout Syria.
Coverage in populated areas is, surprisingly, good. But that is mostly on 3G.
4G/LTE reception is rare in the country.
Do note that due to the current situation, local internet blackouts may happen.
It is hard to stay connected when towers get blown away.
Even then, coverage is astonishngly decent.
Below is MTN's coverage map:
SIM Card Price – MTN Syria
You can buy an MTN SIM card for 250 SYP in MTN stores, called MTN Service Centers. MTN SIM cards may be available at Damascus International Airport and Aleppo International Airport.
Dial *111# to access the MTN menu.
MTN SIM cards get deactivated if there has been no activity for 125 days (no top-up for 125 days or no activity for 125 days).
However, your line will be frozen after 95 days of no inactivity.
Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – MTN Syria
MTN top-up vouchers are sold in MTN Service Centers, grocery stores, corner shops & electronics shops throughout Syria.
The following top-ups are available at MTN Service Centers:
|50 SYP||46 SYP|
|75 SYP||70 SYP|
|100 SYP||95 SYP|
|150 SYP||142 SYP|
|200 SYP||191 SYP|
|250 SYP||238 SYP|
|300 SYP||287 SYP|
|500 SYP||479 SYP|
|650 SYP||620 SYP|
|750 SYP||718 SYP|
|1000 SYP||959 SYP|
|1200 SYP||1151 SYP|
|1500 SYP||1438 SYP|
|2000 SYP||1919 SYP|
The following top-ups are available from dealers:
|90 SYP||94 SYP|
|100 SYP||105 SYP|
|105 SYP||110 SYP|
|150 SYP||157 SYP|
|200 SYP||209 SYP|
|225 SYP||235 SYP|
|250 SYP||261 SYP|
|300 SYP||313 SYP|
|350 SYP||365 SYP|
|400 SYP||418 SYP|
|450 SYP||470 SYP|
|500 SYP||522 SYP|
|650 SYP||678 SYP|
|750 SYP||783 SYP|
|900 SYP||939 SYP|
|1000 SYP||1043 SYP|
|1200 SYP||1252 SYP|
|1500 SYP||1565 SYP|
|1950 SYP||2034 SYP|
|2000 SYP||2086 SYP|
|2500 SYP||2608 SYP|
|4000 SYP||4172 SYP|
|5000 SYP||5215 SYP|
|6000 SYP||6258 SYP|
|10 000 SYP||10 430 SYP|
|15 000 SYP||15 645 SYP|
|20 000 SYP||20 860 SYP|
To top up your MTN SIM card, you would dial *110*VoucherCode# or call 1818 and follow the instructions.
For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *110*123456#.
Dial *100# to check your MTN balance.
You can also top up and check your balance on the myMTN Syria app.
Do note that this app is for Android devices only and is only available on the MTN website.
The page will give you an .apk file for you to download.
I would always be weary of why an official app is not available on the Play Store or App Store.
Proceed with caution – even though the app is on MTN's official website.
If the Syrian government can make the largest mobile operator in the country collapse due to political feuds, it can certainly instruct anyone to upload a malicious .apk file on the MTN website.
Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – MTN Syria
MTN has nine data-featured plans:
- Yalla Bundles (combo)
- MTN Shabab Bundles (combo)
- Deluxe Bundles (combo)
- GPRS Daily & Monthly Bundles (data)
- 3G Hourly, Daily & Monthly Bundles (data)
- 3G Off-Peak Bundles (data)
- Data Bundles (as the name implies)
- LTE Monthly Plans (data)
- Social Bundles (social media)
Click on the links above to jump to the plan you are interested in.
Yalla Bundles – MTN Syria
The Yalla Bundles are combo plans with data, minutes, & SMS.
These Yalla Bundles can be activated by dialing *444#:
|Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Validity|
|100 SYP||10 MB||10 minutes||10 SMS||1 day|
|200 SYP||20 MB||20 minutes||20 SMS||5 days|
|300 SYP||30 MB||30 minutes||30 SMS||5 days|
|500 SYP||150 MB||30 minutes||30 SMS||5 days|
|600 SYP||50 MB||150 minutes||50 SMS||3 days|
MTN Shabab Bundles – MTN Syria
The MTN Shabab Bundles are combo plans with data, minutes & SMS exclusively for the Shabab tariff plan.
MTN Shabab Bundles get automatically activated if you top-up enough for the bundle you want:
|Price||Credit||Data||Local SMS||Local MMS||Validity|
|225 SYP||169 SYP||2.5 MB||50 SMS||5 MMS||30 days|
|450 SYP||337 SYP||5 MB||100 SMS||10 MMS||45 days|
Deluxe Bundles – MTN Syria
The Deluxe Bundles are combo plans with data, social media data (for unspecified apps), minutes & SMS.
Dial *2000# to activate Deluxe Bundles:
|Price||Data||Social Media Data 1||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Validity|
|12 000 SYP||3000 MB||1000 MB||500 minutes||500 SMS||30 days|
|20 000 SYP||10 000 MB||2000 MB||1000 minutes||1000 SMS||30 days|
|50 000 SYP||50 000 MB||N/A||5000 minutes||5000 SMS||30 days|
1 unspecified social media apps
GPRS Daily & Monthly Bundles – MTN Syria
The GPRS Daily & Monthly Bundles are data-only plans.
Be aware that although these are the cheapest data plans available from MTN, all speeds will be restricted to 2G speeds only.
2G is infuriatingly slow for modern data browsing.
However, it can work decently for text-based communications.
GPRS Daily & Monthly Bundles can be activated by dialing *111#:
|50 SYP||5 MB||1 day|
|60 SYP||3 MB||30 days|
|90 SYP||5 MB||30 days|
|100 SYP||10 MB||1 day|
|180 SYP||12 MB||30 days|
|200 SYP||25 MB||1 day|
|300 SYP||25 MB||30 days|
|600 SYP||50 MB||30 days|
|1000 SYP||100 MB||30 days|
|1500 SYP||200 MB||30 days|
3G Hourly, Daily & Monthly Bundles – MTN Syria
The 3G Hourly, Daily & Monthly Bundles are, as the name implies, data-only plans restricted to 3G speeds.
These 3G Hourly, Daily & Monthly Bundles are available by dialing *234#:
|462 SYP||Unlimited||1 hour|
|1500 SYP||2 GB||1 day|
|2300 SYP||500 MB||30 days|
|4000 SYP||1 GB||30 days|
|6750 SYP||2 GB||30 days|
|9500 SYP||3 GB||30 days|
|11 500 SYP||4 GB||30 days|
|13 000 SYP||5 GB||30 days|
3G Off-Peak Bundles – MTN Syria
The 3G Off-Peak Bundles are data-only bundles that can only be used between 3:00 to 12:00.
DIal *234# to activate 3G Off-Peak Bundles:
|550 SYP||100 MB||1 day|
|2200 SYP||500 MB||5 days|
|5500 SYP||2 GB||7 days|
1 between 3:00 – 12:00
Data Bundles – MTN Syria
The Data Bundles are, as the name suggests, data-only plans.
These Data Bundles are available, which you can activate by dialing *111#:
|3000 SYP||500 MB||30 days|
|5200 SYP||1000 MB||30 days|
|8800 SYP||2000 MB||30 days|
|12 350 SYP||3000 MB||30 days|
|14 950 SYP||4000 MB||30 days|
|16 900 SYP||5000 MB||30 days|
|19 500 SYP||7000 MB||30 days|
|20 800 SYP||25 000 MB||30 days|
|23 800 SYP||35 000 MB||30 days|
|65 000 SYP||50 000 MB||30 days|
LTE Monthly Plans – MTN Syria
The LTE Monthly Plans are data-only bundles allowing you access to MTN's 4G/LTE network.
The following LTE Monthly Plans are available by dialing *234#:
|4000 SYP||1 GB||30 days|
|6750 SYP||2 GB||30 days|
|9500 SYP||3 GB||30 days|
|11 500 SYP||4 GB||30 days|
|13 000 SYP||5 GB||30 days|
The Social Bundles are data-only plans for select social media apps, including Botim, Facebook, IMO, Telegram, WhatsApp & YouTube individually.
Dial *111# to activate Social Bundles:
|50 SYP||20 MB||1 day|
|85 SYP||20 MB||1 day|
|85 SYP||100 MB||1 day|
|175 SYP||100 MB||IMO & Botim||1 day|
|175 SYP||100 MB||Telegram||1 day|
|250 MB||200 MB||Unspecified (“Gaming”)||1 day|
|250 MB||200 MB||Unspecified (“Social Media”)||1 day|
|350 SYP||50 MB||Telegram||30 days|
|350 SYP||50 MB||30 days|
|350 SYP||500 MB||YouTube||1 day|
|475 SYP||50 MB||Telegram||30 days|
|475 SYP||50 MB||30 days|
|750 SYP||100 MB||30 days|
|1000 SYP||100 MB||30 days|
|1200 SYP||200 MB||Unspecified (“Social Media”)||30 days|
|1500 SYP||Unlimited||YouTube||24 hours|
|1600 SYP||200 MB||Unspecified (“Social Media”)||30 days|
|1950 SYP||1000 MB||30 days|
|2600 SYP||1500 MB||Unspecified (“Social Media”)||30 days|
APN/Internet Settings – MTN Syria
- Name: MTN Syria
- APN: internet
Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Syria
I would highly encourage anyone visiting Syria to get themselves a Syrian SIM card – you will be saving a lot of money when you do so.
However, for some, getting a Syrian SIM card is not an option.
For example, your device may be SIM-locked, meaning that you cannot use any other SIM card other than the SIM card provided by your operator.
There are other ways to stay online while in Syria, but they may not be cheap.
International roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling in other countries because you do not have to buy a new SIM card, have to deal with SIM card registration regulations, nor have multiple phone numbers to deal with.
However, international roaming has proven to be expensive in many cases, especially compared to buying local SIM cards.
That is why many travelers are not fond of international roaming.
International roaming has its pros and cons. However, it is important to know how it works. This in-depth guide explains it all.
Find out whether your mobile operator has attractive roaming rates for Syria here.
Using an International SIM Card or Travel SIM Card
International SIM cards are SIM cards made for the traveler in mind. Using them is often cheaper than international roaming.
However, they are almost always more expensive than using a local SIM card.
There are many other advantages and disadvantages of getting international SIM cards, which you can learn about here.
Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.
Using Free WIFI Networks
Using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to stay connected because they are free.
The major downside of trying to use WIFI hotspots is that you will have to locate them, and they are not available on every corner in Syria.
Make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN so that hackers cannot steal your personal data.
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Syria
Getting a SIM card from MTN would be your only option when considering a Syrian SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other Middle Eastern 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.
Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:
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