Getting a visa for Tajikistan can be a challenge. Once you manage to get your visa, you can explore beautiful gardens in Khorog, lakes and ruins in Panjakent, or the national museum in Dushanbe. Let's not forget the nature throughout Tajikistan.
What you may not want to do, however, is roaming with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card so that they can enjoy local rates. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Tajikistan. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Tajikistan
Tajikistan has 4 telecom providers: Tcell, Babilon Mobile, MegaFon Tajikistan, and Zet-Mobile. All operators, except for Zet-Mobile, have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. Zet-Mobile has no 4G/LTE network.
In some areas, only one operator is active. For example, you can only use MegaFon Tajikistan in Alichur and T-Cell in Eastern Wakhan. If you are staying in the major cities, then getting one SIM card will do you well. If you will explore major parts of Tajikistan, then you may consider getting multiple SIM cards so that you have coverage wherever you are.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Tajikistan? If you want to buy a SIM card in Tajikistan, I would recommend going with Tcell, mainly because they have the best coverage in Tajikistan.
Until recently, visitors were not able to buy a Tajikistani SIM card. Luckily, that has changed with the introduction of the registration law. Just like other countries in Central Asia, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card. You are allowed to have two SIM cards in total (instead of two per provider as in the past). This should not be a huge problem for most travelers, including those who want to explore the remote parts of Tajikistan.
VoIP calls, so calls with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype, are officially banned by law because of a fear of a decline in tax income from voice calls. Although you may (sometimes) be able to make VoIP calls, it is not recommended because your SIM card is registered to your name and the authorities may want to find you when they feel like it.
Because of this, I would recommend using a VPN to browse the web in peace. I use NordVPN because I get high speeds with their servers. They have around 5500 servers in 59 countries. They have servers in the Tajikistan, but you can connect to Indian, United Arab Emirati, or Georgian servers (there are many more, but these are the closest to Tajikistan). You can get up to 70% off your NordVPN subscription if you get yours today!
With that said, let’s see what Tajikistan can offer us.
Tcell is the operator in Tajikistan and has the best coverage throughout the country. 4G/LTE can be found in more cities and towns by the day. A Tcell SIM card can be bought for max. 20 TJS ($2.05) in official Tcell stores. If you want to use for 4G/LTE, you need to buy a 4G SIM card.
The following Tcell monthly data packs can be added. You get the same allowance to be used at night (midnight to 7 AM). For example, the 25 TJS plan comes with 500 MB during the day and 500 MB at night (a total of 1000 MB), even though I will only list 500 MB below:
- 13 TJS: 250 MB
- 25 TJS: 500 MB
- 38 TJS: 1 GB
- 63 TJS: 2 GB
- 85 TJS: 3 GB
- 112 TJS: 5 GB
More data can be added for the following prices:
- 14 TJS: 500 MB
- 23 TJS: 1 GB
Babilon Mobile was the second provider to start in Tajikistan and the first one to roll out 4G/LTE. A Babilon Mobile SIM card sells for 5 TJS. The following 90-day data packs can be added:
- 10 TJS: 250 MB
- 20 TJS: 500 MB
- 35 TJS: 1 GB
- 65 TJS: 3 GB
- 99 TJS: 6 GB
- 160 TJS: 10 GB
- 300 TJS: 20 GB
- 400 TJS: 30 GB
- 600 TJS: 60 GB
MegaFon Tajikistan, just MegaFon, is the third-largest operator in terms of customers. 4G/LTE can be found in major cities. MegaFon SIM cards are sold for 5 TJS In MegaFon stores or from vendors. The following monthly 4G/LTE data packs can be added:
- 55 TJS: 2 GB
- 80 TJS: 3 GB
- 115 TJS: 5 GB
- 200 TJS: 10 GB
Out of data? You can get an extra GB for 20 TJS.
Does your phone not support 4G/LTE or it does not work with the frequencies or bands in Tajjikistan? Then you can add any of the MegaFon monthly 3G data packs:
- 13 TJS: 300 MB
- 34 TJS: 1 GB
- 56 TJS: 2 GB
- 72 TJS: 3 GB
- 102 TJS: 5 GB
- 180 TJS: 10 GB
Need more data? You can add 1 GB for 21 TJS.
Zet-Mobile (formerly Beeline Tajikistan)
Zet-Mobile, formerly Beeline Tajikistan, is the smallest operator in Tajikistan. It is also the only operator without a 4G/LTE network at the moment. Although the Beeline brand is being phased out, you may still see Beeline stores or logos in some places. Zet-Mobile SIM cards are sold for 20 TJS in Zet-Mobile stores. The following monthly data packs can be added:
- 14 TJS: 600 MB
- 17 TJS: 800 MB
- 28 TJS: 1.4 GB
- 36 TJS: 3 GB
- 58 TJS: 4 GB
- 85 TJS: 8 GB
- 100 TJS: 12 GB
- 130 TJS: 16 GB
- 165 TJS: 24 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Tajikistan
I have discussed the relevant providers in Tajikistan in this article because using a Tajik 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 Tajikistan. 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 Tajikistan.
Roaming in Tajikistan 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 MegaCom Kazakhstan, then you would be roaming with MegaCom Kazakhstan in Tajikistan.
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 Tajikistan, 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 Tajikistan 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 Tajikistan.
Using an International SIM Card in Tajikistan
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, and Surfroam.
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 Tajikistan. 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. All countries in Central Asia 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 Tajikistan
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 Vision Global Wireless 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 while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both 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 Tajikistan
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Tajikistan 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 Tajikistan, you can find many hotspots in the big cities. Some of them are slow, while others are excellent.
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 Tajikistan
Getting a SIM card from Tcell would do you well when considering a Tajik SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other European 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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