Sri Lanka is one of the smaller countries in South Asia. Way bigger than the Maldives, and bigger than Bhutan, but considerably smaller than Nepal. Although being a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, they are a popular destination for those who love beaches, enjoy nature, or history and culture.
In Sri Lanka, more citizens use mobile networks than broadband internet because it is much more accessible, more reliable, and cheaper. As a result, you can have coverage in even the most remote Sri Lankan locations.
Currently, the 2 largest Sri Lankan operators, Dialog and Mobitel, are currently runnings trials with 5G. Perhaps in the near future, every Sri Lankan can get access to high-speed mobile data and can become an even more connected nation.
Besides that, many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards over roaming with their provider because roaming can be expensive in many cases, especially if your provider is not from (South) Asia – you would pay a high price for data roaming in Sri Lanka.
With that said, you are interested in buying a SIM card in Sri Lanka and want to know what provider is the best. I had the same question, so I went to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and bought all Sri Lankan SIM cards, including Dialog, besides Mobitel, Hutch, and Airtel Sri Lanka, and tested them.
Let's see how my experience with Dialog was, and how your experience could be when visiting Sri Lanka. Let's go.
Telecom Providers in Sri Lanka
Before I talk about Dialog, I need to inform you about your options in Sri Lanka. If you have read my Buying a SIM Card in Sri Lanka Guide, then you know what Sri Lanka has 4 Telecom Providers: Dialog, Mobitel, Hutch, and Airtel Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has no (prepaid) Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which makes it easy to select a SIM card for your adventure in the country.
Dialog, also known as Dialog Axiata, is the largest operator in terms of subscribers. In most cases, the largest operator has the best coverage and speeds in the country and is often the most expensive company.
All of these generalizations apply to Dialog. As in, they have the best coverage and speeds but are also the most expensive operator in Sri Lanka. However, compared to most Western countries, operators in Sri Lanka can be considered to be cheap.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Dialog 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!
Dialog Video Review
Want to watch the Dialog video review? You bet! Check out this video:
How Do I Buy a Dialog SIM Card?
You can buy a Dialog SIM card in various Dialog service centers or from authorized Dialog dealers. You can also buy your Dialog SIM card at Colombo International Airport. However, it looks like they only sell tourist packages there (or highly inflated data packages), which is why I did not buy my SIM card at the airport but from an authorized reseller in Colombo.
You will notice that when you are walking or driving around Sri Lanka, you will see many corner shops with Dialog logos pasted on their windows. If I am correct, these stickers show that you can top-up your Dialog phone there, but I do not believe that you can buy Dialog SIM cards there.
In Sri Lanka, you have to show your passport and register it with the provider. When you buy your SIM card at a Dialog store, the salesperson will handle all of this for you, but you do have to bring your passport with you if you intend to buy a Sri Lankan SIM card. I do not believe that random shops should be dealing with your passport information, which is why I do not think that you can buy Dialog SIM cards from random stores.
Dialog SIM cards are sold for 150 LKR ($0.85). I would recommend bringing cash with you because the Dialog reseller I went to did not accept cards. The salesperson will also ask you if you want to top-up. In my case, he showed me a list of available data packages (shown below) that I could choose from.
After I choose my package, the 349 LKR package, the salesperson told me that my total would be 499 LKR (150 LKR for the SIM card and 349 LKR for the data pack). The salesperson would reload my SIM card for me, but I would have to activate the pack myself later because it would take max. 20 minutes before the SIM card would be activated.
Once the salesperson had filled in my personal information in the system, the application was sent to the Dialog servers, and 349 LKR would be loaded onto my SIM card. The salesperson recommended me to keep my phone turned off for 20 minutes so that the SIM card could be activated. I was using a different Sri Lankan SIM card at that time, Airtel, so I ignored that advice and restarted my phone 20 minutes after I left the store.
The SIM card itself does not come in a package, making it a bit boring. The Dialog logo is nice, though. If you are a frequent traveler, then you recognize that orange thing behind the Dialog logo. That is the Axiata logo, which is a Malaysian company that is active in multiple South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
How Do I Activate my Dialog SIM Card?
Dialog salespeople will activate your SIM card upon purchase and registration (they will note down your passport details on the Dialog system). After that, there is nothing else you have to do except for waiting around 20 minutes before you can use your SIM card (restart your phone after 20 minutes).
How and Where Can I Top Up my Dialog SIM Card?
Dialog top-up vouchers are sold at many stores throughout Sri Lanka, including corner shops. I did not recharge my phone after buying my initial SIM card. However, I believe that the recharge procedure is that you tell the shop assistant how much you would like to reload, they will ask for the amount in LKR and your phone number. Then they will use the Dialog system to reload your phone.
You can top-up online on the Dialog reload page, which may be more convenient. You enter your Dialog phone number, select the amount you want to reload (or enter a custom amount) or the internet package you want (only 4 are shown), then click on next.
On the payment page, enter your email address if you want to receive a receipt, and select the payment method of choice (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express).
Finally, you can use the MyDialog App to reload your SIM card. Log into your MyDialog app and click on the red RELOAD button.
Then you fill in your reload amount where I have entered Rs. 261. On the left-hand lower corner, you can choose your payment method, which will probably be Visa or MasterCard, then click on the red PAY button.
After that, you enter your payment information and press the orange PAY button.
You have now successfully reloaded your Dialog SIM card through the MyDialog app!
What Prepaid Packages Does Dialog Offer?
Most Sri Lankan operators, including Dialog, split their data packages into anytime or daytime allowance and nighttime allowance. Anytime data allowance can be used whenever. Daytime data allowance is to be used from a certain timeframe during the day, and nighttime data allowance can be used at night.
In the case of Dialog, they have anytime data allowances and nighttime data allowances (from 12 AM to 8 AM).
The cheapest Dialog package costs 29 LKR and comes with 132 MB anytime data and 33 nighttime data valid for 3 days. The 3 cheapest packages come with a 10% bonus for each allowance bucket (which I have already included in the allowances mentioned earlier) because they do not get a 4G bonus. That is another thing some Sri Lankan operators have – a separate 4G/LTE data allowance, or, as some like to call it, 4G bonus.
The most expensive Dialog package costs 6449 LKR and comes with 60 GB anytime data, 60 GB nighttime data, and a 4G bonus of 30 GB, all valid for 30 days.
So now you have to keep the following in mind when buying a Dialog data package: your anytime data allowance, your nighttime data allowance, and your 4G bonus. Your 4G bonus allowance can be used at any time.
If you are out of 4G data, then you will use Dialog’s 2G and 3G networks. If you are out of anytime and 4G data, then you cannot browse the web during the day anymore and only at night. The same applies when you are out of nighttime and 4G data, then you can only browse the web during the day. Confusing? Yeah, I wish it was simpler as well, but that is how Sri Lankan operators operate, it seems.
Below is the list of data packages again:
If you cannot see the image, the packages are shown in the table below (10% bonuses, where applicable, have already been applied to the prices):
|Price||Combined data||Anytime data quota||Nighttime data quota||4G bonus (anytime)||Validity|
|29 LKR||165 MB||132 MB||33 MB||N/A||3 Days|
|49 LKR||385 MB||275 MB||110 MB||N/A||7 Days|
|99 LKR||770 MB||550 MB||220 MB||N/A||21 Days|
|349 LKR||2.5 GB||1 GB||1 GB||0.5 GB||30 Days|
|499 LKR||5.5 GB||2 GB||2 GB||1.5 GB||30 Days|
|649 LKR||8 GB||3 GB||3 GB||2 GB||30 Days|
|949 LKR||11.5 GB||4 GB||4 GB||3.5 GB||30 Days|
|1449 LKR||20 GB||7 GB||7 GB||6 GB||30 Days|
|1949 LKR||32 GB||12 GB||12 GB||8 GB||30 Days|
|2949 LKR||44.5 GB||16 GB||16 GB||12.5 GB||30 Days|
|3949 LKR||87.5 GB||35 GB||35 GB||17.5 GB||30 Days|
|6449 LKR||150 GB||60 GB||60 GB||30 GB||30 Days|
It would be perfect if you could use the combined data at all times (at 4G/LTE speeds). Unfortunately, we are not that lucky with Dialog.
Dialog also has night data packages that can be used at night only (12 AM until 8 AM), which are:
- 95 LKR: 275 MB daytime data and 3.3 GB nighttime data for 21 days
- 1499 LKR: 5.5 GB daytime data and 55 GB nighttime data for 30 days
Also, do not forget about the Dialog Tourist Plan for 1299 LKR that comes with 10 GB combined data (6 GB anytime and 6 GB morning data from 12 AM to 6 AM), 350 local minutes, and 600 international minutes for 30 days.
The Dialog Tourist Plan can be bought at Colombo International Airport or by topping up 1299 LKR to your account. You can also dial #778# if the tourist plan does not automatically activate after topping up 1299 LKR to your account.
How do I Activate a Dialog Data Plan?
When you buy your Dialog SIM card, the salesperson will ask if you want to top-up your card so that activate a data package, which you should. Based on the data packages listed above, you tell the salesperson which data package you want, and they will load the credit onto your card after activating your SIM card.
After that, you are to send a text message with INT with the package name, which is the price of the preferred package, to 678. In my case, I wanted the 349 LKR data pack (1 GB anytime, 1 GB nighttime, and 0.5 GB 4G bonus). So, I texted INT349 to 678 once my SIM card was active.
Make sure to disable mobile data before activating a data pack. Else, you will be charged standard data rates, which is 0.30 LKR per MB. My salesperson reminded me to turn mobile data off, but yours may not, so you have to remember this yourself.
For your convenience, I have listed the activation codes in the table below:
|Price||Combined data||Activation code (to 678)|
|29 LKR||165 MB||INT29|
|49 LKR||385 MB||INT49|
|99 LKR||770 MB||INT99|
|349 LKR||2.5 GB||INT349|
|499 LKR||5.5 GB||INT499|
|649 LKR||8 GB||INT649|
|949 LKR||11.5 GB||INT949|
|1449 LKR||20 GB||INT1449|
|1949 LKR||32 GB||INT1949|
|2949 LKR||44.5 GB||INT2949|
|3949 LKR||87.5 GB||INT3949|
|6449 LKR||150 GB||INT6449|
You can also buy a data package on the MyDialog App. Create an account if you have not done it yet, then scroll down to Data packs.
From there, choose the data pack you want.
Click on the pack you want and press the red ACTIVATE NOW button.
Click on Activate to confirm.
Now you have successfully activated a data pack through the MyDialog app!
How does the MyDialog App look like?
Below are a few screenshots of the MyDialog app.
What Speeds Will I Get with Dialog in Sri Lanka?
I did 4 speed tests when I was in Sri Lanka: 3 in Colombo itself and in an area near Colombo called Labugama where I was enjoying a secret waterfall. In Colombo, I did a speed test at my Airbnb (Colombo 5), at a Bubble Tea place called Bubble Me Bubble Tea (Colombo 5), and Colombo International Airport.
As you can see, speeds fluctuate depending on where you are. I was quite surprised to see such high speeds in Labugama. I was swimming in a waterfall in a rather remote area, yet I got the fastest speeds there compared to the other speed tests. My speed at my Airbnb was good too. Dialog was considerably slower at the airport and at Bubble Tea Bubble Me.
I can understand that the speed is slower at the airport because more people are in one closed-off space, but I was quite surprised to see such a slow speed at the bubble tea place because it was in the same neighborhood as where my Airbnb was. Ah well, it happens.
Do I Recommend Dialog to Travelers Visiting Sri Lanka?
I would recommend Dialog to those traveling to Sri Lanka. You can good speeds and coverage when in Sri Lanka, even outside of Colombo. Of course, your coverage and may not be that great if you go to extremely rural places or deep in the forests, but that is part of the game.
Like I said in the speed test section, I was quite surprised to see such high speeds in remote Colombo, Labugama. I expect speeds to be slower in other rural places, but it gives me hope that speeds are good outside of the capital city with Dialog.
Getting a Dialog SIM card and activating a package was straightforward as well. Additionally, there are plenty of packages to choose from, meaning that you can find something that suits you.
The only reason why I give Dialog 4.5 stars out of 5 is that I find the whole anytime data, nighttime data, and 4G bonuses a bit confusing and unnecessary. Sure, it is a standard in Sri Lanka, but I believe in more straightforward data packages that allow the traveler to use their data however and whenever they want instead of having to worry about 3 different data allowances.
Either way, Dialog is clearly the best provider in Sri Lanka. Prices may be higher than their competition, but you are paying for better service in terms of weirder coverage and fast speeds. Those are things adventurous travelers are about when exploring this beautiful country. You should have a good experience with Dialog in Sri Lanka.
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 Sri Lanka
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 Sri Lanka. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Sri Lanka drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Sri Lanka
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 Sri Lanka. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Sri Lankan hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Sri Lanka
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 Sri Lanka, 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 Sri Lankan Rupees 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!