Traveling to Nepal soon? Don't let slow overseas data roaming packages or high roaming costs ruin your trip. The best way to stay connected on your trip is buying a sim card in Nepal. In a country with challenging logistics having a solid 4G connection is worth a lot. Trust me! This is your complete guide for buying a Nepal sim card with best network coverage, up to date prices as per February 2021 and where to buy one.
A Nepal sim card with data is CHEAP! Investing a couple dollars will make your trip to Nepal so much more convenient!
Over the last years Nepal became one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. I have returned multiple times to this country and would recommend anyone to meet the amazingly lovely people of Nepal and see its utterly stunning landscapes.
Flying into Kathmandu? Here is a complete guide for buying a sim card at Kathmandu Airport on arrival. Are you traveling to more countries in Asia then you might want to check out my article about the best sim cards for Asia travel. But remember that buying a local sim card is always better!
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Think about Google Maps, ordering taxis, booking hotels, killing endlessly long bus rides, waiting at the airport, etc. Bike sharing apps are popular btw., download Tootle and Pathao for bike sharing apps mainly in Kathmandu and Pokhara. A taxi app is Sarathi, but don't except Uber standards. :)
While traveling in Nepal I did a Kathmandu street food tour, highly recommended guys! I would have never found all those places myself as we ended up in hidden courtyards and got to try the most amazing Nepal street food. Check out the 5 minute video (300K on YouTube) in the link.
What to bring when buying a Nepal sim card
I have done research about buying a sim card in many Asian countries: Maldives, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. and like everywhere you will have to bring your passport for identification. But when buying a Nepal sim card they also require a passport size photo. In case you don’t have one, don’t worry for 50 Rupees ($0.50) they will take one of you on the spot.
Tourists buying a prepaid sim card in Nepal will have to fill out a registration form as well, which looks like this.
Mobile internet operators in Nepal
There are only 2 main mobile internet providers in Nepal: Ncell, which is a private company and the state owned Nepal Telecom, also referred to as NTC Namaste. Both have an extensive 4G network and competitive prices when it comes to data packages.
This is the Nepal Telecom shop in Kathmandu.
Best mobile network in Nepal in 2021
To find the best Nepal sim card looking at the mobile network is something very important. I researched the internet to find coverage maps for both Ncell and Nepal Telecom, but could only find a 4G network map of Ncell. Here is what it looks like as of February 2021 and I can tell you that looks 100x better than the 4G coverage 1 year ago.
For a more detailed 3G and 4G coverage map of Ncell Nepal click on the link.
In January 2021 Nepal Telecom published an article about having extended their 4G network with more than 2,000 new towers across the country. Unfortunately I could NOT find a 4G coverage map of Nepal Telecom. They do specify every region where they have a NT 4G network.
Based on my own experience it is hard to tell you which one of the two has the best Nepal mobile network. I eventually bought an Ncell sim card and in and around Kathmandu there was a 4G signal and internet was reliable and pretty ok. In remote areas finding a good mobile internet connection was harder. Some of the porters and guides on my Langtang trekking had a Nepal Telecom sim card and basically encountered the same problem.
Therefore it is hard to tell you which mobile internet network in Nepal is the best. When traveling to Nepal and going off the beaten path just be prepared to be offline and in case you find a phone signal make the most of it!
Best sim card for Langtang Valley trek
The most amazing thing I did on my last trip to Nepal was the Langtang Valley trek. Being offline is one of the main reasons why I love hiking in the Himalayas so much but nowadays there is a phone signal almost everywhere. On the Langtang Valley trek there was only a Nepal Telecom phone signal available, as I had an Ncell sim card I was offline for 7 days! LOVED IT MUCHO :)
Best sim card for Annapurna Circuit
In 2013 I went trekking in the Annapurna region and back then there was no phone signal at all. Nowadays things have changed and I asked experienced guides that trek there every month and the best sim card in Nepal for trekking in Annapurna is Nepal Telecom. Much better phone reception than Ncell.
Best sim card for Everest Basecamp
On the contrary according to the guides and porters Ncell is the best sim card in Nepal for trekking to Everest Basecamp. So if you travel to Nepal for the Everest Basecamp Trek make sure to buy an Ncell sim card.
Basically the advice of the locals is to buy both sim cards! Most of them have Androids with dual sim, wish Apple finally catches up on Android with dual sim! Although…
Nepal tourism to me is actually all about being offline and being one with nature!
Where to buy a Nepal sim card
As I mentioned already you can easily buy a Nepal sim card at Kathmandu Airport straight after you collect your luggage. I can already tell you that prices don’t differ too much than in the city and I totally recommend tourists to buy a sim card at Kathmandu Airport.
When for some reason it wasn’t possible to buy a Nepal sim card at the airport you will find them everywhere around Kathmandu. Souvenir shops, clothing shops, etc. Everyone seems to sell local sim cards.
But be aware that these sellers somehow have to make money too and they will charge you way more. This is an example of the prices they charged at a random shop in Thamel, the most popular tourist district in Kathmandu. Prices are often 50% higher than at the official shops.
You are better off heading to the official Nepal Telecom or Ncell shops across Kathmandu. In every shop you buy a Nepal sim card it will be activated for you on the spot.
Where to find them? Simply go to Google Maps and type in either: Ncell or Nepal Telecom. That is where I went and at both official shops I researched the available prepaid Nepal sim cards for tourists. The prices below are based on what they offered me in the official shops.
But if you want to support local shops then I recommend you to buy a Nepal sim card in any of the clothing shops. Remember that 2020 and 2021 were really hard years for Nepal tourism, so help to local shop keepers a little bit.
Pokhara sim card
If you for some reason want to buy a sim card in Pokhara then you can also find an official Ncell shop and a Nepal Telecom in Pokhara. They are a little bit away from the Lakeside, so you might just want to buy a sim card in Pokhara from one of the tourist shops around the lakeside area.
Prices Nepal sim card in 2021
Nepal Telecom prepaid sim card
At Kathmandu Airport they give away free sim cards to tourists. You only have to register, give a copy of your passport and a photo. In the official Nepal Telecom shop in Kathmandu city the same procedure will cost you 90 NRS ($0.80) and it comes with 50 NRS ($0.45) credit.
Nepal Telecom offers the following data packages:
Price: 250 NRS = $2.25
- 7 GB data (1GB per day)
- 14 minutes calling time per day
- Valid for 7 days
Price: 850 NRS = $7.60
- 28 GB data (1GB per day)
- 14 minutes calling time per day
- Valid for 28 days
As you can see the prices for Nepal Telecom data packages are super cheap. May be one of the cheapest prepaid sim cards in the world I have seen so far! If you buy the 28GB data package you pay less than $0.30 per 1GB data. The same Nepal Telecom data package at Kathmandu Airport is $11, that is 50% more expensive, but we are talking about $3.50. :)
The above prices are up to date as per February 2021 and are a selection of the best ones. There are also social media packages for 3 days available with unlimited YouTube, etc. Find all the Nepal Telecom sim card offers and packages on the NT website in the link. This is also where you can recharge your credit online.
Ncell Nepal prepaid sim card
An Ncell Nepal sim card costs 110 NRS ($1) and you also have to register with a passport size photo and your passport copy. It does come with 30 NRS ($0,25) and 1 GB data for 3 days.
Ncell Nepal offers a lot of different data packages, but they have a special Ncell Visit Nepal SIM, see the picture below for the rates.
These are the up to date prices as per February 2021. For the latest Ncell sim cards for tourists check the Ncell website in the link. Ncell is way more expensive than Nepal Telecom.
But on the other hand they are much more expensive! More than double!!!!
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Best Nepal sim card in 2021
As you can see from the above it is pretty clear that Nepal Telecom offers bigger data packages and is even cheaper. Therefore it is pretty easy to come to the conclusion that based on the prices:
Nepal Telecom is the best Nepal sim card for tourists in 2021!
But as I said before, in case you want to be online as much as you can, just buy both sim cards and swap them over or bring an extra phone. Mobile data in Nepal is really cheap anyway!
My experience buying a sim card in Nepal
On arrival at Kathmandu Airport I bought an Ncell sim card. Why? Ncell has no data restrictions per day like Nepal Telecom has, to me that is a big difference. Plus they also have much more flexible data package for the grab. Must say the price of Ncell is way more than Nepal Telecom, but in fact it is only a couple dollars.
This is the Ncell sim card that I bought, it was on offer:
Price: 1045 NRS = $9.30
- 16 GB data
- Valid for 28 days
- 60 min/day video (YouTube)
Buy a Nepal sim card online
In case you really DO NOT WANT the hassle of buying a sim card in Nepal I recommend you to have a look at the AIS SIM2FLY prepaid sim card. They offer 6 GB data for less than $20 in Nepal. This AIS sim card for Nepal can directly be ordered through the Simoptions website. The sim card will be shipped to your home address before your trip to Nepal and is instantly activated from its first use.
Does an Indian sim work in Nepal?
Something frequently asked is if Indian sim cards work in Nepal. Yes, they work, but only if you activate data roaming! You can’t use your Indian data bundles and calling minutes in Nepal, you will have to pay extra charges. Therefore also for Indian tourists it is better to buy a Nepal sim card when traveling in Nepal.
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As a professional travel blogger I am traveling the world continuously since 2021 and the first thing I do when arriving in a new country is buying a sim card. As Nepal is one of the cheapest countries to travel in the world, buying a prepaid sim card is not going to break the bank.
I hope the above tips for finding the best Nepal sim card were helpful. I would be forever thankful if you could help me in return by sharing the link of this article online. Please share it in Facebook Group, tweet it on Twitter or pin it on Pinterest and you will make me smile big time! Thank you to the moon and back.
Enjoy your trip to Nepal!