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A visitor’s guide to prepaid SIM cards in Switzerland
Cut down on roaming charges while traveling abroad with a local SIM card.
Switzerland is unique among European countries in that it’s not a member of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) but is one of the world’s most prosperous economies. Tourism is an important industry in Switzerland from the Swiss Alps to the vineyards and chocolatiers. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card that includes 1.5GB of data plus CHF20 in credit for CHF39.90 (US$39.89). Finder.com offers the following guide to the nation’s mobile network operators.
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Mobile network operators in Switzerland
There are three SIM card providers in Switzerland. They are:
- Salt Mobile
Swisscom and Sunrise are thought of as equals in term of coverage, but Swisscom tends to be a bit more expensive. Sunrise has the best overall coverage by a slight margin at 99% of 2G and 3G and 98% of 4G/LTE.
To purchase a Swiss prepaid card you must show your identification – either a passport or another form of ID. You’ll also have to fill out forms at the point of sale.
Swisscom sells its prepaid SIM cards under the name inOne mobile prepaid as of October 2017. It’s a SIM card combining calls, texts and data. Its starter price is CHF19.90 with a credit of CHF20 and 100MB. Top-ups are readily available at kiosks, major gas stations, Migros and Coop supermarkets and the Swiss railway (SBB) ticket machines. You can check your available balance by dialing *130#.
For data, you can buy “unlimited” data at the price of CHF2 per day. However, unlimited only extends to 10GB per month. When you’ve gone past that mark, your fair usage policy (FUP) speed is reduced to 256 Kbps.
There are three data packages available with Swisscom:
Additionally, there are three plans for EU roaming. Switzerland does not fall into the “Roam-Like-at-Home” scheme because it’s not part of the EU or EEA. All three of these plans are valid for 30 days when roaming outside of Switzerland:
- 200MB for CHF9.90
- 1GB for CHF29.90
- 3GB for CHF69.90
Sunrise is on par with Swisscom among network leaders in Switzerland. Its main offer is Sunrise prepaid, which is sold for CHF19.90 with the same amount of credit preloaded. If you have a local mailing address, you can buy it online, otherwise the cards are available in Sunrise shops.
Topping up is a breeze and can be done at the post office or at many existing kiosks, gas stations and supermarkets. Topping up is also available online. Whenever you want to check your balance, just dial *121#.
If you’re an infrequent traveler to Switzerland, you’ll find Sunrise’s terms much to your liking. The SIM cards are valid for 12 months without activity, and only after 18 months are they shut down for good. After the first 12 months without activity, you can still contact the company for full reinstatement. There are two main plans available on prepaid:
- Prepaid airbag
- Prepaid unlimited
Regardless of which one you sign up for initially, you can switch back and forth by texting either “AIRBAG” or “UNLIMITED” to 5522.
Airbag is the plan for people who don’t need a lot of data. The data cost is CHF1.20 per day up to 20MB, after which it’s throttled to 256Kbps. The following data plans can be added to airbag for more data:
|Surf XL||CHF15||1GB||SURFXL||SURFXL STOP|
Text the appropriate code to 5522 to subscribe or unsubscribe to plans. All bundles are on auto-renew. To check your data balance, dial *136#.
There are more than 40,000 places to buy a Prepaid unlimited card. It employs a flat rate for high users with real, unlimited, unthrottled data on a 4G network up to 300Mbps. There are three ways that the plan is charged:
- Per day: A cost of CHF2.50 for 24 hours of use. CHF2.50 is only charged if you use data, voice or SMS that day. To activate, text “UNLIMITED” to 5522.
- Per month: A cost of CHF50 for 30 days. To activate, text “UNLIMITED30” to 5522.
- Per quarter: A cost of CHF120 for 90 days. To activate, text “UNLIMITED90” to 5522.
Salt has been around in its current format since 2015. Its starter package is called PrePay Suisse and costs CHF10 with a credit of CHF20 attached. There are top-up kiosks as well as cards in supermarkets, post offices, gas stations and at ticket machines.
Salt is the rare company where the default data rate is a great deal. For CHF1.99/day, you get unlimited data up to 4G/LTE. The rate is not throttled.
Data packages are nearly non-existent for Salt. It has only one, known as Internet Max, which gives 1GB of data for 30 days at the price of CHF15.
Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in Switzerland
MVNOs are plentiful in Switzerland, using pre-existing networks to offer various voice, data and SMS packages at competitive prices. Eight of those MVNOs are discussed below with a note about their most prevalent data plans.
Lycamobile runs on Swisscom’s network for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. The following data packages are available:
For even more data, there are two add-ons to be purchased.
- 1GB for CHF5.90; activation code: *139*602#
- 3GB for CHF12.90; activation code: *139#603#
Mucho mobile’s marketing strategy is to attract foreign workers and tourists seeking cheap international calls. It functions on Swisscom’s network, but only at 2G and 3G. 4G/LTE is not currently available for prepaid. Its SIM card costs CHF10 and includes a CHF5 credit.
There’s only one option for data, which lasts 30 days and costs CHF9.90. You get 1GB and can activate it by sending an SMS reading “START DATAPACK” to 444.
M-Budget is owned by retail chain Migros. It only has 2G and 3G for prepaid and runs on Swisscom’s network. The SIM card costs CHF19.80 and has a balance of CHF15 plus 100MB of data preloaded. It has three data packages, and all three come with 10MB free data per month. The packages are:
|CHF9.80||300MB||30 minutes||30 SMS, 30 minutes|
|CHF28.80||2GB||30 days||2,000 SMS, 2,000 minutes|
Website (in German, French and Italian): http://shop.m-budget.migros.ch
Ok.- might be a little hard to pronounce – yes, you’ll find both a period and a dash in the name. This MVNO is available on the Sunrise network on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Its SIM cards cost CHF10 with the same amount as a preloaded balance. You can recharge from CHF10 to CHF100. There are two data packages outside its standard rate of CHF0.15/MB.
- For CHF8.50 per month, you get 500MB. To activate this plan, text “Bundle Data500” to 3131.
- For CHF14 per month, you get 1GB. To activate this plan, text “Bundle Data1000” to 3131.
Website (in German, French and Italian): http://www.okpunkstrich.cn
The brainchild of the discount supermarket chain of the same name, Aldi operates on Sunrise’s 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE networks. Its starter pack is CHF19.99 with a preloaded credit of CHF20. That pack is available in the checkout lines of Aldi Suisse supermarkets. Top-ups are also at the stores for between CHF20 and CHF50 or online at the company website. You can check your balance by dialing *147*#.
Its standard data rate is CHF0.19 per MB, but it has five other data plans available. They are as follows:
|Plan name||Price||Data||Activation code|
|Surf 750||CHF9.90||750MB||START SURF 750|
|Surf 1500||CHF14.90||1.5GB||START SURF 1500|
|Surf 4000||CHF24.90||4GB||START SURF 4000|
|Smart 75||CHF15.90||750MB + 75 domestic SMS + 75 domestic minutes||SMART75|
|Smart FLAT||CHF28.90||3GB + unlimited minutes/SMS||SMART FLAT|
Text the appropriate activation code to 4466.
Website in German, French and Italian: http://www.aldi-mobile.ch
TalkTalk is on the Sunrise network for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Its prepaid package is called GO and costs CHF19.95 with a prepaid credit of CHF20. You can buy it online or at mobilezone stores. The following monthly data packages are available:
Send the relevant activation code to 361. You can move to a higher volume at any time. All packages are for 30 days.
Website (in English): https://www.talktalk.ch/TT_EN/Home.aspx
Ortel is on the Sunrise network for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. The starter package is CHF9.95 with a preloaded balance of CHF21. When you top up, you get an extra 10% bonus. You can check your balance by dialing *126#.
Ortel’s default data rate is CHF0.20 per MB. It only has one data plan called Surf and Save. For CHF13.90, you get 1GB of data for one month. Text “Data 1” to 233 to activate.
Website (in English): http://www.ortel.ch/?lang=end
Yallo is on Sunrise for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. The standard card is CHF20 with a preloaded credit of CHF20. You can buy them at Sunrise stores and post offices. The data rate is CHF3 per 10MB, but multiple data bundles are available.
Send the preferred activation code to 5511. Plans automatically renew after one month or when data maximum is reached. To check your available data, dial *142#.
Website (in English): https://yallo.ch/
CoopMobile is on the Salt network for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Its starter set is called “Prix Garantie Prepaid” and costs CHF19.80 with a CHF15 credit preloaded. Top-ups come in amounts from CHF10 to CHF100.
There are three monthly packages available:
- 500MB for CHF4.90
- 3GB for CHF19.90
- 5GB for CHF29.90
Advice from TripAdvisor about SIM cards in Switzerland
In addition to being an online review platform for hotels and attractions, TripAdvisor has an impressive online community of members. Here’s some advice from recent visitors to Switzerland:
“I just got back a week ago from there. You can try Salt (rebranded from orange). They have a fantastic prepaid scheme – 1 sim card for CHF10, with a CHF20 credit. Unlimited 4G data at 1.99 CHF/day. The network was quite good and getting the SIM card itself was a breeze at the Salt store (only passport required).”
“I always have some prepaid SIM cards with mobile phones and GSM mobile wifi-router for visitors from abroad, but have lately changed for Sunrise – unlimited Internet access in Switzerland for CHF2.50 per day, possibility to add data roaming packages (online, for instance CHF29 for 1GB in central & western Europe & USA; CHF 39 for 500MB for some of the countries in SW Europe, UAE, etc.)Sunrise has quite a good 4G/LTE network in Switzerland. Services and speed in other countries depends on their roaming partners.”
Pros and cons of Switzerland’s top SIM card operators
Switzerland has multiple SIM card providers. Here are some of the positives and negatives about these companies.
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