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A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when traveling to Azerbaijan
Don’t be caught out on international roaming fees. Opt for a local SIM instead.
Azerbaijan, once a Soviet state but now a republic, is becoming more and more popular with tourists. Using your home phone in Azerbaijan could be very expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans.
Azerbaijan has some of the best prepaid SIM card offers available, and these deals can help reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Azerbaijan’s leading telco provider for as little as AZN5 (CAD$4.10). So, whether you’re planning a short trip or a longer stay, check out the best SIM card options available in Azerbaijan on finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
There are three main cell phone operators in Azerbaijan: Azercell, Bakcell and Nar Mobile.
All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. The services have all been tried, tested and trusted by both locals and travelers.
According to GSMA’s global connectivity report, Azerbaijan has an average cell phone network with 46.77% connectivity. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s on offer during your visit to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s roaming rates are good and all three operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap local offers and deals. Operators offer good coverage and provide 2G, 3G and 4G services. The locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” and there are quite a lot of rules and regulations involved when purchasing them. Despite the GSMA report mentioned above, people have reported receiving both good coverage and speeds. While relatively new, 4G/LTE services are good when picked up in cities and towns.
Rules and regulations
Authorities have recently introduced a new SIM registration system, which was implemented to reduce sales of unauthorized SIM cards and to cut down on phone crime. Travelers for any length of stay can purchase a prepaid SIM card if they allow their phone number and identification to be stored on a central database. You will need to provide the sales assistant with your passport, so they can make a copy, when you are making a purchase.
What’s more, you will only be able to purchase the SIM card if you have already registered your IMEI number (the ID number unique to your device). Before you head out to purchase your SIM, go online to register your IMEI number. You can also do this in person at any post office. This will only cost AZN5, but make sure you do this step if you plan on staying for more than 30 days. If you don’t, they can shut down your phone! You can dial *#06# on your device to get the IMEI number. If you are staying for less than 30 days, you don’t need to register the IMEI number.
Azercell is the largest operator in Azerbaijan with a 50% market share. The network covers nearly 99% of Azerbaijan, except for the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region. They offer good 2G and 3G services, and 4G/LTE is available in Baku and the Absheron Peninsula.
You can purchase a SIM card for just AZN5 in official stores and approved resellers by showing your passport. Their prepaid SIM card deals are called “SimSim” cards. The standard tariff is called Acercellim, and they come in several plan variations.
Credit can be purchased from AZN1 to 100, and is valid for 7 to 360 days, depending on the amount of credit purchased. You can dial *131*<voucher code># to top-up your credit and *111*1*7# to check your balance.
The standard default rate is AZN0.20 per MB. The maximum speeds are 21.6Mbps on 3G and 100Mbps on 4G/LTE. The following plans are available:
|Unlimited||1 hour||AZN0.40||Text “1 hour” to 2525|
|Unlimited||3 hours||AZN1||Text “3 hours” to 2525|
|Unlimited||0 – 8am||AZN0.99||Text “night” to 2525|
|50MB||24 hours||AZN0.25||Text “50+” to 2525|
|500MB||24 hours||AZN1.20||Text “day+” to 2525|
|50MB||30 days||AZN1||Text “50” to 2525|
|500MB||30 days||AZN3||Text “500” to 2525|
|1GB||30 days||AZN5||Text “1000” to 2525|
|5GB||30 days||AZN10||Text “5000” to 2525|
|10GB||30 days||AZN15||Text “10000” to 2525|
|Unlimited||30 days||AZN30||Text “U” to 2525|
All packages renew automatically, so once you get toward the end of your plan and are not planning on renewing, text “stop” to 2525. The overuse rate is AZN0.05 during the running time of the plan. You can also dial *100# to check your balance.
Bakcell is partly state owned and the second largest provider in the country with a 30% market share. It has good 2G and 3G service throughout the entire country and good 4G service in Baku. Bakcell’s prepaid SIM cards are called “CIN” plans. You can purchase the SIM for just AZN5, and they offer several prepaid deal options. The standard default data rate is AZN0.29 or AZN0.35 per MB, depending on the plan.
You can add credit from AZN1-50, and it is valid for 5 to 150 days depending on how much you purchase. You will need to dial *101#<voucher code># to enter your balance and *100# to check your balance.
Bakcell offers the following three “daily” packs:
- You can get 25MB per day for AZN0.10 with overuse charges of AZN0.05 per MB. You will need to dial *189*1# to activate this pack.
- You can get 50MB per day for AZN0.20 with overuse charges of AZN0.03 per MB. You will need to dial *189*2# to activate this pack.
- You can get 1GB per day for AZN0.99 with overuse charges of AZN0.01 per MB. You will need to dial *189*1000# to activate this pack.
All packages auto-renew, so you will need to dial *1890# to stop the charges. You can also dial *189*559# to check your balance.
Bakcell also offer “Sür@” Internet packages:
|50MB||15 days||AZN1||Dial *444*50# to activate|
|150MB||30 days||AZN2||Dial *444*150# to activate|
|500MB||30 days||AZN3||Dial *444*500# to activate|
|750MB||30 days||AZN4||Dial *444*750# to activate|
|1GB||30 days||AZN5||Dial *444*1000# to activate|
|1.5GB||30 days||AZN7||Dial *444*1500# to activate|
|3GB||30 days||AZN9||Dial *444*3000# to activate|
|5GB||30 days||AZN10||Dial *444*5# to activate|
|10GB||30 days||AZN15||Dial *444*10# to activate|
|22GB||30 days||AZN22||Dial *444*22# to activate|
You can dial *444# to check your balance. All plans auto-renew, so you will need to dial *444#0# to cancel the plan.
Bakcell also offers a free Wi-Fi service to all Bakcell users or foreign devices using the Bakcell network. It’s a very good service and is available in most areas of Baku and throughout other areas in the country, including parks, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and shopping areas.
Free data-only SIM cards are offered for the following purchases:
- You can get 3GB on 3G for AZN6. You will need to text *134*3000# to activate this plan.
- You can get 15GB on 4G for AZN20. You will need to text *134*105# to activate this plan.
- You can get 40 GB on 4G for AZN40. You will need to text *134*355# to activate this plan.
All three plans are valid for one month and will auto-renew. You will need to dial *134#0# to stop the plan and *134#559# to check your balance.
These “unlimited” speed packs are available for data-only SIM cards:
- You can get “unlimited” @ 1 Mbps for AZN12. You will need to text *134*111# to activate this pack.
- You can get “unlimited” @ 2 Mbps for AZN20. You will need to text *134*222# to activate this pack.
These packs also auto-renew, so you will need to dial *134#0# if you want to cancel the service.
Nar Mobile is operated by Azerfon. Nar is the only operator that claims to cover all areas of Azerbaijan, including the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region. It’s highly unlikely that as a tourist you will visit the occupied region, so don’t let that affect your decision-making. Nar offers 2G, 3G, and 4G services. The name of their prepaid SIM card is “NarSim” and they are sold in official stores for AZN5. The data default rate is AZN0.29 per MB.
You can purchase credit for AZN2 to 50, which is valid for 25 to 245 days. You can dial *777#11#<voucher code># to top-up your credit and dial *777#10# to check your balance.
Nar Mobile has a data package called “Günlük” that costs AZN0.10 for 30 MB of data and is valid until midnight of the day of purchase. It will auto-renew at midnight unless you dial *777#012# to stop it. You will need to dial *777#12# to activate the plan. You can also dial *777#77# to check your balance.
The following “Turbo” data-only packs are available from Nar Mobile:
|60MB||15 days||AZN1||Dial *777#01# to activate|
|200MB||20 days||AZN2||Dial *777#02# to activate|
|600MB||30 days||AZN3||Dial *777#03# to activate|
|1.5GB||30 days||AZN6||Dial *777#04# to activate|
|7GB||30 days||AZN12||Dial *777#05# to activate||Unlimited night bonus|
|20GB||30 days||AZN20||Dial *777#06# to activate||Unlimited night bonus|
|40 GB||30 days||AZN30||Dial *777#07# to activate||Unlimited night bonus|
All the above-mentioned plans auto-renew, so you will need to dial *777#0# to cancel them. You can also dial *777#77# to check your balance.
- They speak Russian and Azerbaijani in Azerbaijan, so if you don’t know either of these languages, download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel.
- Azerbaijanis call a SIM card a “SIM”, “SimSim” or “CIN”.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM card for you since they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early before the shops get too busy. This way, you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Azerbaijan.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “I found out from Bakcell that they offer 10GB data for AZN20 with validity for one month. Or 20GB data for AZN30 with validity for 3 months.”
- “Bakcell and Azercell offer great prepaid SIM card deals. Make sure you take your passport and ID along when buying them from the store.”
- “Azercell have reliable data plans for iPads.”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international cell phone. To double check if you have this phone, or if it’s possible for your provider to unlock your device, contact them before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Azerbaijan has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current cell phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- No cell phone devices offered with the SIM-card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Data speed can sometimes be slow
- Tough rules and regulations make buying a SIM card difficult
Q: Can Azerbaijan cell phone plans be used in the Nagorno-Karabakh region?
A: Nar Mobile is the only operator that works in all areas of Azerbaijan. Although you will be able to roam in some areas, the costs could be extremely high. Our advice is to purchase the Nar Mobile SIM card if you plan on spending a lot of time in the occupied area of Nagorno-Karabakh.