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A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when traveling to Bahrain
Learn more about the local cell phone carriers to reduce your roaming bill.
Bahrain is a wealthy Arab nation close to Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Using your cell phone there can be expensive, so consider switching to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Bahrain has some of the best prepaid SIM cards on offer, with deals that can reduce your bills.
You can buy 1GB of data from Bahrain’s leading telco provider for as little as BHD1 (less than CAD$4). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, longer stay or tour of the Arab nations, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
There are three main cell phone operators in Bahrain: Batelco, Zain and Viva. 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. Their services have all been tried, tested and trusted by both locals and travelers.
According to OpenSignal’s connectivity report, Bahrain has a good cell phone network with 73.82% 4G availability, beating the likes of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Germany and France. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s on offer during your visit to Bahrain.
Bahrain’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of their cheap local offers and deals. All three providers offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G services. Locals call their SIM cards SIM or chips and there are rules and regulations when purchasing them, detailed below.
Rules and regulations
Tourists can only buy SIM cards from authorized dealers. You must register your SIM card and cell phone IMEI number (unique device ID number), with the store you purchase the SIM from otherwise you run the risk of your phone being disconnected. Your passport ID will be checked against a database to see whether there are any issues. If you plan on using their cell service for an extended period (12 months or beyond), then your fingerprints will be taken and kept on file. Remember, Bahrain is a Muslim country, therefore they have filters and restrictions on many websites. It’s always advised to download a VPN service on your phone before you travel.
Batelco is the cell phone arm of Bahrain Telecom, the national provider offering the only landline/ADSL service in the country. It has a 38% market share, and has both the best coverage and most expensive prices. Batelco’s prepaid SIM is called SimSim and can be purchased for BHD2 in official stores. Credit can be purchased for BHD1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 20 and 30, valid for 5 – 430 days, depending on how much you purchase. Vouchers or online top-ups can be made by using your credit card. Dial *125*<voucher PIN># to add credit. Dial *122# to check your balance.
Batelco sell two different SimSim plans:
- BHD1.5 – 200 operator mins, 2GB data valid for 7 days – Dial *200# to activate
- BHD6 – 1000 operator mins, 12GB data valid for 30 days – Dial *600# to activate
Additional data packs can be added to the above-mentioned plans. The standard default and over usage rate is BHD0.70 per MB. These data-on options can be added to boost your already existing package:
|1GB||BHD1||Dial *911# to activate|
|3GB||BHD3||Dial *922# to activate|
|8GB||BHD5||Dial *933# to activate|
|20GB||BHD10||Dial *944# to activate|
Dial *888*1*1# to check data usage.
You can also purchase data-only SIMs called Prepaid Mobile Broadband for BHD2 with 2GB of data, valid for 15 days. Additional data packs can also be purchased:
Batelco also offers a Wi-Fi service for those who subscribe to their plans, and there are many hotspots right across the country. Text “BWIFI” to 88188 to use 2GB of free data every month. If you happen to go over the free usage, the below rates will be deducted from your credit or you can purchase Wi-Fi vouchers from most stores and supermarkets.
- 1 hour – BHD1
- 3 hours – BHD2
- 24 hours – BHD7
- 48 hours – BHD12
Kuwaiti operator Zain is the second largest operator in Bahrain with good coverage. All prepaid SIM cards are on 4G/LTE, and speeds are very fast. Prices are generally similar to Batelco, but can work out to be slightly cheaper depending on the plan. Zain’s prepaid voice and data SIM is called eeZee and is sold for BHD1 with the same amount of credit already loaded onto the card.
Credit can be purchased from BHD0.500 to BHD30, which will also give you credit bonuses depending on how much you top-up.
Zain’s eeZee comes in the following plans:
- BHD1.5 – 100 operator mins, 1.25GB for 7 days – Dial *123*2# to activate
- BHD6 – 500 operator mins, 7GB for 30 days – Dial *123*1# to activate
If you go over your set plan, overuse is charged at 20 fils per 100 KB. The following data packs can be purchased as add-ons:
- 1GB – BHD1
- 2GB – BHD2
- 8GB – BHD5
- 20GB – BHD10
Dial *123# and choose your option to activate.
Data-only SIM cards:
Zain sell data-only SIM cards for 4G/LTE called e-GO:
- 4GB valid for 10 days – BHD2
- 5GB valid for 30 days – BHD12
Dial *943# to activate 4G/LTE. The following ‘unlimited’ data packs can also be added:
|BHD1||2GB||Valid for 3 days|
|BHD2||5GB||Valid for 10 days|
|BHD4||12GB||Valid for 30 days|
|BHD10||20GB||Valid for 60 days|
|BHD20||30GB||Valid for 60 days|
|BHD25||40GB||Valid for 90 days|
|BHD30||50GB||Valid for 90 days|
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Viva is the third largest provider in Bahrain. They are quick to point out that they are only the smallest because they are the newest, and offer the best and cheapest offers on the market. Speed can sometimes lag, but it isn’t too far behind the other two carriers. Their prepaid SIM can be purchased for BHD1, before any credit has been uploaded. The SIM cards can be purchased in any official store, and don’t forget to take your passport with you for proof of purchase.
Dial *101# to check your balance. Credit can be purchased for 500 fils, BHD1, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 25. Bonuses are given for credit amounts uploaded for BHD10 or more. Dial *100*<voucher PIN># to recharge. Dial *101# to check your balance.
Credit plans can also be purchased:
- BHD 1.5 – 200 operator mins, 2GB – valid for 7 days
- BHD 6 – 1000 operator mins, 12GB – valid for 30 days
Standard default and overuse rate is 20 fils per 100 KB. However, data add-ons can be purchased as extras:
|1GB||BHD1||Dial *81172*1# to activate|
|3GB||BHD3||Dial *81172*2# to activate|
|5GB||BHD5||Dial *81172*3# to activate|
|12GB||BHD10||Dial *81172*4# to activate|
Viva also sell data-only SIMs called Viva Prepaid Broadband, all on 4G/LTE:
- 2GB – valid for 15 days – BHD2
- 3GB – valid for 30 days – BHD 12
- 3GB – valid for 90 days – BHD 15
- 4GB – valid for 180 days – BHD 18
- 5GB – valid for 360 days – BHD 35
Extra packs can also be added to boost your data:
- They speak Arabic in Bahrain, so if you don’t know the language then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. The good thing about the Middle East is that English is a second language, and 95% of the population can speak it.
- Bahrainis call a SIM card a SIM or chips.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM for you as 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, that 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 Bahrain.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “Calling from Bahrain on a mobile is quite expensive for international calls. I suggest you using applications like Rebtel”
- “Bahrain has 3 major telecommunication companies i.e. Batelco, Zain and VIVA. Usually these companies provide free SIM cards to those who visit Bahrain”
- “You can get prepaid SIM cards for free or buy a new one for BHD2 from any branch at the airport in the arrival area. The international call rates vary and may change at any time”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international cell phone. To double check you have this phone, or if it’s possible for your provider to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Bahrain 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
- Tough rules and regulations makes buying a SIM card difficult
Q: Can Bahrain SIM cards be used throughout the Middle East region?
A: Bahrain SIM cards can be used in other Middle Eastern countries, subject to additional roaming charges, but that defeats the object of purchasing a local SIM card to avoid using your home phone abroad. We advise you to only use the Bahrain SIM card in Bahrain to reap the full benefits of what it can offer. If you plan on traveling around the Arab nations, it would be better to purchase a SIM card from that country to cut costs.