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A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when traveling to Belarus
Buy a local SIM card to save money.
Belarus is one of Eastern Europe’s cheapest countries, and has some amazing local SIM card deals that can reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from their leading telco provider for as little as BYR5 (CAD$1.36). So, whether you’re planning a week-long holiday or a long-term trip, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
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There are four main cell phone operators in Belarus: MTS/MTC, Velcom, life and beCloud (a state-owned company offering the only 4G/LTE services in Belarus, available to use on the other three networks). All operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. They have all been tried, tested and trusted by locals and international travelers, and their deals are among the best in world.
According to OpenSignal’s country report, Belarus was voted 55th in the world for overall speed. Belarus ranked 70th in 3G/4G availability, and a 3G or faster signal is available in over 74.53% of the country’s territory. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Belarus.
Belarus operators offer great coverage for a country that has a difficult terrain, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G services. All four operators sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals. The locals call their SIM Cards ‘kartes’ or ‘SIMs’, and they can only be purchased from official stores and approved resellers by using your passport, and after having your visa stamp checked. Credit can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets and Minsk National Airport. Top-ups can be purchased online by using your credit card.
MTS, or known locally as MTC, is the leading provider in Belarus. Owned by Beltelecom and Russian MTS, the network has good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE coverage. Customers use their 4G/LTE service through beCloud. MTS has a visitor prepaid package called CMAPT Гостевой (Smart Guest). Tourists can purchase this SIM card by using their passport, as opposed to the government registration process needed for long-term stays.
The visitor SIM card is sold in official stores called Центр МТС (MTS centres) and the same amount of credit will be uploaded. If you don’t use your SIM card in any 180-day period it will cancel automatically. Credit vouchers can be purchased in stores or top-ups can be bought online by using your credit card.
The Smart Guest SIM can be purchased for BYR12, which includes 3GB data over two months (2GB during the first month, and 1GB during the second), 1,000 operator minutes and reduced international call rates. The plan can be continued for BYR12 a month, and if you go over your data allowance, the standard default rate is BYR0.04 per MB for overuse.
These ‘Гостевой Инет’ data packs can also be added:
|2GB||BYR7.28 – valid for 15 days||Dial *994#|
|4GB||BYR9.78 – valid for 15 days||Dial *995#|
|6GB||BYR12.48 – valid for 15 days||Dial *996#|
|2GB||BYR9.15 – valid for 30 days||Dial *991#|
|4GB||BYR12.28 – valid for 30 days||Dial *992#|
|6GB||BYR15.61 – valid for 30 days||Dial *993#|
Dial *558# to add a plan, and to check your balance dial *100#. Overuse is charged at BYR3.75 per 100 MB.
The above-mentioned options do not require you to have a registered SIM. To purchase other plans and tariffs, it would be wise to register your SIM card with the authorities, you can do this by showing your passport and stamped visa card upon purchase.
MTC’s internet (Интернет) packages are geared toward modems and tablets, but also allow voice and SMS. Dial *111*13# to switch over to one of these packages:
- Valid for 30 days (overuse rate is BYR0.02 per MB):
- 4GB – BYR7.28, Dial *534# to activate, *534*0# to deactivate
- 8GB – BYR9.47, Dial *535# to activate, *535*0# to deactivate
- 12GB – BYR13.01, Dial *536# to activate, *536*0# to deactivate
- Unlimited data, valid for 30 days:
- BIT: 100 MB per day – BYR7.80 per month – Dial *741# to activate, *741*0# to deactivate
- Super BIT: 250 MB per day – BYR14.57 per month – Dial *742# to activate, *742*0# to deactivate
- Unlimited VIP: 1GB per day – BYR26.03 per month – Dial *743# to activate, *743*0# to deactivate
All plans will automatically renew, so if you don’t want to continue remember to deactivate. Dial *558# to check your data usage. Dial *100# to check credit.
Velcom is the second largest provider in Belarus and the main competitor to MTS. It has good 3G and what they call 3G+ services, but have still not launched a 4G/LTE service. However, beCloud’s 4G/LTE service can be used through their network. Velcom offers tourists and short-term visitors a Privet (Привет) prepaid SIM card. This tourist plan doesn’t require visitors to be registered with the authorities. You can purchase the Privet plan for BYR5 from their service centres (Фирменные центры).
Velcom’s voice and data SIMs can be purchased for BYR3.45, which includes 1GB of data to be used within one month. The SIM will automatically cancel if not used within 12 months. Dial *120# to check balance.
Velcom also offers data plans. The standard default internet rate is BYR0.03 per 50 KB once you have exceeded the plan limit. The following data packages can be added:
|50 MB||BYR1.50 for 10 days||BYR1.90 for 30 days|
|250 MB||BYR2.50 for 10 days||BYR2.90 for 30 days|
|450 MB||BYR2.90 for 10 days||BYR3.50 for 30 days|
|900 MB||BYR3.90 for 10 days||BYR4.90 for 30 days|
|1.8GB||BYR6.90 for 10 days||BYR8.70 for 30 days|
|3.6GB||N/A||BYR16.70 for 30 days|
Dial *121*1*6# to activate. Dial *120*3# to check balance. Overuse is BYR0.03 per MB.
life:) (yes, it has the smiley face as part of its logo) is the smallest operator in Belarus. Their 3G service is still quite limited. 4G/LTE services can be used on the beCloud by life platform, but only in Minsk at present. They will provide you with an LTE SIM card if the one you have is not enabled.
life:) offer two tourist prepaid SIM plans, but unlike the other two providers you need to be registered with the local authorities to use these plans, so take your passport – making sure it has the visa stamp inside – when purchasing the SIM card.
The two tourist plans are as follows:
- Start yo life:) basic SIM pack – BYR1.50 includes BYR0.60 credit
- World in your hand SIM pack – discounted international calls – BYR4.50 includes BYR2.70 credit
Both above-mentioned plans allow the following data packs:
- 250 MB for 24 hours – BYR1.08 – Dial *8121# to activate
- 1.5GB for 24 hours – BYR2.19 – Dial *8122# to activate
- 3GB for 24 hours – BYR2.99 – Dial *8123# to activate
All data packs will auto-renew. Dial *110# to deactivate, select ‘Интернет на сутки’ (daily internet).
The following monthly plans can also be added:
|50 MB for 30 days||BYR1.00||*8050#|
|100 MB for 30 days||BYR1.30||*8100#|
|250 MB for 30 days||BYR2.30||*8250#|
|500 MB plus for 30 days1GB (1am-8am)||BYR2.90||*8500#|
|1GB for 30 days||BYR4.50||*8036#|
|2GB for 30 days||BYR6.90||*8102#|
|3GB for 30 days||BYR5.90||*8117#|
|4GB for 30 days||BYR7.90||*8104#|
|8GB for 30 days||BYR9.90||*8108#|
|12GB for 30 days||BYR13.90||*8112#|
|16GB for 30 days||BYR14.90||*8116#|
|45GB for 30 days||BYR31.90||*8111#|
Dial *110*5*1# to activate using the above *81 code. Dial *100# to check the balance. Overuse rate is BYR0.04 per MB. All plans will auto-renew unless you dial *110# to deactivate.
The following data-only options can also be purchased as add-ons:
- 250 MB for 30 days – BYR1.08
- 1.5GB for 30 days – BYR2.19
- 3GB for 30 days – BYR2.99
Dial *110# to choose package and activate.
To use the 4G/LTE network provided by beCloud they offer special packages to life:) customers:
- 2GB (6GB 1st month only) – BYR6.90 – dial *8141# to activate
- 4GB (12GB 1st month only) – BYR7.90 – dial *8142# to activate
- 8GB (24GB 1st month only) – BYR9.90 – dial *8143# to activate
- 20GB – BYR22.90
- 50GB – BYR36.90
beCloud is a state-owned (and the only) provider of 4G/LTE services in Belarus. All 4G services listed by the above-mentioned providers are taken from beCloud. They have a monopoly license for 15 years and run their 4G/LTE network on 1800 and 2600 MHz. beCloud’s 4G/LTE service are available in most towns and cities in Belarus, the last count was in over 30 locations.
- Russian is spoken in Belarus, so if you don’t know any then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. However, Belarus is very cosmopolitan and English is taught in all schools.
- Locals call a SIM card a karte or SIM.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM for you, 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 Belarus.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “I use MTS in Belarus. Unlike Velcom, MTS are happy to supply micro-SIMs and nano-SIMs to prepaid customers and MTS prepaid accounts don’t need periodic top-ups to keep them active”
- “MTS has a Гостевой (guest) tariff for which you don’t need registration.”
- “A SIM card will have as many minutes as the plan you have chosen, passport will be required. From two dollars and more depending on the Internet traffic and other features”
- “I bought a Belarus SIM card last year in Grodno at the Velcom shop. I found Velcom to be very good, data speeds in the cities were really quick and I got a signal pretty much everywhere”
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 them before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Belarus 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
- Strict rules and regulations could hamper purchases
Q: Does beCloud charge more if you use their 4G services on another network?
A: beCloud has created bespoke 4G options for each provider to match their own plans. They don’t charge the customer an extra fee for this service. Our advice is to shop around the top three providers until you find the best 4G deal on offer.