You can’t just get a SIM card in Pakistan at any store. You must go to certain offices that have the ability to issue SIM cards to foreigners.
I have used Zong 4G Pakistan on my many trips to Pakistan. It’s the best network in Pakistan. I’ve never had an issue with their coverage, and their 4G speeds average 5-10 Mbps download and up to 16 Mbps upload. However, 4G download speed is capped in disputed regions like Kashmir, where it’s around 1 Mbps or less.
I’ve also used Ufone and had no issues and similar speeds, too.
Another option is Jazz, but I’ve not had a reason to try them yet. There’s also Telenor, but their coverage is said to be bad.
The following two stores I have personally used to get tourist SIMs.
Where to get a SIM in Islamabad?
Zong Customer Service Centre, Blue Area, Islamabad. Right next door is the Jazz office too.
Where to get a SIM in Lahore?
If you want a Zong sim, go to the Zong Customer Service Centre on Mall Road.
Another store I know sells to foreigners is Ufone near Mini Market. Ufone is fine if you don’t need much data or are in Pakistan for a short trip. But I found buying extra data didn’t work, and I kept getting charged for every megabyte consumed.
International credit cards are accepted in the app and in stores. English can be limited depending on which sales executive you end up with.
When you enter the store, a security guard will give you a ticket with a number on it. Your number will be called out when it’s your turn.
Where to get a SIM in Gilgit?
Documents needed for SIM card in Pakistan
To get a tourist SIM, you must present your passport and Pakistan VISA.
How long do new SIMs take to work?
New SIMs are activated anywhere from immediately up to 18 hours once your passport and VISA have been verified.
How much do SIMs in Pakistan cost?
There are 4 basic plans, and all sorts of data, voice, and SMS add-ons are available if you run out on your plan.
There’s no cost to buy the SIM itself. But Zong does take a security deposit ranging from Rs. 500 to 2500, depending on your plan. You can spend this deposit on add-ons.
I just buy the lowest package so I don’t have to give a massive deposit and buy 20GB data add-ons to upload my videos to YouTube.
Does Zong have an app?
The app does accept payment via international credit cards.
Can you use international roaming in Pakistan?
Yes, but it can be very expensive. Check with your mobile provider.
Can you roam on an Indian SIM card in Pakistan?
No. Indian SIMs do not work in Pakistan; I’ve tried.
They do work near the border, within a radius of 2 km. Like at Kartarpur Sahib, for example. But it’s patchy.
The big issue for returning tourists to Pakistan
I returned to Pakistan to find out my phone’s SIM card slot had been disabled for use in Pakistan!
If you don’t pay tax on your foreign phone within 60 days of arriving your SIM card tray (its unique identifier, called its IMEI number) gets blocked on Pakistan’s mobile networks!
Pakistan’s Telecommunication Authority is trying to stop people from importing phones and not paying duty on them. Unfortunately, this affects foreign tourists returning to Pakistan who find their phones banned.
I was lucky. I have two SIM card slots. So, one was still working. But it’ll be banned soon, too.
So, you either pay the tax to a telco, around Rs. 25-75,000, buy a cheap PTA-approved phone with hotspot functionality for Rs. 20,000, or buy a 4G portable WiFi device and carry it around and keep your phone connected to it.
Tourist SIMs expire once your VISA expires, so banning tourists’ phones from the mobile network makes no sense. I hope this will change in the future.
How to check if you’re phone is PTA approved
Foreign tourists can now get their phone PTA-approved online and check their phone status at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s website.
Do you have any more questions about SIMs in Pakistan? Drop a comment.