In Pakistan, you can’t just get a SIM card at any store. You must go to certain offices that have the ability to issue SIM cards to foreigners.
On my 3 trips to Pakistan I have used Zong 4G 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. 4G download speed is however capped in Kashmir, it’s around 1 mbps or less.
Another option is Jazz, but I’ve not had a reason to try them yet. There’s also Telenor, but their coverage is not as good as Zong or Jazz.
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?
Zong Customer Service Centre, Hussain Chowk, Gulberg III, Lahore. Nearby to Liberty Market.
International credit cards are accepted in the app and in stores. English can be limited depending on which sales executive you land 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.
Documents needed for SIM card in Pakistan
To get a tourist SIM you need to present your passport and Pakistani VISA.
How long do new SIMs take to work?
New SIMs are activated anywhere from immediately to 1-2 hours once your passport and VISA have been verified.
How much do SIMs in Pakistan cost?
There are 4 basic plans, then 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 the plan you take. 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 importing phones and not paying duty on them. Unfortunately, this affects foreign tourists returning to Pakistan to find their phone 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 Zong, around Rs. 25,000, buy a cheap phone PTA approved phone in Pakistan, or buy a 4G portable WIFI device and carry it around and keep your phone connected to it. Not ideal.
Tourist SIMs expire once your VISA expires, so it makes no sense to ban tourists’ phones from the mobile network. I hope this will change in the future.
Have any more questions about SIMs in Pakistan? Drop a comment.