Categories
Pakistan Travel

How to Get a SIM Card in Pakistan (Plus 1 Problem for Tourists)

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.

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.

Backside of Zong 4G Pakistan SIM Card
The backside of a Zong 4G SIM Card

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?

Ufone Head Office, Mini Market, Lahore
A Ufone Service Centre in Mini Market, Lahore.

If you want a Zong sim, go to the Zong Customer Service Centre on Mall Road.

One other store that I know sells to foreigners is Ufone near Mini Market. Ufone is fine if you don’t need a lot of data or you’re 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 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.

Ufone 4g data plans
Ufone 4G data plans.

Does Zong have an app?

Yes, you can manage your account, buy add-ons, topup, and check balance with the My Zong app on Android and iPhone.

The app does accept payment via international credit cards.

Inside the My Zong app

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 in Pakistan, or buy a 4G portable WiFi device and carry it around and keep your phone connected to it.

Zong 4g's Bolt+ Portable Wifi Dongle
Portable 4G WiFi routers are available from Zong for Rs. 3500. Their battery only lasts about 6 hours. So carry a battery to keep it powered on long trips.
Backside of a Zong 4G Bolt+ Wifi Router
Here are the specifications of Zong’s portable WiFi router.

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.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

20 replies on “How to Get a SIM Card in Pakistan (Plus 1 Problem for Tourists)”

Hi Karl, you said that the mobile speeds in Kashmir are limited to Dial-Up. Is that restriction strictly for foreigners because although Mobile Networks in Pakistani Kashmir are different to Mainland Networks (and are worse) there is no speed restriction?

Bro I’m kirtin you repelyed me in your vidio about indian sim not working in pakistan can you say how to buy a safe sim in Pakistan for tourist with all the procedure and make a vidio in youtube

Hi Karl
I heard that tourists dont have to pay tax on mobile phones. You only need to register your mobile phone to the authorities. Is that correct?

Not as far as I know. I asked Zong and a local cell phone seller in Lahore. You get 60 days free, then you have to pay tax to continue using that SIM card IMEI. If you find information otherwise, please let me know.

Pakistan Sims work on any unlocked GSM phone. Your cell phone providers do tend to lock up the phone so that consumers in their native countries do not take the phones to another carrier. This is not the case in Pakistan. I have traveled to Pakistan for most of my life, and have found the service to be far better than land lines in Pakistan. Bring your mobile phone, ask a local. The way phones work, you take your passport, and visa with you. Go to a Zong office, there are many small shops that have both a sim and a service. Obtain a sim, plug it into your phone, and turn the phone on. A text message will be sent showing you a balance. DO NOT PANIC, Pakistan charges taxes at the time you load up your phone. So if you take 1,000 Pak Ruppies, they will deduct $200 Pak Ruppies as taxes, leaving you with 800 Pak Ruppies as your balance to use when making or receiving phone calls. Note, all incoming phone calls, both domestic and international in Pakistan are free of charge. Only phone calls made are charged.

Also one thing more to note for international travelers, Indians, USA, or anyone for that matter. Making a phone call outside of Pakistan is far cheaper on Pak mobile phones, than it is to make phone calls from outside of the country into Pakistan. So if from USA you call on a landline, the Americans pay a higher fee as oppose to making a phone call to the United States, from Pakistan which is far cheaper. (To foreigners its far cheaper). While this blog about Pakistan is only focused on cell phones,I am happy to share anything else you may have questions about when visiting Pakistan.

Hi Karl, another question please – do you have a location of Zong office for obtaining a sim card in Karachi? Thanks.

The foreign phones usually get locked after 30 days of use. It happened to me, but when I went to Jazz’s office, they charged me Rs. 6000 and unlocked the connection. I use iPhone SE (2020). Since then I have used the same phone with Jazz’s sim & no problem at all. Even when a returned a year later (Nov 2021), the same phone / sim worked perfectly fine.

Hey Karl,

my name is Imran and I am a German-Pakistani. Currently I am spending my holidays in Lahore abd would like to meet you before I fly back to Germany.

Best regards
Imran

Leave a Reply