In June 2019 I landed for the second time in Nepal when I attended the Himalayan Travel Mart in Kathmandu. Being online is part of my job and buying a Nepal sim card at Kathmandu Airport on arrival was one of my first priorities. But to find out about the best sim card in Nepal for tourists I also researched the mobile network in Nepal, all the prices for the available prepaid sim cards, where to buy them and what to bring. In this article I tell you everything I found out and you should know for your next trip to Nepal.

As a professional travel blogger I am now traveling the world continuously for more than 7 years and to avoid roaming costs I always buy a local sim card. It makes traveling so much easier and I would recommend everyone traveling to Nepal to buy a prepaid Nepal sim card. As Nepal is one of the cheapest countries to travel in the world, buying a prepaid sim card is not going to break the bank and for getting around only it already is worth it.

sim card thamel kathmandu

Think about Google Maps, ordering taxis, booking hotels, killing endlessly long bus rides, waiting at the airport, etc. Bike sharing apps are popular btw. Download Tootle and Pathao for bike sharing apps mainly in Kathmandu and Pokhara. A taxi app is Sarathi, but don't except Uber standards.

While traveling in Nepal I did a Kathmandu street food tour, highly recommended guys! I would have never found all those places myself as we ended up in hidden courtyards and got to try the most amazing Nepal street food. Click on the link to read my article about it and see the video.

What to bring when buying a Nepal sim card

I have done research about buying a sim card in many Asian countries: Maldives, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. and like everywhere you will have to bring your passport for identification. But when buying a Nepal sim card they also require a passport size photo. In case you don’t have one, don’t worry for 50 Rupees ($0.50) they will take one of you on the spot.

Tourists buying a prepaid sim card in Nepal will have to fill out a registration form, which looks like this.

nepal telecom sim card registration form

Mobile internet operators in Nepal

There are only 2 main mobile internet providers in Nepal: Ncell, which is a private company and the state owned Nepal Telecom, also referred to as NTC Namaste. Both have an extensive 4G network and competitive prices when it comes to data packages.

nepal telecom kathmandu

This is the Nepal Telecom shop in Kathmandu.

Best mobile network in Nepal

To find the best Nepal sim card looking at the mobile network is something very important. Some countries have multiple mobile internet operators and they can very a lot when it comes to network coverage. I researched the internet to find coverage maps for both Ncell and Nepal Telecom, but could only find a 3G + 4G Ncell coverage map. Here is what it looks like.

network coverage ncell nepal 

As you can see don't get too excited about having a 3G or even 4G connection in Nepal.

Based on my own experience it is hard to tell you which one of the two has the best Nepal mobile network. I eventually bought an Ncell sim card and in and around Kathmandu there was a 4G signal and internet was reliable and pretty ok. In remote areas finding a good mobile internet connection was harder. Some of the porters and guides on my Langtang trekking had a Nepal Telecom sim card and basically encountered the same problem.

Therefore it is hard to tell you which mobile internet network in Nepal is the best. When traveling to Nepal and going off the beaten path just be prepared to be offline and in case you find a phone signal make the most of it!

Best sim card for Langtang Valley trek

The most amazing thing I did on my last trip to Nepal was the Langtang Valley trek. Click on the link for my experiences. Being offline is one of the main reasons why I love hiking in the Himalayas so much but nowadays there is a phone signal almost everywhere. On the Langtang Valley trek there was only a Nepal Telecom phone signal available, as I had an Ncell sim card I was offline for 7 days! LOVED IT MUCHO :)

Best sim card for Annapurna Circuit

In 2013 I went trekking in the Annapurna region and back then there was no phone signal at all. Nowadays things have changed and I asked experienced guides that trek there every month and the best sim card in Nepal for trekking in Annapurna is Nepal Telecom. Much better phone reception than Ncell.

Best sim card for Everest Basecamp

On the contrary according to the guides and porters Ncell is the best sim card in Nepal for trekking to Everest Basecamp. So if you travel to Nepal for the Everest Basecamp Trek make sure to buy an Ncell sim card.

Basically the advice of the locals is to buy both sim cards! Most of them have Androids with dual sim, wish Apple finally catches up on Android with dual sim! Although…

Nepal tourism to me is actually all about being offline and being one with nature!

Where to buy a Nepal sim card

As I mentioned already you can easily buy a Nepal sim card at Kathmandu Airport straight after you collect your luggage. I can already tell you that prices don’t differ too much than in the city, so for more info click on the link above and I tell you everything about it.

When for some reason it wasn’t possible to buy a Nepal sim card at the airport you will find them everywhere around Kathmandu. Souvenir shops, clothing shops, etc. Everyone seems to sell sim cards.

sim card kathmandu

But be aware that these sellers somehow have to make money too and they will charge you way more. This is an example of the prices they charged at a random shop in Thamel, the most popular tourist district in Kathmandu. Prices are often 50% higher than at the official shops.

data packages nepal sim card

You are better off heading to the official Nepal Telecom or Ncell shops across Kathmandu. In every shop you buy a Nepal sim card it will be activated for you.

ncell shop kathmandu

Where to find them? Simply go to Google Maps and type in either: Ncell or Nepal Telecom. That is where I went and at both official shops I researched the available prepaid Nepal sim cards for tourists. The prices below are based on what they offered me in the official shops.

Pokhara sim card

If you for some reason want to buy a sim card in Pokhara then you can also find an official Ncell shop and a Nepal Telecom in Pokhara. They are a little bit away from the Lakeside, so you might just want to buy a sim card in Pokhara from one of the tourist shops around the lakeside area.

Prices Nepal sim card

Nepal Telecom prepaid sim card

At Kathmandu Airport they give away free sim cards to tourists. You only have to register, give a copy of your passport and a photo. In the official Nepal Telecom shop in Kathmandu city the same procedure will cost you 90 NRS ($0.80) and it comes with 50 NRS ($0.45) credit.

Nepal Telecom offers the following data packages:

Price: 250 NRS = $2.25

  • 7 GB data (1GB per day)
  • Valid for 7 days

Price: 850 NRS = $7.60

  • 28 GB data (1GB per day)
  • Valid for 28 days

As you can see the prices for Nepal Telecom data packages are super cheap. May be one of the cheapest in the world I have seen so far! If you buy the 28GB data package you pay less than $0.30 per 1GB data. The same Nepal Telecom data package at Kathmandu Airport is $11, that is 50% more expensive, but we are talking about $3.50. :)

Ncell Nepal prepaid sim card

An Ncell Nepal sim card costs 110 NRS ($1) and you also have to register with a passport photo and your passport copy. It does not come with any credit.

Ncell Nepal offers a lot of different data packages, but most of them are not even worth mentioning for tourists.

ncell nepal data packages

These are the 6 most commonly used ones for tourists I reckon.

Price: 260 NRS = $2.30

  • 4 GB data
  • Valid for 7 days
  • 60 min/day video (YouTube)

Price: 490 NRS = $4.40

  • 7 GB data
  • Valid for 7 days
  • 20 minutes calling time

Price: 980 NRS = $8.80

  • 14 GB data
  • Valid for 14 days
  • 30 minutes calling time

Price: 1045 NRS = $9.30 (This is the one I bought!)

  • 16 GB data
  • Valid for 28 days
  • 60 min/day video (YouTube)

Price: 1470 NRS = $13.20

  • 21 GB data
  • Valid for 21 days
  • 40 minutes calling time

Price: 1960 NRS = $17.60

  • 28 GB data
  • Valid for 28 days
  • 50 minutes calling time

nepal sim card tourists

Ncell Nepal has no data restrictions per day like Nepal Telecom has, definitely an advantage! Plus they also have much more flexible data package for the grab. But on the other hand they are much more expensive! More than double!!!!

Best Nepal sim card

As you can see from the above it is pretty clear that Nepal Telecom offers bigger data packages and is even cheaper. Therefore it is pretty easy to come to the conclusion that based on the prices:

Nepal Telecom is the best Nepal sim card for tourists.

As I said before already, in case you need to be online, just buy both sim cards and swap them over or bring an extra phone. Mobile data in Nepal is really cheap anyway!

So why did I buy an Ncell sim card? Simply because that shop was closer to where I was staying and they don't have any daily limitations. The price difference is relatively much, but in fact only a couple dollars. 

Does an Indian sim work in Nepal?

Something frequently asked is if Indian sim cards work in Nepal. Yes, they work, but only if you activate data roaming! You can’t use your Indian data bundles and calling minutes in Nepal, you will have to pay extra charges. Therefore also for Indian tourists it is better to buy a Nepal sim card when traveling in Nepal.

Check out my blogs about traveling in Nepal with all my Langtang trekking tips, Nepal street food tour, what to pack for Nepal and much more.

I hope the above tips for finding the best Nepal sim card were helpful. I would be forever thankful if you could help me in return by sharing the link of this article online. Share it on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter or pin it on Pinterest and you will make me smile big time! Thank you to the moon and back.

Enjoy your trip to Nepal!

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Tom Grond
travelblogger
from Holland
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