Traveling to Nepal soon and looking for the best way to stay connected? Don't let slow overseas data roaming packages or high roaming costs ruin your trip. In a country with challenging logistics having a solid 4G connection is worth a lot. Trust me! This is a complete guide for buying a sim card for Nepal with where to buy a sim card, the best 4G/5G network coverage in Nepal, up to date prices as per August 2023, me recommendation and even info about international and e-sim cards for Nepal.
A Nepal sim card with data is CHEAP! Investing a couple dollars will make your trip to Nepal so much more convenient!
Over the last years Nepal became one of my favorite travel destinations in the world. I have returned multiple times to this country and would recommend anyone to meet the amazingly lovely people of Nepal and see its utterly stunning landscapes.
As I am also on a quest to travel to every country in the world I get to a lot of new places constantly and the first thing I do is looking for the best ways to get connected. That is mostly a local prepaid sim card or an e-sim card. That is how on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 prepaid sim card guides from all over the world: Dubai, USA, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Turkey, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Europe, Switzerland, Europe, Asia and many more.
Traveltomtom recommends a Nepal Telecom sim card as they have the most flexible prepaid sim card deal for tourists.
However, in all honesty it doesn't matter so much which sim card you get for Nepal. Local prepaid sim cards are cheap and it is very hard to determine who has the best 4G network in Nepal. In fact if you really need to stay connected all the time you buy 2 prepaid sim cards: one from Nepal Telecom and one from Ncell. That is what most locals do!
There is also the option of a global sim card with data that has coverage in Nepal. Check out my comparison of the best global sim cards with data in 2023 and pick the one that suits your trip the best.
E-sim cards for Nepal
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Nepal in 2023 is an e-sim card for Nepal. You can arrange everything online in just 2 minutes without swapping a physical sim card or visiting a shop. You get a QR-code, follow the instructions and you are all set. Check the following e-sim card deal for Nepal:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9.5 USD
Click here to order a Nepal e-sim card directly online.
There are also international e-sim cards that are valid in more than 120 countries, including Nepal. More data, but more expensive:
- 6 GB data for 8 days = $19.9 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.9 USD
Click here to order an international e-sim card for Nepal directly online or get more info.
With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number from home. They are data-only and make sure your phone is e-sim card compatible. If not, then you want a physical prepaid sim card for Nepal. Order online and get it shipped to your home address before your trip. Have a look at ordering an international sim card for Nepal online.
Flying into Kathmandu? Here is a complete guide for buying a sim card on arrival at Kathmandu Airport in 2023. Are you traveling to more countries in Asia then you might want to check out my article about the best sim cards for Asia travel in 2023.
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. Check out the 5 minute video (300K on YouTube) in the link.
What to bring when buying a Nepal sim card
I have done research about buying a sim card in many Asian countries: Pakistan, 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 as well, see the photo above.
Mobile internet operators in Nepal
This is the Nepal Telecom shop in Kathmandu.
There are 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 3G/4G network and competitive prices when it comes to data packages. But don't expect mobile data speed like home.
Best mobile network in Nepal in 2023
To find the best sim card for traveling in Nepal lets look into the network coverage of both mobile internet operators. The 4G coverage maps are pretty important as you don't want to lose connection when leaving Kathmandu. I researched the internet to find coverage maps for both Ncell and Nepal Telecom, but could only find a 4G network map of Ncell.
Is there 5G in Nepal? As of August 2023 there is no 5G network in Nepal. According to a news articles in 2022 they said Nepal Telecom would start tests with 5G in 2022, which got cancelled and postponed to January 2023. However, in January 2023 another news article reported that Nepal Telecom put the 5G tests on hold again.
Based on my own experience it is hard to tell you which one of the two internet providers in Nepal 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.
4G coverage Ncell
Here is what the 4G coverage for Ncell looked like in 2022. Unfortunately there is no new data available for 2023 at the moment, but this actually promising.
4G Coverage Nepal Telecom
In January 2021 Nepal Telecom published an article about having extended their 4G network with more than 2,000 new towers across the country. Unfortunately I could NOT find a 4G coverage map of Nepal Telecom in 2023, but they do specify every region where they have a NT 4G network. Not a map, but a list. Pretty useless!
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!
Another Traveltomtom secret travel tip for Nepal is to buy 2 sim cards from both mobile internet operators and when going off the beaten path switch to the sim card that is working. Thank me later!
Where to buy a Nepal sim card
Kathmandu International Airport
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 compared to sim cards in the city and I totally recommend tourists to buy a sim card at Kathmandu International Airport. At the airport the staff is trained selling sim cards for tourists and they all speak very well English.
Phone stores in Kathmandu
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 local prepaid sim card for tourists.
But be aware that these sellers somehow have to make money too and they will charge you a couple dollars 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.
You are better off heading to the official Nepal Telecom or Ncell shops across Kathmandu. Everywhere you buy a Nepal sim card it will be activated for you on the spot.
Official retail store Ncell or Nepal Telecom
Where to find them? Simply go to Google Maps and type in either: Ncell or Nepal Telecom. This is also where I lately bought my sim card for Nepal. Traveltomtom recommends official retail stores over a random shop because of the service offered and in case something goes wrong.
If you want to support local shops then I recommend you to buy a Nepal sim card in any of the clothing shops. Remember that 2020 and 2021 were really hard years for Nepal tourism, so when traveling to Nepal in 2023 help the local shop keepers a little bit.
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.
Buy a sim card for Nepal online
There is also the option of buying a sim card for Nepal online. Arrive prepared in Nepal with an international sim card that covers Nepal and you will be online when the plane touches the ground. Order an international sim card online and get it shipped to your home address before your trip.
- 6 GB data for 10 days = $19.90 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to directly order this Nepal sim card deal online or find more info.
On top of international sim cards also another reminder that you can order an e-sim card for Nepal. No more swapping sim cards or visiting a store.
Prices Nepal sim card in 2023
Below you will see that data in Nepal is among the cheapest you have ever seen. Tourist sim cards with data are super cheap and therefore already I recommend to a big data/voice package/plan just to make sure you don't run out during your trip.
Prices below are in Nepalese Rupee and as of August 2023: 100 NPR = $0.76 USD and $1 USD = 131 NPR.
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 ($0.70) and it comes with 50 NRS ($0.40) credit.
Nepal Telecom offers a wide range of data and voice plans, literally something like 50 different ones. The above pictures is an indication of what prices you can expect in 2023:
- 5 GB data for 28 days = 290 NPR - $2.2 USD
- 25 GB data for 28 days = 800 NPR - $6 USD
As you can see the prices for Nepal Telecom data packages are super cheap. Probably one of the cheapest prepaid sim cards in the world! If you buy the 25 GB data package you pay less than $0.25 per 1GB data.
The same Nepal Telecom data package at Kathmandu Airport is $10, that is almost 50% more expensive, but we are talking about $4 USD.
The above prices are up to date as per August 2023 and are a selection of the best data plans. There are also endless social media packages, voice packages and more. For more info check the Nepal Telecom website.
Ncell Nepal prepaid sim card
An Ncell Nepal sim card costs 110 NRS ($0.9 USD) and you also have to register with a passport size photo and your passport copy. It does come with 30 NRS ($0.2 USD) and 1 GB data for 3 days or you buy one of their data, voice, combo plans.
Ncell also has uncountable prepaid plans available and the above 3 are just a selection. There are a ton of social media packages per application, so a TikTok plan, a YouTube plan and so on.
- 1.5 GB per day for 28 days = 599 NPR - $4.5 USD
- 60 GB data for 28 days = 599 NPR
- 5 GB data for 7 days = 145 NPR - $1.1 USD
For more info check the Ncell Nepal website.
Best Nepal sim card in 2023
As you can see from the above it is pretty clear that whichever prepaid sim card you buy in Nepal it will be super cheap for tourists. Getting connected in Nepal is most probably one of the cheapest in the world. For example 5 GB data for 7 days for a little over $1 USD is incredible.
Therefore Traveltomtom does not recommend any international or e-sim cards for Nepal as they are incredibly expensive compared to local prepaid sim cards. But in case you still want one the link to buy them is above.
And now up to me to define the best prepaid sim card for Nepal in 2023! Well I honestly have no clue what to say... prices are extremely cheap so I can't really compare the prepaid sim card deals and the 3G/4G network in Nepal in 2023 because it is all more or less the same. And on top of that comparing the network coverage for Ncell and Nepal Telecom is hard as there is barely any info online.
So my conclusion is and this is also an outcome of my several trips to Nepal, a trick I learned from the local people: in case you want to be online as much as you can, you simply buy both, a Nepal Telecom sim card and an Ncell sim card, and swap them over or bring an extra mobile phone.
This is how the locals do it and I tried it and it is the best way to stay connected when traveling to Nepal.
However, the charm of traveling to Nepal is to be offline and being one with nature! Personal opinion of Traveltomtom...
Best sim card for Langtang Valley trek
The most amazing thing I did on my last trip to Nepal was the Langtang Valley trek. 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 as your primary way to stay connected.
My experience buying a sim card in Nepal
I always buy a sim card for Nepal on arrival at Kathmandu Airport. Depending on where I go I choose my main sim card or sometimes I take both. I like that Ncell has a huge data pack for just $6 USD and no data restrictions per day and for trekking Everest Basecamp it is recommended. Although lately I had both sim cards and actually found out that Nepal Telecom had equally good phone reception on the Everest Basecamp trek as well.
When it comes to mobile data speed I recommend you to have little expectations. Uploading Instagram stories is often a nightmare especially if you are off the beaten path. Data speed in Nepal drops significantly when you are traveling away from Kathmandu. Especially upload speed is very problematic. Watching TikToks for some reason is mostly no problem and works pretty much even on 3G from my experiences.
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.
As a professional travel blogger I am traveling the world continuously since 2012 and the first thing I do when arriving in a new country is buying a 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. As per August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world.
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. Please share it in Facebook Group, 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!
Some links in this article about the best sim cards for Nepal are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you of course!