A guide to buying a local SIM card in Albania.
Albania has some of the best SIM card deals on the market, which could help you to significantly reduce your phone bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Albania’s leading telco providers for as little as ALL300 (about AUD$3.10). So, whether you plan to stay for just a few days or a few weeks, you can save plenty by comparing SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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There are four main mobile operators in Albania: Vodafone, Eagle Mobile, Telekom (T Mobile) and Plus. Locals and international visitors have tried, tested and trusted all four operators, so there’s no chance of getting ripped off.
According to OpenSignal’s 2016 country report, Albania was voted a mid-range mobile phone provider that has a 61.43% 4G availability, beating the likes of Germany, Israel and France.
We will breakdown each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Albania.
Albania’s market leader is Vodafone, followed closely by Eagle Mobile and Telekom. Plus is the smallest network in the country but still offers some great SIM card deals.
2G, 3G and 4G plans are available for unblocked GSM phones. All networks launched 4G/LTE in 2015, but surprisingly the smallest carrier, Plus, was deemed the best carrier of that option. All providers allow 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600MHz on their networks.
There are very few rules and regulations for buying SIM cards in Albania. The only thing you will need is a smile and a valid photo ID for proof of purchase. Your ID will preferably be your passport but that’s not a must.
All four mobile networks sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of local offers and deals without having to go on contracts or long-term plans.
You can purchase credit anytime and anywhere across Albania, from official stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, tobacconists and at Tirana International Airport.
Vodafone holds nearly a 50% share of the market in Albania, making it the leading network provider. The network has the best 2G and 3G availability and their 4G/LTE service is available in most major towns and cities.
Due to its market dominance and network capabilities, Vodafone offers customers the most expensive plans. For prepaid credit customers who are looking for short-term travel plans to reduce roaming rates, Vodafone offers its Club monthly package with data add-ons. Their One plan offers a loyalty scheme and savings for higher usage.
SIM cards are sold in Vodafone stores, kiosks, supermarkets or at the airport, and they sell both the mini and micro SIMs.
You can get a credit top-up by purchasing scratch cards and texting the 12-digit number to 141, or by calling it through to 142. You can also check your balance by texting the word “balance” to 141.
Option 1: The Vodafone Club SIM
You can purchase this for ALL500 and includes an ALL400 credit. There is also a selection of deals that include the following data:
- Club Xtreme. This plan offers 200 minutes and 3GB of data for the price of ALL800.
- Club Superior. This plan offers 2000 minutes as well as 20 international minutes and 2GB of data for ALL1200.
- Club Extra. This plan offers 2500 minutes as well as 60 international minutes and 3GB of data for ALL1600.
You can also add 2GB or 4GB of data for ALL300 or ALL500 respectively. You can activate each option calling #123#.
Option 2: Vodafone One
Vodafone One packages offer customers a loyalty scheme with a bonus point system. It’s a little bit more complicated than the first option, but it can prove more beneficial depending on how you use your phone.
Vodafone offers the following data packages with this plan:
|24 hours||100 MB||ALL60|
To activate your plan, call 131. To check your remaining data allowance, you can send any SMS to 131 to receive how much data is remaining.
Telekom (T Mobile) is Vodafone's biggest competitor in Albania. Telekom’s 3G network has proved a big success story, reaching nearly 91% of the country. Its 4G/LTE service is extremely popular right across the nation.
You can purchase SIM cards at Telekom Stores. They only distribute mini-SIMs so any other size must be cut in-store. You can buy credit at all Telekom Shops by using a recharge card, by online payment or through another mobile number calling +355681000141 to add credit to your new number.
Telekom offers a popular prepaid plan with data add-ons called JUMP. The following plans are on offer now:
|24 hours||100MB||ALL60||To activate, text “ID” to 142|
|7 days||500MB||ALL300||To activate, text “IJ” to 142|
|30 days||1GB||ALL500||To activate, text “M” to 142|
|30 days||3GB||ALL990||To activate, text “Jdata” to 142|
You can also add additional data:
You can add 2GB for ALL300. To activate your data, text “MINT” to 142.
You can add 4GB for ALL500. To activate your data, text “MINT2” to 142.
You can purchase all these plans through #100#.
Telekom also offers data-only plans for tablets and modems called Telekom Mobile Broadband. The starter pack includes 3GB of data valid for 30 days.
|SIM only||4G/LTE, 4GB of data||ALL890|
|3G USB modem||21Mbps, 3 months with 3GB of data each month||ALL2500|
|4G USB modem||150Mbps, 3 months with 4GB of data each month||ALL5500|
Telekom Mobile Broadband also offers further data packages as top-ups:
You can add 2GB of data for ALL490. To activate the data, text “MBB2” to 142.
You can add 4GB of data for ALL790. To activate the data, text “MBB4” to 142.
Eagle Mobile is the third largest mobile provider in Albania. Its coverage is extremely limited, with 3G only implemented recently and 4G/LTE only available in Tirana. It equals Plus in being the cheapest provider in the country.
Prepaid customers can take advantage of Eagle’s standard plans with data add-ons. The starter pack costs just ALL200, which includes ALL100 of credit. SIM cards are sold in all Eagle Mobile stores and ALBtelecom sellers.
You can purchase the following data packs for your SIM:
|24 hours||1GB||ALL100||To activate, text 100 to 138|
|7 days||1GB||ALL300||To activate, text 300 to 138|
|30 days||2GB||ALL400||To activate, text 400 to 138|
|30 days||4GB||ALL600||To activate, text 600 to 138|
To check your data balance, text “Balance” to 138.
Plus is the smallest network provider in Albania, with a market share of just 7%. It has an extremely limited coverage area. Its 3G is relatively new and there are often complaints about lack of service. However, if you do happen to be in an area with good signal, then Plus offers the best deals and prices.
You can purchase their SIM cards at official stores or in other retail outlets. Their “PLUS Unik” prepaid credit package is very popular with young Albanians thanks to what it can offer. Top-ups of ALL1,000 or more can get you a 100MB bonus valid for 30 days.
Data packs available:
|24 hours||150MB||ALL60||To activate, text “PI60” to 131|
|7 days||500MB||ALL200||To activate, text “PI200” to 131|
|30 days||1GB||ALL300||To activate, text “PI300” to 131|
- If you don’t know any Albanian, download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Don’t forget to download Albanian into the app so you can use it offline.
- Ask retailers to set up the SIM in-store for you. This will save you a lot of time and trouble, especially if you are having trouble with the language.
While it’s well known for reviews, and for booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor displays many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Albania.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “It is pretty easy [in Albania]. You find a shop of any company and buy a prepaid SIM card. You will have to provide an ID or passport and you are done.”
- “You will easily find T Mobile [Telekom] or Vodafone shops in Tirana. The cost of a SIM is 3 euro and you may also use 4G network.”
- “I use PLUS and I pay 1000 Lek for a month with local calls and sms in addition to 3000 mb data. If you want to call or text overseas it is 500 lek for 20 minutes call time.”
All four networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international mobile phone. To double-check if you have this option, or if it’s possible for your current mobile phone provider to unlock the phone, contact your service provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Albania has above average coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current mobile phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card plans
- Can only be used on SIM-unblocked GSM phones
- Can only be used in Albania
- Poor coverage on the Plus network
Q: What do I do if I have my mobile phone stolen in Albania?
A: There are many gangs and organized crime groups in Albania and one of their prime targets are mobile phones. As with anywhere you go, always keep an eye on your belongings and make sure they are stored in a safe place. If you are a victim of crime, then contact the local police department who should be able to help, even if it’s just to get the crime number for your insurance claim.
If you are planning a trip to the Balkans this year, not only will you see some of southern Europe’s most spectacular sights, but you’ll also stumble across rarely visited countries like Albania. It may not be one of the first holiday destinations that springs to mind, but when travelling around central Europe checking out Kosovo, Greece and Croatia, Albania is a destination you should not miss.
Although Mainland Europe can be extremely expensive, countries like Hungary, Croatia, Greece and Albania have a much lower standard of living, which is good news for travellers bound by a tight budget.
Don’t forget Europe is quite a distance, so it’s important to ensure you have all your bases covered in case you need to call the bank of mum and dad. Mobile phone roaming costs can skyrocket abroad so to save as much as you can, switch your mobile phone over to a local SIM card. One of our top tips is to take advantage of local tariffs, deals and plans to keep prices low and save money.