A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when travelling to Bangladesh
Reduce your roaming rates in Bangladesh by using a local SIM card.
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If you’re planning a trip to Bangladesh, a top tip for keeping down costs is to switch to a local SIM card. Take advantage of better tariffs, plans and deals to dramatically reduce your roaming rates. Bangladesh has some of the cheapest SIM card options in the world, but the coverage can sometimes be questionable. You can get 1GB of data from Bangladesh’s top telco providers for about BDT90, that’s less than AUD$2. So, whether you’re a short or long-term traveller, you can save money by comparing your SIM card options on Finder.
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There are four main telco providers in Bangladesh: Grameenphone, Robi-Airtel, Banglalink and Teletalk. Both locals and travellers use SIM cards from all four networks, and they can be trusted whatever plan you choose. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Bangladesh has a strong mobile phone network around Dhaka, Narayanganj and other main cities and towns. Other areas can be weak, and in some country areas it can be difficult to find a good signal. Grameenphone has the best coverage and Teletalk the worst.
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Bangladesh’s operators offer some of the best roaming rates anywhere in the world and sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals. All networks offer customers 2G and 3G services with 4G/LTE arriving in 2017. Locals call their SIM cards SIMs or chips and there are rules and regulations when purchasing them. Tourists can only buy SIM cards from authorised dealers, after filling out a lot of paperwork and supplying two passport-sized photographs. Once your passport has been checked and scanned, and the paperwork approved, you can purchase a SIM card.
Grameenphone is the largest operator in Bangladesh with more than 53 million users and a 43% market share. They currently offer 2G and 3G services, and 4G/LTE will be launched in 2017. They have the best coverage out of all the providers, but the prices are the highest (although they are still quite cheap compared to other nations).
There are several prepaid SIM cards on offer: Bondhu, Nishchinto, djuice, Amazon, Smile, Apon, Sohoj and more. Each one can be purchased for BDT200, which comes with voice and calls activated, but these specific packages don’t contain data. SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, resellers and supermarkets, but it is advised to buy them from official stores so they can register them for you. There is also a SIM counter at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as you exit customs, open 24 hours.
The standard default rate is BDT0.971 perMB, and the following data packs can be added:
|2MB||2 days||BDT1.50||*121*3001# to activate|
|4MB||1 day||BDT2.50||*121*3002# to activate|
|35MB||7 days||BDT18||*121*3003# to activate|
|60MB||3 days||BDT22||*121*3029# to activate|
|75MB||7 days||BDT37||*121*3004# to activate|
|100MB||30 days||BDT56||*121*3005# to activate|
|250MB||28 days||BDT119||*121*3006# to activate|
|500MB||28 days||BDT149||*121*3007# to activate|
|1.5GB||28 days||BDT337||*121*3009# to activate|
|2.5GB||28 days||BDT427||*121*3010# to activate|
|4GB||28 days||BDT609||*121*3012# to activate|
|8GB||28 days||BDT1,157||*121*3013# to activate|
|12GB||28 days||BDT1,522||*121*3014# to activate|
|20GB||30 days||BDT2,436||*121*3015# to activate|
|2GB @night||28 nights||BDT149||*121*3011# to activate|
Credit and plans can also be bought and activated online. The night pack is valid between midnight and 10am. Overuse charge is BDT0.01 per 10KB.
Robi-Airtel became the second largest provider in Bangladesh when Robi Axiata and Airtel merged in 2016. Robi-Airtel promises lower tariffs and call rates, and prepaid and postpaid packages for their 32.2 million customers. Network integration will be completed at the end of 2017, until then both provider SIM cards are available and listed below.
Robi’s 3G coverage is called 3.5G. It is known for being rather problematic, but the service is expected to improve when the two providers merge. They offer five prepaid SIM card plans, and each can be purchased for BDT200 in official stores. Each contain voice and calls, and small amounts of data.
Credit can be purchased at self-service kiosks, stores or online for BDT 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000. Scratch cards can also be purchased, validity of each amount varying depending on money spent. Dial *111*<scratch PIN># to add credit. Dial *222# for balance.
The standard default rate is BDT0.015 per KB. If you go over any of the below mentioned plans, the overuse rate is BDT0.01 per 10KB. The following data packs are also available:
|7MB||24 hours||BDT2.44||*8444*4# to activate|
|45MB||BDT12.18||*8444*21# to activate|
|150MB||7 days||BDT29.22||*8444*2007# to activate|
|1GB||BDT91.48||*123*3*2*2# to activate|
|175MB||10 days||BDT40.18||*8444*0175# to activate|
|2GB||14 days||BDT181.41||*123*3*2*3# to activate|
|120MB||28 days||BDT46.87||*8444*100# to activate|
|300MB||BDT91.31||*8444*250# to activate|
|600MB||BDT170.45||*8444*0600# to activate|
|1GB||BDT213.06||*8444*500# to activate|
|2GB||BDT322.15||*8444*85# to activate|
|3GB||BDT459||*8444*92# to activate|
|4.5GB||BDT607.53||*8444*4000# to activate|
|350MB||unlimited||BDT120.53||*123*99# to activate|
|1GB||BDT242.28||*123*199# to activate|
|2GB||BDT364.03||*123*299# to activate|
|1GB||3 nights12-10am||BDT23.13||*8444*31990# to activate|
|2GB||BDT35.31||*123*0239# to activate|
All the above will auto-renew. Dial *8444# to deactivate. Dial *8444*88# to check the balance.
Airtel’s 3G network is currently centralised around the Dhaka metro area and a few other cities. Their reach will extend once the two providers merge in 2017. Airtel Bangladesh users can already activate an option to switch over to the new combined network, and will receive a free bonus data allowances as a one-off incentive.
Airtel starter packs are sold for BDT99, which comes with 50MB data and is valid for 90 days. You can purchase credit from most stores, recharge online, or from recharge kiosks. Easy Recharge can also be activated in cafes, fast food outlets, banks and supermarkets.
The following data packages are available (add 21% tax to these prices for the total payable):
|45MB||1 day||BDT10||*121*782# to activate|
|30MB||2 days||BDT10||*121*781# to activate|
|60MB||3 days||BDT15||*121*5001# to activate|
|100MB||7 days||BDT20||*121*771# to activate|
|250MB||BDT50||*121*5003# to activate|
|515MB||BDT100||*121*5011# to activate|
|1GB||28 days||BDT199||*121*5014# to activate|
|1.5GB||BDT275||*121*731# to activate|
|2GB||BDT350||*121*5020# to activate|
|3GB||BDT450||*121*5025# to activate|
|5GB||BDT650||*121*711# to activate|
|8GB||BDT950||*121*5040# to activate|
Dial *778*555# to check balance.
Banglalink currently has more than 31 million users and a market share of 26%. It is currently the second largest operator until the Robi-Airtel merger is finalised. They offer three prepaid SIM card starter packs: Play, Desh and 1 sec pulse for BDT200, and can be purchased in official stores, sales centres and supermarkets. SIM cards don’t automatically contain data, so data packs should be purchased.
Credit can be purchased from stores, online, iTop-up and via scratch cards for BDT10 to 1,000. Dial *123*<14-digit PIN># to add credit.
The standard default data rate is 1 paisa per KB. The following data packs are available:
All packages will need to be renewed, the overuse rate is charged at one paisa per 10KB, and the speed will be reduced until a pack is added. Dial *5000*500# to check balance.
Banglalink has also introduced recharge packs. The following data packs are available:
Dial *124*50# to check data balance.
Teletalk is state-owned and the smallest operator in Bangladesh, with a 2% market share or 4 million users. Teletalk has the worst coverage and has a very bad reputation, it’s not recommended for travellers. Teletalk has offices at most post offices and the network is currently going through an expansion and improvement project which will be completed by the end of 2017.
Teletalk’s SIM cards can be purchased for BDT110 plus tax. Their standard SIM is called Projonmo, and they also have several other options that change from time to time. Check stores and online for the latest updates. Credit can be purchased for BDT20-1,000 from stores and online. Dial *152# to check balance.
The standard default rate for Projonmo is BDT0.01 per 15KB. The following data plans are also available:
|Particulars||Peak [8am-12am]||Off peak [12am-8am]|
|Per pulse 10 sec||Per pulse 10 sec|
|Voice call||Teletalk to teletalk||BDT0.10/10 sec||BDT0.05/10 sec|
|Teletalk to others||BDT0.16/10 sec||BDT0.16/10 sec|
|Video call||Teletalk to teletalk||BDT0.60/min||BDT0.30/min|
|FnF (1 number)||Voice||4.17p/10 sec|
|SMS||Onnet: BDT0.35/sms and Offnet: BDT0.45/sms|
|Data rate||BDT0.01 / 15 kb|
Add 21% taxes to all packages. Data will be carried forward onto new plans. Text the letter 'u' to 111 to check data balance.
- Bengali is most commonly spoken in Bangladesh. It’s highly unlikely that you will know this language, as it’s unique to the locals. Download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel for help. The good thing about Bangladesh is that tourism is so popular therefore English is widely spoken.
- Locals call a SIM card a chip or SIM.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM for you, they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Get to the shops early to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through SIM cards which have been tried and tested in Bangladesh.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “You can buy a SIM card from the airport. The counters are just outside of the area after you complete all the checking and get to the exit. SIM cards are activated on the spot and all you need to do is provide a copy of your passport, valid visa and a photograph”
- “You can buy a prepaid SIM card at Grameenphone from any local market (USD2-3) and monthly internet cost USD5 (5GB usages limitation)”
- “One good thing about Bangladesh is that it is advanced in terms of Internet. Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong have many Internet cafes located in the main areas of the city but they are mostly small and have congested spaces”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible mobile phone. To double check you have this phone, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current mobile phone
- Some areas can suffer from bad coverage
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Complicated rules and regulations makes buying a SIM card difficult
Q: Is the signal really that bad in the countryside?
A: All networks will suffer in the countryside, no matter what provider you use. Teletalk’s service can be problematic in most areas, so it’s best to avoid this provider. All other networks offer a more reliable service, no worse than what you would get on your home phone in Bangladesh. So, it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates are ridiculously cheap.
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