Buy a local SIM card to reduce your roaming bills.
Bulgaria is one of the better-priced countries in the Balkans, and it has some amazing local SIM card deals that can reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from their leading telco provider for as little as BGN4 (AUD$2.95). So, whether you’re planning a week-long holiday or a long-term trip, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
Telco providers in Bulgaria
There are three main phone operators in Bulgaria: Mtel, Telenor and Vivacom. All operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Locals and visitors have tried and tested each one, and their deals are among the best in the world. According to OpenSignal’s country report, Bulgaria was voted above average for 3G and 4G services. Bulgaria had a 3G or faster signal 89.61% of the time.
Bulgaria’s telco providers
Bulgarian operators offer great phone coverage, providing good 2G, 3G and 4G services. All operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals. The locals call their SIM cards “Karte” or “SIM”, and you can purchase them from official stores and approved resellers by showing your passport. You can also purchase credit from official stores, from supermarkets and from Sofia International Airport. You can also buy top-ups online by using your credit card. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Bulgaria.
Mtel has the best 3G and 4G/LTE coverage in the country, and it is reasonably priced. Their prepaid plan is called Prima and you can purchase SIM cards for BGN8 from official stores and approved resellers. Their standard default plan without a base rate is called Universal Prima and includes a BGN1 balance and 1GB of data, which is valid for 15 days. You can purchase credit for BGN5-60 and is available from most retailers. The standard data rate is BGN1.54 per MB. You can also add the following data packages to your plan:
- 200MB, 5000 minutes to family and friends, and 200 Mtel SMS for BGN5.99: Text “F1” to 789 to activate.
- 200MB, 200 Mtel minutes and 200 Mtel SMS for BGN5.99: Text “C1” to 789 to activate.
- 500MB for BGN5.99: Text “D1” to 789 to activate.
Mtel also has a data-only SIM card called Prima Data, which you can purchase for BGN9.99. Prime Data comes with 2GB of data and is valid for 10 days. You can add the following Prime Free Data packs to your plan:
|Prima Free Data 512MB||BGN19.90||60 days||Text “512 MB” to 1796 to activate|
|Prima Free Data 1500MB||BGN29.90||60 days||Text “1500 MB” to 1796 to activate|
|Prima Free Data 2GB||BGN9.90||14 days||Text “2 GB” to 1796 to activate|
|Prima Free Data 5GB||BGN24.90||30 days||Text “5 GB” to 1796 to activate|
The standard default rate is BGN2.56 per MB, and you can text "Balans" to 1796 to check your balance. You can purchase the Prima tourist SIM for BGN6 from official stores, and it comes with 1GB of data plus SMS and data bonuses. These offers change from time to time, so it’s always best to check the website for the latest options. Mtel’s APN is inet-gprs.mtel.bg and their website is athttp://www.mtel.bg/en.
Telenor sells their prepaid starter pack for BGN6 in official stores and approved resellers. Mini, micro and nano SIMs are available, but you’ll need your passport to make a purchase. Their SIM cards come uploaded with a credit of BGN3, 100 Telenor minutes and 1GB of data, which is valid for 14 days. You can purchase credit in several denominations. BGN6 adds another 250MB and BGN10 adds 500MB. Both are valid for 14 days. You can text “GC” to 125 to check your balance. Telenor has several data packs available for prepaid plans. Their standard default data rate is BGN2.40 per MB, and you can dial *123# to check the remaining data allowance.
|150MB||3G||1 day||BGN1.99||Text “D100” to 125|
|1GB||3G||7 days||BGN3.99||Text “D200” to 125|
|2GB||4G/LTE||30 days||BGN9.99||Text “D400” to 125|
Telenor’s data-only SIM card, GoWeb, comes in two variations:
- GoWeb 500 costs BGN2.99 for 500MB of data and is valid for 7 days.
- GoWeb 2000 costs BGN9.90 for 2GB of data and is valid for 7 days.
You can also add the following data plans:
- 2GB for BGN6.90, which is valid for 7 days
- 3GB for BGN19.90, which is valid for 30 days
Telenor also sells a Tourist SIM card for BGN6. Offers change from time to time, so check the website for the latest options. You can add the following data packages to your plan:
- 2GB for BGN9.90, which is valid for 7 days: Text “VG7” to 125
- 3GB for BGN19.90, which is valid for 30 days: Text “VG30” to 125
- 10GB for BGN49.99, which is valid for 30 days: Text “DT10” to 125
You can also purchase Telenor’s data-only SIM card “Mobile Internet 2000” for BGN9.90. It comes with 2GB of data and 200MB for Viber, and it is valid for 7 days. There is voice and SMS on these SIMs but charges are much higher. You can also add these data packages to your plan:
- 2GB for BGN6.90, which is valid for 7 days: Text “LS7” to 123
- 3GB for BGN19.90, which is valid for 30 days: Text “LS30” to 123
- 10GB for BGN49.90, which is valid for 30 days: Text “LS10” to 123
Vivacom is the third largest operator in Bulgaria, but it is very popular with the younger crowd due to its low rates. You can purchase SIM cards at official stores or approved resellers. The following SIM variations are available:
- Opa for BGN8, which includes BGN5 of airtime
- Viva for BGN12.99, which includes BGN10 of airtime
- Viva International for BGN6, which includes 300 EU minutes and 6GB of data
You can also add these packs, which are valid for 20 days, to your plan:
- Bravo for BGN6, which includes 300 Vivacom minutes, 300 SMS and 1GB of data
- Bravo+ for BGN10, which includes 100 Vivacom minutes, 300 SMS and 1GB of data
You can purchase credit for BGN10, BGN20 and BGN50. The standard default rate is BGN1.80 per MB, and the overuse rate is BGN0.30 per MB. You can also add the following data packs to the above-mentioned SIM cards:
|1-day validity||7-day validity||7-day validity||20-day validity||20-day validity|
You can dial *3282# and select a plan to activate it. Vivacom also has a data-only SIM card called "Easy Traffic". You can purchase the SIM card for BGN10 and comes with 2.5GB, which is valid for 20 days. You can also purchase the following add-ons, which are valid for 20 days:
- 2.5GB for BGN10
- 6GB for BGN20
- 8.5GB for BGN30
- 12GB for BGN40
- 14.5GB for BGN50
- 18GB for BGN60
- 20.5GB for BGN70
- 24GB for BGN80
- 26.5GB for BGN90
- 30GB for BGN100
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff:
- They speak Bulgarian in Bulgaria, so if you don’t know the language then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel.
- Locals call a SIM card a “Karte” or “SIM”.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM for you since they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator’s website to seek advice.
- Try and get to the shops early to avoid the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Bulgaria. Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “Prepaid SIM cards of all three operators are sold in almost all big newspaper kiosks or, of course, at the respective stores of the operators or the dealer chains working with them.”
- “I've just purchased a prepaid trio sim pack from Mtel to use in my iPhone and it cost BGN6 for the SIM and then we just needed to top the card up and the vouchers range from BGN6 upwards.”
- “You need to have your passport with you to buy a SIM. Make sure your phone is unlocked. You will be given an option in the menu to change the settings to English.”
Pros and cons of telco providers in Bulgaria
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international phone. To check whether you have this type of phone, or if it’s possible for your provider to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Bulgaria has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- No phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Rules and regulations could hamper purchases
Do you have more questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: Are there other networks in Bulgaria? A: There are two other providers in Bulgaria that act as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and latch onto other networks: Max Telecom and Bulsatcom. Both operate on a 4G/LTE platform and have some good plans and prices. We advise that you really do your homework before purchasing a SIM card as plans, offers and deals change all the time.