Reduce your rates by using a local SIM.
Using your own phone in Israel can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Israel has some of the best prepaid SIM card options available in the Middle East, with deals that can reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Israel’s leading telco provider for as little as ILS40 (less than AUD$14.50). So, whether you’re planning a short trip or a longer stay, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
Telco providers in Israel
There are three main operators in Israel: Cellcom, Partner and Pelephone. All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s network coverage map, Israel has great coverage in the northern and central areas, but as you travel to the more southern regions, your signal can become weaker. However, this will happen on whatever phone or provider you use there.
About Israel’s telco providers
Israel’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap local offers and deals. All three providers offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “Chips”. There are no rules and regulations when purchasing them, so a passport is not needed. Please note that if you plan on travelling around the West Bank or Gaza Strip areas, network coverage can suffer. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s available during your visit to Israel.
Cellcom is the largest operator in Israel, with competitive prices and some good deals. Internet speeds are fast and the network coverage is good. 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services are available on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official outlets or approved resellers, along with supermarkets, small stores and service stations. Credit can be found at the same retail outlets or by using a credit card online.
Cellcom's prepaid SIM card is called "TalkMan" and is the most popular throughout the entire country. Once you purchase your SIM card, you can choose to change the language over to English or continue in Hebrew. Dial *777, press 9, then option 4 if you want the English language setting. Dial *11777# to check your balance.
Pay-as-you-go data can be purchased for ILS10, which includes packages of 50MB per day. There’s also a selection of voice and data packages which give better data rates. The following packages can be added, as well:
The following data-only packages can be purchased too:
Cellcom’s APN: "internetg" or "sphone", and website: https://www.cellcom.co.il/store/cellular/talkman/talkman_cards/
Partner is the second-largest provider in Israel and also offers some great deals. Internet speeds are average and the network coverage is good, but the signal can suffer in the southern regions. Partner offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIMs can be purchased from official outlets or from approved resellers, supermarkets, small stores and service stations. Credit can be found at the same retail outlets or by using a credit card online.
There are no rules or regulations when purchasing a SIM card in Israel, so you won’t need any form of ID. Partner's prepaid SIM card is called "BigTalk" and can be picked up for ILS30, although credit packages will have to be added to use it. Once you purchase your SIM card, you can select the English language option if you wish, rather than Hebrew. Dial *111 and press 7 then 4 for English settings. The SIM cards also have the choice of Russian or Arabic, so listen for options. Dial *111# to check your balance. If you wish to use 4G/LTE services on the prepaid SIM cards, dial *454 and follow the instructions to activate.
The standard default data rate is charged at ILS4.01 per MB. To bring these costs down, the following packages include data at a much lower rate:
|ILS40||1GB||25 operator minutes||7 days||+ ILS35 for local use + ILS10 for international use|
|ILS70||5GB||900 minutes + 900 SMS||30 days||-|
|ILS75||5GB||500 minutes + 500 SMS||30 days||+ ILS40 for local and international use|
|ILS125||4GB||Unlimited||7 days||+ ILS25 for local and international use|
|ILS140||16GB||5,000 minutes + 5,000 SMS||30 days||-|
|ILS150||20GB||Unlimited operator calls||30 days||+ ILS250 for local use,+ ILS100 for international use|
|ILS160||20GB||5,000 mins + 5,000 SMS||30 days||-|
The following data-only packages are also available:
|ILS149||29GB||30 days||Reduced speed after 29GB|
Please be aware that if you don’t upload one of the above-mentioned data packages, then data will be charged at the high standard rate. Make sure the retailer is aware that you wish to use low data rates when purchasing your SIM card.
Partner’s APN: uinternet, and website: https://www.partner.co.il/en/-2/pms2/--bigtalk
Pelephone is the smallest provider in Israel but still manages to offer some good deals and packages. Internet speeds are good, although the network coverage is somewhat sketchy, especially in the southern parts. 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services are available on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, along with supermarkets, small stores and service stations. Credit can be found at the same retail outlets or by using a credit card online. There are no rules or regulations when purchasing a SIM card, so you won’t need ID. Partner's prepaid SIM card is called "Talk & Go" and comes in many different voice and data combinations.
Voice and data packs can be purchased, and the cheapest data option is just ILS3 for the first 10MB. Data is charged at ILS2 per MB after the first 10MB. Data credit is capped at ILS49. Combo packages offer much better data rates and can be added at any time. Pelephone also offers many "unlimited" packages which come with "unlimited" local calls and SMS, that are in fact capped at 3,000 minutes and 3,000 SMS.
The following data packs can be added:
The following voice and data packages are also available:
Once you purchase your SIM card, you have the option to use English, so dial *111 and select the English settings. The SIM cards can also be kept in Hebrew. Dial *111# to check your balance.
Pelephone’s APN: internet.pelephone.net.il, and website: http://www.pelephone.co.il
- Hebrew and Arabic are both spoken in Israel. If you don’t know either language, then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. English is taught in all schools, and most Israelis can speak it.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “Chip”.
- Ask the retailers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early, before the shops get too busy. That way you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in Israel.
“When buying/renting a SIM card or a phone, it’s important to pay attention NOT to how much credit comes on the card BUT to how much a call costs. ILS40 is meaningless until you know which is the best price per minute/second for actual calls.”
“Travelling to Israel has got complications because network coverage is not always consistent throughout the country, and some companies don't seem to cover areas of the West Bank.”
“Getting SIM cards at the Post Office did not give options for a decent data pack and we had to have an additional trip to the phone company store to add a data pack for our needs.”
Pros and cons of Israel’s top telco providers
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Israel has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in stores
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Network coverage can become weak in the southern regions
- Check to make sure the provider offers services in the West Bank if you are travelling around the region
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: Can Israel SIM cards be used throughout the Middle East region?
A: Israel SIM cards can be used in other Middle Eastern countries, subject to additional roaming charges, but that defeats the object of purchasing a local SIM card to avoid using your home phone carrier abroad. We advise you to use the Israel SIM card only in Israel to reap the full benefits of what it can offer. If you plan on travelling around to nearby countries, it would be better to purchase a SIM card from each country to cut costs.
Q: What about other telco providers in Israel?
A: There are several mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in Israel, including Hot Mobile, Rami Levy, Home Cellular, 019 Telzar, Cellact and Golan Telecom, but they operate under the three main operators we have already highlighted above. We always advise you to use the main operators, but if you do happen to find a better deal on an MVNO, then they can be trusted.
Q: Can I use Israeli SIM cards in Palestine?
A: Although you can sometimes use Israeli prepaid SIM cards in Palestine, the signal can suffer around the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas. Israel’s SIM cards will also be subject to roaming charges outside of their telecommunications range. However, Palestine does have two prepaid SIM cards of its own, offered by Jawwal and Wataniya. Both provide customers with several prepaid packages especially for visitors, which could turn out to be a better option if you plan on staying there for an extended period of time.