Finding the best prepaid SIM card when visiting Lebanon
Buying a local SIM card will reduce your roaming charges.
With its robust economy and impressive nightlife, Lebanon is a top destination for both tourists and business people. With its capital city Beirut classed as one of the top destinations in the world for nightlife, going to Lebanon can get pricey. Why not cut corners in other areas to save money to put towards enjoying yourself.
A great way to reduce costs while you’re in Lebanon is to use a local prepaid SIM card. Lebanon has high quality network coverage, but there are only two providers to choose from. You can get 5GB of data from one of Lebanon’s prepaid SIM card provider for about AU$29.
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Telco providers in Lebanon
There are two main telco operators in Lebanon: Touch and Alfa. Both are owned by the state and managed by foreign companies from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The two companies have similar pricing plans, but Alfa has the better overall coverage, particularly if you are traveling outside of Beirut.
SIM card pre-qualification
To help fight against illegal activities, the government requires that you carry and present a passport along with another form of identification in order to buy a SIM card. Both operators reserve the right to call you after activation to verify your identity. If you can’t verify that you were the person who bought the SIM card, the operator can block its use.
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Touch was known as MTC until 2012. Zain Saudi Arabia manages the network. Touch is the leading provider in Lebanon with about 66% of the market share.
Touch call and data plans
Touch has four plans for calls and SMS messages. Each has a built-in grace period that gives you extra days of use free of charge. If you know how long you’ll be staying in Lebanon, you can use the following chart to pick the best option for your prepaid SIM card. If your length of stay changes, you can switch to any of the four plans by texting the name of the plan: “Start”, “Smart”, “Super” or “Magic” to 1144.
|Plan Name||Validity Period||Grace Period||Price (US$)|
|Magic||5 days||5 days||$3.00|
|Start||30 days||10 days||$13.64|
|Smart||30 days||10 days||$19.70|
|Super||30 days||10 days||$22.73|
If you aren’t interested in calls and texts during your stay in Lebanon, a data-only SIM card can be purchased for US$19.
You can buy additional data at your convenience but packages are only available on 3.9G. There is no 4G/LTE coverage available, which will make things slower. The following table explains the options, and you can choose the one that is most suited to your needs by texting the appropriate activation code to 1188 at any time.
|Volume||Price (US$)||Overuse fee||Activation Code|
To check your remaining data usage, dial *220#.
LIke Touch, Alfa is owned by the state. It’s managed by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom. It has the larger 4G-LTE coverage area outside of Beirut.
Alfa call and data plans
Alfa offers two prepaid cards to get you going. There is a short-term card thats costs US$5 (tax included) and a long-term card that costs US$25 (tax included) and comes with a credit of US$22.73, the equivalent of another month of calls and texts. Recharge cards are available for between US$10-US$75 and give you an additional 13-95 days of use if your stay in Lebanon is extended for any reason.
There is a tariff of US$0.10-US$0.15 per MB depending on your plan. For initial activation, dial *111#.
The following table describes the options for data plans.
|Volume||Price (US$)||Overuse fee||Activation code|
TripAdvisor tip for buying prepaid SIM cards in Lebanon.
Whether it’s your first international trip or your twentieth, it never hurts to take some advice before you head to the airport. Here’s a top tip from a TripAdvisor user concerning SIM cards for tourists in Lebanon.
“When I visited Beirut, a friend of mine bought the SIM card in his name (based on his ID card) before my arrival. BUT 2 days later they called me from Touch to investigate whether and or not I was the same person who bought and is using the card.Unfortunately I didn't know all the answers that they asked about my friend ID card details, so they blocked the card. We fixed the problem later but this is just to tell you that buying a SIM card in Beirut could require some safety measures.”
Pros and cons of Lebanon’s top telco providers
While there are only two state-owned options for prepaid SIM cards in Lebanon, they have multiple data and call/text plans. Comparing pros and cons can help you determine the right provider and plan for your stay.
- Easy to switch plans or increase data limit via SMS messages
- Both telcos managed by successful regional companies
- Limited 4G coverage area
- Charges mount quickly between VAT tax and data tariff
An additional question about finding the best prepaid SIM card in Lebanon
Q: Can I buy a prepaid SIM card at the Beirut airport?
A: Yes. Alfa has a store in the entry hallways of the Beirut airport across from the luggage carousel.
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