Reduce your rates by using a local SIM.
Using your home phone network in Saudi Arabia can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Saudi Arabia has some of the best prepaid SIM cards available, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Saudi Arabia’s leading telco provider for as little as SAR10 (AUD$3.43). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, longer stay or tour of the Arab nations, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
Telco providers in Saudi Arabia
There are three main operators in Saudi Arabia: STC, Mobily and Zain. 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, so they can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s connectivity report, Saudi Arabia’s coverage is extremely good around the main highways and built-up areas, but it can suffer a great deal the more you head towards the deserts and remote regions. However, it isn’t just a local problem, it will happen on all phones and providers you use there.
About Saudi Arabia’s operators
Saudi Arabia’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of their cheap local offers and deals. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “chips”. All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from stores, supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at the King Khalid International Airport. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets. Please note that there are restrictions and heavy censorship over content in Saudi Arabia. Some websites and apps are banned, and the local authorities monitor social media channels. We advise you to download a VPN onto your electronic device before you set off on your travels so you can gain access to all content.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Saudi Arabia.
STC is the largest provider in Saudi Arabia, and it offers the best network coverage and Internet speeds. Prices and packages are extremely competitive, and STC offers many deals and promotions to entice both locals and visitors. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores only, and SIM cards will have to be registered by showing your passport. A registration form will also have to be filled out, which can be quite time-consuming. Credit can be found at most retailers, malls, supermarkets and service stations across the nation.
The "SAWA" prepaid SIM cards are the most popular and can be purchased for SAR30. They come with SAR25 credit.
Credit can be purchased in varying amounts between SAR10 and SAR300, giving 5 to 300 days of validity, depending on how much has been uploaded. To add credit, dial *155*<voucher PIN># or use your credit card online.
The standard data rate is charged at SAR2 per MB. The following packages can be added to all SAWA plans:
Text the code in the right-hand column to 902 to activate. All of the above-mentioned packages will auto-renew, so send a blank SMS to 2009 to cancel. Also, send a blank SMS to 2220 to check your balance.
There is also the "QUICKnet" data-only SIM card available. The following packs can be purchased for all prepaid SIM cards:
The following boosters can also be added once the above data has run out:
STC has also launched a separate brand called “Jawwy from STC", and it also provides good prepaid deals that can be used by tourists. Users have to manage everything through the Jawwy app, from adding credit to changing packages and contacting customer service. The app can be downloaded for free onto both Android and iOS devices.
Jawwy prepaid SIM cards can be ordered to any address in Saudi Arabia or picked up in Collect and Connect stores in various malls. The following options are available:
- SAR30: SAR25 credit, 500MB and 50 local minutes, valid for 1 month
- SAR60: 10GB, 100 local minutes and SAR10 credit, valid for 1 month
- SAR180: 40GB, 400 local minutes, valid for 3 months
You can use both Jawwy or STC recharge vouchers to update credit on the Jawwy SIM cards.
- SAR10 per GB up to 20GB
- SAR0.20 per local minute up to 2,000 minutes
- SAR100: 1GB data for roaming
- SAR50: 30GB YouTube data. Free if plan value is over SAR100
- Free access to STC Wi-Fi hotspots (max 3GB per day)
STC’s APN: jawalnet.com.sa or stcnet.com.sa, and website: www.stc.com.sa or www.jawwy.sa
Mobily is the second-largest provider in Saudi Arabia and offers some great deals. The signal can suffer as you head out toward the desert areas, but it’s good in the main towns and cities.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for SAR30, which comes with SAR25 credit. Data packages will have to be added to use the Internet. There are several recharge vouchers available, and they come in the following denominations: SAR10, SAR30, SAR50 and SAR100. For the first top-up, each voucher will be doubled in value as a bonus. Prepaid SIM cards are valid for 90 days after your last top-up.
The standard data rate is charged at SAR0.15 per MB. The following “Connect Data” packages are available:
|150MB||14 days||SAR5||750||Renew Net150MB|
|500MB||30 days||SAR15||700||Renew Net500MB|
|1GB||30 days||SAR25||701||Renew Net1GB|
|2GB||30 days||SAR45||702||Renew Net2GB|
|5GB||30 days||SAR65||703||Renew Net5GB|
|10GB||120 days||SAR120||710||Renew Net10GB|
Text code in right-hand column to 1100 to activate. Text “UnSub <Code>” to 1100 to deactivate. You can also renew the packages by texting “Renew(+code)” to 1100.
The following data packs can also be added:
Dial *1411# to check your balance.
Mobily also sells a "Connect" data-only SIM card for modems, tablets and laptops. The following packages can also be added:
|SAR270||10GB per month||3 months|
|SAR630||20GB per month||6 months|
|SAR275||60GB per month||3 months|
|SAR500||60GB per month||6 months|
|SAR975||60GB per month||12 months|
There’s also a selection of cheap roaming offers available, and those can be used in more than 80 countries:
|SAR99||1GB||3 days||Activation: Trip1|
|SAR199||3GB||7 days||Activation: Trip2|
|SAR349||10GB||30 days||Activation: Trip3|
|SAR499||20GB||30 days||Activation: Trip4|
|SAR799||30GB||90 days||Activation: Trip5|
Text activation code to 1100 or enter *1100# and choose the relevant pack to activate.
Mobily’s APN for prepaid: web2, and website: http://www.mobily.com.sa
Zain is the smallest provider in the country with 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Network coverage and Internet speeds are good around the main towns and cities, but as with all providers in Saudi Arabia, the signal will struggle as you head toward the desert regions.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores, and they must be registered properly using your passport before they can be activated. Prepaid SIM cards come in many types and sizes; the “Shabab Prepaid” combo plan is the only option to combine voice and data. Prepaid SIM cards will be valid for 90 days after your last credit upload.
The standard data rate is charged at SAR0.15 per MB. The following packages can be added:
Text the activation code to 959 to purchase your pack of choice. Text “BC” to 959 to check your balance.
There is also a high-speed data-only SIM card called “SPEED 4G”. The following data packs can be added:
The following roaming packages are also available, which can be used across the Middle East:
- SAR129: 2 days of unlimited data. Text UAE2 to 959
- SAR349: 7 days of unlimited data. Text UAE7 to 959
|SAR99||2GB||3 days||Text RD2 to 959|
|SAR199||4GB||7 days||Text RD4 to 959|
|SAR299||10GB||30 days||Text RD10 to 959|
Text “RBC” to 959 to check your balance.
Zain’s APN: zain, and website: https://www.sa.zain.com
- The official language in Saudi Arabia is Arabic. If you don’t know the language, then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. English is a second language for most Saudis.
- Saudis call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you and 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 stores 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 what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Saudi Arabia.
“Even if you didn't or couldn't buy a SIM card at the airport, there are plenty of shops all around the city.”
“Initially you pay for the SIM card which costs about SAR30. SAR25 of credit can also be added. If you want Internet you will need to get a top of SAR60 for Mobily at least.”
“If you have an old phone, from someone like Vodafone, that is now outside of its contract period, then you will be able to phone them up and they will make arrangements for that phone to be used on any network ie. sim free.”
Pros and cons of Saudi Arabia’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
- Saudi Arabia has good coverage in the main cities and towns
- 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
- Tough rules and regulations make buying a SIM card difficult
- Signal and Internet speeds can suffer in the far-flung regions
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: What about other SIM card providers in Saudi Arabia?
A: There are several smaller carriers providing SIM cards in Saudi Arabia, including Friendi Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Lebara Mobile. These are all run through the base providers we have highlighted above. Although you may find slightly different deals and plans, we feel it’s always better to stick with the main providers. However, if you do find a better deal on one of these operators, they can be trusted.