Invest in a local merchant’s SIM card to reduce costs on roaming and data.
Home of the ancient Silk Road and some of the greatest mountain trekking in the world, Tajikistan is a country of 8 million in central Asia. If you’re travelling to Tajikistan, you can cut down on your costs by investing in a local prepaid SIM card. A SIM card with 2GB of data good for 30 days costs around TJS43 (AUD$6.37). Finder.com.au offers the following guide to the nation’s telco operators.
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Prices last updated: November 2017
State of the SIM card market in Tajikistan
A regulated SIM card market is a new thing in Tajikistan. As recently as 2016, up to 70% of the SIM cards in Tajikistan were being sold illegally. Fearful of unregistered SIM cards being used by terrorists, the country tried to round up the illegal ones in 2016 and now SIM cards can only be purchased by presenting a passport or some other form of identification. The government allows Tajikistani citizens to buy no more than two SIM cards from one operator at a time.
Mobile network operators in Tajikistan
There are four network operators in Tajikistan.
Tcell is the powerhouse in Tajikistan and has more than 66% of the country’s customers. It was formerly owned by a Swedish firm but is now state owned. It has the best coverage for 2G and 3G and started its 4G/LTE network in 2014, operating in the following cities: Dushanbe, Kayrakkum, Khujand, Chkalovsk and Ghafurov.
The cards are sold in lots of stores, and top-ups are available at pay terminals. Make sure your SIM card is 4G-enabled to use Tcell’s 4G/LTE network. If it is, dial *871*1# and the network will activate within 12 hours. Its data packages auto-renew and are good for 30 days. For the following data plans, daytime is defined as 7am-12am and nighttime from 12am-7am.
|Price||Day data||Night data||Activation code|
You can buy two additional packages for supplementary data.
- For TJS14, you receive 500MB in the day and 500MB at night. The activation code is *970*1*1000#.
- For TJS23, you receive 1GB during the day and 1GB at night. The activation code is *970*1*2000#.
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Babilon-Mobile opened the country’s first 4G/LTE network in 2012 and has the second-largest customer base in the country. Its minutes and data bundles are all on a monthly rate, while the data packages cover 90 days.The starter pack costs TJS5 and comes with a TJS4 credit. To change the default language to English, dial *2022#3#. To top up, get a voucher and dial *2002*#.
Its data packages are as follows:
MegaFon is a Russian-owned company that mostly operates on 2G and 3G. It started a 4G/LTE network in 2014 that currently covers Dushanbe, Khujand and Qurghonteppa (formerly Kurgan-Tyube). The SIM card is available for purchase at MegaFon shops by dialling *100#. MegaFon has different rate plans for its 4G and 3G networks, as listed below.
4G/LTE data packages:
|Price||Data||Activation code||Deactivation code|
You can buy an add-on of 1GB for TJS20 with activation code *140*5#.
3G data packages
|Price||Data||Activation code||Deactivation code|
You can buy an add-on of 1GB for TJS20.39 with activation code *170*0#.
Another Russian-owned operator, Beeline is the smallest network in Tajikistan and has no 4G network. It has the lowest prices in the country, but also the worst network coverage. SIM cards are available at its own stores. To check your available data balance, dial *114#. All packages are set to auto-renew.
Advice from Lonely Planet about SIM cards in Tajikistan
In addition to being the world’s largest publisher of travel books, Lonely Planet has an impressive online community of members who trade travel tips with one another. Here’s some advice from recent visitors to Tajikistan:
"Regarding the SIM card, it is really simple. You may try in the Megafon shop or in the Tcell shop (on Rudaki). The cost is 0, you pay what you charge on it, and they just need your passport and an address in Tajikistan where you’re staying. It takes five minutes, no more. You can recharge at hundreds of locations all over the city.”
“I got a Megafon card and it was really very frustrating to get service on it anywhere outside of the cities. Beeline, I've heard is a better service, or Tcell. I had long periods with Megafon having no service at all whereas our driver on Tcell had no problems.”
Pros and cons of Tajikistan’s top SIM card operators
Tajikistan has four major SIM card providers. Here are some of the positives and negatives about these companies.
- Tcell and Babilon have established decent 4G/LTE networks in the major cities.
- Babilon’s service menus can easily be switched to English.
- Beeline has the lowest prices but no 4G/LTE network.
- 4G/LTE coverage is very spotty outside of the largest cities.