Updated on September 15th, 2020
There’s no avoiding that having a SIM card when travelling makes things SO much easier. For the past year, while travelling through Europe, we managed to go without having a SIM, I have no idea why. However, with less public wifi access in Myanmar, it’s a cheap and easy idea for tourists to get a Myanmar SIM card.
Even when staying in hotels with wifi, I have found that wifi is very unreliable. In Myanmar, there are frequent blackouts. Once in Myeik, the power was out for over 12 hours, so wifi cannot be relied upon.
As I teach English online, having a strong internet connection is extremely important. When I went on my 2-week solo trip around the country I made sure to have the best internet provider as per the area. Turns out you can do it with just 2 SIM’s.
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Do you need a SIM card for Myanmar?
So far I haven’t found a hotel or hostel that doesn’t have free wifi. Although unlike other countries worldwide you’ll only get free wifi in cafes and restaurants geared towards tourists.
The biggest issue with relying on free wifi is the speed and the frequency it goes down. Of course, if you don’t work online and just want it to check in with friends and post the occasional status update than this should be fine for you.
The ease of getting and activating a SIM card as well as the relatively low data charges may make you want one just for convenience sakes.
Why having a Myanmar SIM card is useful
- Places and services aren’t always easy to find in Myanmar so having access to GPS and a location finder is super handy. There were multiple times in Yangon when I found an address on Google only to arrive and it was in a different location. Different map apps will show the location in a few spots. So it’s also a useful idea to read reviews to find out if the stated address is what’s listed.
- Another reason is obviously as a safety backup. I always feel safer when travelling solo with a SIM card and have access to calls and data services.
- When flagging down a taxi, because who wants to walk in 30+ degree heat (eek), the easiest way to show your driver where you want to go, is by pointing to it on a map. I found the drivers haven’t spoken much English if any.
- Grab is also the Southeast Asian equivalent of Uber. Forget about haggling for a price and trying to explain where you want to go. Just pop your destination into Grab and get a safe ride from a trusted driver.
Download the Myanmar packing list
Where to buy a SIM card in Myanmar
You can buy a prepaid Myanmar SIM card as soon as you arrive at any Internation Airport or at a phone shop in the city. These shops may just be a small building offering a few phones and phone cases but in most cases will have a variety of SIM’s on offer.
In the Yangon and Mandalay arrivals area, you will find kiosks for the three main service providers. I didn’t buy mine at the airport as I didn’t have any local currency but found one from a store a few days later.
I was recommended by an expat to buy my Myanmar SIM card with Ooredoo and have been extremely happy with them. Since I started travelling I also picked up a SIM with Telenor and between the two providers had fast 4G wherever I went.
Note: Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave home.
Myanmar SIM card providers
Prior to 2015 buying a prepaid SIM card in Myanmar was not a feasible option. Due to heavy government restrictions, Myanmar SIM cards were costing upwards of $250 and as recently as 2001 around the $3,000 mark. Now, however, I bought mine for $1
MPT is the government-run cell company and is said to have the best coverage throughout the country. Still, MPT is more expensive than the other options. A Sim card costs the same amount as the others, 1,500 Ks but data is charged at 7ks/MB. Make sure to buy a data pack to receive up to 24.5GB for 26,999 Ks ($18 USD)
Telenor was the first service provider to bring in a more affordable option for travellers. I read that Telenor has the cheapest deals but it’s very similar to Ooredoo. You can see below the screenshots of buying data from the apps.
Ooredoo is said to have the fastest coverage and is what I was recommended to buy. Having only been in Yangon and Myeik I can’t speak for its coverage in other locations. For digital nomads, you will be happy to hear that the internet speeds are very good with download speeds of 30.00 Mbps and upload speeds of 16.62 Mbps. This will pass speed tests for teaching English online.
Ooredoo Myanmar prepaid SIM card
How to activate Ooredoo sim card
An Ooredoo SIM card costs 1,500 Ks and is really easy to activate. I handed the guy at the phone shop my money and he put a range of phone numbers on the counter to choose between. I wasn’t required to give any form of ID.
Once I picked a number and inserted into my phone it sent me a bunch of text messages in the local language. All of which you can delete as you don’t need them for activation.
To register your Ooredoo Myanmar sim card, connect to wifi or download the My Ooredoo app (see below for link) ahead of time. Once the SIM card is in your phone, open the app and up the top right of the screen you will see an ‘en’. Click this to change the language to English.
Next, it’s as simple as entering the mobile number that comes on the packet, you will receive a text message with an activation code and then you can add some prepaid money and buy data or calling packs.
Recharging and topping up
From here you will need to top up with your desired amount before buy data or minute packs. You can browse the packs available first by clicking ‘buy packs’ as shown below. The largest pack available is 40GB for 43099Ks ($29) and lasts for 30 days. This is significantly cheaper than what I was used to paying in Australia 🙂
Once you know which pack you want to buy go back to the ‘top-up’ tab and select ‘others’ to pay by debit card. Enter the amount you want to buy and hit top-up. As easy as that! What I like about Ooredoo is you can enter any custom recharge amount. All plans are valid for 30 days, except the 750mb which is valid for 15.
Ran out of data or minutes? Just log back on to your app and repeat the steps above.
Using the Ooredoo App
One of the best things about having a SIM card in Myanmar is the ease of the apps. As we have already mentioned how to change to English, recharge and buy data packs I will quickly run through the other features.
The home screen allows you to see your credit balance, data, voice and SMS amounts. Next to the balance, you will notice a points sections. Click this to access the promotions screen. Use your points to redeem for additional minutes or megabytes.
Checking your balance
If you want to check your balance dial *124# and your balance will flash on the screen. Alternatively, open up the app and check the home screen.
If you want the best coverage and speed buy two SIM cards as I did. Take a look at this map of the Ooredoo coverage locations to find out exactly where they cover for your trip. Most of the tourist areas should be fine. I even managed to have data 90% of the way hiking between Kalaw and Inle Lake.
I used Ooredoo in Myeik and Inle Lake and Telenor in Hpa-An, Bagan and Mandalay.
Telenor Myanmar prepaid SIM card
How to activate Telenor SIM
When you buy the Telenor SIM card, insert it into your phone and either download or open the My Telenor app. You will be asked to enter your mobile number. This can be found on the packet of the SIM card – so don’t discard this.
Once you have entered your number you will be taken to the home screen where you can top up and buy data and calling packs.
With Telenor you cannot enter a custom recharge amount, you need to choose from their pre-arranged amounts. The minimum amount is 3,000 Kyat ($2 USD). Enter your credit card details and press buy now.
I recommend browsing the ‘packs’ tab at the bottom of the screen before adding money to see exactly how much you will need for your desired plan. All of the plans are valid for 30 days.
Using the Telenor app
The Telenor and Ooredoo apps are very similar as are their prices. On the home screen of the Telenor app, you can see your credit balance as well as remaining data and minutes. To top up you will need to hit the button inside the grey box on the home screen.
Are you heading to Myanmar soon?
Make sure you know all the travel tips and cultural etiquette for visiting Myanmar.
Certain nationalities can now apply for visas online ahead of time. This will save you having to get a visa on arrival at the airport. Check below if you can apply for your visa online.
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Did you buy a SIM card in Myanmar? Which service did you go with? Would you recommend to other travellers?