Travelling today has nothing to do with the way it used to be twenty years ago, before mobile internet. Nowadays, our smartphones are the partners of our trips, guiding us in the streets of unknown cities or finding last-minute hotels. Buying and using a local SIM card in Iran is easy, and will make your trip more comfortable.
The main mobile phone companies in Iran are MTN-Irancell and MCI (Hamrahe Aval). Tourists and foreigners can buy their SIM card from these operators, which has various and specific offers designed for travellers, and an English language online platform.
You can find an Irancell booth at Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA). The round yellow counter is easy to find, just after baggage collection.
There are many Irancell shops in every Iranian city: In Tehran, you can find one in Ghaem Building, above Tajrish Bazaar, another one in Imam Khomeini metro station few meters away from Golestan Palace, as well as in many other metro stations and malls. The same goes for Hamrahe Aval, which has several stores in every big city. In Tehran, you can find one near Meydan-e Vali Asr metro station.
You can buy a prepaid SIM card directly from any Irancell / MCI shop. You will need to register your SIM card at your name, so you must bring your passport with you. That's the only document required.
Note that it usually takes several hours for the SIM card to be activated. Don't worry if you regularly receive text messages from Irancell written in Farsi: they are simply ads and discounts.
Irancell offers 3G and 4G packages and benefits from good coverage all over Iran. SIM card packages with voice call and internet are at the following prices (subject to change):
We highly recommend you to download "MyIrancell" application for Irancell and “MyMCI” application for MCI on your phone. With this English language app, you can check how much credit is left on your card.
You can also charge your SIM card online within a few minutes. However, it requires an Iranian credit card to proceed to the payment: you can ask your hotel or your guide to help you with this.
It's then possible to buy various packages which for Irancell goes from 16.000 rials (one day, 60MB) to 580.000 rials (available three months, 24GB per month).
In accordance with the recent legislation, mobiles phones bought outside of Iran must be registered within the country’s telecommunications user database, only if the user intends to stay in Iran for more than one month. That's why tourists are usually not concerned by this rule.
However, if your stay in Iran is superior to thirty days, you will be required to register your phone. Otherwise, after this amount of time, your mobile phone will be rendered unusable in the country. The fees are between 17% to 18% of your cellphone price. The procedure is rather complicated and must be done online on a website which is currently only in Farsi. It's sometimes possible to have it done in some operators’ shops.
Thus, if you intend to extend your visa and stay for more than one month in Iran, we recommend you to bring a second phone to avoid the registration. You can also use a cheaper phone in which you put your Iranian SIM card, and then use your smartphone for Internet only, by sharing the data (using the personal hotspot functionality).