Getting yourself a sim card in Armenia is a great idea! Not only it allows you to stay connected with your family and friends, but it also enables a whole range of extra convenience during your stay. Whether you want to use online maps on the go, call a taxi, or check opening hours of a restaurant, an Armenian sim card in your mobile phone is the answer. Therefore, in this post I’m going to compare three mobile services providers in our country. I’ll also attempt to answer the most common questions about getting a sim card in Armenia.
International sim cards work just fine in Armenia, so if you are planning to use roaming while traveling here, you should not face any problem. Just connect to one of the local networks – Viva MTS, Beeline or Ucom, and you’re all set. But let’s be honest, who really wants to pay for roaming? It can cost you a fortune!
Why I recommend getting a prepaid sim card in Armenia?
Those of you who are visiting from the EU, are certainly very familiar with the convenience of traveling without even thinking about roaming. Well, our country is not in the EU, therefore the best way to stay connected while in Armenia is getting a local sim card.
I personally tried to just rely on public wifi, but I ended up running from one restaurant to another, and it proved to be quite inconvenient. Besides, as I wrote in my post about Uber alternatives in Armenia, when you call a cab in Armenia you’re better off if the driver can call you to clarify the address. That alone is an incentive significant enough for me to stay connected in Armenia.
Believe me, there is really no reason why you shouldn’t consider getting a local sim card. Imagine, Armenia is known for providing the cheapest mobile network services in the region. The rates are way cheaper than in Europe as well. Besides, I’m confident, that clerks at any service center around Armenia will do their best to make the setup process quick and pleasant for you.
Main mobile networks in Armenia
All in all, there are three mobile operators in Armenia with over 3.5 million users in total.
- VIVA MTS (previously known as VIVA-cell)
The largest operator is VIVA MTS. It got renamed recently as a result of an acquisition by an international operator called MTS. This operator is followed by Beeline and Ucom. All three offer very decent service and coverage – the differences are really marginal.
Network coverage in Armenia
All three operators provide 3G connection almost everywhere in Armenia, and 4G / LTE connection in major cities. I think the VIVA MTS coverage is the best, but the differences are not major. Keep in mind, you might experience connectivity issues if you decide to go for a hike or if you end up in some remote village. But for the most part, especially in Yerevan, your mobile phone will be connected 24/7, without a doubt. Follow these links if you want to see interactive maps of mobile network coverage by VIVA MTS, by Beeline, and by Ucom.
Where to buy an Armenian sim card?
You can buy a sim card in one of the many service centers in Armenia. All three mobile operators generously sprinkled their service centers around the country, so finding one is not a problem. You can see a complete list of those stores on their websites – for VIVA MTS, Beeline and Ucom. Also, most post offices sell them, as well as some regular newsstands and kiosks (although I’ve never seen anybody buy a sim card from them). Honestly, I recommend sticking to service centers, because there are really plenty of them. And to help you with that, I’m linking some of the most centrally located service centers in Yerevan and Gyumri below.
In Yerevan (even at night):
- VIVA MTS: 3, Amiryan street. (open daily 24/7)
- Beeline: 3, Amiryan street. (open daily 10:00 – 00:00) – yep, it’s just next to VIVA MTS
- Ucom: 1/2 Northern Ave. (Business Center “Nord”) (open daily 24/7)
- Viva MTS: 58, Gorki street. (Mon – Fri: 09:00-19:00, Sat, Sun: 09:00-18:00)
- Beeline: 65, Gorky street. (Mon Fri: 9:00 – 19:00, Sat: 9:00 – 18:00, Sun: off)
- Ucom: 7, Sayat Nova Ave. (Mon – Sati: 09:00-20:00, Sun: 09:00-19:00)
Buying a sim card at the airport
You can also consider getting your sim card right after arrival, at the airport, if you are flying into Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan. All three operators have their stands at the airport, so you can easily choose one of them, get your sim card and have the clerk set it up and activate it. But keep in mind prices are much higher at the airport than outside of it. Otherwise, when you leave the airport and decide to purchase your local sim card somewhere in the city – the prices are the same everywhere.
Regardless of where you buy your sim card in Armenia, you need to show your passport or an ID. So, bring it with you!
When you cannot use an Armenian sim card?
If you have one of those subscriptions with your mobile operator back at home, which prevents you from using any other sim card than theirs, you won’t be able to change your sim card. Typically, this is the case when you purchase a discounted phone from an operator, and agree to use their services for a certain period of time (12 / 24 months usually). With those services, they simply block your phone, so that you cannot abandon that mobile network provider.
But, honestly, living in Europe, the last time I came across this approach from a mobile operator was back in 2015. I think these days no network provider would block your phone is such manner. They’d simply invoice you for the whole period of your contract duration, even if you stop using their services. So, most of you should be able to buy and use a local sim card when traveling in Armenia.
Tips for using your sim card in Armenia
Choose the right data plan
First things first, when you buy your sim card, choose the plan that meets your needs. Honestly, I believe most travelers mainly want to have internet access and to be able to make a call or two occasionally. So, I think the prepaid sim card with the cheapest plan would be the best choice for you in Armenia. If you exhaust the data, calls or allowance of messages included in your selected plan, then you just top up your credit and activate an additional package. It’s very cheap and easy to do, and later in this post you will learn how to do it.
You can see complete lists of different plans on websites of these operators – VIVA MTS plans, Beeline plans and those for Ucom. Further down in this post I’m going to elaborate on my own recommendation – buying the cheapest prepaid sim card. So, stick around! 🙂
Buy the cheapest prepaid sim card
Luckily, all three mobile network operators offer prepaid sim card options. So, follow these 7 steps to buy a sim card in Armenia:
- Purchase your sim card in any service center.
- Choose the plan and different services you want to activate (you probably want an internet data package with minimum calls and messages included).
- Ask the clerk at the service center to insert your sim card into your phone and activate it.
- If your phone requires a sim card of a specific size, like micro or nano, they will cut it for you.
- Ask the clerk to set the auto-response menu of their call center to English for you.
- It’s ready, you can use your sim card anywhere in Armenia.
- Try to make a call or to use internet in order to check if your sim card is indeed activated.
How to check your account balance?
Why do you need to check your account balance from time to time? If you are an avid internet user, you might need to top up your sim card credit at a certain point. If you are using a prepaid sim card, in order to prolong a service or activate a new one, you need to make sure you have sufficient funds on your account. To check the funds in your account you simply need to dial the following number:
- *888# for VIVA MTS
- *102# for Beeline
- *133# for Ucom
The balance notification will then pop-up as a message on your display.
Topping up your Armenian sim card account
There is a wide range of different ways how to top up your account if the funds on your sim card are too low:
- Visit one of the service centers of your mobile operator in Armenia
- Buy a scratch card with a top-up activation code at any supermarket (e.g. SAS, Yerevan CITY etc.)
- Pay online on your mobile operator’s website (Ucom also has a special app called U!Pay)
- Top-up using a payment terminal, e.g. iDram, EasyPay, TelCell (these are everywhere in Armenia)
- Find an ATM that supports ArCa payments (look for the logo with those 4 letters)
- If all fails, go to the nearest post office!
How much does a sim card in Armenia cost?
The lowest price for a sim card in Armenia is 1000 AMD (2 EUR). This amount immediately appears on your mobile balance, hence it can be used to purchase mobile data services, for calls and messages. So, technically the sim card itself is free! This way, 1000 AMD is basically the minimal required spend.
But to be honest, with only 1000 AMD you can realistically get a data package, but won’t be able to make calls with it. And I strongly believe that being able to make or receive calls while in Armenia could significantly improve your experience here. So, let me show you a comparison between some of the most convenient and basic Armenian mobile plans that I think fit travelers the best. All these plans are active for 30 days, but you can top up your account and purchase additional packages as you go, if you want to.
|Internet||3 GB||3 GB||3 GB|
|Outgoing local calls||200 min*||50 min**||100 min|
|Extra calls to|
|Includes calls to|
Russia, the USA and Canada
|Free use of Whatsapp, Viber,|
Messenger and Telegram
|Plan name||Z tariff||Smart 1500|
*after 200 minutes allowance is exhausted VIVA MTS offers additional 10000 min of free calls within their network
**on top of this Beeline offers additional 10000 min of free calls within their network
International calls and roaming with an Armenian sim card
If you are planning to call abroad while in Armenia, depending on the destination country, the calling rates may vary. However, most prepaid packages offer calls at very affordable rates to Artsakh, Russia, the USA and Canada. For example VIVA MTS even includes calls to these countries into some of their standard packages, and counts them as local calls. You can also check detailed price-lists for international calls from your Armenian sim card following these links: for VIVA MTS, Beeline and Ucom.
By the way, keep in mind that legally Artsakh is not part of Armenia, so if you plan to travel there, you’ll need to activate roaming on your Armenian sim card. Just ask the staff at the service center of your mobile operator to do that. The roaming rates for travelers who visit Artsakh with an Armenian sim card are typically the following:
|Mobile service in roaming in Artsakh||Rate|
|Mobile data usage||22 AMD / MB|
|Incoming calls||15 AMD / min|
|Outgoing calls (locally)||29 AMD / min|
|Outgoing calls (to Armenia)||29 AMD / min|
|Outgoing calls (other than to Armenia)||500 – 2000 AMD / min|
|Outgoing messages||15 AMD|
Choosing a sim card in Armenia: practical example
So, let’s say you want to buy a sim card in Armenia because you are planning to spend a week here. You want to stay connected, but you also want to be able to call or send a message if you need to. Remember, Emmanuel from ArmeniaTravelTips.com recommended connecting with the driver over phone when you call a taxi here. 🙂
Choose your plan and activate the sim card
So, you might choose uPrepaid plan (u1500) from Ucom, which only costs 1500 AMD (2.9 EUR). It includes 3 GB of mobile data, 150 minutes of calls to all networks in Armenia, and even 150 messages. Great! So, you go to the nearest Ucom office with your passport or ID, and you purchase a sim card. You pay 1500 AMD, because you know this is the amount you need to activate the u1500 package. You ask the clerk to set it all up for you and then you make a brief call to check if your sim card really works. Done!
Top up your sim card balance
Let’s say you check your balance and you realize you’ve been way too active on Instagram and your initial data allowance is almost gone. Duuuh! 🙂 So, you’ll need to top up your account to purchase extra data allowance and to be able to be connected while roaming around Armenia.
This is a simple task! You just find the nearest iDram payment terminal and top up your sim card balance by 1000 AMD. You are planning to spend 700 AMD to activate an extra 1 GB mobile data package, and you’ll keep the remaining 300 AMD on your account, just in case you need to make a call. The top up confirmation message pops up on your screen in a couple of minutes.
Activate an extra mobile data package
Now, when you fully exhaust your initial data plan, you’ll activate the extra 1 GB by dialing *200*3#. You will then immediately get a notification that you made a payment of 700 AMD from your balance and you now have 1 GB of data to use. That’s it!
So, I hope this post helped you figure out how to chose and buy a sim card in Armenia. If I managed to help you stay connected and broadcast your joyful pictures on social media, please let me know! For example, tweet or instagram your pictures to me with #ArmeniaTravelTips. Knowing that I can help visitors enjoy a convenient stay in Armenia is very fulfilling.
Featured image credit: Photo by Andrew Becks on Pixabay (edited)