Girishkumar Kumaran

A curious being

How to get an Israeli SIM card as a traveler?

Are you nomophobic? Never mind, I am just kidding. I understand that everyone needs a good mobile connection in a new place, and getting a SIM card in Israel is easy peasy.

Fun fact: Nomophobia is the fear of being without your mobile phone or losing your signal.

There was a high-school student who did her school project with me a few months before. Whenever I ask her a question like “How was the experiment?” or “How did it go?” she would always say “easy peasy.” That is precisely what I would say for someone who asks me about how to get an Israeli SIM card.

Easy peasy lemon sqeezy.

No documentation is required

Yes, you heard that right. The only thing you need to do is pay them some money. Sometimes, you even get to choose the number you want. You also get the kind of SIM card – nano, micro, normal, whatever.

Activated immediately

Israeli SIM cards are immediately activated at least from all the companies I have tried thus far – Cellcom, HOT mobile, and 019 mobile.

At Ben Gurion Airport – I would say no.

Almost everything within an airport comes with a premium price tag — even coffee. When I first came to Israel, I was stupid, and I went to the Cellcom counter at the arrival hall to buy an Israeli SIM. I ended up paying around 230 shekel-ish. I later realized that it was a way too high price to pay for a SIM card in Israel. Cellcom is indeed on the pricier side of cellphone operators in Israel.

Many people told me that you can get an Orange SIM from the post office counter there. I do not have any direct experience with it and I have never used Orange here.

There is also a 019mobile outlet at the airport.

do NOT buy from the online stores

In my opinion, they are an absolute rip off if not stupids. I’ll tell you why! To fulfill your order, they need to get the SIM card, and then send it to you. The whole process costs money, and they put it on their customers, which is you.

I will tell you why I call them stupids. They already have the setup and infrastructure to run an online recharge business. Instead of expanding it to all the mobile phone users in Israel, they charge from a foreigner close to 150 shekels for a 100 shekels recharge. They could have just expanded their services, given it to all, and charged a fair price.

So don’t buy from them. The neither give you a fair price nor know how to run a business better.

The best way to get an Israeli SIM card

If you don’t really need an Israeli SIM the moment you land in Israel, the best idea would be to buy it in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem, or where ever you are supposed to go. Just buy it anywhere outside the airport. Israeli SIM cards are available in all kind of shops especially the ones that are dealing with mobile phones and they are quite common. You can get it in big shopping complexes like Dizengoff or in street-side shops.

What kind of a phone is needed?

General answer – Most likely any unlocked phone.

Technical answer – You need an unlocked quad-band GSM phone that can accept a nano, micro, or standard SIM cards.

What’s wrong with Israeli SIM cards?

No English Support. With most of the service providers, it’s tough to get anyone in customer support to speak in English.

You write them an e-mail in English, and you get a reply in Hebrew. Get used to it and use Google Translate.

No Online Recharge. There is no way that we can refill/recharge money in the SIM cards online. You always need to go to a shop. Total waste of time. In contrast, in India you can do it through your online bank accounts, the service provider’s websites, or there are even websites that specialize in this – to pay all kind of bills, not only cell phone recharges. Given all the “startup nation” buzz Israel has, I am surprised why there isn’t a startup who do that.

Billing troubles with post-paid plans. Many people advised me against using post-paid plans because it went messy for them. Given the fact that it’s tough to get somebody to speak in English I would suggest sticking with pre-paid SIM cards. They work equally well except the fact that you need to put money in advance.

How did I get around with these issues?

I tried to call Cellcom and I received no help. So I dumped the SIM card. It was expensive for me too.

I then used HOT mobile for some time.

Finally, I ended up using  019 mobile. It has pre-paid plans that suit my needs. I still use it without any issues. The main reason that I stick with them is that when I ask them a question, they answer and they answer it in English in a timely manner.

What you should do – or what I suggest you do?

1. Go to a shop where they sell SIM cards

2. Tell them your needs.

3. Most likely they will suggest to you the best provider and a plan that fit your needs.

4. Take it.

5. If you are not happy with anything port to a different service provider.

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