eSIM cards for Central Asia

Talk about the forum & website, off-topic chatter, etc.
Christian77
Tajikistan expert
Tajikistan expert
Posts: 452
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:14 pm
x 533

eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by Christian77 »

I'm not always up to date on tech advances, but...it seems that newer phones can use virtual eSIM cards. iPhone 14 and after will no longer take physical SIM cards, for example.

And googling has pointed me towards companies offering eSIMs that will work in Central Asia. I found one that will work for Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and another company that claims their eSIM works in Turkmenistan.

Downsides? Price. And how about coverage? It took some digging to determine that one eSIM I was researching works on Beeline's network in Tajikistan, for example.

Pluses? I would pay quite a bit to not have to waste time getting OVIR registration and then going to a mobile phone shop to buy a physical card. Or taking a risk with a kid who says he can hook you up (only to get cut off 10 days later). But that's Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan has always been quick and easy.

Has anybody else had any experience with this in Central Asia? I've found reviews online for the eSIM apps and companies and they seem OK. BUt no reviews from people who've used the tool in Central Asia.
0 x

steven
Admin
Admin
Posts: 4264
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:32 pm
x 3732
x 588

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by steven »

There have been some reports on the forum of people using this innovation. See for instance

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=13403&p=42066&hilit=esim#p42066
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=13571
0 x
If you like Caravanistan: we have opened a tip jar! We love you back! :D

sebhoff
Posts: 297
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:14 pm
x 8
x 138

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by sebhoff »

I have limited experience for Central Asia (as reported in the links above) and limited experience in Germany/the UK from this month, when a glitch in my settings caused my monthly data allowance to be gobbled up on a single day. Some thoughts/input:

- I used https://esimdb.com to find offers. Some eSIMs only work in a single country, but often the same company offers a package for several (or for a long list of) countries for a little more money. It's worth scrolling down the list...
- My general impression is that eSIMs are particularly good for the first hours/days in a new country - you have internet access the moment you step off the plane and have access to Yandex and the like. Beyond this, considering the charges for longer periods/more data, it's probably better if you get a local card - unless of course you don't need much data in the first place.
- You need to have Internet access to set up eSIMs - so it's a good idea to do this *before* you get to where you want to use them.
- Despite the name, I used MobiMatter's "US and Mexico Plus 1 GB" plan in Uzbekistan (valid for 7 days only) and reception was great. However, I only spent a few days in Tashkent. When I got back to Germany, I used up the remaining data and had 5G reception - something that is usually only available on more expensive plans in Germany.
- Since I needed coverage in the UK, Luxemburg and Germany this month, I bought a BNESIM Europe plan for 1GB (30 countries) - this doesn't expire at all, until you have used it all up (https://my.bnesim.com/pricing_ext.php?a ... um_price=2) Coverage/reception was much more varied than with MobiMatter. So I guess it's hit and miss...
- One advantage of eSIMs is definitely that you don't have to worry about anything in countries that are said to restrict access to returning tourists who did not register their IMEI. This is apparently the case in Uzbekistan. It's OK to use your phone in roaming mode, though - which is essentially what's happening with eSIMs.
- One slight disadvantage is that these are data-only SIMs. So making local phone calls won't be possible. But I don't usually need to call locally anyway...

Sebastian
2 x

TomD
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:52 pm
x 1

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by TomD »

May 2023 esim in Kazakhstan....went with Airalo as seemed big enough to try to fix the problems and the app might work. There is usually a some discount card available online for sign up...so it was fractionally cheaper but less data. I did an esim to keep my work simcard in. My carrier doesn't cover Kz but as usual you can still get your usual sms to your phone anyway but need another way to answer so a data esim and skype/whatsapp/etc will work.
Good things were cost similar, done in advance, same app may cover multiple countries, fixed problems, you don't have to pull your normal sim and get someone to try to get the new sim working....only about 10 minutes of life...and bring your passport to apply. It used beeline at the same signal strength as the other card. Bad things were no local phone number....a lot of apps like a Kz number for a identification sms eg. An escooter app or some rail apps....it needs an internet connection for the first login and the free airport wifi or many cafes need a local number to sms a code so you need to wait for a hotel...imediately acquired the signal but not data...airalo sent an automatic email to say they noticed but took 12hrs to actually start working...not sure what will happen at borders. ....Uzbekistan accepts some physical Kz sims on roaming so it might work. This Esim can not be reinstalled so I might needed to switch carriers or esims if I dip south. Summary. I got to keep my work sim in and after the teething probs it was fine but if you like lots of data or have two physical card ports maybe a local sim is easier and worth the queue
0 x

TomD
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:52 pm
x 1

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by TomD »

Update....no problems with reception (and could watch YouTube)... after the slow 12hour login delay. Detects Uzbek beeline but doesn't allow roaming after the border. Overall acceptable data only option but a physical sim with a phone number for local apps and maybe cross border roaming might be worth the hassle if you are serious.
0 x

B7474U3
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2018 12:53 pm
x 14

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by B7474U3 »

TomD wrote:
Thu May 04, 2023 1:26 am
May 2023 esim in Kazakhstan....went with Airalo as seemed big enough to try to fix the problems and the app might work. There is usually a some discount card available online for sign up...so it was fractionally cheaper but less data. I did an esim to keep my work simcard in. My carrier doesn't cover Kz but as usual you can still get your usual sms to your phone anyway but need another way to answer so a data esim and skype/whatsapp/etc will work.
Good things were cost similar, done in advance, same app may cover multiple countries, fixed problems, you don't have to pull your normal sim and get someone to try to get the new sim working....only about 10 minutes of life...and bring your passport to apply. It used beeline at the same signal strength as the other card. Bad things were no local phone number....a lot of apps like a Kz number for a identification sms eg. An escooter app or some rail apps....it needs an internet connection for the first login and the free airport wifi or many cafes need a local number to sms a code so you need to wait for a hotel...imediately acquired the signal but not data...airalo sent an automatic email to say they noticed but took 12hrs to actually start working...not sure what will happen at borders. ....Uzbekistan accepts some physical Kz sims on roaming so it might work. This Esim can not be reinstalled so I might needed to switch carriers or esims if I dip south. Summary. I got to keep my work sim in and after the teething probs it was fine but if you like lots of data or have two physical card ports maybe a local sim is easier and worth the queue
If you have an iPhone you can switch eSims on and off, so you can have several installed on the phone at one time, but only have one that you are using. I went from Georgia to Armenia and back again and simply switched my Georgian eSim back on when I went back across the border.

I haven’t used eSims in Central Asia but I have used them in Georgia several times and Armenia (through AirAlo). Georgia was good, Armenia was slower and certain websites wouldn’t work.

I’ve also used them in Malaysia, South Korea, Portugal and Montenegro and have found them all to be a good option.
1 x

Christian77
Tajikistan expert
Tajikistan expert
Posts: 452
Joined: Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:14 pm
x 533

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by Christian77 »

Two reports on Airolo eSIM for Tajikistan: 1. Total trash, did not work (a guy posting on the Oybek border crossing experience). 2. My experience - the Airolo eSIM I got for South Korea worked fine; the Airolo eSIM I got for Tajikistan did not work. I was able to instal the eSIM and connect to the network, but I was not able to access data. I followed all the instructions and double checked everything. I didn’t work at the border, it didn’t work on my 5 hour drive as I tried again and again, and it didn’t work after I got wifi in the city either.

Zero surprise. I don’t know why I thought a Tajik telecom company would do anything other than take the money from Airolo and then laugh at the customer. Welcome to Tajikistan, adjust expectations accordingly.
1 x

deepbluemeanies
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jun 05, 2023 11:17 pm

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by deepbluemeanies »

Hi there,

Bumping this thread as I have a question regarding eSIMs.

I’m flying into Almaty and staying 3 nights before heading to Kyrgyzstan then Uzbekistan.

Does it make sense to just use Airalo for the first few days in Kazakhstan, then get a beeline SIM in Bishkek with roaming for the rest of trip?

Cheers.
0 x

sebhoff
Posts: 297
Joined: Sat Jun 17, 2017 6:14 pm
x 8
x 138

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by sebhoff »

Getting an eSIM for the first three nights in KZ would definitely make sense. Whether it makes sense to then use the same physical Kyrgyz SIM in both KG and UZ depends on how much data you will need in UZ. If I remember correctly, roaming wasn't exactly cheap - so unless you need relatively little data, a second physical Uzbek SIM might be the better way to go. I personally would use roaming on a KG SIM for the first few hours until I get to buy the local UZ SIM.

Just returned from a 10-day trip to Georgia where I used an eSIM from Global YO: EU - 15 Days - 3 GB for US$ 9.99, reduced to $5 via the YOYO$ they give you when you sign up. The advantage of selecting this plan was that I also had decent Internet access at the airport in Istanbul (where you only get 1 hour of free internet access). Reception was mostly fine; a colleague who used a physical SIM from Magti (7 days, unlimited data, 9 lari) had slightly better reception.

Sebastian
1 x

Kalpazan
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:33 am
x 120
x 48

Re: eSIM cards for Central Asia

Post by Kalpazan »

Any eSIM provider that actually works reliably in Tajikistan as of today ?
0 x

Post Reply
  • Similar Topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post