Perhaps more than any other country in the world, Estonia loves the Internet.
The capital city of Tallinn and much of the country rolled out free public Wi-Fi back in 2005, there are more mobile phones than people, and cell providers now offer LTE-A that reaches speeds of up to 300Mbps. No, that’s not a typo.
For a country so hooked on connection speeds, the cell providers are surprisingly tight when it comes to visitors. Not all prepaid plans let you access that lightning-fast LTE mentioned above, and, even worse, your data speeds are often throttled to a few megabits per second regardless.
If you’re going to be spending time in Estonia, you may not even need to bother with a local SIM. Tallinn alone has over 30 free hotspots, with download speeds of 15Mbps. In fact, as a Guardian article from a few years ago states:
You could walk 100 miles – from the pastel-coloured turrets here in medieval Tallinn to the university spires of Tartu – and never lose internet connection.
If you do want to pick up a SIM card while you’re in the country, though, here’s what you need to know.
- We recommend Elisa for most travellers
- Consider EMT if you're happy to pay a little more for a faster connection
There are three cell networks in Estonia, operated by EMT, Elisa, and Tele2. All three providers offer LTE on the 800, 1800 and 2600 Mhz bands, although as mentioned above, not every prepaid plan includes it.
Elisa’s cheapest plan only offers 3G service, limited to 2Mbps for downloads and 0.3Mbps for uploads.
EMT gives both LTE and 3G on its standard prepaid plan, limiting speeds to 10Mbps down, 2Mbps up. If mobile Internet speeds are important to you, you’re better off with EMT — while you can also get unrestricted LTE/3G plans with Elisa, you’ll pay more for less data.
In short: get an Elisa SIM if you want cheap, slow data access, and an EMT SIM for a faster, slightly more expensive connection.
I was only going to be in Tallinn on this trip, and was happy to use Wi-Fi if necessary, so I went for Elisa.
After arriving in Tallinn, I sought out a Rimi Supermarket — there are several located in the Old Town. The guy behind the counter spoke excellent English, understood exactly what I wanted, and sorted out absolutely everything for me, including entering in the following APN details:
No username or password
Easy! He handed it back to me and I was all done in under two minutes!
I paid €1 for the SIM card, and €3 for 50 GB of data, valid for one week. The same package valid for a month would have cost all of five euros. It’s cheap to get connected in Estonia!
As far as I could tell, no calls or texts were included with this. If you need them, just add extra credit when topping up. Local calls cost five cents a minute with a daily cap of 65 cents, and texts are five cents.
Given how much English is spoken, at least in Tallinn, you’ll be able to ask about other data, call and text options if you need something differen
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You can buy top-ups from many different stores in Estonia: supermarkets, post offices, kiosks, and more. Just look for the Elisa sign on the window.
COVERAGE AND DATA SPEEDS
I was impressed with the coverage I received with my SIM card — I had a full strength signal pretty much anywhere I went in Tallinn.
When it came to speeds, I was a little disappointed. I’d often receive faster speeds through connecting to the free public Wi-Fi, due to that 2Mbps throttle on my cell data. It was fast enough for email, maps and basic browsing, but much slower than usual when uploading photos.