Sarajevo square

Buying a SIM Card in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  by Keir BriscoeNo Comments


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Traveling through Bosnia feels like walking through a history book. Ottoman empire influences can be seen in the architecture, food, and religion, as can remnants of the war in the 1990s.

Abandoned buildings full of bullet holes are a common sight in towns and cities, and cemeteries dot surrounding areas.

Islam is the main religion, but there’s a healthy Christian minority, with many other religions also having a presence. Each of these has added to the local culture, and from a tourist perspective at least, appear to coexist with little tension.

Churches and mosques sit in close proximity. Walking around you hear both church bells alongside the Muslim call to prayer. All this adds to the unique flavor of a truly European, albeit primarily Muslim, country.

Bosnia generally isn’t a costly place to visit, but being in November made things even cheaper. Going out of season also meant I had the walk down Sarajevo’s famous 1984 Olympic Bobsled track almost to myself.

If you want to stay connected, SIM cards are easy to buy in almost every grocery store, news stand, and post office. I found the prices to be very low, even compared to other inexpensive countries like Poland and Hungary.

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Companies


  • We recommend BH Mobile for most travelers

There are three main service providers in Bosnia, collectively covering around 80% of the population. Most of the country is still using 3G, although BH Mobile is currently installing 4G/LTE service.

The company’s marketing suggests 4G is available in urban areas, but I never saw it despite spending nearly all of my time in the capital, Sarajevo.

The main providers are:
• BH Mobile (BH Telenor), with a little over 40% market share
• M:tel also has around 40% of the market
• ERONET makes up the other ~20%

Many resellers are also available. I didn’t look into their packages closely, as I prefer using a primary service provider. The main companies are inexpensive in Bosnia anyway, and I didn’t want to waste time researching the small guys.

I chose BH Mobile based on the recommendation of staff at the hostel I stayed at. They have specific tourist plans with generous features for low prices, and the company generally has the strongest connection and best speeds within Sarajevo.

Note that Bosnia isn’t part of the EU or EEA, so you don’t get free roaming there. It is part of the Balkan Roaming Zone, however, so you can use Bosnian SIM cards in Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia at a capped rate of €0.20/MB .

Likewise, if you already have a SIM card from any of those countries, you can continue using it in Bosnia at those lower rates.

How


I entered Bosnia by bus, arriving at the main station in Sarajevo. I didn’t see a kiosk to buy SIM cards there, but there is a newsstand selling them beside the tram station, about a five-minute walk away. Unless you’re taking a taxi or Uber to your accommodation, you’ll likely end up at the tram station anyway.

SIM cards don’t require registration in Bosnia, so no passport or other ID is required to buy them. They’re available at newsstands, the post office, bookstores, and telecom stores. Honestly, Bosnia is the easiest place I’ve ever bought a SIM.

I searched for a store location for BH Telenor, and Google Maps took me to the corporate office… where they don’t actually sell SIM cards. Thanks, Google. One of the front desk employees, a cool guy named Read (Re-ad), helped me out.

He walked me to the nearest convenience store and hung out with me until I got the card set up. I’d planned to buy the Ultra Tourist 1 package, but the clerk at the store introduced me to the Ultra Starter plan instead. It was cheaper and still met my needs, so I went for that instead.

The setup process was super easy. After inserting the SIM, I entered the PIN code (which according to Read is apparently 0000 for almost every SIM in the country,) and received a text almost immediately saying the card was set up.

A little later, however, I noticed I only had a partial connection. Messenger worked, for example, but Google Maps didn’t. The next day I popped into one of BH Telenor retail stores and mentioned my issue. The representative made a few changes to my APN, and voila, 30 seconds later, everything worked.

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Costs


BH Mobile’s Ultra Starter, Ultra Tourist 1, and Ultra Tourist 2 plans are the most-recommended options for visitors, with a range of features and validity periods.

Ultra Tourist 1 costs 20 KM ($12 USD), and includes 15 GB data and 5 KM for voice and text credit, valid for 10 days.

Ultra Tourist 2 doubles everything and lasts longer. There’s 30 GB data, 10 KM of voice and text credit, and costs 40 KM ($24.) It’s valid for 30 days.

BH Mobile SIM card package

I only planned to be in Bosnia for a week, and don’t use much text or voice, so I went with the Ultra Starter Plan. For a mere 5 KM ($3) you get 1 GB of data, valid for a week. There’s also 3 KM of voice and text credit, which lasts for 30 days.

More details are available in English at the BH Telecom website.

Topping Up


You can top up anywhere you find SIM cards, which as mentioned, is pretty much everywhere. Various options are available, starting at 1 KM ($0.60). Topups are valid for between 7 and 180 days, depending on the amount purchased.

• 1-2.99 KM: 7 days
• 3-4.99 KM: 10 days
• 5-9.99 KM: 30 days
• 10-19.99 KM: 90 days
• 20+ KM: 180 days

The BH Telenor website claims you can top up the Ultra plans at ATM’s for UniCredit Bank and Raiffeisen Bank, though I never tried it. I didn’t see any way to top up online using a credit card.

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Coverage and Data Speeds


My data speeds weren’t mind-blowing, but they were usable. I got good speeds in downtown Sarajevo, but they were slower when I was at my hostel in the east of the city.

On the trip from Sarajevo to Gradiska (beside the Croatian border), coverage disappeared in mountainous areas, but everywhere else was no problem.

BH Mobile Bosnia speed test

BH Mobile HSPA speeds in Sarajevo

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

About the Author
Keir Briscoe

Keir Briscoe

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Growing up, one of Keir's biggest dreams was to explore the world, though he never thought it would become his reality. At the end of 2014, he quit his job as a project manager, sold most everything he owned, and set out to see the world. His travel goals are to make new friends everywhere he goes, become a better photographer, and avoid cold locations. You can find him at keirbriscoe.com.

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