View over old buildings and archways towards modern buildings and tower in Baku, Azerbaijan
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Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in Azerbaijan

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In the heart of the Caucuses and on the border of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is a country with a fascinating history that dates back at least three thousand years.

A popular destination during the Soviet era, the country has been rebuilding its tourism industry in recent years. While that effort has been paying off, with visitor numbers increasing every year, it’s still far from a tourist hotspot even so.

I had a wonderful time exploring Baku, a major trading port since ancient times and an important stop on the old Silk Road. The contrast between the medieval buildings within the old city walls and the modern towers just beyond them was incredible!

I didn’t find a lot of freely-available Wi-Fi as I was exploring in and around the city, but staying connected with a local prepaid SIM card or travel eSIM is easy. Prices are reasonable, and both speeds and coverage are good if you choose the right provider.

Here’s what you need to know.

Companies

  • I recommend an eSIM from aloSIM for most visitors
  • If you want a physical SIM card and local number, go with Azercell

There are three phone networks of any interest to visitors to Azerbaijan: Bakcell, Azercell, and nar mobile.

Azercell is the largest, with around half of the country’s phone subscribers and the most coverage. Bakcell and nar split the rest of the customers between them, and generally have slightly less coverage.

There are a few places where nar has service and others don’t, but they’re unlikely to be places you’ll be visiting as a tourist.

Azercell has some 5G service in Baku, Shusha, and elsewhere, while Bakcell has deployed (very) limited 5G in a few parts of downtown Baku. Regardless, all companies have fast, reliable LTE coverage in and around Baku and other good-sized towns and cities.

Because prices and packages are similar between providers and Azercell has more stores in downtown Baku, I’m recommending you go with them, but it’s unlikely to make much difference which one you choose.

If you’re intending to stay in Azerbaijan for more than 30 days, you’ll need to register the IMEI number of your phone online or at a post office in Azerbaijan, and pay a fee (based on the age of your phone model) to avoid it being cut off.

The IMEI restriction doesn’t apply to shorter stays, when roaming with your home carrier, or when using travel eSIMs.

Travel eSIM for Azerbaijan

On my most recent trip to Azerbaijan, I was only in the country for a few days, visiting Baku and the surrounding area. With no desire to line up with everyone else to buy (overpriced) physical SIMs after a late-night arrival into the capital, I decided to get a travel eSIM instead.

Jumping onto the airport Wi-Fi, I quickly checked the prices for the travel eSIM companies I usually use, and decided to go with Airalo. It worked fine for most things, but video calls weren’t great due to slow upload speeds, so I bought a data pack from aloSIM to compare it with.

Both download and upload speeds were much faster with aloSIM, so that’s who I’d recommend you use while you’re in Azerbaijan. There’s a pricing table below that’s updated every week, with details of all of the plans from the companies I recommend.

Like most travel eSIMs, it’s data-only: you don’t get a local number. I use apps for everything from communication to transport these days, so the lack of a local number rarely matters to me, but you might have different needs. With aloSIM, there’s also the option of a free US or Canadian number if you want it.

If you’re new to eSIMs, they offer big benefits to travelers in terms of how quickly, easily, and (often) cheaply you can get connected when you arrive in a new country. Most recent phones support them, and you can read all about them here.

One thing to note: if you’re on an extended trip and/or planning to visit multiple countries, it might also be worth looking at Airalo’s Discover global option.

With data packs of up to 20GB that last up to a year and work in 120+ counties, you can save a lot of money versus individual eSIMs. A friend has been using this option for the last few months on the road, and swears by it!

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Azerbaijan

Small kiosk at an airport selling SIM cards and other items
Need a SIM card at the airport in Baku? How about a rental car?

There are unfortunately no official carrier stores at Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport. If you want a physical SIM and need service immediately, there’s an unofficial kiosk with inflated prices, or if your phone supports it, you can buy an eSIM as above to tide you over.

Once you get into the city, just keep an eye out for the Azercell logo as you walk around. I saw several stores in downtown Baku, but if you’re struggling to find them, this one near popular Nizami Street is a good place to start.

SIM cards need to be registered when they’re purchased, so you’ll need your passport with you when you go to buy one. I spoke to a guy on my day tour who’d bought an Azercell SIM, and he said the process was quite easy and took about ten minutes once his number was called.

Prices are reasonable, and even though there’s an initial fee for the SIM card, it costs a bit less overall for the same amount of data than either of the travel eSIMs I bought. For short stays and/or lower data requirements, though, you’ll likely spend about the same either way.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs

Azercell

Exterior of a phone store with an Azercell logo. A wide, tiled, patterned footpath is outside.
Azercell store in downtown Baku

For a short stay like mine, the best option would have been the Azercell “Supersən” bundle. For 10 AZN (~$6 USD), you get 3GB of data and 300 minutes of domestic calls, valid for a month.

Pay 15 AZN (~$9) and you’ll get 6GB of data and 400 minutes of calls. Larger bundles are available as well, all the way up to 30GB/700 minutes for 39 AZN ($23). With all bundles, you get an extra 1GB of data for FB Messenger and WhatsApp messaging.

Remember that you’ll need to add an extra 5 AZN (~$3) to the price of whichever bundle you go for, to cover the initial SIM starter pack.

Tourist SIMs are sometimes available as well, typically offering a bit more data than the standard packs. Just look for the advertising in-store, or ask the staff member if there are any specials running at the moment.

aloSIM

I used both aloSIM and Airalo travel eSIMs during my stay in Azerbaijan, and given that prices are similar but aloSIM had faster service everywhere I tested it, that’s the one to go with.

In both cases, I paid $7 USD for a 1GB/7 day data pack. Several other options are available as well, lasting a maximum of a month, so just pick the duration and data allowance you think you’ll need.

Prices can and do change over time, so it’s worth double-checking the table below for the latest details before you decide. They’re updated every week, most recently on 13 May 2024.

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

Price (USD)

  • $7

  • $14

  • $21

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

Price (USD)

  • $7

  • $12.50

  • $17.50

  • $26.50

  • $48

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

Price (USD)

  • $11

  • $20

  • $28

  • $45

Topping Up

Azercell

The Azercell prepaid bundles all last a month: don’t forget that if you’re in the country longer than that, you’ll need to register your phone’s IMEI number with the government and pay the associated fee if you want to keep using it.

To top up, just head back to an Azercell store and buy a top-up card for the amount of credit you need. Follow the instructions on the card (or online here) to add the credit to your balance, and then text the shortcode for the package you want to buy from here.

You can also buy scratch cards from supermarkets or convenience stores, or using the payment portals listed on the Azercell site. In theory international debit and credit cards should work with those portals, but if you’re having trouble, go old-school and buy a scratch card instead.

aloSIM

Topping up with aloSIM (or any of the other travel eSIM companies) is done by logging into the website or app. You just select your Azerbaijan eSIM, hit the top-up button, and buy the same package again.

The top-up packs have exactly the same pricing and duration as the original eSIMs: there’s little difference between topping up your current eSIM and buying a new one, other than not having to activate it.

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Coverage and Data Speeds

As well as exploring both downtown Baku and some of the attractions on its outskirts, I took a day tour out to the mud volcanoes about an hour’s drive west of the city. I had reliable LTE service everywhere I went.

As I mentioned earlier, though, Airalo was noticeably slower than aloSIM anywhere I tested it, whether that was along the water in Baku, at the Atashgah Zoroastrian Fire Temple on the outskirts, or beside a mud volcano in the middle of nowhere.

Airalo can use both the Bakcell and Azercell networks, while aloSIM uses only the Bakcell network.

I had problems using apps like Google Maps when Airalo was using the Bakcell network, but they worked fine on Azercell. There was no issue with aloSIM on the Bakcell network, however, so it seems more of an Airalo problem than a Bakcell one.

Screenshot of aloSIM LTE speed test results, showing 155Mbps download and 24.5Mbps upload
aloSIM LTE speeds in Baku, Azerbaijan
Screenshot of Airalo data speeds in Baku, Azerbaijan, showing 35.9Mbps download and 2.32Mbps upload
Airalo LTE speeds in Baku, Azerbaijan

Check out our guides to SIM cards and eSIMs in 65+ other countries here.

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