Looking up at tall modern buildings, near a palm tree in Kuwait City
| |

Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in Kuwait

We may earn a commission from purchases you make after clicking links on this site. Learn more.

It’s fair to say that Kuwait isn’t the most popular of tourist destinations.

A small country sandwiched between two much larger neighbours in the Persian Gulf, there isn’t much to lure foreign holidaymakers beyond an annual camel racing tournament, and the Kuwaiti government doesn’t have much interest in changing that.

I like visiting places like this, though: they have a completely different vibe to the many other countries around the world that get tens of millions of visitors each year.

Kuwait’s small size also made it easy to get a sense of the country in a few days: it was nice to not have to devote weeks to exploring somewhere for a change!

Having a working phone proved useful, especially in Kuwait City. It’s a car-focused place that isn’t very walkable, even in winter when temperatures were reasonable. That meant calling a lot of taxis, and using Google Maps to find non-obvious walking routes the rest of the time!

Staying connected with a local SIM card is easy, and you get a lot of data no matter which plan you go for, but like many things in Kuwait it’s not particularly cheap. Fortunately there’s another option: I talk about both alternatives below.

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 Zain or Ooredoo

There are three phone networks in Kuwait: Zain, Ooredoo, and STC.

You’ll find Zain across the Middle East, but Kuwait was where it started. It’s the largest mobile company in the country, with the most subscribers and good coverage anywhere you’re likely to be.

Ooredoo has similar coverage and pricing, while STC runs a distant third in terms of both coverage and customer numbers. Its cheapest plan is also more expensive than the other two, so as a visitor there’s no particular reason to choose it.

5G service is available throughout the country with all three operators, but note that the cheaper prepaid plans don’t typically include it.

All of this is assuming you need or want a physical SIM card, of course. I’ve mostly switched to using travel eSIMs these days, and Kuwait was no exception.

Because I didn’t need a lot of data and was only in the country a few days, a travel eSIM turned out to be a much cheaper (not to mention more convenient) option, so that’s what I ended up buying.

Travel eSIM for Kuwait

After researching the prices, I realised that I’d save both money and time by using a travel eSIM to stay connected during my time in Kuwait.

Before leaving for Kuwait, I bought an eSIM from Airalo, a company I’ve regularly used elsewhere. While I had service with it everywhere I went, speeds were very slow, to the point where I was finding it frustrating.

After the first day, I decided to buy a data pack from aloSIM to see if it would be any different. Turns out it was: both uploads and downloads turned out to be dramatically faster.

Since there’s usually very little if any cost difference between the two companies (there’s a pricing table below, updated each week), it’s an easy recommendation to make. If you’re after an eSIM for your time in Kuwait, go with aloSIM.

I used mine mostly for text and voice chat with my partner, navigating around the city, and calling rides from Careem (the local Uber equivalent) to take me from place to place. It worked well wherever and whenever I needed it, with good service everywhere.

Like most travel eSIMs, you don’t get a local number. I use apps for everything from communication to transport these days, so it very rarely matters to me, but you might have different needs. With aloSIM, there’s 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.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Kuwait

View from outside a phone store at an airport that has a Zain logo above the entrance.
The Zain mobile store at Kuwait airport

All three carriers have stores in the arrivals area of Kuwait International Airport: the Zain store in particular was quite busy as I walked past it.

You don’t have to buy at the airport, but since you’ll pay the same there as anywhere else in the country, there’s no real reason not to unless there’s a long line and you’re in a hurry.

If you do decide to wait until you get into Kuwait City, you’ll find stores from all three companies in shopping malls and other commercial areas throughout the city. Zain and Ooredoo have more stores than STC, but you won’t struggle to find any of them.

Just be sure to have your passport with you, as it’s a legal requirement when registering the SIM card to you.

Whichever company you decide to go with, you’ll quickly notice two things: prices for SIM cards and bundles are quite high, and you get a lot of data even with the smallest packages.

That’s great if you’ll use it all, but not ideal if you’re only in the country for a few days like I was.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs

Zain

All companies charge 5 KWD (~$16.50 USD) for a SIM starter pack, which includes the physical SIM and 5 KWD of credit that you can use towards whichever call/text/data bundle you want to buy.

Conveniently, Zain’s cheapest “eeZee” prepaid pack also costs 5 KWD, and gives you 30GB of data and 100 domestic calling minutes, valid for a month. That’s not a typo: the smallest pack really is 30GB!

Add a couple of dinar and you’ll get double the data and 250 minutes: prices and inclusions continue upwards from there.

If you only need data, you can even buy (online-only) packs that go all the way up to 2TB of data, valid for 90 days and costing 15 KWD (~$49 USD). Even over a three-month period, you’ll need to watch a lot of YouTube videos to get through that much.

Zain also lets you build your own bundle with a custom mix of calls, texts, and data, but since the minimum spend is still 5 KWD, there’s likely not a lot of benefit unless you plan to make a lot of calls.

aloSIM

As I mentioned, I used both aloSIM and Airalo travel eSIMs during my stay in Kuwait, and had a much better experience with aloSIM. Given how similar the prices are, that’s definitely the one to go with.

In both cases, I paid $4.50 USD for a 1GB/7 day data pack. Several other options are available as well, with up to 20GB of data and lasting a maximum of a month, so just pick the duration and data allowance you think you’ll need.

You’ll usually save money with either eSIM if you need 5GB of data or less for your stay. That should cover the vast majority of short-term visitors to Kuwait; I didn’t use anywhere near that much. Beyond that, local physical SIMs become better value.

Prices can and do change over time, though, 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

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $4.50

  • $8

  • $10.50

  • $15

  • $25

  • $40

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $4.50

  • $8

  • $10.50

  • $15

  • $25

  • $40

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

Price (USD)

  • $9

  • $14

  • $20

  • $32

Topping Up

Zain

The Zain prepaid bundles all last at least a month, and given how much data is included, I’d be pretty amazed if you got through it all before it expired.

If you’re in Kuwait for an extended trip, however, and do need to renew your prepaid package, it’s easy to do. Either head to a Zain store or the Quick Pay section of the website to add credit, then just text the number for the pack you want to 999.

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 Kuwait 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.

Get regular updates from the world of travel tech and remote work

News, reviews, recommendations and more, from here and around the web

Coverage and Data Speeds

I explored all over Kuwait City on this trip, both the downtown area and around the outskirts, and had reliable LTE service everywhere I went with Airalo and aloSIM.

As I mentioned earlier, though, Airalo was significantly slower than aloSIM anywhere I tested it, whether that was at the airport, along the waterfront, inside a shopping mall, or beside a busy highway while gazing at an attractive set of water towers. No, really.

Both aloSIM and Airalo use the Zain network, so you can expect to be able to use your phone throughout the country either way, albeit with very different upload and download speeds!

Screenshot of aloSIM LTE speeds in Kuwait City, showing 117Mbps download and 39.7Mbps upload
aloSIM LTE speeds in Kuwait City, Kuwait
Screenshot of Airalo LTE speeds in Kuwait City showing 1.77Mbps download and 0.15Mbps upload
Airalo LTE speeds in Kuwait City, Kuwait

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

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *