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Note: This article is about how to buy a SIM card in Georgia the country, not Georgia the state in the USA! You can find US SIM card information here.
Bordered by Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Black Sea, the small nation of Georgia is technically in both Europe and Asia.
One of the country’s claims to fame is that many consider it to be the birthplace of wine, with 8,000-year-old wine jars discovered there in the past. I can confirm the wine made there today is both high-quality and affordable, by the way.
History buffs might also remember that in 1991 the country received its independence from the Soviet Union. I spent almost a month in Georgia, traveling from the Black Sea coast to the country’s capital of Tbilisi, and was impressed by how far the country (and its mobile network) has come.
When I first landed in Georgia, I began scouting for the adverts for SIM cards and mobile carriers you typically find plastered all over international airports.
To my surprise, however, I didn’t see any there (or most anywhere in the country.) There was one vendor giving out free SIM cards in the airport, but I steered clear until I could get more info about which network I wanted to go with.
My research turned up two main providers in the country, MagtiCom (which everyone calls Magti) and Geocell. Both offer pre-paid plans, LTE coverage, and have good reputations, but Magti is commonly considered the better option, with the best coverage across the country.
Since I planned to explore a lot of the country I decided to go with Magti, and I wasn’t disappointed.
After deciding on Magti, I needed to find a retailer. Fortunately Google Maps helped me with that, since the building housing the company in Batumi was a little understated and easy to miss.
I showed up there on a Sunday morning to find no line, and only one person working there. She was very helpful and spoke good English.
The only thing required was my passport, method of payment (yes, they accepted credit cards) and my signature on Magti forms. Because they were written in the Georgian alphabet I have no idea what I signed, but either way, the whole process took about 15 minutes.
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A Magti SIM card costs 2 GEL (around 80c USD or 70c EUR), and offers a variety of pre-paid plans for Internet and SMS.
I was traveling with other people, and ended up buying three SIM cards. I only needed a single passport to buy all three.
Since I was also doing some work while in the country and was concerned about how much data I’d use, I bought an unlimited data plan for one of the cards. Good for 30 days, it cost 150 GEL (~$62 / €53).
I bought the 4GB plan for the other two cards, which only set me back 10 GEL (~$4 / €3.50.) Since I bought three plans, the staff member decided to give me the SIM cards for free.
Topping up is a breeze. Banks have self-service kiosks throughout the country, both inside and outside the branches. You won’t have to look far to find them, they’re everywhere.
Different banks have different color-coded kiosks but all of them have top up options for Magti.
The kiosks have an English menu option. Just change the language (generally by tapping the UK flag) and the rest is self-explanatory. Select mobile payments, select Magti, enter your phone number, select the amount of data you want to buy, and pay by credit card or cash.
You can also top up on the Magti mobile app called MyMagti. You can add credit for phone calls, SMS or data with just a few taps, and can pay via a credit card in a matter of minutes.
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Coverage and Data Speeds
I noticed I had good LTE speeds as soon as I bought my SIM card in Batumi, but the real test would come days later when I took a slow-moving train across the country.
The trip took six hours, and the train was certainly dated. There was no Wi-Fi, no working electrical plugs, and no food. There was a bathroom, at least, and there was data via Magti’s network almost the entire time.
Granted it wasn’t the fastest of speeds while in the most remote spots, but it was consistent and usable the whole way. I was impressed.
The train arrived in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, and fast LTE speeds returned.