Getting a SIM card in Israel! Is it difficult? Actually, yeah, kind of. I didn’t think it would be…
“I got a SIM card in India,” I thought, “How hard can it be?”
Oh, the hubris of man. Eight aimless hours later of traversing Tel Aviv and dealing with several Tel Avivian customer service workers (there’s an oxymoron if ever there was one) I was hooked up with a brand-spanking-new Israeli SIM card. With a pretty sweet amount of data too!
So, as fun as that adventure was, I imagine you may want to skip it if possible. Instead, I’ve written this guide to phones, SIMs, and phone plans in Israel. All of the muss with none of the fuss!
What is your best choice? Who is the best operator? What regional-exclusive Pokemon are obtained in Pokemon Go in the great state of Zion (slash Palestine)?
It’s all in here. Today, we’re unpacking everything you need to know about buying an Israel SIM card, be it for a short shindig or a longer stint of living.
Gotta catch ‘em all.
Table of Contents
- Let’s Break Down This Whole SIM Card in Israel Bizz
- Quick Jump – The Best Israel SIM Cards
- SIM To Israel – The Simplest Prepaid SIM Card in Israel
- Israeli SIM Cards Providers
- International SIM Cards - An Alternative to Buying an Israel SIM Card
- Some Final Tips before Buying a SIM card in Israel
- Final Thoughts on Buying an Israel SIM Card
Let’s Break Down This Whole SIM Card in Israel Bizz
Right, like I said. buying an Israeli SIM Card was way more complicated than I thought it would be. There are so many choices and stats flying at your face and sometimes all you’ll be told is “We don’t do tourist SIMs” which is very clearly not true. Take my goddamn money!
So, how we gonna do this?
First, I’ll introduce you to the simplest SIM card for Israel travel. It’s easy and this way, you’ll be able to skip the Tel Avivians trying to off you with their murderous glares.
Next, I’ll run through the major providers of SIM cards and phone plans in Israel. These guys offer standard plans and also prepaid choices for tourist SIM cards in Israel. I’ve broken these choices down by who I think they’re good for and I’ve skipped the crap choices because ain’t no one got time for that!
Lastly, I’ll talk about international SIM cards. Yeah, it’s technically not an Israeli SIM card, but a SIM you can use (mostly) anywhere is pretty goddamn handy!
Ok! Anything else before we hit the ground running? Yep.
You can buy an Israel SIM card at Ben Gurion airport when you land, but don’t. They’re overpriced and dumb. All the information I gathered for this post came from either online or in-person (complete with death stares) at Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv… so you don’t have to lose all sense time and matter in that void.
Just head there when you get to town. You can get a SIM card from most of the providers for phones in Israel there.
Quick Jump – The Best Israel SIM Cards
- The Simplest Prepaid SIM Card in Israel – SIM To Israel
- The Best SIM Card for Israel Travel – Pelephone Tourist SIM Card
- Plan B When Buying an Israeli SIM Card – Partner (Orange) Tourist SIM Card
- The Cheapest SIM Card in Israel – Hot Mobile Tourist SIM Card
- A Phone Plan for Longterm Travel in Israel – Cellcom Basic Phone Plan
- An Alternative to Buying an Israel SIM Card – International SIM Cards
SIM To Israel – The Simplest Prepaid SIM Card in Israel
Is it the cheapest and best SIM card for Israel. No… but it does save you a lot of leg work!
The deal here is that after you’ve ordered the card, it’ll be shipped to you BEFORE you travel to Israel. Once you land, on the date of arrival, it’ll be activated and, as they always say, badda-bing-badda-boom – yalla!
The benefits are kind of obvious. This isn’t the best value SIM card for Israel for longterm backpackers on a budget, but for anybody on a short trip to Israel, it’s perfect. No thinking required.
SIM To Israel Prepaid SIM Card Prices
There’s an Israel data SIM card and then there’s the full plan. The full plan comes with unlimited local calls and SMS PLUS unlimited calls and messages to the States and Canada for residents from there.
Now you have zero excuses not to ring your mum!
|Data Only||Price||Full Plan||Price|
|100 GB / 10 days||$30||30 GB / 5 days||$22|
|100 GB / 14 days||$35||30 GB / 7 days||$25|
|100 GB / 30 days||$55||30 GB / 10 days||$29|
|100 GB per month / 60 days||$89||30 GB / 14 days||$35|
|100 GB per month / 90 days||$120||30 GB / 21 days||$39|
|-||-||30 GB / 30 days||$45|
|-||-||30 GB / 45 days||$79|
|-||-||30 GB per month / 60 days||$89|
|-||-||30 GB per month / 90 days||$120|
Israeli SIM Cards Providers
Before we get to the hummus, we gotta chew through the pita. There’s a whole host of carriers for SIM cards in Israel and they’re all pretty competitive. There are, however, the three largest providers with the biggest coverage of cellular network across Israel. They are:
- Partner (previously known as Orange)
The remaining guys are still on-point with their data packages for Israel SIM cards, but you may not be streaming Netflix out in the Negev Desert.
Ok, good? Let’s dissect this then.
Moving right along from the sexy tables full of numbers, next I’m giving you what I reckon is the best option I found for getting hooked up with 4G in Israel. (Remember, you’re skipping buying an Israel SIM Card at the airport).
Instead, you’re heading to Dizengoff Center (or anywhere else) and finding the Pelephone shop. Pelephone is one of the three biggest providers for Israel’s cellular networks (meaning the largest area of coverage) and their tourist SIM card is a pretty sweet deal.
To get you going, it’ll run you 79 shekels ($23) and that includes the SIM purchasing fee. You get 39 GB a month with unlimited local calls and SMS and I was told this could be topped up monthly too for 20 shekels ($6). I’d say that’s a pretty damn excellent deal!
…If it’s true. Considering most prepaid tourist SIM cards in Israel only last a month I would double-check this if you’re planning on staying longer in the country.
Next up of the big three is Partner (previously known as Orange) and their deal for a prepaid Israeli SIM card is decidedly a bit more ehh. It’s not as good a deal as the Pelephone SIM card and there was no mention of the card working past the first month either.
- 1 week / 10 GB / 80 shekels ($23)
- 1 month / 35 GB / 100 shekels ($29)
However, being one of the three biggest carriers means they still have excellent cell phone coverage around Israel. The 1 week SIM is pretty crap and you’d be better off purchasing the SIM To Israel card at that point, but the 1 month card is a nice Plan B to Pelephone.
In case the Pelephone kiosk is closed. Or the clerk is mean to you. Or if you just think Pelephone is a dumb name and sounds like a phone operator run by pelicans.
We’ll get to the last of the big three providers in a second, but first, let’s talk about the little guys. The smaller providers of Israeli SIM cards (with less network coverage) include:
- Golan Telecom
- Hot Mobile
Of these, the only real standout is the Hot Mobile Israel SIM card: the others provide pretty comparable or meh deals in relation to Pelephone and Partner without nearly as good a coverage outside of Israel’s urban centre. So, Hot Mobile it is!
You get 20 GB of data and unlimited calls and SMS for 1 month for the low, low price of 50 shekels ($15)! Essentially, less data and less coverage at a cheaper price.
This is almost-definitely the SIM card I would have purchased while travelling Israel IF it wasn’t for that whole ‘working traveller’ thing.
Cellcom is the last of the big three and their tourist SIM card boggles my mind to no end. The internet tells me one thing, the store clerks tell me another, and either way, the deal still isn’t as good as Pelephone so forget ‘em!
So, why am I talking about them? Because they’re the only provider I found that would sell me a local phone plan for Israel - i.e. not a prepaid SIM card for tourists. Incidentally, it’s what I got thinking I’d stay the full 3 months in Israel.
It’s still bloody confusing though.
Here’s the deal: I paid roughly 360 shekels ($105). Now, before you puke at the price, understand that in reality, I paid 60 shekels ($17.50): 20 for the Israeli SIM card and 40 for the phone plan (ok, 39.90, but we’re rounding figures here). The rest is a deposit I get back when I cancel after a minimum of 45 days on the plan.
On Cellcom’s phone plan I get 30 GB a month, unlimited local communications, 500 minutes and 2500 SMS “internationally” (the States, Canada, plus some of Europe... so, not Australia - sorry, Mum). I also probably get some other bonuses too that I don’t care about.
So, this clearly isn’t the best deal for everyone, not to mention that it’s kind of a dickaround, but it’s a good choice of SIM card for anyone longterm travelling in Israel or looking to make Aliyah (settle in Israel).
UPDATE ON THE CELLCOM ISRAELI SIM CARD!
Welllll, they got me good! Yes, you did, Cellcom, ya lovable ragamuffin you.
Cancelling my Cellcom Israeli SIM card was a nightmare. After their top-tier customer service hung up on me because I don't speak Hebrew, I had to turn to an Israeli friend (you're the best; love you) to try and sort the mess. In her own words: "I hate Cellcom."
After two-ish weeks, I did eventually manage to cancel the phone plan, but, they refused to return my contractually owed deposit. Why? I dunno; he blocked me on WhatsApp like an adult!
So, all-in-all, I'd say if you need a phone plan for long-term travel in Israel or making Aliyah, don't go with Cellcom. They're clearly not the best Israel SIM card by a long shot. You'll get much the same deal from Partner or Pelephone and hopefully better customer service too. To the best of my knowledge, they still use the deposit system.
Oh, and if you meet a man named Or in Israel who works for Cellcom, do me a favour, would ya? Flick his nose real good. Just for me. 😉
Although buying local SIM cards in your travels ultimately works out cheaper, it also can be a real pain in the ass. Sometimes, it can be a bit sketchy too (depending on where you are).
If you’re someone who takes a lot more frequent and short trips - as opposed to one giant backpack-slinging slog - then an international SIM card might be the better choice for you. How do they work?
Well, the good ones work anywhere! (Mostly.) You’ll get data, calls, SMS, Tinder, from the moment you touch the ground in your new playground. They probably even work on the plane too!
How do you find the best international SIM card though? Well, unpacking that is a whole new journey. There are heaps of good ones and there are a bunch that you’re better off just using to pick your teeth with.
Read this awesome post on international SIM cards if they sound like a better choice for you.
Some Final Tips before Buying a SIM card in Israel
I feel like I’ve broken down the process of getting hooked up with mobile internet in Israel pretty succinctly, but there are a still couple last points I’d like to touch on:
- Take your passport when you go to buy a SIM card in Israel. Not all the stores I visited insisted on having it, but you’re better off taking it in case.
- If you’re looking for an Israel SIM card with unlimited data, you’ll need to get a plan. The tourist SIMs in Israel don’t offer this.
- If you want to look at a cell phone coverage map of Israel for different carriers, this is an excellent source.
- There were some discrepancies between the information I found online and information I received in-person at the phone shops in Israel (which is generally what I defaulted to in this post). Unless you’re avid in Hebrew, secondary sources is all you’ve got to go on - sorry!
It’s possible you may find some discrepancies yourself when you go to buy an Israel SIM card - lemme know if you do down below in the comments, please!
- At one point, the official kiosk for a carrier sent me over to an unmarked kiosk 10 feet away to buy the tourist SIM card. Not sure what this is about, but you’ll find all the official stores/kiosks in Dizengoff Center (except maybe Hot Mobile). Just look for the company logos.
- Dizengoff is an ungodly monstrosity - it’s a labyrinth and I hate it. The official Cellcom shop is outside on the street and the rest are inside the abyss. If you find one phone shop, the others are close by. They’re all in the same building and close to each other, albeit on different floors.
- The exclusive Pokemon you can catch in Israel (and around the Levant) is Tropius. Told you I’d cover it. 😉
Final Thoughts on Buying an Israel SIM Card
How’d we do? Pretty good I reckon! Somewhere in there, I reckon you’ll find the best SIM card for Israel travel to suit your needs.
Truth be told, there are so many providers that the Israeli tourist SIM cards are all pretty comparable and competitive. The Pelephone SIM card still edges the others out. For everything else, SIM To Israel is super convenient and skips the hassle.
Any last notes? Yup! The mobile internet in Israel is pretty dope! It’s well developed, the coverage is great in the rural areas (with Cellcom anyhow), and it’s fast!
It may get a bit confusing with all the different numbers and fees and deposit hassles, but with this guide, you’ll be hooked up with an Israel SIM card, data package, and number super easy!
You’ll be Hallo-ing left, right, and centre in no time.
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A man who appreciates the simple things in life: free food from trash cans, nights out under the stars, and befriending street animals. He goes on ridiculous adventures and then writes about those adventures so you can also go on ridiculous adventures! Ziggy has minor fame status throughout Asia for his incessant ukulele playing.