Network Connection in Kyrgyzstan: what to choose and why.
Mobile connection is well-developed and easily accessible in Kyrgyzstan. Unlike in some neighboring countries, there is no need to register your passport data to get a SIM card. On the contrary, you get a free SIM card offer at the exit point in airports and cross-border checkpoints. If you don’t encounter or miss such an opportunity, you can obtain one as soon as you reach the city.
The first option is to get a SIM card from the offices of mobile operators. In this case, you will get detailed information about the available packages and options. It is also convenient to visit the office if you decide to keep your permanent SIM card and instead get an electronic SIM. On the other hand, getting a SIM card from the official dealer will require your passport to be registered to your new mobile number. Thus, there is no reason to stop by the office if,
- your visit to Kyrgyzstan is around or less than two weeks
- you prefer not to share personal information,
- and there is no need for an electronic SIM,
In this scenario, it is more convenient to stop at any local store and buy a SIM card for around 50 cents. The 50-cent SIM cards usually have a preinstalled tariff. You only need to place the sim card in your phone and upload a weekly/monthly fee.
Weekly fees start from around $1.5/week and offer 8-10 gigabytes of internet, free inter-network calls, and a few free minutes to other mobile operators. For $3/week, you can get unlimited internet, more free minutes outside of your network, and the ability to use your phone as a personal hotspot (yes, cheaper packages don’t offer this option for free).
Monthly fees start from around $5/month and offer 40 gigabytes of internet, 30 minutes of free calls outside of network, and personal hotspot data sharing. And finally, for around $10/month, you can have a package with unlimited internet and 100 free minutes outside the network.
There is not a big difference between the package fees among the three major mobile operators (Beeline, Megacom, O!). And there is no substantial difference in the quality of connection and coverage. Yet, each mobile operator has a slight edge over others in certain aspects. Here is a brief comparison of the three.
Beeline is the oldest mobile operator in Kyrgyzstan. It is usually the first operator to introduce new technologies and options. Its main advantage is the area coverage. In the mountainous areas where other operators fail to connect, Beeline remains as the lone survivor. For example, while visiting Kyrgyz-Ata National Park, Beeline is the only network that connects from the yurts of semi-nomads.
A primary advantage of Megacom is its popularity. It is the most used operator among the local population. It is crucial to consider this advantage if you are planning to stay long-term and have frequent direct calls within Kyrgyzstan. Otherwise, the price and network coverage in populated areas are similar to the ones of Beeline and O!
O! claims to have the best internet connection in Kyrgyzstan, citing independent analysis. I have not used O! within the last few years and cannot confirm it from my experience. But according to anecdotal evidence, O! indeed has a great internet, especially in urban areas. Again, when it comes to price, options, and connectivity in populated areas, it is almost the same as the other two operators.
So what to choose?
I myself use two SIM cards: Megacom and Beeline. I’ve been using Megacom since 2013, and most people know this number. I also use Beeline as it has network coverage in the areas where the other operators fail.
The choice of the mobile operator depends on your travel span, location, and activity. If you are traveling with friends or family members, you can get two different sim cards: Megacom (or O!) and Beeline. If one fails you with a poor or no connection, you can rely on the second. If you are a solo traveler, you can still consider getting two SIM cards. Getting two sim cards is a reasonable option considering the double sim capacity of most phones and the cheapness of the package in Kyrgyzstan.