The world is more connected than ever, and it has become unthinkable for many to travel without having access to a data plan on the road. If you’re looking to purchase a prepaid Serbian sim card for your trip, here’s everything you need to know to buy a sim card in Serbia, including prices, companies, and an overview of our experiences getting Serbian sim cards on our last few trips to Belgrade and Nis.
Serbian Sim Card Companies
In Serbia, there are three network operators: VIP, MTS, and Telenor. Both MTS and VIP sell tourist sim cards, also known as visitor sims, with prepaid internet and cell phone minutes. Telenor ostensibly operates here, but see below for why we don’t recommend trying to use them while in Serbia.
This is the company we purchased from, and we were very happy with our service. We paid 300 Serbian dinars (about $3) for a prepaid sim card, which is 3GB of data plus 1000 calling minutes. This plan is good for seven days. After that, we have to go back and purchase a new sim. We purchased separate sim cards in Belgrade and Nis, and we purchased sim cards both in the store and at a kiosk. In all situations, the price was the same. The price was also displayed on the desk in front of the register. We paid with cash, but we were also able to pay with a credit card if we had chosen.
The VIP website lists a Visitor Sim package that we wanted for 990 dinar for 10GB that is good for 14 days. However, in the store, we were told this isn’t available. The price per GB is the same, but we will have to go back to top up. We didn’t get a good explanation about why this package is on the website but not available in the kiosk or stores.
MTS offers a tourist sim that is more expensive per GB (nearly double) but allows you to buy more gigs ahead of time, making this a good option for anyone who will be unable to revisit the store after a week. For 1800 dinar, you get 10 GB plus 30 minutes international calling and 120 minutes of domestic calling. You can see the details for this package on their website.
Telenor’s website lists a Prepaid Internet Tourist package of 10 GB for 545 dinars that is good for 15 days. However, we were not able to purchase one when we tried. My primary sim card when I am home in Sofia is Telenor, but my Telenor sim stopped working as soon as we crossed the border at Nis. It didn’t even go into roaming mode, even though I can use it roaming in places as diverse as Spain and Kyrgyzstan. Allison attempted to get a Telenor sim in Nis but was turned away from the store. So while it theoretically is possible to get a Telenor sim card, we weren’t actually able to buy one. If you successfully get a Telenor sim while in Serbia, let us know and we will update this post.
How to Buy and Activate a Sim Card in Serbia
You can buy a sim card either at the kiosks around town or at the actual store. In our experience, buying in the store is preferred. While the prices were identical, the instructions to activate the card from the kiosk were confusing, and we ended up having to go into a store in Nis to get it activated anyways. Thus, buying at the store saved us time in the long run and kept the headaches at bay.
The process for buying a sim card in Serbia was very easy:
- Wait in a long but fast-moving line in the store
- Discuss pricing with the teller. Since there was only one package available for tourists and it was displayed at the register, the process was relatively quick.
- The teller activated our sim cards.
- We paid and left with our receipt.
Even though the store was packed with people, the entire process only took about fifteen minutes. The teller we worked with spoke great English (as do most young Serbians), so there was no language barrier. Unlike some countries, we were not asked to sign anything, and we didn’t have to give out any personal data to get the cards. While we had our passports with us, we were not asked to provide them. The staff at the store was friendly and worked quickly.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave the store until you check that your data is working. Mine was not, and I had to go back to have them check it. A quick glance to make sure it’s up and running before you leave the store will save you time and hastle.
Getting a Sim Card in Belgrade
In Belgrade we purchased our sim cards at the VIP on Kneza Mihaila. The store hours are 9 am until 10 pm on most days, but they open later and close earlier on the weekends.
Address: Kneza Mihaila 9, Beograd 104102
There are also many other locations for VIP, and you can also check the MTS locations. Overall, there are far more VIP stores than MTS, but both are available in the capital.
Getting a Sim Card in Nis
In Nis, we purchased a card at one of the kiosks in the pedestrian part of the city. After having trouble activating it, we went into the VIP store. The store hours are 8 am until 9 pm most days, but they close early on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays.
Address: Kralja Milana bb, Niš 18000
There are two other VIP locations in Nis, along with three MTS locations.
FAQ about Buying a Sim Card in Serbia
Here are the questions travelers have most frequently before getting to Serbia.
What do I need to bring with me?
You will want to have your unlocked cell phone, cash or credit card, and your passport. If you have your cell phone with you, then the clerks at the store can make sure your card is activated. Your cell phone needs to be unlocked. If you have an American or Canadian phone, it is probably locked. Your carrier can unlock it for you. Contact them to do so before your trip.
While we were not asked for our passports to buy sim cards in Serbia, you want to have yours with you just in case. In most countries, showing a passport is required to purchase a sim card as a safety measure against terrorism and crime, and Serbian laws can change on this at any time.
Do I need a passport to buy a sim card in Serbia?
We were not asked to show any ID, but I would bring it with you just in case.
Can I buy a sim card for longer than a week?
After a week, you can go back to the store to activate a new week plan. We were not able to buy two weeks (or more) ahead of time.
Can I buy a sim card at the Belgrade airport?
Yes, but be careful! A new store in the Nikola Tesla Airport opened up this past summer. It is located right near baggage claim. They sell VIP, but the cost for the card is triple what you will pay at a normal VIP store. According to one Tripadvisor user:
There is now, as of July 2018, a stand right at baggage claim at Belgrade airport (fairly recent change, I don’t think it was there last time I came through, which was only a couple of months ago). A welcome change, for convenience only. They seem to resell Telenor products and maybe VIP (just took a quick glance).
Note – it’s great for convenience, but at a steep markup – about 3x the normal price for the same thing at any location in the city. For example, I think VIP Tourist SIM (3GB for 1 week) is EUR10, while only RSD300 (about USD3 or EUR 2.6) at normal retain locations. Still may be worth it if you really need connectivity right there and then – after all, no-one will go broke over extra EUR6-7. But even so, if you need more data or longer duration, I’d suggest buying minimum package to get you by for the first day, then get another in the city if staying longer.
Which cell phone companies have the best coverage?
VIP has the best coverage for web browsing in all three areas measured: large cities, small cities, and roads, according to the report on “Benchmarking test of mobile operators in Serbia” conducted in late 2017 by Systemics Group.
Does Serbia follow the EU’s International Roaming Rate Caps?
No, Serbia is not part of the EU. Therefore, your EU telecom company does not have to cap your roaming rates while you are in Serbia like they do in the EU. Therefore, we would suggest getting a local sim card that will be much cheaper than the roaming rate you’ll get hit with when you get back home.
Can I use my international roaming from the United States or Canada?
In the past, I have used Sprint international roaming while in Serbia. The speed was slower (and the plan was more expensive) than buying in Serbia directly. However, this is another option for North Americans traveling with international roaming plans.
Where Should I Stay in Serbia?
Still in the planning stages of your Serbia trip? Here are our recommendations for where to stay in Serbia for our top four can’t-miss Serbian cities.
Planning a Trip to Serbia? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Serbia with a valid travel insurance policy. While the country is safe, accidents can happen anywhere. If you experience an accident or theft, travel insurance will help you recover your costs and enjoy the rest of your trip.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Do you have experience getting a sim card while in Serbia, or are you planning a trip to Serbia soon? Leave your best tips and any questions below!
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.