Georgia is one of my favorite countries in Europe (Asia?) for a variety of reasons. There are a few things that I didn’t like but I can safely say that buying a mobile sim card was not one of them.
Georgia has one of the best, fastest, and cheapest mobile internet infrastructures I’ve ever seen. For a country with a GDP per capita of about $6000USD, it offers extremely fast mobile 4G and 5G speeds at a basement bargain price.
If you’re looking to visit Georgia for a few days or a few months, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to get connected.
Georgian Mobile SIM card providers
Georgia has three main mobile providers: Magticom (Magti), Beeline, and Geocell. All of these providers are well represented in the main cities of Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi with varying degrees of coverage as you venture into the remote regions of the country.
Here is a general breakdown of the three providers as I actually experimented with all of them (purely out of curiousity)
- Magti: By far the largest and most complete mobile provider in Georgia. Their network provides the largest coverage with fast speeds and great prices. The customer service was also very nice in the stores
- Beeline: The next level below Magti. Good coverage with fast speeds. Very unfriendly and unhelpful in store attendants however. I ended up visiting two different stores in Tbilisi because the first experience was so bad.
- Geocell: Mostly for cities but at cheap prices. I wouldn’t bother with Geocell if you are planning to travel the whole country. Things could change in the future of course.
Do not get the sim cards at the airport
As part of Georgia’s big tourism push, the three major mobile providers offer a “tourist” package which includes a data and call bundle.
For someone landing at the airport, this might seem tempting to pick up as you’ll have service right away. The problem is this plan is generally a terrible deal.
Above is an example of the plans that Magti offers for their “tourist package”. As you can see, you get unlimited SMS and calls as well as 3GB and a SIM card for 30 GEL. This might seems like a good deal at under $10 USD but it really isn’t a good deal once you see the prices of SIM cards in the next section. You will probably not call a single person by old school calling. Everyone in Georgia uses Whatsapp, FB messenger, Viber etc. 3GB is not that much data either in this day and age.
You cannot purchase regular SIM card plans at the airport, so you should just wait until you reach the city and visit one of the Magti, Beeline, Geocell stores.
Do you need a sim card in Georgia?
Georgia is quickly becoming the digital nomad hotspot of the world. Tbilisi has become the de facto digital nomad capital in recent years partly due to the cheap cost of living and the advanced digital infrastructure.
All over Tbilisi you will find cafes, restaurants, stores with wifi networks ready to be used. There is also an “Tbilisi Loves You” public wifi network in the main streets of the city that is completely free of charge. However, I found this wifi network to be a bit spotty and not something you should rely on full time.
If you are spending a few days in Tbilisi and going home shortly thereafter, you probably don’t need to have non stop connection. However, if you’re planning to spend extended amounts of time in Tbilisi and/or see the rest of the country, having a sim card will surely make life easier.
Wifi availability is questionable at best as soon as you leave the main cities but the mobile connection is still quite good.
If nothing else, having a sim card is great when you are out on the town and want to call a Bolt taxi to take you home, Google Maps on the go, or Google Translate. For the prices that you pay for 4G or 5G service in Georgia, it is really negligible in my opinion.
Another fantastic reason to get a SIM card is the ability to make WIFI hotspots when you are traveling in areas with limited wifi. For those planning to do the digital nomad thing in Georgia, wifi is questionable when you get into more remote areas.
If you’re using the unlimited data plan from Magti, you can make a hotspot anywhere there is 4G which really comes in handy.
As far as I know, hotspotting does not have additional cost so just use away!
How much does mobile data cost in Georgia?
I’ll just preface this section by saying, not much. Mobile service is very affordable in Georgia. I’m not sure where it ranks among the cheapest data options in the world but it has to be up there.
Each provider has different mobile packages to choose from but you’ll find that all of them are affordable.
As of writing this in 2021, these are examples of current prices on offer:
Here is a run down of the data options on Magti.
As you can see, the obvious choice to choose here is the Unlimited 5. Yes you read it correctly. This means it is 5 GEL for unlimited data for one week!! I’m not sure if this is a limited time promotion but during my time in Georgia, it is what I went with.
I’m not sure why they even offer the other plans when the Unlimited 5 is the clear winner. If you’re staying for longer than one week, you can simply top up your balance and renew the same package weekly. So in one month, you’ll only pay 20 GEL for unlimited data!
Here is the price chart of Geocell
As you can see, the prices are quite similar to that of Magti. However, there is no Unlimited weekly data plan which makes Magti the clear winner. Also, the coverage on Magti is much more comprehensive.
Finally, Beeline also has competitive prices:
In fact, the 3 GEL for 9 GB in one week is probably even cheaper than the plan from Magti. It’s unlikely you’ll use 9GB in one week. If you do consume this much data, then Magti is the way to go.
What about calling minutes?
It’s unlikely you’ll be making many normal phone calls in Georgia. However, I wanted to have a few minutes available just incase I needed to call a hotel or a restaurant while traveling around Georgia.
I ended up buying 60 minutes of calling over 30 days for 5 GEL with Magti.
Speeds of Mobile Data in Georgia
I had Magti and Beeline while in Georgia. The speeds are incredible given I didn’t really have much expectation for what Georgia had to offer.
I used the speedtest app for both sim cards and this is what I got:
115 Mbps Download | 66 Mbps Upload
65 Mbps Download |40Mbps Upload
If you’re worried about working in Georgia and not having good enough internet, calm yourself down now because you will be well taken care of.
How to get a SIM Card from Magti
So now that you know all there is to know about Georgian SIM cards, it’s time to go and get one. The process for obtaining a sim card is very easy. I was recommended Magti from others so this is the first sim card I got and also the one I would recommend you get as well.
Visit the main Magti store in the city center of Tbilisi. The address is 22 Shota Rustaveli Ave, Tbilisi
What you need to bring with you
Here are the things you’ll need to provide in order to buy a mobile SIM Card in Georgia:
- Passport: First and foremost, you’ll need your passport. This has to be your physical passport as a digital copy on my phone didn’t cut it (I forgot to bring my passport)
- Any other ID (Drivers License or Residence Permits): I forgot my passport at home but it turns out that the passport isn’t a hard requirement. They also accepted drivers license or other forms of ID. I provided my German drivers license as well as my German Blue Card residence permit which they accepted.
- Card or cash for payment (Visa/Mastercard only)
Step by step instructions for getting a Magti SIM Card
Once you have all the required things, walk into the Magti store in the city center. The store did not strike me whatsoever as a place that sells phones. It was mostly empty inside and instead of having customer service representatives walking around helping people out, they all sat behind counters as if they were selling you packaged tours.
- Upon walking in, you’ll want to grab a number from the electronic ticket dispenser.
- Wait for your number to be called and walk to the respective desk
- Ask to buy a SIM Card. My guy was quite nice and explained to me all the packages available. As you read in the section above, I went with the 1 Week unlimited data for 5 GEL which I still think is absolutely ridiculous.
- Provide them with your passport or other ID
- Pay for the service.
- They will then give you your sim card which you can install at the counter. Give it a few minutes and double check to make sure it works properly.
- They should then give you a document to sign which also has your phone number
- Download the MyMagti App which you can use to top up your account on the go
- Voila, that’s it! The whole process took no more than 10 minutes.
How much did I pay for mobile service in Georgia?
In total, I paid for the one week unlimited data plan, the 60 minutes of calling over 30 days, and the sim card. The cost breakdown is as follows for my one month stay in Georgia:
- SIM card = 3 GEL
- 60 minutes of calling over 30 days = 5 GEL
- One week of Unlimited data = 5 GEL * 4 weeks = 20 GEL
- Total = 20+5+3 = 28 GEL ($9)
Topping up your account at the electronic kiosks all over Town
If you can’t figure out how to get your MyMagti app working for topping off your account, you can simply visit one of the hundreds of electronic kiosks in town. These kiosks are used my Georgians to pay for every day bills and mobile data is one of them.
You can reload credit for your account by simply typing in your phone number. You can select how much money to add and then pay with either card or cash. These machine sometimes take a small commission but it’s negligible in my opinion.
For example, I used this machine to add 5 GEL to my account so I could pay for another weeks worth of unlimited data.
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