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kuba.g 01-02-2013 02:27

Bulgaria mobile internet sim card
Can anyone recommend some sim card for use in Bulgaria? I'm looking for say 100-150 MB during a few days, and long account validity / low costs of keeping the SIM alive.

I have looked through the pages of the three main operators, but the costs of mobile internet seem incredibly very high. Prices are in the region of 10 BGN (€5) for 150MB (that's what M-Tel charges: M-Tel ) This is really close to what I'd pay for Roaming in Bulgaria with an EU card!!

NFH 01-02-2013 19:29

It does indeed seem disproportionately expensive for small allowances. According to Globul's web site, it's BGN 9.90 for 64MB, BGN 14.90 for 128MB, BGN 19.90 for 512MB and BGN 29.90 for 1GB. That's over five times the price per megabyte for 64MB compared to 1GB.

inquisitor 01-02-2013 21:34

Globul does not support EDGE on their GSM network and my experience on their UMTS network is also quite disappointing as bandwidth is low and I've seen a lot of packet loss, so I wouldn't recommend them. I think the state of the network is related to the financial problems of their parent, Greek OTE, who by the way is urgently looking for a buyer for Globul which is expected to yield enough to redeem half of those € 1.4 billion in debt to become due this year. Their total debt amounts to € 4 billion while EBITDA in 3Q2012 was € 430m.

Vivacom, which is the brand of the former state-owned monopolist BTC, provides great UMTS coverage since they are the only Bulgarian operator who has been deploying UMTS to the 900 MHz band (UMTS900) and so covers 98% of the population and 87% of the territory with UMTS. However their only prepaid data offer is the "Easy Traffic" tariff which gives you 1200MB valid for 120 days for 30 Leva (€15.34) and I don't know if they sell SIM cards separately or only bundled with a USB stick for 69 Leva (€ 35.28 ) as advertised on their website.

M-Tel as the oldest network in the country also provides very good UMTS coverage (UMTS2100 only) and has quite decent data tariffs. What even staff often doesn't realize is, that different tariffs apply when you register your SIM card and when you don't:

With registration ("С регистрация", pronounced "s registraciya") following data packages are available:
SURF 50 MB (50MB valid for 30 days) for 9.90 Leva (€ 5.06)
SURF 100 MB (100MB valid for 30 days) for 14.90 Leva (€ 7.62)
SURF 500 MB (500MB valid for 30 days) for 19.90 Leva (€ 10.17)
source: Мтел - Мобилен интернет - Прима::Мтел

SIM cards with registration cost 6 Leva.

Without registration ("Без регистрация" pronounced "bez registraciya") prices are much cheaper as there are the following SIM card offers:
SIM card + 1GB valid for 5 days for 9.90 Leva (€ 5.06)
SIM card + 100 MB valid for 15 days + 3 Leva of credit for 7.98 Leva (€ 4.08 )
SIM card + 400 MB valid for 120 days + 3 Leva of credit for 14.90 Leva (€ 7.62)
source: Мтел - Мобилен интернет - Прима::Мтел

And these are the options for additional data for unregistered SIM cards:
Prima Free Data 512 MB (512MB valid for 60 days) for 19.90 Leva (€ 10.17)
Prima Free Data 1500 MB (1.5GB valid for 60 days) for 29.90 Leva (€ 15.29)
Prima Free Data 1 GB (1GB valid for 2 days) for 9.90 Leva (€ 5.06)
Prima Free Data 5 GB (5GB valid for 30 days) for 49.90 Leva (€ 25.51)
source: Мтел - Мобилен интернет - Прима::Мтел

The only downside of those unregistered SIM cards is that they are blocked for all other services except for data. Also data roaming is unavailable.
Data sessions require a remaining credit of at least 0.30 Leva (except for when using the SIM card's included initial data).
You can subscribe to another data pack before the old one has been used up or has expired. In that case the remaining data volume will be carried over and its validity period extended according to the validity of the new data pack.

Unregistered SIM cards are activated by sending an empty text to 1617.

To order data packs text the desired amount of data as written and highlighted above to 1796. Be aware that for the 1.5GB you indeed need to text "1500 MB" while for the 1GB pack it's "1 GB" - so the inconsistent designations above are indeed correct.

You can check remaining data by USSD (*101#03#) and probably the old method of texting "balans" to 1796 still works, too.

Current balance can be requested by *101# and recharge vouchers can be redeemed by *100#code#

kuba.g 02-02-2013 18:18

Thanks Inquisitor :) that's exactly the info I was looking for. And I'm writing this from my unregistered M-tel card :)

inquisitor 03-02-2013 16:23

Welcome. Since MTel's website is not clear in this regard, I wonder if roaming is completely disabled for those unregistered SIMs or if you can register on foreign networks and use at least USSD. The latter would allow you to redeem a top up voucher bought before leaving the country from abroad in order to extend SIM validity.
Your SIM should be valid for 12 months after activation or your last recharge.

Btw postpaid subscriber of Mtel can recharge prepaid SIMs by SMS with 6, 10 or 15 Leva, which will be charged on the next monthly bill. So if you happen to know a postpaid subscriber on Mtel ask him to send your number followed by a comma and the desired amount to 1616. E.g. to send 6 Leva to a prepaid SIM with the number 08812345678 the postpaid subscriber would need to send the following text:

In case you need to keep your SIM alive, I can probably arrange such a transfer for you.

NFH 04-02-2013 07:15

Given the requirement to top up every 12 months, is it possible to buy a registered M-Tel SIM card without activating it so that the 12 month period starts ticking only when you first start using it?

inquisitor 04-02-2013 14:21

You mean an unregistered SIM. Can't answer that one, as I've never bought an unregistered one. But given the instruction on Mtel's website to activate the SIM by sending an empty SMS to 1616, I guess you can buy one and keep it unactivated for a while.

kuba.g 04-02-2013 21:29

Not only did my sim card register without any problems on the Turkish Vodafone network, I also received the usual SMSes containing the tariff info for SMS and data roaming :o checking credit and available MBs in roaming worked without any problems.
Unfortunately I chose the 1GB unregistered version of the sim card, so I had no possibility to try it out (no credit). If you'd really like to know I might be able to recharge it and test in in Romania tomorrow.

I'll paste the SMSes I received. (I don't have Google translate to my disposal via my mobile phone now)

Thanks for your offer to help keep the sim alive, I'll keep it in mind :)

kuba.g 04-02-2013 21:32

Zdraveyte, tsenata za izhodyashto povikvane ot Gartsia do BG e 0.68lv.s DDS, za vhodyashto povikvane e 0.187lv. Bezplaten nomer za klienti +35988137

Zdraveyte, tsenata za SMS do BG 0.211lv. s DDS. Nomerat za speshni sluchai e 112. Priyaten prestoy v Gartsia. Ekipat na Mtel

Zdraveyte, tsenata za prenos na danni za 1 MB e 1.642 lv. s DDS. Ekipat na Mtel

Zdraveyte, tsenata za izhodyashto povikvane izvan ES e 6.99lv.,za vhodyashto povikvane e 2.99lv., SMS - 1.29lv. Tseni s DDS. Nomer za klienti +35988137

Tsenata za mobilen internet izvan ES e 23.90lv s DDS/MB. Ako ne ste se otkazali ot limit za prenos na danni v rouming, toy e 117lv. Otkaz ot limit: SMS na 17834

inquisitor 04-02-2013 21:45

Thanks for your offer to test data roaming, but except for using USSD-based recharging I would never consider using an Mtel SIM abroad at these tariffs.

Google Translate wouldn't work as it can't handle Bulgarian input transliterated to the Latin alphabet, but as Bulgarian is my second mother tongue I can help:


Hello, the price for outgoing calls from Greece to Bulgaria ia 0.68 Lv. including VAT, for incoming calls 0.187 Lv., Free customer care at +35988137

Hello, the price for SMS to Bulgaria is 0.211 Lv. including VAT. Emergency number is 112. Have a nice stay in Greece. Your Mtel team

Hello, the price for data transfer is 1.642 Lv. for 1MB including VAT. Your Mtel team

Hello, the price for outgoing calls outside the EU is 6.99 Lv., for incoming calls 2.99 Lv., 1.29 Lv. for SMS. Prices include VAT. Customer care +35988137

The Price for mobile internet outside the EU is 23.90lv including VAT per MB. In case you haven't opted out for the monthly limit for data roaming, it is set at 117lv. Do opt out text to 17384.

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