Obtaining a Serbian SIM card is not worth your time and efforts if you only plan to stay in the country for a couple of weeks. Large Serbian cities boast wide Wi-Fi coverage, and mobile providers in the states tourists come from offer competitive roaming rates. In certain situations however a local SIM-card is a must. To begin with, you need a Serbian SIM-card to open an account with a Serbian bank and activate online banking services.
Holders of Serbian SIM-cards enjoy other benefits as well:
- Payment for parking. Large Serbian cities have no free parking lots. It is most convenient to pay parking fees via an sms sent to a special number. In this case, the corresponding amount will be debited from the holder’s mobile account. Alternatively, you may pay parking fees by purchasing parking tickets from a ticket inspector, yet it is cheaper and faster to use your phone for this purpose. An extra bonus is that you don’t need to speak Serbian to do it.
- Paying public transport fares. In this case, you should also send an sms to a special number and the corresponding amount will be debited from your mobile account. You don’t need to know how to use ticket vending machines or pay transport fares in cash.
- Low roaming fees in the Balkan area. Serbia and its Balkan neighbors outside the EU have created a single mobile area network for the Balkan states. A subscriber to any Serbian cell phone plan can make calls to Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina using Serbian domestic rates and pay the same price for data transfer services necessary to use mobile Internet.
Mobile operators in Serbia
- Yettel Serbia. Till March 2022, the provider was known as Telenor. You should keep in mind the new company name as the rebranding took place a short time ago and as of early 2023, not all mobile shop signs were changed.
- MTS. This is the largest mobile operator in Serbia boasting the biggest number of subscribers.
- A1 Srbija. Known as Vip Mobile before 2021, the company was rebranded after its primary investor, i.e., the A1 telecom group from Austria.
- Globaltel is a virtual NVNO operator. The thing that differs the company from the other major providers in Serbia is that it allows ordering all necessary services and paying for them online in advance, that is before you arrive in Serbia. This is convenient if you don’t want to waste your time looking for a branded mobile shop.
There is no significant difference between the above companies:
- All providers dispose of enough cell towers in the country thus securing proper coverage.
- Mobile operators use 4G/LTE frequencies.
- They all offer not only physical but also eSim cards.
- SIM starter kits offered by all mobile operators are alike, you will pay 1000 RSD tops for a prepaid service package which equals USD 9.
Tariff plans for foreigners in Serbia
Tariff plans in Serbia mostly fall in 2 groups.
1. Prepaid tariff plans
These tariff plans are well-suited for foreign citizens. Subscribers have to refill their balance in advance. In return, they get a service package including sms, Inet traffic, minutes of use, and other bonuses like free use of messengers the subscriber chooses. After the data package has been used, the subscriber will again refill their phone balance. The terms are convenient, as no monthly fee is required and the subscriber is free to pause the service if they don’t consider it necessary to purchase the next package. However, the above pause may not exceed 6 months for their mobile number to remain active.
2. Postpaid tariff plans or general packages
The above tariff plans include unlimited Internet access, free roaming services in the Balkan area, discounts to purchase new phones, free recycling of your old phone, and many more. In early 2023, general service packages cost approximately RSD 2000 to RSD 4000 per month, which equals USD 19 to USD 37. What is peculiar about postpaid tariff plans is that you may only use the services after you have signed a 24-month contract with the provider and obliged to pay service fees for the chosen tariff plan regardless of what services you actually may need. An opportunity to make a service contract with a mobile operator is available to exclusively Serbian citizens and permanent residents of Serbia, provided they have a residence permit. Most Serbians however are in no hurry to enter into biennial commitments to mobile operators. Users often complain of receiving mobile phone bills even after the their contract has expired. In these circumstances, it takes time to discontinue the cooperation. This is why lots of Serbian citizens prefer prepaid cards, just like foreigners do.
What is so peculiar about mobile services in Serbia – things immigrants should be aware of
- Just like anywhere else in Europe, you will need ID documents to purchase a starter kit from a Serbian mobile operator. You may use your foreign passport for this purpose. This however is not true in 100% of cases. In official mobile phone shops, SIM-cards are indeed sold to customers only if the latter produce their passports. If personal data safety is an issue, feel free to choose a different place to purchase a SIM-card where no identity proof is required. These may be small special-purpose shops or dealer shops. It is also possible to order a virtual SIM-card online. Official mobile phone shops come with a number of benefits for customers. Salespeople will eagerly assist you with SIM-card activation and offer you advice and recommendations where necessary. Although phone packaging normally comes with phone settings, many people still need help to do everything correctly.
- In Serbia, no special restrictions are set for mobile phone users and the terms for foreign users and subscribers are quite loyal, which is not the case with Turkey. SIM-cards have no expiry dates in Serbia. They function while the holder needs mobile phone services and refills their account. Serbia comes with no special taxes on mobile gadgets. In Serbian mobile networks, foreign phones are not blocked. Local SIM-cards are compatible with any phone, regardless of where it was purchased, be it Eurasia, Africa, Middle East, Australia, or Oceania. The only risk is with mobile phones from either North or South America, as these regions use different radio frequencies and standards.
- All Serbian mobile operators offer individual starter kits for tourists yet the latter are not obliged to purchase these packages only. Tourists are free to choose any prepaid tariffs.
- You may refill your phone in any mobile phone shops that sell SIM-cards. Using the provider’s website or app for that purpose is also an option, if you have access to your bank card.
- Please mind that tariff plans have different terms and not all of them expire after 30 days. Some come with 5, 7, 10, or 15-day validity.
As you can see, every foreigner has an opportunity to pick a tariff plan in Serbia to best suit both their needs and period of stay in the country.