Your bags are packed, your route is planned, and you’re ready for your trip up north… or are you?
Most of us like to stay connected with family and friends even while traveling, and staying connected in Pakistan’s northern areas isn’t so straightforward. Different areas are covered by different providers, so the sim card you bring depends on where you’re going. To make things easier for you, here’s a list of the best mobile networks in Northern Pakistan based on coverage and signal strength, divided by area.
Remember that this is a loose guide. No mobile network has complete coverage anywhere. Regardless of what area you’re in, there will always be pockets without signal, and frustratingly slow speeds at time. Take it as a sign to to sit back and enjoy the nature instead!
Best mobile networks in Northern Pakistan
- Best mobile network in Gilgit: SCO
For a long time, Zong was the reigning champion of Gilgit… if 2G can count as “reigning”.
However, in recent times, the army-run SCO has been expanding to cover all of Gilgit-Baltistan. They’re currently offering 3G coverage (supposedly 4G is coming) in the area, so there’s nothing to stop you from picking up an SCO sim ASAP! SCO sim cards can be purchased from stores throughout Gilgit.
Read more: Gilgit District Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Hunza District: SCO
Hunza is in the same boat as Gilgit. SCO now covers the area and offers 3G connections, though if you already have a Zong sim card it should still serve you well.
If you’re traveling all the way up to Sost to see Khunjerab Pass and the China border, Zong will still serve you well within Sost and some of the surrounding areas.
Read more: Hunza District Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Skardu District: SCO
- Where to find a sim card: Stores around Alamdar Chowk in Skardu city
SCO strikes again! SCO also offers coverage in Skardu district. You should be able to find 4G or 3G connections throughout the more populated areas of the district.
If you’re heading to K2 Base Camp, know that satellite phone will be your only option for communications en route.
Read more: Skardu District Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Neelum Valley: SCOM
- Where to find a sim card: Bank Square in the Chatter area of Muzzaffarabad
This is Kashmir, so of course the army-run SCOM will provide the best coverage.
Read more: Neelum Valley Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Chitral: Telenor
Good luck finding signal in Chitral without a Telenor sim.
Read more: Chitral Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Kalash: Telenor
Telenor is your only bet when in Kalash, so stock up on your Telenor credit! You’ll be lucky to see any bars at all in Kalash if you’re with any other mobile network.
Read more: Kalash Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Naran-Kaghan: Telenor
If you’re heading to Naran, Telenor is your best bet. However, don’t get your hopes up! The most you’ll find in Naran is Edge connection, which we all know doesn’t do anything. You’ll have to go without internet while in Naran-Kaghan.
Read more: Naran-Kaghan Travel Guide
- Best mobile network in Swat Valley: Zong
Heading to the Kalam Valley… or anywhere else in Swat, for that matter? Zong is your best bet, though Telenor and Ufone offer some coverage. You should be able to find 3G Zong signal throughout parts of Swat Valley, though for the most part you’ll be restricted to Edge.
Read more: Swat Valley Travel Guide
How much does a sim card cost?
SCOM sim cards cost 250 Rs for a sim and some data. If you want to upgrade your sim to 4G coverage, it’ll cost you 350 bucks.
Prices are dependent on the plan you get, and whether you choose prepaid or postpaid. See the Telenor site for more information.
Same goes for Zong as for Telenor. Costs are dependent on plan.
What sim did you use in the northern areas?
Have you recently visited the northern areas? What mobile provider’s sim did you use, and how was the coverage? Share your experience in the comments, so you can help future travelers choose the right sim card.