Saudi Arabia boasts a fast and robust mobile network with three main operators: STC, Mobily, and Zain. Zain is the second largest mobile provider, covering 99% of populated areas with excellent 4G and emerging 5G coverage. It’s a great option for tourists visiting the Kingdom seeking quality connectivity at affordable rates. This blog takes an in-depth look at Zain SIM card and eSIM for visitors, covering their network coverage, SIM cards, eSIM, rates, top up options and more.

Zain SIM card and eSIM

I. Quick facts about Zain

  • Zain is the second largest mobile network in Saudi Arabia after STC, with over 8.4 million subscribers.
  • It has extensive 4G/LTE coverage reaching 99% of populated areas and over 63% geographic coverage.
  • 5G rollout commenced in 2019 and is rapidly expanding across all major cities.
  • Prepaid Zain SIM card prices start from as low as 25 SAR (around $7) with calling rates from 0.25 SAR per minute.
  • Data-only plans are available, along with bundles offering minutes, texts and data.
  • eSIM is supported on latest iPhone models for prepaid and some postpaid plans.
  • Zain has over 1300 stores across Saudi Arabia for easy SIM purchase and top ups.
  • Online recharge can be done through Zain’s website and app using credit/debit cards.

II. Saudi Arabia Zain Coverage and Speed

1. Zain coverage in Saudi Arabia

Zain SIM card covermap
  • Zain has excellent population coverage at 99% across Saudi Arabia and a geographic reach of over 63%.
  • 4G/LTE is available in all major cities and towns including Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Taif, Dammam, Khobar, Tabuk, Abha, Najran and Al Bahah among others.
  • Newer technologies like 5G and VoLTE are being rapidly rolled out for enhanced data speeds and call quality.
  • 5G networks are live in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Al Khobar and other big cities with wider expansion planned.
  • 2G fallback is available in rural villages and remote areas outside of major urban centers.

2. Zain speed

Zain SIM card download speed
Zain SIM card upload speed
  • In OpenSignal’s May 2022 report, Zain had average 4G download speeds of 44.6 Mbps – faster than Mobily but just behind STC.
  • Opensignal recorded average 5G download speeds on Zain of 201.6 Mbps, the third-runner.
  • The network performed well in OpenSignal’s 4G availability metrics. Users saw a 4G signal over 95% of the time in many cities. This means fast internet is just about always accessible when needed.
  • Coverage extend further into smaller towns and communities compared to Mobily and STC. Zain helps connect rural and remote areas that might otherwise lack mobile infrastructure.

III. Zain connectivity options for travelers to Saudi Arabia

Zain offers prepaid SIM cards and eSIM for tourists and short term visitors to get connected quickly and conveniently in Saudi Arabia:

  • Prepaid SIM – Available for purchase at Zain stores, kiosks, supermarkets across Saudi. Needs a handset that takes regular Zain SIM cards.
  • eSIM – Digital SIM profiles that can be activated on eSIM compatible iPhone models. Don’t require a physical SIM.
  • Tourist SIM – Special prepaid SIM targeting visitors sold at airport arrival shops. Come pre-activated with bonus credit.
  • Data-only SIM – Allow using mobile internet without any calls or texts. Available as prepaid SIM or eSIM data plan.

IV. Best Zain SIM cards for tourists & cost

Zain’s prepaid SIM card lineup offers plenty of flexibility for tourists to Saudi Arabia:

Prepaid Zain SIM Cards

  • Regular Prepaid – Available from $6 with domestic calls at $0.06/min. Valid for 180 days.
  • Visitor Line – Special prepaid SIM for tourists with ~$26 credit. Valid for 30 days. Sold at airports.
  • Data SIM – Prepaid data-only SIM starting from ~$13 for 10GB valid 30 days. Ideal for tablets/hotspots.
  • Recharge Cards – Top up vouchers from ~2.6 to ~133 sold across Saudi Arabia. Valid for 180 days from recharge.

Prepaid SIMs can be purchased by foreigners by presenting a passport at Zain stores. SIM costs and calling rates are very reasonable.

V. Does Zain Saudi Arabia support eSIM?

Yes, Zain launched eSIM support in February 2022 enabling compatible Apple iPhones to activate Zain service through a digital profile:

  • eSIM currently works on iPhone XS, iPhone XR and newer models.
  • Both prepaid and some postpaid plans can be activated as eSIM.
  • eSIMs provide greater convenience than physical SIMs as they can’t be lost/damaged and allow dual SIM.
  • Tourists can purchase a prepaid eSIM pack from Zain and activate before traveling.
  • Data-only eSIM packs are also available for tablets and hotspots.
  • eSIM is seen as the future of cellular connectivity. Zain joining STC in supporting it improves Saudi Arabia’s offering.

VI. Where can you buy a Zain SIM card and eSIM?

1. Where to buy Zain SIM Card for Saudi Arabia?

As Saudi Arabia’s second largest network, it’s easy to find Zain SIM card at:

  • Zain stores – Over 1300 branches across all major cities and airports
  • Grocery stores like Panda, Tamimi, Danube, Carrefour, Lulu Hypermarket
  • Petrol stations, bookstores, malls, electronics shops
  • Vending machines at airports – Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, etc.
  • Official online store zain.com – Home delivery available

Visitors can pickup a SIM at airport arrival or visit any nearby retailer. Online ordering ensures connectivity on landing.

2. Where to buy Saudi Arabia Zain eSIM?

Zain eSIM profiles can be purchased through:

  • Zain’s website and mobile app – eSIM voucher delivered to email
  • Zain stores – Staff assist to download eSIM profile to your iPhone
  • Apple Watch – Cellular models from Saudi Arabia come with Zain eSIM

Buying directly from Zain works best to avoid any activation hassle. 

VII. How to activate Zain Saudi Arabia SIM/eSIM?

Activating a new Zain SIM card or eSIM is quick and easy:

1. How to use Saudi Arabia Zain SIM card?

  • Obtain the standard or nano SIM size you need for your phone
  • Insert SIM and reboot device. It will auto-configure settings.
  • You may get a welcome SMS to choose your preferred package.
  • Enter *140*1# and press call to check SIM status, balance, data etc.

2. How to activate Saudi Arabia Zain eSIM?

  • If you got the eSIM voucher online, email it to your iPhone before landing.
  • Go into Settings > Cellular Data > Add Cellular Plan on eSIM compatible iPhones
  • Scan the QR code or enter details manually from the eSIM voucher to activate.
  • May need a verification SMS to complete activation.
  • Dual SIM iPhones let you use eSIM and physical SIM together.

VIII. Saudi Arabia Zain Call & SMS Rates

Zain offer prepaid SIM tourists very good value on calls and texts to local and international numbers:

Call/SMS TypeRate
Calls within Zain networkStarting from USD 0.026/minute
Calls to other operatorsStarting from USD 0.0798/minute
Calls to emergency numbersFree
Calls to technical supportFree
SMS within Zain networkUSD 0.0399/SMS
SMS to other networksUSD 0.0665/SMS
International callsStarting from USD 0.0799/minute
International SMSUSD 0.0799/SMS

Notes:

  • Rates may vary depending on specific rate plan
  • Discounted rates may apply for certain plans and packages
  • Additional charges may apply for special numbers and services
  • SMS bundles are included in some plans/packages

Great discounts available when adding Value Added Service (VAS) bundles that include minutes, texts and data.

IX. Useful USSD Codes for Zain Saudi Arabia SIM/eSIM

Zain prepaid users can check balances and settings quickly using these codes:

  • *140*1# – Check remaining credit balance
  • *140*2# – Check data balance
  • *140*3# – Check call forwarding status
  • *140*4# – Check current plan/pack subscribed
  • *140*5# – Check SMS bundles available
  • *140*6# – Check Zain points
  • 125# – Activate Zain WiFi Calling
  • 126# – Check WiFi Calling status

Many other codes available to change language, check offers and configure your SIM.

X. How to Top-up Zain Saudi Arabia SIM/eSIM

Adding more credit to extend usage validity on your Zain prepaid SIM is easy:

  • Using Vouchers: Recharge cards available from ~$3 to $133 sold at thousands of retail outlets. Scratch card to reveal code then enter *144*recharge code#
  • Online Top-up: Use credit/debit cards on Zain website or app. Instant recharge with confirmation SMS.
  • ATM Top-up: Many ATMs in Saudi Arabia support mobile top-ups for Zain and other networks. Insert card, select mobile recharge, enter number and amount.
  • Bank Transfer: Net banking and money transfers can reload your Zain SIM. Takes up to 24 hours to reflect with transaction ID confirmation.

Keeping your prepaid SIM active is effortless with abundant top-up options across Saudi Arabia. Large credit validity makes recharging infrequent.

XI. Alternatives to Saudi Arabia Zain SIM card

While Zain is an excellent choice for mobile connectivity in Saudi Arabia, tourists do have some other options:

  • saudiarabiaesim.com – third-party suppliers of Saudi Arabia eSIM for short-term and long-term travel vary in the data range, which is from 1GB to 20 GB. This is a great choice for tourists to Saudi Arabia.
  • STC – Largest provider with the best coverage outside cities
  • Mobily – Competitively priced, owns network in Mecca and Medina
  • Virgin Mobile – MVNO on STC network with niche offerings
  • Lebara – International MVNO with affordable Europe calling
  • SIM Box Services – Resellers that deliver activated Zain SIM cards to hotels
  • WiFi hotspots – Short-term wireless access options if minimal mobile usage

For most travelers, Zain or STC provides the ideal combination of wide presence, network quality and prepaid packages.

XII. FAQs about Zain in Saudi Arabia

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using Zain for connectivity in Saudi Arabia:

1. Do you need an ID to buy a Zain SIM in Saudi Arabia?

Yes, you need to show your passport at Zain stores to purchase and register a prepaid Zain SIM card or eSIM pack.

2. Can I use my Zain SIM Card in other countries?

Zain Saudi Arabia SIMs only provide service within the country. But you can enable Saudi Arabia roaming with your home SIM/eSIM to stay connected.

3. How long is Zain Saudi prepaid SIM valid for?

Regular prepaid SIM has a validity of 180 days from activation or last recharge. Tourist SIMs have shorter 30 day validity. Credit never expires.

4. Does Zain have good coverage in Mecca and Medina?

Yes, Zain has excellent 4G coverage in the holy cities leveraging Mobily’s networks via national roaming agreements. 5G is now live in Mecca.

5. Where are Zain service centers in Saudi Arabia?

Zain has over 1300 branded stores across all major cities in Saudi Arabia. Store finder is available on their website and app. Many partner retailers also offer support.

XIII. Final Words

In closing, Zain is an excellent mobile network choice for tourists and short-term visitors to Saudi Arabia. Their strong coverage, high speeds, competitive rates and eSIM/prepaid SIM options make getting connected convenient and affordable. With thorough population coverage and growing 5G availability, Zain provides quality connectivity across the Kingdom.