Using a sim card and getting text messages
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Jan 17, 2013 5:10 AM Last Post By: Mchagga
Dec 6, 2012 6:55 PM
Using a sim card and getting text messagesWe will be in Tanzania for about 3 weeks- Arusha, Ngorogoro Highlands, Serenghetti, Lake Burunge. I would like to be able to get text messages from my family if they need to contact me. Would it be worth getting a quad band GSM unlocked phone with a sim card for Tanzania? Or are these areas so remote that we would not get service anyway? I have never used a sim card but it sounds like it should work. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Dec 7, 2012 12:24 AM
1Yes it's very easy and everyone does it. Either use your phone from home (make sure it is unlocked etc) or if you'd prefer not to take it traveling buy a cheap Nokia or something on arrival. They sell sim cards and tops ups everywhere and coverage is pretty good. They are putting up towers in the most remote locations now. Sometimes the service goes down (power cuts etc) but generally it's pretty good.
BTW it is not just useful for getting messages from home but really useful to be able to have a phone in country - especially if you are organising any activities/accommodation on the run.
Dec 7, 2012 9:21 AM
2Thanks- I think I will get one, just incase etc. Being in the US, our phones are not unlocked, and since we are Sprint, cannot be. But even a fairly cheap one would be nice to have. Although if I get a smart phone I can also use the translation program- but that probably would end up using a fair amount of time on the card.
This does make me feel better- I like the idea of being able to stay a bit in touch with my kids since this will be the first time we have gone away and left them- yes they are more or less adults, but with significant problems. Otherwise I wouldn't even consider it.
Dec 7, 2012 10:10 AM
3Don't worry about needing translation apps. Practically everyone you deal with will have great english. However, it always goes down really well if you learn a bit of kiswahili ie "good morning", "goodbye", "thank you", "how are you?" and so on. "How much is this?" is also useful. You get the picture.
You will find cheap phones for sale all over the place. Every African has one. Sim cards will be a couple of $ and scratch cards to charge them are on every street corner.
Dec 7, 2012 11:30 AM
Dec 7, 2012 12:12 PM
5I got a sim card in xMoshi my first day there (for 4 weeks in xTanzania) I had coverage in most places (it was hit or miss on Kili sometimes, but fine on safari in xTarangire, xNgorongoro and xSerengeti.)
The scratch cards: they're for a pay-as-you-go system. Each refill card comes with instructions for use/how to refill the time, as well as a scratchable area that has the code for that card. When I picked up my sim, the girl at the store showed me how to use it (not difficult by any means!) and the instructions on each card were also in English. I think I ended up buying 4 5'000 tsh cards, which lasted me the 4 weeks (texting back to xCanada, but not calling people)
Dec 7, 2012 1:58 PM
Dec 8, 2012 12:46 AM
7The only complication is that in Tanzania they seem to be requiring registration of sim cards now.
I bought a Vodacom sim recently and it was blocked. The guy in the shop who sold it to me had to call their customer care and get it temporarily unblocked for 15 days. After that time elapsed I found the sim blocked once again. I was told I would have to visit a Vodacom office in a major town, but unfortunately I was nowhere near one. I think the registration process is fairly simple and involves showing your passport. It is probably best to buy your sim at a major corporate store and take care of all these things in one swoop.
Coverage-wise, many people said I should have gone with Tigo.
Dec 8, 2012 3:25 AM
8I had read that because sim cards were being used by terrorists that they were hard to buy locally. If I buy one in the states and bring with- can it still be blocked? It would be a pain to get there and discover that nothing worked. I suppose that it could be registered in Arusha. It has been suggested that you have a local buy one for you?
Dec 8, 2012 4:26 AM
9There is no need to get a local to buy one for you. You just have to go through the process that I mentioned, visiting an office or calling customer care (not sure about their English comprehension). There is no policy to restrict foreigners' access to sim cards.
Kenya started this process a while back and will require all sim cards to be registered by Dec 31. Non-registered sims will be switched off.
If you will be in Kenya first, you can buy a Safaricom sim and use it in Tanzania on a roaming basis.
Dec 8, 2012 11:31 AM
10No- directly to Tanzania. I'm just not sure how much time we will have before launching out into the bush- that was my only concern. We arrive late evening and take off the next morning.
Jan 17, 2013 5:10 AM
11Here are some facts about using a new sim card in Tanzania
1. All sim cards have to be registered. You can register your sim card at the point of purchase by providing a copy of your passport (foreigners) or a copy of your ID (preferably a voters ID card) for locals.
2. You can use an un-registered sim card for up to 14 days (2 weeks) from the first day you purchased (inserted the sim in your phone). This policy depends on network operator's policy. Some operators require you register the sim immediately.
3. Sim cards can be used in any GSM unlocked phones and you can send and receive Sms to any other GSM phone in the world.
4. Vodacom and Airtel are so far the best networks for coverage and Tigo is by far the most preferred for cost and with the most users (http://www.tcra.go.tz/publications/telecomStatsJune12.pdf)
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