Buy a local SIM card to reduce your mobile phone roaming bill
Using your mobile phone in Angola could eat up your cash fast, so to keep costs down why not switch to a local SIM card so you can take advantage of better plans, deals and tariffs? Angola has some of the best SIM card deals in Africa – offers that could really reduce your phone bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Angola’s leading telco provider for as little as 637.50Kz (about AUD$5). So, whether you’re planning a holiday, longer stay or trek around Africa, check out the best SIM card options available at finder.com.au.
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The Portuguese-speaking nation has recently pumped money into developing its mobile networks, so telco providers can deliver state-of-the-art technology to consumers. There are two main mobile phone operators, both state-owned: Unitel and Movicel. Both providers go through strict approval processes before being allowed to operate in Angola, so make sure you stick to these two carriers.
According to Internet World Stats, Angola was voted as having above-average mobile phone services which are currently going through a restructuring process with the help of international consultants, to improve efficiency.
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Angola’s operators offer some of the best deals in Africa, with 2G, 3G and 4G services. Unitel is the largest provider, followed by Movicel. Both are partially state-owned and can be trusted.
Prepaid SIM cards are only available from official stores and outlets run by the providers. Street stalls, markets and random sellers have been banned from stocking SIM cards so that the government can cut down on theft and unauthorised sales.
The government has also introduced a new system where SIM cards must be registered when they are purchased, and can only be bought using an international form of ID and travel visa (your passport is the best option).
Unitel offers its prepaid SIM card options in tariff form, using a charge system called Unidade Tarifaria de Telecomunicacoes (UTT), while Movicel uses the standard and easier-to-understand local currency option to measure credit, Kwanza (Kz).
Below, we have broken down both telco providers to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Angola.
Unitel is the largest network provider in Angola, with a market share of around 80%. More than 11 million people currently use their services and the network reaches most areas.
Services are offered in 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz, UMTS on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE coverage on 1800 MHz. Luanda Province is the only area to provide LTE at present.
Unitel offers its prepaid SIM cards in UTT form; each unit cost is 10Kz. A 125-unit voucher will cost 1,250Kz, for example.
Top-ups are available in several unit variations: 35 units valid for 10 days, 50 units valid for 30 days, 125 units valid for 60 days, 375 units valid for 90 days, and 625 and 1,250 units valid for 180 days.
Dial 19101 and follow the instructions to upload credit or call *101*<recharge code>#. Dial *111# to check your balance.
Unitel’s standard rate is called "Net Light" which costs 25Kz per MB.
Unitel’s day pass gives you 200MB of data and can be purchased for 200Kz.
To purchase “BIG NET” data packs, valid for one month, text “NET” plus the UTT value to 19107:
You can also buy data packages for Internet use on your laptop:
20GB for 25,000Kz
30GB for 35,000Kz
Unitel’s website is only in Portuguese.
Movicel is a newer and smaller network operator. It’s state-owned by Angola Telecom and is very popular with the younger crowds who want to buy cheap credit for their phones. The network has 3 million subscribers, meaning it has just over 20% of the market share in Angola.
The network uses GSM-based technology for 25 on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, and 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz in Cabinda, Luanda and Benguela. LTE speeds are good once you lock into a strong signal, delivering you 75 Mbps. Movicel launched LTE coverage before Unitel, which helped to improve its reputation as a good carrier in Angola.
SIM cards are only available from official Movicel stores and they can be purchased for 900Kz, before adding your chosen credit amount. The basic SIMs are called "Sempre Facil", so make sure you ask the seller for that option.
Credit, or “Recargas” as the locals call it, can be uploaded to your phone by dialing *198*<recharge code>#. Credit vouchers can be purchased for 400Kz, 900Kz, 2,500Kz, 4,500Kz and 8,800Kz. Dial *196# to check your balance.
Movicel’s base data rate is 20Kz per MB and is applied to all SIMs until you select a specific plan. Movicel offers many different credit options for calls, text and data-only.
Its “Karga” plans are aimed at young Angolans, which is good news for travellers because it means the prices are low. These plans automatically renew so if you want to return to the Sempre Facial tariff then text “cancelar” to 19500.
Karga plans come in the following guises:
700Kz: 50MB of data, 100 minutes Movicel, 15 minutes other networks, 100 SMS – Text "Leve" to 19500 (Valid for 7 days)
2. Karga Nice+
1,800Kz: 500MB of data, 300 minutes Movicel, 30 minutes other networks, 300 SMS – Text "Nice" to 19500 (Valid for 30 days)
3. Karga Tudo+
3,300Kz: 1GB of data, 600 minutes Movicel, 60 minutes other networks, 600 SMS – Text "Tudo" to 19500 (Valid for 30 days)
There are also other variations that might help you save money depending on how you use your phone. You can return to the standard Sempre Facil rate by texting “cancelar” to 19500.
1. Liberty Smart
5,000 Kz: 1GB data, unlimited Movicel calls, 100 minutes other networks, unlimited SMS – Text “Smart” to 19500 to activate.
2. Liberty Classic
7,000 Kz: 2GB data, unlimited Movicel calls, 200 minutes other networks, unlimited SMS – Text “Classic” to 19500 to activate.
3. Liberty Plus
15,000Kz: 3GB data, unlimited Movicel calls, 500 minutes other networks, unlimited SMS – Text “Plus” to 19500 to activate.
Movicel also offers several data-only packages called Movinet. The following plans auto-renew until you text “cancelar” to 19209.
|50MB||1 day||100Kz||Text “Dia” to 19200 to activate|
|200MB||1 week||500Kz||Text “Semana” to 19200 to activate|
|300MB||1 month||900Kz||Text “300MB” to 19200 to activate|
|1GB||1 month||2,500Kz||Text “1GB” to 19200 to activate|
|5GB||1 month||5,000Kz||Text “5GB” to 19200 to activate|
|10GB||1 month||10,000Kz||Text “10GB” to 19200 to activate|
|Unlimited||1 month||16,200Kz||Text “ILIMITADO” to 19200 to activate|
Movicel’s website is in Portuguese only.
- The official language in Angola is Portuguese, so if you don’t know any then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. The good thing about Angola is that the people are very cosmopolitan and English is widely spoken.
- Ask the retailer to help set up the SIM card for you. They are all official sellers in Angola and it’s part of their job description.
- The official stores get very busy in Angola, so make sure you get there early to beat the crowds!
Both networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international mobile phone. To double check you have this phone, or if it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Good value for money
- Angola has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current mobile phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- Can be used in other African countries
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unblocked GSM phones
- Official stores are only allowed to sell the SIM cards which means limited locations and large crowds
Q: What about the crime rate in Angola?
A: Make sure you stick to the main towns and cities because crime can be quite rife in some parts of Angola. If you are heading out into the countryside, make sure you travel in groups or pairs. If you have your phone stolen, report it to the local police department. Although they are unlikely to do anything, at least you can get the crime number for your insurance claim.
Contact emergency services on the following numbers:
- Police: 113
- Ambulance: 112
- Fire: 115
When travelling around Africa, Angola will most probably be one of the countries on your wish list due to its recent resurgence thanks to the oil industry. There are still large areas of the country in poverty, following the civil war between 1975 and 2002. However, it has large oil and diamond reserves, and money is being spent on developing towns and cities, infrastructure and technology. Angolans are proud of their heritage and the nation is rich in culture.