Travelling to Mozambique? A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card
A local SIM could reduce your roaming bills.
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Mozambique is an important part of southeast Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean and sitting directly opposite Madagascar. The country is one of the poorest in the world, which means it can be relatively isolated and many people are not very tech savvy. Using your home phone network in Mozambique can be expensive, so consider switching to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper local tariffs. Mozambique has some of the best prepaid SIM card offers, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data for MZN100 (about AUD$2), which definitely works out to be cheaper than your current roaming rates abroad. So, whether you’re planning a holiday or an African tour, check out the best SIM card options available on Finder.
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Telco providers in Mozambique
There are three main operators in Mozambique: mCel, Vodacom and Movitel. Both locals and travellers use SIM cards from all three networks, and they can be trusted regardless of the plan you choose. Network coverage is good around the main towns, cities and highways, but as soon as you head outside developed areas, the signal becomes weak and the Internet can be extremely slow to non-existent. However, this will happen on whatever phone or provider you use there – it’s not just a local provider problem.
All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from shops, supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at Maputo International Airport. 2G and 3G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets.
Below, we have broken down the main telco providers to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Mozambique.
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mCel is the largest provider in Mozambique and offers some of the best rates. However, the signal can become weak in the remote regions, whatever provider you use there. mCel offers customers 2G and 3G services on a GSM platform. Internet speeds are good in the main towns and cities but can struggle in other areas. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and the SIM must be registered by showing your passport as a valid form of ID. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, including supermarkets, corner stores, service stations, online and at street stalls. We advise you to only purchase credit amounts from reputable stores or by using your credit card online.
Prepaid SIM cards are called “Giro” and can be purchased for MZN50. Text "consulta" to 822025 to ensure it’s registered, although the shop assistant should double check this for you. Top-ups can be purchased in varying amounts between MZN10 and MZN2,000, which gives you between 2 and 30 days of validity.
The standard data rate is charged at MZN3.50 per MB. The following “Netgiro” data packs can also be added:
Dial *123# or text the code in the far-right column to 822022 to activate. Dial *123# and follow the prompts to check data usage and balance. The following night packages can all be added for use between 1am and 6am:
Dial *123# and choose option 5, then the relevant pack to activate.
mCel’s APN: isp.mcel.mz, and website: http://www.mcel.co.mz
Vodacom is the second-largest provider, operated by Vodafone. It has some great price plans and very good network coverage across the country. It offers customers 2G and 3G services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and the SIM must be registered by showing your passport as a valid form of ID. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, including supermarkets, corner stores, service stations, online and from street stalls. We suggest avoiding street sellers at all costs.
Its “pré-pago” prepaid SIM cards can be picked up for free, but packages will have to be added before they can be used. Credit vouchers are sold in amounts between MZN10 and MZN2,000, valid for 3 to 30 days depending on the amount added.
The standard data rate is charged at MZN4 per MB. The following data packs can also be added:
Dial *111# and select the relevant pack to activate. To check your balance, dial the same number and follow the prompts or text “BALANCE” to 84162.
Vodacom’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.vm.co.mz/en
Movitel is the smallest provider in Mozambique but is catching up with the other two at a rapid rate. Movitel is cornering a new market in the country by building radio towers in poorly covered areas and providing the country with the best network coverage. It offers customers 2G and 3G services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and the SIM must be registered by showing your passport as a valid form of ID. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, including supermarkets, corner stores, petrol stations, online and at street stalls. We suggest avoiding street sellers at all costs.
Prepaid starter packs can be purchased for MZN5, which comes with a small credit allowance and other bonuses. Check in the store at the time of purchase, as these packs change from time to time.
Credit can be purchased in varying amounts between MZN10 and MZN500, and they're valid for up to 90 days. To add credit voucher codes, dial *150*<voucher code>#.
The standard data rate is quite low at MZN1 per MB. The following data packs are also available:
Movitel’s APN: internet, and website: http://movitel.co.mz/en
OneSimCard is also a good bet for travellers. It provides a Mozambique prepaid SIM card for use within the country or for travelling around South Africa. OneSimCard provides customers with low-cost prepaid services in Mozambique and international calls and data that can be used in more than 200 other countries. It also offers a global SIM card that can be used in all countries around the world. Please note that you must have an unlocked GSM phone to be able to use this SIM card.
National Geographic SIM card
National Geographic also offers a prepaid SIM card that can be used by tourists in Mozambique. It provides a SIM card with both UK and US numbers to use within other countries worldwide, with the same price in each. It can also be used for travelling around South Africa. National Geographic provides customers with low-cost voice, data and SMS charges that could work out cheaper than your home phone network would. Please note that you must have an unlocked GSM phone to be able to use this SIM card.
There are a number of African operators that run as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) through the main providers we’ve highlighted above, or positioned within various African countries. MVN-X uses the Cell-c operator to run a number of MVNOs in southern Africa. There are also several other options available that might work out to be cheaper than what your home provider can offer you while travelling around the region.
- The official language in Mozambique is Portuguese. English is not widely spoken. If you don’t know the language, then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel to help with translations while you are there.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM SIM”.
- Ask the official sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they should know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions above or go to the official website for advice.
- Make sure you purchase your SIM card from the official store. Top-up vouchers are trusted from chain supermarkets and approved resellers. Try to avoid street sellers.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
It’s well known for hotels, flights and holiday bookings, but TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Mozambique.
“Buying SIM cards in Mozambique is very simple. There are people selling them everywhere. Just make sure they register the SIM when you buy it so it doesn’t stop working. Movitel offers the best coverage, and the best rates for data.”
“All SIM cards can be trimmed to fit your phone. Just ask when you buy it. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave.”
“SIM cards usually cost MZN20, but you need to register it. Some places will charge you an extra MZN50 to trim it to fit your phone.”
“Signal can suffer when you head out into the outer regions, but that will also happen on your own phone there. I definitely think it’s a better option to switch over to a prepaid SIM card while in Mozambique because they have some of the best prices in the world. I couldn't believe how much I spent on calls and data by the end of my three week trip.”
Pros and cons of Mozambique’s top telco providers
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Signal can be weak in undeveloped regions
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Try to avoid street sellers
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: Is the signal really that bad in the countryside?
A: All networks will suffer in the countryside, no matter what provider you use. Local networks offer a relatively reliable service that is no worse than what you would get on a home phone network in Mozambique, so it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates are ridiculously cheap.
Q: What if I lose my phone in Mozambique?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around Africa. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you don’t have any luck, then report it missing. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight.
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