All about Mobile Phones in Uganda

cell phones in Uganda

Will my mobile phone work in Uganda?

The only foreign cell phones that work in Uganda are the GMS multi-band models. CDMA model phones don’t work in Uganda. Check with your mobile carrier first if your cell phone will work in Uganda. Your phone must also be able to support SIM Cards if you don’t intend to use international roaming.

You can bring your personal foreign network carrier locked phone, or come with an unlocked phone. If you cannot unlock your phone you can buy one in Uganda.  Carrier locked phones tend to have prohibitively expensive global roaming fees so we recommend you first unlock your phone through your service provider so it can allow Ugandan SIM cards. The unlocking process is usually free once you have paid off your phone.  Upon arrival in Uganda, apply for a local SIM card if you have an unlocked GSM phone.

 

How to get a mobile SIM card in Uganda

Before we guide you on how to get a mobile SIM card in Uganda lets first point out the mobile network operators in Uganda.

There are 6 mobile network operators in Uganda:

  • Airtel
  • MTN
  • Africell
  • Uganda Telecom (UTL)
  • Smile
  • K2 Telecom

But we recommend you stick to the two major companies (MTN or Airtel) as they have better network coverage across the country. It would suck if you went to other parts of the country and there was no service.

 

SIM card application process

To get a SIM card, visit any of the local Service Centers or authorized agents located throughout Kampala and inside the Arrivals Section of Entebbe International Airport. Each new SIM card goes for Shs. 2000 at the Airtel Service Centers and Shs. 1500 at MTN Service Centers.

 

*Please, carry your original passport if you are a foreign resident or national because the SIM Card will be registered to your identity. Your passport should also have a valid visa for the application to be accepted. It’s part of the requirements.

 

MTN and Airtel service centers in some of Uganda’s major cities:

 

CITY AIRTEL MTN
Kampala Acacia Mall

Address:

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat: 8:00 a.m to 06:30 p.m

Sunday:              9:00 a.m to 01:30 p.m

Lugogo Shopping Center

Address

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat:    9:00 a.m to 06:00 p.m

Sunday:                 9:00 a.m to 05:00 p.m

Kampala Forest Mall – Lugogo

Address:

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat: 8:00 a.m to 06:30 p.m

Sunday:               9:00 a.m to 01:30 p.m

Cairo Bank Building

Address: Kampala Rd, Opp. Post Office

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat: 9:00 a.m to 06:00 p.m

Sunday:               9:00 a.m to 05:00 p.m

Kampala Thobani Center

Address: Plot 11, Kampala Road

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat: 8:00 a.m to 06:30 p.m

Sunday:              9:00 a.m to 01:30 p.m

 

 

Crested Towers

Address: Kintu Road, Kampala

Working Hours:

Monday to Sat:    9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m

Sunday:                  9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m

 

 

 

Entebbe Victoria Mall

Address: Berkeley Rd, Entebbe

Working Hours

Monday to Sat: 8:00 a.m to 06:30 p.m

Sunday:              9:00 a.m to 01:30 p.m

Entebbe International Airport

Address: Within the Airport

Working Hours

Monday to Sunday: 24 hrs.

 

 

 

Can I use international roaming services when in Uganda?

Some foreign carriers like T-Mobile offer international roaming services when travelling abroad but confirm with them first whether they support roaming when in Uganda. Also inquire about the cost implications of their global roaming services since they tend to be prohibitively expensive.

International roaming is not automatically enabled on each phone so request your carrier to enable roaming services when traveling to Uganda.

 

Uganda Phone numbers

The dialing code or country code for Uganda is +256

Trunk prefix: 0

International Prefix: 00

All mobile phone numbers in Uganda start with 07 so whenever you want to call a local Ugandan mobile phone number from within Uganda, you have to include the (0) except when you include the country code +256, then you drop the (0). Also, when calling from outside Uganda you have to remove the (0) at the start of the local number.

 

Calling Uganda from the United States and Canada

To call a Ugandan mobile phone from the US, first dial 011 (US exit code), and then the country code for Uganda (256) then the phone number.

  • Sample call from US to a mobile phone in Uganda: 011 256 70 XXX XXXX Phone Number (may not begin with 0) – 9 digits.
  • Sample call from US to a landline in Kampala, Uganda: 011 256 41 XXX XXXX

 

Calling or Sending Messages Within, and From Uganda
  • When calling or sending messages to an international line from Uganda, first dial the plus sign + , followed by the country code, the area code, then the number ( Example: +1-240-123-4567 when calling to the US)
  • When calling or sending messages to a local Ugandan number from within Uganda.

Start with the 07 number followed by the rest of the digits in the local number.

 

AIRTEL  0705 123 456      or       +256 705 123 456  

MTN        0772 123 456      or       +256 772 123 456

 

 

  • The table below shows the mobile number formats for the major network carriers in Uganda.

 

NETWORK CARRIER MOBILE NUMBER FORMAT
AIRTEL 070x xxx xxx (e.g. 0705 000 111)
AIRTEL 075x xxx xxx  (e.g 0752 000 111)
MTN 077x xxx xxx (e.g. 0772 000 111)
MTN 078x xxx xxx (e.g. 0782 000 111)
AFRICELL 079x xxx xxx (e.g. 0791 000 111)
WARID 0701 xxx xxx (e.g. 0701 000 111)

 

How much does it cost to call or send an SMS in Uganda?

A phone call from MTN to other networks costs Shs.4 per second and Shs.180 per minute.

When calling from MTN to MTN it costs Shs. 90 per minute during daytime hours and Shs. 60 per minute between 9:00 p.m to  6:00 a.m. and Shs. 4 per second when calling from MTN to Airtel or other networks.

 

Will my phone work in Uganda?

U.S. cell phones using AT&T and T-Mobile will generally work in the capital city Kampala and the rest of the country. If you subscribe to Sprint, Verizon or any other CDMA network carrier, ask your service provider specifically for a gsm phone that will work in Uganda before travelling. Relatively cheap GSM cell phones are also available for purchase at the local carrier service centers in Uganda.

International roaming is not automatically enabled when you travel abroad.

 

Will my phone charger work in Uganda?

Don’t forget to pack your mobile charger and invest in a travel adapter if you come from a country with a different type of outlet or socket plug design. Power outlet sockets in Uganda put out 240 volts AC, are square shaped and three-pined, like those used in the UK. Most phone chargers can work both in 240 volts and 120 volts systems so there isn’t any need to carry an electrical converter system.

 

How is internet access in Uganda?

Both MTN and Airtel have 3G and 4G connection but the 3G connection is more reliable. Network coverage is often inexistent in the country side or remote areas.

Airtel’s 4G network can be accessed anywhere in Uganda, MTN Uganda’s 4G network is available in all major towns. Africell has 4G available in Kampala, Entebbe, Gulu, Jinja town, Mbarara town, Arua town, Mbale town, Fort Portal town, and some surrounding areas; just as Smile network does.

 

Unless you are in a location with free WiFi, you have to pay Over-The-Top (OTT) social media service tax to access the social media pages and platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp) at a minimum of UGX 200 ($0.052) daily for use. This translates into about $1.5 a month and $19 a year, which is a uniform rate regardless of the carrier network you use.

 

Wi-Fi in Uganda 

Wi-Fi is also available at most high end restaurants and at some coffee shops. Most big hotels and lodges in Uganda do provide Wi-Fi, but it is not reliable and speeds can be very low. Alternatively, you can use your mobile phone as a hot spot and then connect your other gadgets to it.

 

Mobile Money in Uganda

What is Mobile Money?

MTN Mobile Money or Airtel Money is a money transfer system that uses the phones SMS cabalitities. With this feature, you don’t have to carry around large sums of money. The money on your mobile money account is redeemable in cash at any of the numerous registered mobile money agents around the country. Both MTN and AIRTEL have this facility. You can buy airtime, purchase goods and services from registered merchants using this mobile money.

Note: It is cheaper to transact on the same network than across different networks.

 

How to register for Mobile Money

Visit any Service Center or network carrier agent. You will be required to provide them with the following details:

  • Full name
  • Physical address
  • Date of birth
  • Mobile number
  • Gender
  • Identification Card or Passport
  • Source of Income

 

How to check  your mobile money account balance

ON MTN        *185*8#

ON AIRTEL   *185*10#

 

How to load airtime / Data / Voice minutes / OTT Service Tax

MTN –     Dial   *185*2#

AIRTEL- Dial   *185*2#

 

Important numbers to remember

 

ACTION MTN AIRTEL
Check Airtime Balance *131#  *131#
Load Airtime *130#  *185*2*1#
Load Mobile Internet *150*1#

 *185*2*2#

Load Voice Minutes *150*2#  *185*2*3#
Pay OTT Tax *150*3# *185*2*5#
Transact With Mobile Money *165#  *185*10*1#
Check Voice Balance    *170#

 

Customer Service Assistance

For general customer service questions and assistance, dial 100 on any of the networks.

 

Cheaper alternatives for calling locally and internationally in Uganda

Finally, another alternative when in Uganda is making international and local calls with mobile phone applications like WhatsApp. They are cheaper than calling via traditional telephone providers. You will only need internet access on your phone and OTT subscription to place a call to another Whatsapp user in another country.

 

We hope this guide has been helpful. To find more useful information about our country Uganda check out other insightful articles about travels to Uganda from us.

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