Best prepaid international SIM card for Rwanda | finder.com
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Where to find the best prepaid SIM cards when visiting Rwanda

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Check out local deals to cut down on your roaming charges in Rwanda.

Roughly the size of Vermont, Rwanda attracts tourists by being one of only two countries where you can visit mountain gorillas. If you’re planning a trip to Rwanda, consider investing in a local prepaid SIM card. Doing so can lower your budget by giving you better deals on calls, SMS messages and data outside of your home network. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card with a data plan of 7GB over 7 days for RWF5,500 (US$6.59).

In order to help you make the best selection for your prepaid SIM card needs in Rwanda, finder.com offers the following guide to the nation’s mobile network operators.

Details Features
Flexiroam X International SIM Card
Flexiroam X International SIM Card
If you're planning a trip that includes multiple countries, attaching flexiroam X can be much cheaper than roaming with your existing mobile number or buying a new SIM in each location.
  • Over 100 countries
  • Three different starter pack options
  • Data options from 1 to 5 GB
  • Shipment takes 3 to 5 days
  • Pay as you go plans
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Prices last updated 10/15/2017
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Mobile network operators in Rwanda

There are three mobile network operators in Rwanda:

  • MTN
  • Tigo
  • Airtel

When you buy a prepaid SIM card, you must register it. This process can take up to half an hour, so make sure you have time in your schedule for it. When you buy the SIM card, you must show your passport, have a copy of it made (usually by going to a different store) and fill out a registration form.

All 4G/LTE coverage is provided by Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), a wholesaler that provides bandwidth to the three operators along with multiple resale partners. This article will focus on the the main three network operators, as the resale companies do not own their own space and their prices fluctuate daily.

MTN

Based in South Africa, MTN had the early jump on coverage in the 1990s on 2G. It’s available as a prepaid SIM card at its own shops and at the airport. It will always have mini and micro sizes available, but you might have to ask for a nano to be cut for you.

Its top-up cards are sold in its outlets or at M-Charge outlets. If you’re using an out-of-country credit card, you can use services including Ding and ezetop to fill up.

If you aren’t using a data plan, the default rate for MTN in Rwanda is RWF56 per MB during the day and RWF30 per MB between 1am and 6am.

If you’re only looking to use Facebook, it’s free for seven days after you activate your SIM card by using code *198#. After those seven days,the cost is RWF35 per day, RWF150 per week or RWF350 per month.

For 2G/3G, MTN offers the following data bundles in Rwanda:

PriceDataValidityActivation code
RWF8001GB1 day*345*1#
RWF5,0001GB/day7 days*345*7#
RWF21,0001GB/day30 days*345*30#
RWF3,000250MB30 days*345*250#
RWF5,000500MB30 days*345*500#
RWF8,0001GB30 days*345*1000#
RWF15,0005GB90 days*345*5000#
RWF25,00010GB90 days*345*10#
RWF43,00020GB90 days*345*20#

You can check your bundle’s balance by dialing *345*. To check your overall credit, dial *110#. You can surf Wikipedia free of charge on all plans.

For 4G/LTE bundles, you have to purchase a 4G SIM card for RWF1,000. Your 4G-capable device has to be able to operate on 800MHz. Once you have your SIM card, dial *345# and select the 4G bundle to buy one of the following packages:

Plan namePriceDataValidity
DailyRWF1,9001GB1 day
WeeklyRWF11,5007GB7 days
MonthlyRWF41,00030GB30 days
Volume-basedRWF20,0005GB30 days

APN: internet.mtn, and website: http://www.mtn.co.rw

Tigo

Tigo has been in the Rwanda market since 2008. In 2017, it owned a 39% share of the market, second to MTN. Tigo’s coverage is not as extensive as MTN’s, but rates are generally lower. SIM cards are available at all Tigo point-of-sale stores in all sizes. Top-up vouchers cost between RWF300 and RWF10,000 and are valid for 30-60 days. If you want to top up online, you can use your credit card and do so at https://www.aryty.com/RechargeRwanda.aspx. In 2017, Tigo extended the validity of prepaid SIM card credit to two years; it was previously six months.

The standard data rate for Tigo is RWF51 per MB. The following data bundles are available on 2G and 3G networks.

NamePriceDataValidityActivation
Surf 50RWF507MB24 hours*222#
Surf 100RWF10017MB24 hours*222*10
Surf & TalkRWF20025MB24 hours*222*53#
Day PhoneRWF15030MB24 hours“Phone” to 7050
Surf 300RWF300200MB24 hours*222*0300#
Surf 500RWF500500MB24 hours*222*505#
Surf all dayRWF8001.2GB24 hours*222*1500#
Surf 1000RWF1,000750MB7 days*222*07#
Surf all weekRWF5,0005GB7 days*222*7000#
Monthly 3000RWF3,0003GB30 days*222*031#
Monthly 5000RWF5,0005GB30 days*222*5000#
Monthly 8000RWF8,0008GB30 days*222*8000#
MonthlyRWF21,00030GB30 days*222*30#

4G/LTE bundles

Tigo resells these bundles from the KTRN 4G/LTE network under the name Go 4G Mobile. To activate, buy a 4G-enabled SIM card and dial *310#.

PriceDataValidity
RWF1,5001.5GB24 hours
RWF10,00014GB (max 2GB/day)7 days
RWF20,00010.5GB30 days
RWF40,00060GB (max 2GB/day)30 days

APN: web.tigo.rw, and website: http://www.tigo.co.rw

Airtel

India-based Airtel started in Rwanda in 2013 and had nearly 19% of the market in 2017. It has the least coverage but the best prices. Its SIM cards are available in its distributor shops. You can check your balance by dialing *131#. If you’re recharging with a voucher, dial *130*<PIN #>. Airtel calls its standard network the “3.75G”. Outside of data bundles, the standard rate is RWF51 per MB.

PriceDataValidityActivation code
RWF507MB24 hours*456*2*5#
RWF10017MB24 hours*456*2*12#
RWF15035MB24 hours*456*2*35#
RWF20050MB24 hours*456*2*50#
RWF300200MB24 hours*456*2*200#
RWF500500MB24 hours*456*2*500#
RWF8001.5GB24 hours*456*1*2#
RWF1,000750MB7 days*456*2*750#
RWF2,0001.5GB7 days*456*2*1500#
RWF5,0001GB/day7 days*456*1*7#
RWF13,0005GB30 days*456*2*5000#
RWF18,0008GB30 days*456*1*8000#
RWF21,0001GB/day30 days*456*1*30#
RWF77,00040GB30 days*456*5*40#
RWF115,00060GB30 days*456*5*60#
RWF120,000100GB30 days*456*5*100#
RWF150,000210GB30 days*456*5*210#
RWF280,000420GB30 days*456*5*420#

Like its competitors, Airtel also has 4G data bundles courtesy of KTRN.

PriceDataValidity
RWF3,5001GB7 days
RWF16,0005GB30 days
RWF30,50010GB30 days
RWF82,00030GB30 days
RWF133,00050GB30 days
RWF260,000100GB30 days
RWF275,000100GB+Unlimited*30 days
RWF495,000200GB+Unlimited*30 days

* When initial limit is reached, data speed is throttled to 1 Mbps.

APN: internet, and website: http://africa.airtel.com/wps/wcm/connect/africarevamp/Rwanda/

Advice from TripAdvisor about SIM cards in Rwanda

In addition to being an online review platform for hotels and attractions, TripAdvisor has an impressive online community of members. Here’s some advice from recent visitors to Rwanda:

With regards to SIMs, I use the Tigo network, but I’m not sure there’s much difference between them and MTN. You can purchase SIMs at any MTN or Tigo service centre. Depending on where you’re staying in Kigali, you should find one nearby. For Tigo, there’s a service centre in the CBD at the UTC shopping centre. For MTN, just head to the MTN Centre – it’s outside of the CBD.”

Pros and cons of Rwanda’s top SIM card operators

Rwanda has three major SIM card providers. Here are some of the positives and negatives about these companies.

Pros

  • All networks rent space from KTRN, making for a competitive 4G/LTE market.
  • Airtel offers two “unlimited” data programs.

Cons

  • Most of the data plans and the best coverage is limited to 2G/3G.
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