Traveling to Ethiopia soon and looking for the best way to stay connected? Don’t waste money on high roaming costs and buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in Ethiopia, the easiest way to get an affordable data connection on your phone! Wait, what am I saying… affordable? Prepaid sim cards in Ethiopia are CHEAP!
In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know about buying a prepaid sim card for Ethiopia with where to buy one, up to date prices, registration process, the network, what to bring and more.
While trying to visit every country in the world I get to a lot of places and Ethiopia counted as country 116 when visiting in August 2021. In total I wrote more than 150 local prepaid sim card guides: Nairobi, Djibouti, Egypt, Cairo, Kenya, Turkey, Istanbul and many more from around the world.
Why buying a sim card in Ethiopia
Well let’s keep it simple. Life is so much more convenient these days with a working data connection on your phone and so is traveling: finding a nearby restaurant, bar, hotel, etc. getting directions from Google Maps, translation apps and so on.
Need more reasons? Did you know that overseas data plans are limited in data speed (mostly 3G)? And did you realize that public WiFi is an UNSECURED network?
To get connected to the best network and enjoy the fastest internet speed there is no cheaper, easier and better option than buying a local sim card for traveling to Ethiopia.
Well, there is NOT much to recommend! Why? There is only 1 mobile internet provider in Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom!
Luckily buying a sim card in Ethiopia CHEAP!
Traveltomtom does NOT recommend international sim cards with worldwide coverage. These global sim cards are extremely expensive compared to local prepaid sim cards.
How I know? Click on the link above to read my article in where you will find my comparison and review of all international sim cards available.
The only telecom provider in Ethiopia is owned by the government of Ethiopia and holds a monopoly for providing mobile internet and all other telecommunication services in the country.
Internet censorship in Ethiopia
You would may be expect more internet censorship in Ethiopia, but luckily that is pretty much reduced to a minimum and for tourists there won’t be much hassle using the internet. All social media apps are working normally and a VPN is not directly required. For security reasons though, a VPN is recommended.
Sim card registration in Ethiopia
Just like in most countries in East Africa, the registration of a prepaid sim card in Ethiopia is taken serious. When buying a sim card in Ethiopia you will need to bring your passport. A photo of your passport page will be taken as well as a photo of yourself.
Most phone shops will take a photo of you, there is no need to bring a passport photo yourself, but you can if you want to.
Where to buy a sim card in Ethiopia
There is no doubt that the easiest, fastest and most convenient place to buy a sim card in Ethiopia is at Addis Ababa Airport. Luckily for international travelers there is a Ethio Telecom shop in the arrival hall of Addis Ababa International Airport.
When walking into the arrival hall after you pass the customs security check the Ethio Telecom store is on your left hand and can’t be missed. The shop is open 24 hours!
The Ethio Telecom store at Addis Ababa Airport only accepts cash: Birr, USD, EUR, GBP are accepted. Credit cards are NOT accepted. You will get your change in Birr. The exchange rate they use isn’t the best.
When for some reasons you weren’t able to buy a prepaid sim card for Ethiopia at Addis Ababa Airport then I recommend you to go to the DUKI mall or the Century Mall in the city center. These malls both have authorized Ethio Telecom stores.
We do not recommend buying a prepaid sim card from one of the street vendors or random phone shops as the registration process is vital for a working data connection. Always buy a sim card in Ethiopia from an authorized retail store.
There are a couple more Ethio Telecom stores around the city, see the map above. Here is the link to the store locator on the Ethio Telecom website.
Prepaid sim card price in Ethiopia
A prepaid sim card in Ethiopia costs 30 Birr - ($0.66) and comes with 15 Birr (30 minutes calling time) and 100 MB data.
As this is of course not enough you can add daily, weekly and monthly data packages, see the picture above.
These are the most common data package:
- 45 Birr = 1 GB for 1 day - $1
- 120 Birr = 2 GB for 7 days - $2.7
- 250 Birr = 4 GB for 1 month - $5.5
- 450 Birr = 8 GB for 1 month - $10
- 520 Birr = 10 GB for 1 month - $11.5
Ethio Telecom also offers unlimited data packages:
- 440 Birr = 1 week unlimited data - $10
- 836 Birr = 2 weeks unlimited data - $18.5
- 1.510 Birr = 1 month unlimited data - $33
They also have combo packages with calling time included, see the picture below.
If you want to separately add some calling credit you can easily top up: 0,5 Birr per minute. So for 45 Birr ($1) you get 90 minutes calling time.
As you can see from the above updated prices per August 2021 prepaid sim cards in Ethiopia are VERY CHEAP!
Click on the link for the latest data package deals on the Ethio Telecom website.
So whenever you are thinking about an international sim card or an overseas data plan on your sim card, then think again. There is no cheaper way than buying a local prepaid sim card in Ethiopia for your trip.
Important Ethio Telecom speed dial numbers
- *804# = balance request (Airtime, Credit, Data, Voice)
- *999# = buy new data or voice package
I hope all the above tips for buying a sim card in Ethiopia were helpful. If you have any questions please leave me a comment below and I will try to help you out.