Planning a trip to Uganda? Don't get stuck with high roaming charges or slow overseas data roaming plans. In this guide you will find everything you need to know about buying a sim card for Uganda in 2023. Find out where to buy a sim card for Uganda, the best e-sim cards for Uganda, up to date prices as per August 2023, best 4G/5G network in Uganda, my recommendation and experiences, information about international sim cards for Uganda and more.
Depending on the length of your trip to Uganda a prepaid sim card or an e-sim card is the best way to stay connected and save on high roaming charges. The first thing I do when I get to a new country is getting connected. Traveltomtom is aiming to travel to every country in the world and since I like to document all my travel tips you can already find more than 200 sim card guides on Traveltomtom from all over the world: Rwanda, Kigali, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Cameroon, Dubai, Istanbul, United Kingdom, USA, New York, London, Paris, Cameroon, Gabon and many more.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination. Bookmark me!
Flying into Entebbe Airport? Then check out my guide for buying a sim card at Entebbe Airport. Prices are pretty much the same, so fast getting your Uganda sim card at Entebbe Airport is easy and convenient straight on arrival.
RELATED: 23 Best Things To Do in Kampala in 2023.
Based on my research and my own experiences Traveltomtom recommends an Airtel sim card for traveling to Uganda.
Here is my friend Sean who tried buying an Airtel sim card on arrival, but then the system was down. Read more about my experiences buying a sim card in Uganda at the end of this blog.
Traveltomtom also recommends looking into international sim cards for your trip to Africa. In my article about the best world sim cards for traveling in 2023 you can find my comparison of all international sim cards. Find the one that best suits your trip to Africa.
However, the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Uganda in 2023 is an e-sim card.
Best e-sim cards for Uganda
New e-sim technology makes it possible to get connected for your trip to Uganda without visiting a phone store and swapping sim cards. Arrange everything online within just a couple minutes. Order an e-sim online, receive a QR code, scan it, follow the instructions and you are connected in just a couple minutes.
Airalo offer the following e-sim card plans for Uganda:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $35 USD
These Uganda e-sim cards are from Ugish! and they operate on the 4G/LTE networks of MTN and Airtel. The Ugish! e-sim cards are data-only and they do not support incoming or outgoing calls/sms. Data is only valid in Uganda.
SimOptions offers international e-sim cards for traveling to Uganda. These e-sim cards are valid in up to 130 countries around the world.
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to order an international e-sim card for Uganda from SimOptions.
Before ordering an e-sim card for Uganda make sure your phone is e-sim compatible otherwise an e-sim card won't work on your phone.
Why buying a sim card for Uganda
First of all it makes traveling so much easier, more convenient and even safer. Use taxi apps, find directions, restaurants, hotels, etc on Google Maps, translation apps and so on.
If you have read my blog posts with everything you need to know when traveling to Uganda in 2023, you also know that WiFi in Uganda is NOT reliable and very slow. Don’t rely on WiFi, buying a sim card is easy and CHEAP! And above all a local prepaid sim card for Uganda makes you save a lot of money on expensive roaming charges.
Mobile internet operators in Uganda
For a long time there were 3 main mobile internet operators in Uganda, but now there are 4:
In April 2020 there was a new competitor on the Uganda sim card market: Lycamobile. This UK based brand is expanding its services to Africa. In Europe, Lycamobile is operating as a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), but in Uganda they actually have a full NTO (National Telecommunications Operator) license. This means Lycamobile operates on its own network.
All mobile internet providers in Uganda sell prepaid sim cards for tourists. Prices are pretty similar, the big difference is the 4G/5G mobile network coverage. More about that later.
There are no e-sim available in Uganda as of August 2023, only prepaid physical sim cards are available for tourists in Uganda.
Where to buy a Uganda sim card
When arriving by plane in Uganda the best place to buy a sim card is at Entebbe International Airport. Click on the link to read my extensive sim card guide for Entebbe Airport. If for some reason you couldn’t buy a sim card for Uganda at the airport or you are traveling overland then I recommend you to go to one of the mobile internet providers service centers.
Everywhere on the side of the streets you will see kiosk of the mobile internet providers, however not every shop sells sim cards for tourists. Since every sim card needs to be registered with your passport and an official photo not every kiosk is able to sign you up.
The mobile internet shops have so called service centers and only here tourists can buy prepaid sim cards.
Buying a Lycamobile sim card in Uganda is a little more difficult as there are not that many Lycamobile retailers yet. For example at Entebbe Airport and in Entebbe I did not see any Lycamobile retailers, neither throughout the country. I only found Lycamobile retailers in Kampala.
Sim card registration in Uganda
Buying a sim card in Uganda is serious business. Every prepaid sim card will be registered on your name with your passport. A photo of your passport will be taken as well as a photo of you while holding the sim card next to your face. No joke! :)
The sim card registration in Uganda is very official and there is no way around. You have to first fill out a form, then your fingerprint is taken, then your passport is registered, then the photo session then it finally gets activated.
Therefore when buying a sim card in Uganda allow yourself a little time. Welcome to Africa! :)
When registering the sim card you need to create a PIN number and with every transaction like a top up for a new data bundle you will need to confirm with your personal PIN, so don’t forget it!
If you want to avoid this then Traveltomtom recommends you to order a prepaid sim card or an e-sim card for Uganda online. Online sim cards do NOT require registration, you just need your email address.
Social Madia Tax (OTT)
Mobile internet in Uganda is at times restricted and regulated, depending on the regulations of the government. The best example is that on the day of National election in Uganda on January 13th 2021 there was NO INTERNET ACCESS country wide.
Although a major resistance against a proposed social media tax, the government pushed through the controversial social media tax called OTT. Whenever you want to use social media apps in Uganda you have to pay an additional tax. For tourists this is just a couple cents, but for Ugandans this can be a lot of money.
Good news is that in 2023 the Social Media Tax, the so called OTT is gone! However, instead they now tax data bundles with an extra tax. Data plans and internet packages are slightly more expensive these days, but nothing really to worry about for tourists as data bundles in Uganda are cheap anyway.
Facebook used to be blocked in Uganda
For a long time Instagram and Facebook were blocked in Uganda. Since the beginning of 2021 due to a dispute between the Uganda government and Facebook the apps could not be accessed through a Uganda mobile internet connection. Luckily since January 2023 things have been restored and Facebook and Instagram are open again, there is no need for a VPN anymore.
Use of VPN in Uganda
Officially it is forbidden by law to use a VPN in Uganda. That said most young people in Uganda are still using a VPN. In phone shops in Uganda they even advice you about good VPN's to use. But since Facebook and Instagram are back there is no direct need for a VPN anymore in Uganda. However, the use of a VPN is recommended anyway for the protection of your data.
Prices Uganda prepaid sim cards in 2023
The info and prices beelow for prepaid sim cards and data packages and bundles in Uganda are up to date as per August 2023. Prices are in Ugandan Schilling: $1 USD = 3,583 UGX and 10,000 UGX = $2.79 USD.
A prepaid sim card from Africell costs 2,000 UGX, about $0.5 USD and comes with a little bit of credit. You will need to add credit to your account to add data bundles.
These are the most common Africell data bundles:
- 15,000 UGX = 4.5 GB data for 1 week - $4 USD
- 20,000 UGX = 8 GB data for 1 week - $5 USD
- 25,000 UGX = 8 GB data for 1 month - $7 USD
- 50,000 UGX = 20 GB data for 1 month - $14 USD
For 5,000 UGX ($1.3) you can buy a voice bundle that gives you 20 minutes to call + 200 MB for 1 week.
As you can see mobile internet in Uganda is cheap, so it is worth getting a local sim card in Uganda to not end up with high roaming costs.
An MTN Uganda prepaid sim card costs 2,000 UGX and you can add credit to buy voice or data bundles. These are the most common data bundles:
- 20,000 UGX = 5 GB data for 1 week - $5.6 USD
- 50,000 UGX = 10 GB data for 1 month - $14 USD
Click on the link to see the latest MTN Uganda data package deals on their website.
As you can see MTN is much more expensive or let’s say gives less value for money than Africell. This is because Africell has a weaker 3G/4G network. But let’s look at Airtel prepaid sim cards.
Just like the other mobile internet operators a prepaid Airtel sim card also costs 2,000 UGX. And they also have daily, weekly and monthly data bundles. Here are some of the most common ones I would recommend:
- 15,000 UGX = 4 GB data for 1 week - ($4.2)
- 20,000 UGX = 7 GB data for 1 week - ($5.6)
- 30,000 UGX = 9 GB data for 1 month - ($8.5)
- 50,000 UGX = 20 GB data for 1 month - ($14.1)
Calling credit can be added additionally and for 2,000 UGX ($0.5) you get 45 minutes for 1 week. Click on the link to go to the Airtel Uganda website and find the latest Airtel Uganda data bundle prices.
As you can see you get more value for money with an Airtel sim card compared to an MTN sim card for Uganda.
A Lycamobile Uganda sim card is free and can be picked up from any of the Lycamobile retailers. Register with your passport, recharge your sim card, choose a bundle and you are ready to go.
The Lycamobile Uganda plans are very affordable compared to the other mobile operators, but there are a couple disadvantages:
- The Lycamobile Uganda network is much smaller
- Their plans include only Lyca to Lyca calling credit
However their data plans have amazing value for money:
- 5,000 UGX = 5 GB data for 1 week - ($1.4)
- 7,000 UGX = 10 GB data for 1 week - ($2)
- 10,000 UGX = 20 GB data for 1 week - ($2.8)
- 25,000 UGX = 50 GB data for 1 week - ($7.1)
- 30,000 UGX = 100 GB data for 1 month - ($8.5)
No need to tell you that these bundles are by far the best prices for prepaid sim cards in Uganda. On top of that the these bundles included Lyca to Lyca calling and texting, even internationally. Check out the latest information about the Lycamobile Uganda Plans. But do I recommend a Lycamobile sim card for traveling in Uganda?
Related: Ultimate Uganda Itinerary!
Best 4G/5G network in Uganda
To find out about the best sim card in Uganda let’s also take a look at the network coverage for mobile internet.
Is there 5G in Uganda? YES! Surprisingly there is a 5G signal available in Uganda. It was the first country in East Africa to have a 5G signal. However, you can find a 5G signal only in central Kampala and only with MTN.
Theoretically there is 5G in Uganda, but in reality I hardly was connected to 5G when on my last trip to Kampala. When I walked into an MTN Service Center and asked about it, they didn’t even know about 5G in Uganda yet.
However, MTN and Airtel invested big time in 4G in the last 2 years and their mobile internet network coverage in Uganda is pretty decent. Especially on the main roads in Uganda you will mostly find a 4G signal when traveling around the country.
As soon as you go off the beaten path the phone signal becomes weaker and the internet speed slows down significantly, but that may be is the charm of visiting Uganda. Right?
3G/4G/5G network coverage map Airtel Uganda
Airtel Uganda claims to reach more than 95% of the Uganda population and invested heavily in their network in 2019 and 2020. They actually have a little 4G coverage map on their website.
3G/4G/5G network coverage map MTN Uganda
MTN claims to have the fastest 4G network in Uganda and their coverage is pretty good country wide. Just like Airtel they also invested a lot into upgrading their 4G network in Uganda.
3G/4G network Africell Uganda
It is much harder to find more info about the 4G coverage of the Africell network in Uganda. Unfortunately they don’t provide any additional info on their website. Fact is that Africell is the smallest network in Uganda after of course Lycamobile who just entered the market.
3G/4G network Lycamobile Uganda
Lycamobile is investing and expanding rapidly and their 4G coverage is growing fast. Still I would NOT recommend a Lycamobile sim card for traveling in Uganda, as other mobile internet operators have a much more extensive 4G network in Uganda.
Overall it is no secret that MTN and Airtel have the best 4G network coverage in Uganda and therefore I recommend tourists to buy a sim card from one of these operators.
However if you are going to Bwindi National Park for the gorilla trekking then I would recommend you buying an Airtel sim card. My friends with Airtel had an ok phone signal, but I had MTN and I could hardly connect. Therefore Airtel is the best sim card for gorilla trekking in Uganda.
Best sim card for Uganda in 2023
As you have seen the best value for money would be buying a Lycamobile sim card as for less than $10 you get 100 GB data for 1 month. However I would NOT recommend tourist to buy a Lycamobile sim card.
For example if you are traveling to Bwindi National Park you will be out of service. Lycamobile is only good if you only visit Kampala on your trip to Uganda.
In the National Parks around Uganda you can hardly find Africell and MTN let alone Lycamobile. Based on all the above information about the 3G/4G/5G network coverage in Uganda and the cheap prices for data plans it is clear that Airtel is the best prepaid sim card in Uganda in 2023.
Order a sim card for Uganda online
If buying a sim card in Uganda sounds like too much hassle or you simply want to arrive prepared than look into ordering a physical sim card for Uganda on the internet. This international sim card is pre-activated and will be shipped to your home address before your trip:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
The above travel sim card is valid in multiple countries around Africa. Click here for more info about this sim card for Uganda or to order one directly.
Also a last reminder that you can order a Uganda e-sim cards directly online and arrange everything within just a couple minutes.
My experience buying a sim card in Uganda
As you have seen I also wrote a blog about buying a sim card at Entebbe Airport however, that is NOT where I bought my sim card for Uganda. I went to Entebbe Airport only for writing the blog post, but I entered Uganda overland from Tanzania.
At the Uganda - Tanzania border of Mutukula there is no kiosk that sells sim cards for tourists. Therefore I had to wait until I got out of the bus in Masaka. It was already late, but just before curfew I managed to locate an Airtel shop. Although I preferably wanted an MTN sim card (best network I thought) I was happy at this hour with an Airtel sim card.
After the whole official process, which took about 15 minutes, the friendly people told me: sorry, can’t activate, the system is down! Damn, then I am not buying a sim card now!
The next day I woke up and had to go straight to Mbarara, one of the bigger cities in Uganda. Here I tried again to buy a sim card and this time I went to the MTN store. Again I needed to do the whole process and again same problem… system down. Luckily I could come back after lunch and the problem was fixed.
Finally I got my Uganda sim card and I was online! Throughout my Uganda trip I didn’t have any significant problems with my MTN sim card. However when traveling in Southern Uganda: Lake Mburo, Lake Bunyonyi and gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park I found out that my friends who had an Airtel sim card had much better phone signal than me.
Therefore I recommend people traveling to Uganda and trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to buy an Airtel sim card.
I hope all the above tips and tricks about Uganda sim cards were helpful. May you have any additional questions or information please leave me a comment below.
Check out my Uganda page for with multiple Uganda travel blogs full of tips and travel inspiration in the lush green little country in East Africa. Curious about my road to visit every country in the world? Check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom where you can also find many cool content about Uganda. As of August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries.
Enjoy your trip to Uganda!