Phone US from Kenya/Tanzania

Jul 27th, 2006, 02:55 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 13
Phone US from Kenya/Tanzania

Anyone used this type of card to call back to the US?

http://www.enjoyprepaid.com/
or
http://nobelcom.com/

Thanks!
tulip44 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 03:18 PM
  #2  
 
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Do you have access to an unlocked GSM 900/1800? The rates from Kenya back to US don't appear to be much better than prepaid rates using a local SIM. A cell phone would give you more convenience and coverage is generally good.
Patty is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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Sorry, that should read GSM 900/1800 cell phone
Patty is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:25 PM
  #4  
 
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I used my cell phone (GSM as per Patty's advice, T-Mobile) in Tanzania, Naribo, Kenya (airport) and Rwanda the entire time (almost a month, June-July 2006) with only one dead spot in the Central Serengeti but my guide still had service. My husband gave me wake-up calls from the US every morning!

Den

PS Thanks Patty!
Denbasking is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:31 PM
  #5  
 
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Hi. Please give me more information on the cell phone you used. We will be mostly in Kenya/Zanzibar. How did you purchase the phone that you used? Was it on roam? I am in the US and would love to purchase or rent one of these phones. I thought I was going to have to rent a satelite phone in case of office emergencies.
Thanks, Heather
HLester3 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:46 PM
  #6  
 
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I too am in the US and I just used my ole Nokia cellphone which just happen to have the GSM capability that Patty had informed us about.

The night before I left for Africa my husband looked up info about my phone online and saw that it BY CHANCE DID have GSM (2 yrs. old maybe) and then called or perhaps online asked T-Mobile to activate it!

It was wonderful to have, my husband was looking information up for me online constantly from the most remote places on the foothills of Kili or the Highlands around the Caldera and Karatu or in the mountains in Rwanda!

Den
Denbasking is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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Plus, everyone in Africa uses text message as the means of communication and my adult sons and their gals could reach me always which made them very happy! Not to mention I can respond faster texting now!

Den
Denbasking is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:48 PM
  #8  
 
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You need an unlock GSM phone that will take a SIM card so you can buy and insert a Celtel or Safari.com card. I bought my Siemens phone from cellularabroad.com and have used it in Europe. Has worked great. Am taking it next weekend to Kenya for the first time. Our tour operator is getting me a Celtel simcard. If you want, ask me after Aug. 20th how it worked. Also, incoming calls are free I believe.

Kevin from California
stakerk is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:54 PM
  #9  
 
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I used my Motorola Razr (Quad Band GSM) in Tanzania, and had a strong signal practically every place we went. I even had a strong signal for much of my climb on Kilimanjaro.

I didn't bother getting my phone unlocked and just had my provider turn on international roaming since I would only use it for emergencies. My provider is Cingular (formerly AT&T). Unfortunately, one of my party had difficulty with their plane arrangements (cancelled flight), so when I got off of Kili, I had a bunch of voice mail waiting for me. I had to place one call to my brother in San Francisco, which cost me $4.99 a minute! I haven't seen a charge for checking my voice mail on my bill.
lifelist is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 04:56 PM
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I heard about the SIM card purchases (and certainly they and Coca-Cola market themselves well enough-I think TIGO or TOGO?) but I did not have to go that route with the GSM. My service changed to where I was, VODACOM, CELLTELL, etc.

Den
Denbasking is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 05:02 PM
  #11  
 
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You just need a GSM 900/1800 cell phone. Almost all US companies are using the GSM technology now except for Verizon wireless. (GSM phones are the ones that use SIM cards)

If you have this type of cell phone you can do two things.

1. You can just use it with your curent provider and pay their roaming charges and/or international charges. Most companies have special plans you can sign up for to use your phone internationally. The plus is that you keep your same phone number you have here at home. The minus is that the per minute charges can be expensive. This option is good if you are only wanting to make a few calls and/or have your phone for emergencies.

2. You can have your phone unlocked or buy an unlocked phone on ebay. (US cell phone companies have their phones "locked" onto their networks). Once you have an unlocked phone you can then pick up a local SIM card in your destination country. This gives you a local number that you can add credit too with those prepaid cards. You just put the new SIM card in your phone and your all set. This is a good option if you plan on making lots of calls home and/or making lots of local calls. You usually get a pretty good rate for international calls.


Alternatively, I've found that you can usually find a cheap cell phone (less than 50 bucks) to buy in most countries that are on the prepaid plans if you do not have an unlocked GSM phone to bring from home.


Hope this helps someone

Jenn
jenn24 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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One more thing...

The reason you need to make sure your phone is at least 900/1800 mhz capable is because US cell phones use a different frequency than the rest of the world. (Another wacky thing about us Americans)

Hence, you have to make sure your phone is compatabile with wherever you are traveling. My current phone is a Quad band and works almost anywhwere, but not every phone is like that.


Jenn
jenn24 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 05:53 PM
  #13  
 
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The first thing I would do is check is your current phone is GSM. If your US provider is Cingular or T-Mobile, it likely is. Then check if your GSM phone specifically has the 900 & 1800 MHz frequencies (you can Google your phone model).

If you have the above, it's a question of getting it unlocked as generally US providers lock the phones that they issue. If you have T-Mobile, they'll give you the unlock code after being a customer for 90 days. If you have Cingular, you have to beg, plead or just go to a third party source (again you can Google your phone model + the work unlock).

Once your phone is unlocked, you can insert any other carriers SIM card and use their service. When you get to Kenya, pick up a Safaricom or Celtel SIM (last time I paid 300 KES) and buy air time credit which comes in various amounts. Per minute calls back to the US range from 80-110 KES depending on which carrier you use, which plan you pick, what time you place the calls, etc. Incoming is free but the calling party in the US will pay long distance as you'll have a Kenyan number. You can check your balance and add more air time as needed.

If you don't get a local SIM and use your US provider's international roaming (you'll still need the same type of phone), calls are quite a bit more expensive and charges are the same for incoming and outgoing.

Jenn has summarized the pros and cons of each. In either case, you can reduce your communication cost by texting instead of making voice calls.

If your phone isn't GSM or 900/1800, you can purchase one online relatively inexpensively.
Patty is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 06:17 PM
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BTW renting generally isn't cost effective as for the same cost as a rental (or less), you can usually buy a phone.
Patty is offline  
Jul 27th, 2006, 11:03 PM
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ZANTEL(one of Tanzania's cellphone service provider)have yesterday announced slashing of international calling rates to as low as about 35 US cents per minute,i.e. by far cheaper than probably any provider in East Africa,and you can buy their SIM card for between $1 -$3(depends on where you buy it from)but their coverage is not as good in the parks as CELTEL'S,though ZANTEL coverage ends around Ngorongoro area and not beyond.If your phone is GSM TRIPLE BAND(900,1800&1900)You can check at gsmarena.com and not locked then it can work perfectly.
Coordinator is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 12:52 PM
  #16  
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Thanks for all the responses. My carrier is Verizon and my cell phone in not GSM. I don't intend to call home much. I just want to call home a few times and let mom know I'm ok Are calling cards an option for this or not?
tulip44 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 02:15 PM
  #17  
 
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Calling cards should be fine. However, finding a phone is a different matter. All of the lodges you stay at should have a phone, but some camps may use a cell phone rather than a landline, and I don't know how calling cards work with a cell phone.

If you're on safari, it's likely that your guide will have a cell phone and you may be able to borrow it and just pay him for the time. You can check with your safari operator about what's available at each lodging/camp and what other options may be available.
lifelist is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 02:26 PM
  #18  
sandi
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Tell mom that you'll only call if there is a ugent reason. This way you won't have to, she won't have to "wonder" - you won't have to concern yourself with a cellphone.

In 12-years visiting Africa, I've never made a call or sent an email. I'm too busy have a good time. Though my friend had hers on our trip last year, once it was turned off when we boarded our flight out of JFK, it wasn't turned on until we landed 17-days later in EWR.

It is so refreshing not to hear phones ring or have a need to talk to anyone who wasn't there enjoying safari with me.

But then, I don't own a cellphone - just don't have the need "to be connected" once I walk out of the apartment or the office.
 
Jul 28th, 2006, 02:37 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Using your guide's phone is a good idea (assuming you're going on safari, that is). Just buy or pay him for the air time you use.

Otherwise, could you post your itinerary? Maybe someone can advise the availability of land lines.
Patty is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 08:47 PM
  #20  
santharamhari
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Sandi,

I agree with your post. When on safari, ditch the phone!!!

Hari
 
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