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lmavolio Jul 29th, 2007 05:18 AM

Quick Poll: How many of you bring/are bringing a cell phone on safari?
Just curious how many of you are bringing a cell phone on your safari. I have thought of doing this in the event of an emergency and to let my family know I'm ok periodically. However, I would have to either buy/rent a GSM phone or rent a satellite phone in order to "possibly" get coverage (no provider will guarantee coverage where we are going - they just say that they support wireless in Kenya & Tanzania). Based on this, I thought maybe I would just go without a phone, but curious to take a quick poll of others...Thanks!

Duane Jul 29th, 2007 05:37 AM

I took my Blackberry and actually had great reception. Yes, there were a few areas where I couldn't get reception, but more often than not I was OK. We were gone 3 weeks and couldn't be out of contact for that long due to a variety of reasons. But, our guide did have a cell phone and mentioned that people used his on occasion. I use AT&T/Cingular here in the states.

jenack Jul 29th, 2007 05:41 AM

I am bringing one in Sept to Kenya/Tanz. for my first safari. I bought a used quad band cell from somebody on this forum who it worked for over there and I am hoping for the best as I will be getting to some pretty remote places. With two young children at home and me being gone for quite awhile, I wanted to make sure my wife and I could stay in contact in case of emergency. That is the only reason I am taking one.

13moons Jul 29th, 2007 07:08 AM

I will be taking a blackberry with interntional service fron ATT.

sandi Jul 29th, 2007 07:25 AM

Don't own one, don't bring one. Totally unconnected when I leave the office or home!

Many of the lodges and camps have internet service for a small fee to send a message home. Your safari vehicle/guide should all have 2-way radio service back to headquarters; most guides have cellphones.

For those travellers with children, elderly parents or someone at home for whom you feel it's necessary to be in touch then go for a mobile, absolutely.

Be sure to leave contact information with those at home - children, parents, friends, etc. (but not your job, please) the name of our in-country tour outfitter/s (for all countries you are visiting), their email address, phone and fax numbers... in case they have to reach you. Your tour outfitter will then be able to reach you out on the plains and knows where you are at all times.

Also leave photocopy of your itinerary, passport info page, credit cards, etc. with a responsible person at home.

And, don't forget to bring your Travel Insurance info, policy #, name of provider as this is required by your outfitter, in case of emergency. Some outfitters absolutely will not accept you for travel medical/evacuation without insurance.

Calo Jul 29th, 2007 08:43 AM

Not a chance.

Bill_H Jul 29th, 2007 08:47 AM

One of the guys we traveled with last January had a Verizon cell phone and had clear reception at Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro crater rim (he said it was as clear as calling from home) and spotty reception at Ndutu (which uses the Ngorongoro tower, so was a bit dependent on angle and weather).

I think some safari companies will provide a phone with a SIM card for US calls for a few bucks. I think poster dsxxx mentioned having this feature tossed in on his recent trip to Tanzania, for example. I would think Kenya should have better coverage than Tanzania.

I think you can access email at many lodges, which some use as a substitute for cell phones.


matnikstym Jul 29th, 2007 09:11 AM

Never brought one but this year doing a self-drive through Kruger, will probably rent one just in case of emergency.

balmer Jul 29th, 2007 09:28 AM

We're renting a satellite phone for periodic calls (and text msgs) home to let family know we're ok, and for emergencies.

Kavey Jul 29th, 2007 09:31 AM

We generally have one with us so that when we get back home we can call the car park company to send a bus to pick us up and take us back to our car (or, if we've been flash and dropped the bigger bucks, to bring our car to us at the airport).

On the trip itself it remains switched off.

The only exception was in South Africa where we were doing a self-drive and would occasionally use it to call ahead and make restaurant reservations or let a booked accommodation know we were running late. Probably cost more than finding a local pay phone but was a lot more convenient.

moremiles Jul 29th, 2007 09:41 AM

Definitely plan to bring something so son and parents can get ahold of us in an emergency-we'll be fine, it's them I'll be worried about.

bat Jul 29th, 2007 11:02 AM

We had with us a T-mobile phone which our friend found to have better reception than his rented satellite phone (in the central serengeti/crater area)

andybiggs Jul 29th, 2007 11:13 AM

I take 2 different approaches.

1) I have a satellite phone which I turn on only to make outgoing calls and also to check SMS messages. Incoming SMS messages are completely free, and I can tell people to go to a web site to send messages to the phone. Cost for voice calls is about $1.30 per minute.

2) I have tried my Tmobile Blackberry 7105t phone with a Tanzania Celtel SIM card, and it works great. Just remember to call Tmobile to have them unlock your phone for you, otherwise other SIM cards won't work in your phone. Same with AT&T. The bad news is that after 12 months of trying, I have been unable to configure my 7105t Blackberry for GPRS data. So I cannot receive or send emails. I can send/receive SMS messages, though.

I recently purchased a Nokia 6233 in Arusha, and now have complete GPRS data on this phone. So I have my Blackberry with USA phone number, as well as my Nokia 6233 with a local Tanzania Celtel number, including data access. So I check my emails a few times each day, only responding to those who are in need of an answer before my safari is over.

My next plan is to try to figure out how to use the 6233 as a modem over bluetooth for my Macbook computer. I have successfully done this on a pc, but not without a ton of work. This will enable me to check my emails on my Macbook, using the 6233 as my modem for the internet. Pretty snazzy.

If you are traveling to Africa and want cell phone reception, you will have to be on GSM service. In other words, Verizon and Sprint phones will not work, as they are on a totally different network. There are some phones that Verizon/Sprint offers that are 'world phones', which means they also speak the GSM language. These phones are not as common in their lineup, though. Look for the Blackberry 8830, for example.

If you are looking to make calls daily, or anticipate using many minutes, I highly recommend using a local SIM card. International rates are much much less expensive this way. If you use your original SIM card from your home country, whatever service you have in Africa will need to have a reciprocal billing agreement in place in order for your phone to work. Sometimes you think you have service, but after a call or two the African carrier can cut you off if this billing agreement is not in place. So the safe bet is to purchase a SIM card when you arrive. In Kenya and Tanzania the Celtel SIM cards are only a few dollars with no minutes included.

Happy calling!

moremiles Jul 29th, 2007 11:27 AM

Hope you don't mind an extra question here but since you sound quite tech savvy, what do you recommend for a Blackberry/Smartphone that will work in Africa/Europe/Asia(or most parts thereof) and that will only be used for email and an occasional phone call? I would like to have one number to keep and the price per min, for calls is not that impt. since mostly email will be used. I have been reading about some drawbacks with the new Verizon Worldphone. Thanks.

andybiggs Jul 29th, 2007 11:32 AM

Great question, and one that I cannot fully answer at this time. I have yet to be able to take a blackberry over to Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Bots or Namibia) and have both voice and data access. I heard that Celtel Tanzania recently started offering blackberry service in Dar es Salaam, but I haven't seen their offering on their web site yet.

I would jump onto the iPhone bandwagon if I could get it unlocked, but I haven't heard of anything official that lets one do this.

So I do not know which, if any, Blackberry model will work with GPRS data, and consequently push email, in Africa. I would love to hear if anybody has this working.

going_2_africa Jul 29th, 2007 02:51 PM

No how, no way. For me, it's about getting as far away from all of that as I can.

cary999 Jul 29th, 2007 03:06 PM

Excellent advice Sandi about what info to leave at home and take with you. And we do that.

Perhaps one other thing. I thought of this after the fact, after my May safari traveling solo, (but no harm done), that I should have and next time will, when I check into the camp give the office information about my medical travel insurance. So that there is minimal delay should I require treatment. I did have that info on my person but why not have it with the office also.

regards - tom

stakerk Jul 29th, 2007 03:51 PM

yes. took to Kenya last August. Used Celtel. Poor reception in Samburu (could only get good reception when upslope on game drives, only got, even then poor, reception in camp at Larsen's), great in Mara and Lamu.

I thought a lot of fun to call friends in U.S. at end of game drive, "I am looking at a Somali ostrich at the moment."

Note: Safaricom appeared to be opposite of Celtel. Workers in Samburu all used and those in Mara said it did not work well there.

africaddict Jul 29th, 2007 04:29 PM

You must be joking..............that would be the last thing I would take!!
And the very reason why most of us go to these remote places. :-\


Momliz Jul 29th, 2007 06:13 PM

you nailed it, africaaddict!

It will be on the bottom of the duffel, turned off, only for use to/from airport in the states.

How did we manage before we had cell phones? We muddled through, and it wasn't so bad.

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