Telephoning from Tanzania

Apr 5th, 2005, 07:28 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 56
Telephoning from Tanzania

Hi Everyone,
My husband and I are leaving for a two week birding/wildlife safari in Tanzania in June. I have an elderly mother at home who is not that well. Is it possible to telephone the U.S. from lodges? Is the price totally exorbitant? Our company also suggested that we could use our guide's cellphone? Is that even more exorbitant? When we travelled in Europe and Asia we always used a telephone card and a public telephone booth but I assume that would not be possible because aside from two nights in Arusha we are not staying in any city. Help, please.
As always, many thanks.
jandj is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354

Usage of your guide's cell phone will probably cost about $2 a minute. You can prepay minutes on a card and use with his phone - which I think is the best idea. Your guide can stop anywhere and buy a card for you with a pin number!

My tri-band Nokia 3650 (T-Mobile service)works great from/to Tanzania. All I had to do was enabling the free international service with T-Mobile (and they unlock the SIM).

Other providers will also work, but it is best to check their partnerships (and coverage) in Tanzania.

However, cell coverage in some areas of the Serengeti were weak and also towards the south.

In the cities and most towns I had strong signals. East Africa is very progressive in terms of cell usage!

My calls cost around $2 per minute, but was still cheaper than the lodges. Once in the parks, you cannot depend on the lodge/camp phones although it is available.

For complete coverage, you can always rent an Iridium satellite phone from various places in the USA. About $250 per month and $2 per minute.
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 08:27 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Correction! I just looked at my cell phone bill from Aug last year and my T-Mobile calls were $4.99 per minute from Tanzania!

Ouch! I need to shop around a bit....!

I think buying some minutes for your guides phone is going to be cheaper!

And a rental satellite phone remains an option if you are visiting many remote places - but ask your outfitter about cell phone coverage in those areas first!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,846
Probably best to buy a local SIM next time. To use ATT/Cingular's roaming service in Kenya would have cost me $3.49 a minute, but with a local SIM and prepaid minutes, it was closer to $1.00-$1.40 for international calls back to the US. I imagine similar rate differences in Tanzania between using roaming service vs. prepaid cards.

Anyone who doesn't already have an unlocked GSM 900 phone is probably better off using the guide's phone (unless you want to invest in a phone for future use). The only issue would be coverage outside of cities and towns.
Patty is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 09:51 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 87
I seem to remember that you need to put 3 (000) before the country code when dailing overseas. We spent 2 days trying to work out why our phone did not work.
Photos of our trip to Tanzania and a few othe places.
rdkr is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,354
Thanks Patty!

Very stupid of me - I mixed up my cell and satellite phone bills and did not notice the expensive calls from my cell since I made only a few due to lack of coverage in the Serengeti!

I am going to research the local SIM issue now in time for my May/June trip! I am looking forward to cheaper calls using my cell!

Just for reference: Last year I rented an Iridium sat phone @ $250 for the month. Incoming calls were FREE. Outgoing was $1.99 a minute.

Gotta love this board! I learn something new every day!
climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 11:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,846
I forgot about the 000 - took me a while to figure that out too. I thought it was reception issues at first. I finally had the sense to call customer service after 5-6 tries

Do you know how much the caller(s) paid to call your sat phone? My understanding is that calls to sat phones are very expensive for the calling party.

That's another consideration, if using a local SIM, anyone who calls you would be paying long distance to Tanzania. I used mine mostly for outgoing calls, so it wasn't much of an issue. But if you have someone calling from home, you'll want to check the long distance rates before you leave.
Patty is offline  

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