Are you planning your trip to Rwanda? I am super excited for you as it is one of my favorite countries in Africa and I am sure you are going to love it too. In this guide I will tell you everything about buying a sim card for Rwanda with up to date prices as per August 2023, where to buy a Rwanda sim card, the best e-sim cards for traveling in Rwanda, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendation, info about international sim cards for Rwanda and more.
Visiting Rwanda was my 126th country on my journey to travel to every country in the world. Everywhere I go I write guides for staying connected to help out fellow travelers not to waste money on roaming charges. Therefore on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from around the world: Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Dubai, Douala, Cameroon, New York, USA, Burundi, Uganda, Entebbe, Kenya, Nairobi, Tanzania, Europe, Dubai and many more.
So when planning your next adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your destination. Bookmark this website!
Why buying a sim card for Rwanda
First off all to stay connected when traveling of course. It makes visiting Rwanda so much easier. Ordering a taxi from an app, getting directions from Google Maps, looking up information while on the road, emergencies, translation apps and simply staying in touch.
Distances in Rwanda are not long, but travel time in and between the tourist destinations can be very long. Killing time on your phone is a pleasant way to get through the long journeys.
Buying a local prepaid sim card in Rwanda is cheap and takes only 10 minutes, ordering an e-sim card for Rwanda on the internet goes even faster. The best thing about a Rwanda sim card is that it avoids getting stuck with extremely high roaming charges. On top of that overseas data plans mostly limit the data speed.
Public WiFi in Rwanda is unfortunately not reliable either as it is not always existing and sometimes too slow, even in nice coffee cafes in Kigali this was an issue! Also another reminder that when using public WiFi this is through an UNSECURED network. The use of a VPN is recommended in these situations to protect your data.
Traveltomtom recommends an MTN sim card for Rwanda. MTN has slightly more expensive data bundles, but they have the most extensive 4G network in Rwanda. For 10,000 RWF ($9 USD) you get 10 GB data for 1 month.
E-sim cards for Rwanda are also recommended because of its convenience, more info below. Local prepaid sim cards are much cheaper though.
You can also look into buying an international travel sim card for traveling abroad in 2023. These sim cards for travelers have (partially) global coverage. Some of these are great sim cards for traveling in Africa. Check out my international sim card comparison in the link above.
E-sim card for Rwanda
When traveling to Rwanda in 2023 an e-sim card is the easiest way to stay connected. More expensive than a local prepaid sim card, but you can arrange it right now within a couple minutes. No need to visit a store or swap physical sim cards anymore, just order one online, receive a code, apply the settings and you are good to go. Check out the Rwanda e-sim card deals below:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24 USD
Click here to directly order an e-sim card for Rwanda or get more info in the link.
Mobile internet providers in Rwanda
Rwanda is a small country and there are only two mobile internet operators: MTN and Airtel. Both providers sell prepaid sim cards for tourists.
Where to buy a sim card in Rwanda
Without a doubt the best place to buy a sim card for Rwanda is at Kigali International Airport on arrival. There is an MTN store at Kigali Airport. Read all about it in my complete guide for buying a sim card at Kigali Airport.
Official stores Kigali Center
Although on the streets of Kigali and all around Rwanda you will see MTN and Airtel employees, these friendly people can’t help you as they don’t sell prepaid sim card to foreigners. For buying a Rwanda sim card you will need to go to an official retail store of MTN or Airtel and this is because the sim card needs to be officially registered.
When buying a sim card in Rwanda you will need to bring your passport as your new local sim card will be registered on your name and your passport number. You can only buy 1 prepaid sim card per passport in Rwanda. In the store they will take a copy of your passport for their registration and they will also take a photo of you.
The whole registration process will take around 10 to 15 minutes, but then you are all set and straight away online. In the store they will set everything up for you. Traveltomtom recommends to wait in store until everything works smoothly.
If you are hesitated about all of this then look into buying an international sim card for Rwanda, hen there is no registration needed.
Prices for prepaid Rwanda sim cards in 2023
All info and prices below are updated in August 2023 and prices are in Rwandan Franc: $1 USD = 1,170 RWF and 10,000 RWF = $8.54 USD.
An Airtel sim card costs 200 RWF which is just $0.2 USD It comes with no credit, so for using data you will have to add credit and activate one of the available Airtel Rwanda data packages:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = 1,600 RWF
- 5 GB data for 30 days = 3,5000 RWF
- 30 GB data for 30 days = 16,000 RWF
If you want some credit for calling to Rwandan phone numbers you will need to add some extra credit. But just $1 USD will give you a bunch of minutes for making calls within Rwanda. For more info check the Airtel Rwanda website.
An MTN prepaid sim card costs 500 RWF ($0.5 USD) for the registration and also needs to be topped up with credit for activating data bundles.
- 1 GB data for 7 days = 1,000 RWF
- 4 GB data for 7 days = 3,000 RWF
- 7 GB data for 30 days = 5,000 RWF
- 16 GB data for 30 days = 10,000 RWF
- 30 GB data for 30 days = 18,000 RWF
As you can see there is hardly any prices difference when comparing MTN and Airtel for Rwanda prepaid sim cards. For more info check the MTN website.
Best 4G/5G network in Rwanda in 2023
Unfortunately there is not much info online about the 4G signal strength of MTN and Airtel. I found the following Rwanda 4G/5G network coverage maps, and although they say they are updated as per August 2023, they are very incomplete.
Is there 5G in Rwanda?
No, as per 2023 there is no 5G in Rwanda. There is no news 5G will be implemented within the next 6 months. But as soon there is news I will of course updated this Rwanda sim card article.
Airtel 4G/5G network coverage maps
MTN 4G/5G network coverage maps
Based on the above data I could find on the internet we can see that MTN has the better mobile internet network, but my own experiences tell me that these maps are a bad reference.
I traveled all over the country and had a 4G signal almost everywhere, that is how I came to the conclusion that these 4G/5G coverage maps for Rwanda are kind of useless.
To get a more clear answer on which provider has the best mobile internet network in Rwanda I asked locals for advice and out of the many people I asked about 70% of them would say that MTN has the best 4G network in Rwanda.
More about my own experience below.
Best sim card for Rwanda in 2023
As the prices for data bundles are pretty much the same for Airtel and MTN my recommendation for the best prepaid sim card in Rwanda is based on the network strength.
However, I must say that MTN has a couple more options choosing a data bundle that fits your trip to Rwanda.
Since MTN seems to have the most extensive 4G mobile network it is the best prepaid sim card in Rwanda in 2023. For 10,000 RWF you will get 10 GB data for 30 days, which I think is a pretty good deal for tourists looking for a Rwanda sim card.
Check out my Rwanda sim card vlog below for a brief summary and my experiences of buying a sim card in Rwanda.
My experiences buying a sim card in Rwanda
As I said the most convenient place to buy a sim card for Rwanda is on arrival at Kigali Airport. As there is no Airtel store I automatically ended up with an MTN prepaid sim card for Rwanda. Before my trip I already did my research and found out that MTN is the biggest internet provider in Rwanda with the most costumers.
I bought 10 GB data for 30 days for 10,000 RWF plus 500 RWF extra for the sim card. When my registration was completed the friendly girl in the MTN store added another 6 GB data extra as a bonus. So I had 16 GB data for my 15 days trip in Rwanda.
As you have been able to see in my vlog about buying a sim card in Rwanda I also went downtown Kigali to gather information about buying a prepaid sim card. Very helpful people, but the waiting lines are too long, it was a waste of precious time being in Rwanda. Therefore another reminder to buy your prepaid sim card for Rwanda at Kigali airport or order an e-sim card for Rwanda before your trip.
Based on my own experience I can confirm that I had an MTN 4G signal pretty much all the time while traveling around in Rwanda.
I traveled Northwest from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park, did the Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and traveled onwards to Gisenyi on Lake Kivu. Then I traveled South along Lake Kivu to Kibuye and my final destination before heading back to Kigali was Nyungwe National Park.
As I stayed in some amazing luxury hotels in Rwanda: Serena Hotel Kigali, One & Only Gorilla’s Nest, Serena Hotel Lake Kivu, One & Only Nyungwe House and Eagle’s Nest Kigali I enjoyed very good WiFi from the hotels and ended up using only 8 GB data in 15 days.
I hope all the above tips for buying a sim card in Rwanda were helpful. Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments below. I will try to help you out with everything Rwanda sim card related as well as traveling in Rwanda.
If you are interested what it looks like traveling to every country in the world then check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom for some serious wanderlust. As of August 2023 I have visited more than 135 countries around the world.
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Enjoy your trip to Rwanda!