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Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

Hello,

We are a party of 3 all with iPhones (both AT&T and Verizon in the US). My understanding is the iPhones, not having removable SIM cards, are not going to be much use except as a "last resort". In searching the Verizon site for example, the Global Data Plan is "pay as you go" = high cost and the Text rates are high ($.50/each to send). We would like to be able to have texting to family and honestly data to post updates for others.

We are totally open to renting a phone (any recommendations?) and/or figuring out an alternative (something we can buy in US for cheap, then insert SIM card there?). I have a recent Android phone, is that an option?

Has anyone else used an iPhone there, for what, and how awful was your bill? We'll be in Tanzania for almost 2 weeks, 2 nights Arusha, 6 night Kili hike, Arusha, then 3 night safari.

Thanks

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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1. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

How awful can your bill be, I had a friend there who used his iPhone (rather often) while he was there, bill when he got back was over $2,000. Not a good choice.

I have had a Tz telephone for years, and take it with me when I travel internationally. Then when I'm in a new country I merely change the SIM card for a service for that country and I'm up and running. Quite simple. I paid ~$20 for the telephone and you can get starter kits (a SIM Card and some minutes) for ~ 10,000 Tsh (at 1,600 Tsh = $1). Go to the Zain Store in Arusha (near to the clock tower roundabout), they will have phones for sale at this price range and they will do voice and text, for more money you can do data also. The phone I have is a small Nokia. Ask them for the starter kit and they will put in the sim card and get you going. Unless you get an expensive phone your bill will be no more than about $25. Share the use of the phone, you can call internationally and locally on this, text internationally and locally.

I have a Blackberry with a SIM card in it, however when I tried to use the Blackberry service there it didn't work well so I canned it and went back to my Nokia for Tz.

You don't rent phones there like you do in Tulsa. You buy the phone, and then you purchase minutes on scratch off cards, they will show you at the Zain store how to do all this.

That's the easy way. When you are returning, give the phone to your driver/guide as part of your tip, they will always be able to use another phone. Or if you are traveling internationally again, just keep it for your next trip. This phone can be used in Europe also (with a SIM card from a European carrier).

Ottawa, Canada
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2. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

As above, but some of the more reliable phones may cost as much as $40, but depends on number of minutes, server and how much swahili you have for bargaining.

It is useful for other overseas travel. US now has websites for buying sim cards for other countries, but every arrival airport also has them for sale, always inexpensively and with some kind of plan.

Hopefully you will be like the most of us - put it in your duffel bag and leave it there.

Washington DC...
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3. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

A few years back I bought the Nokia 1280 at Nairobi Airport, together with a $5 sim card (calls from Kenya to the US were about 3 cents/min at the time) for about $30 total. I have subsequently used the phone on repeat trips to Kenya and to Tanzania, buying sim cards either at the airport on landing or in Arusha.

If you wanted to take care of the phone part ahead of time, you could look at Amazon for unlocked phones. They have the Nokia I mentioned for about $30. You could then by a sim card on arrival.

Edited: 03 May 2013, 20:11
Pasco, Washington
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4. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

I paid for an overseas plan through ATT (1 month worth) that gave me some texts and some minutes if needed. I never used the phone. I used my netbook when I had wifi which was actually quite often, though sometimes it did cost. Since I used the netbook to post on my blog as well as send update emails to friends and family it worked out ok.

Dallas, TX
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5. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

Is Nokia pretty much the preferred brand? I was planning to buy one online before I go but preferred to get one with QWERTY for ease of texting. I have found Samsung at a reasonable price with QWERTY but not Nokia.

I'm sure this is a stupid question but I've never used an unlocked phone with a SIM card. How are the people in the US charged when they text/call you on the phone in Tz? Are they charged a regular text/call or is it charged to them as an international text/call?

Findlay, Ohio
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6. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

I think an international text rate is 50 cents for sending or receiving an international text. It is on my Verizon plan where I have unlimited text (but not international). Whenever someone sends me an international text I get 50 cents rang up on my bill, same when I send an international text. So don't respond to something with "OK", that's 25 cents a letter.

I use the Nokia and am used to the keyboard, but it is definitely easier to text using a QWERTY keyboard. There is no preference in phone manufacturers, and there are probably more different phones used there than in the US. I got the Nokia there because it was cheap and I considered it a throw-away if necessary. The one thing in common there is that they are all have SIM cards installed (SIM is an acronym for Subscriber Identity Module meaning that if you change SIM cards you can change your Subscriber/Carrier) and they use what is called the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) which is a telecommunications system which typically is not used in the US. And the reason why your phone will not work there (unless you have what is sometimes called a World Phone which has a dual system in them). This is a Readers Digest version of their cell system, and as is with all telecommunications you can get lost in the acronyms.

Minneapolis...
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7. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

I know little about cell phones. I use a prepaid tracphone since I rarely use it. When I look on amazon for a phone, how can I know that it is one that I can buy a sim card that will work in Tanzania? What terminology should I be looking for (unlocked?) ? Will all Nokias work?

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

I'd say your key words are 'unlocked,' at least 'dual-banded' for 900 and 1800 frequencies (some phones may be quad-banded for 850/900/1800/1900, which would work) and 'GSM.' If you're looking at phones at an online site the description of the phone will indicate whether those key words are met.

Honolulu, Hawaii
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9. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

Part of your question was if people took iPhones for other uses.

I took mine, not to make calls, never got a Sim card, but still used it a lot. In Arusha and in the lodges (not tent camps) and on Zanzibar, they had wifi and you can retrieve your and send email. Also email pictures if you want.

Findlay, Ohio
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10. Re: Cellphones: renting, buying, using, etc.

Nannacallie... If you are unsure of what to get, don't get it here, wait until you are there and go to the Zain or other mobile phone store in Arusha and get one there, they are in the $20 range for the phone, and bought there they will work there. They can set you up with everything you need (the phone won't have all the bells and whistles on it but I sense that you wouldn't want that), and you'll probably walk out of the store for something less than 50,000 Tsh (at 1,600 Tsh = $1), and that will include some minutes for you to use. You can buy scratch off cards for the minutes you will need. Have your driver/guide take you to the store and help you with this. Another option would be to find out what phone your driver/guide uses and get some minutes for his phone and ask if you can use it to make calls or send text, I think that most wouldn't mind that, and when you leave get him some minutes for his phone and give them to him for the use of the phone.