Communications on tour in Uganda-Africa
There has been an incredible revolution in communications on tour in Uganda in recent years.
Mobile phones …
Much of Uganda effectively bypassed the conventional telecoms era and went straight to wireless. It remarkably the depth to which mobile phones have penetrated. Almost everyone you meet will have a mobile phone.
Network coverage in many parts of Uganda is remarkably good. Towns and cities are no problem, major roads are usually well covered, as are most major wildlife parks and beach areas. You will obviously find areas of no signal, out on safari you may even be out of signal range for a number of days, but there will usually be some location nearby where Msafiri tours staff know where and when they can catch a network.
Most travellers will find that their mobile phones automatically connect to local Ugandan networks on arrival. You may like to check with your network operator before you depart to make sure this is the case.
You may well find that even where you have apparently strong signal, there may be no data capability. This can be extremely frustrating, but much of Africa has not yet developed a
Some services providers offer you the facility to upgrade to an international call package, which can greatly reduce the cost of calls made in Uganda if you subscribe in advance.
If you have a phone with an international standard SIM card, then one way to get around this is to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. Top-up “vouchas” are available just about everywhere.
Even if you do all the right things, you may find that your phone still does not work with an African SIM, in which case you may consider actually purchasing a handset in Africa.
If your phone does not take a SIM card, then you may also consider purchasing a handset in Uganda.
The kind of phones which can be easily purchased at street stalls and small stores across Uganda are generally simple and cheap. They may not have any significant capabilities other than texting and calling, but they do tend to have extraordinary battery life, often of over a week. A new phone usually comes with a SIM card and some credit, after which you can purchase pay-as-you-go “vouchas”. At the end of your trip you might like to make a gift of the phone, perhaps as part of a trip … although do note that if you buy a particularly cheap model it may not be considered much of a gift by a more tech-savvy recipient.
Local Ugandan wireless networks are becoming much more commonplace, with many hotels now providing this facility. This should make it possible for you to use smartphones and laptops for data without the compatibility issues described above. Note that if you want to make calls you will need to subscribe to a voice-data system such as Skype.
Usually Wi-Fi is charged on a daily Ugandan rate, with prices varying from reasonable to extortionate. If you think the price is too high then have a word with the lodge manager, who may have the capability to get around the system.
Note that when you leave a Wi-Fi area you need to disable your data roaming facility or your phone may automatically start using the local data network and you may rack up huge costs.
Internet access in Uganda…
Most Hotels provide a computer which guests can use to access the internet. Sometimes this is charged at an hourly rate, but increasingly this service is offered free of charge. Depending on the location, download speeds and data quantity may be limited.
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