Besides its pyramids, Egypt is known for many things. Many cozy markets in Cairo, beach resorts in Hurghada, or the unfinished Obelisk in Aswan. There are plenty of things to do in Egypt.
What you should not do, however, is roaming with your provider in most cases. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers want to buy an Egyptian SIM card when visiting Egypt. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Egypt. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Egypt
Egypt has 4 telecom providers: Vodafone Egypt, Orange Egypt, Etisalat Egypt, and WE by Egypt Telecom. Speeds and coverage with all providers, except for Etisalat, are almost the same. Etisalat has slightly worse connections than the other providers. According to Open Signal, 4G/LTE covers 60% of Egypt, but speeds are low, averaging around 10 Mbit/s. Orange is, according to the report, the fastest provider.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Egypt? If you want to buy a SIM card in Egypt, I would recommend going with either Vodafone or Orange. Both providers have similar pricing and coverage, so it would not really matter which one you choose. The cheapest tourist SIM card from Vodafone comes with more GB than Orange.
VoIP calls are blocked in Egypt for some reason. A few examples of VoIP apps are Skype, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp calls. As a result, international calls from Egypt are expensive. You can, however, use a VPN to make VoIP calls so that you do not have to pay ridiculously high IDD calls. I use NordVPN because I get high speeds with their servers. They have around 5500 servers in 59 countries. They have servers in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey (there are many more, but these are the closest to Egypt). You can get up to 70% off your NordVPN subscription if you get yours today!
Like most countries in the Middle East, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card. Everyone using a SIM card has to pay 6.10 EGP ($0.38) Stamp Tax to the Egyptian authorities annually. This will automatically be charged every month (0.51 EGP).
It is recommended to buy SIM cards at the airport for the fastest processing time. Booths at airports do not sell SIM cards at a premium, which is nice. If you plan on buying SIM cards in town, do so at official stores. Street vendors may sell you SIM cards on someone else’s name with a package enabled that you do not want (one that has a low allowance). Just be aware.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Egypt has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
With 40 million customers, Vodafone Egypt, just Vodafone, is the largest provider in Egypt. It also has good coverage in the country, although Vodafone has the highest rate of all Egyptian providers. 4G/LTE can be found in the larger towns in Egypt, but they continue to develop their 4G/LTE network.
Vodafone sells several types of SIM cards between 20 EGP ($1.25) and 25 EGP ($1.55). If you are looking for data, then it does not matter which SIM card you choose. If you are looking for voice and SMS, ask the salesperson about the perks of each, as I have no idea what the perks are.
Top-up vouchers can be found in many shops around the country. You can also create a Vodafone profile to top-up online if that is what you prefer.
Vodafone has many data packages – more than 15. I will mention a handful of them, but packages start from 0.75 EGP, which gets you 10 MB for an hour, to 40 EGP, which gets you 40 GB for 400 EGP. Either way, below are some of the data packages:
- 3 EGP: 100 MB for 7 days
- 4 EGP: 350 MB for 7 days
- 10 EGP: 500 MB for 28 days
- 20 EGP: 1.1 GB for 28 days
- 30 EGP: 1.8 GB for 28 days
- 40 EGP: 2.5 GB for 28 days
- 60 EGP: 4 GB for 28 days
- 80 EGP: 6 GB for 28 days
- 100 EGP: 8 GB for 28 days
- 250 EGP: 20 GB for 28 days
- 400 EGP: 40 GB for 28 days
You can also buy Vodafone’s tourist SIM called Holiday Line. They are sold at airports and Vodafone shops in the country. The SIM card will stay active until your visa expires, but the packs are valid for 30 days. The following two packs can be added to the Holiday Line:
- 200 EGP: 8 GB, 200 minutes, and 20 international minutes
- 500 EGP: 30 GB, 200 minutes, and 30 international minutes
Orange Egypt, just Orange, is part of France Télécom. Orange has a large presence in the Middle East and Africa (especially French-speaking countries). With more than 33 million subscribers, Orange is Vodafone’s biggest competitor. 4G/LTE can be found in big cities.
Orange SIM cards are sold for 30 EGP in Orange stores. They sell 2 types of SIM cars: per second and Netwawy. The per-second plan has no base rate, while the Netwawy comes with 50 MB per day for 1.50 EGP or 400 MB per week for 7 EGP. You can, of course, add data plans. A handful of them are mentioned below. All of them are valid for 30 days, except the 1 EGP pack, which is valid for 24 hours:
- 1 EGP for 25 MB (for 24 hours)
- 7.5 EGP for 200 MB
- 15 EGP for 600 MB
- 30 EGP for 1.5 GB
- 45 EGP for 2.5 GB
- 60 EGP for 3.5 GB
- 75 EGP for 5 GB
- 100 EGP for 8 GB
- 400 EGP for 40 GB
Vodafone allows you to transform your plan into an unlimited plan. After you are out of data, your speed will be reduced to 64 kbps, which is extremely slow. It costs only 10 EGP, but you would be better off buying a new pack because you can barely do anything at such a slow speed.
Just like Vodafone, Orange has a tourist SIM called Holiday Line as well. You can buy them at airports and Orange stores. The following plans can be added, which are both valid for 30 days:
- 200 EGP: 5 GB, 200 minutes, and 20 international minutes
- 500 EGP: 30 GB, 200 minutes, and 30 international minutes
Etisalat Egypt, just Etisalat, is an Emirati company operating in many Middle Eastern countries and a few North African ones. Etisalat has more than 25 million subscribers and has the “worst” coverage in Egypt (WE, the provider covered below, uses the networks of both Orange and Etisalat). However, 4G/LTE can be found in the bigger cities of Egypt.
Etisalat SIM cards are called Ahlan and are sold for 20 EGP that comes with 10 EGP in credit. The following data packs can be added, which are all valid for 28 days:
- 10 EGP: 350 MB and 350 MB for social media
- 20 EGP: 750 MB and 750 MB for social media
- 35 EGP: 1.5 GB and 1.5 GB for social media
- 60 EGP: 3.25 GB and 3.25 GB for social media
- 65 EGP: 10 GB
- 100 EGP: 16 GB
- 300 EGP: 25 GB
The social media apps are WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also buy the Super Social Unlimited package for 15 EGP that gives you 1 GB for the said apps. Not really “unlimited” if you ask me.
WE by Telecom Egypt
Telecom Egypt has a monopoly on Egypt’s landline communications. It has a minority stake in Vodafone Egypt (45%) but decided that it wanted its own mobile network, so they started WE. WE has over 6 million subscribers. They only operate on 4G/LTE but have roaming agreements with Orange and Etisalat for 2G and 3G. As a result, you will have nation-wide coverage when going with WE.
The following WE monthly data packs can be added, which are all valid for 30 days, except for the 50 MB pack (1 day only):
- 1 EGP for 50 MB (1 day)
- 10 EGP for 1 GB
- 20 EGP for 2.5 GB
- 40 EGP for 6 GB
- 100 EGP for 18 GB
- 200 EGP for 40 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Egypt
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Egypt. However, that is not the only way to be online in Egypt. I have already briefly mentioned that you can roam with your provider, although it can be expensive in most cases. Besides that, you can use free WIFI connections, mobile hotspots, or international SIM cards.
Roaming in Egypt with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is KPN from the Netherlands, then you would be roaming with KPN in Egypt.
You may have read horror stories of people coming back from a lovely holiday, only to be confronted with a roaming bill in the thousands. This can still be the case if you do not review your roaming options before going on a holiday. Luckily for you, I have written about the roaming options you have with various providers around the world, which you can read here.
Some operators offer roaming plans. Others allow you to roam for free in Egypt, while several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee. As you can see, roaming does not have to be a horrific experience. If your provider is generous and lets you roam for free in Egypt, then you do not even need an Egyptian SIM card (although I would still recommend doing so, as your connection speed will be much slower as a roamer than someone who is a customer of the network).
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Pay As You Go roaming should be avoided, as that is how travelers get high roaming bills. One provider charges you about 1000 USD per GB in certain destinations, which is insane. If you really want to roam, check whether your provider has attractive roaming plans. Else, you will be better off with buying an Egyptian SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Egypt
This does not require a lot of explanation, but using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to connect to the internet because you do not have to pay anything. Nothing beats free stuff, right? Well, not so fast.
First, you need to find hotspots in Egypt. In some countries of cities, you will find so many hotspots that you can try them out one by one and find the one with the fastest speeds. In other places, however, WIFI connections do not seem to exist.
In the case of Egypt, you can find hotspots in the big cities, but they may not always be the fastest out there.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
Using a Pocket WIFI (Mobile Hotspot) in Egypt
Pocket WIFI is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Egypt
International SIM cards are, as the name implies, SIM cards for international use. Well, that does not explain anything. Although most providers allow you to use your card abroad, some actually restrict this possibility. An international SIM card lets you go abroad without having to change SIM cards when visiting multiple destinations. They have been made with the traveler in mind.
All of this sounds lovely, but international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Egypt. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard and SimOptions.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in the Middle East require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Egypt
Getting a SIM card from either Orange or Vodafone would do you well when considering an Egyptian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in the Middle East? Check out my Middle Eastern SIM card buying guide, covering other Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Egypt
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Egypt. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Egypt drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Egypt
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Egypt. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in an Egyptian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Egypt
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Egypt, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the currency of your destination for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!