Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Ethiopia Guide

The thing is, mobile data is affordable in Ethiopia, so are SIM cards, especially when compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

How much do you have to pay for an Ethiopian SIM card?

You can get an Ethiopian SIM card for 30 ETB (0.80 USD). Expect to pay 80 ETB (2.15 USD) for 1 GB of data valid for 7 days.

That indeed sounds cheap. The average cost of 1 GB of data in Ethiopia is 2.44 USD.

When you know that the Sub-Saharan average is 6.61 USD, you can indeed say that mobile data is relatively cheap.

But, accurate information on how to get an Ethiopian SIM card, SIM card prices, and packages can be hard to find.

In this guide, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Ethiopia. Let’s get this done.

Buying a SIM Card in Ethiopia Guide (logo of Ethio Telecom)

Original publication: 16th of June 2020. Last updated: 28th of October 2020.

Can I Use My Phone in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has GSM networks utilizing frequencies used in many regions around the world (such as Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania), but not in the Americas (North-, Central-, and South America + the Caribbean).

ITU Regions Map
By Maximilian DΓΆrrbecker (Chumwa) – Own work, using this fileOpens in a new tab. by Denelson83, CC BY-SA 2.5,

If you purchased your phone in the Americas, if your device has not been unlocked, or the phone does not support Ethiopia's frequencies, then you cannot use your phone in Ethiopia.

Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has only one telecom operator:

Ethio Telecom has 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.

The following frequencies by Ethio Telecom:

  • 2G: 900 MHz
  • 3G: 2100 MHz
  • 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)

To learn whether your device supports these frequencies or not, go to this siteOpens in a new tab. to find out.

Again, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator (meaning you have to roam internationally or buy another unlocked phone that does support the frequencies listed above).

If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.

If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.

The Best SIM Card in Ethiopia

If you want to buy a SIM card in Ethiopia, then Ethio Telecom is your only option Because there is no competition to the incumbent operator.

ALSO: Want to get an excel sheet of the best SIM cards of over 230+ destinations around the world, updated monthly? Sign up for the Phone Travel Wiz Newsletter and get the excel sheet for FREE!

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SIM Card Registration Regulations in Ethiopia

SIM card registration with your passport information is mandatory in Ethiopia. It will be done at the point of sale. Moreover, you have to bring 2 recent passport-sized photos to the point of purchase as well.

The State of the Ethiopian Telecom Market

Flag of Ethiopia

The mobile phone and smartphone penetration rate in Ethiopia have grown significantly over the years, so has mobile internet use in the country. However, the quality of service has not kept pace with the rapid growth.

Ethio Telecom is the largest telecom operator in the world that has a monopolyOpens in a new tab.. However, that monopoly is about to end because the Ethiopian government is awarding two telecom licenses to operators who want to enter the Ethiopian market in 2020 (update: postponed to 2021). This will make the Ethiopian telecom market competitive, which, in turn, should result in better service and lower prices.

Safaricom from Kenya, Orange from France, MTN from South Africa, and Econet from Zimbabwe have shown interest in entering the Ethiopian market. All these operators are the largest in their base countries and have the best coverage and speeds, which is a good sign for Ethiopia.

CommsUpdate reported that Ethiopia has set a new deadline for the sale of two mobile network operator licenses in February 2021. The article highlights that both the Orange Group and the MTN Group are strong candidates for the acquisition.

Right now, the state of the telecom industry is poor in Ethiopia. There are frequent blackouts, and the network is often overloaded. Moreover, the coverage throughout the country is subpar, unless one is staying in the capital, Addis Ababa.

I hope Ethiopia’s telecom market will flourish like other East African nations, such as Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania, in the coming few years, as it can benefit the local population a lot and contribute to a more pleasant internet experience for travelers and tourists.

Currency in Ethiopia

Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian Birr with the symbol ETB (which will be used throughout this article). However, prices are often listed as just Br. (Birr). For example, 25 ETB is Br. 25. For reference, below are some exchange rates between ETB and USD (US Dollars):

  • 1 ETB = 0.03 USD
  • 10 ETB = 0.30 USD
  • 100 ETB = 2.90 USD
  • 1000 ETB = 29.00 USD
  • 10 000 ETB = 290.00 USD

For up-to-date ETB:USD exchange rates, search ETB to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.

If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Transferwise Borderless Account and Debit Card. Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Transferwise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks). I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Transferwise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Transferwise account FREE!

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Ethiopian Prepaid SIM Cards & Video Guide

Below, I will guide you through Ethio Telecom and go through:

  • Background information of Ethio Telecom
  • SIM card types, prices, and availability for Ethio Telecom
  • Recharge/top-up information for Ethio Telecom
  • Combo plans and data plans offered by Ethio Telecom

If you like to watch content over reading content, make sure to check out the video below. I recommend the rest of the guide after watching the video because some of the essential information related to Ethio Telecom is not covered in the video (I refer to this guide a few times throughout the video). Subscribe to my channelOpens in a new tab. for more local prepaid SIM card guides, SIM card reviews (prepaid and international), mobile hotspots, and international roaming guides!

With that being said, let’s see what Ethio Telecom has to offer to us.

Ethio Telecom

Ethio Telecom Logo

Ethio TelecomOpens in a new tab. is, for now, the sole operator in Ethiopia. The company has held a monopoly since it was founded in 2010.

Ethio Telecom Coverage

Mobile coverage throughout the Ethiopia with Ethio Telecom is disappointing.

Although Ethio Telecom does not have an official coverage map on their website, the Speedtest appOpens in a new tab. has a tool that allows you to see the mobile coverage of mobile operators around the world, including Ethio Telecom.

Below is Ethio Telecom's coverage map:

Ethio Telecom Coverage Map according to Speedtest
The green dots are where Ethio Telecom is supposed to have coverage.

Getting an Ethio Telecom SIM Card & Price

You can get an Ethio Telecom SIM card for 30 ETB, which comes with 15 ETB in credit, in Ethio Telecom stores.

You can also get Ethio Telecom SIM cards at Addis Ababa Bole Airport (ADD. However, you will pay a steep premium for them there, so it is recommended to get your SIM card in town.

Topping Up Your Ethio Telecom SIM Card

Recharge cards are sold in denominations from 5 ETB to 1000 ETB. To top-up, dial *805*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *805*123456#. Dial *804# to check your Ethio Telecom balance.

Ethio Telecom Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers

Ethio Telecom has 2 types of packages that feature data. The Monthly Voice plus Data Tariffs and Mobile Internet Packages.

Ethio Telecom Monthly Voice Plus Data Tariffs

The Monthly Voice Plus Data Bundles are bundles that come with both data and minutes. You can choose how you want to mix your data and minutes.

Data rates start from 55 ETB for 500 MB to 4900 ETB for unlimited data. For minutes, rates start from 60 ETB for 166 minutes to 1350 ETB for 4150.

In short, the minimum you have to pay for a Monthly Mobile Voice plus Data bundle is 115 ETB (500 MB (55 ETB) and 166 minutes (60 ETB)). The most you can pay is 6250 ETB (unlimited data (4900 ETB) and 4150 minutes (1350 ETB)).

Below is the complete Monthly Voice plus Data matrix:

Data500 MB1 GB2 GB4 GB8 GB10 GB20 GB30 GBUnlimited
MinutesPrice (ETB) 55100190350600700130018004900
166 60115160250410660760136018604960
280 100155200290450700800140019005000
415 140195240330490740840144019405040
450 150205250340500750850145019505050
600 200255300390550800900150020005100
750 250305350440600850950155020505150
830 270325370460620870970157020705170
930 3003554004906509001000160021005200
1080 3504054505407009501050165021505250
1230 40045550059075010001100170022005300
1380 45050555064080010501150175022505350
1545 50055560069085011001200180023005400
1660 54059564073089011401240184023405440
184560065570079095012001300190024005500
4150 1350140514501540170019502050265031506250

Ethio Telecom Mobile Internet Packages

The data packages are standard data-only bundles. They come in the following variants: day, night, weekend, week, and month. To purchase a Mobile Internet Package, you have to follow the following steps:

  • Dial *999#
  • Select option 1 (package offer)
  • Select option 1 again (purchasing for yourself)
  • Select option 2 (internet package)
  • Choose the package validity of choice (1 for daily, 2 for weekly, 3 for monthly, 4 for nightly, 5 for a weekend)
  • Choose the preferred mobile internet package

The following Mobile Internet Packages are available:

PricePackageDataValidity
3 ETBNight50 MB0:00-6:00 (12 AM-6 AM)
3 ETBDay25 MB1 day
5 ETBNight100 MB0:00-6:00 (12 AM-6 AM)
5 ETBDay45 MB1 day
7 ETBNight160 MB0:00-6:00 (12 AM-6 AM)
10 ETBDay100 MB1 day
15 ETBDay200 MB1 day
35 ETBDay500 MB1 day
35 ETBWeekend500 MBSaturday & Sunday 
50 ETBWeek500 MB7 days
60 ETBWeekend1 GBSaturday & Sunday 
60 ETBWeek700 MB7 days
80 ETBWeek1 GB7 days
100 ETBMonth1 GB30 days 
110 ETBWeekend2 GBSaturday & Sunday 
190 ETBMonth2 GB30 days
350 ETBMonth4 GB30 days
600 ETBMonth8 GB30 days
700 ETBMonth10 GB30 days
1300 ETBMonth20 GB30 days
1900 ETBMonth30 GB30 days
4900 ETBMonthUnlimited30 days

Ethio Telecom APN Settings

In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct APN settings for Ethio Telecom automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):

  • APN: etc.com
  • Username: etc
  • Password: etc

RELATED GUIDES

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Other Ways to Use the Internet When Traveling in Ethiopia

Buying a SIM card from Ethio Telecom will be the cheapest way to get online when in Ethiopia.

However, other options exist that may be better for some type of travelers. Sometimes, you cannot even use local SIM cards because your phone is SIM-locked.

International SIM Cards or Travel SIM Cards

International SIM cards or Travel SIM cards are made for the traveler in mind – you do not have to buy a local SIM card for every country you visit, and they are cheaper than international roaming.

The issue is that most international SIM cards and travel SIM cards that cover Ethiopia are criminally expensive when compared to getting an Ethio Telecom SIM card. This is, unfortunately, the case for most African nations.

Right now, there is no international SIM card I would recommend for Ethiopia. However, you can learn more about international SIM cards and travel SIM cards on this page – they could be useful when traveling in other parts of the world, like the Americas, Europe, or Asia.

International Roaming

Although international roaming can be expensive in many cases, it does not always have to be the case. If you are a SIM card from Eastern, Central, or Southern Africa, your operator may have attractive roaming rates or packages for your visit to Ethiopia. Be sure to check your options.

If you have a SIM card from another country or region, however, you may want to avoid international roaming.

Mobile Hotspots (Pocket WIFI)

Mobile hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are small devices that connect to the local operators of the country you are visiting. Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group. They allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without each traveler having to buy a SIM card.

Sadly, the companies that rent out mobile hotspots do not cover Ethiopia. However, you can always buy one and insert a SIM card in it and use it as a personal WIFI connection.

Free WIFI Networks

Using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to stay connected because they are free. The major downside of trying to use WIFI hotspots is that you will have to locate them – they are not available all the time, especially when on the road.

You will not find many free WIFI hotspots throughout Ethiopia – they are quite rare. If you manage to find one, however, make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN so that hackers cannot steal your personal data.

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ethiopia

Getting a SIM card from Ethio Telecom would be your only considering an Ethiopian SIM card.

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Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other African Countries

Visiting other countries in Africa? Check out my Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other African countries, such as

Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences

Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:

Check Out My Resource Page

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my travel resources page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money with international SIM cards, 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!

Start Your Own Online Business – Make Money While Traveling

Do you want to learn how I started an online business that allows me to generate income while traveling? In my starting an online business guide, I tell you which tools, services, and products I have for this site and my YouTube channel. If I can start a business about something I am passionate about (phone travel), then you can do it too!

Learn About Your Phone Travel Options

You can buy local prepaid SIM cards, international SIM cards, mobile hotspots, or roam internationally. Each of these options has its pros and cons. Learn more about them, and find the best option for you.

Phone Travel Tips, Tricks & Hacks

I have written many articles with tips and hacks to save money on mobile costs while abroad. You surely want to check them out!

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Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region is Asia. In particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan.

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