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SIM Cards in Ethiopia: The Best Prepaid Plans | 2024 Guide

Ethiopia – the country where the coffee bean originated from. So coffee lovers – than Ethiopia.

But you may not be visiting Ethiopia just to stare at coffee beans. Luckily for you, there are plenty of things to do in this country.

You can visit many markets throughout the country. But the Big Market in Addis Ababa will be another experience.

Lalibela has rock-cut churches and Mount Abuna Yosef.

And if you are more adventurous, you can visit Erta Ale – an active volcano with lava lakes.

Overall, it should be illegal to be bored when in Ethiopia.

While you may plan on sharing many photos and videos of your trip to this majestic country, you should be aware that international roaming can be expensive.

Plus, it is not worth it anyway when you learn how cheap SIM cards are in Ethiopia and the cost of mobile data.

You can get an Ethio Telecom SIM card for 30 ETB (0.55 USD) in Ethio Telecom stores. Ethio Telecom SIM cards are your only option in Ethiopia because it has a monopoly (for now). A data plan with 1 GB valid for 7 days will cost 75 ETB (1.35 USD).

For African standards, these prices are crazy low! Try finding a mobile operator that has low roaming rates like this – I will be waiting.

Even though Ethio Telecom is the sole mobile operator in the country, it still has a lot to offer.

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: 15th of January 2024.

Table of Contents

Can You Buy a SIM Card in Ethiopia?

Anyone living or visiting Ethiopia can buy an Ethiopian SIM card without restrictions.

You do need to be aware that you have to go through a SIM card registration procedure.

Additionally, you need a phone that supports the frequencies used in the country (preferably all of them to have the most optimal experience while in Ethiopia).

Finally, you need to have a SIM-lock-free (unlocked) phone to use local SIM cards.

Where Can You Buy a SIM Card in Ethiopia?

You can get an Ethiopian SIM card in Ethio Telecom stores. They are also available at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport

You can expect to pay the following for Ethiopian SIM cards:

  • Ethio Telecom: 30 ETB

Can You Use Your Phone in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia uses GSM for its cellular communications, meaning that you need a GSM-capable phone to use your phone in the country. Fortunately, there is about a 99% chance your phone supports GSM.

Traditional European frequencies are used in Ethiopia, which are mostly used in ITU Regions 1 & 3 (Africa, Asia (including the Middle East), Europe & Oceania).

The Americas (North-, Central– & South America + the Caribbean – ITU Region 2) use American Frequencies, which differ from the European ones.

ITU Regions Map by Phone Travel Wiz

If you bought your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU Regions 1 & 3), you should not experience any issues with using your phone in Ethiopia.

If you purchased your phone in the Americas (ITU Region 2) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then there is a possibility you cannot use your phone when in Ethiopia or can only on 2G.

If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone in Ethiopia – even on 4G/LTE.

Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Ethiopia

Cellular Connectivity Illustration by Phone Travel Wiz

Ethiopia has one mobile operator offering prepaid services easily accessible to travelers:

  • Ethiopia Telecom

The following frequencies are used in Ethiopia:

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

You can learn more about frequencies in the video below.

To check whether your phone will work in Ethiopia, check out this page by Kimovil or this one by Will My Phone Work (outdated, unfortunately, but extremely user-friendly – useful for phones launched in or before 2019. It does not check for 5G NR compatibility).

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.

5G NR in Ethiopia

5G NR Connectivity Illustration by Phone Travel Wiz

5G is not available in Ethiopia as of 2021, and the Ethiopian government has not made any indications of when they will auction 5G licenses.

Best SIM Card in Ethiopia

If you want to buy the best SIM Card in Ethiopia, then Ethio Telecom is your only option. It is the only mobile operator in Ethiopia.

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SIM Card Registration in Ethiopia

SIM card registration, with the use of your passport information, is mandatory in Ethiopia. This will be done at the point of purchase.

Moreover, you should bring two passport-sized photos to the Ethio Telecom store to speed up the registration process. Not all Ethio Telecom stores have the necessary equipment to take pictures of you.

Ethiopia Mobile Speeds, Mobile Internet Prices & Insights

Flag of Ethiopia

Africa can be a hit or miss in terms of mobile data rates. In some countries, the cost of mobile data is practically nothing. While in other nations, mobile data places are unaffordable for basically anyone.

Luckily for Ethiopia, the average cost of mobile data has stayed at reasonable levels over the years, even when considering that there is a monopoly in the country.

The average price for 1 GB of data in Ethiopia is 1.71 USD, far below the African average of 5.80 USD. The world average is 4.07 USD.

There are only 24 African nations where the average cost of 1 GB of data is below 2 USD, so Ethiopia is doing well.

Okay, mobile data rates are reasonable. But what about speeds?

Ethiopia's average mobile download speed is around 22 Mbps.

When you compare that to the global average, you may think this is extremely slow. I would not fault you for that – Ethiopia's average is less than half the global average.

But the thing is, mobile internet speeds in Africa are not known for being fast in general.

At the time of writing, the African country with the fastest mobile download speed is South Africa (45 Mbps). Also below the global average, but somewhat close.

Many more African nations have speeds Ethiopia offers or are slower, so do not get too demotivated quickly.

Remember when I said that Ethio Telecom has a monopoly on the telecommunications market in the country? Not for long.

The Ethiopian government has issued a license to Global Partnership, a consortium compromising of Safaricom (Kenya), Vodafone Group (from the United Kingdom and active worldwide), Vodacom Group (from South Africa and active throughout Africa), and Sumitomo Corporation (Japan).

The MTN Group (from South Africa) lost on this bid, but they are not giving up hope. Luckily for MTN, the Ethiopian government is interested in issuing another license in the near future. Then, there will be three players in Ethiopia.

For now, you have to deal with Ethio Telecom. With low SIM card prices, low cost for mobile data, slower-end mobile internet speeds, and fair nationwide coverage, you should have a good network experience in Ethiopia.

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Currency in Ethiopia

Old 50 Ethopian Birr Bank Note
© National Bank of 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. For example, 25 ETB = Br. 25. For reference, below are some exchange rates between ETB and USD (US Dollars):

  • 1 ETB = 0.020 USD
  • 10 ETB = 0.20 USD
  • 100 ETB = 1.80 USD
  • 1000 ETB = 18 USD
  • 10 000 ETB = 180 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 Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.

Their fees are MUCH lower than banks and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).

I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Australian Dollars and Euros, my main currencies, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards.

Open a Wise account for FREE!

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Ethiopian Prepaid SIM Cards

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

  • Background information
  • Mobile coverage
  • SIM card types, prices, and availability
  • Recharge/top-up information
  • Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs) 

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

Ethio Telecom

Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Logo
© Ethio Telecom

Ethio Telecom is, for now, the sole mobile operator in Ethiopia. The company is also the largest telecom operator with a monopoly worldwide. It is a government-run entity. From 2010 to 2013, Ethio Telecom was run by France Télécom (Orange) until the Ethiopian government stated that the outsourcing of the management did not meet its demands. Since then, it has been in government ownership again.

In 2020, it was announced that the Ministry of Finance wants to sell a minority stake of Ethio Telecom. In June 2021, the Expression of Interest (EoI) was announced by the Ethiopian government. France Télécom (Orange) seems to be ready for round two for entering the Ethiopian telecom market because it was the first to express interest in Ethio Telecom's stake.

Ethio Telecom uses the following frequencies:

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

This is what you will learn about Ethio Telecom:

* Coverage
* How to Get an Ethio Telecom SIM Card & SIM Card Price
* Topping Up Options & Methods + Balance Check
* Plans & Packages
* APN/Internet Settings

Coverage – Ethio Telecom

Ethio Telecom has fair coverage throughout the country.

4G/LTE is close to non-existent throughout the country.

Although mobile coverage is great in Addis Ababa, it is good in cities. However, outside of urban areas, reception can mostly be found around the main roads.

Below is Ethio Telecom's coverage map produced by Speedtest:

SIM Card Price – Ethio Telecom

You can get an Ethio Telecom Telecom SIM card for 30 ETB with 15 ETB in credit and 100 MB every month for the first 3 months in Ethio Telecom stores. It is also possible to get SIM cards at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport at steep premiums.

  • First 120 days – normal use: you can use your Ethio Telecom SIM card without restrictions. Each top-up will reset your SIM card's validity.
  • 120 days without activity – one-way block: your SIM card enters the one-way block state for 330 days.
    • You can receive calls
    • You can receive SMS
    • You cannot browse the web
    • You cannot make calls (except for emergency numbers)
    • You cannot send SMS
  • 450 days without activity (normal use + one-way block): your SIM card enters the two-way block state for 30 days.
    • You cannot browse the web
    • You cannot make calls (except for emergency numbers)
    • You cannot send SMS
  • 480 days without activity (normal use + one-way block + 2-way block): your SIM card gets terminated and may be recycled immediately.

For up-to-date EUR:your currency (let's say GBP) exchange rates, use the Wise Currency Converter tool.

  • Find out how much SIM cards cost in every country, including data-only SIM cards and tourist SIM cards, offered by each mobile operator + information about starter benefits (lookup tool)
SIM Card Prices Worldwide Tool by Phone Travel Wiz
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Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – Ethio Telecom

Ethiopia Telecom top-up vouchers are sold in Ethio Telecom stores and other places, such as kiosks, convenience stores, and grocery stores.

The following top-up options are available:

  • 5 ETB
  • 10 ETB
  • 15 ETB
  • 20 ETB
  • 50 ETB
  • 100 ETB
  • 250 ETB
  • 500 ETB
  • 1000 ETB

To top up your Ethio Telecom SIM card, dial *805*VoucherCode#, text the *VoucherCode# to 805, or call 903 -> 1 -> 1 -> VoucherCode.

For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *805*123456#, text 123456 to 805, or call 903, select option 1, select option 1 again, and enter 123456#.

Dial *804# to see your Ethio Telecom balance.

Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – Ethio Telecom

Ethio Telecom has eight data-featured prepaid plans:

All Ethio Telecom plans can be activated by dialing *999#.

I will list all the prices in ETB (Ethiopian Birr).

To convert ETB to your currency (let's say USD -US Dollar) with up-to-date exchange rates, use the Wise Currency Converter tool.

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Click on the links above to jump to the plan you are interested in.

Flexi Mobile Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Flexi Mobile Packages are plans using a unit system (Flexi Units). Below are the rates:

  • 1 MB = 2 Flexi Units
  • 1 local minute = 6 Flexi Units
  • 1 local SMS = 2 Flexi Units

The following Flexi Mobile Packages are available, which you can activate by dialing *999#:

PricePlanFlexi UnitsValidity
15 ETBFlexi Daily390 Flexi Units1 day
50 ETBFlexi Weekly1320 Flexi Units7 days
100 ETBFlexi Monthly2280 Flexi Units30 days
Ethio Telecom Ethiopia FLEXI Mobile Package
Good Morning Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Good Morning Packages are daily combo plans to be used between 6:00 and 9:00 one morning, featuring data (without 5G NR access), minutes, SMS, or all.

The following Good Mobile Packages are available, which you can activate by dialing *999#:

PriceDataLocal MinutesLocal SMSValidity
2 ETBN/A8 minutes5 SMS1 morning (6:00 – 9:00)
2 ETB25 MBN/A5 SMS1 morning (6:00 – 9:00)
Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Good Morning Package
Premium Unlimited Mobile Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Premium Unlimited Mobile Packages are combo plans with data (without 5G NR access), minutes, and SMS.

Premium Unlimited Mobile Packages can be activated by dialing *999#:

PricePlanDataLocal MinutesLocal SMSValidity
300 ETBWeekly Unlimited Data PackageUnlimitedN/AN/A7 days
999 ETBMonthly Unlimited Voice PackageN/AUnlimitedN/A30 days
999 ETBMonthly Unlimited Data PackageUnlimitedN/AUnlimited30 days
1700 ETBMonthly Unlimited Voice + Data PackageUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited30 days
2330 ETBMonthly Premium Unlimited Plus PackageUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited30 days
Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Premium Unlimited Mobile Packages
Mobile Voice + Data Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Mobile Voice + Data Packages are combo plans with data (without 5G NR access), minutes, and SMS. They are normally grouped as daily, weekly, weekend, monthly, and night packages.

The following Mobile Voice + Data Packages are available, which you can activate by dialing *999#:

PriceDataLocal MinutesLocal SMSValidity
12 ETB160 MB12 minutes10 SMS24 hours
33 ETB590 MB28 minutes10 SMS24 hours
50 ETB590 MB70 minutes20 SMS7 days
76 ETB1 GB100 minutes20 SMS7 days
140 ETB2 GB125 minutes50 SMS30 days
200 ETB2 GB375 minutes50 SMS30 days
1240 ETBUnlimited1250 minutes50 SMS30 days
Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Mobile Voice + Data Packages
Mobile Data Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Mobile Data Packages are data bundles (without 5G NR access).

Activate Mobile Data Packages by dialing *999#:

3 ETB35 MB24 hours
3 ETB70 MB1 night (0:00 – 6:00)
5 ETB75 MB24 hours
5 ETB160 MB1 night (0:00 – 6:00)
7 ETB300 MB1 night (0:00 – 6:00)
12 ETB200 MB24 hours
24 ETB300 MB7 days
25 ETB500 MB24 hours
35 ETB500 MB30 days
38 ETB600 MB7 days
49 ETB1 GB7 days
50 ETB1 GB30 days
100 ETB2 GB30 days
175 ETB4 GB30 days
379 ETB10 GB30 days
549 ETB20 GB30 days
799 ETB50 GB30 days
Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Mobile Data Packages
Friends & Family Package Mobile Packages – Ethio Telecom

The Friends & Family Package are combo plans with data (without 5G NR access) and minutes that auto-renew.

Friends & Family Mobile Packages can be activated by dialing *999#:

PricePlanDataLocal MinutesValidity
380 ETBVoiceN/A2500 minutes30 days
590 ETBData20 GBN/A30 days
775 ETBVoice + Data20 GB2500minutes30 days

CUG Rent: 25 ETB / Month Up to 5 Members

Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Friends & Family Package
No Expiry Mobile Data Package – Ethio Telecom

The No Expiry Mobile Data Package are data bundles (without 5G NR access).

Activate Premium Plus Monthly Mobile Plans by dialing *999#:

55 ETBNo Expiry Data Package750 MB 1N/A
90 ETBNo Expiry Data Package1.5 GB 2N/A

1 for 750 MB Free Weekly Package
2 for 1.5 GB Free Weekly Package

Ethio Telecom Ethiopia The No Expiry Mobile Data Package
Hourly and Daily Unlimited Package – Ethio Telecom

The Hourly and Daily Unlimited Package are short-term combo plans with data (without 5G NR access) and minutes.

Activate Hourly and Daily Unlimited Package by dialing *999#:

PriceData Local MinutesValidity 
12 ETB3 GB 1N/A1 hour
35 ETBN/AUnlimited24 hour
55 ETB10 GB 1N/A24 hour

1 for Max Speed after FUP: 1 Mbps

Ethio Telecom Ethiopia Hourly and Daily Unlimited Package

APN/Internet Settings – Ethio Telecom

  • Name: Ethiotelecom
  • APN:
  • Username (only if you cannot browse): etc
  • Password (only if you cannot browse): etc

Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.

Jump back to the Table of Contents.

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The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ethiopia

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