Buying a SIM Card in Gabon Guide

Logos of Telecom Providers in Gabon; Airtel and Gabon Telecom

Gabon is a French-speaking nation in Central Africa. The country is known for its stellar wildlife, beaches, and scenery.

Libreville, the capital of Gabon, as the National Arts Museum and the famous Mont-Bouët market. The Lopé National Park is a gigantic park with elephants and gorillas.

You have plenty of other national parks, such as Ivindo National Park, Akanda National Parl, and Loango National Mark.

For beaches, try out Plage du Dahu in Port-Gentil. You will have a good time in Gabon.

What may ruin your post-holiday experience is dealing with an expensive roaming bill you get from roaming with your provider in Gabon. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards in Africa, including Gabon, to enjoy domestic rates.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Gabon. Let's go.

Telecom Providers in Gabon

Gabon has 2 telecom providers: Gabon Telecom and Airtel Gabon. There used to be a 3rd one called Azur Gabon, but they, unfortunately, shut down in 2018.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Gabon? If you want to buy a SIM card in Gabon, I would recommend going with Gabon Telecom because they have the best coverage throughout the country and sometimes offer lower prices than Airtel, their only competitor.

Like most countries in Central Africa, and Africa in general, you have to show your passport when buying a Gabonese SIM card. In addition, you have to present 2 copies of your passport and a copy of your visa. It is recommended to get these copies ready before heading to the store to buy a SIM card.

Besides that, there is not much more to say about Gabon, so let’s see what Gabon Telecom and Airtel Gabon have 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!

Gabon Telecom

Gabon Telecom Logo

Gabon Telecom is the largest operator with a market share of around 60%. It used to be called Libertis, and you may still see some stores with the Libertis sticker on their windows. Coverage with Gabon Telecom is good in the big cities and towns. In the smaller ones, you will only have 2G, which is useless for data, or nothing at all.

Gabon Telecom SIM cards are sold for 1000 CFA ($1.65) in their stores. Recharge cards are sold from 500 CFA up to 30 000 CFA. To top-up, you have to dial *123*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *123*123456#. To check your balance, dial #111#.

Gabon Telecom sells many types of data packages. Some last up to a week, others up to 15 days, and many 30 days. The following data packs can be bought, which have to be activated by dialing *222#.

The following short-term Gabon Telecom data packs are available:

  • 200 CFA: 20 MB for 2 days
  • 350 CFA: 40 MB for 3 days
  • 500 CFA: 130 MB for 1 day
  • 500 CFA: 60 MB for 5 days
  • 1000 CFA: 300 MB for 2 days
  • 1500 CFA: 500 MB for 3 days
  • 2500 CFA: 1 GB for 3 days  
  • 4500 CFA: 2 GB for 7 days

You can also get any of these medium-term Gabon Telecom data packs:

  • 1000 CFA: 130 MB for 10 days
  • 2000 CFA: 300 MB for 14 days
  • 8000 CFA: 5 GB for 15 days

Finally, these monthly Gabon Telecom data packs can be bought:

  • 3000 CFA: 600 MB
  • 4000 CFA: 1 GB
  • 6000 CFA: 2 GB
  • 10 000 CFA: 4 GB
  • 15 000 CFA: 10 GB
  • 20 000 CFA: 15 GB
  • 30 000 CFA: 25 GB
  • 50 000 CFA: 50 GB
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If you like being up at night, you can get a data pack for during the night (12 AM until 6 AM). 250 CFA for 500 MB and 500 CFA for 1 GB. These packs can be used for one night only.

Airtel Gabon

Airtel Logo

Airtel Gabon, just Airtel, is the smaller player in Gabon. Their coverage is slightly worse than Gabon Telecom. However, they are still a good option, even though they are sometimes a bit more expensive than Gabon Telecom.

Just like with Gabon Telecom, coverage with Airtel is good in the big cities and big towns. Villages and rural Gabon only have 2G or no coverage at all. Be aware of this.

Airtel SIM cards are sold for 500 CFA in Airtel stores. Top-up cards can be bought all over the country. To check your balance, dial *137#.

You can get one of the many data packs Airtel offers. Short-term ones, medium-term ones, monthly ones, and even 2 packs that will last you 2 months. You activate any of Airtel’s data packs by dialing *111*1#.

These short-term Airtel data packs can be added to your SIM card:

  • 250 CFA: 25 MB for 2 days
  • 500 CFA: 60 MB for 5 days
  • 1000 CFA: 300 MB for 2 days
  • 1000 CFA: 650 MB for Saturday & Sunday (once)  
  • 1500 CFA: 500 MB for 3 days
  • 2500 CFA: 1 GB for 3 days
  • 4000 CFA: 1.5 GB for 7 days
  • 5000 CFA: 2 GB for 7 days

You can also get these Airtel data packs that will last you up to 15 days:

  • 1000 CFA: 100 MB for 14 days
  • 1200 CFA: 150 MB for 14 days
  • 8000 CFA: 5 GB for 15 days

Staying in Gabon for a month? Then these monthly Airtel data packs are for you:

  • 2000 CFA: 250 MB
  • 4000 CFA: 1 GB
  • 5000 CFA: 1.2 GB
  • 10 000 CFA: 4 GB
  • 20 000 CFA: 10 GB

Exploring Gabon for 2 months or just need a lot of data? Then these Airtel data packs are interesting for you:

  • 40 000 CFA: 40 GB for 60 days
  • 90 000 CFA: 200 GB for 60 days

Are you a night owl? Then you can get 800 MB for 300 CFA or 2 GB for 600 CFA to be used between 12 AM and 6 AM.

WhatsApp lovers who do not need data for anything else can get a daily WhatsApp pack for 250 CFA with 20 MB.

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Gabon

Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Gabon, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Gabon, but you can also roam with your provider in Gabon, use an international SIM card in Gabon, or use a mobile hotspot in Gabon. Let’s see what our options are.

Using Free WIFI hotspots in Gabon

Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.

In the case of Gabon, it will be a challenge to find free hotspots.

Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.

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 NordVPN subscription now!

Roaming with Your Provider in Gabon

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 Telenor Montenegro, then you would be roaming with Telenor Montenegro in Gabon.

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Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Gabon, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.

Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Gabon, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Gabon. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.

If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.

One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.

If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Gabon, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Gabonese SIM card.

Using an International SIM Card in Gabon

International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.

International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.

Surfroam Banner

International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.

Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.

Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Gabon, so you cannot be taken advantage of.

My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, 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.

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Using a Mobile Hotspot in Gabon

A mobile hotspot 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, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi 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. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.

Skyroam Banner

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.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Gabon

Getting a SIM card from Gabon Telecom would do you well when considering a Gabonese 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 like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.

Going to other countries in Central Africa? Check out my Central Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other East African nations, such as Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

What about other places in Africa? My Africa SIM card buying guide covers all African destinations, such as Algeria, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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 Gabon

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 Gabon. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Gabon drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Gabon

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 Gabon. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Gabonese hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Gabon

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 Gabon, 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 local currency 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.

Transferwise Banner

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 5 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia from 2020.

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