Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Nigeria Guide

Nigeria is the world's 7th-most populous country in the world with a population of more than 200 million people. There will always be someone around to help you or keep you company when exploring Nigeria.

The country also has the largest economy in Africa. But what can you actually do in Nigeria?

Lagos is a busy city that is known for shopping and its nightlife. Although many thing Lagos is the country's capital, Abuja is the actual capital of Nigeria. The Presidential Complex can be found there.

The Yankari Game Reserve is a stunning wildlife park with amazing springs. The Lekki Conservation Center is something for those who are into ecotourism. There is a lot to do in Nigeria.

What you should not be doing is roaming with your provider in Nigeria. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, like a Nigerian one.

Mobile data rates are low in Nigeria, compared to the world's average, which is why you should take advantage of it.

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

Telecom Providers in Nigeria

Nigeria has 4 telecom providers: MTN Nigeria, Glo Mobile Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, and 9mobile. All these operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G.LTE networks.

There are also a few 4G/LTE-only operators, such as NTel, Smile Nigeria, Spectranet, and Swift. All these operators, except for NTel, do not have 2G and 3G roaming agreements with the other operators, meaning that there is no fallback with them. They are primarily targeted to those living in places where broadband internet is inaccessible. Therefore, the 4G/LTE-only operators cannot be recommended to travelers and will not be discussed in this article.

Like most countries in West Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register yourself when buying a SIM card.

The telecom industry is highly competitive in Nigeria. The number of users using mobile data has grown significantly over the past two decades. As a result, the networks can be congested at times, which results in slower speeds and network dropouts.

The operators keep improving their infrastructure constantly because the regulator imposes fine when the quality of service is poor. This is also why many Nigerians have 2 SIM cards or more. In fact, Nigeria is the world leader in dual-SIM usage.

Finally, the regulator had to set a minimum price for telecom services because the operators were engaged in a price war. A price war sounds good for the consumer because the prices keep getting lower and lower.

However, the aim of a price war is to undercut the competition so much that they go out of business. Once the company has a monopoly (or duopoly if they are engaged in price-fixing), prices will increase to insane levels, which will hurt the consumers.

Even then, mobile data rates are low compare to African standards and the world average.

The Best SIM Card in Nigeria

If you want to buy a SIM card in Nigeria, I would recommend going with either MTN or Glo. MTN has the best network and coverage throughout Nigeria, but they are also the most expensive. Glo has good coverage throughout the country and is slightly cheaper than MTN.

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Nigeria Prepaid SIM Cards

Below, I will guide you through MTN Nigeria, Glo Mobile, Airtel Nigeria & 9mobile and go through:

  • Background information about the operators
  • How to get a SIM card from each operator
  • How to recharge your SIM card
  • What type of data-featured packages are offered by the operators

What that being said, let's see what the Nigerian operators have to offer to us.

MTN Nigeria

MTN Logo

MTN Nigeria, just MTN, is the largest operator in Nigeria. They also have the best network, but are, at the same time, the most expensive operator. With a market share of about 35%, they are loved by their customers.

You can buy an MTN SIM card for 300 NGN ($0.80) in MTN stores. Ask for their 4G/LTE SIM card if you plan on using MTN’s 4G/LTE network. Top-up cards are widely available. They can be purchased on basically every street. To recharge, dial *555*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *555*123456# to redeem your voucher. Dial *556# to check your balance.

MTN has many data packs you can choose from. They have daily plans all the way up to yearly plans. I will go through each of MTN’s plans below. You can activate a data plan by dialing *131# or by texting the activation code to 131. These plans auto-renew. To disable auto-renewal, text NO + Activation code to 131. For example, if the activation code is 114, you would text NO114 to 131 to disable auto-renew.

Need data for just 1 day? MTN has 3 different daily plans:

  • 50 NGN: 25 MB. Activation: text 114 to 131
  • 100 NGN: 75 MB. Activation: text 104 to 131
  • 300 NGN: 1 GB. Activation: text 155 to 131

Need a plan that will give you data for 2 days? MTN has 3 2-day plans:

  • 200 NGN: 200 MB. Activation: text 113 to 131
  • 500 NGN: 2 GB. Activation: text 154 to 131
  • 500 NGN: 2.5 GB. Activation: online or by dialing *131#

Staying in Nigeria for a week? Get one of these 3 MTN weekly plans:

  • 300 NGN: 350 MB. Activation: text 102 to 131
  • 500 NGN: 1 GB. Activation: text 142 to 131  
  • 1500 NGN: 6 GB. Activation: text 143 to 131  

MTN also has a plan that will last you for 2 weeks, which costs 500 NGN and comes with 750 MB. Text 103 to 131 to activate this plan.

Staying in Nigeria for a month or just want a lot of data? MTN has 12 plans that will last you for 30 days:

  • 1000 NGN: 1.5 GB. Activation: text 106 to 131   
  • 1200 NGN: 2 GB. Activation: text 130 to 131   
  • 1500 NGN: 3 GB, Activation: text 131 to 131   
  • 2000 NGN: 4.5 GB. Activation: text 110 to 131 
  • 2500 NGN: 6 GB. Activation: text 147 to 131   
  • 3000 NGN: 8 GB. Activation: online or by dialing *131#
  • 3500 NGN: 10 GB. Activation: text 107 to 131 
  • 5000 NGN: 15 GB. Activation: text 116 to 131  
  • 6000 NGN: 20 GB. Activation: online or by dialing *131#
  • 10 000 NGN: 40 GB. Activation: text 117 to 131  
  • 15 000 NGN: 75 GB. Activation: text 150 to 131  
  • 20 000 NGN: 110 GB. Activation: text 149 to 131 

Need an MTN plan that lasts for 60 days? You have these 2 options:

  • 20 000 NGN: 75 GB. Activation: text 118 to 131 
  • 30 000 NGN: 120 GB. Activation: text 138 to 131 

Exploring Nigeria for 3 months or require a lot of data? These 2 MTN plans will last 90 days:

  • 50 000 NGN: 150 GB. Activation: text 133 to 131   
  • 75 000 NGN: 250 GB. Activation: text 134 to 131   

Finally, you can choose from 3 MTN plans that are valid for 365 days:

  • 120 000 NGN: 400 GB. Activation: text 156 to 131  
  • 250 000 NGN: 1000 GB. Activation: text 136 to 131 
  • 450 000 NGN: 2000 GB. Activation: text 137 to 131  

MTN also offers various social bundles that come with a data allowance for a specific app or a handful of apps. These plans start from 25 NGN for 1 day to 250 NGN for a month. If you choose a bundle that focuses on one specific app, the largest data allowance you will get is 160 MB for a month.

If you get the social bundle, which is valid for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, 2Go, WeChat, and Eskimi, then the maximum data allowance is 600 MB for 30 days.

Although I am personally not a fan of these plans, I do want to let you know that they exist. I will mention the prices of the social bundle. For the individual social plans, head to the MTN website.

MTN Social Bundle for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, 2Go, WeChat, and Eskimi:

  • 50 NGN: 40 MB for 1 day. Activation: text ASD to 131  
  • 100 NGN: 120 MB for 7 days. Activation: text ASW to 131
  • 250 NGN: 600 MB for 30 days. Activation: text ASM to 131

Glo Mobile Nigeria

Glo Logo

Glo Mobile Nigeria, just Glo Mobile, is the second-largest operator in Nigeria with a market share of around 25%. They are cheaper than MTN while offering good coverage.

Glo Mobile SIM cards are sold for 300 NGN. Ask for their 4G/LTE SIM card if you plan on using 4G/LTE. Recharge vouchers are widely available. To recharge, dial *123*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *123*123456# to redeem your voucher. Dial *124*1# to check your balance.

Glo Mobile uses a double data system. Every new customer gets double data, as long as they keep renewing their plans (although there is a grace period of 3 days). If you fail to renew your plan after it expires, your data will be halved. Let me explain.

You become a Glo Mobile customer, and you buy a data plan that comes with 5 GB of data for 30 days (2500 NGN). Your data gets doubled because you are a new customer, making your total data allowance 10 GB. If you stay in Nigeria for 3 months and keep renewing your plan (you can downgrade or upgrade within those 3 months), you will keep getting your data doubled.

Let’s say you decide to visit South Africa for 3 weeks within those 3 months. You do not renew your Glo Mobile plan because you are a smart traveler and know that buying a local SIM card, a South African one, is cheaper than roaming with Glo Mobile. When you go back to Nigeria and buy the same 2500 NGN plan, you will only get 5 GB instead of 10 GB because you did not have a continuous subscription.

Because it is assumed that you will be a new Glo Mobile customer when considering a Glo Mobile SIM card, I will only mention the double data allowance in the list below.

Glo Mobile has 14 different data plans that range from 1 day to 30 days. The majority of the plans will last 30 days. If you have a Glo Mobile 4G/LTE SIM card, dial *777# to activate a data plan. If you have a Glo Mobile 3G SIM card, use the USSD codes mentioned below to activate a plan:

  • 50 NGN: 30 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *127*14#
  • 100 NGN: 70 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *127*51#
  • 200 NGN: 200 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *127*56#
  • 500 NGN: 1.5 GB for 10 days. Activation: dial *127*57#
  • 1000 NGN: 3.2 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*53#
  • 2000 NGN: 7.5 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*55#
  • 2500 NGN: 10 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*58#
  • 3000 NGN: 12 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*54#
  • 4000 NGN: 16 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*59#
  • 5000 NGN: 24 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*2#
  • 8000 NGN: 32 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*1#
  • 10 000 NGN: 46 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*11#
  • 15 000 NGN: 60 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*12#
  • 18 000 NGN: 90 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *127*13#

Airtel Nigeria

Airtel Logo

Airtel Nigeria, just Airtel, is the third-largest Nigerian operator. With a market share of more than 20%, they are doing well in the Nigerian market.

Airtel SIM cards are sold for 300 NGN in Airtel stores. You can get a recharge card and plans in many establishments throughout Nigeria. To recharge, dial *126*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *126*123456# to redeem your voucher. Dial *123# to check your balance.

Airtel has many types of data packages, from regular data packs to social packs. Airtel also has 4G plans, which are “designed specifically for routers to deliver superfast internet experience on 4G network in locations that have 4G coverage.” Based on that information, I believe that are not bundles that can be used on smartphones. Worry not, all other bundles can be used on Airtel’s 4G/LTE network as well.

The following 9 Airtel plans are called Daily / Weekly plans, which are plans that are valid for 1 day to 14 days.

  • 50 NGN: 25 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*50#
  • 100 NGN: 75 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*100#
  • 200 NGN: 200 MB for 3 days. Activation: dial *141*200#
  • 300 NGN: 1 GB for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*354#
  • 300 NGN: 350 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *141*300#
  • 500 NGN: 2 GB for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*504#
  • 500 NGN: 1 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *141*502#
  • 500 NGN: 750 MB for 14 days. Activation: dial *141*500#
  • 1500 NGN: 6 GB for 7 days. Activation: dial *141*1504#

Staying in Nigeria for a month? Get one of these 7 Airtel monthly plans:

  • 1000 NGN: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *141*1000#
  • 1200 NGN: 2 GB. Activation: dial *141*1200#
  • 1500 NGN: 3 GB. Activation: dial *141*1500#
  • 2000 NGN: 4.5 GB. Activation: dial *141*2000#
  • 2500 NGN: 6 GB. Activation: dial *141*2500#
  • 3000 NGN: 8 GB. Activation: dial *141*3000#
  • 4000 NGN: 11 GB. Activation: dial *141*4000#

Are you a heavy data user? Airtel has 4 Mega Packs that come with a lot of data for 30 days:

  • 5000 NGN: 15 GB. Activation: *141*5000#
  • 10 000 NGN: 40 GB. Activation: *141*10000#
  • 15 000 NGN: 75 GB. Activation: *141*15000#
  • 20 000 NGN: 110 GB. Activation: *141*20000#

Need a small plan that can be used for WhatsApp? Airtel has a WhatsApp social plan that costs 25 NGN and comes with 10 MB for 1 day. Dial *948*4# to activate this plan.

Airtel also has 3 social plans that can be used for Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp:

  • 50 NGN: 40 MB for 1 day. Activation: dial *991*4#
  • 100 NGN: 80 MB for 5 days. Activation: dial *688*3#
  • 300 NGN: 600 MB for 25 days. Activation: dial *688*3#

Airtel also has plans for Instagram, Facebook & WhatsApp, and Opera (Opera mini browser and Opera News) specifically:

  • 20 NGN: 25 MB for Opera Mini and Opera News for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*253#
  • 25 NGN: 100 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*254#
  • 50 NGN: 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp for 7 days. Activation: dial *141*54#
  • 50 NGN: 100 MB for Opera Mini and Opera News for 7 days. Activation: dial *141*53#
  • 100 NGN: 300 MB for Opera Mini and Opera News for 30 days. Activation: dial *141*103#
  • 100 NGN: 500 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp for 30 days. Activation: dial *141*104#
  • 100 NGN: 250 MB for Instagram for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*105#
  • 200 NGN: 1 GB for Instagram for 1 day. Activation: dial *141*205#

1 Facebook and WhatsApp bundles auto-renew. Use the following codes to disable auto-renewal: *141*254*1#, *141*54*1#, and *141*104*1# for the 25 NGN (1 day), 50 NGN (7 days), and 100 NGN (30 days) plans, respectively.
2 Opera Mini and Opera News bundles: Video streaming and downloading are not allowed.

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9mobile

9mobile Logo

9mobile is an underdog in Nigeria. They are the smallest full operator, offering 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. They used to be owned by Etisalat Nigeria, but Etisalat had to leave the Nigerian market because they were in debt. Since then, the operator has been rebranded to 9mobile.

Because they do not have that many subscribers, around 25 million, the network is not as congested as the other operators, making 9mobile a reliable operator and offering good speeds.

9mobile SIM cards come in different variants in 9mobile stores. Get the cheapest one because it does not matter which one you choose if you are planning on buying data packs. Once you have received your 9mobile SIM card, dial 200 to activate it. You can redeem top-up cards by dialing 222*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *222*123456# to redeem your voucher. Dial *232# to check your balance.

9mobile has daily/weekly plans + socials, night/weekend plans, and monthly plans. Let’s go through each of them. Do note that all plans auto-renew. Dial *229*0# to cancel auto-renewal.

The following 4 9mobile plans are valid for 24 hours. Some of them come with free access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, which they call social:

  • 50 NGN: 25 MB. Activation: dial *299*3*8#
  • 100 NGN: 100 MB. Activation: dial *299*3*1#
  • 200 NGN: 650 MB. Activation: dial *299*3*2#
  • 300 NGN: 1 GB + social. Activation: dial *299*3*3#

The following 4 9mobile plans are valid for 3 or 7 days:

  • 200 NGN: 250 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *299*2*10#
  • 500 NGN: 2 GB + social for 3 days. Activation: dial *299*3*4#
  • 500 NGN: 1 GB + social for 7 days. Activation: dial *299*2*1#  
  • 1500 NGN: 7 GB + social for 7 days. Activation: dial *299*2*2#

The following 3 9mobile plans have restrictions on how to use your data:

  • 200 NGN: 1 GB to be used between 12 AM – 5 AM for 1 night. Activation: dial *229*3*11#
  • 1000 NGN: 2 GB to be used between 7 PM – 7 AM for 30 days. Activation: dial *229*3*12#
  • 2000 NGN: 5 GB to be used between 7 PM – 7 AM and 100 MB WhatsApp data (anytime) for 30 days. Activation: dial *229*3*13#

Finally, 9 mobile has 9 data plans that are valid for 30 days.

  • 500 NGN: 500 MB. Activation: dial *229*2*12
  • 1000 NGN: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*7
  • 1200 NGN: 2 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*25
  • 1500 NGN: 3 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*3
  • 2000 NGN: 4.5 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*8
  • 4000 NGN: 11 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*36
  • 5000 NGN: 15 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*37
  • 10 000 NGN: 40 GB. Activation: dial *229*4*1
  • 15 000 NGN: 75 GB. Activation: dial *229*2*4

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Nigeria

Getting a SIM card from either MTN or Glo would do you well when considering a Nigerian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

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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 Africa? Check out my Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other African countries, such as Algeria, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, 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.

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 in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan due to the current pandemic and does not have any travel plans for after his stay in Taiwan.

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