Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Rwanda Guide

Rwanda is often regarded as the Singapore of Africa. Although the country is known for its unpleasant history, the government has been able to turn Rwanda to an economic powerhouse.

Rwanda is know for its deep valleys, savannahs, and its nature and wildlife in general.

Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, has the Kimironko Market, which is a market you have to visit. They also have the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which is a site honoring the Rwandan genocide victims.

Lake Kivu is a beautiful lake, which is great for swimming or watersport activities. Nyungwe Forest National Park has a stunning rainforest and the Canopy Walkway suspension bridge, which is an experience on its own. You will also see many chimpanzees there. In short, there is no reason to be bored in Rwanda.

You should share your experiences of Rwanda online. However, you would be better off getting a Rwandan SIM card because roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer getting a local SIM card.

Mobile data rates are low in Rwanda compared to the world 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 Rwanda. Let's get started, shall we?

Telecom Providers in Rwanda

Rwanda has 3 telecom providers: MTN Rwanda, Airtel Rwanda, and KT Rwanda. Both MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda have 2G and 3G networks. KT Rwanda is a 4G/LTE-only operator that offers 4G/LTE to MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda. In short, MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda offer 4G/LTE through KT Rwanda.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Rwanda? If you want to buy a SIM card in Rwanda, I would recommend going with either MTN, Airtel, or KT Rwanda. MTN and Airtel have great coverage throughout Rwanda with their 2G network, while 3G coverage can only be found in populated areas. KT Rwanda’s 4G/LTE network is incredibly fast, which means that MTN’s and Airtel’s 4G networks are blazing fast too.

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Do note that 4G/LTE is only at 800 MHz (Band 20). If your device does not support this frequency, then you cannot use 4G/LTE in Rwanda.

Like most countries in East Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register yourself when buying a SIM card in Rwanda. Additionally, take a copy of your passport with you as you need it, and the store may not want to make a copy for you. When purchasing a Rwandan SIM card, you will be required to fill in a registration form. The whole registration process can take up to 30 minutes.

Moreover, Rwandan citizens and residents can have a total of 3 SIM cards per operator on their name. In contrast, foreigners can have only 1 SIM card per operator and exclusively from MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda. If you want to buy a SIM card for your child, you can, but approval is needed from RURA, the telecom regulator in Rwanda.

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

MTN Rwanda

MTN Logo

MTN Rwanda, just MTN, is the largest operator in Rwanda. They have the best coverage… for 2G, which is useless for data usage. 3G coverage can be found in the population centers.

MTN SIM cards are sold for 500 RWF in MTN stores and Kigali International Airport. Ask for their 4G/LTE SIM card if you plan on using KT Rwanda’s 4G/LTE network. Top-up vouchers are sold there too, at M-Charge outlets, and in many other stores. To top-up, dial *111*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code 123456, you would dial *111*123456#. Dial *110# to check your MTN balance.

MTN has MTN Internet Bundles, which are on 3G (3.75G) speeds, and MTN 4G LTE on Prepaid plans, which are on MTN’s 4G/LTE network. These plans will last you a day all the way up to a month. Let’s start with the MTN Internet Bundles.

MTN Internet Bundles (3G)

The MTN Internet Bundles are sold in daily, weekly, and monthly variants. Internet bundles also come with an SMS allowance. All MTN Internet Bundles can be purchased by dialing *345#. Dial *345*5# to check your Internet Bundle balance.

The following 5 Daily Internet Bundles, which are valid for 24 hours, are available:

  • 100 RWF: 15 MB
  • 200 RWF: 50 MB
  • 350 RWF: 100 MB
  • 500 RWF: 200 MB
  • 1000 RWF: 1 GB

Need data for a week? Then one of these 3 MTN Weekly Internet Bundles may be interesting:

  • 1000 RWF: 500 MB
  • 2000 RWF: 1.5 GB
  • 5000 RWF: 1 GB/day (max. 7 GB)

Staying in Rwanda for a month? MTN has 8 Monthly Internet Bundles to choose from:

  • 1000 RWF: 300 MB
  • 2000 RWF: 1 GB
  • 5000 RWF: 3 GB
  • 10 000 RWF: 10 GB
  • 21 000 RWF: 1 GB/day (max. 30 GB)
  • 25 000 RWF: 30 GB
  • 25 000 RWF: 2 GB/day (max. 60 GB)
  • 30 000 RWF: 3 GB/day (max. 90 GB)

MTN 4G LTE on Prepaid Bundles

MTN themselves do not have a 4G/LTE network (yet), although it is unlikely that they will build their own 4G/LTE network in the future. Instead, they use the 4G/LTE network of KT Rwanda. If you have an old MTN SIM card, then you can change it to a 4G SIM card for 1000 RWF.

MTN 4G LTE on Prepaid Bundles are sold as 4G daily bundles, 4G weekly bundles, 4G monthly volume-based bundles, and 4G daily capped. Dial *345# to activate your bundle of choice, and dial *345*5# to check your Internet Bundle balance.

The following 11 MTN 4G LTE on Prepaid Bundles are available:

  • 500 RWF: 150 MB for 24 hours
  • 1500 RWF: 500 MB for 24 hours
  • 3000 RWF: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 8000 RWF: 3 GB for 7 days
  • 10 000 RWF: 4 GB for 7 days
  • 15 000 RWF: 5 GB for 30 days
  • 20 000 RWF: 7 GB for 30 days
  • 30 000 RWF: 13 GB for 30 days
  • 30 000 RWF: 500 MB/day (max. 15 GB) for 30 days
  • 50 000 RWF: 1 GB/day (max. 30 GB) for 30 days
  • 130 000 RWF: 3 GB/day (max. 90 GB) for 30 days

Airtel Rwanda (formerly Airtel-Tigo Rwanda)

Airtel Logo

Airtel Rwanda, just Airtel, is the second-largest operator in Rwanda. Airtel bought Tigo Rwanda in 2017. For years, they were called Airtel-Tigo until the Tigo brand was dropped in 2020.  

Airtel’s coverage is about as good as the one of MTN, but they are slightly cheaper than MTN. Airtel SIM cards are sold in Airtel Distributor Shops. Top-up vouchers are sold from 100 RWF to 5000 RWF. To top-up, dial *130*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code 123456, you would dial *130*123456#. Dial *131# to check your Airtel balance.

Airtel has 3G and 4G bundles. Let’s start with the 3G bundles first.

Airtel 3G bundles

Airtel has 14 3G bundles, which are valid for 24 hours, 7 days, or 30 days. There bundles can be activated by dialing *255# and selecting option 2. Check your internet bundle usage by dialing *175*4#:

  • 100 RWF: 50 MB for 24 hours
  • 200 RWF: 120 MB for 24 hours
  • 500 RWF: 500 MB for 24 hours
  • 1000 RWF: 1.5 GB for 24 hours
  • 1000 RWF: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 2000 RWF: 3 GB for 7 days
  • 2000 RWF: 1.5 GB for 30 days
  • 3000 RWF: 3.5 GB for 30 days
  • 5000 RWF: 10 GB for 7 days
  • 10 000 RWF: 30 GB for 30 days
  • 21 000 RWF: 65 GB for 30 days
  • 30 000 RWF: 95 GB for 30 days
  • 40 000 RWF: 125 GB for 30 days

I have to say, those are some generous data allowances.

Airtel 4G bundles

Just like with MTN, KT Rwanda provides its 4G/LTE network to Airtel, meaning that Airtel does not have their own 4G/LTE network. It is unlikely that they will build their own in the (near) future. If you have an old Airtel SIM card, then you can upgrade it to a 4G SIM card for 1000 RWF.

Airtel has 10 4G bundles, which are valid for 24 hours, 7 days, or 30 days. These bundles can be activated by dialing *255# and selecting option 2. Check your internet bundle usage by dialing *175*4#:

  • 500 RWF: 100 MB for 24 hours
  • 900 RWF: 200 MB for 24 hours
  • 4000 RWF: 1 GB for 24 hours
  • 6000 RWF: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 10 000 RWF: 3.5 GB for 7 days
  • 30 000 RWF: 5 GB for 30 days
  • 40 000 RWF: 7 GB for 30 days
  • 55 000 RWF: 10 GB for 30 days
  • 80 000 RWF: 15 GB for 30 days
  • 120 000 RWF: 30 GB for 30 days

Airtel Jama Bundles (Youth Packs)

If you are younger than 25, then you can take advantage of these 5 Airtel Jama Packs by dialing *154# and selecting option 2:

  • 50 RWF: 60 MB for 24 hours
  • 100 RWF: 200 MB for 24 hours
  • 400 RWF: 500 MB for 7 days
  • 500 RWF: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 1000 RWF: 1.3 GB for 30 days

KT Rwanda

KT Rwanda Logo

KT Rwanda is a 4G/LTE-only operator in the country. They also facilitate the 4G/LTE services for MTN and Airtel. You could say that KT Rwanda is indirectly the largest operator in Rwanda.

Besides MTN and Airtel, many other companies are using KT Rwanda’s 4G/LTE networks and reselling their mobile services. You find a list of KT Rwanda partners by going to this page. The reason why I do not include them in this article is because travelers cannot get those SIM cards – foreigners cannot even get a KT Rwanda.

The reason why I still included KT Rwanda in this article is for foreign nationals living in Rwanda.

KT Rwanda has many types of internet plans, such as the Smartphone Unlimited Broadband plans, Volume-based plans, Time-based plans, and Isanzure Packs. Let’s go through each of them.

KT Rwanda Smartphone Unlimited Broadband Plans

The Smartphone Unlimited Broadband plans come with unlimited data for a week or 30 days. The speeds are capped based on the plan you choose. The following 6 unlimited plans are available:

  • 2500 RWF: Unlimited 5 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload for 7 days
  • 4300 RWF: Unlimited 100 Mbps download/30 Mbps upload 7 days
  • 4300 RWF: Unlimited 5 Mbps download/1.5 Mbps upload for 30 days
  • 6500 RWF: Unlimited un-capped speeds 7 days
  • 18 000 RWF: Unlimited 100 Mbps download/30 Mbps upload 30 days
  • 25 000 RWF: Unlimited un-capped speeds 30 days

You can activate the Unlimited Broadband Plans, and any other KT Rwanda plans, by dialing #900* or on the LTE RWA App.

KT Rwanda Volume-based Plans

KT Rwanda’s Volume-based plans come with a set data allowance for 24 hours or 30 days. Speeds are not capped like with most Unlimited Broadband plans. The following 8 Volume-based plans are available. All these plans are valid for 30 days, except for the 800 RWF 1 GB pack that is valid for 24 hours:

  • 800 RWF: 1 GB (for 24 hours)
  • 1500 RWF: 1 GB
  • 3250 RWF: 3 GB
  • 9000 RWF: 5 GB
  • 15 000 RWF: 10 GB
  • 35 000 RWF: 30 GB
  • 68 000 RWF: 50 GB
  • 130 000 RWF: 100 GB

KT Rwanda Time-based Plans

The Time-based plans of KT Rwanda come with a capped high-speed data allowance per day for 30 days. If you go over that allowance, your speeds will be throttled. The following 4 Time-based plans are available:

  • 10 500 RWF: 500 MB/day
  • 21 000 RWF: 1 GB/day (afterward, 128 Kbps for the remainder of the day) – max. 30 GB high-speed data
  • 57 000 RWF: 3 GB/day (afterward, 256 Kbps for the remainder of the day) – max. 90 GB high-speed data
  • 75 000 RWF: 4 GB/day (afterward, 512 Kbps for the remainder of the day) – max. 120 GB high-speed data

KT Rwanda Isanzure Packs

Finally, you have the Isanzure Packs that come with a data allowance and unlimited data for Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Instagram for 7 days. The following 2 Isanzure packs are available:

  • 4800 RWF: 4 GB (capped at 100 Mbps download/30 Mbps upload) and unlimited social apps
  • 8800 RWF: 10 GB and unlimited social apps
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Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Rwanda

So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Rwanda. However, that is not the only way to be online in Rwanda. 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 Rwanda 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 Nexttel from Cameroon, then you would be roaming with AirtelTigo in Rwanda.

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 Rwanda, 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 Rwanda, then you do not even need a local 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 a local SIM card.

Using Free WIFI connections in Rwanda

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 Rwanda. 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 Rwanda, you will find many hotspots in populated areas.

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 Mobile Hotspot in Rwanda

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, 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.

Vision Global Wireless 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.

Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Rwanda

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 Rwanda. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.

OneSimCard Banner

International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in Africa 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 Rwanda

Getting a SIM card from MTN or Airtel would do you well when considering a Rwandan 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 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 East Africa and Southeast Africa? Check out my East Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other East African nations, such as Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eswatini (Swaziland) Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Réunion, Seychelles, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

What about other places in Africa? My Africa SIM card buying guide covers all African destinations, such as Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Tunisia.

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 Rwanda

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

Book Your Accommodation for Rwanda

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

Get Your Travel Insurance for Rwanda

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 Rwanda, 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.

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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 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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