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2 Best Prepaid SIM Cards in the Gambia: Buying Guide

The Gambia – one of the two countries that officially have the in its name (together with the Bahamas).

But a few others are often referred to with the, such as the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United Kingdom & the United States.

So, what can you do in the Gambia? Quite a lot.

There are plenty of reserves to explore, including the Abuko Nature Reserve.

Or you can explore the Kunta Kinteh Island.

Perhaps chilling at Senegambia Beach may be something for you.

As you can see, there is no need to be bored in the Gambia.

One thing to note, though, is that international roaming can be expensive.

That is why you are better off using local SIM cards, like a Gambian one, to enjoy local rates.

If you hate spending money, then I have got good news for you.

You can get a Gambian SIM card for free from Africell and QCell – the two leading mobile operators in the country. They are available in their stores and the airport kiosks in Yundum/Banjul International Airport.

And this is not a gimmick. SIM cards are genuinely available at no cost in the Gambia – no minimum top-up required.

The cost of mobile data, however, is on the high-end for African standards. The same on a global level, but it is still average.

In this guide, I will tell you everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Gambia. Let's do this.

Buying a SIM Card in the Gambia Guide (logos of Africell & QCell)

Original publication: 15th of June. Last updated: 9th of November 2020.

Table of Contents

Can You Buy a SIM Card in the Gambia?

Anyone living or visiting the Gambia can buy a Gambian SIM card without restrictions.

You need a phone that supports the frequencies used in the country (preferably all of them to have the most optimal experience while in the Gambia).

Moreover, you need to have a SIM-lock-free device.

Where Can You Buy a SIM Card in the Gambia?

You can get a Gambian SIM card in Africell and QCell stores. It is also possible to get SIM cards at Yundum/Banjul International Airport.

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

  • Africell Gambia: Free!
  • Qcell Gambia: Free!

Unlike some countries where free SIM cards are not truly free, it is in the Gambia. SIM cards are handed out at no charge with no strings attached.

Do know that before 2019, SIM cards could be retrieved from third-party stores, including grocery stores, kiosks & pharmacies.

This practice has been made illegal because the mobile network operators failed to adhere to the government's SIM card registration requirements.

Until further notice (read: never), Gambian SIM cards can only be obtained in Africell and QCell stores.

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Can You Use Your Phone in the Gambia?

The Gambia uses GSM technology for mobile communications. CDMA phones will not work in the Gambia. If your phone has a SIM card slot, then it supports GSMA (99% of the phones do support GSM nowadays).

Traditional European frequencies are used in the Gambia, which are mostly used in ITU Regions 1 and 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 Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – Own work, using this file by Denelson83, CC BY-SA 2.5

If you bought your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU regions 1 and 3), you should not experience any issues with using your phone in the Gambia.

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 the Gambia or can only use slower networks (3G or 2G).

If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone in the Gambia (to some extent) – also on 4G/LTE.

Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in the Gambia

The Gambia has four mobile network operators offering prepaid services:

  • Africell Gambia
  • QCell Gambia
  • Comium Mobile
  • Gamcel by Gamtel

The following frequencies are used in the Gambia:

  • 2G: 900 MHz & 1800 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 the Gambia, check out this page by Will My Phone Work (may be outdated or inaccurate at times).

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.

Notes about Comium, Gamcel & Netpage

Comium The Gambia Logo
© Comium
Gamcel The Gambia Logo
© Gamcel

The Gambia is actually home to four mobile network operators, even though I will only be covering two of them (Africell Gambia & QCell Gambia).

That is because both Comium and Gamcel have embarrassing coverage (only in the Banjul area, basically) and even more shameful mobile data speeds.

Below are the coverage maps of Comium and Gamcel:

Gamcel is actually government-owned.

Before you go full (neo-)liberal saying this is proof the government always offers lousy service, some state-owned mobile operators worldwide do provide great service.

Sometimes, they are the best in the country (even with multiple private options available).

But that is certainly not the norm in Africa, ha.

Netpage Gambia Logo
© Netpage

So, what about Netpage?

It offers 4G/LTE services for fixed-wireless customers only. Basically for routers and modems – no standalone SIM cards.

While it does offer service through mobile hotspots and Mifi, the additional costs are unnecessary, and Netpage has limited nationwide coverage.

So, that is why only Africell Gambia and QCell Gambia are recommended and will be covered in this guide.

5G NR in the Gambia

5G NR is not available in the Gambia as of 2021, and the Gambian government has not made any indications of when it will auction 5G licenses.

Best SIM Card in the Gambia

If you want to buy the best SIM card in the Gambia, I recommend going with Africell. It has the best coverage and the fastest speeds. However, its network can be overloaded during peak hours, resulting in slow connections.

SIM Card Registration in the Gambia

SIM card registration with your passport information is mandatory in the Gambia. It will be done at the point of sale.

The Gambia Mobile Internet Prices & Insights

Flag of the Gambia

In Africa, the cost of mobile data can be prohibitive, more than 20 USD per 1 GB.

In other African countries, however, the cost is just a few cents.

So, how expensive is mobile data in the Gambia?

On the more expensive side, for regional standards, but still average.

The average price for 1 GB of data in the Gambia is 5.86 USD, around the African average of 5.80 USD. The world average is 4.07 USD.

The Gambia Mobile Data Rates 2021

The country is in the top 10 African countries with the highest average mobile data costs.

But you will see things can be much worse.

Africa Mobile Data Rates Statistics 2021

Normally, I show you some data about mobile data speeds about the particular country I am covering.

Unfortunately, there is not much aggregate data about mobile download and upload speeds in the Gambia.

But Africell Gambia has reported 4G/LTE download speeds between 40 Mbps and 80 Mbps.

Unless you are from the United Arab Emirates or South Korea, where the average mobile download speeds is more than 200 Mbps, these speeds are quite impressive – especially for regional standards.

But remember – these are the best results possible. Your actual speeds wll be sigificantly slower.

In terms of coverage, reception is only good in populated areas.

I hope you will not be anywhere outside of Bakau, Banjul (capitla city), Brikama, Farafenni, Lamin, Serekunda, or Sukuta because reception outside of these cities, districts, and towns will be basically non-existent.

With literal free SIM cards, higher than average mobile data rates, questionable nationwide coverage, and decent mobile data speeds (when lucky), you should have a fair network experience in the Gambia.

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Currency in the Gambia

200 Gambian Dalasi Bank Note
© Central Bank of the Gambia

The Gambia uses the Gambian Dalasi with the symbol GMD (which will be used throughout this article).

However, prices in the Gambia are listed in D. For example, 25 GMD = D 25.

For reference, below are some exchange rates between GMD and USD (US Dollars – Rounded):

  • 1 GMD = 0.02 USD
  • 10 GMD = 0.20 USD
  • 100 GMD = 1.90 USD
  • 1000 GMD = 19.20 USD
  • 10 000 GMD = 192.00 USD

For up-to-date GMD:USD exchange rates, search GMD 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 Euros, my main currency, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Wise account FREE!

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Gambian Prepaid SIM Cards

Below, I will guide you through Africell Gambia and QCell Gambia, 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 the Gambia has to offer to us.

Africell Gambia

Africell Logo
© Africell

Africell Gambia, just Africell, is the largest mobile operator in the Gambia.

It is also the fastest mobile operator in the country.

Africell The Gambia 4G LTE Speed Test Result in Bakau
© Africell Gambia

Africell, as a company, is also active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Sierre Leone & Uganda. Soon, also in Angola.

Africell uses the following frequencies:

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

This is what you will learn about Africell:

* Coverage
* How to Get an Africell SIM Card & SIM Card Price
* Topping-Up Options & Methods
* Internet Packages
* APN Settings

Coverage – Africell Gambia

Africell has the best coverage in the Gambia.

However, 4G/LTE can mostly be found in Banjul (capital city – especially in the Serrekunda area).

Below is Africell's coverage map:

SIM Card Price – Africell Gambia

You can get an Africell SIM card for free with 10 GMD credit and 15 on-net SMS in Africell stores. It is also possible to get Africell SIM cards at Yundum/Banjul International Airport.

It is also possible to get an Africell eSIM for free if you purchase a data bundle with at least 8 GB of data (minimum price of 970 GMD).

Africell The Gambia eSIM
© Africell Gambia

The same counts for transferring your physical SIM card to an eSIM.

The eSIM only works with the iPhone XR, iPhone XS & iPhone XS Max.

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Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – Africell Gambia

Africell top-up vouchers are sold in Africell stores, kiosks, gas stations & grocery stores.

The following top-ups are available:

  • 25 GMD
  • 45 GMD
  • 100 GMD
  • 250 GMD

For eVouchers, the denominations range from 5 GMD to 5000 GMD.

To top up your Africell SIM card, dial *134*VoucherCode# or call 134 and follow the instructions.

For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *123*123456#

You can also tell the salesperson how much credit you want, your phone number, pay, and they will top up your SIM card with the POS system.

Dial *134# to check your Africell balance.

You can also top up and check your balance on the Africell app (Android/iOS).

Africell The Gambia App
© Africell Gambia

Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – Africell Gambia

Africell has three data-featured plans:

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

Buzz Bundles – Africell Gambia

The Buzz Bundles are combo plans with data and SMS.

Buzz Bundles can be activated by dialing *777*, selecting option 4, and selecting option 2:

PriceDataLocal SMSValidity
10 GMD80 MB100 SMS7 days
25 GMD200 MB400 SMS7 days
50 GMD500 MB1000 SMS7 days
100 GMD1500 MB2000 SMS7 days
150 GMD3000 MB3000 SMS7 days
Africell The Gambia Buzz Bundles
© Africell Gambia
Data Bundles – Africell Gambia

Data Bundles are, as the name suggests, data-only plans.

Data Bundles can be activated by dialing *120# or calling 120:

8 GMD20 MB30 days
18 GMD40 MB30 days
26 GMD50 MB30 days
29 GMD80 MB30 days
45 GMD100 MB30 days
56 GMD150 MB30 days
90 GMD200 MB30 days
109 GMD300 MB30 days
145 GMD500 MB30 days
179 GMD750 MB30 days
250 GMD1 GB45 days
259 GMD1.5 GB45 days
495 GMD2 GB45 days
575 GMD3 GB45 days
750 GMD4 GB60 days
770 GMD5 GB60 days
970 GMD8 GB60 days
1300 GMD10 GB60 days
1615 GMD12 GB 60 days
1620 GMD13 GB60 days
Africell The Gambia Data Bundles
4G/LTE Mega Bundles – Africell Gambia

The 4G/LTE Mega Bundles are large data-only plans specifically for 4G/LTE.

While these data allowances are at least triple the ones of the Data Bundles, speed restrictions, up to 5 Mbps, apply with 4G/LTE Bundles.

4G/LTE Mega Bundles can be activated by dialing *120#:

1500 GMD50 GB0.5 Mbps30 days
1850 GMD60 GB1 Mbps30 days
2200 GMD75 GB2 Mbps30 days
2700 GMD100 GB3 Mbps30 days
3300 GMD150 GB4 Mbps30 days
4200 GMD200 GB5 Mbps30 days
Africell The Gambia 4G LTE Mega Bundles
© Africell Gambia

APN/Internet Settings – Africell Gambia

  • Name: africell
  • APN: africell

Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.

Jump back to the Table of Contents.

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QCell Gambia

Qcell Logo
© QCell

QCell Gambia, just QCell, is the second-largest mobile operator in the Gambia.

It is also one of the two mobile operators I recommend for the Gambia.

Its speeds are slower than Africell's. However, it can be more reliable at times due to Africell's network congestion.

Qcell is also active in Sierra Leone.

QCell uses the following frequencies:

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

This is what you will learn about QCell:

* Coverage
* How to Get a QCell SIM Card & SIM Card Price
* Topping-Up Options & Methods
* Internet Packages
* APN Settings

Coverage – QCell Gambia

QCell has decent coverage throughout the Gambia.

Most urban areas are covered, and 4G/LTE can mostly be found in Banjul (capital city – especially in the Serrekunda area).

Below is QCell's coverage map:

SIM Card Price – QCell Gambia

You can get a QCell SIM card for free in QCell stores. It is also possible to get Africell SIM cards at Yundum/Banjul International Airport.

You may have to dial *335# to enable 4G/LTE.

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Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – QCell Gambia

QCell top-up vouchers are sold in QCell stores, kiosks, gas stations & grocery stores.

To top up your QCell SIM card, call 111 and follow the instructions.

You can also tell the salesperson how much credit you want, your phone number, pay, and they will top up your SIM card with the POS system.

Dial *101# to check your Qcell balance.

You can also top up and check your balance on the QCELL app (Android – no iOS app… yet).

Qcell The Gambia App
© QCell Gambia

Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – QCell Gambia

QCell has two data-featured plans: Snu Data Bundles (data) & Free Night Browsing (data at night).

Snu Data Bundles – QCell Gambia

The Snu Data Bundles are data-only plans.

Snu Data Bundles can be activated by dialing *303# and selecting option 1:

9 GMD20 MB30 days
18 GMD40 MB30 days
31 GMD80 MB30 days
58 GMD150 MB30 days
112 GMD300 MB30 days
182 GMD750 MB30 days
262 GMD1.5 GB30 days
580 GMD3 GB30 days
775 GMD5 GB30 days
975 GMD8 GB 30 days
1310 GMD10 GB30 days
1630 GMD13 GB 30 days
QCell The Gambia Snu Data Bundles
Free Night Browsing – QCell Gambia

The Free Night Browsing is a data-only feature that gets activated when you recharge at least 500 GMD.

Once you do so, you will get unlimited data browsing between 0:00 and 6:00 for 30 days.

APN/Internet Settings – QCell Gambia

  • Name: Qcell Gambia
  • APN: qcellnet

Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.

Jump back to the Table of Contents.

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Other Ways to Use the Internet When Traveling in the Gambia

Getting a Gambian SIM card is the best way to stay connected in the country.

However, for some, getting local SIM cards is not an option. For example, if you have a SIM-locked device.

Luckily, there are other ways to get online when in the Gambia.

However, these methods may be more expensive than getting a SIM card from the local mobile operators.

International Roaming

International roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling in other countries because you do not have to buy a new SIM card, have to deal with SIM card registration regulations, nor have multiple phone numbers to deal with.

However, international roaming has proven to be expensive in many cases, especially compared to buying local SIM cards.

That is why many travelers are not fond of international roaming.

International roaming has its pros and cons. However, it is important to know how it works.

This in-depth guide explains it all.

Find out whether your mobile operator has attractive roaming rates for the Gambia here.

Using an International SIM Card or Travel SIM Card

International SIM cards are SIM cards made for the traveler in mind.

Using them is often cheaper than international roaming. However, they are almost always more expensive than using a local SIM card.

There are many other advantages and disadvantages of getting international SIM cards, which you can learn about here.

Using a Mobile Hotspot (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, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.

You can either buy a mobile hotspot or rent one.

Using 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, and they are not available on every corner in the Gambia.

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 the Gambia

Getting a SIM card from Africell would do you well when considering a Gambian SIM card.

Local Prepaid SIM Card 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:

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Your support helps me keep producing impartial content by eliminating the need to recommend international SIM cards as the best local SIM card (but some of them CAN be useful)

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Check Out My Resource Page

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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!

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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.

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