In many countries around the world, getting a local prepaid SIM card will save you a lot of money compared to international roaming. The same can be said by buying a SIM card in the Gambia.
Well, I am a bit wrong. I said buying.
You can get a free Gambian SIM card from both Africell and QCell, the biggest mobile operators in the Gambia. 1 GB of data will cost you as little as 250 GMB (4.85 USD), which is quite cheap for African standards.
At the time of writing, the Gambia is the only African country where they hand out SIM cards for free – quite cool.
But there is much more to know about getting a Gambian SIM card.
In this guide, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Gambia. Let’s do this.
Original publication: 15th of June. Last updated: 28th of October 2020.
Can I Use My Phone in the Gambia?
The Gambia has GSM networks utilizing frequencies used in many regions around the world (such as Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania – ITU Regions 1 & 3), but not in the Americas (North-, Central-, and South America + the Caribbean – ITU Region 2).
If you purchased your phone in the Americas, if your device has not been unlocked, or the phone does not support the Gambia's frequencies, then you cannot use your phone in the Gambia.
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in the Gambia
The Gambia has 5 mobile operators:
- Africell Gambia (2G, 3G & 4G/LTE)
- QCell Gambia (3G & 4G/LTE)
- Gamcel by Gamtel (2G & 3G)
- Comium Mobile (2G)
- Netpage (4G/LTE)
The following frequencies are used by the Gambian operators:
- 2G: 900 MHz & 1800 MHZ
- 3G: 2100 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)
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 Gamcel, Comium, and Netscape
The Gambia has five operators that offer mobile services. However, only three of them will be covered in this guide. Below are the reasons.
Gamcel’s 3G coverage is awful. However, its 2G network is decent. The issue is that 2G is too slow for modern data browsing. As a result, they will not be covered in this guide.
The same counts for Comium, but they are even worse. Comium is a 2G-only operator. Thus, they cannot be recommended for travelers (or anyone wanting to use mobile data) either.
Netpage is a 4G/LTE operator using WiMax and TD-LTE on 2300 MHz (Band 40), and they are only active in Banjul (capital region).
They focus on mobile internet for routers instead of the mobile phone market. As a result, they cannot be recommended for travelers, and they will not be covered in this guide.
However, if you are staying in Greater Banjul and want data packages without data quotas (but with speed restrictions, from 256 Kbps to 5 Mbps), then Netpage can be of interest.
For more information about Netpage, check their website.
The Best SIM Card in the Gambia
If you want to buy a SIM card in the Gambia, then both Africell and QCell are the best options. Africell has the best coverage throughout the country but can be slow at times due to network overload. QCell is, on average, cheaper than Africell, but their coverage is limited compared to Africell.
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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.
Do note that as of 2019, you can get Gambian SIM cards only at the official stores of the operators, not from third-party sellers anymore. If someone on the street offers to sell you a SIM card, ignore them and walk away.
Not only will this SIM card not be registered properly, but you also do not have to pay for a Gambian SIM card. Even getting charged 1 GMB for a SIM card is too much.
Gambia Speeds, Internet Prices & Insights
The Gambia is part of the west coast in Western Africa. They are also linked to a submarine cable called ACE (Africa Coast to Europe).
In general, African nations with direct access to submarine cables have faster broadband and mobile internet speeds compared to landlocked African countries.
It is possible to get download speeds up to 100 Mbps on 4G/LTE in the Gambia, but you will mostly get those speeds when staying around the capital of the Gambia – Greater Banjul Area.
Mobile coverage throughout the Gambia is decent compared to other West African nations or Africa in general. As a result, you should not have to worry about lack of coverage, unless you are going to remote villages.
Then again, that is the norm in Africa.
According to A4AI, the average cost of 1 GB of data in the Gambia is 5.04 USD. This is lower than the Western African average of 7.25 USD and lower than the average of continental Africa of 6.45 USD.
Cable.co.uk reported that the world-average cost of 1 GB of data is 5.03 USD, so the Gambia has average prices.
For the locals, however, mobile data is quite expensive.
A4AI also found that it costs the average Gambia more than 8.6% of their monthly income to purchase a 1 GB data plan.
This is in line with the Western African average of 8.1% of their monthly income, but slightly more than the African average of 7.5%.
Depending on where you are visiting the Gambia from, the Gambian mobile infrastructure may be considered amazing, average, or poor.
Currency in the Gambia
The Gambia uses the Gambian Dalasi with the symbol GMD (which will be used throughout this guide). However, prices are often listed as just D (Dalasis). For example, 25 GMD is D25 (Dalasis). For reference, below are some exchange rates between GMD and USD (US Dollars):
- 1 GMD = 0.02 USD
- 10 GMD = 0.19 USD
- 100 GMD = 1.94 USD
- 1000 GMD = 19.42 USD
- 10 000 GMD = 194.17 USD
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Transferwise Borderless Account and Debit Card. Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Transferwise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks). I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Transferwise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Transferwise account FREE!
Gambian Prepaid SIM Cards & Video Guide
- Background information
- SIM card types, prices, and availability
- Recharge/top-up information
- Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)
If you prefer to watch a video of what the Gambian operators have to offer, be sure to check the video below AND also subscribe to my channel for more local prepaid SIM card guides, SIM card reviews (prepaid and international), mobile hotspots, and international roaming guides. You should still go through the guide after watching the video (I refer to it multiple times throughout the video).
With that being said, let’s see what the Gambia has to offer to us.
Africell Gambia, just Africell, is the largest operator in the Gambia, with a market share of almost 60%.
Africell's network is often overloaded, resulting in slower speeds.
When I say often, it is relative compared to its competitors.
However, you can expect fast speeds with Africell when the network is not overloaded.
Download speeds of up to 100 Mbps have been reported all over the Gambia and are proudly shown on Africell's website.
Africell Gambia Coverage
Africell has the best coverage in the Gambia.
It is recommended going with an Africell SIM card when visiting rural Gambia (that is, every other place except for Banjul).
Africell does not have an official coverage map on their website, so I will show you a map produced by the Speedtest app – it is a reliable source.
Getting an Africell Gambia SIM Prepaid Card & Price
Africell SIM cards are available for FREE in Africell stores and at Banjul International Airport (also known as Yundum International Airport). Africell SIM cards come with 10 “Africell Credits” (or 10 GMD in normal terms) and 15 on-net SMS.
It is also possible to get an Africell eSIM. Just like the regular Africell SIM cards, eSIMs are given away FREE, but you have to buy at least an 8 GB data bundle, which costs 970 GMD.
Currently, only the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max devices are supported by Africell, even though more devices support eSIM technology.
This article explains how eSIM technology works and who not every phone that uses eSIM can use the eSIMs of every operator around the world.
Setting Up an Africell Gambia eSIM Profile
You have to take the following steps to obtain an Africell eSIM profile:
- Visit an Africell store along with a valid ID (passport, national ID, driver's licence, etc.)
- Purchase your eSIM profile (QR code)
- Scan the QR code with your eSIM supported device
- Go to Settings
- Select Cellular
- Press Add Cellular Plan (your camera will open automatically)
- Scan your eSIM QR code
- Wait for the download to be completed
- You will receive a confirmation SMS once the process has been finalized.
Congratulations – you have successfully activated an Africell eSIM!
Recharging your Africell Gambia SIM Card
Africell scratch cards are sold in denominations of 25 GMD, 45 GMD, 100 GMD, and 250 GMD in many shops in the Gambia. You can also recharge with an eVoucher, which come in denominations from 5 GMD to 5000 GMD.
To redeem an Africell recharge voucher, dial *134*VoucherCode#.
For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *134*123456#.
You can also call 134 and follow the instructions given by the bot.
Africell Gambia Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers
Africell has many data bundles that are valid for 30 days, 45 days, or 60 days. All Africell data bundles can be purchased by dialing *120#.
The following Data Bundles are available:
|8 GMB||20 MB||30 days|
|18 GMB||40 MB||30 days|
|26 GMB||50 MB||30 days|
|29 GMB||80 MB||30 days|
|45 GMB||100 MB||30 days|
|56 GMB||150 MB||30 days|
|90 GMB||200 MB||30 days|
|109 GMB||300 MB||30 days|
|145 GMB||500 MB||30 days|
|179 GMB||750 MB||30 days|
|250 GMB||1 GB||45 days|
|259 GMB||1.5 GB||45 days|
|495 GMB||2 GB||45 days|
|575 GMB||3 GB||45 days|
|750 GMB||4 GB||60 days|
|770 GMB||5 GB||60 days|
|970 GMB||8 GB||60 days|
|1300 GMB||10 GB||60 days|
|1615 GMB||12 GB||60 days|
|1620 GMB||13 GB||60 days|
You can check your Data Bundle balance by dialing *132#.
Africell Gambia APN Settings
In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct Africell Gambia APN settings automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):
- Name: Africell Gm
- APN: africellnet
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QCell Gambia, just QCell, is the second-largest operator in the Gambia. They were the first Gambian operator to introduce 3G and 4G/LTE in the country. QCell, however, does not have a 2G network.
QCell Gambia Coverage
QCell has good coverage throughout the Gambia. You should not have any coverage issues with QCell, especially when staying in Banjul.
However, QCell's coverage is not as pronounced as the one of Africell, as shown in the coverage map produced by the Speedtest app.
Getting a QCell Gambia Prepaid SIM Card & Price
QCell SIM cards, called Sunu SIM, are given away for FREE in QCell stores.
You may have to dial *335# to activate 4G/LTE after obtaining your SIM card if 4G/LTE does not work yet. It can take up to 4 hours before 4G/LTE will be enabled.
In the meantime, you will be using QCell’s 3G network.
Recharging your QCell Gambia SIM Card
QCell reload cards are sold in denominations of 50 GMD and 100 GMD in many retailers throughout the Gambia. Electronic vouchers are available too.
You can activate a QCell voucher code by calling 111.
You can check your QCell credit balance by dialing 101.
QCell Gambia Internet Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers
QCell has one type of data-only bundle, which is its Sunu Bundle. Sunu Bundles are valid for 30 days and can be activated by dialing *303# and selecting option 1(Buy Sunu Bundle).
The following Sunu Bundles are available:
|9 GMB||20 MB||30 days|
|18 GMB||40 MB||30 days|
|31 GMD||80 MB||30 days|
|58 GMB||150 MB||30 days|
|112 GMB||300 MB||30 days|
|182 GMB||750 MB||30 days|
|262 GMB||1.5 GB||30 days|
|580 GMB||3 GB||30 days|
|775 GMB||5 GB||30 days|
|975 GMB||8 GB||30 days|
|1310 GMB||10 GB||30 days|
|1630 GMB||13 GB||30 days|
QCell Gambia APN Settings
In most cases, your phone will retrieve the correct QCell Gambia APN settings automatically. If you need to enter it manually, then you need the following details (do not add anything not mentioned below):
- Name: Qcell Gambia
- APN: qcellnet
Other Ways to Use the Internet When Traveling in the Gambia
Getting yourself a Gambian SIM card would be the most affordable way to stay online while in the Gambia because you can get a SIM card for free.
International SIM Cards or Travel SIM Cards
International SIM cards (or Travel SIM cards) are made for frequent travelers that do not want to buy a local prepaid SIM card in every country they visit.
This option is cheaper than international roaming but more expensive than buying local prepaid SIM cards. For some, the convenience is worth the premium.
Those visiting the Gambia, or most of Africa for that matter, will have to deal with international SIM cards that will charge you expensive rates, which is why I cannot recommend a particular international SIM card for the Gambia.
But I do encourage you to learn more about international SIM cards and travel SIM cards on this page, as they can be useful in some cases.
International roaming has a reputation for being extremely expensive, which it often is.
But it is probably the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling in the Gambia because you do not have to switch SIM cards nor have to deal with the SIM card registration regulations.
There are a few other reasons why international roaming can be good, which I list in the video below.
Many Western African operators will have the Gambia in their cheaper roaming buckets. However, that is not the case with all of them. Find out whether your operator has decent roaming rates for the Gambia.
But remember, although international roaming can be convenient, it can also result in an expensive roaming bill or other surprises you may not be aware of.
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. They allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without each traveler having to buy a SIM card.
Unfortunately, the companies that rent out mobile hotspots do not cover the Gambia. Or they do so at excessive rates.
It is also possible to buy a mobile hotspot one and insert a SIM card in it. Then, multiple users can connect to it without every individual having to buy their own SIM cards and plans – it an save you a lot of money.
Free WIFI Networks
Just like Gambian SIM cards, open WIFI networks are free. WIFI connections can be another way to stay connected without having to pay a cent.
The issue, however, that free WIFI hotspots can be hard to find at times.
You will mainly find open WIFI hotspots in Banjul. However, most of them will be slow. If you manage to find one, 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 (best coverage) or QCell (fastest speeds) would do you well when considering a Gambian SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards 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.
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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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