Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Uganda Guide

Uganda is the second landlocked country in the world and shares its borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Tanzania.

The country has a lot of lakes and rivers too. In fact, about 25% of Uganda is make up of water.

Uganda is also known for Matooke, which is a dish with unriped smashes bananes – it is tasty, try it!

Uganda has many national parks that you could and should visit. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a forest with mountain gorillas. Queen Elizabeth National Park has many different types of animals in it. And Lake Mburo National Park has wetlands and offers safari tours.

If you can, check out the Sipi Falls, a majestic waterfall. There is a lot to see in Uganda, and there is no reason to be bored in the country.

What also would not bore you is dealing with an expensive roaming bill you will get from roaming with your provider in Uganda. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, like an Ugandan one, so that they can enjoy local rates.

Mobile data rates are low in Uganda, if compared to the world's average, so it is certainly something you should take advantage of.

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

Table of Contents

Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Uganda

Uganda has five mobile network operators and one Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO):

  • MTN Uganda
  • Airtel Uganda
  • UT Mobile by Uganda Telecom
  • Africell Uganda
  • Smart Telecom
  • Lycamobile Uganda (Tangerine MVNO)

The following frequencies are used in Uganda:

A Note About Smile Uganda & Tangerine

Uganda has 2 4G/LTE only operators, which are Smile Uganda and Tangerine. They do not have 2G or 3G roaming agreements with the other operators. They are primarily targeted to those living in places where broadband internet is inaccessible. Smile Uganda and Tangerine are, therefore, not recommended for travelers unless you are staying in one place for a while.

Best SIM Card in Uganda

If you want to buy a SIM card in Uganda, I would recommend going with either MTN or Airtel. MTN has the best network in Uganda, but they are also the most expensive. Airtel’s network is great, and they are slightly cheaper than MTN.

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SIM Card Registration in Uganda

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

OTT Tax in Uganda

Do note that social media is somewhat blocked in Uganda unless you pay a social media tax, called the OTT tax (Over The Top), which costs 200 UGX a day ($0.05). The Ugandan government introduced this tax due to falling (international) call tax revenue.

The Ugandan government did not get the income they hoped for the year after the tax was introduced because users decided to use VPNs to circumvent the social media block to avoid paying the tax or simply use WIFI networks to use social media. As a result, the OTT tax has been expanded to several VPNs as well, although it is unknown which ones.

MTN Uganda has a list of apps that fall under OTT to make it easier for users to know what type of apps are considered to be OTT apps. This is not a complete list of all the apps that you need to pay the tax for, but it is still a good indication of what else is blocked.

Before I list the OTT apps, the tax does not apply to email apps, like Gmail and Outlook ,or video streaming apps, such as YouTube and Netflix.

The following apps are considered to be OTT services:

  • Android Messages
  • Badoo
  • BlackBerry Messenger
  • Call Free
  • CallerID
  • Chatouts
  • Drupe
  • Facebook
  • Facetime
  • Freevideo – Mail.Ru
  • Google Allo
  • Google Hangouts
  • Google Plus
  • Grindr
  • Hangouts Dialer
  • Hi5
  • Hike
  • Hitwe
  • IM+
  • IMessenger
  • Imo
  • InMessage
  • Instagram
  • iPair-Meet
  • Kakao Talk
  • Kik
  • LINE
  • LinkedIn
  • LiveTalk
  • LOVOO
  • magicApp
  • MeetMe
  • Moments
  • Mood
  • New Messenger
  • Phone+
  • SayHi
  • Signal
  • Skype
  • Snapchat
  • StealthChat
  • TalkU
  • Telegram
  • TextMe
  • Textra
  • Tinder
  • TrueCaller
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Viber
  • Voxer Walkie Talkie
  • WeChat
  • WhatsApp
  • WiCall
  • Yahoo Messenger
  • Zalo

Uganda Prepaid SIM Cards

Below, I will guide you through the Ugandan operators 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 said, let's see what Tanzania has to offer to us.

MTN Uganda

MTN Logo

MTN UgandaOpens in a new tab., just MTN, is the largest operator in Uganda. They have a market share of roughly 50%, making them a very popular operator. MTN also has the best coverage throughout the country, which is one of the reasons why they are so loved.

MTN SIM cards can be bought for 2000 UGX ($0.55) in MTN stores, from various other vendors, and at Entebbe Airport. The SIM card comes with 500 UGX in credit.

You can buy MTN bundles starting from an hour all the way up to 90 days. Let’s see what MTN has to offer to us. And remember to dial *131# to check your MTN data balance.

Need data for just an hour? Get 60 MB for 500 UGX that has to be used within 60 minutes after purchase. Dial *150*14# ​to activate this bundle.

The following 5 daily MTN bundles can be purchased:

  • 250 UGX: 15 MB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*1*1#
  • 500 UGX: 40 MB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*1*2#  
  • 1000 UGX: 100 MB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*1*3#  
  • 2000 UGX: 300 MB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*1*4#
  • 5000 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*1*5#

Are you primarily active during the night? Then the 2000 UGX MTN NightShift plan may be interesting. It comes with 1 GB to be used between 12 AM until 6 AM. Dial *150*1# to activate the MTN NightShift plan.

Staying in Uganda for a week? MTN has 3 weekly bundles to choose from:

  • 5000 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*2*1#
  • 10 000 UGX: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*2*2#
  • 20 000 UGX: 5 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*2*3#

The following 3 MTN bundles will last you for 30 days:

  • 20 000 UGX: 2 GB. Activation: dial *150*6*1*1#
  • 50 000 UGX: 10 GB. Activation: dial *150*6*1*2#
  • 100 000 UGX: 30 GB. Activation: dial *150*6*1*3#

Exploring Uganda for a few months? Consider one of these 3 MTN quarterly bundles:

  • 30 000 UGX: 2 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*4*1#
  • 75 000 UGX: 10 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*4*2#
  • 150 000 UGX: 30 GB. Activation: dial *150*1*1*4*3#

Are you planning on using any app that falls under the OTT tax? MTN allows you to pay the tax by buying an OTT bundle. It is not a real bundle, but you can pay the OTT tax by dialing *150*3# and select one of these 5 options:

  • 200 UGX: 1 day-access
  • 1400 UGX: 7-day access
  • 6000 UGX: 30-day access
  • 18 000 UGX: 90-day access
  • 73 000 UGX: 365-day access

Airtel Uganda

Airtel Logo

Airtel UgandaOpens in a new tab., just Airtel, is the second-largest operator in Uganda. With a market share of close to 40%, Airtel is MTN’s largest rival. Although Airtel’s coverage is not as extensive as the one of MTN, their coverage is still good, so are their speeds.

Airtel SIM cards can be bought in Airtel stores and other stores for 2000 UGX. Just like with MTN, and all other Ugandan operators, there are many data packs you can choose from, starting from 1 hour to a full year. Get 20 MB for free, to be used within 7 days, by dialing *175*20#. You can get 20 MB for free once every calendar month. Let’s take a look at the data bundles.

Note that you can check your Airtel data balance by dialing *175*4#.

Need data for an hour? Airtel has 2 options for you:

  • 500 UGX: 50 MB. Activation: dial *175*82#
  • 5000 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *175*83#

Are you a night owl? Airtel has a night bundle that comes with 1 GB for 2000 UGX that can be used between 12 AM until 6 AM.

Airtel has 4 daily data bundles for purchase:

  • 250 UGX: 15 MB. Activation: dial *175*15#
  • 500 UGX: 40 MB. Activation: dial *175*11#
  • 1000 UGX: 100 MB. Activation: dial *175*12#
  • 2000 UGX: 300 MB. Activation: dial *175*13#

Want to use social media as well? Select one of Airtel’s 4 daily Data OTT packs, where you get data and pay the OTT tax as well. The data allowance can be used however you wish – it is not restricted to social media only:

  • 450 UGX: 15 MB
  • 700 UGX: 40 MB
  • 1200 UGX: 100 MB
  • 5600 UGX: 1 GB

Data OTT Packs can be activated by dialing *185*2#.

Need an Airtel plan for 3 days? You have 3 weekly options:

  • 3000 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *175*51#
  • 5000 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *175*16#
  • 10 000 UGX: 3 GB. Activation: dial *175*17#

Staying in Uganda for a week? Consider one of these 5 Airtel weekly plans:

  • 2000 UGX: 150 MB. Activation: dial *175*25#
  • 3500 UGX: 400 MB. Activation: dial *175*26#
  • 7000 UGX: 1.17 GB. Activation: dial *175*45#
  • 15 000 UGX: 4 GB. Activation: dial *175*46#
  • 20 000 UGX: 7 GB. Activation: dial *175*24#

Want to use social media as well? Select one of Airtel’s 3 weekly Data OTT packs, where you get data and pay the OTT tax as well. The data allowance can be used however you wish – it is not restricted to social media only:

  • 8400 UGX: 1 GB
  • 16 400 UGX: 3 GB
  • 21 400 UGX: 5 GB

Data OTT Packs can be activated by dialing *185*2#.

In need for data for a full month, or just need a lot of data? Airtel has 6 plans that will last you for 30 days:

  • 5000 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *175*32#
  • 10 000 UGX: 1.5 GB. Activation: dial *175*31#
  • 30 000 UGX: 9 GB. Activation: dial *175*38#
  • 50 000 UGX: 20 GB. Activation: dial *175*39#
  • 90 000 UGX: 25 GB. Activation: dial *175*40#
  • 150 000 UGX: 65 GB. Activation: dial *175*75#

Want to use social media as well? Select one of Airtel’s 3 monthly Data OTT packs, where you get data and pay the OTT tax as well. The data allowance can be used however you wish – it is not restricted to social media only:

  • 26 000 UGX: 1.75 GB
  • 36 400 UGX: 5 GB
  • 56 000 UGX: 12 GB

Data OTT Packs can be activated by dialing *185*2#.

Airtel also has 2 Data Pakalast Super packs that last you for a full month. I do not know why, but they are more expensive than the plans mentioned above and come with a smaller data allowance. I would not recommend them, but here they are:

  • 179 000 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial*175*92#
  • 330 000 UGX: 3 GB. Activation: dial *175*93#

What if you need data for 3 months? Airtel has 4 quarterly plans for you:

  • 39 000 UGX: 4 GB. Activation: dial *175*77#
  • 78 000 UGX: 10 GB. Activation: dial *175*78#
  • 130 000 UGX: 20 GB. Activation: dial *175*42#
  • 450 000 UGX: 85 GB. Activation: call customer care at 100

Need 300 GB that can be used within a year? You can! Airtel offers their year bundle for 1 500 000 UGX, which comes with 300 GB. You have to call customer care at 100 to activate this plan.

Want to use social media with Airtel? Pay the OTT Tax by dialing *185*2*5#

UT Mobile by Uganda Telecom

Uganda Telecom Logo

Uganda TelecomOpens in a new tab., also known as UT Mobile, used to be a state-owned provider, but it has since been privatized. They only have 2G and 3G networks. Uganda Telecom has plans to launch 4G/LTE one day, but that could take a while. You can buy UT Mobile SIM cards at Uganda Telecom stores.

UT Mobile has the following data packages, which can be bought by dialing *100*5:

  • 200 UGX: 10 MB for 1 day
  • 350 UGX: 25 MB for 1 day
  • 600 UGX: 50 MB for 1 day
  • 1000 UGX: 100 MB for 1 day
  • 2000 UGX: 100 MB for 7 days
  • 14 500 UGX: 500 MB for 30 days
  • 28 000 UGX: 1 GB for 30 days
  • 65 000 UGX: 3 GB for 30 days
  • 110 000 UGX: 5 GB for 30 days
  • 115 000 UGX: 10 GB for 30 days

It is unknown how to pay the OTT tax with Uganda Telecom.

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Africell Uganda

Africell Logo

Africell Uganda, just Africell, is another operator in Uganda. Although their coverage is limited, their speeds can be fast.

Africell SIM cards are sold for 1500 UGX in Africell stores, and they come with 10 minutes for calls to start with.

As to be expected, plans range from 1 day to 1 year. You can purchase any of these bundles by dialing *133#. Check your Africell data balance by dialing *131#.

The following 7 Africell plans will last you a day:

  • 250 UGX: 25 MB
  • 500 UGX: 50 MB
  • 1000 UGX: 150 MB
  • 2000 UGX: 350 MB
  • 3000 UGX: 600 MB
  • 5000 UGX: 1.2 GB
  • 20 000 UGX: unlimited*

* Fair-use limit unknown

Need data for a week? Choose one of these 5 weekly plans Africell offers:

  • 2500 UGX: 200 MB
  • 4000 UGX: 500 MB
  • 8000 UGX: 1.5 GB
  • 15 000 UGX: 4.5 GB
  • 20 000 UGX: 8 GB

Exploring Uganda for a month or just need a lot of data? Consider one of Africell 9 monthly bundles:

  • 4000 UGX: 500 MB
  • 10 000 UGX: 1.5 GB
  • 25 000 UGX: 8 GB
  • 50 000 UGX: 20 GB
  • 75 000 UGX: 35 GB
  • 100 000 UGX: 50 GB
  • 125 000 UGX: 65 GB
  • 200 000 UGX: 120 GB
  • 350 000 UGX: unlimited   

* Fair-use limit unknown

Staying in Uganda for 3 months? Africell has 5 plans that will last you 3 months:

  • 40 000 UGX: 4.5 GB
  • 75 000 UGX: 12 GB
  • 125 000 UGX: 30 GB
  • 200 000 UGX: 55 GB
  • 400 000 UGX: 120 GB

Finally, you have a 150 GB plan that is valid for 6 months for 500 UGX. Want to spend a million UGX? If so, you can get 320 GB for a full year.

If you plan on using social media, then you can pay the OTT tax by dialing *133#.

Smart Telecom

Smart Telecom Logo

Smart TelecomOpens in a new tab. offers 2G and 3G to their costumers – 4G/LTE is not available, although they may develop that in the future or skip straight to 5G. As a result, Smart Telecom may not seem like a good option. However, they offer low rates. Their coverage is limited, and you have to deal with 3G speeds. Those are some compromises you have to consider.

Smart Telecom SIM cards are available for 500 UGX in Smart Telecom stores. They have something what they call Build Your Bundle (BYB), which basically means that there are so many combo plans out there that you can build the one you like.

These are combo plans that come with minutes and SMS. However, I will only list the plan that feature data. To see the full list, head to the Build Your Bundle pageOpens in a new tab..

The following Build Your Bundle plans feature data. Do note that to activate a plan, you have to dial *100#. After that, there are many options you have to select to purchase a plan. The USSD code will show you all the steps in a string, but you cannot purchase a plan by dialing the string.

For example, for 1199 UGX, you can get 500 MB for 1 day. To get this plan, you would first dial *100#, then select option 1, option 1 again, option 3, option 6, and option 3. Below, it will be listed as *100#1*1*3*6*3.

The following 11 daily Smart Telecom bundles feature data:

  • 249 UGX: 5 MB, 5 on-net minutes, 1 off-net minute, and 5 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*5*1
  • 249 UGX: 15 MB, 10 on-net minutes and 10 SMS.  Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*4*1
  • 449 UGX: 25 MB Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*6*1
  • 499 UGX: 50 MB, 15 on-net minutes, 2 off-net minutes, and 35 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*5*2
  • 499 UGX: 100 MB, 25 on-net minutes, and 25 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*4*2
  • 699 UGX: 120 MB. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*6*2
  • 999 UGX: 120 MB, 30 on-net minutes, 2 off-net minutes, and 30 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*5*3
  • 999 UGX: 250 MB, 50 on-net minutes, and 50 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*4*3
  • 1199 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*6*3
  • 1599 UGX: 800 MB. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*6*4
  • 2199 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#1*1*3*6*5

Need a combo plan that lasts you for a week? Then one of these 6 weekly Smart Telecom bundles will do you well:

  • 1999 UGX: 50 MB, 20 on-net minutes, 3 off-net minutes, and 20 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*5*1
  • 1999 UGX: 80 MB, 30 on-net minutes and 30 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*4*1
  • 3399 UGX: 120 MB. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*6*1
  • 4999 UGX: 250 MB, 80 on-net minutes, 12 off-net minutes, and 80 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*5*2
  • 4999 UGX: 500 MB, 60 on-net minutes and 60 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*4*2
  • 6399 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#1*2*3*6*2

Staying in Uganda for a week? Smart Telecom has 6 monthly bundles to choose from:

  • 4999 UGX: 100 MB, 100 MB, 30 on-net minutes, 8 off-net minutes, and 30 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*5*1
  • 4999 UGX: 200 MB, 50 on-net minutes and 50 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*4*1
  • 8499 UGX: 400 MB. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*6*1
  • 9999 UGX: 250 MB, 100 on-net minutes, 15 off-net minutes, and 100 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*5*2
  • 9999 UGX: 500 MB, 200 on-net minutes, and 200 SMS. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*4*2
  • 9999 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#1*3*3*6*2

Only need data? Smart Telecom has data-only plans. The same principle apply to buying a data-only plan as buying a combo plan.

Need data for a day? Smart Telecom has 7 daily plans:

  • 449 UGX: 25 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*1
  • 599 UGX: 50 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*2
  • 699 UGX: 120 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*3
  • 999 UGX: 250 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*4
  • 1199 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*5
  • 1599 UGX: 800 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*6
  • 2199 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*1*7

Exploring Uganda for a week? Consider one of these 4 weekly plans:

  • 2699 UGX: 50 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*2*1
  • 3399 UGX: 120 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*2*2
  • 4399 UGX: 500 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*2*3
  • 6399 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*2*4

Staying in Uganda for a month? Smart Telecom has these 6 monthly plans:

  • 6499 UGX: 120 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*1
  • 8499 UGX: 400 MB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*2
  • 9999 UGX: 1 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*3
  • 18 999 UGX: 2 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*4
  • 24 999 UGX: 5 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*5
  • 48 999 UGX: 10 GB. Activation: dial *100#5*1*3*6

It is unknown how to pay the OTT tax with Smart Telecom.

Lycamobile Uganda

Lycamobile Logo

Lycamobile UgandaOpens in a new tab., just Lycamobile, is the newest player in Uganda. They started in January 2020 as a Tangerine MVNO. Lycamobile has been taking Uganda by storm because they offer extremely low prices, for Ugandan standards, for the plans they offer.

Lycamobile SIM cards can be obtained in Lycamobile stores. As they are still fairly new, there are not many Lycamobile outlets yet, but they plan on opening up more stores in the future.

The following Lycamobile plans are available, which can be purchased by dialing *252#:

  • 500 UGX: 250 MB for 24 hours
  • 1000 UGX: 500 MB, 50 Lyca to Lyca minutes, and 50 international minutes for 7 days
  • 5000 UGX: 5 GB, 100 Lyca to Lyca minutes, 100 international minutes, 20 Lyca to Lyca SMS, 20 and 20 local SMS for 7 days
  • 7000 UGX: 10 GB, 100 Lyca to Lyca minutes, 100 international minutes, 50 Lyca to Lyca SMS, and 20 local SMS for 7 days
  • 10 000 UGX: 20 GB, unlimited Lyca to Lyca minutes, unlimited international minutes, 50 Lyca to Lyca SMS, and 50 local SMS for 30 days
  • 25 000 UGX: 50 GB, unlimited Lyca to Lyca minutes, unlimited international minutes, 50 Lyca to Lyca SMS, and 50 local SMS for 30 days
  • 30 000 UGX: 100 GB, unlimited Lyca to Lyca minutes, unlimited international minutes, 100 Lyca to Lyca SMS, and 100 local SMS for 30 days*
  • 45 000 UGX: 100 GB, unlimited Lyca to Lyca minutes, unlimited international minutes, 100 Lyca to Lyca SMS, and 100 local SMS for 30 days

* 30 000 UGX plan seems to be for students only.

International minutes can only be used for calling other Lycamobile numbers in the following 22 countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • The Netherlands
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • South Africa
  • Tunisia
  • Ukraine
  • United States

It is currently unknown how to pay the OTT tax with Lycamobile. They, however, do state that the tax is included in all plans that cost 25 000 UGX or more.

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Uganda

Getting a SIM card from MTN or Airtel would do you well when considering a Ugandan SIM card.

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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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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 is Asia. In particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan.

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