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Saving money on communications in Africa
The man from the World Bank was quite insistent when we met over coffee at the Lancer's Inn in Maseru. "There is only one major way to save money on communication while travelling in Africa - DON'T ROAM". He continued "When I arrive in a new African country, I immediately remove my normal sim card and buy a pay-as-you-go sim card in town when I arrive - sim cards are generally much more expensive at the airports". "Then I do a simple recharge, buy an SMS package and a data package then send an sms to colleagues and family back home from my new number". The data and sms packages are important as if you don't buy these up-front, you are charged out-of-bundle rates that are significantly greater than in-bundle rates - the difference is as much as US7c per Mb as opposed to US$1 per Mb out-of-bundle.
There are many stories of how enormous cellphone bills arrive shortly after you return from an overseas trip. African cell companies often design systems to make it difficult to find out how much you are spending and some African cellphone providers don't support data via GPRS so you may find that the data is being charged not via the amount of data transmitted but as a result of the amount of connect time used. The result is that often people complain that the bills of cellphone companies - especially many African "service providers" are more akin to sci-fi.
Submitted by storytelling on 8 September 2010 - 1:58pm.