You just arrived in Nigeria and need to get connected with your family or business partners? Or you are planning a trip to Nigeria and want to ensure you stay reachable? No problem!
Read on what steps to follow to communicate for less.
Most mobile phone companies in the world will let you place and receive calls and surf the internet in Nigeria. That’s what they call roaming…
While this is very convenient, you will see your prepaid minutes melt in no time (on prepaid plans) or you will get a nasty surprise when you are back home and receive your next phone bill.
Your usual calling behaviour may easily cost you hundreds or thousands of euros if you just take your phone to Nigeria and go on calling. If you use your phone to access the internet, it’ll even get worse. Roaming is big business for your phone company!
Unless you don’t care, there are simple solutions to dramatically cut your phone and internet costs:
Get a local SIM card
After you have arrived, get yourself a local SIM card. That’s the small chip in your phone that defines on which number you are reachable.
With a SIM card from a Nigerian network you’ll get a Nigerian phone number and be reachable for your family and friends at a new number. You’ll benefit from free incoming calls and from the same phone and data tariffs like anybody else in Nigeria.
The SIM lock
The SIM card in your phone can easily be replaced with a local SIM card.
While this is true for a phone you bought for its normal price without any phone contract, it’s not true for a phone that you got from your domestic phone company for a reduced price. It’s also not true for most phones you get with a prepaid price plan.
If you got your phone at a discount price or for free (because you have chosen an expensive price plan), your phone company may have ‘locked’ your phone. This means that you will not be able to use the phone with a SIM card from another company.
A SIM lock usually lasts for the minimum contract period and makes sure your phone company gets the money back for the phone they gave you ‘for free’.
In case your minimum contract period is not over, you will not be able to use your phone with another SIM card and you should consider using another phone to take advantage of a Nigerian SIM card.
But this is still a good option because you can get very cheap smartphones to access the internet in Nigeria.
Even if the minimum contract period is over, the SIM lock will not vanish automatically in many cases. You have to call your phone company and tell them to let your phone go (“Please unlock my phone, ma’am!”).
Call over the internet
With a local SIM card, internet services get affordable.
You can now use VOIP (voice over internet) services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Viber to call back home.
Global SIM cards
If you’re not a business man who eats breakfast in Paris, lunch in London and dinner in New York and travels all the time, we do not think that the convenience of having a ‘global SIM card’ can anywhere cope with the savings of having a local SIM card.
This might change in the future. At the moment, just check the prices on their websites. It’s too expensive.
You stay or you move?
Your communication needs will differ if you are going to stay at a single place or if you are planning to travel around.
You want to stay at a specific place: Ask your local contacts which operators you can choose from. If you got a choice, then we can help you choose the best. If you got no choice, good luck!
If you intend to travel around Nigeria, you will need the services of a countrywide operator with a good network coverage. This will probably be one of the four national 3G operators (MTN, Glo, Airtel, Etisalat).
Get online with a tablet
You want to use a tablet to surf the internet in Nigeria? If you got a tablet with its proper SIM card and phone-like capabilities the same rules as for mobile phones apply.
If your tablet connects to the internet via WLAN/WiFi, read below (“Get online with multiple devices”).
Get online with a laptop
Get yourself a mobile surf stick. If you are travelling around, a surf stick from one of the national 3G operators will fit.
If you are staying in one of the big cities, you might consider getting a 4G capable surf stick of one of the local operators, which means more data and more speed at a lower price.
Get online with multiple devices
You need to get an office connected? Or you are staying in a house and folks want to get online with several devices?
Here’s where you need a router.
USB-routers will connect to a power source like a laptop but often will not allow more than five devices to connect to the internet.
Standalone routers (more expensive) will allow more devices to connect and sometimes come with in-built batteries to stand power outages and ensure you stay online.
And what about satellite?
Satellite internet connections had been the only option for Nigeria to get connected to the internet some time ago. But for most of the country, this era is over.
Where you don’t need satellite
In communities where you have a mobile network with at least 3G or Edge capability: Maybe you will not get the fastest internet but you will get internet at affordable prices.
Where you still need satellite
In regions where no internet provider has an antenna within reach, you have no possibility to connect via mobile networks.
You have to live with serious disadvantages:
High cost of installation (Easily one to several thousand euros)
High cost of airtime (Often not published, easily 10-20 times more than mobile)
High roundtrip time (Slow internet connection)
Outages depending on weather conditions
Still, if you need to get connected in Nigeria, we will get you connected. Just contact us.
Or did we forget something and do you have useful information for travellers? Please comment!