While travelling, I have used an unlocked iPhone 4S as my sole electronic device. In each country, I have been able to purchase a SIM and pay-as-you-go credit for talk, text, and data. Rates vary, but generally cheaper than home.
Some countries were easier than others for getting the proper micro-sized SIM, but in general, finding the office of the provider was the cheapest and most reliable strategy to get this done. Most SIMs come loaded with a small amount of credit to get you going.
Here are the providers I used, with prices, and any other relevant information.
Burkina Faso – Airtel
- 350 CFA at Airtel office, downtown Bobo-Dialasso. No charge for cut.
- Worked in Ghana.
Ghana – MTN
- Purchased at roadside in Kumasi; card had micro-sized perforation for easy removal. 5 cedis.
- Also purchased a regular-sized SIM for my friend. Vodafone, 2 cedis.
Guinea Bissau – Orange
- Purchased at Orange office in Bissau. 500 CFA (was asked for 1000 at roadside!), with cut.
- I was unable to connect to the data network here, despite visits to the Orange office.
- Senegalese Orange functioned here, and vice versa.
Mali – Orange
- Purchased at Orange office in Bamako, in Badalabougou neighborhood. 1500 CFA, with cut.
- Would likely work in Senegal and Guinea Bissau, but did not try.
- Worked in Burkina Faso.
Mauritania – Mauritel
- It was difficult to really pin down what the legitimate price should be for one of these, as I wasn’t able to find an office that was open at the time that I was looking. The guesthouse I stayed at in Nouadhibou gave massively inflated prices, roadside vendors varied, and someone at a restaurant confirmed that they should be much less than what I paid.
- Purchased one for 2000 Ouguiyas in Nouakchott, which someone attempted to cut for me (and failed miserably). Bought a second one for 1500, but was told it should be no more than 500.
- Second cutting also failed, and had to put multiple pieces in the slot to hold it into place. Got stuck trying to get it out later.
- Found an electronics store that had the proper cutting tool in Capitale (city centre) which would do it for probably 500-1000.
- Did not work in Senegal.
Morocco – INWI
- Purchased at INWI store in Tangiers. 30 DH. Originally asked to pay for the cut, but I protested and he did it for free.
- I started with an international plan, but that way will use international minutes at the same rate as local. Switched to a regular plan eventually.
- Did not work in Mauritania.
Senegal – Orange
- Purchased at Orange store in St. Louis. Overpriced at 2000 CFA for the card and 2000 to cut. This guy had to fight to get the broken Mauritanian card out, so I guess he knew he could charge me for it.
- Worked in Guinea Bissau and Mali.
The Gambia – Africell
- Purchased at small electronics shop in Basse Santa Su, where the guy cut and installed for me for 40 dalasis.
- Did not work in Senegal.