Mobile telephone use is high which is no surprise seeing as landlines are notoriously unreliable. This makes it a “must bring along” item. However, there are cheap handset which can be purchased locally.
Tip: Providers like Airtel and Africell offer cheap handsets that you can purchase in country if you do not want to bring your regular phone or just want to keep it on for roaming purposes.
There are currently 4 mobile phone operators in Sierra Leone: Airtel, Africell, Sierratel and Smart Mobile. They offer GSM services, which work on a prepaid basis. Prepaid cards can be purchased throughout the city and in many provincial towns. In addition to prepaid, some companies offer post-paid service (contracts), but it is unlikely you can set this up if you will only be in country for a short period. SIM cards can also be purchased for use with your own mobile phone on arrival at the airport and it is advisable that you do this as they usually have some free minutes which you can use immediately to make any calls.
Remember, it is a good idea to:
- Pre-programme into your mobile the telephone number of your nearest Embassy, High Commission, or Consulate in Sierra Leone. Do the same with the telephone number of your hotel and tour representative.
- Make a note of your mobile's serial number (also known as the IMEI number), your mobile telephone number and the telephone number of your operator's customer services (including dialing code). Keep them with you in a safe place, separate from your mobile.
Once you have the appropriate phone, you can either purchase a local sim card (recommended) or activate International Roaming.
Using a local sim card with your phone:
Make sure that your phone is unlocked. If you have a contract line with your phone provider in your home country it may be locked which means that you cannot simply insert another sim card of a competitor. Some phones can be unlocked in Sierra Leone, but it may be cheaper to have it unlocked and tested before you leave.
Insert the local sim card into your phone and you should be good to go.
You will receive a local number which you can use to call and send texts home. Sometimes, international texting is a bit hit and miss with the networks. If you have the time, check with the operator about sending and receiving international text messages. Otherwise, Airtel is a safe bet.
Sierra Leone mobile phone prefix:
+232 76 - Airtel
+232 78 - Airtel
+232 79 - Airtel
+232 44 - Smart Mobile
+232 30 - Africell
+232 77 - Africell
+232 88 - Africell
+232 25 - Sierratel
The Sierra Leone International Dial Code for land lines is 00232 22 and 00232 25
See here for full list of International Dial Codes
The network service that allows you to use your home country’s mobile telephone abroad is called international roaming. Use the following tips to be well prepared.
- Normal advice is to set up international roaming before you leave. Approx 14 days in advance of your departure date, you should contact your mobile network provider to ensure your mobile phone is 'enabled' for travel abroad.
- When you use your mobile in Sierra Leone, you will be using a foreign mobile network. As a result, when receiving an incoming call, you'll be charged the international leg of the call and may have to pay extra to listen to voicemail and send text messages. Of course, people phoning you will just need to dial your usual number. Text messaging can often be the cheapest way to stay in touch. Contact your mobile phone operator for the cost of International Roaming.
- Ask your network provider what you have to dial to use international roaming. This can mean that you can't directly use numbers stored in your mobile phone book as normal. If people are phoning you, however, they just dial your usual number.
Please note: Not all foreign networks will roam in Sierra Leone. Please check with your provider in your home country about roaming in Sierra Leone and charges.