Practical Life in Cairo

Mobile Phone in Cairo

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Telecom Egypt (TE) dominates all fixed-line telephones in Egypt, but the mobile market is growing rapidly and there is a competitive market.

Egypt operates a GSM network. This means phones on another system will not work here. The mobile networks in Egypt operate on the 900MHz frequency. If you use a 3G phone with global roaming capability, it will continue to work within Egypt. However, roaming charges are high.

The Egyptian government also requires that all mobile handsets be registered with the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA) for security reasons, as mobile phones can be used to detonate bombs.

Prepaid SIM Card

Many people choose to use a pre-paid SIM card. This can offer vast savings and allow you to use a local number with outgoing calls charged at the local rate. All incoming calls will be free with no roaming charges. You'll need an unlocked GSM tri-band or unlocked quadband phone in order to use a prepaid SIM card.

You can buy cards online from retailers like Telestial Prepaid SIM card.

International Rentals

Some companies provide rentals to international travelers. This is a good option for people staying temporarily in Egypt. It is an expensive option for both the rental and rates.

Buying a Phone in Egypt

It is easy to locate Egyptian mobile phone providers and phones can be bought directly from them. They usually consist of contracts of 1 - 2 years, or you purchase the phone and plan separately. Salespeople usually speak English and can help you choose a phone and a plan quickly and easily. Cheap mobiles start at 150 EGP. It is best to bring your passport for identification.

There is a strong black-market that for used and Chinese handsets with duplicate serial numbers. These are illegal, and the NTRA requires mobile operators to disconnect those users operating on duplicate lines.


Buying a phone with a contract usually entitles you to a free or inexpensive phone with a monthly payment and available minutes. The rate per minute is usually better than a pay-as-you-go. This is for a term of 1 - 2 years and can be extremely difficult to cancel.

Monthly payments can be arranged to be automatically deducted from a local bank account. Contract plans are generally more convenient for paying the recurring data fees associated with 3G handsets.

Pay As You Go

Pay As You Go plans offer less need for commitment, but slightly higher prices per minute. They are also a more expensive option for data packages. However, they may be the best option if you are unsure of the duration of your stay in Egypt. There is no long-term contract and no cancellation fees. You can also pay for more minutes whenever you need, rather than a set limit per month.

Kiosks and some grocery stores sell mobile recharge cards to "refill" your minutes. Ask for a card in the amount you would like, tell the clerk your mobile provider and pay him the specified amount. The cards you receive will have instructions for recharging your account in both English and Arabic. You can also credit your account by stopping into one of your mobile provider's outlets and paying cash.


There are many options in the mobile market.

Related article: Landline phone in Egypt

Update 4/12/2011


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