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Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

Sacramento...
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Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

Hi all. I'm heading to Malawi and Zambia in a month and will need to talk to people in the US regularly. But of course I don't want to pay the exhorbitant prices that US cell companies charge for international roaming. So if I have an unlocked GSM phone and buy local sim cards in these countries, is it possible to call the US with them? How much would it cost ? Am I better off taking an international sim with a US phone number (onesim, for instance) with me and having my people call me on that (at 20 cents per minute cost to me)? Thanks in advance for the help!

Bogota, Colombia
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1. Re: Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

I can't speak for Malawi (though this is the Malawi forum), but from Zambia you can certainly call on a local sim. I would expect Malawi to be the same.

For prices, check out the websites of the local operators. In Zambia, this would be Airtel, MTN and Zamtel.

That said, if you have a smart phone or tablet, I would suggest getting a local sim / micro-sim with data bundle, and then using Skype etc to call. The internet connection will be variable (best in the city, during off-peak hours; worse during peak hours, or in smaller cities; likely non-existent in the countryside), and very dependent on where you will be (which you don't say), but you may find it works for you.

Remember that on most GSM networks outside of the USA, incoming calls are free. So you could also get a local sim for your unlocked phone, and just arrange to have people in the US contact you. SMS usually works (but not always, or sometimes there can be a delay of up to a few hours), so that may also help you keep in touch.

Good luck!

Sacramento...
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2. Re: Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

Thanks so much for this information! Very helpful!! I will actually be spending most of my time outside the main cities--a week or so in south luangwa NP, five days on Likoma island on lake Malawi, only a few days in Lilongwe. So I'm pretty sure the Internet/Skype option isn't viable for most of my trip.

Since you're a Zambia expert, any idea about cell coverage in south luangwa (at least where the main camps are)? We will be spending our nights at flat dogs. I've tried contacting the camp but so far no reply.

Thanks in advance!

Dallas
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3. Re: Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

Having people call you using Skype is definitely an option. From a computer, with a Skype subscription for Malawi or Zambia, they can call your CELL for about 10 cents/minute. The call is free for you to receive. We found that our connection from the U.S. to a cell phone in rural Malawi was very good most of the time. FYI, people in the U.S. can also call you using the phone feature in Google for about 16 cents/minute if they don't want to bother with setting up the subscriptions.

Bogota, Colombia
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179 posts
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4. Re: Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

Sorry, no idea about cell coverage at Flatdogs.

5. Re: Calling USA from Malawi and Zambia

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