Calling home from Uganda can be pretty straightforward. It can also be a right pain in the kabina (bottom).
When I first arrived in Uganda as a volunteer, I very rarely called home. For some reason outbound calls from the UK to Uganda were easier. Skype video calls just didn’t work.
Making a Skype call
A Skype conversation would go something like this:
Caller: How are you?
Me: I’m fine. How are you?
Caller: I’m sorry, what are you saying? You’re breaking up a bit. Can you say that again?
Me: I can hear you really well. I’m fine, how are you?
Caller: Oh dear I can’t really hear you, there’s a bit of an echo on the line, I don’t think I’m going to be to cope with this.
I think to myself: “This conversation is starting the same as the one before and the one before that. Can we move on and have an actual conversation?”
… Call drops off…
The average conversation lasted for 4 minutes. I would redial and we would have a minute and a half conversation. The whole conversation proceeded in one and a half minute chunks, before one or both of us just gave up.
Calling home using your mobile phone
Calling directly from your mobile is now cheaper than it used to be. Skype too is better, thanks to improved internet speeds – just don’t expect to always have video! Rainy weather can affect the quality of the internet too (as can someone cutting through the internet cables under the sea!)
If you’re calling regularly, work out which days of the week and times work best for you. I find Sunday mornings in Kampala work best. Just don’t ask me how!
Loading extra airtime on your mobile phone is the easiest option, whether: MTN, Orange, Warid, Airtel or UTL. It’s very rare to have a home landline phone in Uganda.
Have you tried Smile Uganda Internet yet?
Since June 2013, I’ve found that by far and away the fastest internet provider is Smile Uganda. Their 4G LTE technology is the fastest in Kampala. They cover the majority of the city and are investing in more infrastructure to further expand their network. You can buy a dongle, a modem for the office, or visit one of the internet cafes they serve, such as Bean Cafe, Ggaba Road and Ban Cafe, Garden City Mall.
With Smile, I had a half hour Skype video chat – great picture and great sound, uninterrupted. That’s a first!
As someone who spends so much of my time online, having a reliable – and fast – internet provider makes a huge difference to my life.
4G LTE broadband is the fastest mobile data service in the world. 4G LTE = Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution.
My relationship with MTN
MTN have also introduced 4 G LTE – but theirs is not as fast as Smile’s.
I once spent an afternoon hidden in a MTN airtime vendor’s shack in downtown Kampala, sheltering from an immense thunderstorm.
And then of course there’s “MTN Sunday.”
What the hell is that all about? Without fail, every Sunday I lose contact with everyone, unless I’m prepared to fork out a silly amount of money for a 30 second phone call. Texts disappear or arrive a day and half later, thus “would you like to meet for Sunday lunch?” has to be organised a day or two in advance.
So if you need to contact me on a Sunday, please just call me!
Do you have any experiences or tips you’d like to share on how to call home from Uganda?
And if you have other travel tips or expat travel advice you’d like to ask or share, please contact the Muzungu.