Getting a SIM Card in Cabo Verde

Just looking for the steps on getting your SIM card in Cabo Verde? Click here to scroll down. Prices are up-to-date as of January 2019. By the way, the country code for Cabo Verde is +238

Why do I need a local SIM card in Cabo Verde?

In many countries, it’s a good idea to get a local SIM card. This way you have internet on the go, and don’t pay outrageous prices on your foreign SIM. On 15th of January, I arrived in the Republic of Cabo Verde, an island group in the Atlantic Ocean and part of the African continent. Here it’s Extra Relevant™ to get a local SIM, as (1) the first place I stayed at didn’t have WiFi included, (2) public areas like cafés often don’t offer WiFi, (3) my Dutch Lebara SIM welcomed me with “Cost of using data is €9/MB”, and (4) I intend to stay here the maximum amount of days they let me, which will either be 30 or 90 days. Getting a local SIM card with internet became really urgent in the first 24 hours when I hadn’t sent out an update to family, friends, and followers yet!

Finding a Provider

With help of my partner, our research concluded that CVTelecom’s ‘CVMóvel’ is the best SIM card in Cabo Verde. They have the best coverage – which is really important as I intend to go to a lot of remote areas – and quite good prices. If you want to check whether there’s reception where you’re going, here’s a map of the coverage of CVTelecom. The price of 1GB of internet is €4.55, which is cheaper than in the Netherlands. The cost of the SIM card is €0.90.

There is one competing brand, called Unitel t+, but the coverage issue is the dealbreaker for us. Their prices are similar. Already by visiting São Nicolau island for 10 days, getting CVMóvel paid itself back.

Hunting down the SIM card

We arrived in Santa Maria on the island of Sal at around 9 in the evening. We already had local currency from an ATM at the airport, so we headed into town to get some food. Many of the shops had a sign on the door that they sold CVMóvel things, so we asked in every shop if they sold SIM cards. None of them sold SIM cards, only top-up credits. While it’s good to know that finding a place to top up your phone balance is easy peasy, it was useless for now.

The next morning, we tried again to find SIM cards. In the daytime, Santa Maria is very busy with locals trying to sell you tours, and tourists who aren’t wearing any sunscreen. We asked one guy who sold a variety of tours on where to get SIM cards. He pointed us into the direction of the street that leads away from the famous pier in Santa Maria.

Sold out.

The first time we arrived at the CVTelecom shop at 11 in the morning, the wait was not that long. It’s an airconditioned building. The lady who helped us was Sónia, and she spoke good English. She told us that she didn’t have any SIM cards with both calling and internet, but only internet SIM cards (‘data SIM’). We switched to Portuguese/Spanish (i.e. ‘Portuñol’), which lifted her mood. She told me that she expected a delivery of new SIM cards in the afternoon, after ‘sesta’ (midday naptime), and that it would be better to return at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Disappointed but motivated, we went on a beach hike.

After nap: two SIM cards, por favor

At the designated time, we returned to the CVTelecom shop. This time, the wait was very long. Not sure if she remembered us from earlier on the day, Sónia helped us again. We asked if she had SIM cards, and on auto-pilot, she grabbed a package and started unpacking the SIM. “Phone please” she said, so I handed over my Xiaomi phone. Like she’d done it a million times before, she grabbed a box of paperclips, picked one, and opened the dual SIM card slot with the bent paperclip. The 3G SIM card apparently needed the bigger SIM slot out of two (‘Micro’, not ‘Nano’). We still don’t know if this is true or simply a belief. Sónia did the entire setup for me, including typing in the PIN code that comes with the SIM card.

CVTelecom CVMóvel Cartão SIM card in Cabo Verde

The tiny package of the SIM card. These were sold out at first.

“How much crédito do you want?” she asked. We were already almost out of cash. “Uh, 1 Gigabyte is 500 Escudos, right? 1 Gigabyte, please.” When she handed the phone back to me, the internet was on and there was already a truckload of notifications incoming.

On my partner’s iPhone SE, it only fits one SIM, in size ‘Nano’. She first grabbed a ‘data only’ SIM, but then realized the mistake, grabbed a calling plus data SIM and used that bent paperclip to open the delicate slot.  She also mastered the iPhone, and set it up in no time. 1 Gigabyte of data, and 1200 Cabo Verdean Escudos handed over, and we were outside the shop.

“That was great service” I said to Jonas, who responded “Yeah, it was really great that she set it all up. Apparently, she learned that if people set up the SIM themselves, they screw up.” We walked back to our apartment to scroll the internet in comfort and peace.

Should I download a VPN before going to Cabo Verde?

I think it’s never a bad plan to have a VPN. Sometimes, websites you might commonly use block traffic from certain countries. Cabo Verde can be one of these countries because web developers don’t often think about Cabo Verde.

I have used different VPNs over my 10+ years of traveling that are very similar. However, NordVPN is much more affordable than the other providers—especially if you get the yearly or two-year plan. I have the Basic two-year plan which comes down to €4/month. If you want to try NordVPN, you can sign up via this link. It’s a referral link, so if you sign up I might, might, receive a commission from NordVPN for pointing you in their direction.

In short:

– Ask your host or any local person where you can find a CVTelecom shop. The one in Santa Maria on Sal is on the intersection between Rua 1 de Junho and rua Georges Vynckier. The shop reopens at 14:30.

– Besides getting a normal SIM, which has both calling balance and data balance, you can also ask for a data SIM only. This can work for you if you only need internet and there’s no need to call anybody.

– Prices are €4.55 for 1GB of internet, which expires after one month of buying it. Don’t get too much data in one transaction, because topping it up is very easy.

– You don’t need to bring identification documents like a passport or ID to buy a SIM card in Cabo Verde.

– Pay in local currency, the Escudos (CVE) and not in Euros or, God forbid, US dollars; you get 10% overcharged if you pay in Euros, as the exchange rate is 110 CVE = 1 EUR, but people always charge as if it’s 100 CVE = 1 EUR. This applies to everything, and not only the buying of SIM cards. I could not pay by card in the shop, even though there was one of these machines lying about. Bring cash!

– CVMóvel blocks personal hotspots on iPhone. This means you cannot share your mobile data with other devices, like a computer. It works fine with Android phones, so bring a buddy who’s on Android!

– Speaking Portuguese comes in handy, but many people in Sal speak English too. You might get friendlier treatment if you try in Portuguese, or as I did in ‘Portuñol’. The Portuguese word for SIM card is ‘Cartão SIM’ and the word for balance is ‘crédito’. You can get calling balance (‘crédito chamada’) or data balance (‘crédito internet’).

– You can check your internet and phone balance by dialing *#123#. The message is in Portuguese but I’m confident you can figure it out!

– Recharging works like this: go to a shop that has the CVMóvel poster outside . This can be any place, from a minimarket to a bar. Ask for a ‘recarrega’ CVMóvel, give your phone number, and the amount you want to recharge (in Escudos). They will use their own phone to work some magic, and then you’ll receive a text from CVMóvel that the recharge of your balance was successful. Pay the person, but wait for that confirmation text before you leave the shop. The text should state the amount recharged. The person helping you doesn’t charge you extra for the service.

– Now you’re recharged, you can book an internet package. Use the code *#180# and then select 2 (‘Servicos e Promocoes’), then press 6 (‘Outros Servicos’), then pick 1 (‘Internet’), then 1 (‘Servicos Net Na Mon’). The final selection depends on what you need. Option 4 (‘NNM Mes’ – 500 CVE) gives you 1GB, Option 5 (‘NNM Mes Plus’ – 800 CVE) gives you 2GB, and option 6 (‘NNM Premium’ – 1250 CVE) gives you 5GB of data.

– The emergency number of Cabo Verde is 112, like in many parts of Europe. You call this number regardless of whether you need medical assistance, the fire department, or the police.

– The calling code extension of Cabo Verde is +238

– Fun fact! If you’re on Android, you’ll get the option to use Facebook for free in the app. The downside (or blessing?) is that you can’t see pictures or videos – for which switching between paid and free version is pretty easy and smooth – but you can also just enjoy the fact that your newsfeed is just clean text where you have to opt-in to see your friends’ nasty food pictures rather than opt-out. For Apple users: you can use Facebook for free by using it in the browser and typing in and dealing with an experience that can only be described as “Facebook from the 90s”.

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When we traveled to Cabo Verde, we needed to make sure to have our own internet on our phones. It's best not to rely on provided internet in hotels and Airbnbs, but to have your own. Here's how we secured our SIM Cards and access to the internet to maintain our digital nomad lifestyle in Cabo Verde. #CaboVerde #SIMcard #mobiledata #internet #Africa #AtlanticOcean #Archipelago #iPhone #Android #travel #digitalnomad #locationindependence #CapeVerde #Kaapverdië #CapVert #KapVerde #digitalnomads #workandtravel #travelblog #SaoNicolau

12 thoughts on “Getting a SIM Card in Cabo Verde

  1. Very helpful information. Update from February 2020: On arriving in the airport in Sao Vincente, people were handing out free Unitel SIM cards. I checked their website, and as far as I could make out, their rates were more expensive than CV Movel. I got a CV movel SIM card in the Fragata supermarket (it is a chain of supermarkets, easy to find one in Mindelo). The girl in the shop set it up for me, which was a complicated business, I never could have figured it out myself. The card cost 90CVE (about €0.80). The cheapest monthly plan on offer was 10GB, unlimited calls and TXTs to CV Movel, and 15 mins calls to other Cape Verde numbers. This cost 1000 CVE, or aboot €9. I had difficulty using up my 10GB in a 2 week holiday, even when I had a hotspot running for my friend. It was great having a working phone, as our Irish Vodafone SIM could only pick up calls and txts in Sao Vincente. It didn’t work at all in Santo Antao. The Irish GoMo SIM didn’t work at all on either island. It is very handy to be able to phone or txt hotels, restaurants and taxis, and to have an emergency contact, just in case.

    • Hey Brigid, thank you so much for your update and comment! That’s very helpful for everyone who visits in the future 🙂 I hope you had a great time in the northern islands of Cabo Verde <3

  2. Hi Iris,

    very helpful article, yet as a person who plans to go there & (most probably) will use phone internet connection for work on laptop, I miss one detail: how fast was the internet? I understand it’s difficult for you now to give precise details, but, just overall impression? was it much slower than in Europe or similar?

    thanks in advanace

    • Hey Karol, I don’t remember exactly, but the internet was fast enough to watch Netflix in SD without a hitch. I think it’s 3G at 2MBit/s. It’s surprisingly stable even outside of the towns. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Hello,

    I am planning to go to Cape Verde this July and I will probably go to Sao Nicolao, Sao vicente and Sao Antao, do you know how well works the internet there? I should probably need to do a few zoom calls. Do you think that it is enough with the CVmobil SIM card?

    Thanks in advanced.

    • Hey Celsa! If you’re in one of the main towns the mobile internet connection should be good enough to make some Zoom calls with video. I Skyped with family from all of these islands myself in 2018 and it worked flawlessly. Just make sure your internet package is big enough. Enjoy Cabo Verde! 🙂

      • Thanks a lot for your advice! It was really helpful the foro. Can you help in one more thing?? Did you travel between island?if so how did you do it? Now all the flights are cancels between island.

        • Hey Celsa! Yep, I traveled to 7 out of 9 islands before the pandemic, so the Binter CV flights still existed. Between São Nicolau and São Vicente we used a ferry, but this was a very rough ride and lots of people were vomiting aboard for three hours. On this blog post (co-written by me) there’s a map of the ferries between islands: but I can’t guarantee it’s still accurate or complete. If flights are canceled, I’m assuming there will be more ferries. Luckily, Santo Antão is really not far from São Vicente and when I was there, Santo Antão did not have an airport but lots of ferries between the islands every hour. This should probably be easy!

          I’m assuming you’re flying into São Vicente? That’s the only island of the three you mentioned that has an international airport

          • Actually we are flying to Sal and we want to go to sao Vicente sao Antao, and if it is possible sao Nicolao. There are ferries but they change a lot they schedule! It’s crazy. However, thanks for the info!!

  4. Hello! I read all of your posts and they have been super helpful as I’m planning on traveling to Cabo Verde from the US in literally 3 days 🙂

    Where I’m confused is how do I use my authentication that’s connected to my android device? To my understanding, once I insert the new SIM all US functions of the device are disabled.

    Is there a way for me to see texts from the US once the new SIM is inserted? Sorry for all the questions 😅

    • Hey! Once you take out your US SIM card, you won’t be able to receive texts to your US number. Of course, you can just pop your US SIM card back in if you need to receive a text. If you have app-based two-factor authentication (2FA), these will continue to work with the Cabo Verde SIM card—as long as you have internet.
      Because I travel a lot, I have an Android phone that fits two SIM cards at the same time. I like that a lot because I can simply temporarily disable a SIM in the phone settings. For your next phone, you can look into getting a dual SIM phone
      Enjoy your trip to Cabo Verde!

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