While you are travelling, you still want to touch base with your loved ones back home. And it’s great to keep everyone in the loop on social media about your epic experiences. But you don’t want to get home and face a huge phone bill because of international roaming rates.
The solution? Get a South African SIM card for your phone when traveling to South Africa.
Get A South African Sim Card Before You Travel
Stay Connected On Your Cell Phone While In South Africa
There are Wi-Fi connections available throughout South Africa. So you could opt for only using your phone when connected to it. This way you can easily access online chat services such as Skype or WhatsApp. But if you need to call a local restaurant for a dinner reservation, you must use the local phone networks. This is why it’s best to use a South African SIM card.
Cell Phone Networks in South Africa
You will have to choose between the main cell phone providers: Cell C, Vodacom, MTN, 8ta (Telkom Mobile), and Virgin Mobile. Some networks offer stronger coverage than others. The three main contenders are Cell C, Vodacom, and MTN. 8ta (Telkom Mobile) and Virgin Mobile came onto the mobile network scene more recently. In the rural, outskirt areas the signal can be fickle. But in the main city areas, it’s mostly stable.
The Cheapest Cell Phone Packages in South Africa
Many South African contracts include a free smartphone with a contract. But prepaid SIM cards are still very popular. Each cell phone provider offers their own unique contract deals. Research has shown that Cell C and 8ta (Telkom Mobile) contracts are the most reasonably priced. Vodacom is the biggest cell phone network, but their contracts tend to be very pricey.
The prepaid SIM cards have limited data usage, but you can substitute it with free wi-fi in your hotel and at many restaurants. Some of the shopping centres in Cape Town and most coffee shops and restaurants also offer free wi-fi.
Buying a South African SIM Card
Most South African contracts include a cell phone. And they will bind you to a long term contract, usually 24 months. For a short trip to South Africa, you can buy a prepaid SIM, which you can top up with the minutes and data value you require.
Your phone must be compatible with a GSM network to use in South Africa. Otherwise you will have to use a local phone. A basic low-budget phone is reasonably priced. Also, ensure that your phone can be unblocked for international usage.
Acquiring a South African SIM card is very easy. They are sold at various retailers including supermarkets, convenience stores, and cell phone shops. Or you can deal with the official store of the network provider you choose.
Verify Your New South African SIM Card
But to buy the SIM card, there are certain procedures you must follow. The South African law has created the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Act (RICA). These are telecommunications regulatory laws to curb fraud.
You must be able to provide the following documentation to purchase a South African SIM card:
- valid identification (your passport)
- proof of residence (formal confirmation from hotel, on a letterhead)
If your accommodation is privately organized, you must request an affidavit to declare that you are temporarily staying in the country.
Take the Hassle out of Buying a South African SIM Card
B4I Travel South Africa is an international partner of Vodacom, offering foreign travellers great cell phone deals. You can order your South African SIM card package before you travel to the country. And then pick it up at the airport upon arrival. This is a great option if you want to inform your friends and family of your temporary phone number before leaving.
We recommend the services of B4I Travel South Africa. They are officially accredited as South African SIM card suppliers. The packages are a little higher than dealing directly with the local cell phone providers. But your peace of mind is worth the cost.
Get A South African Sim Card Before You Travel
Alternative Deals for Cell Phones in South Africa
If your phone is not compatible with a GSM network and you don’t want the RICA paperwork hassles, another option is to rent a South African phone, which is preloaded with data and airtime. This way you can easily stay connected while travelling the country.
There are various companies offering different phone packages. We recommend the following ones: Cell Hire, Cellular Dynamics, and Square Mobile. One of the biggest South African cell phone providers, Vodacom, also offers rentals.
Understanding the South African Phone Number System
The South African international code is +27, followed by a local area code or cell phone provider number. Both of these use a combination of three numbers. For example 021 means Cape Town and 011 means Johannesburg. The cell phone providers use 06, 07 or 08 followed by a 1, 2, or 3. The zero falls away when the +27 is added to the number. For example (021) 453 3356 will become +27 21 453 3356. When using a chat service such as WhatsApp, it’s import to use the +27 format to be recognized internationally.