If you’re planning a trip to Malawi, having a reliable means of communication is essential. Access to the internet while traveling can make exploring new cities much easier, allowing you to find the best restaurants, navigate your way to your accommodation, book transportation, and share your experiences with loved ones through photos.
While roaming is an option, international fees can quickly accumulate, making it more cost-effective to either obtain an eSIM or a local SIM card in Malawi. Fortunately, obtaining either of these options is straightforward in Malawi.
This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with all the necessary information on purchasing a SIM card in Malawi, including current pricing and recommendations for the best SIM card to suit your needs.
The best sim card in Malawi is an Airtel prepaid sim card with their PaNet Volume Bundle. These bundles offer a wide range of options to suit most travellers.
You will most likely wish to go for the 3.6GB bundle that includes 3.6GB data valid for 30 days for 7,700 MWK, or the 10GB bundle that includes 10.2GB data valid for 30 days for 17,050 MWK.
Airtel is Malawi’s largest mobile network operator and offers the best network coverage in the country. On top of having a better network, the prices tend to be the best on the market which makes it confidently the best option for tourists.
Another option is the Airalo Malawi eSim which comes with 1GB, 3GB or 5GB of data for $9.5, $11 and $16.5 USD respectively. This is not priced competitively when compared to the local sim cards so if you need a lot of data then you will want to stick to Airtel. But if you prefer the convenience of an eSim then this is a great option.
A Tourist Sim Card in Malawi costs 7,700 MWK in February 2024, however, the exact price will often depend on the store you visit and the plan you choose.
Alternatively, an eSim in Malawi will cost between $9.50 USD and $16.50 USD. This, again, depends on how much data you require and which eSim provider you choose.
I generally recommend this Airalo plan for most tourists visiting Malawi which includes 5GB of data which is valid for 30 days and costs $16.50 USD.
In Malawi, the main sim card providers are Airtel and TNM (Telekom Networks Malawi). Airtel, a global telecommunications company, offers a wide range of mobile services in the country. They provide affordable plans, reliable network coverage, and various data packages to cater to different customer needs. Airtel also offers value-added services like mobile money, which allows users to easily send and receive money using their phones.
On the other hand, TNM is a local telecommunications company that has been serving Malawians since 1995. They provide voice, data, and mobile financial services to their customers. TNM has a strong network infrastructure and aims to deliver quality services at competitive rates. They offer a range of tariff plans and data bundles to suit the diverse needs of their customers. Both Airtel and TNM are trusted and reliable sim card providers in Malawi, ensuring seamless communication and connectivity across the country.
Airtel, a leading telecom provider, offers exceptional tourist sim cards in Malawi. With extensive network coverage, tourists can stay connected throughout their journey. These sim cards provide affordable call rates, high-speed internet, and free incoming calls. Airtel’s easy activation process ensures convenience for travelers. With their reliable service, tourists can effortlessly navigate, share moments with loved ones, and enjoy seamless connectivity in beautiful Malawi.
The price of a Airtel tourist sim card in Malawi is 7,700 MWK.
The plan offered by Airtel stores includes 3.6GB data valid for 30 days.
TNM, short for Telekom Networks Malawi, offers convenient and reliable tourist SIM cards in Malawi. These SIM cards provide seamless connectivity and high-speed data to visitors. With TNM’s tourist SIM cards, travelers can stay connected with their loved ones, share their adventures on social media, and easily navigate through maps and translation apps. TNM’s excellent coverage ensures tourists have a hassle-free and enjoyable experience while exploring the beautiful landscapes and rich culture of Malawi.
The price of a TNM tourist sim card in Malawi is 11,999 MWK.
The plan offered by TNM stores offers 35.84GB data valid for 30 days.
Malawi offers several options for tourists seeking SIM cards. Telecommunications providers such as Airtel and TNM offer reliable coverage and affordable data plans. SIM cards can be easily purchased at airports, major cities, and local shops. Tourists can enjoy high-speed internet access, make local and international calls, and send text messages hassle-free. These SIM cards are convenient for staying connected and exploring Malawi’s stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and friendly people.
The price of a tourist sim card in Malawi is .
The plan offered by stores includes valid for .
Identify mobile providers: Airtel, TNM and are your best options in Malawi.
Find your nearest store: Locate a store or retailer by searching on Google Maps for your nearest store or asking at your hotel reception. I’ve never had issues finding a store as they can usually be found in major cities, shopping centers, or tourist areas. If possible, I always recommend to to avoid airports and head in to an official store in the city.
Bring the necessary documents: It is always a good idea to carry your passport or identification documents for sim card registration purposes. We’ve found most providers will need to confirm your identity to provide a sim card and it can be a major hassle to head to a store only to have to come back again later with your passport.
Choose your plan: Either request the plan you are after or consult with the staff in the store to select the right plan for you. My recommendations at the beginning of this guide are a good starting point, but the staff will usually be able to suggest the best option.
Pay and activate your card: Pay for the SIM card and plan, and the staff will activate it for you.
Test: It’s always a good idea to check that you can access the internet before you leave the store. I always search for something on Google then refresh my Instagram feed to check it’s working fine.
Buying a prepaid sim card for Malawi at the airport is usually considered the most convenient option for travellers arriving by plane.
However, airport stores selling sim cards are almost guaranteed to charge inflated prices, so if you are a cost-conscious traveller then you should definitely buy your sim card from a store in the city center.
In addition to this, we would argue that buying physical sim cards at all aren’t particularly convenient now that most people use esim compatible phones. If you are looking for the most convenient option, then buying an esim before you arrive or with the airport wifi is much easier and will save you having to queue up or communicate with staff.
If you must purchase a sim card at the airport in Malawi then you will be in luck. All major international airports in Malawi have stores selling sim cards. Despite the prices being higher than normal, the staff are knowledgable and will be able to get you set up with the correct sim card relatively quickly.
If you want to avoid the inflated sim card prices you’ll find at the airport and your phone isn’t esim compatible, then you’re going to need to head in to a store to buy your sim card.
I recommend visiting one of the official retail stores of the mobile internet operators such as Airtel, TNM and . Your best option is to enter their names into Google Maps and find the branch closest to your hotel or accommodation. Typically the staff in the official stores in Malawi are knowledgable and helpful which means you can ensure you’ll walk away with a functioning sim card.
Despite this, it’s always a good idea to check your internet is working before you leave the store by loading a Google search results page and your preferred social media app. You should also ensure you always bring your passport with you when purchasing a sim card in case they need to register it.
If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in Malawi with your sim card all sorted and your phone ready to connect to the internet immediately then you should look into purchasing a sim card online.
The first option is to buy your sim card in advance via SimOptions, which is a company that will prepare and ship a sim card directly to your door. It’s a reliable and effective service, but with the invention of eSims it’s becoming obsolete.
The better option is to purchase an eSim online. We’ve written more on that below!
An eSim is a digital version of a traditional sim card and is most likely the future of connectivity for mobile devices. The convenience of no longer visiting a store, handing over your passport and purchasing a physical sim card is quickly making physical sim cards obsolete in favour of eSims.
We recommend Airalo’s eSim when travelling to Malawi. The Airalo Malawi eSim offers fast internet speeds, wide coverage and extremely competitive prices making it a far more compelling option than purchasing a physical sim card from any of the local sim card providers.
In order to get set up with an Airalo eSim, all you need to do is visit Airalo here and purchase the eSim online (the $16.50 USD plan is suitable for most travellers). Once you’ve purchased the sim card Airalo will email you instructions and a QR code. Following these instructions should take just a couple of minutes, then you’ll have a sim card in Malawi without having to venture outside.
Our preferred eSim provider in Malawi is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to Malawi and found the service to be equal to the local sim card but without the hassle of acquiring a sim card in a store.
Airalo’s Malawi eSim uses the Airtel network to provide data and connect users to the internet. You can expect very good coverage and reliability with the Airtel networknetwork as they are amongst the best mobile internet operators in Malawi.
Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s Malawi eSim:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $9.50 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $11 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $16.50 USD
For most travellers we recommend the 5GB data plan for $16.50 USD which is valid for 30 days. Some travellers may prefer a larger plan, whilst travellers visiting for just a couple of days may be fine with a smaller plan.
An alternative eSim provider we can recommend is Holafly.
Holafly’s eSim is a suitable option for travellers who require large amounts of data, such as digital nomads and people who work online while they travel. All of Holafly’s Malawi eSims offer unlimited data.
Holafly’s Malawi eSim uses the Airtel Malawinetwork to provide data and connect users to the internet. This network will provide reliable speeds and coverage while in Malawi
Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s Malawi eSim:
2.5GB data valid for 5 days – Price: $27 USD
3.5GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $27 USD
5GB data valid for 10 days – Price: $37 USD
The eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a digital SIM card that is permanently integrated into a device like a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. Unlike regular SIM cards, it does not require physical insertion or removal.
Instead, the eSIM is already part of the device’s hardware and can be remotely activated and programmed by a mobile network operator. This allows users to switch between different mobile networks or plans without the hassle of physically changing SIM cards.
The eSIM technology offers convenience, flexibility, and simplicity, especially for frequent travelers or people who switch between mobile networks or travel internationally. It eliminates the need to buy and insert physical SIM cards, making it easier to manage multiple mobile connections on a single device.
To activate an eSIM, users can either scan a provided QR code or manually enter the activation details given by their mobile network operator. Once activated, the device can connect to the selected mobile network and access voice, data, and messaging services, just like a regular SIM card.
There are several reasons why using an eSIM can be beneficial. Firstly, it offers convenience as you don’t need to physically insert or remove a SIM card when switching networks or plans. This is particularly useful for frequent travelers who may need to switch between different countries. Secondly, eSIM allows for dual SIM functionality, meaning you can have two active mobile numbers on one device. This is beneficial for separating personal and work numbers or managing multiple phone lines. Additionally, eSIMs save space as they are embedded within the device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card slot and allowing for smaller devices or more components. The remote provisioning feature of eSIMs allows for activation and management of mobile plans over the air, without needing a physical SIM card or visiting a store. This offers flexibility and convenience in managing your mobile connectivity. Lastly, eSIM technology is future-proof, as more networks and service providers are offering support for eSIMs. By using an eSIM-compatible device, you can take advantage of new services and offerings as they become available. Overall, eSIM technology provides flexibility, convenience, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity.
eSIM technology is becoming increasingly popular and is supported by a growing number of smartphones and other devices. Here are some examples of eSIM-compatible phones:
Apple iPhone series (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, etc.): Apple was one of the early adopters of eSIM technology and offers support for eSIM on various iPhone models.
Google Pixel series (Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, etc.): Google’s Pixel smartphones also support eSIM functionality, allowing users to activate and use eSIMs.
Samsung Galaxy series (Galaxy S22, Galaxy Note 20, etc.): Many of Samsung’s flagship devices now come with eSIM support, enabling users to utilize eSIM technology.
OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7, OnePlus 8, etc.): OnePlus has included eSIM support in some of its smartphone models, offering users the flexibility of using eSIMs.
Motorola Razr (2020): The latest iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr features eSIM compatibility, enabling users to use eSIMs for cellular connectivity.
These are just a few examples, and the list of eSIM-compatible phones continues to expand as more manufacturers embrace this technology. There’s a very strong chance your phone supports eSims so if you’re unsure we recommend looking it up on our list of eSim supported phones.
Using an eSim is new for many travellers, however, the good news is it’s surprisingly easy to get set up – even for the technologically challenged!
Here’s a general guide on how to use an eSIM:
Check eSIM Compatibility: Ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality. Many newer smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other devices are eSIM compatible including all iPhones produced since 2018.
Obtain an eSIM: There are multiple ways to acquire an eSIM. You can purchase an eSIM online from a provider like Airalo (which we recommend) or directly from a mobile network operator. Some devices also allow you to scan a QR code provided by your carrier to download the eSIM profile.
Activate the eSIM: Your eSim provider will send you instructions to activate the sim. This will usually involve scanning a QR code, entering an activation code, or downloading the eSIM profile directly onto your device.
Set up the eSIM: Once activated, your device will guide you through the eSIM setup process. This typically involves selecting the eSIM as your preferred mobile plan, configuring settings like data roaming, and entering any necessary authentication details.
Enjoy the Connection: Once the eSIM is set up, you can use it as you would with a physical SIM card. Make calls, send messages, browse the internet, and use data services as needed. You can also switch between eSIM profiles if you have multiple eSIMs installed on your device.
Hi, I’m Mitchell. I’m a full-time traveller, explorer and travel blogger. Travel Sim Expert is a blog dedicated to helping you find the best sim card for you, no matter where you are or what your budget is.