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Best Tourist Sim Cards in South Africa in 2024

Choosing a sim card is hard. We've analysed the best tourist sim cards in South Africa across pricing, coverage and data. Find out the best pick!

If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, having a sim card is essential. Being able to stay connected to the internet while traveling can greatly enhance your experience by providing easy access to information.

With a sim card, you can easily find the best restaurants, navigate new cities, book a taxi, and share your adventures with your loved ones. While roaming is an option, the costs can quickly accumulate, especially when traveling internationally. Therefore, we highly recommend either an eSIM or a local sim card to take advantage of local phone rates.

Thankfully, obtaining either of these options in South Africa is hassle-free, but it’s important to know which one is best for you. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with all the information you need to purchase a sim card in South Africa, including current pricing and the ideal sim card for your needs.

Table of Contents

Best Sim Card in South Africa for Tourists

The best sim card in South Africa is the Airalo South Africa eSim. For 291 ZAR ($15.5 USD) you can get set up quickly with a 5GB eSim, or for 487 ZAR ($26 USD) you’ll get 10GB of data – the same package in a Vodacom store is 469 ZAR!

The local sim card operators, Vodacom, MTN and Telkom offer frustrating prepaid packages with weird data packages. MTN, for example, allows you to use 5GB of data at night, 5GB during the day and 5GB for data streaming. They are also all relatively expensive which makes the Airalo eSim a much more appealing option.

MTN and Vodacom have the best networks but considering how difficult to understand and how expensive both of these operators are, the fact that Airalo uses the same Vodacom network is great news for travellers.

If your phone doesn’t support eSims (most phones these days do, including all iPhones since 2018) then we reckon your best local option is the Vodacom prepaid sim card for 469 ZAR. It is the least confusing and offers the best mobile network coverage and reliability in South Africa.

But considering it’s basically the same price as Airalo’s eSim, I recommend saving yourself the time heading in store and installing a sim card. Instead buy your eSim from Airalo anytime before you leave and activate it at the airport when you arrive.

South Africa Sim Card Prices

A Tourist Sim Card in South Africa costs 291 ZAR in June 2024, however, the exact price will often depend on the store you visit and the plan you choose.

Alternatively, an eSim in South Africa will cost between $4.50 USD and $26 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 South Africa which includes 5GB of data which is valid for 30 days and costs $15.50 USD.

South Africa Sim Card Providers

In South Africa, when it comes to sim card providers, three major players dominate the market: Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom. Vodacom is the largest provider, with a widespread network coverage and a wide array of plans to suit various needs and budgets. They offer competitive rates and various data packages, making them a popular choice among consumers.

MTN, another prominent provider, boasts an extensive network coverage and offers attractive data deals and packages. They have a reputation for providing reliable service and customer satisfaction.

Telkom, while relatively new in the mobile market, offers affordable data packages and plans, often catering to budget-conscious users. Their plans often include additional benefits such as free WhatsApp and streaming services.

Overall, with Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom, South Africa’s sim card market presents consumers with a variety of options to find a provider that caters to their specific needs.

Vodacom Tourist Sim

Vodacom is a leading telecommunications company in South Africa, offering reliable and extensive network coverage to tourists. Their tourist sim cards cater specifically to travelers, providing affordable prepaid plans with data, voice, and text packages. With Vodacom’s sim cards, tourists can easily stay connected, navigate maps, and share memorable moments on social media while exploring South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes. Vodacom’s commitment to customer satisfaction makes them a preferred choice for tourists seeking seamless communication during their visit.

Vodacom South Africa Tourist Sim Price

The price of a Vodacom tourist sim card in South Africa is 469 ZAR.

The plan offered by Vodacom stores includes 10GB data valid for 1 month.

MTN Tourist Sim

MTN is a leading telecommunications company in South Africa, offering excellent services to locals and tourists alike. Their tourist sim cards provide convenient and affordable connectivity solutions for travelers exploring the country. With extensive coverage and high-speed data plans, MTN ensures seamless communication and internet access, enabling visitors to stay connected and navigate South Africa effortlessly. MTN’s reliable network and dedicated customer support make them a preferred choice for tourists looking for hassle-free connectivity options.

MTN South Africa Tourist Sim Price

The price of a MTN tourist sim card in South Africa is 399 ZAR.

The plan offered by MTN stores offers 15GB data (5GB anytime, 5GB at night, 5GB video streaming) + 400 minutes valid for 1 month.

Telkom Tourist Sim

Telkom, a leading telecommunications company in South Africa, offers tourist sim cards to cater to the communication needs of travelers. Their sim cards provide access to extensive coverage, reliable network, and affordable data plans. With Telkom sim cards, tourists can stay connected with family and friends, navigate unfamiliar territories, and share their South African experience effortlessly. The company strives to ensure a seamless communication experience, making Telkom sim cards a convenient choice for tourists visiting South Africa.

Telkom South Africa Tourist Sim Price

The price of a Telkom tourist sim card in South Africa is 389 ZAR.

The plan offered by Telkom stores includes 11.5GB data (7.5GB for anything) valid for 1 month.

How to Get a Sim Card in South Africa

Identify mobile providers: Vodacom, MTN and Telkom are your best options in South Africa.

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.

Where to Get a Sim Card in South Africa

At the Airport

Buying a prepaid sim card for South Africa 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 South Africa then you will be in luck. All major international airports in South Africa 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.

In Stores

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 Vodacom, MTN and Telkom. 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 South Africa 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.

Online

If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in South Africa 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!

South Africa eSim

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 South Africa. The Airalo South Africa 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 $15.50 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 South Africa without having to venture outside.

Airalo South Africa

Our preferred eSim provider in South Africa is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to South Africa 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 South Africa eSim uses the Vodacom network to provide data and connect users to the internet. You can expect very good coverage and reliability with the Vodacom networknetwork as they are amongst the best mobile internet operators in South Africa.

Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s South Africa eSim:

1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $4.50 USD
2GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $8 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $11 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $15.50 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $26 USD

For most travellers we recommend the 5GB data plan for $15.50 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.

Holafly South Africa

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 South Africa eSims offer unlimited data.

Holafly’s South Africa eSim uses the MTN SA/Vodacomnetwork to provide data and connect users to the internet. This network will provide reliable speeds and coverage while in South Africa

Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s South Africa eSim:

6GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $44 USD

What is an eSim?

Embedded SIM (eSIM) is a built-in digital SIM card found within devices like smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Unlike traditional SIM cards, it does not require physical insertion or removal from the device.

Instead, the eSIM is an integral part of the device’s hardware and can be remotely activated and programmed by a mobile network operator. This allows users to switch effortlessly between different mobile networks or plans without having to physically swap SIM cards.

eSIM technology offers convenience, flexibility, and user-friendliness, particularly for frequent travelers or individuals who frequently switch mobile networks or travel internationally. It removes the need to buy and insert physical SIM cards, making it easier to manage multiple mobile connections on a single device.

Activating an eSIM involves scanning a QR code provided by the mobile network operator or manually inputting the activation details. Once activated, the device connects to the chosen mobile network and enables access to voice, data, and messaging services as one would with a traditional SIM card.

Why Use an eSim?

There are multiple reasons why using an eSIM can be advantageous:

– Convenience: No physical SIM card insertion or removal is required when switching between mobile networks or plans. This is particularly useful for frequent travelers who may need to switch networks or use local SIM cards in different countries.

– Dual SIM functionality: eSIM allows for dual SIM functionality on a single device. This means that you can have two active mobile numbers on one device. This can be helpful for separating personal and work numbers or for managing multiple phone lines.

– Space-saving: As eSIMs are embedded within the device, there is no need for a physical SIM card slot. This frees up space within the device, allowing manufacturers to make devices smaller or utilize the extra space for other components.

– Remote provisioning: Activation and management of mobile plans can be done remotely over the air with eSIMs. This implies that you can activate or switch to a new mobile plan without needing a physical SIM card or visiting a store. It provides greater flexibility and convenience for managing your mobile connectivity.

– Future-proofing: As eSIM technology becomes more popular, additional mobile networks and service providers are offering support for eSIMs. By using an eSIM-compatible device, you ensure that you can take advantage of new services and offerings as they become available.

In conclusion, eSIM technology offers flexibility, convenience, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity, making it an attractive choice for many users.

eSim Supported Phones

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.

How to Use an eSim

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.

Mitchell

Mitchell

Hi, I’m Mitchell. I’m a full-time traveller, explorer and travel blogger. I've travelled all around the world, using and testing countless travel sim cards along the way. I'm the founder of and writer for Travel Sim Expert where I write guides to help travellers stay connected all around the world.

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. 

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