Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.

Compare prepaid SIM cards for South Africa

A local SIM could reduce your roaming bills.

Updated

Fact checked

Editor's choice: SimCorner

SimCorner logo
  • Plans for 80+ countries
  • No roaming fees or extra costs
  • Worldwide delivery available
Go to SimCorner

Using your home phone network in South Africa can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper local tariffs. South Africa has some good prepaid SIM card offers, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data for ZAR149 (US$11.30), which might sound expensive but will most probably work out cheaper than roaming on your current phone plan. So, whether you’re planning a vacation or an African tour, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.

Compare international SIM cards

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Number of countries Data range Shipment time
SimCorner
80+
1GB-Unlimited
1-12 business days
SimCorner's prepaid SIM cards offer local call, text and data rates in dozens of countries around the world. Choose from a range of data packages, including unlimited data in the USA.
Flexiroam X
150+
1GB-7GB
3-7 business days
Attach the Flexiroam X ultra-thin microchip sticker to your current SIM card to access data roaming in over 140 countries.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

Telco providers in South Africa

There are four main operators in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom. All four can be trusted and have been tested by locals, travelers and leading testing sites. According to OpenSignal’s coverage report, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C have the best coverage in the country. Network coverage and Internet speeds are generally good in the main towns and cities but can suffer as you head into the remote regions.

About South Africa’s operators

All four operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from stores, supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at the O.R. Tambo International Airport. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. Please note that all prepaid SIM card purchases will need to be registered under the South African law on Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information (RICA), which means you will have to fill out a registration form containing your personal details. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets.

Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in South Africa.

Vodacom

Vodacom is owned by Vodafone and is the largest provider in South Africa. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Its network coverage is the best in South Africa, and its Internet speeds are the fastest. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and your passport must be shown before your card can be activated. Credit can be found at the same retailers plus most supermarkets, corner stores or service stations.

There are two prepaid SIM cards on offer, the “regular” plan and the “B4IGO” tourist plan. The “regular” SIM cards can be purchased for ZAR5, which comes with a small amount of credit, but packages will have to be added to reap the full benefits.

The standard data rate is ZAR2 per MB. The following packs can be added:
Daily bundles (valid until midnight). Activation: *111# then 6, then select option 1:

Rate Data
ZAR5 20MB
ZAR8 60MB
ZAR13 100MB
ZAR20 250MB

Monthly bundles. Activation: *111# then 6, then select option 2:

Rate Data
ZAR9 15MB
ZAR12 30MB
ZAR29 100MB
ZAR59 250MB
ZAR99 500MB
ZAR149 1GB
ZAR249 2GB
ZAR299 3GB
ZAR399 5GB
ZAR599 10GB
ZAR999 20GB

Dial *111# and select the relevant pack to activate. You can also manage your account online. Dial *111# to check your balance.

The “B4IGO” SIM card can be purchased for ZAR100, and many different plans and packages can be added. The following packages can be added to this SIM card:

  • Starter packs for voice, text and data:
    • ZAR449: Smartphone, SIM card, 500MB data, ZAR139 airtime
    • ZAR649: Smartphone plus, SIM card, 1GB data, ZAR275 airtime
    • ZAR999: Smartphone mega, SIM card, 2GB data, ZAR550 airtime
  • Starter packs for data only:
    • ZAR299: Basic Data, SIM card, 1GB data
    • ZAR399: Superdata, SIM card, 2GB data
    • ZAR599: Megadata, SIM card, 5GB data
    • ZAR449: Modem, SIM card, USB dongle (Vodafone K3772Z), 1GB data
    • ZAR1,199 Router: SIM card, Wi-Fi router (Vodafone R206-Z), 2GB data

The following data packages can also be added:

Rate Data
ZAR199 1GB
ZAR299 2GB
ZAR399 3GB
ZAR499 5GB

Vodacom’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.vodacom.co.za/

MTN

MTN is the second-largest provider in South Africa and the main competitor to Vodacom. It also offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. MTN’s network coverage is good around the main towns and cities, and its Internet speeds are reliable. It currently offers the cheapest data plans in South Africa. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and your passport must be shown before they can be activated. Credit can be found at the same retailers plus most supermarkets, corner stores or gas stations.

The “PayAsYouGo” prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for as little as ZAR1.50 when they are on promotion, but the usual price is ZAR5. The SIM cards are already activated to the base plan, which charges ZAR1.50 per minute for calls. Credit can be purchased in the following denominations: ZAR5, ZAR10, ZAR15, ZAR30, ZAR60 or ZAR180.

The standard data rate is charged at ZAR0.99 per MB. The following data packages can also be added:

Hourly bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR1.50 10MB
ZAR5 50MB
ZAR10 100MB

Daily bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR4 20MB
ZAR6 35MB
ZAR8.50 50MB
ZAR12 75MB
ZAR15 100MB
ZAR25 200MB
ZAR40 3GB

Weekly bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR10 50MB
ZAR15 100MB
ZAR35 300MB
ZAR45 500MB
ZAR65 1GB
ZAR89 1GB
(valid for 2 weeks)

The following data packages can also be added to prepaid SIM cards:

Regular data Bonus data Bonus validity Price
5MB 1.25MB 1 day ZAR4
20MB 5MB 1 day ZAR12
50MB 12.5MB 3 days ZAR25
100MB 25MB 3 days ZAR35
300MB 75MB 5 days ZAR85
500MB 125MB 5 days ZAR105
1GB 500MB 15 days ZAR160
2GB 1GB 30 days ZAR260
3GB 1.5GB 15 days ZAR330
5GB 2.5GB 15 days ZAR430
10GB 2.5GB 15 days ZAR 650
20GB 5GB 15 days ZAR1,250

Dial *141*2# to activate. Dial *141*1# for your credit balance.

The following nighttime packages can also be added, valid between midnight and 6am:

Rate Data
ZAR5 250MB
ZAR10 1GB
ZAR25 300MB
ZAR35 500MB
ZAR59 1GB
(valid for 30 nights)
ZAR109 2GB
(valid for 30 nights)
ZAR139 5GB
(valid for 30 nights)

MTN’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.mtn.co.za

Cell C

Cell C is the third-largest operator in South Africa. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Its network coverage is good around the main towns and cities, but suffers once you head toward the remote regions. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official outlets and approved resellers, and your passport must be shown before they can be activated. Credit can be found at the same retailers plus most supermarkets, corner stores or gas stations.

Cell C’s prepaid SIM card starter packs can be purchased for ZAR1 and allow for the following elements:

  • The standard data rate is charged at ZAR2 per MB.
  • Comes with access to the SupaCharge plan, which gives you credit bonuses each time you top up.
  • The MegaData Bundle plan can also be used. For ZAR50 or more, data bonuses will be added to bring up the volume to 3GB.
  • You can also activate the Bhansela Data Bundle; dial *108# to activate. If you recharge ZAR20 or more within one month, you will receive 50MB of bonus data, valid for 7 days.

The following data packs can be added to all prepaid plans:

Daily bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR3 20MB
ZAR7 50MB
ZAR13 100MB

Nightly bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR6 250MB
ZAR15 1GB

Monthly bundles:

Rate Data
ZAR11 30MB
ZAR20 60MB
ZAR29 100MB
ZAR49 200MB
ZAR99 500MB
ZAR149 1GB
ZAR249 2GB
ZAR299 3GB
ZAR399 5GB
ZAR599 10GB
ZAR999 20GB

WhatsApp use for one month: ZAR7.50 for 1GB

Dial *109# or *147# and select the relevant plan to activate.

Cell C’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.cellc.co.za

Telkom

Telkom is the smallest operator in South Africa. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Its network coverage is the worst, and Internet speeds can become slow. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and your passport must be shown before they can be activated. Credit can be found at the same retailers plus most supermarkets, corner stores or gas stations.

There are two prepaid SIM cards on offer, “SIM-Sonke” and “More”. Both SIM card options can be purchased for ZAR1.

The standard data rate is charged at ZAR0.29 per MB. The following data packages can be added:

Rate Data Time
ZAR5 75MB 1 hour
ZAR10 100MB 1 day
ZAR 39 500MB Weekend
ZAR 59 1GB Weekend

The following monthly packs are also available:

Rate Data
ZAR7.25 25MB
ZAR14.50 50MB
ZAR29 100MB
ZAR39 250MB
ZAR69 500MB
ZAR99 1GB
ZAR139 2GB
ZAR199 3GB
ZAR299 5GB
ZAR499 10GB
ZAR899 20GB
(for 6 months)
ZAR1,799 50GB
(for 12 months)
ZAR3,199 100GB
(for 12 months)

Dial *180# and select the relevant pack to activate.

Telkom’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.telkommobile.co.za

Some top tips from finder.com staff:

  • Most people speak Afrikaans and English in South Africa.
  • Locals call a SIM card a “SIM SIM”.
  • Ask the official sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions above or go to the official website for advice.
  • Make sure you purchase your SIM card from the official stores. Top-up vouchers are trusted from chain supermarkets and approved resellers. Try to avoid street sellers.

TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them

While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and vacations, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in South Africa.

Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:

I used Vodacom -they were very helpful with setting up my phone and ensuring everything was set properly. They are in JNB airport arrivals area.

Get your phone unlocked before you come and, if you are a technophobe, the store will insert it in your phone and activate the SIM card for you. Normally there is no wait and should be all operational within 3 or 4 mins.

“I have just phoned Vodacom at OR Tambo airport. The lady that took the call said that they accept just about any document as proof of address (local or foreign) and the most common is a hotel/guest house/lodge reservation.”

Pros and cons of South Africa’s top telco providers

All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible phone. To double check you have this phone or whether you can have it unlocked, contact your provider before you leave.

Pros

  • Prepaid credit when required
  • No in-store contract needed
  • Could be compatible with your current phone

Cons

  • Signal can suffer in the remote regions
  • No devices offered with the SIM card packages
  • Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
  • Street sellers should be avoided
  • Complicated rules and regulations could make setting up a SIM card difficult

More questions about finding the best SIM card?

Switch to a cell phone plan with international calling

Name Product Data Minutes Texts Can I bring my own phone? Cell phone plans starting at:
Sprint
Starting at 2 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Yes
$25
Get unlimited data, calls and text or a customized plan on a 5G network. Eligible plans come with Hulu, Amazon Prime or Tidal subscriptions.
SIMPLE Mobile
Starting at 2 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Yes
$30
30-day phone plans that allow you to cancel your service at anytime. Choose from five different talk, text and data options with the choice to add international calling for $10/month.
FreedomPop
Starting at 500 MB
Starting at 200 minutes
Starting at 500 texts
Yes
$0
Bring your own phone for a free plan with 500MB of data, 200 minutes and 500 texts per month using Sprint's CDMA Network. Prepaid plans with more data, talk and text start at $9.99/month.
NET10 Wireless
Starting at 1 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Yes
$20
30-day plans with unlimited talk and text and the option to choose how much data is right for you. Add-on rollover data is available starting at $5/500MB.
Straight Talk Wireless
Starting at 3 GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Yes
$35
Choose from several different plan options with no contracts, no fees and coverage on the same networks as AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
loading

Compare up to 4 providers

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    TonyAugust 3, 2018

    I’m traveling to Capetown and Durban next month.
    Which is the best prepaid SIM card for:
    1) mostly whatsapp usage
    2) Google Maps use when I’m driving around
    I generally do not make or receive many calls at all.
    Thanks
    TonyLee

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoshuaAugust 11, 2018Staff

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      To determine the best prepaid SIM card for you, please review this page. On this page, you will be able to know more about the different telco providers in South Africa. We have listed the promos and packages offered by these telcos. By doing a comparison, you would be able to find the right SIM for you.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

Go to site