A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when traveling to Botswana
Using your cell phone in Botswana can be expensive, so consider switching to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper local tariffs.
Botswana has some good prepaid SIM card offers and deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data for BWP399 (CAD$50), which sounds expensive but could work out cheaper than your current roaming rates abroad. So, whether you’re planning a quick holiday or a South African tour, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
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There are three main cell phone operators in Botswana: Mascom Wireless, Orange and be Mobile. All three can be trusted, and have been tested by locals, travelers and leading testing sites. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Botswana has a strong cell phone coverage around the Gabarone area, but it can become weaker the further out you head. Large areas of the country are still not covered by any network at all, especially in the Kalahari and Okavango Delta, but signals in the main towns and cities and along the highways are above average.
Botswana’s operators sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of local offers and deals. Roaming rates can be a little high compared to what is normally expected of cell phone operators, so make sure you compare deals against your own provider before committing. All networks offer 2G, 3G and 4G services. Locals call their SIM cards SIM SIMs and there are no rules and regulations when purchasing them. Tourists can buy SIM cards from almost anywhere in Botswana, at supermarkets, street sellers, stalls, but we advise purchasing them from official stores and approved resellers as there have been reports of unscrupulous vendors selling fake SIMs.. According to local law, all SIM cards must be registered using your passport, with official stores the best place to do this.
Mascom Wireless is a privately-owned company run by South African MTN, it’s the largest operator in Botswana with a 52% market share. It has the best coverage on offer and they provide good deals. Their 3G services cover more than 70% of the country’s area, and they offer 4G/LTE in Gaborone. Mascom’s prepaid Flexi Plan SIM card can be purchased at supermarkets, stores, and at street stalls. It’s highly recommended to purchase and register the SIM card at official stores.
The standard default rate is BWP1.05 per MB. The following data bundles are also on offer:
My Mix bundles:
- 150MB + 10 operator minutes + 20 SMS, valid for 2 days – BWP20
- 400MB + 20 operator minutes + 40 SMS, valid for 14 days – BWP79
- 800MB + 30 operator minutes + 80 SMS, valid for 30 days: BWP149
My Meg bundles:
- 14MB for 14 days: BWP9.50
- 30MB for 14 days: BWP19.50
- 70MB for 30 days: BWP45
- 130MB for 30 days: BWP80
- 250MB for 45 days: BWP150
- 500MB for 60 days: BWP300
- 1.2GB for 60 days: BWP600
My Time bundles:
- 1 hour valid for 30 days: BWP10
- 5 hours valid for 30 days: BWP50
- 10 hours valid for 30 days: BWP100
Night bundle: unlimited data from midnight to 5am: BWP10 per night
Dial *123# to activate and to check balance.
Orange is run by French Télécom, and is the second largest operator with a 27% market share. Coverage areas can be smaller and the speeds slower, but there are always good deals to be found with this network provider.
The Orange prepaid SIM card can be purchased for BWP9.90, which includes BWP5.00 data and BWP5.00 worth of airtime, plus 10 SMS. Plans are sold almost anywhere in Botswana, but like the other providers it’s highly advisable to purchase the SIM cards from official stores, rather than street sellers.
Top-up scratch cards can be purchased from most supermarkets, sellers and stalls relatively safely. Scratch cards are sold in the following denominations: BWP10, 20, 50 (includes 10% bonus) and 100 (includes 20% bonus). The bonuses are valid for 14 days, but can be used to purchase other plans and packages. Dial *155*<card PIN># <call> to add credit.
The standard data price is BWP0.95 per MB. The following data plans can be added:
|10MB||Valid for 1 day||BWP2|
|15MB||Valid for 15 days||BWP9.50|
|30MB||Valid for 15 days||BWP18|
|60MB||Valid for 1 day||BWP10|
|75MB||Valid for 15 days||BWP45|
|150MB||Valid for 2 days||BWP20|
|150MB||Valid for 15 days||BWP85|
|300MB||Valid for 15 days||BWP170|
|400MB||Valid for 14 days||BWP79|
|550MB||Valid for 30 days||BWP299|
|2GB||Valid for 60 days||BWP399|
|5GB||Valid for 60 days||BWP799|
|10GB||Valid for 60 days||BWP1399|
Dial *148# to activate.
be Mobile is state-owned by the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC). It’s the smallest operator in the country with a 16% market share, and has the slowest and most unreliable service out of the three networks. It’s highly advisable to choose from one of the other operators to get a better deal. 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE is available, with the latter only available in Gaborone.
be Mobile’s prepaid SIM+ SIM card can be purchased for BWP10, which includes BWP10 worth of airtime, 10MB data per month and 10 SMS per month, valid for six months.
The standard default rate is BWP0.99 per MB. The following data-only packs are available:
|BWP6||7MB||1MB||Valid for one month|
|BWP100||160MB||25MB||Valid for two months|
Dial *180# to activate. Any bonuses received will be valid for one month.
- Setswana is the most commonly language spoken in Botswana. It’s highly unlikely that you will know Setswana, as it’s unique to locals so download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel for help. However, the good thing about Botswana is that most people also speak English. In fact, it is almost a second language.
- Locals call a SIM card a SIM SIM.
- Ask the official seller to set up the SIM for you, 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 official or approved stores. Top-up vouchers should be purchased from trusted chain supermarkets and approved resellers. Try to avoid street sellers.
While it’s well known for hotels, flights and holiday bookings, TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through SIM cards that have been tried and tested in Botswana.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “Costs are low depending on how you do it. You can get a South African cell number and can use your phone to make local calls, reasonably priced international calls and receive calls”
- “Go to the post office and see if they have a TravelSim. We used one with a cheap unlocked mobile in SA and they are prepaid. The rates are good and you get coverage virtually everywhere”
- “The difference is that if you have a local SIM the cost of the international call is on your caller. It saves you money”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible cell phone. To double check you have this phone or you can have it unlocked, contact your provider before you leave.
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current cell phone
- Can be expensive. Compare roaming rates with your current provider to make sure it’s cheaper
- No cell phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Street sellers can be unpredictable
Q: Is the signal good in Botswana’s countryside?
A: All networks will suffer away from the main cities and highway areas. There is virtually no coverage at all in the Kalahari or Okavango Delta, so make sure your tour guide has some form of satellite phone before you set off. A lack of coverage is not centralized to Botswana providers, it will also happen on your usual network. So, if the local deal works out cheaper than your current provider, we highly recommend you switch over during your trip.