Best South Africa SIM Cards for Tourists: 2024 Detailed Guide

This article is for people looking for ways to stay connected while traveling South Africa. Traveling abroad, people often concern how to get Internet connection and stay in touch with people back home. This is also true for travelers to South Africa. Regarding connectivity options for South Africa, people often think of South Africa SIM card. Here we explain in details whether or not your should use it during your trip, best plans if using, updated prices and best alternative to prepaid SIM card. Do not miss out!

South Africa SIM card for tourists

I. Should You Get a Sim Card for South Africa ?

Yes. As a traditional way to stay connected and in touch while traveling, using a sim card for South Africa will bring many benefits to tourists, but it does have downsides.

The table below will compare sim cards with other connectivity options, helping you make the best choice. 

Sim card Free WifiRoaming Pocket Wifi 
CostReasonable Usually free Exorbitantly expensiveMore expensive than SIM card
Convenience and FlexibilityEasy to use after installationEasy but requires  the availability of Wi-Fi networksRequires  the availability of Wi-Fi networksEasy but need to bring another device
Privacy Good securityLess secureGenerally secureSecure but may be affected if the device is lost
Connection speedGood connectivityBased on connection locationBased on network Good but based on your devices 
International available Available as soon as you arrive in another countryAvailable at some specific locationsNeed to activation of roaming servicesNeed to renting and returning a device

It can be seen from the table above, using a SIM card is an option worth considering for tourists in South Africa . This not only brings cost convenience, but also ensures a stable and safe connection throughout the journey.

Pro Tip: Most tourists who visit South Africa for a short period of time often use data-only South Africa SIM cards because they are economical while still being able to surf the internet and make calls through applications like WhatsApp and Telegram. If you want to use a SIM for South Africa , please make sure the phone you are using is carrier unlocked so it can receive network signals in South Africa. 

II. Types of South Africa SIM Card for Tourists – Which One is the Best?

There are 02 main types of SIM cards available to tourists in South Africa. Which is the best type? Let’s explore together.

Types of South Africa SIM Card for Tourists

SIM and eSIM – the best choice for tourists. 

1. Prepaid physical SIM card in South Africa

A prepaid physical SIM card in South Africa is a type of SIM card for which the user purchases a specific amount or service package in advance before using it. 

It has some typical types as follows: 

  • Data-only SIM Card: Provide users with mobile data for accessing the internet, using applications and sending/receiving emails. 
  • Data + voice and text: Providing users with voice, text and data services in one SIM card. Therefore, tourists can contact relatives from afar. 
  • International SIM Card: Allows users to use mobile network services worldwide when moving to different countries. This is suitable for tourists. 

2. Prepaid Tourist South Africa eSIM

eSIM work similarly to physical SIM cards in terms of functions, but built into the device and allowing users to prepay to use mobile network services. You can install and activate it 100% online with a QR code. 

However, not all devices can use eSIM, only esim-compatible devices can work. So you need to check if your device works with eSIM before placing an order.

It is like a physical SIM card. It has some types such as data or voice, text plans, and international types that users can choose.

To help you better understand the difference between eSIM and SIM card in South Africa, follow the table below: 

Prepaid  South Africa  SIM card Prepaid eSIM for South Africa 
Pros Affordable
Easy to change services
Popular and easy to buy
No need to change SIM cards when moving between countries, saving time
Convenient for fixed setup equipment
Users can easily manage and control their services
Buy online, you can buy SIM anywhere, anytime. Just scan the QR and get the SIM, no need to remove it.
eSIM is attached to the device so there is no risk of losing it
Cons Experience hassle and waste of time when traveling internationally
Service restoration will becomes complicated if the physical SIM Card can be lost or damaged
Some devices and mobile carriers may not support eSIM, limiting user choice
Must be an unlocked phone (network unlocked) to use

► Our recommendation: 

  • eSIM is the best choice for tourists to South Africa with an eSIM-supported device.
  • If your device is compatible with eSIM and only needs to maintain basic communication through calling apps and using the Internet, choose the data only eSIM plans. 

III. Best South Africa SIM Card Packages for Tourists and Price

Best South Africa SIM Card Packages for Tourists

There are 04 main mobile network operators in South Africa offering prepaid packages for tourists. The plan prices and features can be changed over time. 

1. Best South Africa Vodacom SIM Card Plans and Price

Best South Africa Vodacom SIM card plans that you can choose as:

  • 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 50 SAR credit + 30 SMS for 30 days = 299 SAR – 79,73 USD
  • 5 GB data + 50 minutes + 100 SAR credit + 50 SMS for 50 days = 449  SAR – 119,73 USD
  • 10 GB data + 100 minutes + 150 SAR credit + 100 SMS for 100 days = 699 SAR – 186,39 USD  

2. Best South Africa MTN (Mobile Telephone Networks) SIM Card Plans and Price

South Africa MTN SIM plans that you can choose are:

  • 2 GB data + 60 minutes for 1 month = 99 SAR – 26,40 USD
  • 4.5 GB data + 100 minutes for 1 month = 169 SAR – 45,06 USD
  • 7.5 GB data + 200 minutes for 1 month = 299 SAR – 79,73 USD
  • 15 GB data + 400 minutes for 1 month = 399 SAR – 106,39 USD 

3. Best South Africa Cell C SIM Card Plans and Price

A prepaid Cell C sim card costs $ 6,67 and comes with loaded credit: 

  • 1GB data + 50 minutes + $5.3 calling credit and valid for 12 days

Moreover, you can buy weekly and monthly data bundles:

  • 3 GB data + 3 GB data after midnight till 6 am and valid for 30 days 

4. Best South Africa Telkom Mobile SIM Card Plans and Price

There are some plans that you can choose as:

  • 800 MB  for 1 month = 99 SAR – 26,40 USD
  • 1.5 GB  for 1 month = 129 SAR – 34,40 USD 
  • 3 GB  for 1 month = 189 SAR – 50,40 USD
  • 6 GB  for 1 month = 289 SAR – 77,06 USD 
  • 11.5 GB for 1 month = 389 SAR – 103,73 USD
  • 18 GB for 1 month = 499 SAR – 133,06 USD
  • 28 GB for 1 month = 689 SAR – 183,72 USD

IV. Where to Buy a Tourist SIM Card for South Africa ?

Where to Buy a Tourist SIM Card for South Africa
Buying a Sim Card at Cape Town Airport in South Africa

You can buy a tourist SIM for South Africa in 03 different ways.

1. Buy a prepaid South African eSIM card online before traveling

How to buy: Before arriving in South Africa, tourists can buy eSIM cards online through websites specializing in providing eSIM services for this country.

  • Advantages: Convenient, saves time and reduces the risk of losing.
  • Disadvantages: Can be difficult if there are remote activation or installation issues.

2. Buy a prepaid South African SIM at the airport

How to buy: Travelers can purchase a physical SIM at the mobile service counter at the airport.

  • Advantages: High convenience when arriving at the airport, quick activation time.
  • Disadvantages: Price may be higher than buying online.

3. Buy a prepaid South African SIM in cities

How to buy: Major cities in South Africa have many mobile stores. Tourists can buy SIM cards at these stores.

  • Advantages: Easy to access, proactively check network quality right at the point of purchase.
  • Disadvantages: Price may depend on location and requires time to search.

In conclusion, each location will have its own advantages and disadvantages. We need to consider price, availability and diversity to make the best choice.

V. How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for South Africa?

How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for South Africa
Choose data capacity to suit tourist needs

The 1GB data amount for a prepaid tourist SIM card in South Africa can be enough to perform some basic tasks on a mobile phone for short periods of time such as checking emails and sending messages, viewing navigation maps, reading news, looking up information online, and listening to music. 

However, the usage time is short and you need to be careful not to exceed the allowed time.

Depending on the individual needs and desires of each user, here is some advice on choosing data packages for different groups:

1. Average tourists

For travelers who simply want to travel and do basic web browsing, a small data package (e.g: 500MB – 1GB) may be a reasonable choice. This is enough to look up information, share images, and use basic applications.

2. Businessmen

For business people who need to stay connected for work and may use a lot of data, a plan with large capacity (e.g: 3GB – 5GB or more) may be suitable. This helps them stay in touch, keep up with emails, and even participate in online meetings.

3. People who need to Share Wi-Fi

If you plan to share Wi-Fi with multiple devices or want to use data for connecting multiple devices, a larger data plan (e.g: 5GB or more) may be an option. This helps ensure enough capacity for flexible network sharing.

Pro Tip: It should be noted that the choice also depends on your travel time and how you use data. Before buying a package, you should consider the flexibility and necessity of each feature in the package. For those who are unsure about their needs, you can experiment with a small data package before deciding

VI. South Africa eSIM – Alternative to Physical SIM Cards to Get Internet in South Africa

Gigago South Africa eSIM - alternative to South Africa SIM card

Using South Africa eSIM brings users many conveniences. Below is information about eSIM in South Africa that you should know. 

The pros of prepaid South Africa eSIM. 

  • eSIM saves space and reduces the risk of SIM card loss. This creates great flexibility, especially when users have multiple devices or frequently change phones. 
  • eSIM allows users to manage their mobile network services through the application or settings directly on the phone. They can easily monitor and control data, calls, and messages.
  • For international travelers, eSIM helps them easily connect to mobile networks in many countries. 
  • eSIM provides a high level of security Information is securely stored on the device’s integrated chip, reducing the risk of information loss. 

This benefit makes eSIM a convenient and flexible choice, especially for those who want to travel and stay connected anytime, anywhere.

eSIM providers in South Africa. 

Gigago – a reputable eSIM provider offers multiple data plans for tourist to South Africa at competitive prices and comprehensive support.

For South Africa, Gigago offers multiple data plan options, starting from 1 GB for 7 days with $5.00 . What is great about Gigago’s South Africa eSIM is that its plans’ costs are diversifying, varying between $5.00$28.90 . Thus, it does not matter how Internet users you are and how long your trip is in South Africa, there is always an option for you with Gigago.

VII. Which South Africa Mobile Networks Are The Best for Tourists?

CriteriaVodacomMTNCell CTelkom Mobile
Rank in South Africa One of the top mobile network operators, leading position in the market. A major player in South Africa’s mobile network industryA notable mobile network operatorA significant player, offering both mobile and fixed-line services in South Africa
SpeedStable and fast– Competitive data speeds- Fast and efficientDepending on location and network infrastructureEnough to meet users’ information needs
PriceThere are prepaid and postpaid plans. Prices can be based on data packages. 
Prices can be based on data packages

Affordable and flexible

Average price and many incentives
eSIM availableYes Yes Depending on the latest updatesYes, providing an additional choice for connectivity. 

Each network has its own strengths, depending on needs, users choose the network that is right for them. However, we recommend to go for Vodacom because this mobile internet carrier has a harmony of different factors for tourists (coverage, speed, price).

VIII. How to Use South Africa Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM

How to Use South Africa Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM

Below, we will show you how to use South Africa Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIM, depending on your needs. 

1. Using prepaid South Africa tourist SIM Cards

  • Buy SIM card: you need to buy a prepaid travel SIM card. You can look for SIM Cards at cell phone stores or retail stores.
  • Choose the suitable package: Select the package or service you want to use. There are 4 carriers in  South Africa like Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom Mobile, you can choose from. Carriers often offer a variety of options, including plans with data, calls, and texts.
  • Registration and activation: During the SIM Card purchase process, you will need to provide identification and fill in registration information. Then the SIM Card will be activated.
  • Deposit: Deposit money into your account to use the service. You can deposit money online, mobile app, retail store, or card deposit machine.
  • Check Settings: Check your phone’s settings to make sure it is using the correct network configuration for your chosen carriers. 
  • Service Usage: Now you are ready to use the service of a South Africa SIM Card. You can make calls, send messages, and use mobile data according to the plan you have chosen.

2. Setting up and activating South Africa eSIM 

For travelers to set up and activate an eSIM in South Africa, you can follow these steps: 

  • Compatibility Check: Make sure your mobile phone supports eSIM and is eSIM capable in South Africa. Some modern smartphones support eSIM, but you’ll need to check in your phone’s settings to confirm compatibility.
  • Buy eSIM: You can buy eSIM either at mobile internet carriers’ stores or from resellers. The earlier requires your private registration while the latter does not. It is advised to go with eSIM providers / resellers for the best convenience.
  • Providing Registration Information: During the eSIM purchasing process, you may need to provide personal information and identification documents to register. The carrier will use this information to activate the eSIM.
  • Receive activation code: After purchasing eSIM, you will receive an activation code or QR code from the network operator.
  • eSIM Activation: to complete the eSIM activation process, you need to select a plan, set up network settings, and enter the necessary information.
  • Check Connection: After activation, test the eSIM connection by trying to make a call, send a text message, or use mobile data. 

Remember: 

It is necessary to thoroughly check your phone and choose a network package that suits your budget when using South Africa eSIM. If you have difficulty, please contact store staff or your carrier’s support hotline for detailed support.

IX. FAQs

How to get a SIM Card in South Africa?

You can buy SIM Cards at mobile phone stores, drug stores, or retail stores. It is necessary to provide identification documents and fill out registration information.

How many operators are there in South Africa?

There are 4 popular mobile carriers in South Africa including: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom Mobile. 

How do tourists activate a SIM Card or eSIM in South Africa?

To activate a SIM Card, you need to remove the main SIM and insert this SIM instead. The eSIM is usually activated via a QR code or an app to get the SIM package. 

X. Conclusion

In short, the decision between choosing a South Africa SIM Card or an eSIM when traveling should be based on the specific needs of each traveler. Physical SIM Cards are often suitable for people who want to easily switch between devices and like to promote flexibility in managing mobile network services. In contrast, eSIM brings convenience when traveling between countries, while helping travelers conveniently manage network services through online applications. Therefore, choose the right type to have a great trip. I hope you have a good trip.