If you have an unlocked phone, considering getting a SIM Card in South Africa to share one of the most Instagrammable city in the world is super easy! One of the biggest challenges when travelling is staying connected. For me, it’s not all about being able to Facebook, Skype or Instagram while I’m on the road, but it’s more about looking up directions, calling Uber, and being able to call someone in case of emergencies (i.e. Airbnb Host, police, etc).
As a solo female traveller, even as someone who has been to South Africa several times, I want to stay connected, not only because I want to share my trip as I went but to contact someone in case of emergencies.
Unlike Canada with its convoluted oligopoly in the telecom industry, SIM cards and data/cellular plans in South Africa are very cheap and easily accessible! I enjoy having the flexibility of converting my airtime to data because I rarely need to call anyone, and spend more time using up cellular data.
SIM Card Companies / Mobile Providers in South Africa
There are a number of different mobile providers in South Africa, but the 2 that are most popular were Vodacom/Vodafone as well as MTN. When I lived in Ghana, I went with Vodafone and found the service to be quite good, and I was connected even in remote areas of the country.
For my trip in South Africa, I read that MTN had better connectivity than Vodacom, especially in rural areas. The bundles and prices are slightly better on MTN which is why I decided to go with it. In hindsight, I think I would have gone with Vodacom in the future. The MTN signal was consistently dropping when I was on a safari (While a friend of my mine, who had a Vodacom SIM had much better connectivity) and even when I am in the city, there are occasional signal drops, which I found surprising.
I’m not too sure about Vodacom, but I’ve found that the flexibility in converting airtime to data to be invaluable. I love the idea of not wasting any airtime as I can easily convert any amounts into data which I consume more than airtime.
SIM Card in South Africa, Roaming?
Since I have an unlocked phone, and have taken out my Canadian SIM card before I even left the country, there was no roaming risk. My phone which was bought at the SkyScanner App le Store is not programmed to a certain Canadian telecom provider so replacing it with the local one was the simplest process.
Where to Buy a SIM Card in South Africa?
You can purchase a SIM card from pretty much anywhere (I went to a local Checkers, the equivalent of No Frills in Canada) – the official stores or grocery stores. There are several providers to choose from. In both South Africa and Ghana, you needed to bring your passport and proof of residence (My hostel drafted up a letter stating that the hostel was my residence). They set you up in less than 5 minutes and you now have a local number. Note that you still need to purchase airtime (voice) and data, which can be purchased and topped up separately. They have several different bundles to choose from, but I’ve found buying airtime and converting it into data as you go tend to be the cheapest way. Plus, every time you top up your balance, you get bonus data for 1 day to 1 week.
It’s also important to know which kind of SIM card you need (micro or nano?) The iPhone 5S/6S use a nano but it’s easy to quickly look up the size you need. The good news is that both Vodacom and MTN anticipate the different card sizes so you can actually separate the “pieces” of the SIM card to get your desired size.
The SIM card costed anywhere from R2 – R3. That is CAD $0.20-$0.30 vs. The $5 that our local telecom companies make us pay.
Where to Stay in Cape Town
Budget // Cape Town
A centrally-located boutique hostel with bunk bed to single-bed options near Greenmarket SquareBook Here
Budget // Cape Town
Another popular hostel located in Green Point with their in-house adventure tours/trips a short distance from V&A WaterfrontBook Here
Budget // Cape Town
Located on the vibrant Kloof Street, with the Table Mountain in your backyard and its own bar and bunk/twin/double bed options
Comfort // Cape Town
Spacious, stylish and modern with a panoramic view of the Table Mountain, this is comfortable hotel for the familyBook Here
Luxury // Cape Town
For an ultra-luxurious stay, consider this island resort-inspired hotel which features its own infinity pool and is walking distance from main tourist sitesBook Here
Luxury // Camps Bay
The ocean-front hotel based in Camps Bay offers stunning views of the Twelve Apostles and its very own rock pools. There is free transfers to V&A Waterfront
How do you like to stay connected when travelling abroad? Have you been to Cape Town?
Where to Next?
- Kruger National Park is the premiere spot for safari in South Africa and here’s how you can do an African safari on a budget!
- If you’re looking to explore all of South Africa, consider taking the BazBus – a hop-on-hop-off cross country bus!
- Here’s how much it costs to go to South Africa as a solo traveller
- Consider taking rideshare like Uber/Bolt to get around
- Make time to in surf in Muizenberg; here are spots closer to Cape Town
- Don’t forget to plan a day for hiking Table Mountain and Lion’s Head!