Traveling to South Africa and flying to Johannesburg? Don't let high roaming charges or slow overseas data plans ruin your trip. Let me show you the best ways to stay connected when traveling to Johannesburg. This is a complete guide with all the info you need to know for buying a sim card for South Africa at Johannesburg Airport with up to date prices as per May 2023, where to buy a sim card, my recommendation, a vlog about my arrival and experiences and even info about international and e-sim cards for South Africa.
Finding ways to get connected is the first thing I do when traveling to a new country. In 2022 I traveled to 62 different countries in 1 year and from my experiences I learned that in most cases a local prepaid sim card is the cheapest way to get a lot of data on your phone. Sometimes though an e-sim card is an excellent alternative.
As I am also trying to visit every country in the world you can already find more than 200 prepaid sim card guides on Traveltomtom from all over the world: Cape Town, Nairobi, Entebbe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya, Cameroon, Rwanda, Egypt, Dubai, United Kingdom, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Germany, Istanbul and of course a complete guide for buying a sim card in South Africa in 2023.
Why buying a prepaid sim card for South Africa
I don’t recommend you relying on WiFi as this is Africa and things do not work like back home. Most upscale places in South Africa have good and reliable WiFi, but even then… keep in mind that public WiFi is through an unsecured network.
Also there is no guarantee it is working or fast enough to upload for example photos and videos to social media.
Traveling in South Africa with a working data connection is simply much more convenient. Think about getting directions from Google Maps or finding nearby hotels, bars, restaurants or ordering a taxi from an app like Uber.
Last but not least: overseas data plans limit you internet speed!
If you are not a fan of changing phone numbers and swapping sim cards then you might want to look into a portable WiFi device, but first read my honest review about it in my article about how to get WiFi when traveling abroad.
Traveltomtom recommends an MTN sim card for South Africa as they have by the best 4G/5G network in South Africa and have competitive prices. A good runner up is a Vodacom sim card. You can buy an MTN sim card easily on arrival at Johannesburg Airport in the MTN store in the arrival hall.
Another great way of staying connected when traveling overseas is an international sim card. Some of them are great for traveling in South Africa. You order them online before your trip and they get shipped to your home address. Check out my comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2023.
If you are looking for the easiest way to stay connected abroad then definitely go for an e-sim card.
E-sim cards for South Africa
One of the easiest ways to stay connected when traveling abroad is a so-called e-sim card. The best thing is that you can order one directly from the internet. You receive a QR code in your email which you will enter on your mobile and that is it. No need for swapping physical sim cards anymore. Check out the following South Africa e-sim card deals for you:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $13 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $17 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $33 USD
Click here to order the above South Africa e-sim card deals directly online and find more info how it works exactly. With an e-sim card you keep your phone number from home.
The above e-sim cards are only valid in South Africa. Although more expensive there are also international e-sim cards valid in more than 70 countries including South Africa:
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to order an international e-sim card for South Africa.
Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport - JNB
Welcome to South Africa, welcome to a very easy to navigate airport. After you picked up your luggage you follow the exit signs and you walk into a massive circle like Arrival Hall on the ground floor. There is only one arrival terminal.
In front of you on your left hand side you will see Information desks for all your questions.
Where to buy a sim card at Johannesburg Airport
It is hard to miss the mobile internet stores and great thing is that they are right next to each other. As soon as you enter the arrival hall you walk to your left and right around the corner you will see the stores of: MTN, Vodacom and Cell C.
See my vlog for a more visual overview and you will see that you can’t miss the stores.
The opening hours of the phone shops are 6.00 am - 10.00 pm. Opening hours are likely to change because of the pandemic.
Prices South Africa prepaid sim cards at Johannesburg Airport
Normally prices for sim cards at international airports are a little more expensive as you pay for the convenience of getting connected directly on arrival. Also here at the MTN store at Johannesburg Airport. Vodacom however, offers the same prices country wide.
As of May 2023: $1 USD = 18.3 South African Rand and 100 South African Rand = $5.46 USD.
A Cell C sim card costs 29 ZAR = $2 USD for the registration and then you can buy data and caling packages. Cell C only offers monthly plans:
- 1 GB data = 95 ZAR - $5.2 USD
- 3 GB data = 249 ZAR
- 6 GB data = 299 ZAR
These are useful short dial numbers for Cell C:
- *101# = check balance
- 135 = costumer care
- 144 = voicemail
- *177177# = check my number
- *147# = buy data packages
Vodacom South Africa
After writing my article about the best South Africa sim card I know that Vodacom is pretty expensive compared to the other operators.
A Vodacom sim card at Johannesburg Airport costs 100 ZAR = $5.4 USD, just for the registration. Then you can buy minutes and data separately:
- 1 GB data = 85 ZAR - $4.6 USD
- 3 GB data = 229 ZAR
- 5 GB data = 349 ZAR
Vodacom also offers 3 prepaid sim card packages for tourists, including the sim card:
- 399 ZAR = 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 30 sms + 30 ZAR credit - $21.7 USD
- 549 ZAR = 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 30 sms + 30 ZAR credit
- 399 ZAR = 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 30 sms + 30 ZAR credit
MTN South Africa
An MTN prepaid sim card costs 63,50 ZAR = $3.45 USD and comes with 60 ZAR airtime. Basically an MTN sim card is free at Johannesburg Airport.
These are the data only packages you can buy separately:
- 1 GB data = 99 ZAR - $5.4 USD
- 3 GB data = 229 ZAR
- 6 GB data = 399 ZAR
MTN offers 6 different tourist sim card deals:
- 262.50 ZAR = 1 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $14.2 USD
- 392.50 ZAR = 3 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime
- 662.50 ZAR = 6 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime
- 862.50 ZAR = 10 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime
- 1,762.50 ZAR = 20 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime
- 3,002.49 ZAR = 50 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime
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Best prepaid sim card at Johannesburg Airport
Comparing the above prices for prepaid sim cards at Johannesburg Airport it shows clearly that Vodacom is the most expensive and therefore does not get my recommendation.
Cell C has the cheapest prepaid sim card deals, but from my research for the best sim card in South Africa in 2023 I know that the Cell C network is very limited.
Therefore Traveltomtom recommends buying an MTN sim card for traveling to South Africa. They have the best 4G/5G mobile network in South Africa and competitive prices for data plans on prepaid sim cards for tourists.
There is also a mobile internet operator called Rain in South Africa and they offer unlimited data for a very good price, but they are not available at Johannesburg Airport.
Below you can find my vlog, which makes it even easier to get direction and know where to buy a sim card at Johannesburg Airport.
Order a sim card for South Africa online
Too much hassle buying a sim card on arrival then get prepared now and order a sim card for South Africa online before you fly. These international prepaid sim cards will be send to your home address before your trip and are automatically activated.
For example an international sim card for South Africa with 10 GB data for $49.9 USD. Click on the link to order one directly or for more info.
Or a last reminder that you can also order a South Africa e-sim card directly online.
My experience buying a sim card at Johannesburg Airport
On this trip I was renting a car and driving to Lesotho, country no. 114 for me and also visiting Eswatini, country no. 115. I did some research on the internet and read that Vodacom offered free roaming in Lesotho and MTN offered free roaming in Eswatini.
When I inquired in the store about this, both internet providers told me this is NOT TRUE. From my own experience I can also tell you that is not the case and in Lesotho I bought a Vodacom sim card on arrival.
According to the internet prepaid sim cards for South Africa are only valid for 90 days. However, I was able to reactivate my MTN sim card that I bought at Cape Town Airport when I got back to South Africa 4 months later without any problems.
Using my MTN sim card across South Africa was very good again and I did not have any problems. I even mostly use 4G over public WiFi from a hotel or restaurant, but I must admit it can get a little pricey buying constantly new data packages.
May you have any more questions about buying a sim card at Johannesburg Airport or traveling in South Africa in general please leave me a comment and I will be happy to help you.
Curious what it looks like trying to visit every country in the world? Go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow along. As of May 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries, so still a long way to go.
Enjoy your trip to South Africa!