Traveling to South Africa and flying to Johannesburg? The best way to get connected on your trip is to get a local prepaid sim card and no easier way than buying one at Johannesburg Airport on arrival. This is your complete guide with all the info you need to know: prices, where to go, best network, my recommendation and even a vlog.
Buying a local sim card on arrival is the first thing I do when traveling to a new country. That is the reason I already wrote more than 150 prepaid sim card guides, also in Africa: Cape Town, Nairobi, Entebbe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya and of course a complete guide for buying a sim card in South Africa.
Why buying a prepaid South Africa sim card
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 far the best network and have competitive prices.
Vlog about buying a sim card at Johannesburg Airport
Below you can find my vlog, which makes it even easier to get direction and know where to go. For more details keep reading.
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 airports are a little more expensive as you pay for the convenience. Also here in Johannesburg. However, Vodacom offers the same prices country wide.
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 - $6.5
- 3 GB data = 249 ZAR - $17
- 6 GB data = 299 ZAR - $20
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 = $6.8, just for the registration. Then you can buy minutes and data separately:
- 1 GB data = 85 ZAR - $5.8
- 3 GB data = 229 ZAR - $15.6
- 5 GB data = 349 ZAR - $24
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 - $27.2
- 549 ZAR = 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 30 sms + 30 ZAR credit - $37.4
- 399 ZAR = 3 GB data + 30 minutes + 30 sms + 30 ZAR credit - $54.5
MTN South Africa
An MTN prepaid sim card costs 63,50 ZAR = $4,33 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 - $6.8
- 3 GB data = 229 ZAR - $15.6
- 6 GB data = 399 ZAR - $27.2
MTN offers 6 different tourist sim card deals:
- 262.50 ZAR = 1 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $18
- 392.50 ZAR = 3 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $27
- 662.50 ZAR = 6 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $45
- 862.50 ZAR = 10 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $59
- 1,762.50 ZAR = 20 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $120
- 3,002.49 ZAR = 50 GB data + 100 ZAR Airtime - $205
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 I know that the Cell C network is very limited.
Therefore Traveltomtom recommends buying an MTN sim card for your trip to South Africa. They have the best mobile network in South Africa and competitive prices for data.
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.
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.
Prepaid sim cards in South Africa are only valid for a short time, according to the information on the internet only for 90 days. However, I was able to reactivate my MTN sim card I bought at Cape Town Airport in March, 4 months before.
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.
Enjoy your trip to South Africa!