Are you planning your trip to Zanzibar and looking for best sim card for staying connected when traveling to Zanzibar? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about buying a sim card for Zanzibar in 2023. Don’t waste money on high roaming charges when visiting Zanzibar, the beautiful tropical island in Tanzania.
Find out where to buy a sim card for Zanzibar, the best e-sim cards for Zanzibar, a comparison of the prepaid sim cards and the mobile internet providers, the best data network coverage around the island, the fastest data speed, my recommendation, a vlog about buying a sim card and my arrival at Zanzibar Airport, info about international sim cards for Zanzibar and more.
Zanzibar is arguably the most famous island in Africa and a very popular tourist destination in Tanzania. With so many direct flights flying to Zanzibar Airport from all over Europe and the Middle East no wonder that the beautiful Zanzibar beaches are full of tourists. But how is the phone signal? Is it easy to get data on my phone and will data be fast enough to make video calls, upload videos to Instagram and TikTok? I will tell you all about it below.
As Traveltomtom is on a journey to travel to every country in the world I constantly get to new countries and places. Getting connected is the most important thing to arrange when arriving somewhere new. It makes traveling much easier and more fun.
Since I am a full time nomadic travel blogger for more than 10 years already buying prepaid sim cards and nowadays e-sim cards is something that I have been doing uncountable times. Since I like to help other travelers save money I started documenting all of this and therefore on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from around the world: Nairobi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Johannesburg, Egypt, Cairo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Europe, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Asia, Tel Aviv, Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore and many more.
Traveltomtom also wrote a complete guide for buying a sim card for Tanzania, with 4G/5G coverage maps of the whole country, the best sim cards for Tanzania safaris and everything else you need to know.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest e-sim card or prepaid sim card advice for your next holiday destination.
First of all Traveltomtom does NOT recommend buying a sim card for Zanzibar at Zanzibar Airport, because prices are crazy expensive and start from $15 USD for 1 Gigabyte.
Traveltomtom recommends an Airtel or Tigo sim card for Zanzibar. Both mobile internet operators have ok network coverage in Zanzibar.
Since Tigo does have 5G (it does not work like 5G at home) I gave them the benefit of the doubt. There is not much difference, neither in price. Then however my experiences with a Tigo sim card were not incredible.
When you just need a little bit of data to check your email, stay connected on WhatsApp or get directions from Google Maps then an e-sim card for Zanzibar is a great solution. Tanzania e-sim cards already start from $4.5 USD, see below for more info.
You can also use international sim cards with data for traveling abroad. These travel sim cards are valid in multiple countries around the world and could be very useful for traveling abroad. Check out my comparison for the best sim cards for traveling around the world in 2023 and find the one that suits your upcoming trip.
Be aware that international sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and e-sim cards for Zanzibar only work in unlocked phones. If your phone is locked these sim cards are useless. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked ask your mobile internet provider in your home country. Your mobile internet provider might charge you a fee for unlocking your phone.
Best e-sim cards for Zanzibar
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Zanzibar is an e-sim card. No more wasting time on your holiday on arrival visiting a sim card store and swapping physical sim cards. Arrange everything online within just a couple minutes.
You order an e-sim card on the internet, instantly receive a QR code, scan the code, follow the steps and you are connected in just a couple clicks and are online as soon as the plan lands.
Check out the following e-sim card for Tanzania:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $8 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $15.5 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD
Click here to directly order an e-sim card for Zanzibar.
The above data-only e-sim card from Tanzacomm is only valid in Tanzania. They use the 4G/LTE mobile network of Vodacom. This Tanzania e-sim card is data-only and incoming and outgoing calls are not supported. An ID or passport verification is not required.
SimOptions sells international e-sim cards for traveling to Zanzibar. These e-sim cards are more expensive but are valid in up to 130 countries around the world:
- 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
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $39.90 USD
Click here to order an international e-sim card for traveling to Zanzibar.
Another trusted e-sim card provider is Nomad and they offer the following e-sim card plans for traveling to Zanzibar and Tanzania:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $10 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $17 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $23 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $37 USD
The Nomad e-sim cards are from eSIM Go and they operate on the Airtel network in Tanzania. This Tanzania e-sim card is data-only and incoming and outgoing calls are not supported. An ID or passport verification is not required.
Click here to order an e-sim card for Zanzibar via Nomad.
For more detailed info check out my article about the best tourist sim card for Tanzania in 2023.
Why buying a sim card for Zanzibar
Almost every hotel has WiFi, so why do you need a sim card for Zanzibar? Yes, true. But although every hotel offers free WiFi for its guests, don’t expect it to work like at home. Video calls, streaming services and heavy data using apps like Instagram and YouTube will most probably not run as smooth as you might had hoped.
I have stayed all around Zanzibar in boutique hotels as well as 5 star resorts and my conclusion is that the WiFi in Zanzibar is very disappointing!
When you depend on WiFi you will be disconnected as soon as you leave your hotel. That means you can’t stay in touch anymore, no more using Google Maps for directions and finding nearby bars, restaurants or even friends that are on holiday in Zanzibar as well. Keep in mind that there is NO WIFI at the beach.
Or what about emergencies, using banking apps, ordering a taxi, etc. Staying connected makes traveling to Zanzibar so much more convenient and fun.
For me it was a very simple conclusion that the WiFi at the beautiful island of Zanzibar is disappointing apart from the Nungwi Dreams by Mantis.
Especially while chilling on the beach or pool it would be nice to scroll through social media apps, right?
Anyway, also a very important reminder that being connected to public WiFi is through an UNSECURED network, the use of a VPN is recommended to protect your data.
Mobile internet providers in Zanzibar
There are in fact 4 mobile internet providers in Zanzibar: Halotel, Vodacom, Airtel and Tigo. Just like on mainland Tanzania.
All mobile internet operators sell prepaid sim cards for tourists. E-sim cards are NOT available in Zanzibar and Tanzania, only physical prepaid sim cards are sold.
You will get a physical prepaid sim card that you have to put in your phone and the sim card with a phone number from Tanzania that starts with +255.
In my comparison of the best prepaid sim card in Zanzibar, Traveltomtom did NOT include Vodacom and Halotel simply because the mobile network coverage of these mobile internet providers in Zanzibar are too weak to consider them being one of the best prepaid sim cards for Zanzibar.
Registration process prepaid sim card Zanzibar
Since I had traveled in Tanzania before I already knew about the very extensive registration process for Tanzania prepaid sim cards. Read more about it in my article about buying a sim card for Tanzania in 2023.
Anyway, when buying a sim card in Zanzibar you will need to bring your passport. A photo of your passport page will be taken as well as a photo of your entry stamp. Your new Tanzania prepaid sim card will be registered on your name and passport number. On top of that they will require your fingerprint and to top it off they will take a face shot. All for registration purposes. Why? Don’t ask me! Just do what they say, otherwise you can not buy a Tanzania prepaid sim card.
Where to buy a sim card for Zanzibar
Zanzibar International Airport
The most convenient place to buy a sim card in Zanzibar would be on arrival at the Zanzibar International Airport. Yes, it is possible as there are 2 sim card shops at Zanzibar Airport in the baggage claim hall.
As soon as you fixed your visa and went through customs and enter the baggage claim hall you will see signs with sim cards for sale. There are only 2 luggage belts and on both sides there is a small sim card shop. Prices for prepaid sim cards for tourists at Zanzibar Airport are stupidly expensive and therefore Traveltomtom does NOT recommend buying a sim card at Zanzibar Airport.
The sim card shops are open for all incoming international flights and only accept cash in USD or EUR.
These are the prices for tourists sim cards at Zanzibar Airport:
- 1.4 GB data for 7 days = $15 USD/EUR
- 4.8 GB data for 7 days = $20 USD/EUR
- 7.2 GB data for 7 days = $30 USD/EUR
- 4.8 GB data for 30 days = $20 USD/EUR
- 9.6 GB data for 30 days = $30 USD/EUR
- 16.8 GB data for 30 days = $40 USD/EUR
The sim cards sold at Zanzibar Airport are from Tigo.
Phone stores Zanzibar city
In and around the city center of Zanzibar City, also called Stone Town there are a few phone stores from Tigo and Airtel. Not every shop sells prepaid sim cards for tourists and that is because of the intense registration process and not every store has the facilities. Keep in mind that you are on a tropical island in Africa, arranging things take time. Buying and registering my prepaid sim card for Tanzania took at least 20 minutes.
Probably even the fastest and the best place to buy a sim card for Zanzibar are from the street vendors. They sit randomly under an umbrella around touristy hotspots, one of them is for example at the Stone Town spice and fish market.
These guys are fast and also do the proper sim card registration for you. It sounds weird but Traveltomtom recommends buying a sim card in Zanzibar from one of these street vendors.
The prepaid sim card plans you can buy at a Tigo or Airtel store or from the street vendors in Zanzibar City / Stone Town are much cheaper than at the airport. The easiest place to buy a sim card for Zanzibar is at the airport, but you also pay a tourist price.
If buying a sim card on arrival in Zanzibar sounds like too much hassle than order a sim card for Zanzibar on the internet. For pretty much every country in the world there are international prepaid sim cards that you can order online. You can choose between physical prepaid sim cards and e-sim cards.
I already showed you the best e-sim cards for Zanzibar but if you want to order a physical prepaid sim card for Zanzibar that will be delivered to your home address you also can. More info below or in the link.
Best 4G/5G network coverage in Zanzibar
For finding the best sim card for traveling to Zanzibar lets compare the mobile network coverage of Tigo and Airtel in Zanzibar and see which provider has the best 4G/5G network coverage on the island.
The network coverage is probably even more important than the prices for data. A prepaid sim card that has no network connection is useless when traveling around Zanzibar. That is also why Traveltomtom did not include Vodacom and Halotel.
Is there 5G in Zanzibar?
Yes, there is actually 5G in Zanzibar. As of September 2023 Tigo is the first and only mobile internet operator that offers 5G in Zanzibar
From my own experiences I can confirm that there is 5G in Stone Town as well as in Nungwi. However, I recommend you to not get excited about 5G in Zanzibar, because in reality it does not even come close to what 5G is like in your home country.
Depending on where on the island you are a 4G/LTE connection is the fastest data speed you can find.
Airtel 4G/5G network coverage map
Tigo 4G/5G network coverage map
It is a simple conclusion that when comparing the mobile data coverage maps of Tigo and Airtel that there is very little difference. In fact I would say that Airtel even has a slightly better 4G/LTE network than Tigo.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Zanzibar
Prices below are in Tanzanian Shillings. All info and prices below are updated in September 2023. $1 USD = 2.500 TZS and 1,000 TZS = $0.4 USD.
An Airtel Tanzania sim card costs 1,500 TZS ($0.6 USD) and you will have to buy extra packages to make your sim card work.
These are the most useful data & voice packages of Airtel Tanzania:
- 6 GB data for 7 days = 10,000 TZS - $4.2 USD
- 8 GB data for 7 days = 15,000 TZS - $6.3 USD
- 12 GB data for 30 days = 25,000 TZS - $10.6 USD
Airtel does NOT offer e-sim cards, they only sell physical prepaid sim cards for Zanzibar. Tigo allows you to use a hotspot.
Tigo charges 1,000 TZS ($0.4 USD) for registering a new sim card. Tigo offers daily, weekly and monthly data plans as well as combo packages data + minutes. For tourists the most interesting is of course data and here are the most popular Tigo prepaid data plans:
- 1.4 GB data for 7 days = 3,000 TZS
- 2.4 GB data for 7 days = 5,000 TZS
- 4.8 GB data for 7 days = 10,000 TZS - $4 USD
- 7.2 GB data for 7 days = 15,000 TZS
- 4.8 GB data for 30 days = 10,000 TZS
- 9.6 GB data for 30 days = 20,000 TZS
- 16.8 GB data for 30 days = 35,000 TZS
- 24 GB data for 60 days = 50,000 TZS - $20 USD
Tigo does NOT offer e-sim cards, they only sell physical prepaid sim cards for Zanzibar. Tigo allows you to use a hotspot.
Data speed in Zanzibar
In the more remote parts of the island the data speed obviously significantly drops. But in and around Zanzibar City / Stone Town as well as in the most famous tourist places like Nungwi the internet is just ok. Going off the beaten path in Zanzibar then be grateful with whatever data speed you can find.
The above speed test for example is on the Tigo 5G network, believe it or not! So that is what 5G looks like in Zanzibar and then in reality Instagram stories or streaming a video is still often buffering.
Honestly, I think the data speed is pretty disappointing in Zanzibar. If you are planning to work that requires a good internet connection I wish you good luck.
Best sim card for Zanzibar in 2023
E-sim cards for Zanzibar are the best way to avoid all the hassle of buying a sim card on arrival in Zanzibar. Although much more convenient and the easiest way to get connected when traveling to Zanzibar, e-sim cards are more expensive than local prepaid sim cards.
If you are not planning to use a lot of data Traveltomtom recommends using e-sim cards for your Zanzibar holiday to stay connected.
The easiest place to buy a sim card on arrival at Zanzibar is at Zanzibar International Airport, but you are charged a tourist price and it is not worth it and not recommended. The cheapest prepaid sim cards in Zanzibar you buy at an Airtel or Tigo shop or from the street vendors.
Based on my comparison of the prepaid sim cards in Zanzibar Traveltomtom comes to the conclusion that Airtel is the best prepaid sim card for Zanzibar in 2023. Tigo has the advantage of already having 5G communication towers in Zanzibar which in theory should lead to faster mobile data, but Traveltomtom tried and tested the Tigo 5G in Zanzibar and was disappointed.
Since Airtel has a more extensive mobile data network in Zanzibar it gets the benefit of the doubt. This however was the same when Traveltomtom traveled in Tanzania mainland and tried several sim cards to find the best one. My conclusion for Tanzania mainland was actually that Vodacom is the best prepaid sim card for Tanzania.
For more info check out my guide for the best sim card for traveling to Tanzania in 2023.
Order a sim card for Tanzania online
If your phone is not e-sim compatible but you still would like to buy a sim card for Tanzania on the internet then check out international prepaid sim cards for Tanzania. Arrive prepared and don't waste time on your Tanzania holiday trying to buying a prepaid sim card on arrival. With an international prepaid sim card you are online as soon as the plane lands.
You order them directly online and these pre-activated sim cards will be delivered to your home address before your trip to Tanzania:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to order an international prepaid sim card for traveling in Tanzania directly online or get more info.
Also a last reminder that if your phone is e-sim compatible you can arrange everything online and no need to visit a sim card store and waste precious Tanzania holiday time and swap physical sim cards anymore. You can order a Tanzania e-sim card on the internet. Within just a couple clicks you can get an e-sim card for Tanzania via Airalo, SimOptions or Nomad.
My experiences buying a sim card for Zanzibar
Upon arrival at Zanzibar Airport I saw the sim card prices and instantly knew I was NOT going to buy a sim card for Zanzibar at the airport. Two years ago I traveled from South Africa overland to Kenya and I also traveled around Tanzania.
From that trip I remembered that prepaid sim cards with data are fairly cheap and definitely not $15 USD for 1 GB data. Therefore after I checked in to my hotel I went to the nearest Tigo store to buy a sim card. Since Tigo already offers 5G on Zanzibar I thought I would give it the advantage over buying an Airtel sim card.
Overall my Tigo sim card worked ok, but it was definitely not a winner. Don’t expect miracles from the Tanzania mobile data speed. It is a simple conclusion that it is pretty SLOW for Western standards. Therefore a lot of times heavy data apps like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok don’t work as smooth as you may have hoped.
One of the hotels I was staying was the Nungwi Dreams by Mantis and they had fast and reliable WiFi, better than 4G. All other places I stayed the WiFi was very disappointing.
See more of my experiences arriving at Zanzibar Airport and buying a sim card in my vlog about buying a sim card for Zanzibar below.
How to get from Zanzibar Airport to your hotel
Be prepared to haggle as taxi drivers will charge you a crazy price if you agree instantly on what they say. To get to Stone Town from Zanzibar Airport don’t pay more than $15 USD, but if you bargain well you can also get it for $10 USD.
If you are heading to the popular Nungwi area than taxi fares can start from $80 USD, but if you bargain price will go down to only $25 USD. It is up to you what you want to pay. There are no taxi apps in Zanzibar.
I am sure some of the above tips for staying connected when traveling to Zanzibar were helpful. If there is anything you would like to know about traveling to Zanzibar then please leave me a comment below or reach out to me on social media.
Curious about my endless travels and road to visit every country in the world? Click on the link to read a story from every country or check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom. As of September 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world, but no rush to reach 197.
Enjoy your trip to Zanzibar!
Some links in this article about the best sim cards for traveling to Zanzibar are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you.