Are you traveling to Zambia and looking to buy a local prepaid sim card? This is your complete guide with everything you need to know. Don’t waste money on high roaming costs, a prepaid sim card for Zambia is very cheap and 4G actually works pretty ok. For just $4 you can already get unlimited data for 1 week! Find in this guide where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per August 2023, the best 4G/5G network, my recommendation, a vlog about my experiences and info about international and e-sim cards for Zambia.
Whenever you are planning a trip to Zambia to go on safari or see the Victoria Falls make sure to stay connected. A local sim card will help you a lot to get around the country. Traveling to Zambia will become much easier. Order taxis, arrange tours, call guesthouses, use Google Maps and post on social media. I can come up with a ton of reasons why you would want to buy a sim card in Zambia.
Lately I visited Zambia as part of my journey to visit every country in the world and I checked out how tourists can buy a prepaid sim card, roamed all the stores of the mobile internet providers, checked the prices and found out who had the best mobile network coverage.
On my big overland trip in Africa I did the same for Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda and even Djibouti. But you can also find guides for the United Kingdom, London, Manchester, Amsterdam, New York, Madrid, USA, Dubai, Turkey and many more.
My recommendation for a Zambia sim card
Based on my experiences traveling in Zambia I recommend tourists to buy an Airtel Zambia sim card. Prices for sim cards and data packages are very affordable and don’t differ that much per operator, however Airtel has the best network coverage in Zambia. For $9 you can get 25 GB data.
Also my Zambia travel tip is to NOT rely on WiFi in hotels! Just get a big data bundle or unlimited data as almost everywhere I have stayed the WiFi was shit!
Another great way of staying connected is a global sim card with data. These sim cards work in multiple countries around the world. To define the best one for traveling I made a comparison. Check out my article about the best international travel sim cards with data in 2023.
E-sim card for Zambia
If you do not want to swap physical sim cards in your phone you can either look into a portable WiFi device or an e-sim card for Zambia. Traveltomtom definitely recommends the last option. You will receive a code, which you enter on your phone and you can connect to a network without an actual new sim card. Here are the options I found online:
- 1 GB for 7 days = $9.5 USD
Click here to order an e-sim cards for Zambia directly or find more info.
Where to buy a Zambia sim card
When visiting Zambia you will notice endless boots and kiosks on the side of the road selling sim cards. Unfortunately at these kiosks you can only get a local sim card with a Zambian ID.
For tourists it is a little more complicated to get a Zambia sim card as tourists will have to go to the main offices to get their sim card registered with their passports. Kiosks do NOT offer this service.
Buying a sim card at Lusaka Airport
When flying to Lusaka International Airport Kenneth Kaunda you will find an MTN kiosk that sells sim cards for tourists arriving to Zambia. Prices are slightly higher, but still very cheap. Unfortunately there is no Airtel or Zamtel kiosk for buying a sim card at Lusaka Airport. If you want to get connected straight away then I recommend you buying a sim card at Lusaka Airport.
Buying a sim card in Lusaka city
I found buying a sim card in Lusaka city center a little more complicated. There are many official retail stores in and around the bigger malls, that is not the issue. IT is the waiting time. I went in to check prices and get information for this article, but all shops were damn busy all the time and on average I waited about 15 minute in every shop. When Lusaka is you first stop in Zambia, I recommend you to buy a sim card at Lusaka International Airport on arrival.
Buying a sim card in Livingstone
When traveling to Livingstone in Zambia to see the mighty Victoria Falls I you can easily buy a sim card in town. Remember you have to go to the main office to get your sim card registered, but Airtel, MTN and Zamtel are all fairly close to each other on the main street: Mosi-Oa-Tunya. There is only one main street in town, you can't miss it.
Buying a sim card at Zambia land borders
Things get a little more complicated if you travel to Zambia overland, but don’t worry there are also options for buying a local sim card at the land borders. As you have read above a prepaid sim card for Zambia needs to be registered with your passport and only official retail stores are able to do that.
However, at border crossings they still sell Zambia sim cards to tourists. How? Locals pre-register Zambia sim cards under their name and then sell it for 10x the normal price. Don’t worry, a local sim card in Zambia normally costs only 5-10K, which is $0.3 USD.
A fair price to pay for a Zambia sim card at the land borders is somewhere between 50 and 100 Kwacha. That is just for the pre registered sim card, data bundels need to be added separately.
I crossed the Zambia land border in the South with Botswana in Kazungula and in the North with Tanzania at Nakonde on my overland trip in Africa. A great adventure! All easy and smooth.
Mobile internet operators in Zambia
There are 3 main mobile providers in Zambia: MTN, Airtel and Zamtel. All 3 providers sell Zambia prepaid sim cards for tourists that you can use for data and calls.
On top of that there are 2 data only sim cards for Zambia available: Liquid Telecom and Velocity. Velocity is a brand of Zamtel. You can not make phone calls with these sim cards.
Sim card registration in Zambia
Every prepaid sim card in Zambia will need to be registered and therefore you will have to bring your passport when buying a prepaid sim card in Zambia. You can only do so in official retail stores. At every international airport and tourist destination in Zambia you can find a place were tourists can buy a sim card for Zambia.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Zambia in 2023
The below prices and info are updated as per August 2023 and $1 USD = 19.2 ZMW and 100 ZMW = $5.22 USD.
Let’s start with Zamtel that hands out prepaid sim cards for 5K ($0.2). They offer unlimited daily, weekly and monthly packages for voice and data so you don’t have to worry about how much data you are using.
Unlimited Weekly bundles
- K68 = unlimited calling - $3
- K82 = unlimited data - $3.7
- K138 = unlimited voice & data - $6.1
Unlimited Monthly bundles
- K270 = unlimited calling - $12.1
- K320 = unlimited data - $14.3
- K550 = unlimited voice & data - $24.6
As you can see prices for data sim cards in Zambia are very cheap. Don’t get stuck with high roaming costs, buy a local sim card. Check out the latest prices for Zamtel prepaid sim cards on their website.
An MTN Zambia prepaid sim card costs 10 K ($0.4). The data & voice bundles are a little more complicated as they are NOT unlimited. They come at a very competitive price, but are they the best sim card in Zambia?
First off, the MTN data bundles are split into day and night view. I am NOT a fan of this, especially since Zambia sim cards are so cheap anyway.
These are the MTN weekly packages:
- K25 = 1 GB + 1 GB - $1.1
- K50 = 2.5 GB + 2.5 GB - $2.2
- K100 = 6 GB + 6 GB - $4.5
- K150 = 10 GB + 10 GB - $6.7
They also have monthly packages including calling and texting:
- K300 = 20 GB data + 150 minutes + 300 sms - $13.5
There are many more voice & data packages, see the info sheet with the MTN prices below. For more info and up to date prices check the MTN Zambia website.
An Airtel Zambia prepaid sim card costs 10 K ($0.4). Just like the other providers they have daily, weekly and monthly bundles for data & voice.
Weekly data bundles Airtel Zambia
- K20 = 2 GB - $0.9
- K50 = 6 GB - $2.2
Monthly data bundles Airtel Zambia
- K60 = 5 GB - $2.7
- K100 = 10 GB - $4.5
- K200 = 25 GB - $9
See the info sheet below for all the Airtel Zambia data bundles.
Calling time is extra, but 20 K ($1 USD) gives you 60 minutes calling time. For more info about Airtel Zambia Prepaid, check their website in the link.
Be aware that a Liquid Telecom sim card is a data-only sim card. That means you can NOT make and receive calls. They also have daily, weekly and monthly packages. Here are some great sim card deals:
- K55 = 7 GB for 7 days - $2.5
- K160 = 15 GB for 1 month - $7
- K220 = 30 GB for 1 month - $10
Liquid Telecom operates on its own network and are a fairly new player on the market. Competitive prices for sure, but what about the network coverage? I could hardly find out anything about that and therefore I do not recommend tourists to buy a Liquid Telecom sim card. I assume it is limited to the big cities only.
Click on the link for the latest info about a Liquid Telecom prepaid sim card.
If you are looking for the fastest internet in Zambia then you have to buy a Velocity sim card for sure. But be aware that Velocity is a data-only sim card, you can not make phone calls.
Buying a Velocity sim card in Zambia costs K100 ($4.5) and you get 10 GB for 1 week. After this 10 GB you can buy one of the following data bundles.
All Velocity data bundles are unlimited, but they differ in speed:
- Up to 3Mbps = K349 - $15.7
- Up to 5Mbps = K650 - $29.1
- Up to 10Mbps = K800 - $35.9
Check the latest prices and offers for a Velocity sim card here.
As you can see the prices for sim cards and data bundles in Zambia do not differ a lot per mobile operator. Therefore I recommend going either with super fast internet from Velocity (more expensive) or with the one that has the best network in Zambia.
Best 4G/5G network in Zambia
As per 2023 there is no 5G yet in Zambia and it does not look like there will be 5G any time soon. It was already very hard to find information online about the best network in Zambia.
I even emailed to Zamtel and MTN to give me some more information about their network coverage but no answer.
Airtel Zambia does provide a network coverage map and this is what came out. Here is the link to their website where you can find the Airtel network coverage map.
My experiences using an Airtel sim card were surprisingly good. Airtel also claims to have the best mobile network coverage in Zambia. MTN is the runner up and Zamtel is the smallest network in Zambia.
You don’t want to sit in a bus for 7 hours and have no data connection, your local sim card is useless in that case.
Best Zambia sim card in 2023
As prices for local sim cards in Zambia are very cheap and more or less the same, I think choosing the provider with the best network is a safe option to make sure you stay connected.
What I don't like about MTN data bundles is that they split them 50/50 into a day and night allowance. Airtel and Zamtel do not do that. Zamtel is slightly cheaper than Airtel, however Airtel has the best network coverage in Zambia. Therefore...
Airtel is the best sim card in Zambia in 2023!
For those that are in need of super fast internet they should try out a Velocity sim card. You pay much more than a regular sim card but you decide how fast you browse the internet.
Below you can find my vlog with my experiences buying a sim card in Zambia.
My experience using a local sim card in Zambia
On arrival at the land border from Botswana at a town named Kazungula there were a lot of mobile kiosks selling sim cards for tourists. However upon buying, my pick up advised me to not buy these sim cards as they were unofficial and not registered on my name.
Zambian people are super friendly and eager to help. Thanks to this guys at Zamtel for giving me all the information, although I did not buy a Zamtel sim card.
I took his advise and bought my sim card a little later when arriving in Livingston at the official Airtel store in town. However, two of my friends that arrived a day before me bought those unofficial MTN Zambian sim cards at the Kazungula border crossing and had no problems whatsoever during their 2 weeks in Zambia.
Neither did I and I was happy with my Airtel Zambia sim card. I was even kind of surprised with the 4G network coverage of Airtel. During my bus ride from Livingston to Lusaka I had most of the time an LTE signal and it worked pretty fine. In the North of Zambia the network got a little weaker, but my friends who had an MTN sim card had more problems finding a signal.
I bought an Airtel data package of 25 GB valid for 30 days for 200 Kwacha ($9 USD). It was a great investment that made traveling to Zambia much easier.
Also another last reminder that you can also arrange everything directly online by ordering an e-sim card for Zambia.
I hope these tips for buying a local sim card in Zambia were helpful. May you have more questions or are badly in need of some Zambia travel tips then please leave me a message below.
Looking for some more Zambia travel tips I invite you to go check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom where you can find more about my journey to visit every country in the world. As of August 2023 I have visited more than 135 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Zambia!