Traveling to South Africa and flying to Johannesburg and wondering if you can buy a prepaid sim card for tourists in Johannesburg International Airport? Don't let high roaming charges or slow overseas data roaming plans ruin your trip. This is a complete guide for buying a sim card at Johannesburg Airport in 2024.
Let me show you the best ways to stay connected when traveling to Johannesburg. Find out everything you need to know about buying a sim card for your trip to South Africa at Johannesburg Airport on arrival with up to date prices as per January 2024, where to buy a sim card, my recommendation, the best e-sim cards for South Africa, a vlog about my arrival and experiences, info about international and sim cards and more.
Finding the best way to get data on my phone is the first thing I do when traveling to a new country. In 2022 I traveled to 62 different countries and in 2023 I visited 34 countries so imagine how many prepaid and e-sim cards I used in the last two years.
Local prepaid sim cards are in general cheaper than e-sim cards, but with an e-sim card you are online as soon as the plane lands and you don't need to find a phone store on arrival in Johannesburg.
As Traveltomtom is trying to visit every country in the world and I like to document all my travel tips you can already find more than 200 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, Australia, New Zealand and many more.
May you have missed the opportunity to buy a prepaid sim card at Johannesburg Airport or you would like more detailed info about sim cards for South Africa then check out Traveltomtom's complete guide for buying a sim card in South Africa in 2024.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid and e-sim card advice for your next holiday destination. Bookmark me!
Why buying a sim card for South Africa
I don’t recommend you to rely 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. the use of a VPN is recommended.
There is no guarantee free WiFi 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. But also just simply staying in touch with friends and think about emergency situations and not having data on your phone.
Get yourself a local prepaid sim card or an e-sim card for your trip to Johannesburg and thank me later.
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 a great 4G/5G mobile data network in South Africa and they sell great prepaid sim cards for tourists at Johannesburg Airport.
A good runner up is a Vodacom sim card. Although Vodacom has a slightly better 4G/5G network, they are also much more expensive.
Another great way to stay connected when traveling to Johannesburg is an e-sim card. Traveltomtom definitely recommends using e-sim cards for your trip to Johannesburg. It is just so easy and you arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for South Africa via either Nomad, SimOptions or Airalo.
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 2024.
Best e-sim cards for South Africa
The easiest ways to stay connected when traveling to Johannesburg in 2024 is an e-sim card. You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. No more swapping physical sim cards or visiting a phone store.
You order an e-sim card for South Africa on the internet, you receive a QR code, scan it, follow the simple steps and within less than 2 minutes you have a South Africa e-sim card installed on your phone.
Upon arrival in Johannesburg it automatically connects you to an available network and you enjoy data on your phone pretty much when the plane lands.
Make sure your phone is e-sim compatible before ordering an e-sim card for South Africa.
Airalo is a reliable e-sim provider that Traveltomtom has used in more than 50 countries around the world and never had an issue. Check out the Airalo South Africa e-sim card plans for 2024:
- 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 order a South Africa e-sim card directly online via Airalo.
The above data-only e-sim cards you can order via Airalo are from CellSA and are valid in South Africa only. They operate on the 4G/LTE network of Vodacom, the best 4G/5G mobile network in South Africa.
SimOptions is another trusted and reviewed e-sim provider. Traveltomtom has been recommending SimOptions sim cards for more than 5 years now.
SimOptions sells international e-sim cards that are valid in up to 141 countries, including South Africa.
The above international e-sim cards are from Three HK and valid in 93 countries:
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD
They come with a phone number from Hong Kong that starts with +852. Technically you are able to receive phone calls, but since you lack credit that is not possible. However, this e-sim cards supports receiving sms.
Unfortunately because of regulations in Hong Kong on these sim cards it is not possible to use TikTok as TikTok is blocked in Hong Kong.
SimOptions has 2 other international e-sim cards for South Africa:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $39.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order an international e-sim card for South Africa via SimOptions.
A third trusted e-sim provider is Nomad. Nomad has often amazing e-sim card deals, but when comparing the Nomad e-sim card plans for South Africa with SimOptions and Airalo it turns out Nomad is more expensive.
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $11 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $20 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $28 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $45 USD
Click here for more info or to order an e-sim card for South Africa via Nomad.
With an e-sim card you keep your phone number from home, but make sure your phone is e-sim card compatible. How to find out? Ask Google and find your answer instantly.
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.
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. But there is little difference if you buy a sim card at Johannesburg Airport or in the city center.
All info is updated as per January 2024 and prices are in South African Rand: $1 USD = 18.3 SAR and 10 SAR = $0.55 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 - $16 USD
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 - $19 USD
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 - $22 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 - $22 USD
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
Best 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 sim card and therefore does not get Traveltomtom's first recommendation.
Though, Vodacom has the best 4G/5G mobile data network in South Africa in 2024. However a Vodacom prepaid sim card with 10 GB data is $26 USD. Keep in mind that an Airalo e-sim card with 10 GB data also costs $26 USD, but you arrange everything online and don't need to visit a Vodacom store in South Africa.
Cell C has the cheapest prepaid sim card deals, but from my research for the best sim card in South Africa in 2024 I know that the Cell C network is very limited and therefore a Cell C sim card is not recommended for tourists.
Therefore Traveltomtom rates an MTN sim card the best for your trip to Johannesburg in 2024. MTN has a great 4G/5G mobile data network in South Africa and competitive prices for data plans and 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.
As just mentioned Traveltomtom definitely recommends e-sim cards for traveling to South Africa in 2024. E-sim cards make everything so much easier and you don't need to waste precious time on arrival in Johannesburg trying to find a prepaid sim card for your trip.
Above you can have a look at my vlog about my arrival at Johannesburg Airport. It makes it even easier to get directions and find out where to buy a sim card at Johannesburg Airport.
Order a prepaid sim card for South Africa online
If your phone is not e-sim compatible but you would like to order a sim card for traveling to South Africa online before your trip then check out the following.
Arrive prepared in South Africa with an international prepaid sim card. You order them online and a physical prepaid sim card will be delivered to your home address. You put this sim card in your phone and it automatically connects to an available network upon arrival in South Africa, basically when the plane lands you are instantly online.
SimOptions is the only sim card provider that sells physical prepaid sim cards valid in 124 countries including South Africa:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order an international prepaid sim card for South Africa via SimOptions.
Last reminder that if your phone is e-sim compatible you can arrange everything directly online without visiting a phone store. Get yourself an e-sim card for South Africa in just a couple clicks. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for South Africa via either Nomad, SimOptions or Airalo.
My experience buying a sim card at Johannesburg Airport
On my last trip to Johannesburg I rented a car and drove down to Lesotho. Lesotho was country no. 114 for me on my trip around the world and after I also visited 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 that this is NOT TRUE. From my own experience I can also tell you that is not the case either. In Lesotho I bought a Vodacom sim card on arrival, see my blog about the best sim card for traveling to Lesotho in 2024.
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 and I did not have any problems. I mostly even used 4G/LTE over public WiFi from the hotels or restaurants, but I must admit it can get a little pricey buying constantly new data packages.
If 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 January 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, so still a long way to go.
Enjoy your trip to South Africa!
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