Planning a trip to Tanzania? Don’t forget to buy yourself a local sim card on arrival to not end up with unnecessary high roaming costs! Buying a sim card in Tanzania is fairly easy and sim cards with data are cheap. In this guide I tell you everything you need to know and at the end I will tell you my experiences buying a Tanzania sim card.
Tanzania is the land of Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Zanzibar AND the most amazing friendly people. I witnessed this first hand when I recently traveled to Tanzania as part of my big Africa overland trip. Getting a local sim card is a must for me when traveling. Being connected to the internet is a vital resource for my spontaneous trips.
Very simple example, the people in Tanzania speak limited English, so a translation app comes in handy but doesn’t work if you have no internet connection. Or what about getting around, finding hotels, transportation, restaurants, etc. Google Maps will be your best friend. For more about my trip to Tanzania see my Youtube Channel: Traveltomtom.
Tanzania sim card vlog
I also recorded a vlog about buying a sim card in Tanzania. Check out this video guide on everything you need to know when getting a local Tanzania sim card.
My Tanzania sim card recommendation
Personally I recommend tourists to buy a Vodacom or Airtel sim card when traveling to Tanzania. Why? They have the best network coverage, however Tigo is catching up soon with their fast growing 4G network in Tanzania.
Sim card prices and data bundles in Tanzania are more or less the same and pretty cheap anyway.
Read more about my experiences buying a sim card in Tanzania at the end of this article and how my Vodacom Tanzania sim card actually caused a lot of problems! Then I tried buying Airtel (fail) and eventually ended up with Tigo for the last couple days of my Tanzania trip.
Also I do NOT recommend to buy an international or global sim card for traveling to Tanzania. I would almost call those international sim cards a scam as they are incredibly expensive and useless in my opinion.
I wrote a complete guide about all the international sim cards that claim to have network coverage in every country of the world. Yeah some of them actually do, but against what price? No one wants to browse the internet for $50 per minute! Read all about it in the link above.
RELATED: 12 Tanzania Travel Tips!
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Why buying a sim card in Tanzania
Apart from the above mentioned reasons for buying a local sim card I strongly recommend you to NOT RELY ON WIFI IN TANZANIA. Even if you just want to update your social media in the evening, keep in touch with your relatives or check your emails in your hotel I recommend you getting a data connection through a Tanzania sim card.
You can simply NOT trust the hotel WiFi, it is likely to be either super slow or will not working at all! This is Africa, there is always a small problem. Don’t depend on others, get yourself a data connection.
Mobile internet operators Tanzania
There are 4 different mobile internet providers in Tanzania. You can buy a local sim card from one of the following operators:
Some Tanzania sim card guides are still talking about Zantel, but these articles are very outdated as Zantel merged with Tigo already in the beginning of 2020.
I recently traveled to Tanzania and this guide is up to date with the latest information as per June 2021!
Sim card registration in Tanzania
Every prepaid sim card in Tanzania needs to be registered with a passport. They will take a photo of your passport and upload it to their system. On top of that the provider will need your fingerprint. This is an inevitable process that you will have to go through when buying a sim card in Tanzania.
For some reason this is a normality in Africa and happens in most African countries when buying a prepaid sim card.
Therefore, not every kiosk or telecom booth you see along the side of the road is able to sell sim cards for tourists. Most of these kiosks don't have the fingerprint option and are therefore not able to help you.
Local sim cards in Tanzania do not cost more than 1500 Tanzania Schilling ($0.6). May you be offered sim cards on the streets that are much more expensive, then you know something is off. Most of these sim cards are pre registered and can cause problems when you are trying to put new credit on it. It even happened to me! More about that later.
Where to buy a prepaid sim card in Tanzania
It is best to buy a Tanzania sim card from an official retail store or a service center. These shops will be clearly marked and only sell one brand.
When arriving at Dar Es Salaam Airport there are official kiosks in the arrival hall to buy a sim card for Tanzania. Also on Zanzibar Airport and Arusha Airport they sell sim cards for tourists in the arrival hall. Yes the prices at the airport are slightly more expensive but we are talking about a couple dollar. The Airport is definitely the most convenient place to get your Tanzania sim card.
Always put the Tanzania sim card in your unlocked phone and test if it is working before you walk out of the shop. When you find out it is not working and you left the store already, it is likely that you will have to do the whole registration AGAIN and trust me you don’t want that!
Buying a sim card in Tanzania and activating it takes time. Just like most things in Africa! Don’t expect this process to go fast either and make sure you have about 20 minutes time. :)
Best 4G/5G network in Tanzania
As of June 2021 there is NO 5G network available in Tanzania and it doesn’t seem like that will be implemented anywhere in the near future.
It is really hard to say who has the best mobile network in Tanzania as there is no up to date information about it and no comparison available either. I researched all the information online and came to a couple conclusions:
- Halotel has the weakest network in Tanzania.
- Tigo claims to have the largest 4G network in Tanzania, but that is pertinent NOT TRUE!
- Vodacom and Airtel have the largest 4G network in Tanzania.
Halotel 4G network
Unfortunately Halotel does NOT provide any data or information about their 4G network across Tanzania. Therefore, buying a Halotel sim card in Tanzania is a little tricky, especially if you are traveling around the country. In most of the Tanzania tourist destinations I guess you will find a Halotel phone signal, but it is not guaranteed wether that is 2G/3G or 4G
Because the Halotel 4G network is the smallest of all the mobile internet providers in Tanzania I would not recommend tourists to buy a Halotel sim card for traveling in Tanzania.
Tigo Tanzania 4G network
Trying to get more info about the Tigo Tanzania 4G coverage in the country I found out that Tigo claims to have the LARGEST and FASTEST 4G network in Tanzania. I can already tell you that is NOT true.
Unfortunately they don’t provide a detailed 4G coverage map, but they claim to have 4G in more than 20 cities around the country.
Most of the tourist destinations in Tanzania seem to have a 4G connection. But if you are visiting for example Pemba Island or the more remote West side of Tanzania there won’t be a Tigo 4G signal.
Check out more about the Tigo Tanzania 4G network coverage in this link.
Airtel Tanzania 4G network
In February 2021 Airtel announced to upgrade its 4G network across the country, invest 12 million USD into it and providing more than 500 towns with a 4G signal. Airtel has one of the best mobile internet network coverage of the country together with Vodacom. They have a provisional Airtel coverage map on their website. Check it out here.
Vodacom Tanzania 4G network
On their website Vodacom claims to have the FASTEST network in Tanzania. They actually do provide a 4G coverage map on their website. See what it looks like below.
However I can already tell you the above map is outdated and their 4G network is bigger than the above map says it is. I traveled mainly in West Tanzania and had a 4G signal in most of those areas, however they are not marked on the above 4G coverage map of Vodacom Tanzania.
Click on the link for more information about the 4G network of Vodacom Tanzania.
Prices prepaid Tanzania sim cards
When buying a Halotel prepaid sim card, data and voice packages are automatically included. They offer the following combo packages called HOT bundels:
- 10,000 TZS = 7 GB data + 150 minutes + 500 sms - valid for 30 days. ($4)
- 20,000 TZS = 15 GB data + 300 minutes + 500 sms - valid for 30 days. ($9)
- 30,000 TZS = 23 GB data + 400 minutes + 500 sms - valid for 30 days. ($13)
- 40,000 TZS = 31 GB data + 500 minutes + 1,000 sms - valid for 30 days. ($17)
This is the link to the latest prices of the Halotel Hot bundels.
Halotel has the weakest network but the best prices. Their prices compared to other mobile internet providers in Tanzania are much cheaper. They also have data only bundels for daily, weekly and monthly use. Some examples:
- 1,500 TZS = 1 GB for 1 day. ($0.65)
- 10,000 TZS = 13 GB for 1 week. ($4)
- 20,000 TZS = 22 GB for 1 month. ($9)
Here is the link to the latest Halotel data bundels.
When buying a sim card in Tanzania and you want the most value for money then go for Halotel. If you only stay in Dar es Salaam or other touristy places Halotel is a good option.
Buying a Tigo sim card in Tanzania will cost you 1,000 TZS and you will have to add credit on the sim card so you can buy packages. Voice and data packages can be bought separate, as well as in combo packs.
- 15,000 TZS = 7 GB data + 650 minutes + 100 sms - valid for 7 days. ($7)
- 20,000 TZS = 10 GB data + 800 minutes + 500 sms - valid for 30 days. ($9)
Check out the latest Tigo Tanzania prepaid combo packages.
Tigo also offers daily, weekly and monthly data only packages. These are the most common ones:
- 2,000 TZS = 1 GB for 1 day. ($0.90)
- 10,000 TZS = 6 GB for 7 days. ($4)
- 20,000 TZS = 12 GB for 30 days. ($9)
These are the 3 most common data-only bundles that I recommend for tourists. There are many more. Check them out here.
An Airtel Tanzania sim card costs 1,500 TZS 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:
- 10,000 TZS = 6 GB for 7 days. ($4)
- 15,000 TZS = 8 GB for 7 days. ($7)
- 25,000 TZS = 12 GB for 30 days. ($11)
For more information about the Airtel Tanzania prepaid data packages click on the link to go to their website.
Buying a Vodacom Tanzania sim card will set you back 1,000 TZS and will be activated in store for you. Data and voice bundles have to be added separately.
Vodacom Tanzania data bundles are daily, weekly and monthly:
- 10,000 TZS = 5 GB for 7 days. ($4)
- 15,000 TZS = 7.5 GB for 7 days. ($7)
- 20,000 TZS = 15 GB for 7 days. ($9)
- 35,000 TZS = 16 GB for 30 days. ($15)
To check you remaining Vodacom data balance you can short dial: *149*60#. For more info about the Vodacom internet bundles click on the link.
Best Tanzania sim card in 2021
As you have read between the lines I would not recommend Halotel for tourists traveling all around Tanzania. However, Halotel has by far the cheapest price and the best value for money.
Tigo is not my preferred Tanzania sim card, as their prices rival more or less Airtel and Vodacom, but their network is weaker.
That leaves us down to two options: Airtel and Vodacom. They have the best network, but on the other hand their internet bundles are definitely more expensive than Tigo and of course Halotel.
Vodacom is the best prepaid sim card in Tanzania in 2021!
My experience buying a sim card in Tanzania
As I already did the research in advanced about the best network in Tanzania I chose to buy a Vodacom sim card when I entered Tanzania. As my trip to Tanzania was part of my big Africa overland journey I reached Tanzania coming from Zambia at the town of Tunduma.
BTW if you are interested in traveling Africa overland I recommend you to check out the video of the most horrible road in Africa on my YouTube Channel: From Lusaka, Zambia to Tanzania, a 19 hour trip on the worst roads in Africa!
It took a bit of time, but I found a kiosk that was able to sell me a sim card and activate it for me. Although he tried with my passport and my fingerprint, in the end he couldn’t register the Vodacom for some reason under my name.
He was also asking 5,000 TZS, little did I know then that it actually only was 1,000 TZS. But I had no choice, I wanted to get connected as soon as I arrived. And 5,000 TZS is just $2,20, so I didn’t care!
I also added 7,5 GB data on it for 15,000 TZS. As I traveled in remote parts of Tanzania, around Lake Tanganyika, I was happy with Vodacom and surprisingly they had service in most of those places, often even a 4G signal.
Talking to locals that had a smart phone they mostly had either Vodacom or Airtel, at least in this part of the country.
After 4 days I already ran out of credit, so I asked one of the staff of Lupita Island, a resort in Lake Tanganyika where I was staying, to add another 15,000 credit to my account so I could purchase 7.5 GB data again. It all worked smoothly and I activated the data package without problems. However, it was then that I found out the Vodacom sim card was actually NOT registered on my name.
A week later I ran out of MB’s again and tried to add credit to my Vodacom Mpesa account. It was then that I was asked for my PIN, which you should normally create when buying a sim card in Tanzania.
Of course I didn’t have one and although I put credit on my Mpesa account, I could not use it unless I had my PIN. Solution... I needed to go to a Vodacom service center, but guess what they just closed when I arrived.
As I had a lot of work to do and the hotel WiFi obviously didn’t work properly, I needed a new Tanzania sim card desperately. There was a nearby Airtel shop that was still open and as Tanzania sim cards are very cheap I was about to buy an Airtel sim card ‘quickly’.
I should have known… nothing is done quickly in Africa and after the whole process of 15 minutes, the girl said: ‘sorry, the Airtel system is down, come back tomorrow’! NO OPTION! So I ran to the Tigo store, that was about to close, but luckily they could help me.
Within 10 minutes it was actually fixed. Passport copy, finger print, data packages, etc. And so did I roam on the Tigo network the last days I spent in Tanzania before I crossed the border into Uganda.
I hope all the above tips for buying a sim card in Tanzania were helpful and made it easier to decide which mobile internet provider in Tanzania you pick for your next trip to Tanzania.
May you have any more questions or additional info, please leave me a comment below.