We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
836 posts
895 reviews
Save Topic
Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

I'm a complete novice when it comes to using technology overseas. My family is travelling to South Africa next month and we'd like to be able to use at least one of our phones during our trip. We have an iphone and a Samsung Android. Being able to make calls would be nice, but access to the internet would be even better (especially since I understand there are ways to make inexpensive int'l phone calls over the internet). We'd also like to download a GPS function for driving. The Adroid is certainly "unlocked" if that helps.

Is there an "easy" way to do this at a cost that makes any sense? Or is this a technological leap too far, and we would need a cheap local phone to make calls -- and just use the internet where we can find wireless access?

Thanks.

Johannesburg, South...
Level Contributor
30 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

As long as the phone isn't locked, I don't see why you can't use the phone and just buy a local sim card, using pay-as-you-go airtime/ data packages. Local service providers are Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta. Should be easy to buy a sim card at the airport when you arrive.

Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
836 posts
895 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

Thanks. Can someone give me an idea of what's available to buy and at what cost? Being able to make int'l calls at a low price would be good.

Port Elizabeth
Destination Expert
for South Africa
Level Contributor
6,251 posts
Save Reply
3. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

The 3 network operators are www.vodacom.co.za www.mtn.co.za and www.cellc.co.za

How much it costs depends on whether you want to mainly want to send text/sms messages, whether you want to phone a lot or whether you just want a data bundle to access the internet.

Leeds, United...
Destination Expert
for Western Cape, Cape Town Central
Level Contributor
3,687 posts
535 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

You could download the Skype app to your iPhone and as long as you had wireless connection, you could make very cheap international calls.

I am noticing that more guest houses are getting wifi.

Lisa

Houston, TX
Level Contributor
45 posts
8 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

I will be using my locked cell phone in SA, therefore canot buy a SIM card. I know I will be paying roaming charges but it is a company phone and I will still be on call.

If I need to call the USA, how would I dial it from SA and also if I need to call a local number, how would I dial it being that it is a USA cell number?

Thanks all.,

Tim

Philadelphia, PA
Level Contributor
836 posts
895 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

Thanks for the information -- I can tell this is a confusing copy.

In the USA, there are companies like tmobile that sell no-contract cell phone plans. Like I believe you could buy a tmobile SIM card for $5, and then pay $30 for a month of unlimited data/text and 100 minutes of talk.

Is there something like that in South Africa?

I know there are a couple of programs that would get me free int'l calls if I had a free wireless connection (like Skype). I was going to look into those. But, ideally, if the cost wasn't too great, I'd rather be able to send and receive phone calls/data/text without needing to find a free wireless connection.

BTW, in Kruger, what sort of internet service is available?

Cape Town
Destination Expert
for Cape Town
Level Contributor
2,674 posts
99 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

Hi,

It would be very expensive to make calls with your U.S. cell phone.

Most visitors who need to be on call on their U.S. phones buy a cheap cell phone here (Nokia, for instance, cost around R149) and a prepaid simcard (less than

$1).

The least expensive way of making overseas calls would be to buy a prepaid fixed line phone card and you could use this from your hotel phone.

virginia
Level Contributor
31 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

This may be self-evident, but just in case: US phones use completely different technology from cell phones in most of the rest of the world. Just because you have an unlocked smart phone doesn't mean you have GSM capability. And not all US phones work smoothly with random SIM cards. So it's a good thing to thoroughly know your own phones' capabilities.

I did take an unlocked, GSM enabled Blackberry to South Africa last year, but it choked on anything except the preloaded Verizon SIM card. That made calls and especially data pretty expensive. By far the most economical option was to buy the prepaid landline phone service (really just a receipt with a code), which worked beautifully everywhere.

Hazyview, South...
Level Contributor
3,763 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

I heard a few times, that this is exactly the problem as Verizon makes use of a technology that works in the states and (nearly) nowhere else. GSM works in SA as in most other countries worldwide.

As long as your GSM phone is not blocked for a specific provider, you can make use of any other sim card

Klaus

-Owner Abangane-

Hazyview

virginia
Level Contributor
31 posts
13 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Using a USA cell phone in South Africa

It's not just Verizon! Check your phone. A GSM capable phone will have a clear space for a sim card.