Tanzania is top of many avid travelers bucket list. The cultural melting pot, white sand beaches with Azul waters of Zanzibar and some of the best wildlife viewing on the planet, make Tanzania an adventure travel paradise.
Having mobile internet is almost essential to make the most of your trip. Getting a local SIM card is an excellent cheap alternative to using international roaming services.
Having internet access is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, also a very useful tool for doing last minute planning and travel research on the run.
Thankfully getting a SIM card for your mobile in Tanzania is easy.
In the following post we will outline how to buy a SIM card in Tanzania. What is the best mobile service provider SIM depending on where you travel. Where to get a SIM card and how much will a SIM card and data plan cost.
There a 5 mobile phone service providers in Tanzania. They are Vodacom, Tigo, Airtel, Halotel and Zantel.
Vodacom has the widest coverage of all the service providers. So if you are planning to travel across the country then Vodacom is the best choice.
If you are planning on spend the most of your time in Zanzibar and little on the mainland then Zantel offers the best service on the island.
If you are spending most of your time in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater areas Airtel has the best coverage in these areas but is a more expensive option than Vodacom.
Where to buy a SIM Card in Tanzania
In Tanzania a mobile SIM card can be purchased from either a service provider shop or a local street vendor.
SIM cards are available throughout the country. If you are arriving at Dar es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport, the easiest and most convenient way to get your SIM card is directly outside the arrivals area. Immediately after exiting arrivals you will find a Vodacom store.
If you fly directly to Zanzibar be sure to get setup at the airport. Zantel SIM cards are available at airport and the Darajani Bazaar outside old town in Stone town. There are no vendors in Stone town itself. If going to the Darajani Bazaar look for the line of vendors under umbrellas.
SIM cards are not available at Kilimanjaro airport. The closest options are in the Moshi or Arusha townships.
The following is a list of store locations for each service provider:
- Vodacom store location click here
- Zantel store locations click here
- Airtel store locations click here
- Tigo store locations click here
- Halotel store loactions click here
Street Vendors are commonly found lining Tanzanian city street sitting beneath company branded umbrellas with plastic tables and chairs. It is possible to purchase SIM cards from street vendors in Tanzania.
Requirements and Setup
You will be required to present your passport to be given a SIM card by all providers.
Getting setup with your new SIM card is a straight forward process. All up it should take about 5-10min from registration to activation.
How much does it cost
SIM cards are inexpensive in Tanzania. Most providers offer a range of packages. If you are just starting out and / or only looking to stay in Tanzania for a few weeks, then buying a basic SIM card package and then topping up as you go is the best option.
The following is a list of basic SIM card and prepaid options to buy a SIM card in Tanzania:
Vodacom SIM card costs 5000 tzs. Vodacom offers 22hr, 2night, 7 day and 30 day data bundle options. For a full list of data Vodacom internet bundle options click here.
Zantel SIM is the best option for those spending a good amount of time in Zanizbar. Internet service is poor with other providers on the island. Zantel offers daily, weekly, monthly and social data bundle options. For a full list of Zantel data bundle options and prices click here
Airtel Sim card cost 2000 tzs to cut the SIM to nano size is an extra 2000 tzs. Airtel’s offers daily, weekly and monthly packages and 90 day packages. For a full list of the Airtel data bundles available click here.
Tigo is a good budget option for those looking to save a little. SIM card costs 3000 tzs. Tigo offers daily, weekly, monthly and social data bundles. For a full list of the Tigo data bundles available click here.
Halotel is slightly better value than Vodacom. A Halotel SIM costs 5000 tzs. Halotel offer day, week and month data bundle packages. For a full list of Halotel data bundles click here.
*Social bundles includes unlimited usage of Facebook, twitter, whatsapp and instagram.
There are 3 main methods for topping up mobile credit in Tanzania:
- Look for your selected mobile service provider store and simply ask to buy credit. For a full list of service provider store locations see the list of store locations above.
- Street vendors line the streets of Tanzania sitting under company branded umbrellas – Credit is given as either a scratch card with a top up code or vendors make a credit transfer from their account. They’ll need your mobile number to make the transfer. If you forget your mobile number see ‘How to retrieve your new mobile number’ section below. Credit transfer is a simple, convenient and common top up method in Tanzania.
- Using a mobile providers mobile payment systems. These are mobile money systems that enable users to preload funds onto their mobile phone at participating stores or Wakalas. It’s Tanzania’s and many developing countries method for electronic payments. It can be used to pay bills, shop and buy phone credit. Likely as a tourist you will have little use for this unless planning to stay for an extended period of time.
How to retrieving your new mobile number
Changing SIM cards when moving between countries makes it difficult to keep track of mobile numbers. The following is a quick tip for retrieving the number of your new SIM card.
To retrieve mobile number on an iphone:
At the home screen select the ‘Settings‘ App. Scroll down to ‘Phone‘. Your mobile number is shown at the top of the screen at ‘My Number‘.
To retrieve mobile number on an Android Device:
At the home screen select the ‘Settings‘ App. Scroll down to ‘About Device‘ or ‘About Phone‘. Select ‘Status‘ or ‘Phone Identity‘. This will lead to your you phone number.
Network and Service Coverage
Its a good idea to check the network and service coverage of a mobile service depending on where in Tanzania you plan to travel.
Vodacom has the widest coverage of all the service providers. However if you’re planning on spending any more than a week in Zanzibar then it is worth getting a Zantel SIM during this time. Zantel offers by far the best service coverage on the island. We found our Vodacom signal worked but it was weak and dropped out at times.
If you are spending most of your time in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater areas Airtel has the best coverage but is a more expensive option than Vodacom.
List of Mobile Service Provider Coverage
- Vodacom offers access to 2G, 3G and 4G Networks. Vodacom service coverage map click here.
- Zantel offers access to 3G and 4G Networks. Zantel service coverage map click here.
- Airtel offers access to 2G, 3G and 4G Networks. Airtel service coverage map click here.
- Tigo offers access to 3G and 4G Networks. Tigo service coverage map click here.
- Halotel only offers access to the 3G Network. We could source a reliable Coverage map.
Summary and Recommendation
From our experience and talking to locals, Vodacom provides the best service coverage at the best rates.
If you plan to travel to Zanzibar for longer than a week. Consider getting a Zantel SIM whilst there. If you’re spending a lot of time on Safari in the Northern Circuit parks and you want mobile service or internet access consider getting an Airtel SIM.