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2 Best Prepaid SIM Cards in Malawi: Buying Guide

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa. The country does, however, have Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe, and Lake Chilwa.

Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, has the Lilongwe Wildfire Center and the parliament. Lake Malawi is a nature reserve. Liwonde has the Liwonde National Park. Blantyre has the Museum of Malawi and various parks. Malawi is an exciting destination.

What is not exciting is dealing with an expensive roaming bill you get from roaming with your provider in Malawi. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, including Malawian ones.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Malawi. Let's go.

Telecom Providers in Malawi

Malawi has 5 telecom providers: Airtel Malawi, TNM, G-Mobile, Lacell, and G-Expresso. Only Airtel and TNM offer 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE services, while G-Mobile, Lacell, and G-Expresso only have 2G services (for calling and SMS only), which is why they will not be discussed in this article.

Best SIM Card Malawi

If you want to buy a SIM card in Malawi, I would recommend going with Airtel. Their coverage is a bit better than the one of TNM while also offering lower prices.

Coverage with both Airtel Malawi and TNM is decent but unreliable. Both operators have implemented strategies to improve their services, so things are becoming better by the day.

Like many countries in (South)East Africa, and in Africa in general, you have to show your passport when buying a Malawian SIM card.

Although data prices are low or average if compared to other places around the world, Malawian data prices are average to high for African standards, especially for the local population. Depending on the package they choose, the locals can spend up to 50% of their monthly salary on mobile services alone, which is unsustainable. As a result, the telecommunication penetration rate is still less than 30%.

Those who do use mobile phones and data often have a SIM card from both Airtel Malawi and TNM because the operators charge high off-net fees, which are the fees you pay for calling or texting a TNM number while being an Airtel Malawi customer or vice versa.

With that being said, let’s see what Airtel Malawi and TNM have to offer to us.

Airtel Malawi

Airtel Logo

Airtel Malawi, just Airtel, is the largest operator in Malawi with a market share of more than 50%. Their coverage is decent but unreliable and spotty in many places.

You can buy an Airtel SIM card in Airtel stores and on the streets for 500 MWK ($0.70). However, as you need to register yourself when purchasing a Malawian SIM card, you would be better off buying your SIM card at Airtel stores. Top-up vouchers are sold from 50 MWK to 5000 MWK. Dial *304# to check your data balance.

Airtel has many data packs, which they refer to as PaNet Volume Bundles. They are grouped into daily, weekly, and monthly bundles.

The following Airtel PaNet Volume Daily bundles are available:

  • 100 MWK: 15 MB. Activation: dial *301*100#
  • 150 MWK: 30 MB. Activation: dial *301*101#
  • 500 MWK: 175 MB. Activation: dial *301*128#

These Airtel PaNet Volume Weekly bundles can be bought:

  • 300 MWK: 50 MB. Activation: dial *301*110#
  • 600 MWK: 150 MB. Activation: dial *301*130#
  • 1000 MWK: 300 MB. Activation: dial *301*131#
  • 1800 MWK: 1 GB. Activation: dial *301*111#

Finally, you can get one of these Airtel PaNet Volume Monthly bundles:

  • 3500 MWK: 1.2 GB. Activation: dial *301*120#
  • 5000 MWK: 2 GB. Activation: dial *301*121#
  • 7000 MWK: 3.5 GB. Activation: dial *301*132#
  • 10 500 MWK: 6 GB. Activation: dial *301*123#
  • 15 500 MWK: 10 GB. Activation: dial *301*124#
  • 19 000 MWK: 15 GB. Activation: dial *301*125#
  • 40 000 MWK: 40 GB. Activation: dial *301*126#

Only interested in staying connected with your friends and family through messaging apps? You can get an Airtel PaNet Social Combo Bundles, which give you data for WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook:

  • 150 MWK: 50 MB for 1 day
  • 350 MWK: 350 MB for 7 days
  • 1200 MWK: 1 GB for 30 days

Just need data for individual messaging apps? Then these Airtel PaNet Social Bundles may be interesting.

Here are the 4 Airtel PaNet WhatsApp Social Bundles:

  • 1200 MWK: 20 MB for 1 day
  • 1200 MWK: 90 MB for 7 days
  • 1200 MWK: 400 MB for 30 days
  • 1200 MWK: 800 MB for 30 days

You can get these Airtel PaNet Facebook Social Bundles:

  • 110 MWK: 30 MB for 1 day
  • 230 MWK: 90 MB for 7 days
  • 1200 MWK: 800 MB for 30 days

Twitter users can get these Airtel PaNet Twitter Social Bundles:

  • 100 MWK: 30 MB for 1 day
  • 1250 MWK: 90 MB for 7 days
  • 1250 MWK: 800 MB for 30 days

Night owls can take advantage of PaNet Night Chilaz, although it is unclear from when to when you can use these bundles:

  • 120 MWK: 75 MB for 1 night
  • 250 MWK: 200 MB for 7 nights
  • 1100 MWK: 1 GB for 30 nights

TNM

TNM Logo

TNM, standing for Telekom Networks Malawi, was the first operator to offer 3G services in Malawi. Their coverage is as extensive and unreliable as Airtel, but they are more expensive than Airtel.

You can buy a TNM SIM card for 500 MWK in TNM stores and on the streets. Like with Airtel, I would recommend buying your SIM card at a TNM store because of the registration requirement. The TNM starter pack comes with 5 MB, 5 minutes, and 5 SMS.

TNM top-up vouchers are sold in many stores across the country. To top up your phone, you have to dial *111*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *111*123456#. To check your TNM balance, dial #123#.

TNM has several Smart Surf bundles, which are their data packs. They have daily, weekly (and one for 15 days), and monthly bundles.

The following TNM daily bundles are available:

  • 100 MWK: 15 MB. Activation: dial *200*7#
  • 150 MWK: 30 MB. Activation: dial *200*9#
  • 1000 MWK: 1 GB. Activation: dial *200*5#

You can also get one of these TNM weekly bundles:

  • 680 MWK: 100 MB (for 15 days). Activation: dial *200*10#
  • 1200 MWK: 140 MB. Activation: dial *200*44#
  • 2500 MWK: 1 GB. Activation: dial *200*55#

Staying (almost) a month in Malawi or just want a lot of data? Then these monthly TNM plans will be interesting:

  • 3000 MWK: 600 MB. Activation: dial *200*444# 
  • 4800 MWK: 1 GB. Activation: dial *200*12#
  • 7000 MWK: 2 GB. Activation: dial *200*13#
  • 10 500 MWK: 4 GB. Activation: dial *200*14#
  • 23 000 MWK: 10 GB. Activation: dial *200*16#
  • 40 000 MWK: 20 GB. Activation: dial *200*17#

You can also get TNM social media bundles for Facebook or WhatsApp:

  • 70 MWK: 30 MB for WhatsApp for 1 day. Activation: dial *200*3#
  • 110 MWK: 50 MB for Facebook for 1 day. Activation: dial *200*2#
  • 230 MWK: 120 MB for Facebook for 7 days. Activation: dial *200*22#
  • 230 MWK: 120 MB for WhatsApp for 7 days. Activation: dial *200*33#
  • 560 MWK: 500 MB for WhatsApp for 30 days. Activation: dial *200*333#
  • 1200 MWK 1 GB for Facebook for 20 days. Activation: dial *200*222#

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Malawi

Being redone.

The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Malawi

Getting a SIM card from Airtel would do you well when considering a Malawian SIM card.

Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries

Visiting other countries in Africa? Check out my Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other African countries, such as:

Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.

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