Tanzania is known to Africa's highest mountain called the Kilimanjaro. It is also known for its national parks and ugali, which is a maize porridge.
When in Tanzania, you certainly want to go to their national parks, like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area or the Serengeti National Park. Dar es Salaam has the National Museum, plenty of fish markets, and beaches. Are you into watersports? Zanzibar is for you. Your time in Tanzania will be excellent.
What could ruin your excellent time in Tanzania is when you decide to roam with your provider in Tanzania. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers want to buy a local SIM cards when they are on the road, like a Tanzanian one.
Mobile data rates in Tanzania are low compared to many other places in the world, which is something you should take advantage of.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Tanzania. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Tanzania
Tanzania has 5 telecom operators: Vodacom Tanzania, Tigo Tanzania, Airtel Tanzania, Halotel, and Zantel. All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
There are also 2 4G/LTE-only operators called Smile and TTCL. They do not have 2G or 3G roaming agreements with the other operators. They are primarily targeted to those living in places where broadband internet is inaccessible. Smile and TTCL are not recommended for travelers unless you are staying in one place for a while.
Finally, there are a bunch of operators that use CDMA technology, which is incompatible with GSM (which most phones and country use nowadays). As a result, they will not be covered in this article.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Tanzania? If you want to buy a SIM card in Tanzania, I would recommend going with Vodacom, Tigo, or Airtel. Vodacom has the best network but is the most expensive of them all. Tigo has a good network too and reasonable prices. Airtel is the budget option of the three, but also has the “worst” network of them all.
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Do note that coverage can mainly be found in populated areas. Although the coverage numbers of the operators are over 90%, only a handful of the population can access these networks. As a result, TCRA, the telecom regulator, has fined all the operators for the poor quality of service, which is something to be aware of.
If you are mainly staying in cities or populated areas, then you will be fine. If you are exploring rural Tanzania, expect dropouts.
Like most countries in East Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register yourself when buying a SIM card. Additionally, fingerprints will be taken upon activation.
You can only have one line per network operator unless you get permission from the regulator. This means that if you feel like you need multiple SIM cards, you can, as long they are from different operators or if you get permission from TCRA.
With that said, let's see what Tanzania has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Vodacom Tanzania, just Vodacom, is the largest operator in Tanzania. It has the best coverage throughout the country, but they are also the most expensive operator. Vodacom plans to cover 90% of the population with their 4G/LTE network, as demanded by the Tanzanian government. 3G is widespread.
Vodacom SIM cards are sold all the way up to 5000 TZS (2.20) in Vodacom stores and various other places. Some of these establishments may sell you a SIM card for as little as 500 TZS. Make sure to ask for their 4G/LTE SIM card to take advantage of Vodacom’s 4G network.
Vodacom has a large variety of data packages, which they call Internet SUPA. From night-time packages all the way to plans that last you 30 days. We will go through each of them. You can activate any of these plans by dialing *149*01#.
Vodacom has 4 Internet SUPA packages that are valid for 24 hours:
- 500 TZS: 80 MB
- 1000 TZS: 300 MB
- 1000 TZS: Unlimited WhatsApp and Instagram
- 2500 TZS: 2 GB
Are you a night owl? Get one of the 2 Internet SUPA Bonge la bando bundles that are valid from 12 AM until 5 AM:
- 500 TZS: 300 MB
- 1000 TZS: 1 GB
There is also 1 Internet SUPA plan that costs 5000 TZS and comes with 4 GB for 48 hours.
Need a bundle that lasts you a week? Get one of these 6 Internet SUPA week plans. Some of them come with a dedicated night bonus that can be used between 12 AM and 5 AM.
- 3000 TZS: 1 GB and 1 GB Night Bonus
- 3000 TZS: Unlimited WhatsApp and Instagram
- 5000 TZS: 1 GB and 2.5 GB Night Bonus
- 10 000 TZS: 3 GB and 5 GB Night Bonus
- 15 000 TZS: 5 GB and 5 GB Night Bonus
- 20 000 TZS: 20 GB
Staying in Tanzania for a month? Get one of the 5 Internet SUPA 30-day plans:
- 8000 TZS: Unlimited WhatsApp and Instagram
- 10 000 TZS: 2 GB and 6 GB Night Bonus
- 20 000 TZS: 5 GB and 10 GB Night Bonus
- 35 000 TZS: 10 GB and 17 GB Night Bonus
- 50 000 TZS: 20 GB and 30 GB Night Bonus
There are also a handful of Jimwage data packages. I contacted Vodacom to ask what Jimwage stands for. The agent stated that “Jimwage is an internet package that you will be able to browse the internet pages.” That does not explain a lot.
They later told me that Jimwage bundles are for prepaid customers only, whereas Internet SUPA packages are also available to postpaid customers.
The following 6 Jimwage Data bundles are available:
- 500 TZS: 100 MB for 24 hours
- 1000 TZS: 400 MB for 24 hours
- 2000 TZS: 2.5 GB for 24 hours
- 2500 TZS: 1.2 GB for 3 days
- 15 000 TZS: 17 GB for 7 days
- 20 000 TZS: 15 GB for 30 days
There are also Video Bundles. I asked Vodacom what you can do with those bundles, and I was told that “You can watch the latest movies, series, kids shows, and music videos.” That was not helpful at all. I later found out that Video Bundles are for a streaming service called DSTV, which is mainly popular in sub-Sarahan Africa.
FURTHER READ: Looking for other SIM cards in Africa? Check out my Buying a SIM Card in Africa Guide.
Tigo Tanzania, just Tigo, is the second-largest operator in the country. It was the first operator to start with 4G/LTE in Tanzania. Their overall overage is good, but not as great as Vodacom, but Tigo is slightly cheaper than Vodacom and claims to have the fastest 4G/LTE network. 4G/LTE is still being actively rolled out to rural Tanzania.
Tigo SIM cards are sold in 2 variants: 3G SIM cards for 1000 TZS and 4G/LTE SIM cards for 5000 TZS. You can get any Tigo SIM card at Tigo stores.
Tigo has 4 types of packages that include data: Combo Packs, Kinara Packs, internet Packages, and Social Packs. Let’s go through each of them.
Tigo has 6 Combo plans, ranging from 1000 TZS to 20 000 TZS, which can be activated online or on the Tigopesa app:
- 1000 TZS: 350 MB, 20 minutes, and 20 SMS for 24 hours
- 2000 TZS: 1 GB, 120 minutes, and 20 SMS for 24 hours
- 3000 TZS: 2 GB, 120 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 5000 TZS: 2 GB, 350 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 10 000 TZS: 6 GB, 550 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days
- 20 000 TZS, 9 GB, 1500 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days
Then you have the Tigo Kinara Packs. It is not exactly clear what these packs are, except for the fact that it is “a life-style driven service that delivers a superior customer experience, lifestyle benefits and an ex[c]eptional range of product and service offers.” All I do know is that these packs come with a lot of data, and unused data rolls over to the next period, as long as you renew the plan before it expires and that the plan is of the same validity.
If you go from a weekly to a monthly plan or the other way around, then your unused data will not rollover.
The following 4 Tigo Kinara Packs are available, which can be activated by dialing *147*00#:
- 10 000 TZS: 5 GB, 550 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 15 000 TZS: 10 GB, 950 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 30 000 TZS: 21 GB, 2400 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days
- 50 000 TZS: 35 GB, 4000 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days
Now we have Internet Packages that are Tigo’s data-only packs. They are valid for 24 hours, 7 days, or for 30 days. They can be activated by dialing 148*00# or on the Tigopesa app. Let’s have a look.
You can choose from 3 Daily Packages:
- 500 TZS: 100 MB
- 1000 TZS: 400 MB
- 2000 TZS: 2.4 GB
Staying in Tanzania for a week? Choose one of these 4 Weekly Packages:
- 3000 TZS: 2 GB
- 5000 TZS: 4 GB
- 10 000 TZS: 10 GB
- 15 000 TZS: 16 GB
Exploring Tanzania for a month or just need a lot of data? Then these 4 Monthly Packages may be interesting:
- 10 000 TZS: 7 GB
- 20 000 TZS: 16 GB
- 30 000 TZS: 34 GB
- 50 000 TZS: 60 GB
Finally, we have the Social Packs, which are Facebook and WhatsApp packs; WhatsApp and Instagram packs; Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter Packs; and YouTube packs.
The following 3 WhatsApp and Facebook plans are available:
- 1000 TZS: 1 GB for 24 hours
- 2000 TZS: 3 GB for 7 days
- 5000 TZS: 8 GB for 30 days
Need a bundle for WhatsApp and Instagram instead? Get one of these 3 WhatsApp and Instagram plans:
- 1000 TZS: 1 GB for 24 hours
- 2000 TZS: 3 GB for 7 days
- 5000 TZS: 8 GB for 30 days
Need a bundle for Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter? Once again, you have 3 options:
- 1500 TZS: 2 GB for 24 hours
- 3000 TZS: 6 GB for 7 days
- 8000 TZS: 16 GB for 30 days
Finally, you have the 2 YouTube packs:
- 500 TZS: 600 MB for 24 hours
- 1000 TZS: 2 GB for 24 hours
Airtel Tanzania, just Airtel, is the third-largest operator in Tanzania. They have decent coverage, albeit it being worse than Vodacom, but they are cheaper than Vodacom, so they can be considered a budget option. Reports show that Airtel has the best coverage in Northern Tanzania (Ngorongoro and Serengeti), so you should consider Airtel if going to these places.
Airtel SIM cards can be acquired for 2000 TZS in Airtel stores.
Looking for a combo plan? Airtel has 7 Yatosha Janja Lao Combo Bundles:
- 1000 TZS: 350 MB, 30 minutes, and 20 SMS for 1 day
- 2000 TZS: 1 GB, 120 minutes, and 20 SMS for 1 day
- 3000 TZS: 2 GB, 120 minutes, and 100 SMS for 7 days
- 5000 TZS: 4 GB, 400 minutes, and 500 SMS for 7 days
- 10 000 TZS: 6 GB, 550 minutes, and 500 SMS for 30 days
- 20 000 TZS: 15 GB, 1200 minutes, and 1500 SMS for 30 days
- 50 000 TZS: 40 GB, 4000 minutes, and 1500 SMS for 30 days
Airtel also has several Yatosha Janja Lao data plans, ranging from daily plans to monthly plans. These plans can be activated by dialing *149*99# and selection option 5.
Airtel has 4 24-hour plans:
- 200 TZS: 40 MB
- 500 TZS: 150 MB
- 1000 TZS 500 MB
- 2000 TZS: 3 GB
Need a plan for 3 days? Get the 2000 TZS plan that comes with 1.3 GB for 3 days.
Exploring Tanzania for a week? Get one of these 5 weekly plans:
- 1500 TZS: 750 MB
- 3000 TZS: 2.5 GB
- 5000 TZS: 5 GB
- 10 000 TZS: 12 GB
- 15 000 TZS: 20 GB
Staying in Tanzania for a month or just need a lot of data? Then one of these 5 monthly plans are for you:
- 10 000 TZS: 8 GB
- 15 000 TZS: 14 GB
- 20 000 TZS: 22 GB
- 25 000 TZS: 30 GB
- 35 000 TZS: 45 GB
Halotel is another operator in Tanzania. It is owned by a Vietnamese company called Viettel. They have good coverage throughout the country, and 4G/LTE is still being rolled out to many places in Tanzania.
You can buy a Halotel SIM card for 1000 TZS in Halotel stores. Dial *102*01# to see your balance.
Just like all the other operators, Halotel has a bunch of data packages to choose from, which can be activated by dialing *148*66#.
Halotel has 5 Internet Daily bundles:
- 500 TZS: 200 MB
- 1000 TZS: 500 MB
- 1500 TZS: 1 GB
- 2000 TZS: 2 GB
- 3000 TZS: 4 GB
Staying in Tanzania for a week? Get one of these 5 Internet Week bundles:
- 1000 TZS: 300 MB
- 2000 TZS: 800 MB
- 5000 TZS: 2.5 GB
- 10 000 TZS: 6 GB
- 15 000 TZS: 13 GB
Exploring the country for a month or need a lot of data? These 7 Internet Monthly bundles may be for you:
- 5000 TZS: 1.8 GB
- 10 000 TZS: 4 GB
- 20 000 TZS: 9 GB
- 50 000 TZS: 25 GB
- 80 000 TZS: 41 GB
- 100 000 TZS: 55 GB
- 150 000 TZS: 85.9 GB
Zantel is an operator that used to be active in Zanzibar only, a popular Tanzanian island. However, Tigo bought Zantel a few years ago and they will be merging into one company somewhere in 2020. Zantel roams on the Tigo network on mainland Tanzania, so you do not have to worry about no coverage in mainland Tanzania after buying your SIM card in Zanzibar.
You can buy your Zantel SIM card for 1000 TZS in various shops and at Zanzibar airport.
As to be expected, there are many bundles to choose from. You can activate them by dialing *149*15#.
Zantel has 4 daily data bundles to choose from:
- 300 TZS: 60 MB
- 500 TZS: 150 MB
- 1000 TZS: 750 MB
- 2000 TZS: 1.6 GB
Need a data plan that lasts you a week? Get one of the 4 weekly data bundles:
- 3000 TZS: 700 MB
- 5000 TZS: 1.2 GB
- 8000 TZS: 2.5 GB
- 12 000 TZS: 10 GB
Finally, you have 4 monthly data bundles:
- 10 000 TZS: 1.5 GB
- 15 000 TZS: 3 GB
- 25 000 TZS: 7 GB
- 35 000 TZS: 14 GB
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Tanzania
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Tanzania, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Tanzania, but you can also roam with your provider in Tanzania, use an international SIM card in Tanzania, or use a mobile hotspot in Tanzania. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Tanzania
Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.
In the case of Tanzania, there will be many hotspots around, especially in the big cities. They can be slow, though.
Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.
What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription now!
Roaming with Your Provider in Tanzania
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is MTN South Africa, then you would be roaming with MTN South Africa in Tanzania.
Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Tanzania, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.
Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Tanzania, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Tanzania. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.
If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.
One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.
If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Tanzania, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Tanzanian SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Tanzania
International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.
International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.
Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.
Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Tanzania, so you cannot be taken advantage of.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using a Mobile Hotspot in Tanzania
A mobile hotspot is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Tanzania
Getting a SIM card from Vodacom, Tigo, or Airtel would do you well when considering a Tanzanian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Going to other countries in East Africa and Southeast Africa? Check out my East Africa and Southeast Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other (South)East African nations, such as Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eswatini (Swaziland) Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Réunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
What about other places in Africa? My Africa SIM card buying guide covers all African destinations, such as Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Tunisia.
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Tanzania
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Tanzania. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Tanzania drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Tanzania
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Tanzania. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Tanzanian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Tanzania
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Tanzania, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Tanzanian Shilling for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!