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3 Best Prepaid SIM Cards in Zambia: Buying Guide

Zambia is a hidden gem in Africa. Although its neighbours Botswana and South Africa are popular for their safaris, Zambia has majestic safaris as well, especially Kafue National Park. Some even claim that Zambia has the best safaris, but that is subjective.

Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, has the Lusaka City Market, which you have to visit, the same counts for the national museum. Livingstone is close to the Victoria Falls and is popular for adventure sports. And Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake. There is no reason to be bored in Zambia.

What also will not bore you is dealing with an expensive roaming bill you get from roaming with your provider in Zambia. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, like a Zambian one.

Mobile data is cheap in Zambia for African standards, and especially compared to the world average, so you should take advantage of it.

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

Telecom Providers in Zambia

There are 3 telecom providers in Zambia:

  • MTN Zambia
  • Airtel Zambia
  • Zamtel

All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.

Best SIM Card in Zambia

If you want to buy a SIM card in Zambia, I would recommend going with either MTN or Airtel. MTN has the best coverage and the fastest speeds throughout the country, but they are the most expensive. Airtel’s coverage is slightly worse than the one of MTN, but they are cheaper than MTN.

Like most countries in East Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register yourself when buying a SIM card in Zambia. Additionally, fingerprints will be taken as of 2020.

Be aware that Zambia has a VoIP tax, which applies to voice and video calls with apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Facebook Messenger, etc. You will be charged 0.30 ZMK ($0.015) per day when using VoIP services.

With that being said, let’s see what Zambia has to offer to us.

MTN Zambia

MTN Logo

MTN Zambia, just MTN, is the largest operator in Zambia. With a market share of more than 40%, the fastest speeds, and having the best coverage, MTN is popular by Zambians. However, Airtel Zambia is a close second.

MTN SIM cards are sold for 5 ZMK in MTN Connect stores. You can also get your MTN SIM card at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka Airport). Top-up vouchers are sold everywhere. To top-up, dial *113*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *113*123456#. Dial *144# to check your MTN balance.

MTN offers several plans that feature data, which are:

  • MTN Spaka Bundles
  • MTN Freedom Bundles
  • MTN Internet Bundles

Let’s go through each of them.

MTN Spaka Bundles

Spaka Bundles are combo plans that come with data, on-net minutes, SMS, and, for some plans, a nighttime call balance for calls between 12 AM and 5 AM. There are 16 Spaka Bundles, split into daily, weekly, and monthly bundles. All Spaka Bundles can be activated by dialing *122#.

Spaka Daily Bundles

The following 5 Daily Spaka bundles are available:

  • 2 ZMK: 10 MB, 11 on-net minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 3 ZMK: 15 MB, 20 on-net minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 5 ZMK: 25 MB, 35 on-net minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 25 MB, 75 on-net minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 50 MB, 120 on-net minutes, and 200 SMS
Spaka Weekly Bundles

The following 6 Weekly Spaka bundles are available:

  • 5 ZMK: 25 MB, 25 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 50 MB, 60 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 100 MB, 95 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 25 ZMK: 100 MB, 184 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 400 SMS
  • 45 ZMK: 150 MB, 281 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 400 SMS
  • 75 ZMK: 150 MB, 480 on-et minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 400 SMS
Spaka Monthly Bundles

The following 5 Monthly Spaka bundles are available:

  • 60 ZMK: 250 MB, 465 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 1000 SMS
  • 100 ZMK: 512 MB, 690 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 1000 SMS
  • 150 ZMK: 512 MB, 1005 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 1000 SMS
  • 200 ZMK: 1 GB, 1392 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 1000 SMS
  • 500 ZMK: 1 GB, 3822 on-net minutes, 120 night calling minutes, and 1000 SMS

MTN Freedom Bundles

Freedom Bundles are data-only bundles that do not expire, meaning that you can use your data as long as your SIM card is valid. Do note that, compared to the Internet Bundles, Freedom Bundles are expensive. There are 9 Freedom Bundles, which can be activated by dialing *335# or *111# (both codes are valid):

  • 45 ZMK: 500 MB
  • 90 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 130 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 410 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 820 ZMK: 12 GB
  • 1650 ZMK: 25 GB
  • 2300 ZMK: 35 GB
  • 3200 ZMK: 50 GB
  • 6000 ZMK: 100 GB

MTN Internet Bundles

Internet Bundles are data-only bundles that are, compared to the Freedom Bundles, do have an expiry but are cheaper. There are Standard Bundles, Extended Validity Bundles, and Night & Weekend Bundles. All of these plans will be listed below, and they all can be activated by dialing *335#:

MTN Hourly Internet Bundle

MTH has an Hourly Internet Bundle, which is sold for 0.55 ZMK and comes with 5 MB for 1 hour.

MTN Night Internet Bundles

There are 3 Night Internet Bundles available, which are valid between 12 AM and 5 AM:

  • 7.69 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 23.63 ZMK: 4.5 GB
  • 41 ZMK: 5 GB
MTN Daily Internet Bundles

Need internet for a day? Consider one of these 6 Daily Internet bundles:

  • 2 ZMK: 20 MB
  • 3 ZMK: 60 MB
  • 5 ZMK: 200 MB
  • 7 ZMK: 350 MB
  • 10 ZMK: 700 MB
  • 25 ZMK: 2 GB
MTN Sunday Internet Bundles

In search of an Internet Bundle that is valid for a Sunday? You have these 2 options:

  • 25 ZMK: 2 GB
  • 40 ZMK: 4 GB
MTN Weekend Internet Bundle

Need a lot of data for a weekend? MTN has a Weekend Internet Bundle that comes with 4.5 GB for a weekend for 61.5 ZMK.

MTN Weekly Internet Bundles

Staying in Zambia for a week? MTN has 4 Weekly Internet Bundles:

  • 25 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 50 ZMK: 2.5 GB
  • 100 ZMK: 6 GB
  • 150 ZMK: 10 GB
MTN Monthly Internet Bundles

Exploring Zambia for a month? You have these 4 MTN Monthly Internet Bundles:

  • 50 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 100 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 200 ZMK: 12 GB
  • 400 ZMK: 25 GB
MTN 60 Days Internet Bundles:

Need data for 2 months? MTN has 3 60-Days Internet Bundles:

  • 700 ZMK: 35 GB
  • 900 ZMK: 50 GB
  • 1500 ZMK: 100 GB
MTN 3 Months Internet Bundles

There are 8 3-Months Internet Bundles available:

  • 55 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 75 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 150 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 300 ZMK: 12 GB
  • 600 ZMK: 25 GB
  • 1050 ZMK: 35 GB
  • 1450 ZMK: 50 GB
  • 2250 ZMK: 100 GB
MTN 6 Months Internet Bundles

There are 8 6-Months Internet Bundles available:

  • 70 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 100 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 200 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 400 ZMK: 12 GB
  • 800 ZMK: 25 GB
  • 1400 ZMK: 35 GB
  • 1800 ZMK: 50 GB
  • 3000 ZMK: 100 GB
MTN 12 Months Internet Bundles

There are 8 12-Months Internet Bundles available:

  • 140 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 200 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 400 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 800 ZMK: 12 GB
  • 1600 ZMK: 25 GB
  • 2800 ZMK: 35 GB
  • 3600 ZMK: 50 GB
  • 6000 ZMK: 100 GB

Airtel Zambia

Airtel Logo

Airtel Zambia, just Airtel, is MTN’s largest rival. Airtel has a market share of around 40%, which means that they are closely behind MTN. Airtel’s coverage is good, but not as good as the one of MTN. However, Airtel can be much cheaper than MTN.  

Airtel SIM cards are sold for 5 ZMK in Airtel stores. They also have a booth at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka Airport). Recharge cards are sold everywhere. To top-up, dial *113*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *113*123456#. Dial *114# to check your Airtel balance.

Airtel has a combo plan called Chaopena Na So Che, which includes data, minutes, and SMS. They come in daily, weekly, and monthly variants. Be aware that there is a distinction between on-net minutes packs (Airtel to Airtel Packs) and off-net minutes packs (All Networks Packs). The Airtel to Airtel Packs are cheaper than the All Networks Packs.

First, I will list the Airtel to Airtel Packs, then the All Networks Packs. All Chaopena Na So Che plans can be activated by dialing *140#, and you can check your Chaopena Na So Che balance by dialing *140*14#:

Chaopena Na So Che Daily Airtel to Airtel Packs

There are 5 Daily Airtel to Airtel Packs to choose from, but only 4 of them include data:

  • 3 ZMK: 15 MB, 20 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 5 ZMK: 25 MB, 35 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 50 MB, 75 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 50 MB, 120 minutes, and 200 SMS

Chaopena Na So Che Weekly Airtel to Airtel Packs

The weekly Airtel to Airtel variant has 3 options, but only 2 of them include data:

  • 10 ZMK: 75 MB, 60 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 20 ZMK: 200 MB, 20 minutes, and 500 SMS

Chaopena Na So Che Monthly Airtel to Airtel Packs

There are 3 monthly Airtel to Airtel Packs to select from:

  • 50 ZMK: 250 MB, 300 minutes, and 500 SMS
  • 100 ZMK: 1 GB, 800 minutes, and 1000 SMS
  • 200 ZMK: 3 GB, 2000 minutes, and 2000 SMS

Chaopena Na So Che Daily All Networks Packs

There are 6 Daily All Networks Packs to choose from, but only 5 of them include data:

  • 4 ZMK: 15 MB, 15 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 5 ZMK: 25 MB, 21 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 6 ZMK: 25 MB, 26 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 50 MB, 45 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 50 MB, 70 minutes, and 100 SMS

Chaopena Na So Che Weekly All Networks Packs

The weekly All Networks variant has 6 options, but only 5 of them include data:

  • 10 ZMK: 50 MB, 35 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 100 MB, 55 minutes, and 100 SMS
  • 30 ZKK: 150 MB, 120 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 50 ZMK: 210 MB, 150 minutes, and 200 SMS
  • 75 ZMK: 150 MB, 328 minutes, and 200 SMS

Chaopena Na So Che Monthly All Networks Packs

There are 5 monthly All Networks Packs to select from:

  • 100 ZMK: 250 MB, 450 minutes, and 500 SMS
  • 150 ZMK: 250 MB, 725 minutes, and 500 SMS
  • 200 ZMK: 250 MB, 1000 minutes, and 500 SMS
  • 360 ZMK: 250 MB, 1900 minutes, and 500 SMS
  • 500 ZMK: 250 MB, 2800 minutes, and 500 SMS

Zamtel

Zamtel Logo

Zamtel is the smallest operator in Zambia and is government-owned. They also have the worst coverage throughout Zambia. Locals informed me that dealing with Zamtel agents can unpleasant and that the network quality is OK. However, they can be a cheap option for those staying in the cities, but they are not recommended for those going to rural Zambia.

Zamtel SIM cards are sold for 5 ZMK in Zamtel stores. Top-up vouchers can be purchased there too. Dial *113# to check your Zamtel balance.

Zamtel has several plans that come with data:

  • Zamtel Chabeba Offers (on-net)
  • Zamtel All Networks Offers
  • Zamtel Mobile Internet
  • Zamtel Social Packs
  • Zamtel LTE Packages

Even though the social packs offer implies that these are social media packs, they come with regular data, unlimited WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook, on-net minutes, and on-net SMS.

Let’s go through each plan.

Zamtel Chabeba Offers

The Chabebe Offers are combo plans that come with data and minutes and SMS for on-net use only. Moreover, all plans come with Free Night Calling, which allows you to make unlimited on-net calls between 12 AM and 5 PM.

Chabeba Offers are sold in midnight, daily, weekly, and monthly variants. The midnight offers do not come with data and will not be listed. All Chabeba Offers can be activated by dialing *422# and select option 1. Dial *422# and choose option 5 to see your Chebaba Offer balance.

Chabeba Daily (24 Hours) Offers

There are 7 Chebaba Daily Offers to choose from:

  • 1 ZMK: 10 MB and 8 minutes
  • 2 ZMK: 25 MB, 12 SMS, and 600 SMS
  • 3 ZMK: 30 MB, 25 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 4 ZMK: 50 MB, 30 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 5 ZMK: 105 MB, 37 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 105 MB, 80 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 15 ZMK:  105 MB, 125 minutes, and 1200 SMS
Chabeba Weekly Offers

There are 6 Chebaba Weekly Offers to choose from:

  • 5 ZMK: 150 MB, 27 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 200 MB, 65 minutes, and 1200 SMS
  • 15 ZMK: 250 MB, 100 minutes, and 3600 SMS
  • 30 ZMK: 500 MB, 225 minutes, and 3600 SMS
  • 50 ZMK: 500 MB, 380 minutes, and 3600 SMS
  • 75 ZMK: 500 MB, 485 minutes, and 3600 SMS
Chabeba Monthly Offers

There are 6 Chebaba Monthly Offers to choose from:

  • 65 ZMK: 1 GB, 450 minutes, and 3600 SMS
  • 100 ZMK: 1.2 GB, 700 minutes, and 5500 SMS
  • 110 ZMK: 1.2 GB, 765 minutes, and 5500 SMS
  • 160 ZMK: 1.2 GB, 1120 minutes, and 5500 SMS
  • 210 ZMK: 2.2 GB, 1520 minutes, and 5500 SMS
  • 400 ZMK:  2.2 GB, 3110 minutes, and 5500 SMS

Zamtel All Networks Offers

The All Networks Offers come with data, minutes for all networks, on-net SMS, and all-net SMS. These offers come in daily, weekly, and monthly variants. All Networks Offers can be activated by dialing *422#. These offers auto-renew.  Dial *422# and select option 4 to unsubscribe from an All Networks offer:

All Networks Daily Offers

There are 5 Daily All Network Offers to choose from:

  • 1 ZMK: 5 MB, 4 minutes, and 500 on-net SMS
  • 2 ZMK: 30 MB, 9 minutes, and 500 on-net SMS
  • 4 ZMK: 50 MB, 17 minutes, and 500 on-net SMS
  • 5 ZMK: 75 MB, 24 minutes, and 1000 on-net SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 80 MB, 48 minutes, and 1000 on-net SMS
All Networks Weekly Offers

There are 5 Weekly All Network Offers to choose from:

  • 5 ZMK: 100 MB, 20 minutes, 1000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 10 ZMK: 175 MB, 40 minutes, 3000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 20 ZMK: 225 MB, 102 minutes, 3000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 30 ZMK: 350 MB, 130 minutes, 3000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 50 ZMK: 350 MB, 212 minutes, 3000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
All Networks Monthly Offers

There are 5 Weekly All Network Offers to choose from:

  • 50 ZMK: 500 MB, 200 minutes, 3000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 75 ZMK: 500 MB, 300 minutes, 3600 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 100 ZMK: 700 MB, 460 minutes, 5000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 200 ZMK: 700 MB, 1010 minutes, 5000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS
  • 500 ZMK: 700 MB, 2810 minutes, 5000 on-net SMS, and 10 all-net SMS

Zamtel Mobile Internet

The Mobile plans are simple data-only plans. They are sold in nightly, daily, weekly, monthly, 2-months, and 3-months variants. Dial *355# to activate a Mobile Internet plan.

Mobile Internet – Night

There are 3 Mobile Internet plans that can be used between 10:30 PM and 5:30 AM:

  • 4.61 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 9.23 ZMK: 2 GB
  • 36.9 ZMK: 5 GB
Mobile Internet – Day

There are 6 Daily Mobile Internet plans to choose from, which are valid for 24 hours:

  • 1 ZMK: 50 MB
  • 2 ZMK: 100 MB
  • 3 ZMK: 300 MB
  • 5 ZMK: 500 MB
  • 7 ZMK: 1 GB
  • 15 ZMK: 2 GB
Mobile Internet – Week

There are 5 Weekly Mobile Internet plans to choose from:

  • 5 ZMK: 500 MB
  • 10 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 25 ZMK: 2.5 GB
  • 70 ZMK: 6 GB
  • 105 ZMK: 10 GB
Mobile Internet – Month

There are 3 Monthly Mobile Internet plans to choose from:

  • 35 ZMK: 1.5 GB
  • 100 ZMK: 5 GB
  • 175 ZMK: 10 GB
Mobile Internet – 2 Months

There is 1 2-Months Mobile Internet plan that costs 350 ZMK and comes with 10 GB.

Mobile Internet – 3 Months

There is 1 3-Months Mobile Internet plan that costs 1050 ZMK and comes with 20 GB.

Zamtel Social Packs

The social packs come with data, on-net minutes, and on-net SMS. Additionally, you get unlimited WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook with these packs. The Social Packs can be activated by dialing *422# and *355#. Check your Social Pack balance by dialing *422# and selecting option 5 or dialing *355# and selecting option 4:

  • 5 ZMK: 75 MB, 40 on-net minutes, and 100 on-net SMS for 24 hours
  • 7 ZMK: 75 MB, 70 on-net minutes, and 100 on-net SMS for 24 hours
  • 10 ZMK: 100 MB, 95 on-net minutes, and 150 on-net SMS for 24 hours
  • 32 ZMK: 150 MB, 230 on-net minutes, and 500 on-net SMS for 7 days
  • 42 ZMK: 200 MB, 300 on-net minutes, and 500 on-net SMS for 7 days
  • 60 ZMK: 300 MB, 390 on-net minutes, and 500 on-net SMS for 7 days
  • 120 ZMK: 500 MB, 750 on-net minutes, and 1000 on-net SMS for 30 days
  • 168 ZMK: 500 MB, 950 on-net minutes, and 1000 on-net SMS for 30 days
  • 240 ZMK: 500 MB, 1600 on-net minutes, and 1000 on-net SMS for 30 days

Zamtel LTE Packages

Finally, you have the Zamtel LTE Bundle offer, which can only be used on Zamtel’s 4.5G network (on 2300 MHz (Band 40)). Each package comes with unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, and Twitter. However, the larger the data allowance, the more apps are included for unlimited data. All LTE packages are valid for 30 days.

  • 100 ZMK: 6 GB and unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Twitter
  • 250 ZMK: 15 GB and unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Twitter, and WhatsApp
  • 450 ZMK: 32 GB and unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat
  • 600 ZMK: 50 GB and unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix
  • 900 ZMK: 100 GB and unlimited Facebook, Pinterest, Wikipedia, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Zambia

Being redone.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Zambia

Getting a SIM card from MTN or Airtel would do you well when considering a Zambian 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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