Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Zimbabwe Guide

Logos of Telecom Providers in Zimbabwe: Econet, Telecel Zimbabwe, and NetOne

Zimbabwe is known for its infamous currency that has bills in trillion dollar denominations. That is not something you see every day. But for what else is the country known?

Zimbabwe has the famous Victoria Falls. You can also visit the Hwange National Park or the Mana Pools National Parks. You will find plenty of elephants in both parks. Head to Lake Kariba if you want to see the world's largest human-made lake. And Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, is just beautiful.

You should share your Zimbabwe experiences online, but you know that roaming with your provider may not be the smartest option. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, like a Zimbabwean one.

Mobile data is expensive in Zimbabwe for African standards, but it is still fairly affordable for those coming from countries where mobile data is even more expenisve.

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

Telecom Providers in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has 3 telecom providers:

  • Econet Wireless (Zimbabwe)
  • NetOne Cellular
  • Telecel

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

Which of these Zimbabwean operators have the best prepaid SIM card and prepaid offerings?

If you want to buy a SIM card in Zimbabwe, then Econet and NetOne have the best prepaid offering. Econet has the best coverage and speeds throughout Zimbabwe, but they are the most expensive operator. NetOne’s coverage is good, but not on par with Econet and their speeds are slower, but they are cheaper than Econet.

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Like most countries in Southern Africa, and Africa in general, you have to register your SIM card before you can use it.

Mobile data in Zimbabwe is expensive for African standards. However, it can still be affordable, depending on where you are from and are used to.

You probably have heard stories of the Zimbabwean dollars. From 2016 to 2019, the US Dollar was the main currency in the country, and the South African Rand (ZAR) was used a lot too. However, both currencies were effectively banned in 2019, and Zimbabwe introduced the Real Time Gross Settlement RTGS – the new local currency.

There is not much known about the new currency in terms of exchange rates. Initially, it was aimed to be 1 RTGS = 0.40 USD. However, that failed. It seems to be that 1 USD is 25 RTGS, and inflation is rampant in Zimbabwe again.

Reports show that many stores, especially in touristy areas, still accept USD. However, I am not sure if operators take USD because they are officially banned. Even then, RTGS is listed as $. Try not to confuse it with USD, as you would be overpaying if you did.

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

Econet Zimbabwe

Econet Wireless Logo

Econet Zimbabwe, just Econet, is the largest operator in Zimbabwe. They have a market share of more than 60%, have the best coverage, and the fastest speeds. Econet is, however, the most expensive operator in the country, and they even increased their prices in May 2020.

Econet SIM cards can be bought for 5 USD in Econet stores. It is also available at Harare Airport (Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport) for the same price, so you could buy it there too. Top-up cards are widely available. To top-up, dial *121*VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *121*123456#.

Econet has several data bundles:

  • Daily data bundles
  • Weekly data bundles
  • Monthly data bundles
  • Social Media Bouquets
  • Sasai Bouquets

There is also something called Private WIFI bundles. It is, or was, a popular data bundle, but Econet hiked the price of Private WIFI bundles by 225%. Now, you will pay a whopping 1300 RTGS for 25 GB (and 2000 RTGS for 50 GB).

Let’s go through each of these plans. All Econet data bundles can be activated by dialing *143#. The same USSD code is used to check your balance.

Daily Data Bundles

The daily data bundles are valid for 24 hours. The following 7 daily data bundles are available:

  • 5.5 RTGS: 20 MB
  • 11 RTGS: 40 MB
  • 20 RTGS: 80 MB
  • 37 RTGS: 150 MB
  • 60 RTGS: 250 MB
  • 80 RTGS: 600 MB
  • 130 RTGS: 1200 MB

Weekly Data Bundles

The following 6 weekly data bundles can be purchased:

  • 5.5 RTGS: 20 MB
  • 15 RTGS: 60 MB
  • 33 RTGS: 160 MB
  • 55 RTGS: 250 MB
  • 70 RTGS: 370 MB
  • 152 RTGS: 700 MB

Monthly Data Bundles

There are 7 monthly data bundles to choose from:

  • 28 RTGS: 100 MB
  • 75 RTGS: 270 MB
  • 135 RTGS: 500 MB
  • 175 RTGS: 700 MB
  • 340 RTGS: 1400 MB
  • 500 RTGS: 250 MB
  • 600 RTGS: 3200 MB

Social Media Bouquets

The Social Media Bouquets are data bundles for specific social media apps. There are sold in daily, weekly, and monthly variants.

Daily Social Media Bouquets

Daily Social Media Bouquets are valid for 24 hours. The following 8 Daily Social Media Bouquets are available:

  • 1 RTGS: 4 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 3.5 RTGS: 12 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 4 RTGS: 20 MB for Instagram
  • 4 RTGS: 20 MB for Twitter and LinkedIn
  • 5.5 RTGS: 20 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 5.5 RTGS: 20 MB for Facebook and Snapchat  
  • 9 RTGS: 45 MB for Instagram
  • 11 RTGS: 45 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
Weekly Social Media Bouquets

There are 5 Weekly Social Media Bouquets to choose from:

  • 13 RTGS: 65 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 25 RTGS: 140 MB for Instagram
  • 25 RTGS: 140 MB for Twitter and LinkedIn
  • 30 RTGS: 140 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 30 RTGS: 140 MB for Facebook and Snapchat
Monthly Social Media Bouquets

There are 5 monthly variants of Social Media Bouquets:

  • 55 RTGS: 240 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 65 RTGS: 400 MB for Instagram
  • 65 RTGS: 400 MB for Twitter and LinkedIn
  • 85 RTGS: 400 MB for WhatsApp and Pinterest
  • 85 RTGS: 400 MB for Facebook and Snapchat

Sasai Bouquets

There are 6 Sasai Bouquets. If I understand it correctly, these bouquets are another type of social media bundles, although the apps are not specified. If I am not correct, please correct me, as nothing relevant can be found about these bundles:

  • 1.25 RTGS: 20 MB for 24 hours
  • 5 RTGS: 45 MB for 24 hours
  • 6 RTGS: 65 MB for 7 days
  • 14 RTGS: 140 MB for 7 days
  • 25 RTGS: 220 MB for 30 days
  • 35 RTGS: 450 MB for 30 days

NetOne

NetOne Logo

NetOne was the first operator to operate in Zimbabwe and are now the second-largest operator in the country. Their coverage is worse than the one of Econet. Additionally, they are slower than the market leader, and the network reliability can be questionable at times. However, they are cheaper than Econet.

Just a few days after Econet increased their prices in May 2020, NetOne increased their prices between 12% and 100%, depending on the bundle.

NetOne SIM cards are sold in NetOne stores. Top-up cards can be found everywhere. Street vendors sell them too.

NetOne has 1 combo plan and 3 data-only bundles:

  • OneFusion Bundles
  • General Data Bundles
  • One-Fi Bundles
  • Social Media Bundles

Let’s go through each of them. Be aware that all OneNet plans can be activated by dialing *171#

OneFusion Bundles

The OneFusion bundles are OneNet’s combo plans that come with data, minutes, and SMS. The OneFusion bundles come in 3 variants and are all valid for 30 days:

  • 80 RTGS: 180 MB, 90 MB for WhatsApp, 15 on-net minutes, 5 off-net minutes, and 5 SMS
  • 160 RTGS: 400 MB, 160 MB for WhatsApp, 25 on-net minutes, 10 off-net minutes, and 25 SMS
  • 330 RTGS: 1 GB, 360 MB for WhatsApp, 80 on-net minutes, 60 off-net minutes, 5 international minutes, and 30 SMS

General Data Bundles

The General Data Bundles will last you anywhere between an hour to 30 days.

Hourly Bundle

There is 1 Hourly bundle. It costs 25 RTGS and comes with 1 GB for 1 hour.

Daily Bundle

There are 6 Daily Bundles to choose from, which are all valid for 24 hours:

  • 8 RTGS: 30 MB
  • 15 RTGS: 80 MB
  • 30 RTGS: 200 MB
  • 60 RTGS: 480 MB
  • 80 RTGS: 960 MB
  • 100 RTGS: 1200 MB
Weekly Bundle

OneNet has 6 weekly bundles:

  • 7.50 RTGS: 28 MB
  • 15 RTGS: 60 MB
  • 40 RTGS: 160 MB
  • 75 RTGS: 350 MB
  • 150 RTGS: 700 MB
  • 500 RTGS: 5000 MB
Monthly Bundle

Those in need of a bundle that lasts you a month have 5 options:

  • 50 RTGS: 200 MB
  • 100 RTGS: 450 MB
  • 250 RTGS: 1500 MB
  • 500 RTGS: 3500 MB
  • 1000 RTGS: 8000 MB  

One-Fi Bundles

The One-Fi Bundles are data-bundles that come with a lot of data for 30 days. You have 3 options:

  • 650 RTGS: 25 GB
  • 1250 RTGS: 50 GB
  • 1500 RTGS: 80 GB

Social Media Bundles

The Social Media Bundles can be used for WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are 6 Social Media Bundles:

  • 5 RTGS: 20 MB for 24 hours
  • 10 RTGS: 50 MB for 24 hours
  • 15 RTGS: 70 MB for 7 days
  • 30 RTGS: 150 MB for 7 days
  • 55 RTGS: 300 MB for 30 days
  • 100 RTGS: 600 MB for 30 days
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Telecel

Telecel Zimbabwe Logo

Telecel is the smallest operator in Zimbabwe. They have a history of being unprofitable. Additionally, the operator has been losing customers for years, and there is a high probability that the network will shut down eventually or be merged with NetOne.

You can get a Telecel SIM card in Telecel stores. Top-up cards are sold everywhere throughout Zimbabwe.

Telecel data packages are called Telecel Go Bundles. They come in daily, weekly, and monthly variants. All Telecel Go Bundles can be activated by dialing *480#.

Daily Telecel Go Bundles

There are 7 daily bundles, which are all valid for 24 hours:

  • 6 RTGS: 25 MB
  • 10 RTGS: 50 MB
  • 15 RTGS: 100 MB
  • 40 RTGS: 350 MB
  • 60 RTGS: 600 MB
  • 100 RTGS: 1400 MB 

Weekly Telecel Go Bundles

5 weekly bundles are available:

  • 6 RTGS: 30 MB
  • 12 RTGS: 65 MB
  • 30 RTGS: 160 MB
  • 60 RTGS: 350 MB
  • 120 RTGS: 750 MB

Monthly Telecel Go Bundles  

Those who need data for 30 days can take advantage of these 6 monthly bundles:

  • 50 RTGS: 220 MB
  • 130 RTGS: 600 MB
  • 170 RTGS: 960 MB
  • 270 RTGS: 1760 MB
  • 500 RTGS: 3600 MB
  • 6000 RTGS: 4500 MB

Telecel Broadband Plus

There is also something called Broadband Plus, which are monthly data bundles. There are 5 of these bundles, which can be activated by dialing *470#:

  • 20 RTGS: 220 MB
  • 45 RTGS: 500 MB
  • 75 RTGS: 850 MB
  • 150 RTGS: 2100 MB
  • 200 RTGS: 3100 MB

Social Media Bundles

Telecel has social media bundles for WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. Do note that these bundles are valid for each app individually, not for the 3 apps combined. The data allowances, validity, and prices for these bundles are the same, regardless of the app bundle you choose. There are 6 variants (or 18 in total if counting the bundles for each app individually), which can be activated by dialing *480#:

  • 4 RTGS: 20 MB for 24 hours
  • 10 RTGS: 50 MB for 24 hours
  • 12 RTGS: 70 MB for 7 days
  • 25 RTGS: 160 MB for 7 days
  • 40 RTGS: 260 MB for 30 days
  • 70 RTGS: 500 MB for 30 days

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Zimbabwe

Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Zimbabwe, 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 Zimbabwe, but you can also roam with your provider in Zimbabwe, use an international SIM card in Zimbabwe, or use a mobile hotspot in Zimbabwe. Let’s see what our options are.

Using Free WIFI hotspots in Zimbabwe

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 Zimbabwe, you will not find many open hotspots.

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 Zimbabwe

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 Vodafone Malta, then you would be roaming with Vodafone Malta in Zimbabwe.

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 Zimbabwe, 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. Wondering why roaming charges are so high? The answer is surprising. Find out now!

Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Zimbabwe, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Zimbabwe. 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 Zimbabwe, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Zimbabean SIM card. How does international roaming on planes work? Find out today!

Using an International SIM Card in Zimbabwe

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.

Surfroam Banner

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 Zimbabwe, 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 Zimbabwe

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.

Skyroam Banner

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 Zimbabwe

Getting a SIM card from Econet or NetOne would do you well when considering a Zimbabwean SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

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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.

Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries

Going to other countries in Southern Africa? Check out my Southern Africa SIM card buying guide, covering other Southern African nations, such as:

Be sure to check out this guide covering all African countries, such as these popular African travel destinations:

Otherwise, I have many guides covering countries all over the world. Get my SIM card recommendation sheet by signing up for my newsletter!

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 Zimbabwe

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 Zimbabwe. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Zimbabwe drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Zimbabwe

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 Zimbabwe. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Zimbabwean hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Zimbabwe

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 Zimbabwe, 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 US Dollars 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.

Transferwise Banner

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia.

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