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
All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
Which of these Zimbabwean operators have the best prepaid SIM card and prepaid offerings?
Best SIM Card in Zimbabwe
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.
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, 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
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 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
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
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
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 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#
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.
There is 1 Hourly bundle. It costs 25 RTGS and comes with 1 GB for 1 hour.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries
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