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Cell Phone Recommendations in SA

Old Jul 15th, 2010, 06:34 AM
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Cell Phone Recommendations in SA

Hello ...

Can someone provide a summary or recommendation of cell phone options to use while in South Africa? I use AT&T wireless in the U.S. but don't currently have an international plan. I'm clueless in terms of carriers or cost to be connected for phone and/or text in SA. Maybe a disposable? Does coverage depend on the region?

Thanks ...
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 06:46 AM
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First thing to check is if your current mobile phone is "unlocked" - if it is that means you can buy a local SIM card in SA countries and use it in your existing handset.

If you bought it from AT&T on a plan it probably is locked (which means it can't accept a different carrier's SIM card). But there are many cheap ways to unlock a phone - just google the brand/model of your phone and "unlock" and your city and many options will pop up.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 06:49 AM
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Oops - sorry forgot to add - I bought a prepaid Vodacom SIM card for 3 weeks in South Africa - it was dirt cheap - $10 for the SIM and 30 minutes of calling. I never needed to top it up the whole time.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 06:52 AM
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If you have an unlocked quad-band phone, it's cheap and easy to buy a SA sim card for your existing phone. At the airport, there are several companies that sell these sim cards -- Vodaphone and MTN are two that come to mind. I think we used Vodaphone on our last trip, but it might have been MTN. The sim card costs about R200, which is around $28, and has some minutes on it; I don't remember how many. If you need more during the trip, you can top it up at any Vodaphone or MTN store. This is lots cheaper than getting an international plan from AT&T, and a whole lot less hassle too.

All this assumes that you have an unlocked quad-band phone. AT&T will be able to tell you whether you do have that and if so, they may let you unlock it. (The cell phone service companies would rather you buy their expensive international plans, but if you're a long-time customer, they'll let you unlock your phone.)

I've heard, but don't know of my own knowledge, that you can buy unlocked phones on Ebay.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 06:53 AM
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Oh, Elizabeth and I were responding at the same time -- sorry for the duplication.
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 07:04 AM
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Duplication is much better than no one responding - thank you! I assume the minutes you've mentioned are not just minutes for local calling within SA but to the U.S. as well?
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 08:19 AM
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My minutes were local and international but it's a good idea to specify that when you buy the SIM card - also ask them how to place an international call.

One other thing - incoming calls are free so your relatives can call you (although they will pay more to dial a mobile number than a landline).
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Old Jul 15th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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How often do you think you'll use your phone while there? If you don't plan on using it much, you may want to call AT&T to see if your existing phone will work in South Africa. If it works there, I don't think you need to get an international plan. I've used my phone there for 1-2 calls to the U.S. without an international plan and I was still able to call. Currently, it costs $2.49 per minute for international roaming in South Africa through AT&T, and the international plan reduces that to $1.69 per minute.

I think getting an unlocked phone and buying a SIM card there is cheaper if you plan on making lots of calls. I didn't know that one could call the U.S. with those SIM cards.

I typically bring my locked AT&T phone with me on vacations in order to receive and make emergency calls. I want people at home to be able to call me easily, using the phone number they always use, if something bad happens at home. I've also brought an additional unlocked phone with me so that I can use local SIM cards. It's kind of a pain to have 2 phones to keep track of all of the time, but I don't really want to swap out SIM cards from an unlocked phone all of the time. I suppose I could eventually get one of those dual-SIM phones that I hear are out there, at least in some parts of Africa.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 03:29 AM
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We were in Cape Town January-March, and I bought a SIM for my phone and for our computer hook up. They used to be available in supermarkets, but now that security has been increased, most supermarkets dont seem to handle them. The registration process probably takes too long to make it profitable for them to sell SIM cards at 29Rand, which they used to.

However, I got mine at a cellphone dealer who did the registration process - you will need your passport and details on where you are staying - and he charged only 20 Rand.

So if your phone is unlocked, a SIM card is cheap, and then you just need to buy time - this is available at any supermarket, and virtually every other kind of shop,

Even it it's not unlocked, buying a phone and card is still very cheap.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 08:07 AM
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Besides the technicalities you can higher both a sim and sim/phone at all int. airports from MNT or Cell C.
A bit of paperwork but generally speaking a very easy process.
You pay a deposit by credit card and get the invoice about the airtime later.

We do it all the time and never had a problem.

MAKE SURE YOU ALSO GET THE P U K IN ORDER TO UNLOCK IF NEEDED!

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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 10:52 AM
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I have an international Blackberry through Verizon. Calls are quite expensive to/from Africa, but text messages were only 50 cents... perhaps an alternative with your AT&T phone?
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 11:48 AM
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Sorry for the typo:
...you can HIRE both sim and sim/phone

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