Communication while in South Africa
Our tree house lodge enjoys comparatively strong cell phone coverage from two local carriers: Vodaphone and MTN. The signal is usually 3G while in Johannesburg you may get 4G.
Local SIMM cards for tourists have become easier to obtain: there are several vendors at the JNB airport where guests can pick up a phone and/or local Simm card for use while on safari.
Manage your expectations: Outside of Johannesburg, the coverage will be spotty and vary by time of day or weather. There will be many dead spots such as the whole of Kruger Park. There will be times when you will not be able to connect, perhaps for most of the day.
Make sure you contact your phone carrier to get a global plan before travel and follow instructions about setting for roaming etc on your phone. Not all phones are capable of picking up signals outside of the US and Canada so please check this too.
South Africa Networks are GSM networks. Many cell phones are using CMDA networks; their carriers are Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular. A smaller number of service providers are on the GSM standard: Tmobile and At&T.
An advantage of a GSM network is that changing carriers is as easy as buying a new SIM card for their device. This makes them great for international travelers. If your phone is GSM or operates on both networks, you can get a local or international SIMM card with pay as you go service.
Check that your phone is compatible with the networks in Africa – almost all of which operates GSM digital networks running at a frequency of 900mhz and some 3G networks.
A few phones sold in North America operate on both networks.
You may also have to “unlock” your phone to be able to switch cards
- Check that you phone will be able to work in South Africa, then sign up for your carrier’s international plan
- Get a local SIMM card for your phone with a pay as you go program. This can be done in South Africa, at the airport. It is much easier now to get a SIMM card.
- Rent a “global phone” from your carrier
- Rent/Buy a “global phone from a provider such as www.Cellhire.com They have phones for around $50 and SImm cards starting at $9.00
Internet and Data
Manage your expectations: South Africa is not the land of free WiFi, great coverage, and high speed internet. It has improved in recent years and most lodges will now offer wifi for free but it will be slow and downloading and streaming will most likely not work. You will be time-warped back to dial up type speeds, outages, and pay per gigbyte – if it is even available.
The best solution for internet access it through a smart phone or wireless device that works through the phone signals.
Just as with the Global Phones discussed above, you can rent or buy a WiFi device (sometimes called MiFi) equipped with a SIMM and data plan. With the device you can connect your laptop, tablet, or phone to a signal and send / receive data.
Cell Hire rentals and sells WiFi devices. I have used this option before with great success. Cell Hire
On our safaris, the tree house lodge does not offer wifi, but the other two lodges we visit have internet available.
- Enjoy being unplugged with the knowledge that if someone really needs you, they will be able to get a message to through us.
- Be mostly plugged, but check in a few times through your pay per use Global plan or if we find an internet cafe or connection.
- Get a WiFi device with local SIMM card and data bundle