Overview: South African telecommunication facilities


South Africa has extremely well-developed communications infrastructure, with extensive fixed-line phone networks and five mobile phone service providers with widespread coverage.

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Brand South Africa reporter

You can rent mobile phones – we call them cellphones – from the airport on arrival.

And provided your mobile phone in your country uses a SIM card, you can buy a South African SIM card and register it in a matter of minutes at a shop or kiosk at the airport on arrival, and use it in your handset. But check with your local service provider that your phone is unlocked before you travel.

SIM cards range in price from R0.49 to R2.99.

Telkom and Neotel provide fixed-line services, with Neotel focusing more on commercial services.

Telkom public telephones use coins, phonecards or Worldcall. Phonecards and Worldcall can be purchased at most retail stores, petrol stations, post offices and airports.

Phoning into South Africa

If you’re dialling a number in South Africa from outside the country, it must be preceded by +27, South Africa’s international country code (the + sign represents the international access code for the country you’re calling from); and either:

  • the area code of the city or town in South Africa you’re calling (leaving out the first zero), if you’re calling a landline; or
  • the mobile network code (leaving out the first zero), if you’re calling a cellular/mobile network.

So, for example, to phone South African Airways’ call centre from abroad, you’d dial +27 11 978 5313 (Johannesburg’s area code is 011, but if you’re phoning from abroad, you drop the zero).

To call a mobile number, you might start dialling +27 82 . (082 is the code for one of our main mobile networks, but if you’re phoning from abroad, you drop the zero).

Dialling codes in South Africa
The area codes of some of South Africa’s major cities are:

  • Bloemfontein 051
  • Cape Town 021
  • Durban 031
  • East London 043
  • Johannesburg 011
  • Pretoria 012
  • Port Elizabeth 041

For more, consult Telkom’s Dialling codes in South Africa.

What’s the time in South Africa?
Go to Google and type in “time south africa”.

Phoning out of South Africa

To make an international call from South Africa, dial 00, followed by the country code of the country you wish to call, followed by the relevant area code (if there is one), followed by the phone number.

What’s my country’s dialling code?
One of the quickest ways to find out is to dial Telkom’s 24-hour international customer care centre – 10903 – and ask. The service is free. Alternatively, look it up on Telkom’s international dialling code directory or go to Google and type in “dialling code [your country]”.

Operator-assisted dialling
Telkom’s international booked calls – 10900 – offers 24-hour assistance to anyone wanting to make international calls or send faxes.

What’s the time back home?
Go to Google and search “time [name of your home country]”.

Collect calls
Collect calls are reverse-charge calls (that is, where the called party pays the charge on acceptance of the call). To make a national collect call, phone 1025, where you will be directed by voice prompts. For international collect calls, contact Telkom’s international enquiries at 10900. They will supply you with the number to call in your home country.

Public phones for tourists
Telkom has placed public telephones at major tourist sites across South Africa. Coin-operated phones are blue, while cardphones are green, and both are user- friendly and compatible with hearing-aid devices. They offer a reliable connection, high quality of speech, and are affordable.

Phonecards and WorldCall
Telkom’s phonecards and WorldCall cards are available at major outlets where the Telkom logo is displayed.

Phoning around South Africa

If you’re in South Africa and phoning a landline – whether you’re phoning from a landline or a mobile phone – the number must be preceded by the area code (including the first zero) for the city or town you’re phoning.

If, on the other hand, you’re phoning to a mobile number, you never use an area code, only the appropriate mobile network code.

08 numbers

Many businesses and organisations have special landline numbers beginning with an 08 code – 0800, 0860, 0861, and so on. (But not 082, 083 or 084, which belong to the mobile networks.) These are, in effect, national numbers – area codes are dispensed with, and callers dial the same number regardless of where they are. Note that these lines can only be accessed from within South Africa.

  • 080 numbers (usually 0800) – no charge to the caller.
  • 0860 numbers – the caller does not pay for any long-distance portion of the call.
  • 0861 numbers – the caller is charged a flat rate for the call.

Phone directories

For landline numbers in South Africa, consult Telkom’s phone directories. The print versions are published and millions of copies distributed free of charge every year – you’ll find them in airports, hotels, offices, homes and public phone booths just about everywhere. The online versions are at:

  • Phone Book (White Pages) – residential Telkom subscribers
  • Yellow Pages – businesses, services and products

Alternatively, dial Telkom’s telephonic directories:

  • International – 10903
  • Directory Services (Phone Book) – 1023
  • Talking Yellow Pages – 10118
  • Mobile Yellow Pages – SMS what you’re looking for and where (eg “flowers cape town”) to 34310.

Using your mobile in South Africa

South Africa has an extensive GSM network, working on the same frequency as the rest of Africa and Europe. There are five cellphone providers: Vodacom, MTN, Cell- C, Virgin Mobile and Telkom, previously known as 8ta.

The networks support GPRS countrywide; 3G, 4G, LTE, UMTS, EDGE and HSDPA support is available in larger urban areas.

You will be able to use your phone in South Africa if as long as your phone is a triband or fourband phone, is unlocked, and takes a SIM card. Make the necessary arrangements with your service provider before leaving your home country. You will need to activate international roaming.

It is also possible to rent or buy a phone and SIM card. You can buy a SIM card starter kit – they’re cheap and easily available from kiosks at most airports, as well as at supermarkets and corner cafes. Car rental companies will often rent out a phone – and GPS if you need one. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere.

You can also order and buy a SIM card and airtime/data bundle before you even leave home, through B4IGO South Africa. You pick up your pre-ordered SIM at the South African airport on arrival.

Follow the dialling conventions outlined above when making calls from your phone.

Make sure you pack your charger as well as the correct adaptor before you leave home. South Africa uses plug types “C”, “G” and “M”.

Remember that talking on your handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal. Either rent a hands-free kit, or pull off the road at a safe place.

Source: Telkom, Vodacom, Cell C, MTN

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