Giraffe sign in Namibia

Buying a SIM Card in Namibia

In Get Connected by Dave Dean17 Comments

Namibia is a spectacular country to travel in. Whether it’s the animals crowded around waterholes in Etosha National Park, endless towering sand dunes at Sossusvlei, a town being reclaimed by the desert in Kolmanskop, or the exceptional seafood in Swakupmond, it’s a richly-rewarding destination wherever your interests lie.

It’s also a vast, sparsely-populated country, and has cell coverage to match. While you’ll pay very little to stay connected, and the process is straightforward, don’t expect much in the way of fast or consistent data service outside major centres.

Here’s everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Namibia.

Companies


  • We recommend MTC for most travellers

There are only two cell service providers in Namibia. MTC and TN Mobile have very similar prices, but MTC has better coverage, which made the decision about which one to buy pretty straightforward.

How


MTC has a store in the small arrivals hall at Windhoek airport, on your left as you exit. It’s open for all international arrivials, so if you’re flying into Namibia, this is the easiest place to pick up a SIM.

MTC store Windhoek airport

If you’re not flying in, or are short of time when you first arrive, SIMs are available at MTC ‘Mobile Home’ stores in Windhoek, Swakopmund, and any other town of a reasonable size throughout the country. They’re also often available at gas stations and supermarkets.

In either case, the process is the same. First, buy your SIM (in whatever size you require) from a staff member, and put it your phone.

Each MTC store also has a touchscreen kiosk, and that’s where you’ll top up your new SIM. You can either buy a specific package, or top up with as much credit as you need and send a code to activate the package you’re after.

Since the machine at the airport was out of the package I wanted, I went with the second option. A helpful staff member was on hand to explain the process and walk me through it, but it wasn’t difficult. I just needed my phone number to do it, which was printed on the SIM packet.

Note that the machine doesn’t give change, so you might need to break a larger banknote first.

 

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Costs


Prices are extremely low. The SIM itself cost 7 NAD ($0.50 USD), and the “Aweh Gig” package I picked cost 35 NAD ($2.50). Those prices include the 15% sales tax, which isn’t typically shown on the advertising material.

This package lasted a week, and gave 100 minutes of local calls, 700 texts, and 1GB of data. A promotion gave an extra 300GB of data, and there’s also an extra 500MB of WhatsApp use included.

Note there’s no warning when the package expires, and you can’t renew it beforehand. It lasts until the end of the seventh day after activation. Since I didn’t know where I’d be at that time, I added enough extra credit to renew for a second week, which covered my time in the country.

Adding the package was as simple as texting #AwehGig# to 134.

The other combo deals aren’t as good value, but are still quite affordable. Data packages with a 60 day expiry are also available, running from 40MB to 15GB.

Due to the coverage limitations mentioned below, you’ll probably use less data than expected unless you’re spending a lot of time near towns and cities.

Full details and the list of options can be found here, or instore.

Topping Up


You can top up using the kiosk at any MTC store, or from a wide range of stores and street vendors who will sell you a voucher for the appropriate amount of credit. Just look out for the MTC logo.

 

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Coverage and Data Speeds


Namibia, more than most other countries I’ve visited, has very different levels of cell coverage depending on where you are.

In Windhoek, Swakopmund, Luderitz, and several other good-size towns, plus a few of of the “B” roads between them, 3G service was available and reasonably fast, at least for downloads.

Outside those places, though, the best you could hope for was 2G/EDGE speeds.  Namibia is a vast country, so that means you’ll have slow, or no, data most of the time you’re behind the wheel. Depending on where you’re staying, the same thing can apply there as well.

Call and text service is more widespread, but even then, it’s not available everywhere. The longest I went without any signal was about a day, driving from Sossusvlei to Luderitz (with an overnight stop). It was also patchy in Etosha National Park, available near the camps but not elsewhere.

Wi-fi is likewise available and reasonably quick in towns, and much less so outside them.

If you’re driving around Namibia and planning on using Google Maps for navigation, I’d strongly suggest saving offline maps for as much of the country as you need before you go. You’ll need to do it in several parts, as you can’t download data for all of Namibia at once.

Namibia MTC 3G speeds

Deceptively good MTC 3G speeds at Windhoek airport


MTC 2G speeds in Namibia

What to expect in most of the rest of Namibia

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

Namibia is a great country to travel in, but staying connected can be a challenge . Here's what you need to know about buying a SIM card there.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 20 years and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Hi David. Thanks for the great article. I just have a couple of questions about renewing. When you say renewing, do you mean that you are purchasing another bundle of the AwehGig bundle after the first 7 days have expired?

    Also, to renew did you just text #AwehGig# to 134 again?

    1. Author

      Yep, that’s exactly what I did. When I bought the SIM at the airport, I made sure I had enough credit loaded to cover me for the second week, then when the first week was up, I texted #AwehGig# to 134 again.

      The only thing I’d add is that if you’re doing it that way (rather than going and buying more credit after the first package expires), make sure you turn your data connection off the night before, so it doesn’t switch to casual rate overnight and use up the credit you loaded before. I think it expires at midnight, although it’s hard to tell, since I never got a text to tell me.

      1. Got it! Thank you for the info and advice.

  2. Great information. I was staying in Windhoek at the Hilton and was able to buy the MTC SIM card in the hotel gift shop. I don’t remember what I paid for it though.

    I am new to buying SIM cards in the countries I travel to and use a little “world phone” with a keyboard. I would like to use my iPhone. Do you have an article on using the iPhone? Do my messages, email, iCloud and all the other stuff still work with a SIM in another country?

    1. Author

      We don’t have an article specifically on using an iPhone with local SIM cards, because there’s little to no difference for iPhones vs other devices. Basically, once you swap your SIMs, you won’t receive calls or texts to your original number until you put your SIM from home back in. You’ll have a local number instead, and anything that uses data (email, iCloud, iMessages, WhatsApp, etc) should carry on as usual.

      I say should, because there can be occasional glitches, especially with iMessage. If it affects you, we devoted a piece to dealing with that particular problem here.

  3. Thanks! I find little snippets about things but that answers all my questions in one place.

  4. Hi Dave thanks for article, just a small question. The credit i need for activating #AwehGig# i can buy at the store and it will be added on the SIM card and once the first package expires i will just text for another one which is pay from to credit on SIM right?

    Thanks Lukas

      1. What about the international calls? are they blocked or you just need more credit?

      2. Author

        You just need more credit. Skype Calling is also an option, although data speeds will be too slow for it outside the major towns and cities.

  5. Thanks for the article, I’ll be going soon and this explained a lot! I hope you have more articles on Namibia for me to check out. Best wishes.

  6. Big thx for the info, but I think there’s a little mistake in your text, you state “Those prices include the 15% sales tax”, but I think it should say “exclusive 15% sales tax” because I found this info on the MTC website: “Only N$32.00 (Excl 15% VAT) per week.”

  7. Thanks for this great info! Two questions: I’m coming to Namibia in August and would like to buy a SIM to use in an old Nokia dumbphone. I won’t need any data because it has no internet capability. Are there any data-free packages available? (That said, it seems like the packages are cheap enough that I won’t really mind buying the data and just not using it).

    Also, on these plans, are texts to international numbers much more expensive than texts to local numbers?

    1. Author

      Check out this link (it’s in the post as well) for the range of packages. There’s a ‘build your own’ option called Aweh O-Yeah (who comes up with these names?), and one called Aweh Go that has 50 minutes of national calls, 150 national texts, and a little bit of data, for around $1 USD.

      This page gives international text rates. For most countries outside southern Africa, it’s around 7c USD per text, so pretty cheap.

  8. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the great info. At the moment, I refer to your site a lot as I’m currently on a mission to run over 3000km of beach across 184 countries in support of survivors of sexual violence. It’s called Footsteps To Inspire. Just arrived in country 27 – Namibia.
    I wanted to give you a heads up that the MTC store is no longer in Windhoek International Airport (only the TN store). You may like to update your blog.

    Keep up the awesome posts and thanks again,
    Claire

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