Most hotels have Wi-Fi. Stores such as Woolworths, restaurants such as Wimpy, and most airports offer a countrywide Wi-Fi service called AlwaysOn that allows you 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi per day. If you need more time, you can pay for it.
If you bring your laptop or tablet, you'll have no problem finding Wi-Fi service in the cities, but it's unlikely you'll find anyone to service a Mac outside of Cape Town and Jo'burg.
Always On. www.alwayson.co.za.
There are toll-free numbers in South Africa. There's also something called a share-call line, for which the cost of the call is split between both parties.
The country code for South Africa is 27. When dialing from abroad, drop the initial 0 from local area codes.
Calling Within South Africa
Local calls (from landline to landline) are very cheap, although all calls from hotels add a hefty premium. Calls between a mobile phone and a landline are relatively expensive (up to R5 per minute). Pay phones may be coin- or card-operated (the former are being phased out). Phone cards are available at newsstands, convenience stores, and telephone company offices.
When making a phone call in South Africa, always use the full 10-digit number, including the area code, even if you're in the same area. For directory assistance in South Africa, call 1023. For operator-assisted national long-distance calls, call 1025. For international operator assistance, dial 10903#. These numbers are free if dialed from a Telkom (landline) phone but are charged at normal cell-phone rates from a mobile—and they're busy call centers. Directory inquiries numbers are different for each cell-phone network. Vodacom is 111, MTN is 200, and Cell C is 146. These calls are charged at normal rates, but the call is timed only from when it is actually answered.
Calling Outside South Africa
When dialing out from South Africa, dial 00 before the international code. So, for example, you would dial 001 for the United States, since the country code for the United States is 1.
Internet calling like Skype also works well from the United States, but it's not always functional in South Africa, unless you're on a reliable high-speed Internet connection, which isn't available everywhere. However, if you have a South African "free" cell phone (meaning you can receive calls for free; all phones using an SA SIM card do this), someone in the United States can call you from their Skype account, for reasonable per-minute charges, and you won't be charged.
AT&T Direct. 800/288–2020; www.att.com.
MCI Worldwide Access. 0800/990–011.
Sprint International Access. 0800/990–001.
Cell phones are ubiquitous and have quite extensive coverage. There are four cell-phone service providers in South Africa—Cell C, MTN, Virgin Mobile, and Vodacom—and you can buy these SIM cards, as well as airtime, in supermarkets for as little as R10 for the SIM card. (If you purchase SIM cards at the airport, you will be charged much more.) Bear in mind that your U.S. cell phone may not work with the local GSM system and/or that your phone may be blocked from using SIM cards outside of your plan if your phone is not unlocked. Basic but functional GSM cell phones start at R100, and are available at the mobile carrier shops as well as major department stores like Woolworths.
Cell phones also can be rented by the day, week, or longer from the airport on your arrival, but this is an expensive option. If you plan to bring a U.S. cell phone while you're traveling, know what your own company will charge both for calls and data use. Texts cost a fraction of a call and are the handiest option for meeting up with local friends, but for calling a hotel reservations line, it's best to make the call.
Cellular Abroad rents and sells GMS phones and sells SIM cards that work in many countries, but they cost a lot more than local solutions. Mobal rents mobiles and sells GSM phones (starting at $49) that will operate in 150 countries. Per-call rates vary throughout the world. Vodacom is the country's leading cellular network.
The least complicated way to make and receive phone calls is to obtain international roaming service from your cell-phone service provider before you leave home, but this can be expensive. Any phone that you take abroad must be unlocked by your company for you to be able to use it.
Cell C. 084/140; www.cellc.co.za.
Cellular Abroad. 800/287–5072; 800/3623–3333; www.cellularabroad.com.
Mobal. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.
MTN. 083/173; www.mtn.co.za.
Virgin Mobile. 0741/000–123; www.virginmobile.co.za.
Vodacom. 082/111; www.vodacom.co.za.