Phoning home and away

We have a well-developed communications infrastructure, with extensive landline phone networks and three mobile phone service providers with far-reaching coverage. You can rent mobile phones – known here as cellphones – from the airport on arrival. You should find an Internet café in even the smallest towns, and the postal service works, offering the usual letter and parcel services as well as secure mail, freight and courier services.

South Africa ranks 23rd in telecommunications development and 17th in Internet use in the world. The network is almost fully digital, allowing for caller line identification, electronic call answering and per second billing. Landline services are operated by public utility Telkom, and a second national operator is expected to open up shop this year. Public telephones are either coin- or card-operated. Phone cards can be purchased at certain stores, post offices and airports.

Almost all of the British service providers have co-operations with the three local mobile phone networks. You will need to alert your provider to the fact that you’ll be abroad and should make certain that your ‘international roaming’ function is activated. Please note that pre-paid accounts will not function in South Africa.

Alternatively, you could purchase a South African SIM card from one of the local providers. These can be purchased for next to nothing at the airports. The exchange rates makes these top up cards real value for money. You will be issued with a local number beginning with 27 (South African country code).


Phoning into South Africa

If you’re dialing a number in South Africa, 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 cellular/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 center from abroad, you’d dial +27 11 921 6262 (Johannesburg’s area code is 011 – phoning from abroad, you leave out the zero). If it were a mobile number, you might dial +27 82 921 6262 (082 is the code for one of the main mobile networks – phoning from abroad, you leave out the zero).

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
  • The mobile networks, Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, 8ta and Virgin Mobile.


Phoning around South Africa

If you’re in South Africa and phoning a landline in another city or town, the number must be preceded by the area code (including the first zero) for that city or town.

Even if you’re in the area yourself, you have to use the area code before a landline number.

If, on the other hand, you’re phoning to a mobile number – regardless of where you are in South Africa – 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

Consult Telkom’s print directories for the numbers of landline subscribers – The Phone Book for residential subscribers nationwide, and The Yellow Pages for businesses, services and products nationwide.

Alternatively, dial in to Telkom’s telephonic directories (useful especially for unlisted or changed numbers):

  • South Africa (The Phone Book) – 1023
  • Electronic Yellow Pages – 10118
  • International – 10903


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 relevant phone number. Telkom’s Phone Book lists all country codes in its International Dialing Code List. International calls are cheaper after 8pm and before 8am from Monday to Friday, and between 8pm on Friday and 8am on Monday.

For an even cheaper option, try the Home Direct service. This allows you to call an operator in your home country free of charge, either to place a call on your “phone home” account, if you have one, or to arrange a reverse-charge call. Telkom’s Phone Book lists all Home Direct numbers in its International Dialing Code List.

Source: SouthAfrica.Info – the official gateway