Landlines are reliable, and cellphone reception is good for most parts of South Africa, though it's worth letting go while on safari.
To call southern Africa from another country: Dial the international access code (United States or Canada 011, United Kingdom or New Zealand 00, Australia 0011) plus the country code (the country code for South Africa is 27; for Zimbabwe, it is 263; for Botswana, it is 267), plus the local region code (minus the 0) and the number.
To make an international call from South Africa: Dial 00, then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Australia 61, New Zealand 64), the area code, and the local number.
To charge international calls from South Africa: Dial AT&T Direct (tel. 0-800-99-0123), Sprint (tel. 0800-99-0001), or MCI (tel. 0800-99-0011).
To make a local call: If you have a number with the country code, you will need to drop the country code and add a zero (0) to the city code (except in Botswana, which has no city codes). In South Africa, you now have to dial the city or region code (for example, 012) before every Cape Town number. Note also that if you are using a mobile phone, you always need to enter the network code before the telephone number; codes 082, 083, 084, 072, 073, and 074 are mobile or cell numbers, and these codes must also not be dropped.
Looking for a number: In South Africa: Call directory assistance at tel. 1023 for numbers in South Africa, and tel. 0903 for international numbers. To track down a service, call tel. 10118. Be patient, speak slowly, and check spellings with your operator. Because hotels often charge a massive markup, it's worth using a cellphone or purchasing a telephone card for international calls -- these card-operated pay phones are also often the only ones working. Cards are available from post offices and most newsagents, and come in units of R20, R50, R100, and R200.
Most South Africans, regardless of race or class, carry a cellphone; reception is generally excellent. If your cellphone is on a GSM system and you have a world-capable multiband phone, simply call your wireless operator and ask for international roaming to be activated on your account. Note, though, that per-minute charges can be very high -- if you plan to use your phone a lot (and incoming calls are equally expensive), it's definitely worth purchasing a local SIM card, which costs between R1 and R20, depending on where and when you buy it, and purchasing pay-as-you-go airtime (available in bundled minutes that cost upward of R20). You will find retailers selling SIM cards and airtime throughout metropolitan areas; look for signs pasted on shop windows or inquire at small general dealer shops. For many, renting a phone is a good idea; you can do this (as well as purchase a SIM card and airtime) at a Vodafone outlet at any of the international airports in South Africa. Vodacom has 24-hour desks at all major international airports, as well as desks in big malls (such as the Waterfront in Cape Town), with a range of mobile phones to purchase or rent.
Internet & E-Mail
Without Your Own Computer -- There are literally thousands of cybercafes throughout South Africa's urban areas -- anywhere you find travelers. Aside from these, virtually all lodgings will have a computer on which you can access your mail or surf the Internet, either for free or for a small fee. The same goes for hotels, though many of them still charge for this, a real irritant (we have indicated fees where possible). Information bureaus in cities also provide Internet access, as do major airports. Internet access is less predictable while on safari and, frankly, counterproductive to the experience. For what will, after all, be a relatively limited time, we suggest you let everyone know that you will be out of reach, switch off all forms of 21st-century technology, and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the bush.
With Your Own Computer -- Large hotels, resorts, and airports in South Africa offer Wi-Fi access, charging a small fee (you pay online, using your credit card) for usage. For free Wi-Fi access in South Africa, take a look at who has joined www.redbutton.co.za (click on "Sites"). These hotels, guest lodges, restaurants, and cafes (the vast majority of them in the Cape) all offer free Wi-Fi -- unlimited or limited, from 5MB to 100MB per day. There are other establishments that offer free Wi-Fi, such as the delightful Café Neo in Cape Town (great food, plus a sea view). Others charge a small fee, such as the Vida e Caffe chain (www.caffe.co.za; click on "Stores" to find one near you); though it's a franchise, the coffee is still good. You may also want to check out www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hotspots. For dial-up access, most business-class hotels offer dataports for laptop modems; if you do not have Wi-Fi capacity, remember to bring a connection kit of the right power, phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.