Having just arrived back from a two-week honeymoon to South Africa, accompanied by my new wife, I thought it was time to reflect upon my mobile and telco experiences of the trip.
The advice I usually give to travellers is: pick up a local pay as you go SIM card, avoiding costly data roaming and call charges. I took my own advice for once and purchased two Vodacom (Vodafone) prepay SIM cards, for my wife's Samsung Galaxy S II and my holiday phone of choice, the Nokia 700.
These cards were only 0.49 Rand each, at a Boots equivalent store in Cape Town - known as Clicks. The whole pay as you go set up differed greatly and at just purchasing the cards, compared to in the UK.
Photo ID and proof of address is required, in an almost 'contract' like registration method, and just for PAYG. This was fine, as our passports were close to hand and the hotel produced a letter confirming our address and who we were, with a photocopy of the passports.
The second and third differences of the South African prepay offering, along with the reason for this blog post, now follows - as I do believe these elements should be available in the UK.
Topping up, or Recharging, as our Rugby-playing nation of friends referrer to it as, is performed from the mobile phone's dialler. In the same way you would call a phone number; you simply enter the voucher code number, which then adds credit to that mobile.
This is prefixed with '*100*0*', followed by pressing the Call button. A similar method is used for checking balances and for another, rather useful feature - Airtime Transfer.
You can Top Up/Recharge another Vodacom phone number or account, with some credit on another phone and by just a few presses of the handset's keypad. The minim fee is 29 Rand, escalating upwards and in the same amounts as a prepay account can be credited by: R55 and R110.
We found this was a great little proposition of Vodacom. Both of our handsets were initially Recharged with a good deal of credit, only I was the one Tweeting and updating Facebook on a regular basis and sending text messages. As a result, my credit was depleted frequently and whilst travelling on long, four-five hour car journeys, couldn't be easily Recharged.
Transferring a small amount of Airtime/credit between our phones was simply enough. Entering the code *100#' and then hitting call, followed by a menu option or two, on the network's text-based pop up menu, allowed me to enter ‘my' phone number. An amount was then credited to my account, and within a second or so.
This is easy to do, simple to do and very effective feature, where we are sure this would be welcome in the UK. Just think, the next time someone says they're out of credit, then asks to borrow your phone for a quick call - just transfer enough money to their account for a single call, within seconds.
Come on Vodafone, O2, Three, Orange, T-Mobile bring this across to Blighty.