A guide to using SIM cards while in New Zealand

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We all know how important our smartphones are when on holiday. It’s possible to order a pizza or taxi at the touch of a button, or find our way around unfamiliar places with a local’s ease. Things have definitely moved on from scouring tattered old guide books for out-of-date information, that’s for sure.

Using your phone abroad takes a bit of forward planning, unless you want it to guzzle data like a hungry hippo for ridiculous prices that even Donald Trump would baulk at. Though your plan-of-action will change depending on which country you’re visiting, it’s pretty easy when preparing for a trip across the ditch.

Our Kiwi friends have kept things simple for us, so every time you hop across to New Zealand, you won’t be paying through the nose when using mobile data if you prepare in advance. Here’s what you need to know.

Can I use an Australian SIM card in New Zealand?

The short answer is yes, you can. It’ll work in most major towns and cities across Aotearoa, but reception may get a little ropey when out in rural areas (or the ‘wop wops’, as those crazy Kiwis call them). However, using an Aussie SIM card in New Zealand could see you get stung with massive roaming charges, your free data evaporated with a single click onto Facebook.

For example, Telstra will charge you AU$3 per megabyte when using data in New Zealand, but Vodafone’s plan is better. The communications giant recently said that its customers can use their Australian voice, text and data allowances when in New Zealand without fear of a big bill, so Tweet and Insta until your thumbs go blue (or your battery dies).

Queenstown is a popular destination for Australians - you can buy a travel SIM from its airport.Queenstown is a popular destination for Australians – you can buy a travel SIM from the town’s airport.

Which prepaid SIM cards are available in NZ?

For extra peace of mind, a prepaid SIM card is the way to go. With one of these little beauties slotted into your phone, there’s no way you can run up a bill that will plunge you into a debt that would make even Gordon Gekko sweat. Vodafone offer a specialist NZ Travel SIM which you can buy from their New Zealand airport branch once you land – not Vodafone Australia before you leave. The entry-level package will set you back a very reasonable NZ$29 – that’s about AU$25.

This will net you 500MB of 4G data, as well as 200 minutes of calls to numbers in New Zealand, Australia and a whopping 15 other countries. You’ll also get 200 text messages, and a generous 30 days to use it all. If you’re a data fiend and think you need more, there are $49 and $99 packs available. Spark and 2 Degrees also have specific NZ travel SIM cards available, but the Vodafone one offers you the most bang for your buck.

Where can I buy a SIM card?

Your best bet is to pick one up once you’ve landed at the airport. This way, you won’t be left nervously waiting for it to arrive in the post in time for you to fly out if bought online – though this is still an option if you give yourself enough time. It’s not really a great idea to buy a SIM card for New Zealand travel when in Australia, as you never can tell whether or not it will work properly once you arrive – or that the lower rates will apply.

All the major carriers have shops in the big cities – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – and you can often find them in other popular destinations such as Rotorua, Queenstown and Nelson. Just pop inside and tell them what you’re after – they’ll sort you out!

Network coverage in new Zealand is excellent - until you head into the 'wop wops'!Network coverage in New Zealand is excellent – until you head into the ‘wop wops’!

What’s the network coverage like in New Zealand?

It will work perfectly fine in and around the major towns and cities. It’s only when you really head out to the back of beyond that Facebook might take a little longer to load, or you have trouble viewing last night’s footy results. The North Island tends to have better coverage across all networks than its southern neighbour, largely due to the fact that more people live there and it’s more urbanised. In the South Island’s major centres like Christchurch and Queenstown, coverage will be perfect – just be prepared for a bit of downtime if you head into the Southern Alps for a hike!


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company and we are proud to be Australian owned and operated.


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