A guide to using SIM cards while in New Zealand
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 Things have definitely moved on from scouring tattered old guide books for out-of-date information, that’s for sure.
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.
Here are some of the options Australian providers give you.
Telstra has an international roaming plan or a pre-paid account that gives you broadband services while you’re travelling abroad. The International Day Pass is just AU$5 a day for New Zealand!
Optus Travel is the international roaming feature provided to this carrier’s users. It lets you use a pre-paid account with roaming options that let you recharge as you go.
Virgin Mobile users just have to activate their International Roaming feature in their online account or in the app and it will be charged to your postpaid service. You can also purchase a roaming data pack that charges you per zone – New Zealand is considered ‘Zone 1’ with packages that range from $30 to $85.
Which prepaid SIM cards are available in NZ?
Spark offers a variety of pre-paid packages that range from NZ$19 of 750MB data for four weeks, to NZ$49 of 4GB data for four weeks. However, they also allow you to purchase extra international talk and text plans for an additional NZ$10.
This carrier gives you more options in terms of pre-paid data plans. 2degrees packages range from NZ$9 of 150MB data to NZ$49 of 10GB data.
Vodafone’s prepaid plans are customisable so they can fit perfectly into your travel itinerary. When you visit the site, you can toggle through various amounts of data, talk time and texts. For example, you can do 750MB data, with 150 minutes of talking and unlimited texts all for NZ$19.
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!
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!
Information is current as of 29 March 2019.
See also: New Zealand travel safety
See also: Seasonality New Zealand
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