A Complete Guide to Travellers SIM Cards in the Cook Islands
Need to stay connected in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? While we recommend connecting more with nature and the local culture than with your social media, we get that some of us have a good reason for wanting to keep in touch with the outside world. Due to the fact that roaming charges are notoriously expensive for the Cook Islands, those wishing to use their phone in the Cook Islands need to get a Cook Islands SIM card. Find out how in this guide to the best SIM card in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for travellers.
Who Are the Phone Network Providers in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
There is only one phone network provider in the Cook Islands: Vodafone Cook Islands (formerly Bluesky). You will have no option for different networks in the Cook Islands, therefore you will see higher prices than what you are probably used to. However, there are different SIM cards you can be choosing for your time in the Cook Islands. We go over the various SIM card options in the guide below.
How to Get a Cook Islands SIM Card
First things first, you need to make sure that your phone is unlocked, is compatible with GSM networks and with frequencies of 700, 900 and/or 1,800 MHz. Find out more in Will Your Phone Work in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
Where to Get a SIM Card in the Cook Islands?
Cook Islands SIM cards can be purchased from any Vodafone office in the Cook Islands. Vodafone has outlets on all the islands, except Takutea, Manuae, Suwarrow and Nassau. Offices are usually open Monday to Friday, from 8am to 4pm. The outlets that most visitors will use are:
- Vodafone head office: Parekura, Avarua, Rarotonga
- Office at the CITC Shopping Centre, Avarua, Rarotonga
- Outside of the arrivals area of Rarotonga International Airport (only open for arrival flights)
- Punanga Nui Market, Avarua, Rarotonga (open Saturday morning)
- Aitutaki office, Arutanga town centre, Aitutaki.
For a full list of Vodafone offices across all of the islands, see Information, Shops & Services in the Cook Islands.
How to Activate Your Cook Islands SIM Card
Once you have purchased your Cook Islands SIM card and inserted it into your phone, text “3T” to “888”. You should then receive a prompt to say that your SIM is activated.
Vodafone Cook Islands Preloaded Travel SIM
The first go-to for most travellers arriving in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is the pre-loaded Travel SIM offered by Vodafone Cook Islands.
For NZ$49, Travel SIMs come preloaded with the following:
- 5GB 4G/LTE data
- 30 minutes
- 300 texts
The bundle is valid for 15 days. Calling minutes and texts are not only for Cook Islands phone numbers but for phone numbers in Australia, Fiji, Samoa, USA, New Zealand, Niue, Germany, UK, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Philippines, France, Solomon Islands: a total of 15 countries.
Note, however, that there are a few conditions to the Travel SIM. First, access to 4G/LTE is only where it is available, which is in the populated areas of Rarotonga and Aitutaki (see the “Vodafone Phone Coverage in the Cook Islands” section below) Second, the bundle is only valid for 15 days. Third, is that you can’t reload your bundle, so to speak. If you run out of data, minutes and/or texts, you need to either buy a new Travel SIM to access the same bundle or pay the standard rates listed below.
What are the Standard Rates with Vodafone Cook Islands on the Travel SIM?
What are the standard rates with Vodafone Cook Islands once you have run out of data, texts or minutes? On the Travel SIM, the standard rates are:
- 20c per Mb
- 99c per minute
- 20c per text.
Other Prepaid Plans and Bundles with Vodafone Cook Islands
While the Travel SIM might be handy for some, it isn’t necessarily the best SIM card in the Cook Islands for all travellers. You may find better value in purchasing a standard Vodafone SIM card and choosing one of the other prepaid plans available:
- NZ$19 bundle: 1Gb data, 500 texts and 30 minutes
- NZ$29 bundle: 2Gb data, 750 texts and 60 minutes
These bundles are valid for 28 days. Although the texts are valid for local and international texting, the calling minutes are only for local calls. Be aware that after 28 days, these prepaid plans will auto-renew if you have enough credit on your account.
If you need a little more data, texts and/or minutes, these are available as “add-ons” through the My Vodafone app:
- NZ$7.50: 1.5Gb data
- NZ$15: 3Gb data
- NZ$10: 600 texts
- NZ$10: 600 minutes
More Vodafone Data Bundles
Vodafone Cook Islands also offers casual prepay data bundles that “stack” on top of existing bundles you have purchased with them. These data bundles are a one-off payment and are only valid for a short period, which are as follows:
- “24HR$3” – NZ$3: 600 Mb data for 24 hours
- “3DAY$5” – NZ$5: 1 Gb data for 3 days
- “7DAY$10” – NZ$10: 2 Gb data for 7 days
- “10DAY$30” – NZ$30: 6 Gb data for 10 days
There are also better-value data deals available on the My Vodafone app for data bundles that can be used between 12am and 7am called “Midnight Data Deals”.
What are the Standard Rates with Vodafone Cook Islands on a Normal SIM?
What are the standard rates with Vodafone Cook Islands once you have run out of data, texts or minutes? On a normal prepay SIM, the standard rates are:
- 20c per Mb
- 38c per minute
- 20c per text.
How to Check Your Usage and Top-Up Your SIM Card in the Cook Islands
How can you check how much data, texts and minutes you are using while in the Cook Islands? The best and easiest way is to download the My Vodafone app, which displays your usage and remaining balance very clearly. An alternative way to check your balance is to dial *888# to bring up a USSD menu. However, this is not as intuitive to use and doesn’t display the data, texts and minutes that you have remaining.
Where to Top Up Your Phone in the Cook Islands
You can only top up your phone network balance at one of the Vodafone outlets or resellers in the Cook Islands. Luckily, there are a ton of resellers across Rarotonga and Aitutaki, most of which are convenience stores with a red “Recharge” sign or Vodafone flag clearly displayed out the front. We also list Vodafone resellers in How to Get Internet & WiFi in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
How to Top Up Your Phone at a Vodafone Reseller
You top up your phone by telling the Vodafone outlet/reseller staff your Cook Islands phone number and how much you would like to top up (the minimum top-up is NZ$5; the maximum is NZ$100). Pay the balance, the clerk will put it into the system, and then you should receive a text confirmation after a few minutes. You should also see your new balance displayed on the My Vodafone app.
How to Choose a Preplay Plan with Vodafone Cook Islands
When you buy a Travel SIM, the SIM with preloaded with the Travel SIM bundle (see “Vodafone Cook Islands Preloaded Travel SIM” section above). For the alternative prepaid bundles discussed in this guide, you will need to select them on the My Vodafone app.
On the My Vodafone app, select “Prepay Plans” then select any of the plans to subscribe to it (ensuring you have enough credit to do so). After selecting the prepay plan, it will be automatically activated and will replace any existing data, texts or minutes you may have remaining.
Vodafone Phone Coverage in the Cook Islands
Cellphone reception for making calls and texts is available in the most populated areas across the Cook Islands, such as in villages and towns in Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Palmerston, Manihiki, Rakahanga, Pukapuka and Penrhyn. Note that you will lose coverage in some areas inland on Rarotonga, at the southern end of Aitutaki and in some parts of the Aitutaki Lagoon.
Where the coverage is a bit more limited is on the 3G and 4G frequencies, i.e. your internet data. 4G is only available on Rarotonga and Aitutaki, while 3G is also available on Atiu, Mauke and Mitiaro. 2G coverage is available on the other outer islands in the main villages if you’re lucky.
5 Tips for Using Your Phone in the Cook Islands
Finally, here are some quick tips to make the most of your Cook Islands SIM card and, most importantly, save on precious data that is otherwise quite expensive.
- Use your free texts to international phone numbers on the Travel SIM instead of using data-operated apps, such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, etc. to save on data
- Download the My Vodafone app so it’s easier to monitor your usage and balance
- Switch off all auto-updates and restrict background data downloads to also save on data
- Switch off data if you’re not using it
- If you’re going to use a lot of data on your holiday, it’s best to get a standard Vodafone SIM card so that you can use data add-ons.
More About SIM Cards and Using Your Phone in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to the best SIM card in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands for travellers. For more phone-related advice, take a look at the following articles:
- Will Your Phone Work in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands?
- How to Get Internet & WiFi in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands Electrical Outlets & Power Plugs
Finally, make sure you know all of the essential tips from the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands and have everything packed using What to Pack for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: Cook Islands Packing List.