Can I Use My Phone in the Cook Islands?
Plugging into the one and only Cook Islands cellphone network when arriving in Rarotonga is a necessity if you want to keep phone and internet expenses to a minimum. Unless you want to pay extortionate roaming rates (that’s if your network provider offers roaming in the Cook Islands at all), you will have to get yourself a SIM card and a new Cook Islands phone number. In order to get a Cook Islands SIM, you will need to make sure your phone is compatible with the GSM and data frequencies and is unlocked for all phone networks. We go through all of that and more in this guide to checking your phone will work in the Cook Islands!
Can You Use Roaming in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Many overseas phone networks (but certainly not all, so be sure to check) offer roaming in the Cook Islands. However, this is by far the most expensive way to use your phone, even if the phone plans in the Cook Islands aren’t exactly “cheap”. We recommend getting a local Cook Islands SIM card for cheaper access to calls, texts and data than what your overseas provider can offer. See The Best SIM Card in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for Travellers for more details.
Is Your Phone Unlocked?
If You Purchased Your Phone Unlocked
Good job! Your phone is ready to go. As long as it meets the conditions in the two sections below, you will be able to use your phone in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands.
If You Purchased Your Phone Through a Network Operator
Generally, when a phone is purchased through a network operator, it will come locked to the network you bought your phone from. This means that you will only be able to use it with a SIM card from that said operator.
To be able to use a phone on a different network than the one you purchased it from, such as the local network in the Cook Islands, you will need to unlock it. To do so, refer to your contract and see what is the fee to unlock your phone, as well as the timeframe. In many cases, phones can be unlocked for under $50 if you have been with an operator for 6 or 12 months.
You can also unlock phones through phone unlocking stores that can be found pretty much everywhere – probably at your local mall! This is usually more expensive than doing it through your network operator but is typically quicker and more convenient.
Is Your Phone Compatible with the Cook Islands Network?
The Cook Islands phone network uses GSM technology. This is the newest cellphone network technology as opposed to the older CMDA one. You’ll find that almost all phones use GSM technology since around 2017.
To make sure that your phone will work in the Cook Islands, it will need to support GSM technology.
To find out if your phone supports GSM technology, refer to your user manual (which will likely be on your phone). One more thing; a phone working on a CMDA network could be supporting GSM as well, as many phones have dual compatibility (dual-band). Phones that have tri-band and quad-band compatibility will also work in the Cook Islands.
You will also want to be able to browse the web and use CookIslandsPocketGuide.com throughout your entire trip, right? Although there are WiFi hotspots around the Cook Islands, accessing the internet is cheaper through the local phone network.
In order for your phone to use the internet (data) in the Cook Islands, it must be compatible with the following frequencies:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 900 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 700 MHz & 1800 MHz.
You can force 4G when in coverage by doing one or more of the following:
- Ending all data sessions
- Putting your device in flight mode for around 90 seconds
- Powering your mobile off and on.
See where 3G and 4G are available in The Best SIM Card in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for Travellers.
Note that 5G, VoLTE and VoWiFi are not yet available in the Cook Islands.
Will My Apps Work in the Cook Islands?
Most apps will work just fine in the Cook Islands. Apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber, Google Maps, TikTok, etc. all work. Bear in mind, however, that if you are using a local SIM, you will need to confirm your new phone number on apps, like Whatsapp, that are connected to your phone number.
Note that some apps are geo-locked and will only work when linked to a country-specific SIM so be aware that some apps may not work in the Cook Islands. You may need to create a different account here in the Cook Islands and subscribe from here. This is mostly true for apps dealing with copyright work like music or videos, such as Spotify.
A Word of Warning
Apple, Google and Outlook accounts have an auto-detection system that will trigger a security check when connecting from a different country. Make sure that you have another option than a phone number for that security check. Otherwise, you might be locked out of your accounts. Security questions are the way to go.
More About Using Your Phone in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide on checking if your phone will work in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more tips on staying connected in the Cooks, check out the following guides:
- The Best SIM Card in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for Travellers
- How to Get Internet & WiFi in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 20 Essentials You Need to Pack for Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, get further essential advice for your trip using the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands and The Best Cook Islands Travel Guide.