Buy a local SIM card to reduce your roaming rates
The Channel Islands are in the middle of the English Channel between the United Kingdom and France and are very popular with tourists, as well as being an important offshore financial centre. Using your phone there can work out to be quite pricey, so to keep costs down why not switch to a local SIM card so you can take advantage of better plans, deals and tariffs? The Channel Islands have special prepaid SIM card deals for tourists – offers that could reduce your phone bill. So, whether you’re planning a quick break, an extended trip or an island tour, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
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The English-speaking Channel Islands are classed as British territory and have three main operators: JT Jersey/Guernsey, Airtel-Vodafone and Sure. All three have been tried, tested and trusted by both locals and international visitors. Bespoke prepaid SIM cards are available for tourists and they offer exceptional deals specifically for short trips.
Although the Channel Islands are ruled under the British crown, they are not officially part of the UK and neither are they part of the EU. Therefore, they are not subject to EU roaming price caps. Jersey and Guernsey have different networks but they all fall under the same providers so additional roaming charges won’t apply. The islands offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services and SIM cards are offered free of charge if credit is purchased to activate the number. The locals call their prepaid plans “pay-as-you-go” and can be purchased without any form of identification or registration.
Sure is the leading operator on the Channel Islands and offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services in both Jersey and Guernsey. It also has the best far-reaching service that can be picked up on the other islands.
Sure’s pay-as-you-go SIM cards are free from all retail outlets but can only be used once you add at least £5 credit. Nano, mini and micro SIMs are available. Credit can be purchased for £5, £10 or £20 along with several different plans and packages highlighted below. Dial *#100# to check your balance. Dial *#101*<13-digit PIN># to add credit.
There are several different prepaid SIM card plans on offer:
£5 credit top up – 2GB, 100 domestic mins and SMS – valid for 7 days
£10 credit top up – 5GB, 250 domestic mins and SMS – valid for 14 days
£20 credit top up – 10GB, 5,000 domestic mins and SMS – valid for 30 days
Data outside these allowances is charged at £0.10 per MB.
Sure also sells pay-as-you-go data-only plans for dongles, tablets and routers. You will be charged £1 as soon as you connect to the Internet and it will allow 500MB of use until midnight of each day. Speeds will be reduced once you hit the 500MB limit but won’t be cut off.
JT Jersey/Guernsey is the second largest provider and covers the Channel Islands, offering 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Its pay-as-you-go SIM card is available from its store in Jersey at 18 Queen Street, St. Helier and also in Guernsey at 24 High Street. The SIM card can be purchased for £2 and comes with £3 of credit. Call 231 to activate the SIM card and preloaded credit.
Credit can be purchased from most places on the islands. Dial *#133# to check the balance. Credit can also be purchased online by using your credit card through its official website.
The following data is automatically included in top-up amounts:
£5 credit – 500MB data, 500 JT mins and SMS, plus the credit amount – valid for 7 days
£10 credit – 3GB data, 1,000 JT mins and SMS, plus the credit amount – valid for 14 days
£25 credit – 10GB data, 10,000 JT mins and SMS, plus the credit amount – valid 30 days
The above-mentioned plans can be doubled in value by taking advantage of the JT app for both Android and iOS. There is also a pay-as-you-go prepaid data-only SIM card; the data rate is £0.10 per MB.
Airtel-Vodafone is the smallest provider on the islands but offers the cheapest international call rates and 4G/LTE is offered on prepaid without surcharges.
The “Super SIM” prepaid SIM card is available for free but credit must be added in order to use it. The Guernsey store is located at 45 High Street while the Jersey store is at 26 Queen Street in St. Helier.
Credit can be purchased from most retailers, through Payzone terminals or online by using your credit card. Dial *123# to check your balance.
Like the other two providers, Airtel-Vodafone only provides data as part of credit top-ups:
£10 credit – 4GB data, credit amount and unlimited on-net calls and SMS for 30 days
£20 top-up – 10GB data, credit amount and unlimited on-net calls and SMS for 30 days
Overuse rate is £0.04 per MB plus £0.01 per data session.
- They speak English and French on the Channel Islands so you should be able to communicate quite easily with the locals
- Locals call a SIM card a “chip” or “SIM” and refer to prepaid as “pay-as-you-go”
- Ask the retailer to help set up the SIM card for you
- There are limited stores on the islands and SIM cards can sometimes be out of stock. Try and get to the shops early and be prepared to do a bit of shopping around
While it’s well known for its reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in the Channel Islands.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “Sure's Pay & Go service offers a week's free calls and texts to Jersey mobiles, plus unlimited data, with a £5 top up. Their 4G service is up and running, and they have a shop in town that's hard to miss across from M&S”
- “We have 3 networks here (Jersey Telecom, Sure and Airtel-Vodafone). You certainly don't want to be roaming on your own network as the charges would be astronomical”
- “If you plan on using your phone a lot then yes, pick up a PAYG sim card from any of the providers. There is no discernible difference in coverage from what I can tell. I've been with Jersey Telecom all the time I've lived here and rarely have any coverage problems”
All three providers require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international phone. To double check you have this option or if it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- There are limited stores on the islands
Q: What about roaming rates?
A: Roaming in the Channel Islands using any other network is notoriously expensive. We strongly advise that if you plan on using your phone a lot here, switch over to a local SIM card. However, do compare their prices with your own because they might turn out to be cheaper. Channel Islands SIM cards can be used in other European countries, subject to additional roaming charges, but that defeats the object of purchasing a local SIM card to avoid using your home phone abroad. We advise you to only use the SIM card in the Channel Islands to reap the full benefits of what it can offer. If you plan on travelling around Europe it would be better to purchase a SIM card from that country to cut costs.