Buy a local SIM card to reduce your roaming rates.
The Cook Islands are in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean near New Zealand and are popular with tourists looking to explore and animal watch. Using your phone there can be expensive, so to keep costs down, you should switch to a local SIM card. This will let you take advantage of better plans, deals and tariffs. You can buy a prepaid SIM card for tourists while visiting the Cook Islands, which could reduce your bills. So, whether you’re planning a quick break, an extended trip or an island hop, check out the best SIM card offers available on finder.com.au.
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The Maori and English-speaking islands are part of New Zealand but locals also have Cook Islands national status. BlueSky is the only phone operator available on the islands. The operator has been tried, tested and trusted by both locals and international visitors. Coverage can suffer in some parts of the country, but this will happen on any phone and network you use there.
Rarotonga is the largest island and the main retail spot for purchasing prepaid SIM cards. There are 2G, 3G and 4G plans available, but you can only use their SIM cards in unlocked GSM phones. You can buy SIM cards without registering them, but some retailers will ask to see your passport and hotel address. Your telephone number will already be active when you purchase it. Few foreign operators offer roaming on the islands, so it’s best to purchase a local SIM card to avoid astronomical roaming rates.
BlueSky by Telecom Cook Islands is the only provider available on the islands. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards from BlueSky shops and you don’t have to register the card. You can also purchase SIM cards in the arrival area of RAR international airport although the shops are only open while flights are in operation.
You can buy SIM cards for NZD$25, which includes a NZD$20 credit. There are a few BlueSky shops on the island as well as other vendors that sell SIM cards. You should purchase SIM cards from an official store just to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
You can purchase credit for NZD$1, which you can buy from official stores, newsagents and supermarkets nearly anywhere on the islands. You can also purchase and add top ups online by using your credit card or a PayPal account. To register online, you will need to provide your name and a valid email address. If you have already purchased credit for another number, you can transfer it over to the new number by dialling *888# and choosing the credit transfer option. You can also use the BlueSky app to top up credit, add plans and change your details.
Both the SIM card and credit amount are valid for six months after you have made the last top up. BlueSky will cancel the SIM if there is no activity during that time. You can dial *888# and select view balance to check your credit.
The standard default data rate is NZD$0.20 per MB, and you can also add the following data packs:
|24HR$3||NZD$3||100MB||Valid for 24 hours|
|3DAY$5||NZD$5||200MB||Valid for 3 days|
|7DAY$10||NZD$10||450MB||Valid for 7 days|
|10DAY$30||NZD$30||1.5GB||Valid for 10 days|
|14DAY$50||NZD$50||3GB||Valid for 14 days|
To purchase these packs, you can dial *888# and choose one of the above-mentioned plans. You can also dial *888# to check your balance. Once you reach 90% of your package allocation, BlueSky will send an SMS message to notify you that you’re coming to the end of your plan and ask if you want to renew it.
BlueSky’s Visitor SIM is popular with short-term visitors. The SIM card is only valid for 30 days and will automatically shut off at the end of that timeframe. It can be purchased for NZD$49, which comes with 3GB of data, 300 SMS and 30 international minutes. Unfortunately, there are no additional data packs or plans that you can add to this SIM card. Once you have used up the pre-set data, you can add more credit within the 30-day timeframe. Any additional credit will be charged at a standard default rate of NZD$0.20 per MB.
There are also many Bluezone Wi-Fi hotspots available throughout the islands. BlueSky operates more than 80 Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas, restaurants and hotels in Rarotonga and Aitutaki. All SIM cards can access this service, and you can activate it by selecting the Bluezone Wi-Fi option and uploading credit from a prepaid Wi-Fi voucher. You can also use credit from a BlueSky SIM card.
Once you select the Bluezone Wi-Fi option, it should automatically divert you to the login page. To add your prepaid Wi-Fi voucher, just enter your username and password and follow the instructions. Remember to log off once you finish the session otherwise you will continue to rack up charges even if you’re not online.
You can purchase Wi-Fi credit from official stores and most retail outlets on the islands. You can also use credit uploaded onto your SIM card. To use the credit on your SIM, dial *888# and select the Bluezone Wi-Fi option. You can also purchase and upload credit by using your credit card online.
You can purchase the following Bluezone Wi-Fi passes:
- 200MB for NZD$5, which is valid for 3 days
- 500MB for NZD$10, which is valid for 7 days
- 1.5GB for NZD$25, which is valid for 14 days
- 3GB for NZD$50, which is valid for 30 days
- Cook Islanders call a SIM card a “Card” or “SIM”.
- Ask the retailer to help set-up the SIM card for you since they are official sellers and will be very happy to help.
- There are limited stores on the island, so you should try to visit an official store or set up your SIM card at the airport to save time and hassle.
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in the Cook Islands.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “The tourist deal comes with a SIM. The package we were sold could only be used in hotspots. So, make sure you get the right product.”
- “You can buy your Visitor SIM card (loaded with data) from the BlueSky office located next door to Avis at the airport. Look towards the right as you exit the arrivals hall. They open for international flights.”
- “BlueSky staff will set your phone up with their SIM card and check the system is connected when you visit their retail shops.”
BlueSky requires you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international phone. To check whether 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 if my provider has better options?
A: BlueSky has limited options available for other providers to roam on their network. It’s highly advisable to purchase a local SIM card while you’re there because you might not be able to use your phone at all.