Bonaire is one of the ABC-islands in the Caribbean, consisting of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. It is part of the Netherlands and considered to be an overseas region in the Caribbean Netherlands. Previously, it was part of the Netherlands Antilles.
Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire, has the Bonaire Marine Park and the lovely Kaya Grandi shopping streets. Lac Bay is great for windsurfing and kitesurfing. It has a cool lagoon too.
Klein Bonaire, which literally means Small Bonaire, is a small island on the west of Bonaire. It is great for scuba diving and snorking. And… I almost forgot to mention the flamingos throughout Bonaire. There are many of them walking around, so sure to capture one on your phone!
What you should not capture is an expensive roaming bill you will get from roaming with your provider in Bonaire. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards, even Bonaire ones.
Those with a SIM card from a country from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) should especially watch out with deciding to roam in Bonaire.
Bonaire is neither part of the EU nor the EEA, so they are not bound to the 2017 roam like at home regulation. Be sure to check whether your operator offers free roaming in Bonaire before receiving an expensive roaming bill, as your operator is not required to offer free roaming in Bonaire.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Bonaire. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Bonaire
Bonaire has 2 telecom providers: Digicel Bonaire and UTS Bonaire (formerly Chippie). Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Bonaire? If you want to buy a SIM card in Bonaire, I would recommend going with either Digicel or UTS. Both operators have good coverage throughout Bonaire and offer free roaming to at least Curacao as well.
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Do note that both operators offer free roaming in certain countries. Digicel offers free roaming in Aruba and Curacao. UTS offers free roaming in Chippieland, which is Curacao, Saba, Saint Barthelemy (Barts), Sint Eustatius, Saint Martin (French side), and Sint Maarten (Dutch side).
Additionally, there is a high probability that you will visit Curacao before going to Bonaire. You could buy your SIM card in Curacao (which also offers free roaming in Bonaire).
You can also wait until you get to Bonaire because Curacao uses a different currency than Bonaire called Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG).
You can buy tourist SIM cards in Curacao with UTS Curacao, while Bonaire does not offer them.
Like most countries in the Caribbean, you have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Bonaire.
Bonaire uses the US Dollar, so all prices will be listed as just “$.”
A special reminder for those from the EU/EEA: Bonaire is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Bonaire. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Bonaire SIM card instead of roaming with their providers. Some providers, however, offer free roaming in Bonaire, but this is not the case for all. Be sure to check your provider’s site to learn whether you can roam for free or not.
With that being said, let’s see what Bonaire has to offer to us.
Digicel Bonaire, just Digicel, is the most popular operator on Bonaire with a market share of around 75%. They offer good coverage throughout the island, although they have no coverage in Washington Slagbaai National Part (north-northwest).
You can buy a Digicel SIM card in Kralendijk (Kaya Grandi 26), which is Digicel’s headquarters in Bonaire. Top-up vouchers are sold in many stores throughout Bonaire, such as kiosks, convenience stores, and supermarkets. Additionally, you can top up online with a credit card.
Digicel has several Quick Pick Data Plans, which are their data plans that come with unlimited roll-over and d’Music Premium:
- $2: 200 MB for 1 day
- $7.50: 750 MB for 3 days
- $11.50: 1.5 GB for 7 days
- $22: 1.5 GB for 14 days
- $32: 4.5 GB for 30 days
- $55: 4.5 GB, unlimited on-net minutes, and unlimited on-net SMS for 30 days
You can activate a Digicel Quick Pick Data Plan online, by dialing *123# and selection option 2, or on the My Digicel App. All Quick Pick Data Plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. Unused data will roll-over to the new period, as long as the auto-renewal is successful.
Remember, you can use your data allowance in Aruba and Curacao as well without a surcharge.
UTS Bonaire (formerly Chippie)
UTS Bonaire, formerly Chippie, is the other operator in Bonaire. They offer good coverage throughout Bonaire, slightly better than Digicel.
You can buy a UTS store in Kralendijk (Kaya Grandi 32). Top-up cards are sold in various stores throughout Bonaire. To check your balance, dial #191# or use the miUTS app.
UTS offers several Smart Combo Bundles, which come with unlimited local calls and from Bonaire to Chippieland and unlimited local SMS:
- $2.30: 40 MB daily. Activation: text combod40 to 3434
- $3.50: 100 MB for 1 day. Activation: text combod100 to 3434
- $29: 500 MB for 7 days. Activation: text combow500 to 3434
- $79: 2.5 GB for 30 days. Activation: text combom2500 to 3434
- $99: 5 GB for 30 days. Activation: text combom5000 to 3434
Remember, you can use your data allowance in Chippieland, which is Curacao, Saba, Saint Barthelemy (Barts), Sint Eustatius, Saint Martin, and Sint Maarten.
The $2.30 40 MB plan will renew automatically daily. To cancel the auto-renewal, text SURF STOP to 3434.
Only need data? The following UTS Smart Surf Bundles are available:
- $1.50: 100 MB daily. Activation: text surfd100 to 3434
- $12: 1000 MB for 7 days. Activation: text surfw1000 to 3434
- $18: 750 MB for 30 days. Activation: text surfm750 to 3434
- $31: 3000 MB for 30 days. Activation: text surfm3000 to 3434
- $52: 6000 MB for 30 days. Activation: text surfm6000 to 3434
You can use UTS Smart Surf Bundles in Chippieland as well (Curacao, Saba, Saint Barthelemy (Barts), Sint Eustatius, Saint Martin, and Sint Maarten)
Smart Surf Bundles cannot be combined with Smart Combo Bundles (and vice versa). You can, however, combine them with voice plans, but you would be better off getting a Smart Combo bundle instead.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Bonaire
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Bonaire, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Bonaire, but you can also roam with your provider in Bonaire, use an international SIM card in Bonaire, or use a mobile hotspot in Bonaire. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Bonaire
Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.
In the case of Bonaire, you can find many hotspots throughout the island.
Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.
What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription now!
Roaming with Your Provider in Bonaire
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Flow Montserrat then you would be roaming with Flow Montserrat in Bonaire.
Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Bonaire, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.
Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Bonaire, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Bonaire. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.
If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.
One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.
If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Bonaire, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Bonaire SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Bonaire
International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.
International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.
Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.
Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Bonaire, so you cannot be taken advantage of.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using a Mobile Hotspot in Bonaire
A mobile hotspot is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Travelwifi are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day. Travelwifi offers Teppy, the name of the pocket WIFI, starting from $7 per day. All these services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Bonaire
Getting a SIM card from either Digicel or UTS would be your only when considering a Bonaire SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in the Caribbean? Check out my Caribbean SIM card buying guide covering the other Caribbean destinations, such as Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French West Indies (French Guiana, Guadeloupe & Martinique), Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (French) & Sint Maarten (Dutch), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Bonaire
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Bonaire. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Bonaire drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Bonaire
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Bonaire. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Bonaire hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Bonaire
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Bonaire, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!