French Polynesia is a country that consists of 118 islands scattered across Oceania. The island names Tahiti is known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters, while Bora Bora is a great place for snorkeling. Mo’orea is a volcanic island with sandy beaches, while Raiatea is, according to experts, a great for sailing.
There are many islands to choose from when visiting French Polynesia, and it is recommended to visit a handful of them when going there. If you are only staying on one island, then, well… you are missing out!
Did you know that each island has another name? Bora Bora is referred to as the Romantic Island for doing… romantic things 😉 Tahiti is regarded as the Queen of the Pacific, while Mo’orea is the Magical Islands. As I said, you will be missing out if you only stay on one island.
While French Polynesia is beautiful, the roaming bill you will get from roaming with your provider may not be as pretty. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers wish to buy local SIM cards, even in French Polynesia.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in French Polynesia. Let’s go.
Telecom Providers in French Polynesia
French Polynesia has 3 telecom providers: Vini, Vodafone French Polynesia, and VITI. VITI does not offer prepaid SIM cards, which is why they will not be discussed any further in this article.
Both Vini and Vodafone French Polynesia have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting French Polynesia? If you want to buy a SIM card in French Polynesia, I would recommend going with Vini because they have the best coverage in the country.
Unlike most countries in Oceania, you have to show your passport when buying a French Polynesian SIM card.
With that said, let’s see what Vini and Vodafone French Polynesia have to offer.
Vini is the largest operator in terms of coverage and subscribers. Vini is owned by OPT, which is also active in New Caledonia. Besides their 2G and 3G networks, Vini also has a 4G/LTE network, but it is not available to prepaid customers as of now.
You can buy a Vini SIM card in Vini stores, OPT stores, or at Papeete Faa Airport. The shop at the airport closes at 6 PM during the day and 12 PM during the weekend. Recharge cards are sold from 500 CFP ($4.60) to 2000 CFP The following two starter packs are available:
- 850 CFP: Called Vinicard. It comes with 800 CFP in credit. Credit can be used for 30 minutes, 80 SMS, or 160 MB
- 1750 CFP: Called Vinicard Xtra. It comes with 40 minutes and 120 SMS
Vini does not seem to sell data packs valuable data anymore. Instead, you pay 5 CFP per MB. 500 CFP will get you 100 MB, 1000 CFP gets you 200 MB, and 2000 CFP will get you 400 MB.
You can also buy a Vini data-only SIM card called Internet Mobile Prépayé, which can only be used for data and SMS. The data-only SIM card will cost you 2050 CFP and comes with 500 MB. You will also pay 5 CFP per MB with this SIM card. You can check your balance by texting conso to 7100.
If you need to change your Vini APN settings manually, then you need to add the following under APN: “internet”.
Vodafone French Polynesia
Vodafone French Polynesia, just Vodafone, is the other player in French Polynesia. Unlike Vini, they do offer 4G/LTE to prepaid customers. However, their total coverage (2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE) is much worse than Vini. If you are planning on staying in one place in the country, then Vodafone could be an option. Else, you should go with Vini.
Vodafone SIM cards are sold in Vodafone stores. The VodaCard costs 650 CFP and comes with 56 MB. The Vodafone Brad costs 1500 CFP and comes with 84 MB. If you recharge with at least 200 CFP on any card, then you will get another 50 MB as a bonus.
Just like Vini, Vodafone does not sell data packages. Instead, you will pay 11 CFP per MB. 500 CFP would give you 45 MB, 1000 CFP gives you 90 MB, and 2000 CFP gives you 180 MB. You can check your balance by dialing *1122#, and you will receive an SMS with your balance.
You can also buy a Vodafone data-only SIM card called Internet Mobile Prépayé. Initially, you will pay 5 CFP per MB. After you have topped up again, then you will pay 3 CFP per MB. Vodafone advertises the following “packs” when being charged 3 CFP per MB:
- 1950 CFP: 500 MB
- 3450 CFP: 1 GB
Finally, you can get a Vodafone tourist SIM card for 5000 CFP. It comes with 3 GB, 30 domestic minutes, and 30 international minutes to be used within 50 days. These cards can be bought at the airport or in regular Vodafone stores.
You should not need to alter your APN settings with Vodafone.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in French Polynesia
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in French Polynesia, 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 French Polynesia, but you can also roam with your provider in French Polynesia, use an international SIM card in French Polynesia, or use a mobile hotspot in French Polynesia. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in French Polynesia
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 French Polynesia, you can find quite some hotspots around the nation.
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 French Polynesia
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 Maniua from Wallis and Futuna, then you would be roaming with Maniua in French Polynesia.
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 French Polynesia, 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 French Polynesia, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in French Polynesia. 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 French Polynesia, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a French Polynesian SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in French Polynesia
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, and Surfroam.
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 French Polynesia, 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 French Polynesia
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 Vision Global Wireless 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 while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both 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 French Polynesia
Getting a SIM card from Vini would do you well when considering a French Polynesian 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 are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots 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 Oceania? Check out my Oceanian SIM card buying guide covering the other Oceanian destinations, such as American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. 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 French Polynesia
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 French Polynesia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to French Polynesia drop.
Book Your Accommodation for French Polynesia
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 French Polynesia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a French Polynesian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for French Polynesia
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 Guatemala, 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!