Saint Helena is a British Overseas Territory comprising of Saint Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha. The island lies almost 1950 kilometers (1200 miles) west of the coast of southwest Africa and 4000 kilometers (2500 miles) from Brazil. As a result, the island ground is grouped together with West Africa, even when it is so far away from mainland Africa.
The island does have a few tourist attractions, but many travelers go there to relax, which is understandable. You are so far away from everyone… the only thing you can do is relax!
As not many operators offer roaming in Saint Helena, your only option to stay connected in Saint Helena is getting a Saint Helenian local SIM card. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card. In the case of Saint Helena, you do not have much choice.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Saint Helena. Let's get started.
Telecom Provider in Saint Helena
Saint Helena has 1 telecom provider, and that is Sure Saint Helena. Sure Saint Helena has 2G and 4G/LTE networks throughout the island.
As there is no 3G network, it is essential to know that Sure uses the frequency 1800 MHz (Band 3) for their 4G/LTE network. If your phone does not support this frequency, then you will be limited to 2G speeds, which is extremely slow for data.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Saint Helena? If you want to buy a SIM card in Saint Helena, Sure would be your only option.
Also, be aware that although Saint Helena and Ascension Island are in the same territory, they have separate networks (even though it is also operated by Sure). You will be charged roaming fees if using your Sure Saint Helena SIM card in Ascension Island and vice versa.
Additionally, Saint Helena uses satellites to facilitate (mobile) internet because the island has no submarine cables linked to other countries. As a result, mobile data in Saint Helena is expensive compared to many other nations and can be slow at times if many people are using mobile data.
The Saint Helenian government has signed an agreement with Google to branch off a cable to Saint Helena from the Portugal-South Africa cable. This project is expected to be finished in 2022, which will result in faster speeds and lower prices. Until then, you will pay a premium for using the internet on the island.
A special reminder for those from the EU/EEA: Saint Helena is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Saint Helena. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Saint Helenian SIM card instead of roaming with their providers.
Not many providers offer roaming in Saint Helena (in Europe, only Vodafone UK and O2 do), let alone free roaming, so 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 Saint Helena has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Sure Saint Helena
Sure Saint Helena, officially called Sure South Atlantic, is the sole operator in Saint Helena. Their coverage is decent throughout Saint Helena.
You can buy a Sure SIM card for 16.50 GBP ($20.30) with 10 GBP in credit in the Sure service center in Jamestown (Bishop’s Room) and Saint Helena Airport. Although the salesperson will often activate your Sure SIM card for you, you may have to dial *170# to activate your SIM card.
Sure top-up vouchers are sold in various stores. To recharge, you have to dial *177&VoucherCode#. For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *177*123456#.
Sure has 2 (expensive) data packs:
- 10 GBP: 100 MB. Activation: dial *173*200#
- 20 GBP: 250 MB. Activation: dial *173*200#
In short, you will spend at least 26.50 GBP for 100 MB (16.50 GBP for the SIM card and 10 GBP for the 100 MB pack), which is criminal.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Saint Helena
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Saint Helena, 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 Saint Helena, but you can also roam with your provider in Saint Helena, use an international SIM card in Saint Helena, or use a mobile hotspot in Saint Helena. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Saint Helena
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 Saint Helena, finding free hotspots is rare.
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 Saint Helena
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 Djibouti Telecom, then you would be roaming with Djibouti Telecom in Saint Helena.
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 Saint Helena. Additionally, only a handful of countries offer roaming in Saint Helena. These operators are:
- MTN South Africa
- O2 UK
- Softbank Japan (JNPJP & JNPEM)
- Sure Ascension Island
- Sure Falklands
- Vodafone UK
It is unlikely that any of these operators offer free roaming in Saint Helena.
Using an International SIM Card in Saint Helena
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 Saint Helena, 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 Saint Helena
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, Vision Global Wireless, 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 while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 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 Saint Helena
Getting a SIM card from Sure would be your only option when considering a Saint Helenian 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.
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 Saint Helena
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 Saint Helena. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Saint Helena drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Saint Helena
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 Saint Helena. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Saint Helenian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Saint Helena
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 Saint Helena, 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 British Pound 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!