The Cook Islands – a country consisting of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean.
Although gaining independence from New Zealand in 2001, the two countries still have active ties. Examples are New Zealand being responsible for the Cook Island's defense.
Those living in the Cook Islands are often regarded as one of the friendliest people on earth (unofficially, of course). The country is also known for its marvelous beaches.
As there are 15 islands, there is no shortage of amazing beaches with clear water.
Besides beaches, the nightlife on Rarotonga, the main island of the Cook Islands, has an active nightlife and many attractions.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is no need for anyone to be bored when visiting the Cook Islands.
In fact, you will probably influence your friends and family to head over to the Cook Islands as soon as possible after seeing all your social media posts.
Before you start to live streaming your 5th cocktail session on the beach, do note that international roaming can be expensive, especially on remote island nations like the Cook Islands. Those bills can be considered highway robbery.
Luckily, you can prevent roaming bills by using a local SIM card, like the one from Vodafone Cook Island.
But how expensive are SIM cards in the Cook Islands?
You can get a Vodafone SIM card, the only option in the Cook Islands, for 25 NZD (17.35 USD) with starter credit. It is also possible to get the Traveler SIM for 49 NZD (34 USD) with data and local and international minutes & SMS. 2 GB valid for 7 days will cost you 10 NZD (7 USD).
I have to be honest, those are not low prices. However, they are pretty normal for the region. SIM cards are not cheap in Oceania most of the time, unfortunately.
Nevertheless, these prices will be a fraction of what you would pay compared to international roaming rates.
Even though the Cook Islands have only one mobile operator (Vodafone Cook Islands), there are plenty of things you should know about buying a SIM card there.
In this guide, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Cook Islands. Let's have a look?
Original publication: 30th of January 2020. Last updated: 24th of July 2021.
Table of Contents
Can You Buy a SIM Card in the Cook Islands?
Anyone is allowed to buy a Cook Islands SIM card, including tourists and visitors.
Be aware that you need a phone that supports the frequencies used in the country (preferably all of them to have the most optimal experience while in the Cook Islands).
This requirement also applies to those who want to get a Cook Islands SIM card or want to roam in the country.
Where Can You Buy a SIM Card in the Cook Islands?
You can get a Cook Islands SIM card in the official stores of Vodafone. They can also be purchased from resellers, such as electronic shops. It is also possible to buy SIM cards at Rarotonga International Airport (Rarotonga Papa Rererangi).
You can expect to pay the following for Samoan SIM cards:
- Vodafone Cook Islands (formerly Bluesky Cook Islands): 25 NZD
The following operators also have SIM cards targeting tourists:
- Vodafone Cook Islands (formerly Bluesky Cook Islands): 49 NZD
Can You Use Your Phone in the Cook Islands?
The Cook Islands uses GSM technology for mobile communications. CDMA phones will not work in The Cook Islands. However, there is a 99% chance your phone supports GSM (if your phone has a SIM card slot, then it supports GSM).
Besides that, you need to be aware of the ITU regions to determine whether your phone will work in other parts of the world.
Although there are three ITU regions, you only need to know these two terms: American Frequencies and European Frequencies.
Africa, Asia (including the Middle East), Europe, and Oceania (ITU Regions 1 & 3) typically use European Frequencies, meaning phones bought in those regions can be used in countries using European Frequencies without issues.
The Cook Islands use primarily European frequencies for 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE. However, they use a low-band frequency for 4G/LTE that is an American frequency (700 MHz on Band 28). In comparison, the high-band frequency for 4G/LTE is 1800 MHz on Band 3 – the base 4G/LTE frequency for almost all nations in ITU regions 1 & 3.
If you bought your phone in the Americas (ITU region 2) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then you can get a SIM card from both Vodafone Cook Islands and use only 4G/LTE on 700 MHz (Band 28). However, you will not have any fallback to 2G or 3G because those are on traditional European frequencies.
Even then, the standard band for 700 MHz in the Americas are Band 12 & Band 13 – Band 28 is popular in Latin America (Central America), some countries in Asia, and a few other Pacific nations. As a result, there is no guarantee that your phone will work in the Cook Islands, even when bought in ITU region 2 and it supporting 700 MHz (on the wrong bands).
If you purchased your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU regions 1 & 3) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then you can get a SIM card from Vodafone Cook Islands and use 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE. However, your phone may fall back to 2G or 3G in areas where only 700 MHz (Band 28) is used for 4G/LTE.
If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone in the Cook Islands without (major) issues – also on 4G/LTE.
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands have one mobile network operator:
- Vodafone Cook Islands (formerly Bluesky Cook Islands)
The following frequencies are used in the Cook Islands:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 900 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 700 MHz (Band 28) & 1800 MHz (Band 3)
You can learn more about frequencies in the video below.
To check whether your phone will work in the Cook Islands, check out this page by Will My Phone Work (may be outdated or inaccurate at times).
Again, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator (meaning you have to roam internationally or buy another unlocked phone that does support the frequencies listed above).
If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.
5G in the Cook Islands
5G is not available in the Cook Islands as of 2021, and the Cook Island government has not made any indications of when they will auction 5G licenses.
Best SIM Card in the Cook Islands
If you want to buy the best SIM card in the Cook Islands, Vodafone is your only option (it is the only operator in the country).
SIM Card Registration in the Cook Islands
SIM card registration, with the use of your personal information (such as your passport), is not required when buying a SIM card in the Cook Islands.
Cook Islands Internet Prices & Insights
You have already learned that SIM cards in the Cook Islands are quite pricey. That happens when there is a monopoly in the market. But what about mobile data itself? Are those prices reasonable?
The average price for 1 GB of data in the Cook Islands is 3.50 USD, far below the Oceanian average of 5.51 USD. The world average is 4.07 USD.
And the cost of mobile data will only go down with the country being linked to the Manatua One Polynesia Fiber Cable – the first submarine cable connected to the Cook Islands and Niue.
This is also why Vodafone Cook Islands introduced the new Midnight Data Deals, offering a lot of data for nighttime use.
For Prepay (prepaid) customers, which you will be when buying a SIM card in the Cook Islands, regular prices have not gone down by a significant margin. The data allowance for the Vodafone Travel SIM, however, went up by 67%, which is neat.
However, Postpay (postpaid) customers have reaped the benefit of more generous data allowances. Those benefits may trickle down to Prepay customers… eventually… or ever.
Besides the submarine cable, better, faster, and cheaper satellites are also connected to the Cook Islands, such as Kacific (-1).
Usually, this really means an insane reduction in mobile internet prices (like in Samoa), but Vodafone Cook Islands has a monopoly. They can charge whatever they want… for now.
By the way, I am not hating on Vodafone Cook Islands – there are far worse telecom monopolies out there. I was hoping they would decrease costs for the consumers as fast as various other nations in the region have done. I am just a bit disappointed, haha. Then again, I am happy for the Cook Island people being able to be connected in the first place.
In terms of download speeds in areas where 4G/LTE is available, expect a maximum download speed of 30 Mbps. This will increase over the years. 4G/LTE will be available in Aitutaki & Rarotonga. 3G can be found in Atiu, Atiutaki, Mauke, Mitiaro & Rarotonga. The other inhabited islands will have 2G coverage (if you are lucky).
With all of this being said, you should have a smooth network experience when in the Cook Islands.
Currency in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands use the New Zealand Dollar with the symbol NZD (which will be used throughout this guide). However, prices are often listed as just $ & NZ$. For example, 25 NZD = NZ$/$25. For reference, below are some exchange rates between NZD and USD (US Dollars):
- 1 NZD = 0.70 USD
- 10 NZD = 6.95 USD
- 100 NZD = 69.35 USD
For up-to-date NZD:USD exchange rates, search NZD to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card. Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks). I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Euros, my main currency, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards. Open a Wise account FREE!
Cook Islands Prepaid SIM Cards
Below, I will guide you through Vodafone Cook Islands and go through:
- Background information
- Mobile coverage
- SIM card types, prices, and availability
- Recharge/top-up information
- Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)
With that being said, let’s see what the Cook Islands have to offer to us.
Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
Vodafone Cook Islands, just Vodafone and formerly Bluesky Cook Islands, is the sole operator in the Cook Islands. As Vodafone holds a monopoly, mobile data prices, together with other factors, can be considered pricey in the Cook Islands.
Vodafone uses the following frequencies:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 900 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 700 MHz (Band 28) & 1800 MHz (Band 3)
Coverage – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
Vodafone has good coverage on inhabited islands.
The islands with the best 3G and 4G/LTE reception are Atiu, Aitutaki, Mauke, Mitiaro & Rarotonga. Other islands have 2G coverage.
Below is Vodafone's coverage map on Rarotonga:
Here is the map on Aitutaki:
Finally, the coverage map on Mangaia:
SIM Card Price – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
You can buy a Vodafone SIM card for 25 NZD with 20 NZD in credit in Vodafone stores and resellers. You can also get a Vodafone SIM card at Rarotonga International Airport (Rarotonga Papa Rererangi).
Short-term visitors and tourists can also get a Vodafone Travel SIM card for 49 NZD with 5 GB, 30 minutes, and 300 SMS – all valid for 15 days. Your minutes and SMS can be used to be called to select international destinations.
|Price||Data||Local & International Minutes 1||Local & International SMS 1||Validity|
|49 NZD||5 GB||30 minutes||300 SMS||15 days|
1 Australia, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, United Kingdom & United States
The Vodafone Travel SIM cannot be extended. However, regular plans can be purchased if you are out of your allowance.
Dial *888# to access the Vodafone menu.
Vodafone SIM cards get deactivated if there has been no activity for 180 days (no top-up for 180 days or no activity for 180 days).
Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
Vodafone top-up vouchers, in denominations between 1 NZD to 100 NZD, are sold in Vodafone stores and many other stores throughout the Cook Islands, including post offices, kiosks, and grocery stores.
To top up your Vodafone SIM card, dial *888# and follow the instructions.
You can also recharge online with (international) debit and credit cards.
You can also tell the salesperson how much credit you want, your phone number, pay, and they will top up your SIM card with the POS system.
Dial *888# to check your Vodafone balance. The same can be done by texting datachk, BAL, or CAP to 888.
Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
Prepay Bundles – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
The Prepay Bundles are data-only bundles.
You can activate up to 20 Prepay Bundles at a time.
The following Prepay Bundles are available, which you can activate by dialing *888#.
|3 NZD||24HR$3||600 MB||24 hours|
|5 NZD||3DAY$5||1 GB||3 days|
|10 NZD||7DAY$10||2 GB||7 days|
|30 NZD||10DAY$30||6 GB||10 days|
Midnight Data Deals – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
The Midnite Data Deals are nighttime data-only plans to be used between 0:00 and 7:00.
The following Midnite Data Deals are available, which you can activate by dialing *888#.
|5 NZD||24HR||10 GB||24 hours|
|10 NZD||3NITE||20 GB||3 nights|
|15 NZD||5NITE||30 GB||5 nights|
|20 NZD||5NITE||40 GB||5 nights|
1 between 0:00 – 7:00
APN/Internet Settings – Vodafone Cook Islands (Formerly BlueSky Cook Islands)
- Name: Vodafone
- APN: internet
Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Cook Islands
Getting a Cook Islands SIM card is the best way to stay connected in the country.
But sometimes, getting a local SIM card is not possible. Perhaps you have a SIM-lock phone. The operator you prefer to go with does not support the frequencies your phone uses, or you cannot be bothered to deal with SIM card registration in every country you are visiting.
Luckily, there are other ways to get online when in the Cook Islands.
However, these methods may be more expensive than getting a SIM card from the local operators.
International roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected when traveling in other countries because you do not have to buy a new SIM card, have to deal with SIM card registration regulations, nor have multiple phone numbers to deal with.
However, international roaming has proven to be expensive in many cases, especially compared to buying local SIM cards. That is why many travelers are not fond of international roaming.
International roaming has its pros and cons. However, it is important to know how it works. This in-depth guide explains it all.
Find out whether your mobile operator has attractive roaming rates for the Cook Islands here.
Using an International SIM Card or Travel SIM Card
International SIM cards are SIM cards made for the traveler in mind. Using them is often cheaper than international roaming. However, they are almost always more expensive than using a local SIM card.
There are many other advantages and disadvantages of getting international SIM cards, which you can learn about here.
Mobile hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are small devices that connect to the local operators of the country you are visiting. Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.
Using Free WIFI Networks
Using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to stay connected because they are free. The major downside of trying to use WIFI hotspots is that you will have to locate them, and they are not available on every corner in the Cook Islands.
Make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN so that hackers cannot steal your personal data.
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Cook Islands
Getting a SIM card from Vodafone would be your only when considering a SIM card in the Cook Islands.
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