Tuvalu is a small island nation in Oceania consisting of 9 islands. Although tiny, it is not a boring destination for those who love beaches, as you will find them anywhere.
While the temperature seems to be stable throughout the year, the rainy season from November to April makes it a relatively seasonal travel destination.
Many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards because roaming with your provider can be expensive in many cases, including Tuvalu. That is why I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Tuvalu so that you can avoid those expensive roaming rates. Let's investigate.
Telecom Provider in Tuvalu
Tuvalu has 1 telecom provider, which is Tuvalu Telecom Corporation (TTC). TTC runs 3G and 4G/LTE networks on the main islands. Initially, TTC relied on two relatively slow satellite connections for its mobile internet. Nowadays, speeds have significantly improved, but you should not expect insanely fast speeds because Tuvalu still uses satellites instead of submarine cables.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting the Tuvalu? If you want to buy a SIM card in Tuvalu, your only choice would be Tuvalu Telecom Corporation.
The main issue with the internet in Tuvalu is bandwidth. The more people who are trying to use the web, the slower the experience will be for everyone else. Bandwidth should be improved over the coming years, but you will not be able to enjoy high-speed 4G/LTE speeds like other nations in Oceania, like Australia.
Like most nations in Oceania, you do not have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Tuvalu.
With that said, let’s see what TTC has to offer.
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!
Tuvalu Telecom Corporation (TTC)
Tuvalu Telecom Corporation, just TTC, has a monopoly on broadband internet and mobile internet. Coverage can be found on Funafuti, Nukulaelae, and Vaitupu. TTC got rid of its 2G network because of capacity issues.
Right now, their 3G can only handle a handful of current data connections and calls, so do not be surprised when you cannot make calls or use the web. 4G/LTE can only be found in the capital of Tuvalu, Funafuti.
You can buy a TTC SIM card at the main office of Tuvalu Telecom, which is close to close to Funafuti International Airport. Opening hours are 9 AM until 3 PM on weekdays, 10 AM until 1 PM on Saturdays, and 2 PM to 5 PM un Sundays – do not wait too long with buying your SIM card.
TTC SIM cards cost 10 AUD ($6.70) and come with 5 AUD in credit. Recharge cards can be bought at TTC stores. To redeem your voucher, dial *211*VOUCHER CODE# and your voucher will be activated. For example, if my voucher code is 123456, I would dial *211*123456#. You can check your balance by dialing *767#. Standard Pay As You Go data rates are 0.05 AUD per MB or 51.20 AUD per GB. You would be better off buying one of the following monthly data packs:
- 5 AUD: 250 MB (for 15 days)
- 10 AUD: 700 MB (for 15 days)
- 20 AUD: 1 GB
- 50 AUD: 2.5 GB
- 100 AUD: 5 GB
- 200 AUD: 12 GB
- 300 AUD: 18 GB
- 500 AUD: 32 GB
- 750 AUD: 60 GB
As you can see, mobile data is expensive in Tuvalu. You can activate your pack of choice by texting HELP to 123.
If you need to change your TTC APN settings manually, then you need to add the following under APN, username, and password: “ttc”.
TTC’ WIFI hotspots provide faster speeds than mobile data. You can read more about their WIFI hotspots in the Free WIFI connections section of this article.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Tuvalu
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Tuvalu, 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 Tuvalu, but you can also roam with your provider in Tuvalu, use an international SIM card in Tuvalu, or use a mobile hotspot in Tuvalu. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu, you can find a few hotspots here and there, but they may not be fast. You can pay for TTC' WIFI hotspots, which is sometimes even faster than their mobile network and only available on the main island, Funafuti.
You can buy TTC WIFI vouchers at the Tuvalu Telecom Office. The following vouchers are available:
- 5 AUD: 100 MB
- 10 AUD: 250 MB
- 20 AUD: 600 MB
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 Tuvalu
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 ATHKL from Kiribati, then you would be roaming with ATHKL in Tuvalu.
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 Tuvalu, 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 Tuvalu, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Tuvalu. 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 Tuvalu, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Tuvaluan SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu, 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 Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu
Getting a SIM card from TTC would be your only choice when considering a Tuvaluan 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, French Polynesia, 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 Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Tuvalu drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Tuvaluan hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Tuvalu
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 Tuvalu, 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 Australian Dollars 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!