Vanuatu consists of around 80 islands that stretch over 1300 kilometers (808 miles) in the South Pacific Ocean. The island nation is often visited for scuba diving. Besides that, the local markets in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, are something you have to experience. And, of course, there are too many beaches to mention, but Espiritu Santo, Efate, and Luganville have lovely beaches. You will not be bored when exploring Vanuatu.
What also will not bore you is getting back home to an expensive roaming bill. Roaming with your provider can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers want to buy a SIM card in Vanuatu. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Vanuatu. Let's go.
Telecom Providers in Vanuatu
Vanuatu has 2 telecom providers: Digicel Vanuatu and TVL. Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Vanuatu? If you want to buy a SIM card in Vanuatu, I would recommend going with Digicel Vanuatu because they have the best network in Vanuatu. You can also try out TVL’s new network, which is much better than before their upgrade.
Like most other nations in Oceania, you do not have to show your passport when buying a SIM card in Vanuatu.
There is not that much to say about Digicel Vanuatu and TVL, so let’s dive right into it.
Digicel Vanuatu, just Digicel, is the largest operator of Vanuatu. At one point, they managed to reach a market share of 90%, although these figures may have changed over the years. Either way, Digicel has the best network and speeds on the island nation.
Digicel SIM cards are sold in Digicel stores and at Bauerfield International Airport. When buying a Digicel SIM card, specifically ask for a 4G card if you want to use Digicel’s 4G/LTE network. The SIM cards are sold for 1000 VUV ($8.60) and come with 1000 VUV in credit. Topping up can be done in stores or online.
The following Digicel data packs can be added:
- 25 VUV: 100 MB for 1 hour
- 50 VUV: 50 MB for 24 hours
- 150 VUV: 100 MB and unlimited Facebook for 24 hours
- 200 VUV: 700 MB from 10 PM until 6 AM (one time)
- 200 VUV: 200 MB for 7 days
- 500 VUV: 500 MB for 14 days
- 700 VUV: 500 MB and unlimited Facebook for 7 days
- 1000 VUV: 1 GB for 30 days
- 3500 VUV: 3 GB and unlimited Facebook for 30 days
- 4500 VUV: 4.5 GB for 30 days
- 6500 VUV: 7 GB for 30 days
TVL, also known as Telecom Vanuatu, used to the only operator on Vanuatu until Digicel came to compete. Since then, TVL has lost most of its customers to Digicel because their connections were slow and unreliable.
Although TVL is not the largest mobile operator anymore, they still do have a monopoly on broadband access, which is why they are still in the cellular business.
When TVL launched its 4G/LTE network in 2017, its network improved by a lot, making them an interesting choice for customers again. Additionally, the company has been upgrading its unreliable and slow 2G and 3G networks as well.
TVL SIM cards are sold for 250 VUV in TVL stores and at Bauerfield International Airport. They come with 400 VUV in credit upon purchase. The following data packs can be purchased:
- 50 VUV: 200 MB for 3 hours
- 100 VUV: 150 MB for 24 hours
- 200 VUV: 300 MB and unlimited Facebook for 24 hours
- 300 VUV: 500 MB for 7 days
- 400 VUV: 2 GB for 7 nights (from 8 PM until 6 AM)
- 500 VUV: 850 MB and unlimited Facebook for 7 days
- 700 VUV: 700 MB and unlimited Facebook for 14 days
- 1000 VUV: 1 GB, 750 MB for at night* and unlimited Facebook for 30 days
- 2000 VUV: 3.5 GB, 1.75 GB for at night * and unlimited Facebook for 30 days
Nighttime data can be used between 12 AM and 6 AM.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Vanuatu
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Vanuatu, 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 Vanuatu, but you can also roam with your provider in Vanuatu, use an international SIM card in Vanuatu, or use a mobile hotspot in Vanuatu. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu, you can find a few hotspots here and there. Do not expect to find many.
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 Vanuatu
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 BlueSky Samoa, then you would be roaming with BlueSky Samoa in Vanuatu.
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 Vanuatu, 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 Vanuatu , or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Vanuatu . 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 Vanuatu, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Vanuatu SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu, 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 Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu
Getting a SIM card from Digicel would do you well when considering a Vanuatu 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, 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 Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Vanuatu drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Vanuatu hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Vanuatu
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 Vanuatu, 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!