Is it worth getting a local SIM card in New Zealand?

By Chris C., July 19 2016
Is it worth getting a local SIM card in New Zealand?

New Zealand remains the most popular international destination for Australian travellers with no fewer than seven airlines crossing the ditch – but once you arrive, is it worth shelling out for a local SIM card to keep in touch or are you better off roaming using your Australian SIM?

As Australian Business Traveller finds, the roaming rates charged by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to travellers visiting NZ can actually be lower than what you’d pay for a local SIM card: here’s what it costs to roam with each network, and how that compares to your local options.

Roaming in New Zealand with Telstra

Telstra customers can opt for a money-saving Telstra Travel Pass which provides unlimited calls and SMS to any mobile or landline worldwide (including within New Zealand and to Australia), costing just $5 per day.

There is a slight catch: you’ll need to pay for a minimum of three days at these rates (costing $15), with other fixed-duration options being $35 for seven days, $70 for 14 days or $150 for 30 days.

Connectivity for 21 days, for instance, could be achieved by purchasing and using a 14-day pack, and then buying a further seven days at a total price of $105 ($5/day).

Also included is a data allowance of 75MB per day but which can be used at any time during the validity of each individual travel pack. Using the example above, you’d have 1.03GB to use at any time within those first 14 days, and then a new allowance of 525MB to use within the final seven.

AusBT review: Telstra International Travel Roaming Pass

Roaming in New Zealand with Optus

Jetting abroad with Optus costs $10/day when pre-activating an Optus Travel Pack, mirroring Telstra in offering unlimited calls and SMS within New Zealand and to any country – but instead charged in single-day increments.

Visiting for just two days? That’s an even $20, and with 50MB/day of included data to boot: usable at any time during your visit. If that’s 80MB on day one and 20MB on day two, there’s nothing more to pay.

AusBT review: Optus' Travel Pack for $10/day international roaming

Roaming in New Zealand with Vodafone

Visit New Zealand with a Vodafone Australia SIM and you’d be forgiven for confusing your trans-Tasman hop with a regular domestic flight.

That’s because there’s currently no extra charge to use your regular Australian plan entitlements in New Zealand – whether that’s unlimited calls, SMS, international minutes or your full data allowance, so when your bill arrives it’s as if you’d never left home.

Read: Vodafone launches free New Zealand roaming

Using a local SIM card in New Zealand

After combing through the country’s various pre-paid deals, we’d pick Vodafone New Zealand’s NZ Travel SIM as the best all-rounder, offered for NZ$29 (A$27.70) with 500MB of data, 200 minutes and 200 SMS messages, including within the country and back home to Australia.

It’s valid for up to 30 days, and if you need more data the similar NZ$49 (A$46.80) option boosts that to 3GB with the same talk and text inclusions, but valid for a longer 60-day period.

Assuming the simple NZ$29 option meets your needs, you’ll find it more cost-effective to roam with Telstra on trips of three days or less; with Optus on trips of 1-2 days and with Vodafone Australia regardless of the length of your stay (up to 90 days total within a calendar year).

But naturally on longer trips – or for Telstra and Optus users requiring more data than the low 50-75MB/day allowance – whacking a local pre-paid SIM into your phone is an easy money-saver.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


16 Oct 2015

Total posts 10

For a measly NZD19, 2Degrees prepaid SIMs provide 1GB of data and 100 minutes of outbound calls to any # in Oz or NZ, plus unlimited SMS in Oz and NZ.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2476

Hi Jawn, thanks for sharing. We didn't include the 2Degrees option above as that 1GB data allowance is part of a short-time promotion rather than an ongoing offering (it's usually 500MB), so highlighted Vodafone as a better all-rounder with more minutes and a longer list of countries to which you can call with them – but of course, if visiting NZ while the 2Degrees promotion lasts and you require less minutes and more data, it's certainly another great option.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

Spark also have a $49 sim with the same data, call inclusions and expiry as the Vodafone travel sim but it also comes with access to Spark Wifi (like Telstra Air).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 100

For the past few years i have used 2 degrees for my trips to NZ They are cheap and reliable with good coverage.You can download their App easily enough .

They are running a special of 1 gig with their NZ $19 carry over combo currently  with 100 minutes of landline calls to NZ and Australia with unlimited text to NZ and Australia

I have retained the same number for the past few years, check their website for info.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 476

So happy I switched from Telstra to Vodafone...Not only does it make my US trips a lot cheaper the NZ option is brilliant!

18 Nov 2015

Total posts 117

I don't know about you, but one of the most important things when travelling is having a local number.  Roaming might work, but you still have an Australian number.  In the USA recently, I forgot to update my Uber account with my local USA number, and the Uber driver couldn't contact me which caused a right royal kerfuffle.  If you need people to call you, they're not going to like to have to call an international Australian phone number - many might not be able to at all.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

I would also look at Skinny (which is the Telstra-Boost equivalent from Spark/TelecomNZ).

They have a range of Weekly and Monthly plans. The $16 monthly plan for 500Mb (currently bonus rollover 1Gb), unlimited AU/NZ texts and 100min AU/NZ would seem better value than Vodafone.

I got mine at Countdown supermarkets but I think widely available.They also have a bunch of NZ$5 / NZ$10 global roaming options

I love that with Vodafone I can get on the plane and use my phone exactly the same way as I do in Australia, for ZERO extra cost.  Data, calls, texts - all of it.  Well done Vodafone for making this so simple and cost effective.  Optus and Telstra you guys need to get your act together!


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 199

A local SIM is great if you are part of a group that want to stay in touch while touring NZ. Also having access to online maps really helps. I'm not sure, but my NZ SIM hasn't expired yet - I was able to reuse it on a second visit more than 12 months after the first usage. The folks in Queenstown have it all worked out and can have you up and going with a local SIM in a few minutes.

27 Sep 2011

Total posts 37

Virgin mobile now do roaming packs as well

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