This post will let you know what the best sim card for travelling New Zealand is for the majority of tourists.

While most of the world has great mobile phone plans with plenty of data, a New Zealand prepaid sim card with lots of data at a low price is non-existent. You could rely on WiFi, but connectivity is often limited in terms of speed and the data cap. So you’re stuck with choosing the best of a bad bunch, which I’ll help you with here.

I first wrote this post in 2016. Of course, mobile phone plans change all the time and I have updated the information as of October 2018 when I brought new sim card for a few months.

Data is the most important detail for tourists. Any texting and calling minutes is a bonus.

RELATED POST: THE BEST APPS FOR TRAVEL IN NEW ZEALAND

List Of New Zealand Mobile Phone Companies

Each link sends you to the relevant mobile pre-paid options. As a tourist, you’ll need to go with a prepaid unless you’re in New Zealand for a longer period of time (6+ months) and have some kind of home base.

The Best Sim Card for Travelling New Zealand

Short Answer: Skinny (scroll down to see the table with their plans)

You’ll make friends in New Zealand but you aren’t as likely to ask for their phone number as you might have back in the day. You get their social media details (or Whatsapp).

My research showed Skinny offers the best sim card for travel in New Zealand for data relative to price.

To buy a Skinny sim card you can purchase one online or go into any major retail shop in NZ and they should have them for sale (The Warehouse, Harvey Norman, Countdown, New World etc).

The Reasons Why Skinny Is Best

  • Cheapest: you’ll notice when comparing Skinny plans side by side to similar offerings from Spark/Vodafone &2 Degrees you get more bang for your buck with Skinny.
  • Flexibility: If you get caught short of data, you can always get an add-on or take advantage of their ‘data binge’. It’s also possible to switch plans at any time.
  • It’s easy to set up: You go into a shop, buy a sim card, insert sim card, dial 222 and get activated, it’s a quick process. You can also see what data you’ve used via the Skinny app.

Which Skinny Combo To Get?

I used to recommend people get the weekly plan, but now the 28 day/4 week plans are better.

These are the 4-week plans they offer (basically monthly). There is a one week option, but it’s not going to be a great option for nearly all of you.

Cost$9$16$26$36$46$66
Data250 MB1.25 GB2.5 GB4.5 GB12 GB30 GB
TextsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
NZ/AU Mins100200300UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Skinny Minsn/aUnlimitedUnlimitedn/an/an/a

I chose the $36 option which lets me use the internet passively, send emails, scroll Facebook, watch stories etc. without really thinking about running out.

But the $66 plan (most expensive) is pretty good value really with 30 GB. You won’t have to think about it too much as long as you aren’t watching videos all day. Save up your downloading needs etc. for WiFi where possible.

If you’re on a tight budget, go with the cheapest option and use the data binges strategically.

skinny add on details

The add-ons you can get are certainly helpful


data binge skinny

Data binges are great if you are disciplined!

What About The Skinny NZ Travel Sim?

This is an offering on their website, but I honestly think it’s better to get a regular plan. They heavily factor in international calling minutes which isn’t really neccessary these days. If you do decide to go this way, make sure you check that the international minutes are valid to countries you want to call.

Get 4GB Of Free Rollover Data

On November 28th, 2018 I got a text from Skinny who gave me a code to use as BuddyRewards. It’d be awesome if you could use the code:

NBLTK5M

What you get: A one-off 4GB roll-over data reward in the app.

Conditions: You must be purchasing a $16 or above 4 weekly rollover plan. You must use the code within 30 days of activating your simcard to redeem the code. You’ll be able to see the 4GB reward within the app.

How: On the Skinny App, insert NBLTK5M under the Buddy Rewards option in the app.

What I get: $20 credit. Yay.

Whether or not you use it, that doesn’t bother me. But if you do, send me an email jub(at) tikitouringkiwi. (com) or message me on Insta so I can say thanks 🙂


Network Coverage In New Zealand?

Overall it’s okay quality. If you’re anywhere near a town or city you’ll be fine. In some random off the beaten path places like Wairarapa’s Cape Palliser you might find you’ll be out of coverage.

Where To Find Free Wi-Fi In New Zealand

Short Answer: Public Libraries.

Cafes and restaurants are hit and miss in New Zealand. just when you think you have finally found a cafe that offers wi-fi, there is a restriction placed on the time (45 minutes) or the connection is a flashback back to dial up in 1996.

Free wi-fi is becoming more popular in the larger cities. I’ve had good success in Auckland and in the Wellington CBD where you can connect to the surprisingly fast wi-fi (in certain areas).

Some retail shops and shopping malls have also started to promote free wi-fi in store. I haven’t found a solid pattern for which shops do or do not have wi-fi but The Warehouse is always a safe option.

Of course, there’s always McDonalds. As much as you want to avoid going there, it’s the one reliable place worldwide you can find wi-fi (when it is working), there’s also the more expensive choice of Starbucks.

MORE ON THE BLOG: FREE THINGS TO DO IN NEW ZEALAND

Why Are New Zealand Sim Cards So Expensive?

No one knows the real answer but given Spark and Vodafone were the only two main players for many years, the were running quite the duopoly. Keeping prices high as demand increased.

I believe that there is also something about the cables needing to run underground all the way to New Zealand (not sure from where…) that plays a part too.

With the addition of low cost competitors like Skinny (who use the Spark network…confusing!) making a move into the market hopefully New Zealand sim card plans start to increase there data amounts and ultimately the price over the next few years.