Most backpackers coming to New Zealand won’t want to rely on finding free wifi to stay connected. While free wifi exists (see the list at the bottom of this article), if you’re heading off the beaten track it’s much harder to find, and that’s where all the Instagram worthy photos come from! Check out our guide to getting connected in NZ…
Before you arrive
Before you depart on your adventure, you should check that your phone is unlocked, and will actually work in New Zealand. If you’re not sure, get in touch with your cell provider, they can let you know.
Prepay vs Pay Monthly
First things first, you need to decide what kind of plan suits your needs best.
Prepay is fast and easy to set up, you can even do it at the airport when you arrive. Prepay plans usually include a combination of data, calls and texts. Most companies have monthly options, but some offer prepay weekly, so if you’re on a shorter trip you can only pay for what you need.
Pay Monthly is a little more work to get set up – you need a New Zealand address and you may have a minimum commitment (which means termination fees). If you’re planning to live or work in New Zealand, this could be an option worth looking into.
Choose your provider
There are a few phone companies to choose from, and it’s worth browsing their websites to find a plan that fits you perfectly. They all offer similar prices, but each has different advantages. Here’s what you can get for $30 from the major companies.
- $30 for 2.5GB data/200 calling minutes/unlimited texts
- Free SIM card from Stray!
- Calling to Australia included
- Data only plans as well as combo plans
- Cheap IOU packs, for when you run out of data and just need a little more
- 5 minutes of free International calling with your first top up
- The new Data Clock app (launching Nov 1st) gives you 1GB free data per day!
- $30 for 2GB data/300 calling minutes/unlimited texts
- 1GB free wifi every day, and the wifi hubs are all over NZ
- Discounts or free Spotify & Lightbox (NZ’s version of Netflix)
- Data only plans also available (with pay per minute/message for calling and texting)
- $30 for 3GB data/50 calling minutes/50 texts (Design your own)
- Build your own prepay plan, so you can get exactly what you need
- 500MB extra data for under 25’s
- Less than $30 for 2.5GB data/300 calling minutes/unlimited texts
- Weekly prepay options, ideal for shorter trips.
How to get connected
- It’s really easy to get started with a prepay plan. First you need to get a NZ SIM card and you’re in luck, you can pick up a free 2 Degrees SIM from our Stray Shop in Auckland!
- If you choose a different provider, you can grab one from the provider (at the airport or in a shopping mall), or from the supermarket or a dairy (convenience store). SIM cards normally cost between $2 and $5, but some carriers provide them free with your first top up.
- Follow the instructions to activate your SIM card.
- Top up and choose a plan – the easiest and fastest way to do this is by downloading the provider’s app (all free) and using your credit or debit card. You can also do this the old school way, in the same place you picked up your SIM. Just let them know the dollar amount you’d like and they’ll print you a voucher with instructions.
What about wifi?
Here’s our list of all the places we can think of to get (mostly) free wifi:
- Central cities of Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch
- Public libraries
- Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King
- Many I-Site information centres
- Some cultural attractions like Te Papa Museum (Wellington) and the Centre of Contemporary Art (Christchurch)
- Spark Wifi Boxes (for Spark customers only)
- Hostels (many offer free wifi for guests only)
- Cafes and restaurants (usually you will have to buy something first, but this is a perfect time to try our world class coffee)
- Most phone companies are now offering “rollover”, which means if you don’t use all your data, or calling and texting minutes, you can keep them when your plan rolls over into the new month.
- Public wifi can be slow, unreliable or expensive in small towns and off the beaten track locations. If you plan to post Instagram stories from places like Cape Reinga, you’d better grab a data heavy plan.
- There are some places in NZ so remote that there is no data coverage. They’re also usually some of the most beautiful spots, so it is a good reminder to put your phone away and just enjoy it.
Updated 14 September 2018