Are you traveling to Kiribati and looking for the best way to stay connected? Let me help you with this ultimate guide for finding the best sim card for Kiribati. Where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per March 2023, info about the 4G/5G network in Kiribati, the data speed, my experiences, my recommendation and info about international and e-sim cards for Kiribati.
Extra attention for iPhone users: the Kiribati mobile internet network is not capable serving 4G for Apple devices. Which literally means data speed for iPhone users in Kiribati is max 3G!
From my own experiences I can tell you the struggle was real during my 1-week trip to Kiribati. On the contrary however, I found paradise… the best place to stay in Kiribati on an outer island in North Tarawa. More about it later…
A couple years ago I decided that I wanted to travel to every country in the world and that is how I ended up traveling to Kiribati. Being a full time nomadic world traveler and blogger for many years I found out that local prepaid sim cards are in general the cheapest and for me the best way to stay connected when traveling.
A great alternative these days are e-sim cards, although more expensive they are very convenient, especially for short trips and for those who only need a little bit of data.
On Traveltomtom you can find already more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world: Europe, Asia, United States, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Auckland, Guam, Nadi, Samoa, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, United Kingdom, Germany and many more.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom. Bookmark this page for the best sim card advice for travelers.
Traveltomtom recommends a Vodafone prepaid sim card to stay connected when traveling to Kiribati. The Vodafone mobile network is the most extensive in Kiribati and it is easy to buy a sim card at the airport on arrival in Tarawa.
There are also e-sim cards for Kiribati, they seem like an even better deal than a local Kiribati prepaid sim card, but there is a little catch. See below for more info.
Traveltomtom normally also recommends world travel sim cards. However, for Kiribati there are no international sim cards available online. But may be for your next trip abroad you want to check out my comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2023.
E-sim cards for Kiribati
Believe it or not but I also found e-sim cards for Kiribati. E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Kiribati because you can arrange everything online within just a few clicks. No need to visit a phone store and swap physical sim cards anymore.
You order an e-sim card online, receive a unique code in your email, follow the instructions, apply the settings and you are all set, connected and ready to use data on your phone when traveling in Kiribati.
Check out the following e-sim card deals for Kiribati:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $8 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $10.5 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $15 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $25 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $40 USD
Click here to order one of these Kiribati e-sim cards directly online or find more info.
These Kiribati e-sim cards seem like a great deal, definitely compared to the prices for local prepaid sim cards and the data packages in Kiribati. However, the above e-sim cards are 3G only. They do NOT support 4G!
Why buying a sim card for Kiribati
First of all to avoid excessive roaming costs from your mobile operator in your home country. Some even charge up to $3 USD per MB, which is absolutely ridiculous of course.
Also when using overseas data roaming plans for a couple dollar per day be prepared that your data speed will be slowed down significantly. Unlimited data abroad, means literally unlimited at E network speed. Just enough for email and texting.
Staying connected makes traveling to Kiribati so much more convenient in many ways. Just imagine figuring things out on your phone without a data connection.
Where to buy a sim card for Kiribati
In all other Pacific Islands on my big Pacific trip (Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia) there was no sim card shop at the airport on arrival, but luckily when I landed in Tarawa there was one.
Yes, you can buy a sim card at Tarawa International Airport! When you walk out of the airport after you picked up your luggage and walked with your bags through the customs bag check you will find yourself outside on the parking lot.
On your left hand side you will see a small shop, like a small shed that says: Vodafone. At this small Vodafone shop they sell prepaid sim cards for tourists traveling to Kiribati.
I asked for the opening hours but the girl told me that she was open for every incoming international flight. So when you fly to Tarawa and want to buy a Kiribati sim card on arrival she should be there to help you.
If for some reason you weren’t able to buy a sim card for Kiribati at Tarawa Airport then you will have to go to the capital of the Tarawa Atoll, it is called: Bairiki. In Bairiki there is an official Vodafone and OceanLink store.
Mobile Internet operators in Kiribati
There are 2 mobile internet operators in Kiribati: OceanLink and Vodafone. Both sell prepaid sim cards for tourists.
You can only buy a prepaid sim card in Kiribati if you have your passport with you. A copy of your passport will be taken in the phone store. They need it for registration. Per passport you can register 1 prepaid sim card.
Best 4G/5G network in Kiribati in 2023
Kiribati is a developing country, so don’t expect to find 5G in Kiribati. In fact if you have a 4G connection you can already be happy.
Vodafone is the leading mobile internet provider in Kiribati and OceanLink is the next ‘best’. That also counts for the mobile network. Vodafone has the most extensive and best mobile data network in Kiribati in 2023.
Officially there is 4G across the island but only for Android phones. If you have an iPhone, just like me, then the best data speed you will find is 3G. Unfortunately the Kiribati mobile network is not optimized for Apple phone users as those are simply very rare in Kiribati.
Most foreign workers I met on my trip to Kiribati said they brought an extra Android phone and used it as a hotspot for their iPhone. We put it to the test as my travel buddy had an Android phone and it worked.
The download speed in Kiribati wasn’t great on the Vodafone network and most heavy data apps like Instagram, YouTube, etc. were often not working smooth. During peak hours the data speed would slow down even more. The best mobile internet was to be enjoyed after midnight. Those hours everything worked pretty ok.
As the OceanLink network in Kiribati is even smaller you can expect less performance compared to Vodafone. OceanLink only invested in 4G towers in August 2022.
When it comes to upload speed do NOT expect any significant speed in Kiribati, day and night. Uploading files, photos, videos, etc. is really challenging in Kiribati. We mostly waited until after midnight when the upload speed would increase a little, but still did not exceed 2 Mbps.
For example uploading an Instagram story of 30 seconds could, even after midnight, easily take up to 15 minutes per story. During the day there was no point even trying as upload speed was usually only around 0.5 Mbps.
Prices Kiribati prepaid sim cards in 2023
The registration of a new Kiribati prepaid sim card costs $10 USD, both for OceanLink and Vodafone. You will need to add credit for local or international calls and to activate a data package.
These are the prices for the Vodafone data plans which you can buy at Tarawa Airport and at the store in Bairiki as shown above in the picture. They have daily, weekly and monthly plans. These are the most common ones for tourists:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 AUD
- 2.5 GB data for 7 days = $10 AUD
- 3.2 GB data for 30 days = $20 AUD
Vodafone also offer 2 Data Super Plans:
- 3 GB data for 7 days + 50 minutes + 100 sms = $10 AUD
- 6 GB data for 30 days + 100 minutes + 200 sms = $20 AUD
These last two were the plans we used on our trip to Kiribati.
OceanLink also charges $10 AUD for the registration of a new Kiribati prepaid sim card. They offer the following data packages:
- 2 GB data for 7 days = $8.5 AUD
- 3 GB data for 1 month = $18.5 AUD
- 5 GB data for 1 month = $27.5 AUD
- 10 GB data for 1 month = $50 AUD
For more info and packages see the picture above.
As you can see data plans in Kiribati are pretty expensive if you are a heavy data user and especially when you see the living standards of the people in Kiribati. It is a developing country and I am sure not everyone is able to afford data in Kiribati, so I hope for the local people that the data prices will go down significantly and that everyone is able to have proper internet access.
Best sim card for Kiribati in 2023
Taking into consideration all options to stay connected when traveling to Kiribati these are the my conclusions.
Ordering an e-sim card for Kiribati is the most easy way to stay connected. If you just use a couple GB’s for browsing the internet, email, WhatApp and getting directions from Google Maps then this is a great solution and the best Kiribati sim card for you. However, keep in mind that the Kiribati e-sim cards only support 3G. 4G is not supported!
If you are just like me a heavy data user than a local prepaid sim card performs much better than an e-sim card.
When comparing the Kiribati sim card deals of Vodafone and OceanLink we see that OceanLink is slightly cheaper, but Vodafone has a much better 3G/4G network and offers ‘faster’ data speed.
Therefore Vodafone is the best sim card for Kiribati in 2023.
My experiences with a Kiribati sim card
In the beginning of this blog you could read that iPhone users should be warned. Well, it wasn’t a joke. Apparently it is possible that there is no proper 4G data connection available as where Android phones have no issues connecting to 4G.
Being an avid Apple fan for uncountable years I was of course shocked. Never did I experience discrimination towards Apple users in a country. Just kidding of course!
But I can’t deny that it was a struggle to see my friend on an Android phone having an ok 4G data speed signal while I was really struggling with slow and unreliable 3G to a point that I kind of gave up.
Must say that my struggle mostly applied to uploading videos and photos to social media. During the nights my 3G Vodafone data speed was not too bad considering the circumstances.
However, on a hotspot of my friend it was possible to upload for example Instagram stories, TikTok videos, etc. and then best after midnight when the upload data speed was ok.
On our trip to Kiribati we first traveled to the most Southern part of the Tarawa Atoll. We passed by the capital Bairiki and ended up in Betio, were we stayed at a hotel called Betio Lodge. A fairly good hotel for $200 AUD per night.
Betio itself is the largest town in the Tarawa Atoll where you can find some remains of WW2 but most interesting thing to see here is the local life. But in all honesty that is about it. A place for travelers, not for tourists.
Luckily we ended up in Tabon Te Keekee, a little paradise not too far away from the airport. Through social media we found out about this place and it was beautiful. We loved it so much that we didn’t leave at all anymore and stayed for 4 nights in this little paradise.
Tabon Te Keke is located on one of the North Tarawa Islands, Abatao. There are no cars and life here is extremely laid-back. Plus there is a proper 3G/4G signal and the lodge even has WiFi that works ok for using the internet. Uploading was faster on 3G/4G though.
I am sure some of the above tips for traveling to Kiribati and getting connected in Kiribati were helpful for your upcoming trip. If you have any more questions please leave me a comment below.
Curious what it looks like trying to visit every country in the world? Go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow along. As of March 2023 I have visited more than 150 countries, so still a long way to go.
Enjoy your trip to Kiribati!