You will want to have a working phone while you are in Fiji. Not only to keep in contact with friends and family, but you may also need to make local calls. Perhaps call for a taxi, or book a table at a restaurant.
So, what is the best choice? Use your own phone and enable international roaming (probably not), get a Fiji SIM for your phone (good idea) or purchase a cheap disposable phone in Fiji (also good idea)?
While this is a reasonably easy way to stay connected, it is not cheap. For example, you can get a roaming plan with Telstra that costs AU$29 and that gives you a measly 100mb of data. Watch a Youtube video, and it’s gone. Vodafone (Australia) has similarly priced plans, here are links to their websites for more information.
We made the mistake of using roaming on a recent visit back to NZ, from Australia. It would have been much cheaper to buy a cheap throwaway phone, and load up with some credit. Which is exactly what we ended up doing. However, it is a reasonable option if you particularly want to use your own phone, and don’t mind paying extra for the privilege.
Buy a Phone in Fiji
This is my preferred option, and if you are here for a decent length of time, it will definitely save you money. Alternatively you can use your own phone and buy a Fiji SIM card, as long as the phone is not locked to a carrier such as Telstra (AU) or Spark (NZ).
A cheap phone such as a Nokia or Alcatel will cost you in the region of FJ$50. The price of the one in the picture is FJ$55, available at Nadi airport. However, you can get them cheaper than that in town. The cheapest ones are only 2G, but that will be fine for making calls, and sending texts. Unfortunately, they are not suitable for internet browsing. For that, either use your own phone with a Fiji SIM card, or choose a better quality phone such as a Samsung J1.
Vodafone or Digicel for Phone and/or SIM Card?
Many locals have dual simcard phones, and use whichever is having a special that particular week.
You do need to shop around to see who has the best current deals, but in general, Digicel seems to offer lower call and text rates than Vodafone.
They charge by “unit” which is 30 seconds. The current price for Vodafone (they charge more for tourists than locals!) is .28c per unit for calls, and .18c per texts*. Digicel charges .17c per unit, and between .14c and .17c per text depending on whether the text is to another Digicel phone, another Fiji carrier like Vodafone, or international. Digicel also offer reasonably priced internet browsing data rates, at FJ$.21c per MB.
So overall, Digicel offers better value with calls and texts. If you are in the market for a pocket wifi, then the opposite applies… Digicel charges an arm and a leg to purchase one, while Vodafone is cheap.
Pocket Wi-Fi and Data
For many people, having a phone is all they want for calls and internet browsing. But for those of us that might bring a laptop or tablet, we need to look at alternatives to a SIM card for our internet options. Luckily, the answer to this is easy, and quite cheap.
Top Tip: If you intend on using a pocket wifi to access internet then avoid Digicel, go with Vodafone!
I have my own pocket wifi that I bring on every trip to Fiji. This runs my phone internet browsing, as well as tablet and laptop. I just purchase a new SIM for it, load it up with some data (Vodafone are always running data specials) and away I go, connected before I even leave the airport.
You will note my top tip was to avoid Digicel if you are in the market for a pocket wifi in Fiji. The image below will show you why.
Fiji Data Prices
I purchased a SIM and 80GB of data for the pocket wifi at Nadi airport, for a total cost of FJ$105. That is around .80c per GB. When I compared that to what we pay in Australia for mobile data on a pocket wifi… AU$10 per GB, it makes me wonder… are we being totally ripped off in Australia? I suspect the answer is a very definite YES. And NZ is even worse with their prices.
With your phone (using a Fiji SIM) you can top up almost anywhere you see a top up sign (and that will be pretty much all convenience stores).
*While the advertised price for Vodafone is still FJ.28c per unit (30 seconds) it seems they may have lowered their prices recently. I just bought a new SIM and have been charged only 20c per unit, and I also got a bonus FJ$65 credit when I put $20 on the new SIM.