If you’re travelling to the Caribbean, having the right SIM card can save you lots of money. We review the best value SIM cards for using your phone in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is one of the world’s top tourist destinations with its endless beaches, the breathtaking scenery, the rich culture and the mouth-watering cuisine. Whether you’re travelling to a single Caribbean destination, or island-hopping on a Caribbean cruise, it’s important to have the right SIM card so you can stay in touch whilst you’re there.
When you visit the Caribbean, one of the complications is the fact there are more than 7,000 islands across the region. They’re split into more than 30 different territories and countries, each of which has its own local mobile networks with different plans and pricing. This can make it difficult to compare network providers, especially if you’re looking to visit multiple destinations on your trip.
In this article, we’ll look at the different ways to use your smartphone in the Caribbean. This includes roaming on your UK SIM card and getting an eSIM plan for island hopping across the Caribbean. We’ll also discuss network compatibility with your UK handset.
|Best Caribbean SIM Card:||VOXI by Vodafone (UK-based SIM)|
|Recommended Plan:||£15 for 8 days usage in the Caribbean
(up to 2GB data, 100 minutes & 100 texts)
|Network Coverage:||15 Caribbean destinations|
|Compatibility:||Works with most unlocked smartphones (including iPhone & Android)|
|Free SIM Card:||Get a VOXI SIM card (with £10 top-up) →|
|eSIM Alternative:||US$15 (~£11.80) for 1GB data on Airalo
(data only plan, valid for 7 days, requires an eSIM-ready phone)
Using Your Mobile Phone In the Caribbean
If you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean, there are three ways to use your mobile phone whilst you’re there:
- Roam on a UK-based SIM card. This is the easiest and most convenient way to use your phone in the Caribbean. You’ll have a UK-based phone number (+44) and you’ll pay your UK mobile network for your usage.
- Buy a local SIM card on arrival. You can get a SIM card from one of the local mobile networks when you arrive in the Caribbean. This can be complex and you may not be able to use it in other Caribbean destinations.
- Buy a data-only eSIM for the Caribbean. You can get Airalo’s Island Hopper eSIM which is valid across 24 Caribbean destinations. It’s a data-only service so you’ll need to use your regular SIM card for phone calls and text messages (standard roaming rates will apply).
The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the three options:
|Roaming on your UK SIM card||Buying a local SIM card on arrival||Buying a Caribbean eSIM|
|Best for a short trip to one or multiple Caribbean destinations.
||Best for long trips to a single Caribbean destination.
||Best if you’re departing soon and want an eSIM quickly.
|You’ll have a UK-based number (beginning with +44).||You’ll have a local phone number, based in the country of purchase.||Data-only service. Use your normal SIM for calls (roaming fees apply).|
|We recommend VOXI’s Pay As You Go SIM. Add a Global Roaming Extra from £15 before you depart.||Local mobile networks and plans vary depending on your destination.||Get an Island Hopper eSIM from Airalo. You’ll pay US$15 (~£11.80) for 1GB data.|
|You’ll need to set up & activate your UK SIM card before you depart.||You’ll need to buy & activate your SIM card on arrival (e.g. at a phone store).||You can set up and activate your plan on any compatible eSIM-ready phone.|
|You can continue using your SIM card in the UK after the end of your trip.||Your local SIM card can only be used in the country of purchase, and for the duration of your trip.||Your eSIM plan will expire at the end of the validity period.|
For most people, we’d recommend roaming on a UK-based SIM card. This is the easiest way to use your mobile phone in the Caribbean, especially if you’re planning to travel to more than one destination.
On VOXI’s Pay As You Go SIM card, you can add a Global Roaming Extra from just £15 for 8 days usage. There’s no contract and no credit check on the VOXI SIM card. You can also activate it with a UK plan for just £10 for one month’s usage.
If you have an eSIM-ready phone (including the iPhone 11, Galaxy S20, Pixel 3 and newer devices), Airalo’s Island Hopper eSIM is also worth considering. This covers 24 Caribbean destinations. However, you’ll only get 1GB data and it’s a data-only plan. This means you’ll need to find something else for calls and texts whilst you’re there.
Roaming On Your UK SIM Card
The easiest way to use your mobile phone in the Caribbean is to roam on a UK-based SIM card. This could cost as little as £1.67 per day if you’re a VOXI customer (if you’re not, you can order a new VOXI SIM card to use on your trip to the Caribbean). On other UK mobile networks, it can cost a lot more so you should check all of the charges before you depart.
A major advantage when using a UK-based SIM card is the fact you’re able to set everything up before you even depart. You’ll also get one simple plan for roaming across multiple Caribbean destinations. The SIM card will allow you to call and text other UK-based phone numbers (including fellow holidaymakers who are travelling abroad with you, as well as friends and family back home in the UK).
Best Roaming Deals For The Caribbean
At present, VOXI is our recommended mobile network for roaming in the Caribbean. If you’re a VOXI customer (or if you order a new VOXI Pay As You Go SIM card), you’ll be able to get a Global Roaming Extra from £15.
Your Global Roaming Extra can be used in the following 15 Caribbean destinations:
- Antigua And Barbuda
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- St Kitts & Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos
- US Virgin Islands
N.B. If you’re visiting Guadeloupe or Martinique, this will be covered by VOXI’s European Roaming Pass instead of their Global Roaming Extra.
There’s no need to specify your destination in advance as the Global Roaming Extra will automatically cover all of the destinations. This makes it perfect if you’re visiting multiple Caribbean destinations as the Global Roaming Extra will work across all of them.
Your Global Roaming Extra will also work in the USA, Mexico, and various other destinations across Central and South America. This can be handy if you’re connecting flights somewhere else or incorporating a visit to another country on your trip.
The following table shows VOXI’s Global Roaming Extras:
valid for 8 days
valid for 15 days
The Global Roaming Extras are a one-off purchase on your VOXI SIM card so they will not renew automatically after the 8-day or 15-day period (see the full terms and conditions). However, you can purchase another Global Roaming Extra if you need one (e.g. for longer trips away or to refresh your data allowance).
If you’re not currently a VOXI customer, you can order a VOXI SIM card online. To activate it, you’ll need to buy a UK plan such as the £10 plan with 30GB of UK data. Even when you take this into account, it ends up being pretty good value (you’ll pay a total of £25: there’s the initial £10 plan in the UK, and then £15 for the Global Roaming Extra).
There’s no contract and no credit check on VOXI. Although you’re able to continue using the SIM card when you get back to the UK, there’s no commitment and you can pause or cancel at any time.
Standard Roaming Rates
As a premium tourist destination, a visit to the Caribbean doesn’t normally come cheap. It’s usually the same when you use your mobile phone there on the standard international roaming rates (VOXI’s Global Roaming Extras makes it a lot cheaper).
On the other mobile networks, the exact roaming rates you’ll pay will differ depending on where you’re travelling to in the Caribbean. As an indication of how much you might expect to pay, the following table shows the standard roaming rates for using your phone in Jamaica:
|Network||Making a Phone Call||Receiving a Phone Call||Sending a Text||Accessing the Internet|
|EE||£1.80/minute||£1.80/minute||60p/text||£6.85/day for 150MB|
|O2||£6/day to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts & data|
|Vodafone||£6/day to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts & data|
If you’re taking a Caribbean cruise, it’s worth noting that the on-ship mobile networks are charged differently and will normally cost even more. For instance, EE currently charges £2.72/minute to make and receive phone calls on a ship and 67p to send a text message. Use of on-ship mobile networks is not included in VOXI’s Global Roaming Extras.
Buying A Local SIM Card On Arrival
It’s also possible to buy a local SIM card on arrival. The exact process will differ depending on the country or territory you’re visiting. However, it’s normally the case that you’ll need to visit a local phone shop with your passport so you’re able to buy and register a SIM card. You’ll also need some of the local currency to buy a prepaid SIM.
If you’re only visiting a single Caribbean destination, you can normally save a little bit of money when you get a local SIM card on arrival. This is as long as you’re willing to jump through some hoops and the additional hassle of getting a SIM card when you’re there. You can normally expect to pay around US$10 (~£8.50) for a local SIM card in the Caribbean. This will give you an allowance of mobile data and local phone calls, but it won’t include phone calls to a UK-based number (+44).
If you’re visiting multiple Caribbean destinations, you’ll normally be better off getting a VOXI SIM Card or Airalo’s Island Hopper eSIM. This is because the local Caribbean SIM cards can normally be used only in the country or territory of purchase.
The local mobile networks will vary depending on where you’re visiting, but they might include Claro, Digicel, Flow, LIME and Orange.
eSIMs For The Caribbean
With an Airalo Island Hopper eSIM, you’ll get 1GB of data to use across 24 Caribbean destinations. This will cost you US$15 (approx £11.80), with validity of up to 7 days.
valid for 7 days
Airalo’s Island Hopper eSIM can be in used across the following 24 destinations:
- Antigua And Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- French Guiana
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent & Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos Islands
A major advantage when getting an Island Hopper eSIM is the fact that it’s available straight away as an over-the-air download. It also covers a lot of destinations, making it the perfect service for anyone who’s travelling to multiple Caribbean destinations.
The disadvantage of getting an Island Hopper eSIM is the fact it’s a relatively expensive service (you’ll get 2GB data & 100 minutes for just a little bit more money on VOXI’s Global Roaming Extras). In addition, you’re getting a data-only service on the eSIM. This means your calls and texts will need to be made using a different SIM card (for which the standard international roaming rates may apply).
One way to save a little bit of money is by getting Airalo’s country-specific eSIMs (e.g. for the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas). On the country-specific eSIMs, you’ll normally pay around US$9.50 (approx £8) for 1GB data to use over 7 days. However, the data allowance will then be restricted to only work in that specific destination and you’ll need to buy another plan if you’re going elsewhere.
Handset & Network Compatibility
As every Caribbean country or territory has its own local mobile networks, they use slightly different bands and frequencies to operate their service. However, the good news is that you can use an unlocked UK smartphone on the vast majority of the mobile networks across the Caribbean.
Some of the bands and frequencies commonly used in the Caribbean include the following:
- 3G: Band 1 (2100MHz), Band 2 (1900MHz), Band 5 (850MHz)
- 4G: Band 2 (1900MHz), Band 3 (1800MHz), Band 4 (1700MHz), Band 5 (850MHz), Band 7 (2600MHz), Band 13 (700MHz), Band 17 (700MHz)