A guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card when traveling to Aruba
Aruba not only has great beaches and spots for surfing but has some of the best SIM card deals available, deals that can reduce your phone bill.
You can buy 1GB of data from Aruba’s leading telco provider for as little as AWG15 (CAD$12.20). So, whether you’re planning a short trip or an island tour, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.Prices last updated 28 Apr 2017
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There are three main cell phone operators in Aruba: Digicel, Setar and Mio Wireless.
All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate on the island, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. The services have been tried, tested and trusted by both locals and travelers.
According to OpenSignal’s country map report, Aruba has a good cell phone network around Oranjestad, but it becomes a bit weaker as you venture out to the far reaches of the island. Digicel appears to have the better signal. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s on offer during your visit to Aruba.
Part of the Dutch Antilles, Aruba, along with sister islands Bonaire and Curaçao (aka the ABC islands), make up a cluster very popular with tourists. Roaming rates are good (compared to what your home phone can offer abroad) and all three operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals.
Aruba’s operators offer good coverage, providing 2G, 3G and 4G services. The Arubans call their SIM cards “chips” and they can be purchased and registered anonymously without any form of identification or passport checks. Credit can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets and Queen Beatrix International Airport.
Although the local currency is Aruba Florin, the US dollar is widely accepted on the island. Please note that all Aruban display prices are subject to a 3.5% local tax, so make sure you factor that in before purchasing.
Digicel offers a good 2G and 3G service which can be used on all three ABC islands without incurring additional roaming costs. So, if you plan on doing an island hop then this is the best SIM to purchase. Its overall coverage is good but the speed can be a bit slow. Digicel pushes a big “4G” advertising campaign, but although this 4G service is its fastest, it’s not 4G/LTE, but 3G/HSPA with a speed of 7.2 mbps.
The initial SIM card purchase can work out to be quite expensive at AWG35, but can pay for itself if you choose a good plan option. SIM card and data packs can be purchased at their official store, supermarkets or Queen Beatrix Airport. To activate the SIM card, dial 146 from your phone.
Credit vouchers can be purchased in several denominations: AWG5, 10, 15, 25 or 50, each valid for 30 to 90 days. Top-ups can also be purchased online by using your credit card. Dial *142# to check your balance at any time, and to add a credit voucher, dial *141*<voucher PIN>#. If your SIM card is not used within 60 days after the end of your plan, it will be cancelled automatically.
The standard rate for data is AWG1 per MB before purchasing any plans and the speed has a maximum of 128 kbps. If you have already purchased a plan, Digicel’s overuse rate is AWG0.45 per MB.
|75MB||AWG3 Valid for 1 day|
|300MB||AWG9 Valid for 1 day|
|250MB||AWG5 Valid for 3 days|
|600MB||AWG10 Valid for 3 days|
|750MB||AWG15 Valid for 3 days|
|1GB||AWG29 Valid for 7 days|
|1.25GB||AWG20 Valid for 7 days|
|2GB||AWG35 Valid for 14 days|
|3GB||AWG39 Valid for 14 days|
|3GB||AWG50 Valid for 14 days|
|4GB||AWG65 Valid for 14 days|
|6GB||AWG85 Valid for 14 days|
|8GB||AWG84.99 Valid for 14 days|
|10GB||AWG135.99 Valid for 14 days|
Dial *123# to activate any of the above plans. The one-day plans will automatically renew, depending on your credit allowance; all other plans should be renewed.
Digicel’s “All-in-One” plans can be used on the ABC islands:
- AWG7.99 – 350 operator mins, 5 operator SMS, 250MB data – valid for 1 day
- AWG29.99 – 1,600 operator mins, 25 operator SMS, 750MB data – valid for 7 days
- AWG79.99 – 3,000 operator mins, 100 operator SMS, 2GB data – valid for 30 days
Dial *135# to activate.
While no extra roaming rates apply while using the Digicel network in Bonaire and Curaçao, other Caribbean Digicel networks are expensive. However, for the AWG10 you can get a roam rate like the set plan on the original island – reduced to US$0.50 per MB. Dial *153# to activate, and it will be valid for 10 days.
Setar offers the fastest speeds on the island, on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. It also offers Wi-Fi spots called “Wi-Fi Aruba” which can be used if you purchase one of their Wi-Fi SIMs. The only downfall of this SIM card is that it can’t be used on the other ABC islands.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased on arrival at the Queen Beatrix Airport, official stores or supermarkets. Remember the island is quite small and everything is closed on a Sunday. Micro, nano and mini SIMs can be purchased. All SIMs are locked with the code 0000, so always use that when asked for pins, passwords or default settings. Setar’s standard call and SMS SIM is quite expensive (AWG35). Dial *123# to activate.
Credit can be purchased for: AWG5, 10, 15, 25, 35, 50, valid for 15 to 90 days. Top-ups can also be made online and can be purchased using your credit card.
Setar data plans:
The standard data default charge is AWG2 per MB, and data packs can be purchased in different sizes:
|250MB||AWG5||Valid for 1 day|
|600MB||AWG10||Valid for 2 days|
|750MB||AWG12||Valid for 3 days|
|1GB||AWG19||Valid for 7 days|
|2GB||AWG32||Valid for 14 days|
|3GB||AWG49||Valid for 30 days|
|5GB||AWG79||Valid for 30 days|
Dial *123# to activate. Select option 1 for the data bundles, choose the plan relevant to you then press 1 to confirm. An SMS will be sent confirming your purchase. You will only be able to buy a new bundle once your current plan has been used up. Your plan will automatically return to the default rate until a new plan is added.
Plans come in the following:
- AWG8 – 300 operator mins, 25 operator SMS, 250MB – valid for 1 day
- AWG30 – 1,200 operator mins, 50 operator SMS, 750MB – valid for 7 days
- AWG45 – 2,000 operator mins, 100 operator SMS, 1GB – valid for 14 days
- AWG75 – 3,000 operator mins, 200 operator SMS, 2GB – valid for 30 days
Dial *123# to activate any of the above plans.
Data-only SIM deals:
Setar offers data-only plans for tablets or routers:
- US$30 – SIM card, US$5.70 credit – 1GB data for 1 day
- US$55 – SIM card, US$5.70 credit – 4GB data for 7 days
The following data can be added:
- US$5 – 1GB for 1 hour
- US$10 – 1GB for 24 hours
- US$35 – 4GB for 7 days
- US$70 – 10GB for 30 days
Setar has many WI-Fi hotspots around the island and this service can be used when purchasing one of their Wi-Fi SIMs. The coverage is extremely good if you manage to be in a service area. The following deals can be purchased:
- 60 minutes’ usage – US$5
- 24 hours’ usage – US$10
- 7 days’ usage – US$35
- 30 days’ usage – US$70
Time is recorded from the moment you first log in, rather than when you use it!
MIO Wireless is the smallest operator with good rates, but isn’t compatible with the GSM phones most of us use. It operates on the CDMA platform, so unless you are already activated on this platform (some Verizon and Sprint users are) then it’s pointless. It uses the EVDO platform for data, which is very cheap, but unless your phone uses that platform you won’t be able to use it. However, its Wi-Fi hotspot option, the Mio “MiFi”, is worth purchasing and is GSM compatible too.
The fee for the MiFi SIM is US$56 and can be used wherever you like in Aruba. It also sells USB dongles, and SIMs for routers and tablets.
Data packs can be purchased for AWG69 which gives you 5GB of data, AWG9 for 15GB, and AWG145 for 25GB. Your SIM will be billed on the first of every month, and data will be carried over. If you use up your data the following amounts can be added: 1GB for AWG20, 2GB for AWG35, 3GB for AWG48 or 4GB for AWG60.
- They speak Dutch and Papiamento in Aruba, so if you don’t know either of these languages then download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. The good thing about Aruba is that they are very cosmopolitan and English is widely spoken.
- Arubans call a SIM card a “SIM” or “Card” or “Chip”.
- Ask the SIM seller to set up the SIM for you; they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early in the day, before the shops get too busy – that way you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
While it’s well known for its reviews and for booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor has many user comments that can help guide you through the SIM cards that have been tried and tested in Aruba.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “Get a SIM card from Digicel at the airport. A SIM card can be purchased for US$20 and provides about 70 minutes of service”
- “If your iPhone is unlocked you will have no problem buying a Digicel SIM card and using the phone for calls and texts. Data can be a problem”
- “With the way the wind blows in Aruba… I wouldn’t want to worry about sand getting into my phone. Plus, the SIM cards are a pain to get out of the iPhones. I would rent a phone from Trees with Aruba Discount Cell”
Digicel and Setar require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM-compatible international cell phone and MIO uses the less popular CDMA platform. To double check you have this phone, or if it’s possible for your provider to unlock your device, contact them before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Aruba has good coverage
- No ID needed to purchase or register the SIM card
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current cell phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in-store
- Digicel can be used on the ABC islands
- No cell phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unblocked GSM phones
- MIO can only be used on CDMA phones
- Data speed can sometimes be slow
Q: Can Aruba plans be used on mainland Venezuela?
A: Digicel offers roaming in Venezuela, but we wouldn’t recommend you using it there as it will be extremely expensive. We suggest only using the three SIM providers we mention on the island, then once you hit the mainland purchase one of the SIM cards on offer there.