Cell Phone Options for Visitors to Grand Cayman Island

woman using cell phone by ocean
by Toni Keesee

Options with Your Own Phone

When traveling to a foreign country, I always get a little nervous about whether or not my phone will work and if so how much it will cost to use abroad. I’ve heard enough crazy phone bill stories and had a couple of my own unsightly bills to know to it's important to know your options and come prepared. In this blog post, we'll cover your options for using your phone in Grand Cayman.

The Cayman Islands is a well-developed country that has two reliable cell phone network providers: Digicel and Flow. If you want to use your phone while on the island call your provider so that they can turn on international roaming for you and your phone should work while you’re on the island. Before you start using your phone make sure to read our recommendations below to avoid costly bills!

Call Your Carrier for International Bundle Options

Before you board your plane for Cayman, call your carrier to see if they offer special international rates for using your phone in Cayman. My carrier offers a daily international rate. At the time of writing it was $10/phone/day to use all the data, texting and calling we needed while in Grand Cayman.

Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi are the Safest Bets

If you don’t plan on signing up for special international rates then I recommend putting your smartphone in airplane mode to avoid data charges and keeping it in airplane mode unless you are connecting to Wi-Fi. (Your phone can be using data even when you think you’re not using it. I recommend airplane mode because it ensures that you’re not using data even if you accidentally leave an application open or are set up to receive push notifications.) Even if you do sign up for special rates with your provider it’s a good idea to use airplane mode when you’re not using your phone because data usage can rack up quickly. That is unless your international plan includes unlimited data, then use your data to your heart's desire.

Wi-Fi Connections

Christopher Columbus Condos has a reliable Wi-Fi connection for guests, so you can easily login to the connection and access the internet from your smartphone to check social media, send emails, use applications and more without using data. Fun tip: Connect to the Wi-Fi and use Spotify or Pandora to play the perfect island tunes! The connection will even reach many of the huts on the beach!

Many restaurants and other places in Cayman offer free Wi-Fi, too. Just ask an employee to see if they offer this service to their customers. Camana Bay is awesome because they offer a free public Wi-Fi connection throughout the entire center, so you can walk around enjoying their beautiful corridors and post amazing photos on Instagram or Facebook for friends and family to enjoy at home without the worry of using any data.

man in lounger using a phone

Use a Cayman SIM Card in Your Phone

You can also purchase a Cayman SIM card (from Flow or Digicel), switch it out with your own SIM and pre-pay for minutes to use your phone as a Caymanian would. The great thing about pre-paying for minutes is that you always know what you’re spending. Also, rates on minutes, data and messaging are much cheaper with a local SIM card. However, in order to use a local SIM card in your phone you’ll need an un-locked GSM capable phone. If you are under contract with a provider then you are likely not eligible to have your phone un-locked. If your contract is up and you are eligible there is still usually a process you have to undergo to get your phone unlocked, so call your current provider for details. If you already have an un-locked phone then you are in luck, but keep in mind the new SIM will have a different phone number. Call Flow or Digicel for details on purchasing a local SIM if this option makes the most sense for you and after confirming you have an unlocked phone with your home network provider.

Cayman Phones & Pre-paid Plans

If you’re under contract with a locked phone, but still want the freedom of using your phone on the island anytime, anywhere then there is always the option of straight up buying a new unlocked phone before you leave or buying one on the island and then purchasing a pre-pay plan with Flow or Digicel. If you want to use a smartphone though the new phone will be a somewhat expensive investment, and of course it won’t be the phone you’re used to. Keep in mind you’ll also have a different number with your new phone. However, if you plan to make several repeat trips or long trips to Cayman this may make sense for you. You can call Flow at (800) 804-2994 or visit one of their locations while on the island for more information. You can also call Digicel at (345) 623-3444 or visit one of their locations for more information on their plans and phones.

Another option, if you aren’t concerned about using a smartphone at all, would be to buy a cheap phone that isn’t data enabled and then buy a local SIM card with pre-pay plans for calling and texting.

Land-line Options at the Condos

The land-line phones in the rooms at Christopher Columbus Condos may also serve as a supplement. All local calls on the island are free from your room, and if you only need to make a couple of calls on the trip you could also call collect internationally. A quick heads up, though, most United States or foreign calling cards do not work from the island, so we recommend leaving them at home.

My Top Recommendation

When I first started traveling to Cayman, I went the easiest, cheapest route of all and just put my smartphone in airplane mode and then popped it out of airplane mode and into Wi-Fi when a connection was available. However, that was years ago, and now I rely on my phone a lot more, so I opt to pay for the international plan with my provider. Reach out to yours and see what they provide. It's definitely worth having peace of mind and being able to use your phone to navigate across the island. If you decide to go the airplane mode/Wi-Fi route with your phone, I’d recommend taking screen shots of directions before leaving the condos (and Wi-Fi connection) and grabbing an island map from the office. If nothing else it will lead to a navigational adventure, and will give you a taste of simpler times before cell phones existed which can actually be pretty liberating. Whatever you choose, you'll be in Grand Cayman so life will be good.