Tourism

Using your cell phone in the Faroe Islands: A comprehensive 2019 guide

You’re heading to the Faroe Islands, and you want to know the best way to use your cell phone. Should you pay your phone provider to use your phone? Use the slow free data they provide? Buy a SIM card from Føroya Tele or Vodafone? Read on and we’ll help you figure it out!

Figure out how your current cell phone will work in the Faroe Islands

First, I recommend you see what your current cell phone plan offers for the Faroe Islands. You may find that you can roam with your current plan, though this is very unlikely. Carriers in the United States typically do not allow you to use your current plan, at least not with fast data speeds. And the European Union Roam Like Home Rule, implemented in June 2017, does not include the Faroe Islands.

At the bottom of the post are specifics for carriers in the United States and some countries in Europe. Leave us a comment with your country and cell phone provider, and we’ll add it to the list!

The Three Cell phone options for the Faroe Islands

There are 3 primary options for using your phone in the Faroe Islands. In general, the more you pay, the better connected you’ll be. Let’s start with the cheapest and easiest:

Option 1: Becoming a WiFi nomad in the Faroe Islands

You could try using WiFi whenever you find it. Nearly all hotels and most restaurants will have WiFi, especially in the capital Tórshavn. Some tour buses also offer WiFi, though this can be hit or miss.

Things to keep in mind:

Make sure you don’t use your own cellular data by accident. Turn off cellular roaming on your phone. (iPhone: Settings–> Cellular. Android: Settings–> Data Usage) And for an extra layer of protection, leave your phone in airplane mode, and then enable WiFi while still in airplane mode. Even an incoming text or voice call can trigger costs.
You won’t be able to send or receive calls or text messages. Use apps like WhatsApp or Skype to make calls or send messages; it’s easiest if your friends and family are also on the app. You can test it out before to leave for your trip!

If you decide to go this route, it’s still a good idea to see how much you’ll pay if you end up needing to make a phone call. Calls can cost $2 US or more per minute, and data can cost $2 or more per megabyte. Note that that word is megabyte, not gigabyte. Many people use 4 GB or 5 GB a month. Using 1 GB in a week could cost you $2,000!

Option 2: Buy a local Faroe Islands SIM card

This is a little tricky, but it can be worth the effort. None of the instructions in this section will work unless your phone is unlocked and works on the GSM cellular network. Only people from the United States need to even think about the GSM network; unless your carrier is Verizon, Sprint, or US Cellular (or one of their resellers, like Virgin Mobile USA) you have a GSM phone. And even with those carriers, most new phones will work on GSM. See the section about carriers below for more specifics.

As for unlocking, most phone companies won’t unlock your phone until it is paid off. You can call your cell phone company to ask if your phone is unlocked. Or, try to put in a SIM card from a different company; maybe swap with a friend? If cellular voice calls and on the phone works, it’s unlocked! Again, there’s more below when we discuss specific carriers.

Faroe Islands cell phone companies: Føroya Tele (Ver) and Vodafone (Hey)

There are two main cellular providers in the Faroe Islands: Føroya Tele, which calls their service “Ver” and Vodafone, which calls their entire company “Hey.” I find the nicknames unnecessarily complicated, but maybe that’s just me.

Føroya Tele has one huge advantage here: They have a store in the airport where you can buy the SIM card. That store is open Monday through Saturday, 7 AM – 7 PM. (7:00 – 19:00.) If the store is not open, the information center just to the right of the store should be open, and they will sell you the exact same SIM card at the exact same price.

Above is a picture of the information center; the Føroya Tele store is the closed one to the far left. You can see the very end of the sign for the Føroya Tele store.

The SIM card you can buy at either place costs just 97 Danish Krona; that’s less than $15 US, or right around 13€. That seems very inexpensive to me. It includes 2 GB of data and a 25 DKK call credit.

The call credit won’t get you very far; texts cost 1 DKK and calls are 2 DKK per minute.

Remember that you’ll be calling from a new Faroe Islands phone number, which is printed on the outside of the SIM card package. Once you take your old SIM card out, calls and texts to your old number won’t show up until you reinsert your regular SIM.

You’ll want to use WhatsApp or Skype so your calls and messages are sent over data. iMessages between iPhones will also count as data.

You can add more data on; 50 DKK will buy you 2 GB additional, and 100 and 130 DKK will allow for 5 GB and 10 GB respectively.

If you really need more data and a larger credit for calls and text, service from Vodafone / Hey might be a better option. You’ll have to get to Tórshavn and visit the store in the SMS mall just north of downtown. (The store name is “Hey”, not Vodafone. Ugh.) You can likely walk there in about 10 or 15 minutes from the harbor area. Hours are 10 AM – 6 PM (10:00 – 18:00) but closed on Sunday. And they are open for an extra hour on Friday evenings.

For 250 DKK, you get 5 GB of data PLUS a 229 DKK credit for text and voice. So if you use all of the credit, the data is nearly free. Prices for calls and texts are cheaper than with Føroya Tele; calls are 1,6 DKK (treat the comma as a period if you’re from the US) per minute, and texts are 0,5 DKK each.

Option 3: Buy an international data plan from your service provider

Here the options vary greatly. Some companies offer a free but limited plan that you can use in the Faroe Islands. And some will charge you $10 US per day to use your plan. The benefit is that you get to keep your current cell phone service, so friends and family (and employers) can easily get in touch. The bad news is the expense; The SIM card from Føroya Tele may be all you need for a $15 one-time fee. $10 a day will quickly exceed that.

Let’s take a look at the plans offered by various cell phone companies. I’ll start with a focus on the United States. But, let me know your country and current provider and I’ll add them to the list!

Using AT&T in the Faroe Islands

Will my phone work in the Faroe Islands? Almost definitely. AT&T uses the GSM network, which is also what Iceland uses.

How much will I pay without a plan? A lot. $2.00 a minute for calls, $0.50 for each text sent, and $2.05 for each megabyte used.

International plans: You can pay for a Passport plan for a month. $60 gets you 1 Gig of data, or $120 gets you 3 GB. Calls would cost 35 cents a minute, and texts are free. You can make a one-time purchase of a Passport plan, which will be good for a 30 day period of your choosing; no need to worry about your billing cycle.

The international day pass is not offered for the Faroe Islands.

Unlocking your phone: If you purchased your phone from AT&T, it is almost certainly locked. That means you can’t use the phone with another carrier until AT&T unlocks it. AT&T won’t unlock a phone until you have finished paying for it; your monthly bill may include an installment payment for the phone itself, separate from the cellular service charges. Once the phone is paid off you can request an unlock.

If you have a prepaid plan and purchased the phone from AT&T, you can unlock the phone after 6 months of usage on AT&T.

Recommendation: The minimum AT&T plan costs $60, which is a lot for 1 GB of data. Consider unlocking your phone if you can, or buy an inexpensive unlocked Android phone, and use a local SIM card.

Using Sprint in the Faroe Islands

Will my phone work in the Faroe Islands? Probably, but you should check at willmyphonework.net, especially if your phone is a couple of years old and is not an iPhone. Sprint uses the CDMA network, but the Faroe Islands uses GSM. Most newish phones can handle both, though.

How much will I pay without a plan? Almost nothing! Calls are $0.25 a minute, and texts and (slow) data are free.

Free international plan: Sprint’s Global Roaming plan includes free international data; texts are also free, and calls are $0.25 per minute. Sprint is clear that “all sprint plans include” Global Data, so this should work in a prepaid plan as well. (Look carefully at the image on the link above and you’ll see a teeny tiny yellow dot for the Faroe Islands!)

So what’s the catch? The speed is 2G; given that 5G is (maybe?) going to become more common in 2019, 2G is several generations behind. The speeds may be as slow as 64 kbps. Not only is that not fast, it’s probably about 15 times slower than something you would consider fast. I used this on my trip, and it’s … slow. It’s enough for GPS directions, though it will take you longer to set up. You can send and receive e-mails (and texting should be great), but it might be frustrating for web browsing. It’s tolerable, but you’ll definitely find yourself using your phone less. Maybe that’s a good thing?

You may consider trying it for yourself, and then purchasing a fast data roaming plan if you find it unbearable.

Paid international data plan: Sprint should send you a text when you first turn on your phone in Iceland. It will provide instructions for how to activate high speed data. (They assume you’ll hate the free plan, and will pay to upgrade!) But the price is very reasonable: Pay $5 a day, or $25 a week for unlimited high speed data. This is the best option you’ll find among the major carriers. Pay $25 for a week for unlimited data and texts; calls are 20 cents a minute. That’s not much more than the cheapest Faroe Islands local SIM card.

Unlocking your phone: You can of course still consider a local SIM card. Sprint has a baffling page describing their phone unlock policy, and a separate page listing the unlock requirements. That second page boils down to “We’ll automatically unlock your phone once it’s paid off.” Unfortunately, the special option for customers traveling internationally is now gone.  The unlock policy used to say “For Sprint customers traveling abroad for a short period of time, often their Sprint service can be provisioned to allow for international roaming.” but that language was  removed in August of 2017. You can always call and ask if they can “provision” your phone to allow you to use an international SIM card, but that doesn’t appear to be an official option any more. Let me know what happens if you call and ask, though!

Recommendation: Try the free slower speed option, and pay Sprint the $25 for high speed data if it’s not good enough.

Using TMobile in the Faroe Islands

Will my phone work in the Faroe Islands? Almost definitely. TMobile uses the GSM network, which is also what Iceland uses.

How much will I pay without a plan? It depends. If you have a T-Mobile ONE, Simple Choice, New Classic or Select Choice plan, calls are $0.25 a minute, and texts and (slow) data are free. On any other plan, you’ll still pay $0.25 a minute for calls. But outgoing texts are $0.50 each, and data is $15 per megabyte. That data rate is so high that in my opinion, it should be illegal. Make sure you check which plan you have!

Free International Plan: Included ONLY with T-Mobile Magenta Plans. If you have one of those, you get free slow data (though at 128kbps, it’s not as slow as Sprint’s free offering.) Otherwise, you pay the absolutely outrageous cost of $15 per megabyte. Make sure you are absolutely certain you have the right plan.

Paid international data plan: You have several options for speed boosts, ranging from modest to dramatic. For $15 a month (or $10 a month or less if you upgrade more than one line), you can pay for T-Mobile Magenta Plus. One of the features included boosts your international service to 256 kbps. Let’s not call that fast, but rather less-slow. You’ll have to add this to your plan and then remove it once you get home.

And as of June of 2019, T-Mobile has introduced new International passes. These are the first high speed options T-Mobile has offered that work in Iceland. For $35, you get 5 GB of high-speed data to use over 10 days, plus free phone calls. Or for $50 you get 15 GB to use over 30 days, plus free phone calls.

Unlocking your phone: In general, a device you bought from T-Mobile is probably locked. Once your phone is paid off (or after 18 months of service under some plans) T-Mobile will unlock it for you. You’ll have to contact support.

Recommendation: If you’re not a heavy data user, and just want e-mail and occasional web browsing, try the 128 kbps data for free and see what you think. Otherwise, you can pay the $35 for a generous allotment of high-speed data. With the new International Passes, there seems to be little reason to opt for a local Faroe Islands SIM card.

Using Verizon in the Faroe Islands

Will my phone work in the Faroe Islands? Probably, but you should check at willmyphonework.net, especially if your phone is a couple of years old and is not an iPhone. Verizon uses the CDMA network, but Iceland uses GSM. Most newish phones can handle both, though.

How much will I pay without a plan? A lot. Calls are $1.79 a minute, sending a text costs $0.50, receiving a text costs $0.05, and data costs $2.05 per megabyte. $2.05 a megabyte is offensive and should be illegal.

International plans: Just like AT&T, if you don’t sign up for a plan, you’ll pay an offensive $2.05 per megabyte used. And (again just like AT&T) you have two options here. First, you can add an International Plan. A steep $70 a month gets you 100 minutes, 100 outgoing texts (incoming are all free) and 500 MB of data. Or a steeper $130 a month gets you 250 minutes of calling, 1000 outgoing texts, and 2 GB of data.

A second option seems better to me. You can pay $10 a day for a TravelPass, and use your data allotments from your regular plan. The first 512 MB per day will be at 4G speeds. You’ll be downgraded to 2G after that. But 512 MB is a lot of data per day, unless you’re streaming lots of video.

You need to activate TravelPass on your account; log in online or use the Verizon app. You’ll only pay for days you use data in another country. It might be best to just leave it active on your phone to avoid the possibility of a huge data charge in the future.

Unlocking your phone: Some good news for Verizon customers: Your phone is probably already unlocked. Which means you can pop a SIM card in it once you are in Iceland it will work. Verizon generally doesn’t lock devices. If you have an older Verizon phone and you are prompted for an unlock code, it’s either 000000 or 123456. If you have prepaid service, you need to call Verizon after 12 months and they can unlock your phone.

Recommendation: Buy a Faroe Islands SIM card, since your phone is likely unlocked. Check to make sure it handles GSM by looking at willmyphonework.net. Or pay $10 a day for TravelPass.

This article was originally published on Travel Step by Step.

Liked the article? Support Local.fo on Patreon!
Share this article on social media:

More in Tourism