Using a dual-SIM phone in Malta

See previous article: Cubot X12 — Dual SIM Use (Bulgaria)

Compared to Bulgaria, getting a SIM for a mobile phone is more expensive in Malta, and for me was far more confusing. One of the companies, Melita, offers a deal which only includes 100Mb data per week, but also includes free Melita wifi wherever you can find it, and they have a good signal in many places, so you might find that you don’t use that much data. But all options seemed different, with selling points designed to draw you in, whilst other things you needed were either not there, expensive or confusing. My choice was VodafoneMT, because they have a shop in the airport.

You have to buy a “starter pack” (i.e., a SIM card) for €25, which when you consider that GiffGaff in the UK provides that for free, is a bit much. I was told that it came with €5 credit and 1Gb data, which last for a week. My first mistake was to think that, after the week was up, I could top up by €5 and 1Gb data would be added. It’s not. The way that Vodafone works is that you have credit, but you can use the credit to buy packages which are time-limited. Having topped up the credit just before the week was up, what was left of the €5 was now added to the new €5. But it vanished very quickly because I didn’t buy a data package with it. I tried phoning them, but instead of explaining what I had to do, I just got a man telling me that I had used all my credit, repeatedly.

I picked up a leaflet which suggested I had to register on line in order to get data packages, but this is not right. You can top up your credit with a scratchcard and buy the data package out of that. It seems that they are so anxious to get you to register on line, that they leave this information off the leaflet. I put in €5 and spent €3 of it on 300Mb data, which just got me through to my flight home. At the airport I enquired at the booth, and was told that the SIM is valid for a year before being taken offline, the year restarts every time you top it up. So if I go to Malta again, I will not have to pay the €25 again.

As for the phone’s performance, it was good, except that, unlike in Bulgaria, the battery was draining much faster. Fortunately I have a battery pack to charge it up, and a spare battery with an offboard charger. To be fair, because there was no internet with the friend I stayed with, I was using the phone constantly. But even so, having a VodafoneMT SIM seemed to drain the battery faster than a Telenor SIM. I have no idea why.

While I was waiting to get on the plane on the way home, I opened the phone and changed the SIMs around. I still had a little data left on the Vodafone SIM, now in the 2G slot, but it still reported 3G, and was able to read and write to Facebook, until it was “flight mode” time. That was a pleasant surprise.

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