Traveller’s Guide to Staying Connected in Australia

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Whether you’re visiting our shores for just a week or planning a longer trip to soak up everything Australia has to offer, you’ll need to have a way of staying connected—both with friends and family back home and new mates down under. Having a working phone is not only essential for getting directions and posting those jealousy-inducing snaps on Instagram, but it’s also essential for your safety in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Essentially, you have three options for staying online and making calls and texts while you’re here, depending on your budget.

Baller: Stick with your phone plan from home

Let’s face it, international roaming rates are expensive. Unless you meticulously plan out your usage and calculate costs before you jump on the plane, chances are you’ll return home to one seriously nasty bill. Still, if you’re only in Australia for a few days (or maybe a week), the convenience of sticking with your current phone plan may outweigh whatever hefty costs may be coming your way.

If this is the route you want to take, we recommend doing a bit of research first. Talk to your provider about roaming rates, whether or not you can track your usage from overseas, and, perhaps most importantly, find out which Australian network they use.

When it comes to network coverage, Telstra is the gold standard over here, covering 99.4% of the country’s population. It’s a popular choice with people who live in the outback and other rural areas, as they may be unable to get reception with other providers. If your provider tells you they use Optus or Vodafone, you’ll likely be absolutely fine (particularly if you’re sticking to cities or big regional centres) as they cover 98.5% and 96% of the population, respectively. If you are planning on taking the road less travelled, however, it might be worth swapping your SIM for a cheap Aussie plan that runs on the Telstra network. Speaking of which…

Budget: Get a cheap Aussie phone plan

Whether you’re here for just a week or perhaps planning a months-long road trip around our fair nation, we recommend grabbing a cheap local mobile plan that allows you to use your phone just as you would back home.

As mentioned above, Australia’s mobile providers (of which there are dozens) all run on one of three networks. In order of most to least coverage, they are Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. If you know you’ll be staying in cities or big town centres, you have the luxury of choice, as any provider will have you covered.

Aussie phone plans are, largely speaking, pretty cheap compared to many other parts of the world. We don’t really do contract plans here anymore, but for convenience’s sake, it’s best to stick with a prepaid plan anyway, as they require less paperwork to get. You can get prepaid plans that last 7 days or 14 days, but generally speaking, 28 or 30-day plans are the standard.

Below are some of the best-value Australian SIM plans on the market right now. When you find one you like, simply hit the “Go” button and arrange to have your SIM delivered to your accommodation in Oz. Each provider’s site will also tell you which network they run on, in case that factors into your decision. Some providers even include a set number of international minutes, and you may even find one or two that offer unlimited international calls to select countries, if that’s important to you.

Popular 1, 5, 7 and 14-day plans with at least 2GB data

Popular 28 and 30-day plans with at least 5GB data

If you’re planning on going off the beaten path and exploring the great Australian outback or weaving through our charming country towns, we recommend choosing a plan that runs on the Telstra network as it offers more coverage in rural areas than Optus and Vodafone.

Popular plans on the Telstra network with at least 5GB data

Broke: Gamble with public Wi-Fi networks

This is not the option that we recommend, as you won’t be able to find free Wi-Fi networks everywhere you go, and using such networks can be unsafe. Your hotel or hostel’s Wi-Fi will generally be safe to use, but be cautious when accessing openly available public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you don’t have a choice, make sure you use a VPN or at the very least avoid accessing sensitive information like your online banking account. It’s also a good idea to download any maps or directions you know you’ll need to use before disconnecting from any Wi-Fi hotspot—this way you can use them offline, too.

Georgia Dixon
Written by
Georgia Dixon

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