Travelling overseas is so exciting, planning the trip, booking the airline tickets and accommodation, and packing the suitcase. However one thing everyone gets confused about is how to stay in touch with family and friends back home. Now I am not talking about post cards, I am talking about your mobile phone and what options are available to you when you visit Australia.
Australia has 3 main telecommunication carriers and then tens of service providers. The carriers are “Telstra” (biggest), which is also a listed Australian company, 50% Government owned. Then there is Optus, which is the second largest telecommunications company in Australia. The third carrier is Vodafone/Hutchison, a new entity formed after the merger of Vodafone Australia and 3 Mobile.
Between these three carriers, they own the airwaves so to speak. They control most of the 3G access as well.
Travelling to Australia and setting up your mobile phone is relatively easy but it’s not something that you can necessarily do from the US (unless your travel agent can sell you an international roaming sim card). You have to wait until you arrive in Australia.
First of all, what you need is an unlocked mobile phone, which means you can swap or add a global sim card when you get here. To help you decide which sim card to purchase, compare the prepaid mobile offers available and see what suits your budget and spending patterns. It’s simple with several online services available. Some also offer forums and free chat support should you need additional assistance.
So once you arrive, you need to get your hands on the international sim card of choice. Unfortunately most prepaid mobile providers will not mail a sim card overseas. Not sure why but they simply don’t. So you can either have it sent to a friend who lives locally (Australia), or you can buy it when you arrive. The second option is the easiest. Most prepaid sim cards can be purchased from the airport when you arrive or any convenience store.
Here are a few tips: If you are travelling into rural or country Australia, then “Telstra” or “Optus” are your best options, or a service provider which uses their pocket wifi japan. Vodafone is fine if you stick to the capital cities and surrounding suburbs eg metro. Although their coverage is improving all of the time.
Recharging is as simple as jumping online to the provider’s website and buying your recharge credit online. All you need is a credit card. PayPal is also accepted by most carriers. The alternative is to visit a convenience store and recharge there.
Only top-up what you need, as you won’t be able to access the unused credit when you return home.
If you plan to call home, ie back to US, most prepaid providers these days either include cheap international calls with their plan, or have a special plan for international calls. Ask them if it’s not obvious.
Stick with a prepaid mobile plan as it’s cheap to get started with and you only spend what you need.
Most providers also offer 3G access so that you can access the internet via your smartphone.
Check the bands that your phone is set up to use so that you can access the right band when you arrive in Australia.
Enjoy your trip down under!