Updated October 12, 2017
Buying a SIM card in Australia is easy and convenient. Plans are affordable, and many are built with travellers’ needs in mind.
My previous experience with Amaysim
During a visit to Australia in 2012, I was impressed with the package I bought from Amaysim. Amaysim is powered by the Optus network, which currently claims to serve 98.5% of the population.
Since 2012, plans are cheaper and features have improved. In 2017, Amaysim offers four attractive plans for travellers.
Determine your needs
Chances are you’ve spent many hours travelling to Australia at considerable cost. It’s a big country, and you’re likely staying a while. You might as well spend an extra 30 or 40 dollars (per month) for the convenience of being connected.
There are so many choices between networks, sellers and plans. Choosing the right plan comes down to your circumstances and preferences. Start by identifying your needs. In the event it’s useful, here are mine for my trip to Australia in March of 2017.
1. Set up and activation at my arrival airport
I like to have a phone connected to a cellular network before leaving the airport. This allows me to communicate with others, especially when faced with travel delays or for confirming meeting arrangements. Hunting down a SIM card at a downtown location, or encountering difficulties activating my phone interfere with my ability to get on with my travels.
2. Country-wide calling minutes
Booking accommodation and activities, connecting with travelling companions, meeting up with friends, or making emergency calls are easier with a phone connected to a cellular network.
In many situations, texts are an efficient alternative to calls.
4. International calls
In Spain and New Zealand, I loved the plans that came with calling minutes to select countries. I’ve come to rely on this feature for staying in touch with family and friends. It’s now a feature I look for when buying a local SIM card and pre-paid mobile plan. It’s important that my home country (Canada) is on the list of select countries.
I appreciate the convenience of connecting to the Internet at any time. Travel research, VoIP calls, online bookings, navigation, managing email, and posting to social media can be accomplished without having to track down Wi-Fi. Or, without being tied to a specific time of day to perform any of these functions. Having enough data allows me to establish a Wi-Fi connection for my tablet through the hotspot feature on my phone.
6. Validity period
I was staying in Australia for 33 days.
7. Access to top up
Most plans are for a 28-day period. I looked for a plan with a longer period of coverage. Or, one that allowed rollover of unused data or calling minutes, or the ability to purchase additional calling time or data.
8. App to track usage
An app takes the guesswork out of figuring what data and calling minutes remain.
Research networks, sellers, plans and costs
These three pre-trip steps work for me:
1. For a list of networks, sellers, and recommendations, start with Buying Local SIM Cards Around the World at Too Many Adapters.
2. There are three main networks in Australia: Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone. There are several resellers, such as Amaysim, BoostMobile, and Vaya. Amaysim and Vaya use Optus’ network. BoostMobile is powered by Telstra. A quick visit to each site provides the latest information on plans and prices.
Coverage statistics are similar for all three networks. If you’re spending any length of time in a specific location, each site has easy-to-use coverage maps.
3. My third step is to check which sellers have a presence at my arrival airport, their locations and hours of service. Your arrival airport website will likely have this information. Travellers who order a SIM card online or buy one at a location other than an airport will have a different approach. In March 2017, I expected to find Optus and Vodafone in the International Terminal of Brisbane Airport.
It pays to do the research
Research online, and then again at the airport. With more than one seller, it’s possible you’ll find discounted rates. This was the case in Brisbane in March 2017, when Vodafone reduced their $50 Combo plan to $30.
Or, you may find a deal for an online purchase. For example, at the time of updating this post in October 2017, Vodafone has a very attractive 35-day data- and-calling plan for $25 (50% discount). With a Vodafone kiosk at the airport, this option might appeal to those needing assistance activating their plan.
My choice: Optus
My Prepaid Ultimate cost $40. Its features included:
- unlimited talk and text within Australia;
- unlimited international calls to 20 select countries (Bangladesh, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam);
- 6 GB of data;
- validity of 28 days; and
- a free app to monitor usage and purchase top up.
I was pleased with Optus. Optus makes buying a SIM card in Australia easy for travellers. The features were clearly outlined on the Optus website, and in the information pamphlet at the airport kiosk. Optus recognizes that passengers arrive at irregular hours, and has staff available to meet incoming flights. Set up is efficient and activation is immediate.
I was satisfied with network speeds and coverage. I didn’t expect reception travelling from Alice Springs to Uluru in Central Australia, as indicated by Optus’ coverage map.
It was a similar picture with Vodafone.
Unlike New Zealand, free Wi-Fi is readily available in Australia. And unlike New Zealand, accommodation providers advertising “free Wi-Fi” don’t limit data use. Access to free and unlimited Wi-Fi will impact on how much data you’ll need in a pre-paid plan.
What’s your experience buying a SIM card in Australia?
Heading to New Zealand? If so, you might be interested in Buying a SIM card in New Zealand.