If you’re visiting Australia for a short time and need a phone plan, you have a few options open to you. Here are some of the cheapest and best prepaid and SIM options that will get your phone up and running, while delivering good value and useful features.
Australian mobile networks, explained
There are three mobile networks, owned and operated by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. All are GSM networks and all offer 4G services. This means that visitors from most of Europe and Asia will be able to use an Australian SIM card in a phone they already own.
There are also many smaller providers called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). These companies on-sell wholesale services from either Telstra, Optus or Vodafone; offering access to one of these three networks. This often results in a better bang-for-your-buck, at the cost of premium inclusions such as international calls or unmetered music streaming.
Of the three networks, Telstra has the best reputation, especially in regional areas. As such, you'll often pay a premium to be on the Telstra network, whether it's directly or through an MVNO. That said, the Optus and Vodafone networks are both excellent, and are expanding all the time.
The Optus and Vodafone networks have similar coverage in metro areas. Outside of populated centres, Optus will likely be a bit more reliable, although Vodafone is expanding its regional footprint.
Where to buy a SIM?
There are a few SIM card options available in the Australian international airports. Major providers like Optus and Vodafone have dedicated stores in most, and both have good, flexible prepaid deals for short term stays.
For even more options, you might consider waiting until after you leave the airport. SIM cards are available at convenience stores, like 7Eleven, and from major supermarkets Woolworths and Coles (both of which now offer their own competitive phone plans).
By waiting, you open up your options to include a number of the low-cost providers, including Amaysim, Lebara Mobile, Boost Mobile, as well as the major providers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.
Low-cost SIM card and prepaid options
As mentioned above, there are a number of low-cost, BYO phone service providers in Australia. The market is full of good options, and competition has driven prices down to the point where you should be able to find a plan to cover a short stay in Australia without having to spend a lot of money.
The best way to differentiate low-cost providers is by considering the network behind the service. As a reminder, there are only three mobile networks in Australia: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Here is a couple of our top picks for each network that you should easily be able to find in stores across the country:
Telstra Network Providers
Optus Network Providers
Vodafone Network Providers
Editor's pick: Australian plans for travellers
Now that you have an understanding about how the mobile phone market works in Australia, let's talk plans. Below are great options for a number of our favourite providers: you should easily be able to find SIM cards for all these picks in supermarkets and convenience stores after you've arrived in Australia.
Pay as you go SIM plans
Not sure if you'll need your phone every day? A pay-as-you-go plan may work for you. We've compiled a more comprehensive list here, but some options are highlighted below.
Big data SIM plans
If you need a decent amount of data for your Australian travels, here's a few 5GB-and-up options that won't break the bank (and don't require a contract).
Cheapest SIM plans
If you're on a backpacker's budget and need to squeeze every dollar, you can pick up a decent SIM-only plan for $10 per recharge or less.