If you plan to visit Australia then you are probably planning to purchase a SIM card for your mobile or cell phone when you arrive, right? You might plan to purchase your SIM card based on price alone, but before you take that step I suggest you stop and do a little more research first.
If you are mostly planning to visit the larger towns and cities then any of the pre-paid SIM cards should be OK, so in that case focus on the specific pricing plans to make your choice.
Australian Road Trip SIM Card Issues
If you are planning to do a larger road trip then it is really important to have a look at the Australian mobile phone coverage maps as their marketing can be a bit deceptive. Several of the telecommunications carriers claim to cover anywhere from 95% to 99% of ‘the Australian population’.
If you don’t know much about Australia you might think that means that they cover most of the country… In reality the majority of the Australian population lives close to the larger population centres. There are vast areas of Australia which have a very low population – and no mobile phone coverage!
If you are planning to head into outback Australia I suggest you have a close look at the phone coverage maps for your planned route before selecting a SIM card. The major telecommunications networks are Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. There are other secondary networks but they usually work off one of the major networks.
Compare the different networks to see which one will provide the best coverage for your route. And only then make a price comparison.
Outback Road Trip Communications Options
If all networks have large coverage gaps for your planned route you have a few options to consider.
Travelling on Major Highways
If you will mostly be travelling on major highways then you should be able to manage with your existing phone and a pre-paid SIM card. If you need help there should be sufficient other traffic around to get assistance.
If people need to get in touch with you ask them to send you a text message which you will receive as you arrive in a mobile phone area. Also make arrangements to get in touch regularly with family and friends so they know where you are.
Be aware that if you need emergency assistance the phone number to call in Australia is 000. If you do not have mobile phone access from your SIM card and need emergency assistance, you can call 112 which will enable an emergency call to be made using any mobile phone network if there are any in the area.
Travelling on Minor Roads
If you plan to travel on minor roads with little traffic or plan to go hiking or bushwalking in low traffic areas then it is worthwhile to investigate alternative options to communicate if you need assistance.
You can hire a satellite handset or satellite Wifi device which enables you to use your own phone. Either device will enable you to connect to one of the four satellite networks (Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya and Globalstar Australia) which support Australia for approximately $A100 or so per week, with extra costs for any calls made. All networks provide good coverage across most of Australia. All four satellite networks also enable you to make 000 or 112 calls.
You can also hire a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which uses a satellite network for a cheaper price which can be activated if you require assistance.
There are many businesses offering satellite handset and PLB hire so check out the prices to see which one will suit you best.
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Are you visiting or about to visit Australia and are trying to work out which SIM card to purchase? Or planning to head for the outback and want to ensure you can stay connected? Please share your experience in the comments below.