Our travel blog to Australia for informed travel.
Internet / Phone / Postal service in Australia
Australia offers many Internet access options for travellers:
Internet cafés are available in most tourist areas and normally cost $4–5 per hour. However, many internet cafés have 12-20 computers sharing a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet painfully slow. If possible, ask if you can check the speed of a café's connection before forking out $4–5 for an hour.
Public libraries usually offer some form of Internet access to travellers, either free or for a small fee. Some prohibit access to email, promoting research use of their facilities. Others offer both Wi-Fi and terminals, with Wi-Fi usually being free of restrictions.
Major hotels offer Internet access, usually for an exorbitant fee. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least an Internet terminal at reception. Some other accommodation providers offer Wi-Fi to their guests, almost always with a charge. It is still common to find motels and other smaller hotels without any Internet offering to customers.
- Many coffee shops offer Wi-Fi free to their customers.
- McDonalds has free Wi-Fi in just about all their stores.
- Internode has free Wi-Fi hotspots, including much of Adelaide city centre.
- Telstra has partnered with Fon to create an extensive network of WiFi hotspots around Australia that utilise Telstra telephone boxes and Telstra broadband customers to create hotspots that go by the name Telstra Air with the slogan 'Australia's largest WiFi Network'. Look for a distinctive white WiFi logo on solid pink and the words 'Telstra Air' to indicate major hotspots. The networks appear in WiFi lists as 'Telstra Air' or 'Fon WiFi'. Expect good coverage in city centre areas although it may require some searching to locate a hot spot outside of CBD areas. Hot spot maps are available on both the Telstra and Fon websites.
- Access can be purchased for $6.60 for 1 hour, $10 for 1 day or $23 for 5 days.
- Until June 30, 2016 an offer exists for unlimited usage of the WiFi network for eligible Telstra customers. Importantly for travellers this includes those with an activated pre-paid SIM.
It is unusual to stumble upon open Wi-Fi hotspots.
There are three mobile networks in Australia. All of them provide 3G/UMTS and 4G/LTE mobile data services.
As the data is carried over the mobile network, the advice about frequencies, obtaining SIMs and using a foreign device in the Mobile Cellular Phones section applies.
If you intend to use your phone with your home carrier, check with them for data roaming fees (likely quite expensive). If your handset isn't locked, it may be much cheaper to buy a local SIM.
Several carriers offer prepaid mobile data access with no contract from around $20-$30 per month with various bundles and inclusions. For around $50 you can get a USB modem or Wi-Fi dongle. There are thousands of plans available through hundreds of resellers. Using an internet comparison site will direct you to the current best deals.
There are ISPs that offer dialup Internet for around $10–20 per month flat rate range. It can be surprisingly difficult to find Australian dialup ISPs with instant online signup, but they do exist (Beagle is one if you can provide an Australian address).
You can buy prepaid dialup cards for several ISP's from Dick Smith stores, for around $20 per month. The ISPs Dodo and Planet Ozi for example have prepaid internet cards available for around $10 a month from a variety of retail outlets.
If moving around, check that your ISP has an access number that can be reached via a local call from landlines nationwide (the access number starts with 019 or 13), rather than just in the ISP home city. All prepaid cards that can be purchased from Dick Smith have access from anywhere in Australia for a local call fee.
Calling overseas from Australia
The main international access code or prefix is 0011. (When using a mobile phone the plus symbol "+" can be used instead of the 0011 prefix.)
The country code for international calls to Australia is +61. When dialling from overseas, omit any leading '0' in the area code.
For example, the local number for the Broken Hill tourist information is 8080-3300. The area code is 08 as Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or anywhere else inside the same area code region you can optionally omit the area code, and just dial 8080-3300. To dial the number from Sydney or anywhere in Australia outside the area code region, you will need to dial 08 8080-3300. If you don't know your area code region, you can still dial the area code, and it will still work. To dial the number from overseas you will need to dial your local international access code (00 for most of Europe or 011 in the USA and Canada) and then dial 61 8 8080-3300, that is drop the leading '0' from the area code.
Australian area code list:
- 02 = Central East (New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and north-eastern fringe of Victoria)
- 03 = South East (Southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania)
- 04 = Mobile phones Australia-wide (higher call charges apply).
- 07 = North East (Queensland)
- 08 = Central & West (Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and far Western New South Wales)
Local calls are about $0.25 on most fixed lines and $0.50 on all Telstra Pay Phones.
- If calling an Australian number from a mobile phone outside Australia it is best to use the format +61880803300 with no spaces and no (0) prefixes included.
- If making an international call from your mobile phone from within Australia use the '+' followed by the country code, followed by destination area code, followed by the local number at the destination. Omit all leading '0' prefixes and do not include any spaces.
- If dialling from a mobile telephone in Australia it is not necessary to use an international dialling prefix (such as 0011). The '+' symbol followed by the destination country code is all that is needed to access the international telephone system from your handset.
- Numbers commencing with 13 are charged at a local call rate, and what they connect you to can vary according to your location. They can be 10 or 6 digit numbers. For example 1300 796 222, will connect you with the Albury tourist information, no matter where you are in Australia. However, 131 008 will connect you with a different local taxi service depending on where you are. 13 22 32 will connect you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne. Calling these numbers internationally can be problematic.
- Numbers commencing with 18 are free when dialled from a payphone or fixed phone, and commonly used for hotel reservation numbers, or tourist information numbers.
- Numbers commencing with 19 are premium numbers, often with very hefty call charges (make sure you check before dialling).
- Numbers commencing with 12 are carrier services, and are dependent on what network you are connected to. For example 12 456 is a general information number for Telstra. Vodafone offer a similar services on 123. These numbers can be premium services as well.
Calling special numbers internationally can often work - just try dialling the number prefixed with the +61 country code. Many locations will give an alternative direct number for use in international dialling. You can use the non-geographical number search on e164.org.au to look up a normal number from a 13 or 18 number.
You may make reverse charge calls by using the number 1800 REVERSE (1800 7383773).
Mobile cellular phones
Australia has cellular networks operated by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, and each of the networks have several resellers with different price plans. All three operate GSM (2G) and UMTS/HSPA (3G), with varying levels of LTE (4G) deployment.
There are no restrictions on overseas residents obtaining Australian prepaid SIM cards, although you will require some form of photo ID such as your passport for identification.
All three 2G networks operate on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Telstra and Vodafone have 3G HSPA+ services on 850/2100 MHz, and Optus on 900/2100 MHz. Telstra and Optus also have 4G LTE services at 1800 MHz; Vodafone rolled out 4G at 1800 MHz in a few large cities only in 2013-14. 4G coverage is very limited outside city areas; as 4G LTE is primarily a high-speed data service, most handsets will 'fall back' onto the 3G frequencies provided by the same carrier.
CDMA phones (phones without a SIM card) will not work in Australia.
With foreign SIM cards, international roaming is generally seamless onto Australia's GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA) networks, depending on agreements between operators. Check with your home operator before you leave.
All major cities and their suburbs have decent coverage on all three networks, as do many country towns except the smallest. Telstra's 850 MHz 3G network provides the best rural coverage (though it is also the most expensive), but unpopulated or sparsely populated areas away from major roads are unlikely to have service at all. If you are heading way out into the bush then a satellite phone may be your only option. Remember all mobile phones can be used for emergency calls on all networks, even if they don't have a local SIM or aren't roaming. This applies to satellite phones too.
A cheap prepaid mobile phone with a SIM retails for around $40 in most Australian retail outlets, supermarkets, and post offices; a SIM alone for an existing phone is around $2–3. Prepaid credit is added using recharge cards available at all supermarkets, newsagents, some ATMs, and other outlets.
You can buy a seemly infinite variety of packages, SIM cards, and phone bundles, with varied combinations of data, SMS and call time. Some carriers make calculating included calls difficult, by giving you a dollar "value" that is included in your package, and you then need to find the call, sms and data rates to calculate what is included. These rates can differ from plan to plan. Make sure the plan you choose includes what you need, because using data or making calls outside of the package allowance is often orders of magnitude more expensive.
If you need comprehensive coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Expect to pay around $120 per week to hire a satellite phone, plus call costs. Satellite messaging units, which send your location and a help SMS or email, can be hired for around $80 per week.
These units are only available from specialist dealers, often only in major cities (away from the remote areas you may be visiting). You should be able to acquire or hire these units in your home country before departure if you wish. Text messages can be sent from many public phones, using the keypad in much the same way as a mobile phone. Follow the instructions on the phone display.
Australia Post runs Australia's postal service. Letters can be posted in any red Australia Post posting box, which are found at all post offices and many other locations. All stamps can be purchased from post offices, and some stamps can be purchased from newsagents and hotels. Posting a standard letter costs $0.70 within Australia (up to 250g), $1.95 for Asia/Pacific (up to 20g) and $2.75 for the rest of the world (up to 20g). 'Domestic' and 'international' stamps are different, as international is tax free, therefore, so make sure you use the right stamp. Parcels, express post and other services are also available.
Addresses in Australia are generally formatted in the following way, which is similar to addresses in the United States and Canada
Name of recipient
House number and street name
(If needed) Suite or apartment or building number
City or town, two or three-letter state abbreviation, postal code
You can receive mail via Poste Restante in any city or town. Mail should be addressed to your full name c/o Post Restante, and you simply call into the post office with ID to receive your mail.
You can get all the information for your trip on our website, including information on the request of the E Visa Australia
(Thanks to WikiVoyage.org)