Australia offers many ways for travellers to access the internet:
Internet cafés can be found in most tourist areas and usually cost 4 to 5 dollars per hour. However, in many internet cafés, 12 to 20 computers share a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet terribly slow. If possible, ask to check the speed of a café’s connection before paying $4-5 per hour.
Public libraries usually offer travellers some form of internet access, either free of charge or for a small fee. Some prohibit access to electronic mail, encouraging the use of their facilities for research purposes. Others offer both Wi-Fi and terminals, as Wi-Fi is usually not restricted.
Large hotels offer internet access, usually at exorbitant prices. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least one internet terminal at the reception. Some other accommodation providers offer Wi-Fi to their guests, almost always for a fee. It is still common to find motels and other smaller hotels that do not offer internet access to their guests.
- Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.
- McDonalds offers free Wi-Fi in almost all of its branches.
- Internode has free Wi-Fi hotspots, including much of downtown Adelaide.
- Telstra has partnered with Fon to create an extensive network of WiFi hotspots across Australia. This will use Telstra payphones and Telstra broadband customers to create hotspots bearing the Telstra Air name with the tagline “Australia’s largest WiFi network”. Look for a prominent white WiFi logo on a pink background and the words “Telstra Air” to identify key access points. Networks appear in WiFi listings as “Telstra Air” or “Fon WiFi”. Expect good network coverage in the city centre, although it may be necessary to search for a hotspot outside the CBD areas. Hotspot maps are available on the Telstra and Fon websites.
- Access can be purchased for $6.60 for 1 hour, $10 for 1 day or $23 for 5 days.
Open Wi-Fi hotspots are rarely found.
There are three mobile networks in Australia. They all offer 3G/UMTS and 4G/LTE mobile data services.
As the data is transmitted via the mobile phone network, the notes on frequencies, obtaining a SIM card and using a foreign device in the section Mobile Phones apply.
If you intend to use your phone with your home provider, ask them about data roaming charges (probably quite high). If your phone is not locked, it may be much cheaper to buy a local SIM card.
Several operators offer prepaid, contract-free mobile data access from around $20 to $30 per month, with different tariffs and inclusive services. For about $50, you get a USB modem or Wi-Fi dongle. There are thousands of plans available from hundreds of providers. A comparison site on the internet will guide you to the best offers of the moment.
Calling abroad from Australia
The most important international dialling code is 0011. (When using a mobile phone, the symbol “+” can also be used instead of the prefix 0011).
The country code for international calls to Australia is +61. If you are calling from overseas, omit the “0” in the code.
For example, the local tourist information number for Broken Hill is 8080-3300. The area code is 08 because Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or another place in the same region, you can optionally omit the area code and simply dial 8080-3300. To dial the number of Sydney or any other place in Australia outside the area code region, you must dial 08 8080-3300. If you don’t know your region, you can still dial the area code and it will still work. To dial the number from abroad, you need to dial your local international code (00 for most European countries or 011 in the USA and Canada), then dial 61 8 8080-3300, i.e. remove the “0” from the area code.
Australian area code list:
- 02 = Central East (New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and the north-eastern edge of Victoria)
- 03 = Southeast (southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania)
- 04 = Mobile phones throughout Australia (call charges are higher).
- 07 = Northeast (Queensland)
- 08 = Central & Western (Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and the far west of New South Wales)
Local calls cost about $0.25 on most landlines and $0.50 on all Telstra phones.
- When calling an Australian number from a mobile phone outside Australia, it is best to use the format +618803300 with no spaces and no prefix (0).
- When making an international call from your mobile phone in Australia, use the “+” followed by the country code, followed by the area code of the destination, then the local number of the destination. Do not use “0” prefixes and do not include spaces.
- When dialling from a mobile phone in Australia, it is not necessary to use an international dialling code (e.g. 0011). The “+” symbol followed by the country code of the destination country is sufficient to access the international telephone system from your handset.
- Numbers starting with 13 are charged at the rate of a local call and the connection may vary depending on the location. They can be 10-digit or 6-digit numbers. For example, the number 1300 796 222 will connect you to the Albury Tourist Information Centre wherever you are in Australia. The number 131 008, on the other hand, connects you to a different local taxi service depending on your location. 13 22 32 connects you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne. Calling these numbers abroad can be problematic.
- Numbers beginning with 18 are free when dialled from a payphone or landline and are usually used for hotel reservations or tourist information.
- Numbers starting with 19 are premium rate numbers, which are often very expensive (check before you dial).
- Numbers starting with 12 are operator services and depend on the network you are connected to. For example, 12 456 is a general information number for Telstra. Vodafone offers a similar service on 123. These numbers can also be value added services.
When abroad, it is often possible to call special numbers. Simply dial the number preceded by the country code +61. In many places there is another direct call number that can be used for international calls.
You can make reverse rate calls using the 1800 REVERSE number (1800 7383773).
Australia has mobile networks operated by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, and each of these networks has multiple resellers with different price plans. All three operate GSM (2G) and UMTS/HSPA (3G) networks, with varying degrees of LTE (4G) deployment.
There are no restrictions for overseas residents who want to get Australian prepaid SIM cards, but you will need to show photo identification, such as your passport.
The three 2G networks operate in 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 LTE 4G services on 1800 MHz; Vodafone provided 4G on 1800 MHz in 2013-14 in some major cities only. 4G coverage is very limited outside urban areas. As 4G LTE is mainly a high-speed data service, most mobile phones will “fall back” on 3G frequencies provided by the same operator.
CDMA phones (phones without SIM cards) do not work in Australia.
With foreign SIM cards, international roaming on Australian GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA) networks is usually straightforward, depending on the agreements between operators. Check with your home operator before you leave.
All major cities and their suburbs have good coverage on all three networks, as do the smallest rural towns. Telstra’s 850 MHz 3G network provides the best coverage in rural areas (although it is also the most expensive), but unpopulated or sparsely populated areas far from main roads are unlikely to be covered. If you are heading into the bush, a satellite phone may be your only option. Remember that all mobile phones can be used for emergency calls on all networks, even if they do not have a local SIM card or are not roaming. This also applies to satellite phones.
A cheap prepaid mobile phone with a SIM card is sold in most Australian shops, supermarkets and post offices for about $40; a SIM card alone for an existing phone costs about $2 to $3. Prepaid credit is topped up with top-up cards available at all supermarkets, kiosks, some vending machines and other outlets.
You can buy a seemingly endless variety of tariffs, SIM cards and phones, with different combinations of data, SMS and talk time. Some operators complicate the calculation of included calls by giving you a dollar “value” that is included in your package and then you have to search the call, SMS and data rates to calculate what is included. These prices can vary from package to package. Make sure that the package you choose includes everything you need, as using data or making calls outside the package is often much more expensive.
If you need full coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Hiring a satellite phone costs about $120 per week, plus the cost of the call. Satellite messaging devices that send your location and a text message or help email can be rented for about $80 per week.
These devices are only available in specialised shops, often only in big cities (far away from the remote areas you might visit). You should be able to buy or rent these devices in your home country before you leave, if you wish.
Satellite phones allow you to make emergency calls without a SIM card or subscription. The cheapest model costs about $300, a little more than a PLB.
Most cities and suburbs have at least one payphone. Most railway stations have a payphone. Text messages can be sent from many public phones, using the keypad as on a mobile phone. Follow the instructions on the phone’s display.
Australia Post operates the Australian postal service. Letters can be posted in any of Australia Post’s red letterboxes, which can be found in all post offices and many other places. All stamps can be purchased at post offices, and some stamps can also be purchased at kiosks and hotels. Mailing a standard letter costs $1 (up to 250 g) in Australia, $1.85 (up to 20 g) in Asia/Pacific and $2.75 (up to 20 g) in the rest of the world. The ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ stamps are different, as the international stamp is tax-free, so be sure to use the correct stamp. Parcels, express mail services and other services are also available.
Addresses in Australia are usually formatted as follows, similar to addresses in the USA and Canada
Name of the beneficiary
House number and street name
(If required) Suite or flat or building number.
City or town, two- or three-letter state abbreviation, postal code
You can receive mail from Poste Restante in any town or village. The mail must be addressed to your full name c/o Post Restante and you only need to go to the post office with an ID to receive your mail.