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The best plans are phone plans. You always got something to talk about! Australian mobile phone plans are provided by four main companies: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile. Cellular phone plans in Australia aren't that cheap. Mobile phone plans vary so check around. Prepaid phone plans are what you're likely to get when you come to Australia. Prepaid phone plans are the most flexible for a transient.

Australia's Phone System

"It's hard to believe that four companies could have so much in common, but they do.  Australia's four leading pre-paid cellular phone plan providers are each practiced in the art of making your poorer everytime you open up your mouth.  "  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
phone network Australia

Back in the United States, I avoided having a cell phone for years.  I had voicemail and a digital answering machine at home. I felt that was plenty.  I resisted the last step of being reachable wherever I went.  Eventually, I succumbed and bought a Sprint PCS phone and signed up for their cheapest plan.  I mostly kept the phone in my car as an emergency device should the car ever break down. 

Nokia phone - AustraliaWhen I came to Australia, I again resisted the idea of having a cell phone, and hard as it is to believe now, I didn't have a cellular phone the first four months I was there.  I traveled through Tasmania without a cellular phone and began my trip through mainland Australia without one.  It was only when I got to Adelaide (South Australia) that I was offered one on loan.  It was a very basic Nokia cell phone model.  The phone already had an active Australian SIM card within it from Optus.  I was told that I had to keep the phone charged with a minimum of AUD 30 per month to keep the account active.  The SIM card's plan was such that after buying AUD 30 of credit, the phone would actually have AUD 120 of real credit I could make phone calls with.    What a fantastic bargain -- or was it?

Australian mobile phone companies

When you're in Australia, these guys want to make sure you're always talking to somebody

The connection charges (called 'flagfall' rates in Australia) and per minute rate per calls eroded this AUD 120 of credit very quickly.  Calling AUD 30 of credit AUD 120 of real "value" is a lot like offering 2-for-1 on a product in which no one has any clue what 1 is worth.  It's easy to inflate the regular price of the product, so that 2-for-1's or 4x the credit looks like a deal when, in fact, AUD 30 of credit probably bought me AUD 30 of value if reasonable phone rates had been charged in the first place Recharge credits usually expire within 28-45 daysBe wary of promised free calls and text messaging. They will apply only to other phones on your same carrier, and there will probably be black-out times.

Doug Knell's tips
In retrospect, I would say that having a cellular phone is essential when traveling around any country for the long term, particularly when you own your own car. I needed to call the automobile club on a number of occasions when my car failed to start or arrange last minute accommodation. It goes without saying that anyone on the pickup scene would require their own phone in which to store future seduction contacts. Don't make the same mistake I did. Get an Australian SIM card as soon as you arrive in the country.

GSM sim cardWill my cellular phone from home work?    That depends where home is, junior.   If you're from the moon, Neptune, Korea, or Japan, your phone won't work; from the U.S., slim chances it will work; from Europe, a fantastic chance it will work.  Australia uses GSM mobile technology, the most popular in the world.  A small SIM card is inserted into the back of the phone behind the battery.   You'd remove your own country's SIM card and insert an Australian one.  

It really is as easy as all that, with one caveat.  Your phone from home must be unlocked for another SIM card to work.  Companies typically lock you into a plan to subsidize the cost of the phone.  You've seen the deals.  You're promised a free iPhone but then you're locked into a 2-yr plan with the company  Phone companies don't want you jumping between them until the subsidy they've given on the handset has been repaid.  Fortunately, unlocking a phone isn't difficult.  If you're trying to unlock the phone in your homeland, the rules vary by nation.  In the United States, T-Mobile will unlock your phone for a fee if you've had an account in good standing with them for 90 days.  Asia is a cheap place to get a phone unlocked.  If you're passing through Thailand on the way to Australia, for between USD 8-10, any phone merchant will unlock your phone.  In Hong Kong and China, it would also be easy and inexpensive to get your phone unlocked.  Nokia phone owners could visit here, and then may be able to unlock their phones on their own.  Another option is to do a search on the internet for "Unlock XXXX", where XXXX is the type of phone you have.

mobile phone Australia

Australia's Big Four

A phone plan always ends up cheaper than a prepaid plan. That's the whole idea. Carriers want to lock you into a plan for 1 to 2 years. It's predictable cash flow for them for this period, and so you get a price break on your calls. If prepaid were cheaper, no one would lock themselves into a plan and only buy credits as they needed them.

There's not a great chance you'll be on a phone plan while you're in Australia. Like all the other travelers, you'll be opting for prepaid. Recharging your phone with credit is as simple as visiting any carrier's phone shop or asking for a voucher in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Here's what you have to choose from.   Plans change constantly.  What you read at Doug's Republic is not the gospel. All offer the "Buy X dollars of credit, receive 5X of value in return" spiel.  Visit each company's web site and select the "Prepaid" area to find the latest info on prepaid plans.  Finding the info is not always easy.  

All monetary figures are denominated in Australian dollars.

Carrier  Web Site Plans
Telstra  www.telstra.com.au  Telstra's standard call rates are 39¢ per 30 second block or part, and a flagfall rate of 30¢.  Text messages are 25¢ within Australia and 50¢ abroad. 
Optus  www.optus.com.au  Optus must not be trying to promote pre-paid anymore, although they still have it.  You have to look long and hard through their web site to find anything.  Their Turb0Cap Plan has a 30 day validity.   Flagfall rates are 35¢.   Calls cost 89¢ per minute or part thereof.  Voicemail retrieval is 20¢.  Text messages cost between 25¢ and 29¢
Vodafone  www.vodafone.com.au  Their Flexi Caps plan offers "Incredible Value."  That's what they say, not what I say.    $29 buys you $150 of "value,"; $49, $350 of value.   Steel yourself to be raped 88¢ per minute for calls plus a 35¢ flagfall rate.
Virgin  www.virginmobile.com.au   Offer a Your Caps plan.   When you recharge $35, they give you $180 worth of "value"; $45, $320 of value.  You get the idea.   Standard call rates are 90¢ per minute, rounded to the nearest minute.  Texting to other networks costs 25¢ within Australia and 35¢ overseas.  Cheap or a ream?  Their Beancounter plan offers a flat rate of 10¢ per minute to all networks plus a flagfall rate of 25¢  per call.   Sending text messages is 10¢  in Oz and 20¢  overseas.  Beancounter is only applicable online.

There is no charge for receiving calls, and you can receive calls even after your credit is exhausted.   Americans will find that very different from the incoming and outgoing minutes offered on a typical American plan. 

Happy dialing. You're sure to spend a fortune chatting away.


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Fascinating Ideas You Could Care Less About

 The phone plans of sweet Australia. Australian mobile phone plans are offered by the four main mobile phone providers: Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile. Cellular phone plans come in all shapes and sizes. Check the web sites to find out. Mobile phone plans are good, some are bad. As a traveler in Australia, you will probably be opting for prepaid phone plans.