Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Boost, Catch Connect, Amaysim, Aldi mobile, Coles Mobile, Woolworths Mobile.

Mobile Phone Plans in Australia – a Backpacker’s Guide.

You need a mobile phone, you need a mobile phone plan, you need internet access. With over 35 phone companies to choose from where do you start? How do you find the best mobile phone plan in Australia?

Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Boost, Catch Connect, Amaysim, Aldi mobile, Coles Mobile, Woolworths Mobile.Quite frankly my head is spinning! I though I do some quick research and write a blog for you outlining a few recommendations. What did I find? More than 35 phone companies, some with 40 different plans. Seriously 40 different plans! Some cheaper plans which actually seem to give you better value. Very confusing.

I focused on Prepaid plans, as most overseas phones will work in Australia and you need not pay extra to get a new phone. For a guide on how to check if your phone will work in Australia follow this link

Prepaid phone vouchers and starter kits with SIM cards are available from many different shops, even most Supermarkets. Alternatively, you can update Online with most phone companies providing automatic update options. In Australia it is very easy to switch mobile phone providers and keep the same phone number. This is one of the major advantages of going prepaid instead of a lock-in contract.

Outline of Australia’s Main Providers

Telstra mobile phone coverage This is where it gets a little simpler as there are only three phone companies that actually own mobile towers and other mobile infrastructure.

Telstra and Optus both started life as government owned organisations. Optus was privatised in the early eighties and Telstra in 1997. Vodafone is a smaller player mainly focusing on metropolitan areas. All others are Virtual Mobile Phone Service Providers in that they lease the infrastructure from one of three phone companies.

Optus mobile phone coverage What this means for us as customers is often cheaper phone plans due to increased competition. However, some cheaper mobile phone and internet providers lease only a portion of the infrastructure from the major phone companies, and therefore have limited coverage. There are a few things to consider when choosing a mobile phone provider in Australia.

Mobile Phone Trap Number One

Vodafone mobile phone coverage You get off the plane in Sydney, and after you book into the Backpacker hostel the next thing to look for is connectivity. Advertising for VodaFone is everywhere. It’s cheap, plans include plenty of data, even more if you sign up for a 12 month contract. Very tempting.

Fast forward a month or so. You spent all your savings buying a car, sightseeing and partying in Sydney. (Click here to read my article on buying a used car.) Now it is time to look for a fruit picking job so you can qualify for your second year visa. You are not even two hours out of Sydney and your phone says ‘Emergency Calls Only’. (By law any mobile phone with any provider can use any available mobile phone tower to ring Australia’s emergency number ‘000’).

I have met countless Backpackers in my years as a professional Seasonal Worker who got caught in this trap and had to buy another SIM card, sometimes even another phone if they purchased a locked phone on a plan. Vodafone and any of the cheaper virtual phone companies will work well in the major metropolitan areas, but are as useless as tits on a bull out in the bush.

Trap Number Two

When considering a mobile phone company read their section on coverage carefully. Maps showing Telstra and Optus coverage don’t mean a thing, because as mentioned above some cheaper virtual phone companies will lease only parts of the mobile infrastructure for the major providers. Yet often they will show a full Optus or Telstra coverage map.

Aldi mobile phone plan Their adds will state something like, ‘uses part of the Telstra or Optus 3G and 4G network’. They don’t tell you what part or how big the part is. Again these will operate fine in Sydney or any other major town or city, but will be no good in the country areas where the fruit picking jobs are.

Trap Number Three

‘Free International Calls to Selected Countries’. Make sure your home country or the countries you wish to call are actually included. Often it is a list of 10 or so mainly Australasian countries. Europian countries may not be included.

Amaysim mobile phone plan For example Amaysim’s $40 plan includes 20GB data, unlimited national calls, unlimited SMS and MMS to 32 countries, and unlimited international calls to 10 countries: China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and USA.

However, the Amaysim $50 dollar plan includes 40GB of data, unlimited national calls, unlimited national and international  SMS and MMS, unlimited international calls to 10 countries, as well as 300 minutes free calls to 32 countries. These include France, Holland and Germany amongst others.

Of course phone calls can also be made over the Internet using apps like Skype, WhatsApp, Apple’s FaceTime and Facebook’s Messenger. You can use free Wifi hotspots to do this.


Telstra arguably has the best coverage. Having said that, I have been to places where my Amaysim phone (coverage by Optus) had reception and my partner’s Telstra phone did not.

Telstra plansAccording to the coverage maps, Optus has 0.5% less coverage then Telstra. Telstra plans are way more expensive than other options. Strange as it seems some Telstra plans do not allow data sharing (see picture).

If you wish to be on the Telstra network look into Boost, Aldi and Woolworths as they use part of the Telstra network, but their plans are way cheaper. Coles and Catch Connect use the Optus network. Optus itself has 40 different plans which seemed confusing and expensive to me.

Kinkuna BeachPersonally I use Amaysim and have for many years. I use a Nokia 620 windows phone (some phones have much better reception than others) which I use to share my internet data to my IPad. I am able to watch videos and Skype even while camping at remote places like Kinkuna beach. The $50 dollar plan includes 40GB of data, unlimited calls, unlimited international calls to 10 countries, unlimited overseas text and MMS, as well as 300 minutes free call to 32 countries.


While phone provider and plan can be a highly personal choice, if planning to travel outside metropolitan areas I would highly recommend you stick to either Telstra or Optus, or a virtual network that leases their whole network not just a small part of it. Aldi mobile, Boost, Coles and Woolworths seem to be good options. Remember If you go with prepaid you can always change after a month and keep the same phone number.

My personal preference is Amaysim. If you like to earn $10 dollars credit follow this link Amaysim click here to get $10 free credit. As a customer of Amaysim myself we both get $10 credit if you sign up using this link. Once a customer you can refer a friend and earn $10 credit for each referral.

As with everything a little research goes a long way. Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought, and saved you from wasting your money on a phone plan that won’t serve you outside the Big Smoke.

Please leave a comment below if you find a better option that others might benefit from. Thanks.

Happy travels!





About the Author: Wiebren

Wiebren was born in Australia and has almost two decades of fruit picking experience. He has traveled extensively around Europe and lived in Holland for almost 20 years.

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