I am going to say this first, I never really mastered Australia cell phone plans. Their pay as you go plans were really strange in my opinion. You pay like $29 or $39 or whatever and you get like all these various things in the package. Between Caps, plans and pre-paid, I never knew what was going on. Plus you have to top up like every month or 3 months, everything is different. New Zealand was so much easier where what you pay for is what you get. Anyway, there are loads more cell phone companies in Australia. The ones I delt with were Vodafone for my cell and Telstra for my payphones.
Fun side story that has to do with nothing: Okay, so when I was in Australia in July 2008, the iPhone was finally released. (PS. I have no idea when it was released in the US). It was a HUGE deal of course and the line at the ONE Apple store in Sydney for about 2-3 weeks was a block long. It was a huge to-do that iPhones be open to all teleco providers, unlike the US where it was on one network. Throughout the rest of the world, they have different cell phone rules and almost all phones are open to any network, unlike the US. iPhones started out on only a few networks (Voda being one of them) but within a month or so, they were available on all the networks. I liked that it that was, but it was so weird at the same time because I am so used to closed networks. I wish the US was more open with their phones and that pre-pay was more popular for people that hardly use their phones, like me.
Anyway, I did Voda for my cell because I had it in New Zealand and thought it would be fine for Australia too. So NOT TRUE! I mean, they were fine for the big cities, but in my travels down the East Coast, there were some towns where I wouldn’t get reception for days at a time. I didn’t mind it too much, but I can see it being a little annoying to others. Apparently the Optus network is “known” for being better in rural areas. How classic is that?! Anyway, another recc I would have for you is if you want a voda SIM card, go to Woolies and just pick one up there, instead of the actual Voda store. They are only $2 (v. like $10 at the Voda store) and it’s the same thing. And with all the different options, I never knew if I had enough money to make any sort of phone calls or whatever. But like NZ, everything incoming was free. When my parents would call me, I would get this really horrible echo on the line that I didn’t have in New Zealand, so I do blame Voda for that, so our conversations for 6 months weren’t the best.
Now the payphones on the other hand, were heaven! Just like olde skool New Zealand calls. Pop a 50cent piece in any phone booth, get your phone card and make as many calls as you want to the local 1300 number! 13xx numbers are kind of awesome! They are like nationwide local numbers. They cost the amount of a local phone call, but you never have to worry about being in the right area. 1800 numbers are free, like the US, but 13xx are more common. A little annoying about the lack of 1800 numbers, but I’ll take a 13xx number over a straight local number any day. Plus, I got to use my Global Gossip card so it was nice to have all my communication money in one place and I could top up locally at any GG store and not put money on my credit card. Sometimes I would actually make the calls at Global Gossip stores because the booths were a little more comfortable, but after a few weeks, I realized I could make the same calls at any public phone. And like how NZ used to be, I would try to make all my calls at one time and only use one 50cent piece.
Since my travels end up being 2 years (whoops!) and in my experience, 2 years is about the lifespan for a cell phone, I didn’t bring my phone home because I had no plans to go to a different-band country anytime soon and I also assumed the next time I do, I would have a tri-band phone anyway. The phone was still in fine working order, plus I still had a little less then AU$20 left on my SIM and I really wanted to get rid of that, so I posted the phone on gumtree and I sold the phone I had bought 2 years earlier in NZ for NZD$100 for AUD$30, plus my credit within a day. I actually sold it to an Aussie who liked having cheap phones, so everything worked out. I miss my little crap phone and wish they still sold them in the US, but it was time to move on.
Once again, I can’t for the life of me find a picture of a phone booth in Australia either! And this kills me that I didn’t take any pictures! Guess I need to go back, just for a picture!
Moral: All cell phones are not created equal in Australia. Figure out your plan and pick a teleco that is right for you. None are going to kill you, but some just work better in the country vs. city. Talk to those who have been around the block to figure out which is right for you. Or if you get a starter pack, sometimes one will be included and you’ll survive.