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Best prepaid SIM card for tourists (December 2023)
These are the best prepaid SIM cards for tourists on the eve of their next Aussie sojourn.
- How to buy a SIM card in Australia?
- How good is mobile coverage in Australia?
- Where to buy a SIM card in Australia?
- Which phones work in Australia?
- Best SIM card in Australia for tourists overall: Boost Mobile $35 Prepaid Plan
- Best cheap SIM card in Australia for travellers: Lebara $5 Extra Small Plan
- Best big data prepaid SIM for travellers: Amaysim Unlimited 120GB Plan
- Best prepaid SIM card for regional coverage for travellers: Boost Mobile $35 Prepaid Plan
- Best prepaid SIM for short stays: Amaysim $10 7-Day Unlimited Plan
- Things to consider before you buy a prepaid SIM in Australia
- Which networks are available in Australia?
- How we choose the best prepaid SIM cards for tourists and travellers visiting Australia
- FAQs about the best prepaid SIM cards for tourists
If you're travelling down under for a holiday, work trip or family visit, you'll want to know which is the best prepaid SIM card in Australia for your needs based on your budget, phone usage habits, coverage requirements and data needs.
Take a tip from a veteran jet-setter: though the romanticised version of a holiday abroad is one of severing all connection to the boring every day, you're still going to need at least one effective line of communication intact. There is no escape from reality. Not truly.
Whatever the case, you're going to need a good SIM plan to accompany you on your travels. Whether you're backpacking on a budget or travelling out to regional and remote areas, we've laid out options for folks with a range of needs.
We'll dive into the best best sim cards for tourists for each category in a sec, but for a quick overview of popular SIM plans that tend to suit most travellers, look at our most popular SIM plans below.
How good is mobile coverage in Australia?
The quality of your mobile coverage in Australia will depend on your location and network provider. There's plenty of detail to pour over when it comes to Australia's mobile landscape, but the short version is that every Australian SIM card is powered by one of three major mobile networks:
While all three of the above offer 3G, 4G and 5G connectivity, their coverage can vary. To help you find out who offers the best SIM card in Australia for you, have a tinker with the interactive coverage map below.
Where to buy a SIM card in Australia?
If you're looking to buy a SIM card in Australia, you likely won't have to search far.
The airport is the first place that travellers to Australia are likely to have the chance to buy a SIM in Australia, though it isn't the only option. These Australian airports will sell you a SIM the moment you touch down:
- Adelaide Airport (ADL)
- Brisbane Airport (BNE)
- Cairns Airport (CNS)
- Canberra Airport (CBR)
- Gold Coast Airport (OOL)
- Melbourne-Tullamarine Airport (MEL)
- Perth Airport (PER)
- Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD)
Of course, it's not uncommon for airport retail outlets to charge a premium for convenience. If you want a SIM card as soon as possible, you might end up paying a little bit more for it.
Fortunately, you should be able to find a prepaid SIM in many other Australian retailers, including supermarkets, newsagents, post offices and service stations. Here is a list of major retailers that sell SIM cards in Australia.
- IGA Supermarkets
- JB Hi-Fi
- The Good Guys
- Bing Lee
- Australia Post
Are all phones working in Australia
If your smartphone is made by a mainstream brand like Apple or Samsung, chances are it will probably work just fine in Australia. However, if you're using something a little more niche then it might be worth digging into the spec sheet to make sure it'll play nice with Australia's telecommunications infrastructure.
One thing you'll want to look out for here is whether your device is compatible with the GSM standard. Some handsets use a different standard called CDMA. If this is the case, then you might not be able to call or text on an Australian mobile network with that device.
The other big thing you might want to double-check before hopping on a plane is whether your smartphone is able to operate on the frequencies that Australia's mobile networks use.
Australia's 3G networks use the 850MHz, 900MHz, and 2100Mhz frequencies.
Australia's 4G networks use the 700Mhz, 850Mhz, 900Mhz, 1800Mhz, 2100Mhz, 2300Mhz and 2600Mhz frequencies.
Australia's 5G networks use the 700Mhz, 850Mhz, 1800Mhz, 2100Mhz, 2300Mhz, 3500Mhz and 26Ghz frequencies.
Best SIM card in Australia for tourists overall
Boost Mobile $35 Prepaid Plan
✓ How we picked the best SIM card in Australia for tourists:
- We ranked SIM only phone plans under $50 in our database by price and chose one that offered the best coverage for travellers. We also factored in the cost per gigabyte and relevant international inclusions.
Boost Mobile is closely allied with Australia's biggest network, Telstra. So closely allied, in fact, that they have access to the full Telstra network, which covers 99.5% of the population. Considering every other provider on the Telstra network only gets access to part of it, Boost is your best bet for mobile coverage if you don't like the idea of paying Telstra's premium prices.
Boost Mobile plans range in size from 3GB and 260GB, with prices ranging from as little as $10 to as much as $300. Safe to say, variety is one of this provider's strengths. Boost Mobile offers a variety of plan expiry terms that go all the way up to 365-day-long expiry plans.
Our pick of the lot for travellers visiting Australia is the Boost Mobile $35 Prepaid plan. This SIM-only plan comes with unlimited calls and texts within Australia, unlimited international calls to 20 countries, and 300 minutes to an additional 30 countries. These plans last for 28 days, but if you're staying longer, whatever data you don't use will roll over to the next month.
How does this prepaid SIM card compare?
To see how that compares to other SIM plans, here are the most popular plans around $30 in Australia right now. However, keep in mind that not all of these providers offer the same coverage or international inclusions as the Boost plan above.
Best prepaid plans
If you're looking for more prepaid phone plans, make sure you check out our comprehensive guide to the best prepaid plans in Australia.
Best cheap SIM card in Australia for travellers
Lebara $5 Extra Small Plan
✓ How we picked the best cheap SIM card in Australia for tourists:
- We ranked SIM only phone plans under $10 in our database by price and chose one that offered the best coverage for travellers. We also factored in the cost per gigabyte and relevant international inclusions.
We see where your head is at. You've dropped a considerable chunk of money on getting Down Under and you'd much rather spend your remaining funds on the finer things. For you, we'd recommend Lebara as a budget SIM option. This provider runs on the Vodafone network for coverage.
Which their cheapest offer, you'll get unlimited talk and text within Australia, 3GB of data, 300 minutes of international calls to 8 selected countries, and $3 extra international call credit. It's a great match for people looking to stick to Wi-Fi for most of the trip, but who need a little emergency data for peace of mind. And with prices starting from $5, it's great for the old hip pocket.
How does this prepaid SIM card compare?
There's even better value to be had if you open the playing field up to providers that don't offer international calls, but keep in mind some of these SIM plans might not be easy to find at an airport or convenience store. Here are the most popular no-contract plans under $15 in Australia.
Best big-data SIM card for travellers in Australia
Amaysim Unlimited 120GB Plan
✓ How we picked the best big-data SIM card for travellers in Australia:
- We ranked SIM only phone plans in our database by price and chose one that offered the best coverage for travellers and at least 120GB We also factored in the cost per gigabyte and relevant international inclusions.
If you're after both data and some international calls, amaysim is pretty hard to beat.
You're going to need a lot of data to share all those happy snaps and Instagram stories, and if you're a particularly heavy data user, you'll need a plan that can keep up with your needs. Each of the Amaysim plans in the widget above comes with a healthy dose of data, unlimited talk and text in Oz, and unlimited international calls and texts to 42 countries. It also runs on the Optus network, which is Australia's second-largest.
For real data gluttons, you'll want to go with the $50 UNLIMITED Plan. You'll get a generous 120GB of data to use, but this gets boosted pretty often with frequent bonus data deals.
How does this prepaid SIM card compare?
If you're happy to go without international calls, there are even better deals to be had for data lovers. Here are the most popular contract-free plans offering at least 75GB of data. There's often special offers on too, meaning you can nab a great deal while you're Down Under.
Best SIM card for regional coverage in Australia
Boost Mobile $35 Prepaid Plan
✓ How we picked the best SIM card for regional coverage in Australia:
- We ranked SIM only phone plans under $30 in our database by price and chose one that offered the best coverage for travellers. We also factored in the cost per gigabyte and relevant international inclusions.
You'll not have too big a head-scratching decision with this one. Telstra and Boost Mobile plans are the only two providers available that offer access to the full Telstra network, and you'll need that if you're going to go bush. With that in mind, there are plenty of different plans to choose from, depending on your budget and data needs. Both providers' plans offer some international calls, but only Boost offers unlimited international calls - Telstra only comes with 30 international minutes.
Our pick of the lot for travellers visiting Australia is the Boost Mobile $35 prepaid mobile plan. This SIM-only plan comes with unlimited calls and texts within Australia, unlimited international calls to 20 countries, and 300 minutes to an additional 30 countries.
With that in mind, here are all of Telstra and Boost Mobile's Upfront and prepaid plans, sorted by popularity. Just be aware that Telstra Upfront plans auto-renew at the start of each month, so you'll need to cancel it before you leave.
Best SIM card for short stays in Australia
Amaysim $10 7-Day Unlimited Plan
✓ How we picked the best SIM card for short stays in Australia:
- We ranked SIM only phone plans with 7-day expiry in our database by price and chose one that offered the best coverage for travellers. We also factored in the cost per gigabyte and relevant international inclusions.
If you're only in Oz for a short stay, you'll be happy to hear you don't have to settle with a more expensive 28 or 30-day plan like those listed above. Both Optus and amaysim (which both run on the Optus network) offer shorter-term prepaid plans.
Our top pick is Amaysim's $10 7-day UNLIMITED Plan, which comes with 10GB of data, unlimited talk and text in Australia and even unlimited international calls to 42 countries.
How does this prepaid SIM card compare?
If you'd rather go day-to-day, Optus's Flex plans include a $1 per day subscription plan or $7 per 7 days, each offering 1GB data per day and unlimited Australian talk in text. On the downside, there are no international call inclusions.
Things you need to consider when deciding on what sim card to buy
If you're looking to decide on a SIM card to buy in Australia, here is a short list of things you should consider and questions to ask yourself.
- Whether it includes enough data for the duration of your stay?
- Does the network the SIM card is associated with meet your coverage requirements? For instance, if you're looking to visit rural and regional areas then Telstra is the way to go.
- Are the expiry terms appropriate? If you're only visiting for a matter of weeks then a long-expiry plan may not be the right fit.
- Will you need to call home during your stay? Picking a prepaid or postpaid plan with included calls might save you some money.
Lastly, it's worth considering whether the mobile provider associated with the prepaid SIM card can get it to you before you travel. Otherwise, you're going to have to get it delivered to a hotel or friend or go out and get it yourself.
Which networks are available in Australia?
In Australia, there are three major networks. In order of size, these are as follows:
- Telstra - 99.8%
- Optus - 98.5%
- Vodafone - 96%
There are also several dozen mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), which operate on top of those three major networks. This includes providers like Boost Mobile, Belong, Amaysim, Kogan, Lebara, Mate and Felix. The full list of Australian MVNOs is as follows:
- Amaysim (acquired by Optus)
- Aussie Broadband
- Boost Mobile
- CMobile Blue
- CMobile Red
- Catch Connect
- Coles Mobile
- Dodo (owned by Vocus Group)
- Felix Mobile (TPG Telecom sub-brand)
- Gomo (Optus sub-brand)
- iiNet (acquired by TPG Telecom)
- Internode (acquired by TPG Telecom)
- Lebara Mobile (acquired by Vodafone/TPG Telecom)
- Moose Mobile
- ALDI Mobile
- Belong (Telstra sub-brand)
- Tangerine Telecom
- Think Mobile
- Southern Phone
- Vaya (acquired by Amaysim/Optus)
- TPG (merged with Vodafone)
Top Telstra prepaid SIM card plans
Top Optus prepaid SIM card plans
Top Vodafone prepaid SIM card plans
How we choose the best prepaid SIM cards for tourists and travellers visiting Australia
Every tourist's needs are going to be different, however, here's a quick rundown of what we consider the most important plan features.
Our picks are centred on prepaid or no-contract SIMs only with a maximum expiry of 30 days. This is where you can get the most value for money while avoiding any fine print cancellation fees or surcharges for going over your allotted amount of call time or data usage. Trust us — there's nothing worse than coming back home to find your bank account has taken a hit from holiday expenses and some fees you were up until now blissfully unaware of.
We also focused on options that have wide availability at Australian international airports and major convenience stores, as well as international call inclusions and foreign-language customer support.
Best prepaid SIM card for tourists FAQ
Can the best sim cards for tourists be used worldwide?
If you want to use your phone overseas, your best bet is to ensure you have affordable global roaming.
Otherwise, consider purchasing a SIM at your overseas destination.
Which is the best network in Australia?
Australia has three major phone networks: Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. Telstra is our oldest telecom and covers 99.5% of the Australian population. Optus isn't far behind with 98.5% coverage, and Vodafone is in third with about 96%.
If getting good reception during your holiday is important to you, Telstra (or a provider that uses the Telstra network, like Boost Mobile and Aldi Mobile) is your best bet. However, if you're on a budget or are sticking to mainly metropolitan areas and large regional centres, Optus, Vodafone, and other providers that run on their respective networks (like Amaysim and Lebara) are generally much cheaper. There's no clear-cut "best" network in Australia - it's more a matter of what's most important to you: Coverage or cost.
Can an unlocked phone use a prepaid SIM card in Australia?
If you're a tourist and you're having issues with a prepaid SIM card in Australia, there's a chance that your mobile might be locked to a specific network. Fortunately, most Australian mobile providers (with Telstra being the big exception) are able to unlock your device for free if you ask nicely.
Can I switch to a different prepaid SIM card or mobile plan in Australia
Yep. Swapping between prepaid and SIM-only plans in Australia is as simple as signing up for a new plan and trading out the physical SIM card inside your device.
Tourists can also change prepaid plans via eSIM, depending on the provider.
What documents do you need to buy a prepaid SIM card in Australia?
Unless you're buying it online, you won't need any special documents to buy a prepaid SIM card in Australia. however, you may need additional documentation when it comes to activating your tourist SIM such as your full name, passport number and the Australian address where you'll be staying.
Where to get eSIM in Australia
There are a number of mobile providers in Australia that offer eSIM. If you're visiting Australia, chances are you'd prefer to go prepaid. The list of providers that offer eSIM include felix, Lebara and amaysim.
Does Australia have prepaid SIM cards?
Mobile providers in Australia will provide you with a prepaid SIM card when you sign up for a plan. Some providers also offer eSIM.
How long does an Australian sim card last?
An Australian SIM card should last as long as the terms of your plan dictate. For instance, those on a mobile plan with 30 day expiry will have that long to use the inclusions involved.
What happens if I don't recharge my prepaid SIM?
If your Australian SIM card has no data, talk or text on it, it's likely only a matter of time until your mobile provider will disconnect that number. The length of this can vary between providers. For example, Telstra will give tourists on an expired prepaid plan six months grace to recharge before they kick you off the network.