Communications

DESTINATIONS australia communications-12

TRAVEL TIPS

Communications

Internet

Internet access is widely available to travelers in Australia. Top-end hotels always have some sort of in-room access for laptop users—usually Wi-Fi, otherwise there are data ports. Note that in some establishments, you are charged a hefty premium for using this service.

Australia's main telephone network, Telstra, has wireless hotspots all over the country, and 3G/4G coverage for smartphones and tablets is reliable in most populated areas. Fast-food restaurants like McDonald's, as well as many cafés, offer free Wi-Fi for customers. Alternatively, you can buy prepaid data packages for your smartphone or tablet at news agencies and convenience stores, or purchase a prepaid mobile broadband USB or dongle from Telstra, Optus, Virgin, or Vodafone retailers. These services start at around A$40 for several gigabytes of data and act as a "portable modem," giving you Internet access wherever you go. In many cases, this may be more cost effective than using hotel and Internet cafés. However, make sure to take note of the expiry window for your data—most passes last only 30 days.

Contacts

Telstra. 13–2200; www.telstra.com.au.

Phones

The country code for Australia is 61. To call Australia from the United States, dial the international access code (011), followed by the country code (61), the area or city code without the initial zero (e.g., 2), and the eight-digit phone number.

Calling Within Australia

Australia's phone system is efficient and reliable. You can make local and long-distance calls from your hotel—usually with a surcharge—or from any public phone. There are usually public phones in shopping areas, at train stations, and outside rural post offices. You can use coins or phone cards in most public phones; credit-card phones are common at airports.

All regular telephone numbers in Australia have eight digits. There are five area codes: 02 (for New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory), 03 (Victoria and Tasmania), 04 (for cell phones), 07 (for Queensland), and 08 (for Western Australia, South Australia, and Northern Territory). Toll-free numbers begin with 1800, and numbers starting with 13 or 1300 are charged at local rates anywhere in the country.

Calls within the same area code are charged as local. Long-distance call rates vary by distance, and are timed. When you're calling long distance within Australia, remember to include the area code, even when you're calling from a number with the same area code. For example, when calling Canberra from Sydney, both of which have an 02 prefix, you still need to include the area code when you dial.

Directory Assistance

Local Directory Assistance. 1223.

Calling Outside Australia

To call overseas from Australia, dial 0011, then the country code and the number. Kiosks and groceries in major cities sell international calling cards. You can also use credit cards on public phones.

The country code for the United States is 1.

You can use AT&T, Sprint, and MCI services from Australian phones, though some pay phones require you to put coins in to make the call. Using a prepaid calling card is generally cheaper, and Skype calls can be made for free with a steady Internet connection.

Access Codes

AT&T Direct. 1800/881011; 1800/551155.

MCI WorldPhone. 1800/881100; 1800/551111.

Skype. www.skype.com.

Useful Numbers

International Directory Assistance. 1225.

Calling Cards

It's worth buying a phone card in Australia even if you plan to make just a few calls.

Telstra, Australia's main telephone company, has a prepaid phonecard you can use for local, long-distance, or international calls from public pay phones. There are many other calling cards in Australia as well, often with better rates than Telstra's, and many can now be used from your mobile phone. The best way to find one is to ask in a convenience store or newsagent's: they usually have a selection on hand, and you can compare rates to the country you're calling to. Access codes can also be purchased online.

Contacts

Onesuite.com. 866/417–8483; www.onesuite.com.

Phone Cards Selector Australia. 1800/671823; www.phonecardselector.com.au.

Telstra. 13–2200; www.telstra.com.au.

Mobile Phones

Unlike in previous decades, most modern mobile phones (particularly smartphones) have advanced, multiband technology, which means they can be used in virtually any country where mobile reception is available. However, do your research before you travel, as most providers charge hefty fees for standard international roaming. The best option is to contact your provider to see if they have special international roaming and data passes, which significantly reduce these costs. Be aware that you normally pay for incoming calls as well as outgoing calls, so when overseas, text messaging is usually much more economical. The other roaming expense to watch out for is data usage, which can be as much as several dollars to look at one Web page on your smart phone. To avoid exorbitant charges, keep data roaming switched off on your phone while overseas, and access local Wi-Fi spots instead.

If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (your provider may have to unlock your phone to use a different SIM card) and a prepaid service plan from a local provider (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, or Virgin Mobile). New SIMs are usually inexpensive, and you'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. Mobile data packages are also available. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy or rent a cell phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.

Alternately, save on call and text costs by utilizing one of the many free instant messaging services now available on smart phones and tablets (such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook's Messenger app). They'll deliver instant messages to your contacts anywhere in the world, wherever you have Internet access.

Nearly all Australian mobile phones use the GSM network. If you have an unlocked phone and intend to make calls to Australian numbers, it makes sense to buy a prepaid Australian SIM card on arrival—rates will be much better than using your U.S. network. Alternatively, you can rent a phone or a SIM card from companies like Vodafone. Rates start at A$5 per day for a handset and A$1 a day for a SIM. You can also buy a cheap, pay-as-you-go handset from Telstra, Virgin Mobile, or Optus. Cell-phone stores are abundant, and staff are used to assessing tourists' needs.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. This company rents and sells GMS phones, and sells SIM cards that work in many countries. 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.

Mobal. This company rents mobiles and sells GSM World Phones (starting at $29) and smartphones that operate in 190 countries. Per-call rates vary throughout the world. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.

Optus. www.optus.com.au.

Virgin Mobile. 1300/555100; www.virginmobile.com.au.

Vodafone. 1300/650410; www.vodafone.com.au.

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