Tasmania beach

Buying a SIM Card in Australia

In Get Connected by Dave Dean75 Comments

Long hot summer days, golden beaches, world-class surfing, delicious brunches and more, there are plenty of reasons why Australia sees over seven million visitors each year.

All those suntans and flat whites come at a cost, however – the country is expensive to get to and far from cheap to spend time in.

For years that high cost extended to staying connected, but competition from new entrants to the cellular market has driven prices down in recent years. It’s now a reasonably cheap and easy process to get set up with a local SIM card Down Under – if you choose the right provider, at least.

For overseas visitors, topping up online and providing proof of identity and address is more difficult with some cell companies than others. Fortunately, some of the better-value options are with companies that don’t make it impossible for tourists to use their service.

Here’s what you need to know.


  • We recommend Optus or Amaysim for most travellers
  • Consider Telstra, or one of its resellers like Boost Mobile, if you’ll be spending a lot of time outside the towns and cities

Of the three network providers in Australia, Telstra has the widest coverage, and the highest prices to go with it. The Optus network isn’t quite as large, although you’re unlikely to strike a problem in most towns and cities – it’s the rural areas where you’ll start hitting dead spots.

Vodafone coverage is reasonable and expanding, but it’s still the smallest of the three.

If you know you’ll be spending time in small towns and rural areas, check the coverage maps (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) to make sure you’ll get service where you need it.

The cheapest option for visitors is often from a reseller called Amaysim, which offers 3G and LTE service on the Optus network. The company has a mixed reputation for support – some customers rave about it, others despair of ever getting hold of someone to resolve their problems.

In my experience, though, online chat took only a few minutes to connect, and I had an answer to my query almost immediately. Operating hours could be better, though – don’t expect a response outside 8am to 8pm Sydney time during the week, shorter at weekends.

On my most recent trip to Australia, however, Optus itself was offering a better deal than its resellers. Since you’ll get better service, faster speeds, and an easier purchase process with Optus, it’s definitely worth checking the current pricing for both providers before making a final decision.



Amaysim doesn’t have its own retail stores, instead selling SIM cards through a range of outlets including post offices, supermarket chains, gas stations and electronics stores.

You can also order them online, if you’ve got an Australian address to use – they take between three hours and five days to arrive, depending on where you are.

I walked into a branch of one of the major electronics stores in suburban Melbourne, and purchased a SIM and top-up voucher in under a minute. The SIM comes in two sizes: standard/micro, and nano. Be sure to specify which one you need.

While you can activate the SIM, add credit and select packages from your phone, I chose to do it from a laptop. The instructions are straightforward, requiring you to first enter the SIM number on the package, then select a phone number from a given range.

You’ll then need to provide your name, passport number and an Australian address to register the SIM to — but as there’s no additional verification done, you can use your hotel or hostel address without a problem.

While those with an Australian credit card can top up online during activation, don’t try doing the same with an overseas card. It will appear to go through, but since the address of your card doesn’t match the one you’re registering the SIM to, activation will fail and you’ll need to contact support to sort things out.

Top up using a voucher instead – it works much better.

Once you’ve added your credit, select the call/text/data package you prefer and you’re good to go.


Since Optus has physical stores throughout Australia, including international airports, buying one of its SIMs is straightforward.

Arriving in Cairns on my most recent trip, I could have purchased from a small kiosk in the arrivals area. Instead, I waited until I got downtown, and walked into the official store in the city’s main shopping centre.

As mentioned earlier, some companies are more stringent about ID requirements than others when selling to overseas visitors. In this case, at least, only a passport was required.

After choosing a call, text, and data package and handing over the cash, the staff member inserted the SIM, confirmed that it worked, and I was on my way. The process took under ten minutes.


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Amaysim is often noticeably cheaper than the competition, especially if you want a useful amount of data. The SIM card costs $2 no matter where you buy it, and there’s a wide range of call, data and text packages at very competitive prices.

Monthly packages with unlimited domestic calls and texts start at $10 AUD with 1GB of data, rising to $50 AUD with 20GB of data. Expect to use more cell data in Australia than many other countries — usable free Wi-fi is relatively rare, even in many hotels.

The pricier package options also include free calls to certain international destinations — if you plan to call home regularly, that’s definitely something to bear in mind.  This page has the full range of options.


Optus had unusually competitive pricing on my most recent trip, with a $30 AUD package that included the SIM, plus unlimited domestic calls and texts, and 10GB of data for the first month (dropping back to 3GB/month after that).

There was also an extra 10GB of streaming video and music available, via specified apps.

Topping Up


As mentioned earlier, it’s much easier to top up online with a voucher than trying to use an international credit card. The company does let you use Paypal for top ups after activation, however, which works for overseas visitors.

Be aware that it sets up an automatic monthly renewal — just be sure to cancel it before leaving the country.

If you’d prefer to use a voucher, they’re available anywhere that sells the SIM cards — you won’t have a problem finding somewhere in all but the smallest towns.


You can top up by buying a voucher from any Optus retail store, or anywhere else displaying the Optus logo, including supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.

Even easier, the company’s mobile app lets you top up via credit or debit cards, including those issued overseas, or Paypal.


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Coverage and Data Speeds

Since Amaysim uses the Optus network, you’ll get service that covers “98.5% of the Aussie population”. 3G speeds in central Melbourne were reasonably quick at 8Mb/sec, and LTE speeds were close to 30Mbps.

Using an Optus SIM in the same location gave double the speed, however, even though it’s the same network – if the fastest speeds are important to you, bear this in mind.

Amaysim 3G speeds in Melbourne

Amaysim 3G speeds in Melbourne

Amaysim LTE speeds in Melbourne

Amaysim LTE speeds in Melbourne

Optus LTE speeds in central Melbourne

Optus LTE speeds in Melbourne

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

Staying connected in Australia can be costly, but it doesn't have to be. Here's what you need to know about buying a local SIM card as a tourist there.

About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer.

When he’s not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.


  1. Did you consider telling people how many forms of identification are usually required including proof of address?

    I honestly have no idea how they expect tourists to actually buy sim cards, of course they don’t have proof of address within Australia.

    1. Author

      Yup, a passport may be required in Australia. My girlfriend was asked for a passport when she bought her SIM in a retail store, I was not asked for ID when buying one in a supermarket. Neither of us were asked for proof of address in-store, although given Australia’s love affair with rules and regulations, it certainly doesn’t surprise me that some companies do ask for it. I’d certainly expect to be asked for that when signing up on a post-paid account, mind you.

      1. Cool, I recently bought a SIM card too, and it seems the ones that are not activated in store seem to skip the compliance measures of proof of address.

        But the ones that are able to be activated with just a phone call still seem to need a proof of address. At least that was my experience 6 months ago.

  2. It might also be useful to inform tourists what frequencies our Australian 3g uses, and if they are coming from which country, which network is compatible.

  3. Hi! I have a question. I am living in the Philippines and will be going to Australia next week, I have no idea which sim card i am going to buy. In my country, we have 3 major telecoms; sun cellular, globe telecom and smart communications. We can use internet using these networks even if we use prepaid sims, but we need to pay certain amt like 10php (approx. 0.25usd) every half hour of usage, problem is the speed of the internet depends on your location. My question is, in Australia do they have a prepaid simcard that i can use for text, call and internet browsing? I will only use internet for wechat or skype or yahoo messenger. Do australia have the same or almost the same service for using internet (the 0.25usd/half hr)?

    1. Author

      Hi Marge,

      You can definitely get prepaid SIM cards for voice, text and data in Australia. Most plans tend to be give you a certain amount of data (say 500MB or 2GB or whatever) rather than being based on how long you’re using it for.

      How long are you in Australia for? If it’s for two weeks or less, something like the Optus $2/day plan might be good – it gives you unlimited text, voice and data for $2 per day.

      If you’re there for longer, you’ll need to do some research to find out what the best value is – it changes all the time.

  4. After analyzing multiple prepaid options for tourists, we have found that the ‘Dodo’ prepaid plans and ‘Lebara’ Unlimited plan would be most suitable for people traveling to Australia who want to use their phones for calls and data. The advantages of each will depend on how much data you want to use or how many international phone calls you want to make while you are in Australia.

    Australian SIM Card 2U

  5. I’ve been to Australia before (2 years ago), and tried to get a sim card, but had to give all sorts of ID to get one (after hunting to find a place). I bought my last one on myaustraliansim.com and just had them deliver it to my hotel. Worked well. Haven’t yet tried any others though.

  6. Im in Australia now and the SIM cards are cheap with Lebara – airport kiosks. $40 for a month, unlimited text/phone calls to US. More than enough data for a month.

  7. I picked up a SIM card from Optus at Sydney Airport in July… I was offered a special rate of $25 for 3 weeks unlimited calls & texts and 7 GB of data. 3G on Optus in Australia seemed faster to me than LTE on Verizon in the US…. I had problems with data indoors in Hahndorf (no problems outside though) and on a stretch of rail line between Sydney and Wollongong. Was flawless the entire Great Ocean Road and train to Katoomba. They asked for my passport when purchasing and local address… I gave them the hotel address in Sydney and it was no problem.

    1. Author

      Thanks John — that’s a very good deal by Australian standards. Optus does seem to be particularly competitive at the moment!

  8. Hi, would like to check, me and my friend are traveling to sydney and gold coast for 1 week, Basically we mainly need the data plan to navigate ourselves as well as to use it in hotels. Hence which prepaid sim card do you advise and how can I get it? thanks!

    1. Author

      I haven’t researched specifically for your case, but as an example, you’d currently spend $14 AUD ($2 per day) for a week’s worth of data, calls and texts on the Optus ‘Prepaid Daily Plus’ plan. You can buy a SIM card with $10 worth of credit for $10, so you’d just need to top up with another few dollars, activate that plan and away you go. You get up to 500MB of data per day on that plan.

      You should get decent coverage in Sydney and the Gold Coast, and can probably buy the SIM and top up when you arrive at the airport (Sydney, at least). If not, there are Optus stores in every major town and city in Australia.

  9. Hi,

    I will be travelling to Tasmania for a week in Nov. Basically I need the data plan to use for checking emails and communication. Which prepaid sim card do you advise that it gives good coverage at country side also and how can I get it?

    Many thanks.

  10. Hi Dave

    Thanks for your reply.

    I am going to Launceston and then heading south to Ross, Bicheno, Swansea and Hobart. I will have a check of the coverage maps on the various providers websites as per your suggestion.

    Many thanks for the info.

    1. Author

      No problem. For what it’s worth, when I was last in Tasmania I was using Optus prepaid, and had good coverage in all of the places you list (except Ross, which I didn’t visit).

  11. So thoughtful of you. Great honest info. I am travelling in a week to Australia. Hope to have a great time. Thanks again. Really appreciate your good work.

  12. Amaysim are a solid all-round option, but if you’re exploring a lot of the country, you might find the coverage outside of the major cities a bit lacking. Also, while their international rates are good, they’re not the absolute best on the market.

    I’d strongly recommend Lycamobile, who have amazingly low international call rates and use the Telstra 3G Wholesale network which offers better quality of coverage in the capital cities and a slightly better overall footprint of the country. The other option I would recommend if you’re doing a lot of travelling through rural and remote areas is Boost Mobile who use Telstra’s 3G and 4G networks, the largest network in Australia which covers twice the landmass of the Optus network that Amaysim uses.

    All three can be ordered online, or you can pick up SIM cards from most Woolworths or Coles supermarkets as well as Kmart & Big W stores and even most petrol stations.

  13. Hi,
    I am coming from the UK to Sydney for 5 months. Preferably I would like a working SIM card before I leave the UK – is there any way this is possible or would I have to sort this out in Australia?
    Thank you

    1. Author

      There are probably companies and eBay sellers in Australia that will ship you a working SIM, but I don’t know of any off the top of my head. If you are using Three in the UK, you can also roam for free in Australia until you sort out a local SIM.

  14. Hi Dave, great web site!

    My situation is somewhat unique in that I will be LIVING in Australia (moving from the U.S) for 18 months, as opposed to a short vacation/trip. I “think” I’d like to bring my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (Verizon currently) and use pre-paid SIMs while living in AU, but I’m not sure if I’m understanding the best options.

    My priorities are:

    1) Local calls and texting (in Australia)
    2) Text messaging back and forth to the U.S. (I will use Skype for calling)
    3) Probably some data, but probably not a high priority, unless it is used to accomplish #2 above.

    Regarding #2, I am wide open to other technologies (texting apps) that use data instead of regular phone network texting to text back and forth between the U.S.

    Also, as a side note, I’m a big Google Voice user (for forwarding calls, making calls, texting, and voicemail, too.) But I don’t know how that plays into my situation living in Australia, if at all.

    My question is, what’s the least expensive way to accomplish my 3 objectives above?

    Thanks for your expertise and advice.

    – Brent

    1. Author

      Hi Brent,

      A few thoughts:

      – you’ll want to double check your Note has a SIM slot that’s unlocked for international use.
      – as you’ll be living in Australia for over a year, it may be worth checking out postpaid plans as well. We don’t cover them on the site, but do a little research with both the resellers like Amaysim and Boost Mobile, and the carriers like Optus, to see what they’re offering.
      – Google Voice works well internationally. I use it all the time for both voice and text, including in Australia
      – I’d use WhatsApp and Google Voice in preference to sending international SMS, and Skype or Google Voice for voice calls.
      – While you’re figuring out your usage patterns, I’d probably still look at an As You Go plan for voice and text with Amaysim, and a data pack of some sort. With less free WiFi than you’re used to back home, you’ll use data more than expected in Australia. Once you know what your usage looks like, you can switch to a different plan and/or provider as needed.

      Hope that helps!

  15. Hi Dave,

    I’m coming to Australia for 5 months and was wondering which sim card would be the most appropriate for me.
    – Mainly data usage
    – some local calls

    1. Author

      It sounds like you have similar usage patterns to me, so I’d check out the same Amaysim As You Go plan for voice and text, plus a data pack (1GB for $10, or 2.5GB for $20, probably) to start with. If you find you’re making quite a few local calls and texts, you can switch to something like the $25 unlimited call/text plan with 1.5GB of data, or $30 unlimited call/text with 3GB instead.

      As I mentioned in the article, Amaysim has a whole bunch of plans, so it’s pretty easy to mix and match to find the one that suits your usage.

  16. Hi Dave,

    I’m coming to Australia for a 3 weeks travel. Visiting Adelaide and doing a road trip from Cairns to Sydney. I have a unlocked Samsung S3. I’ll use a lot Facebook, What’s up and SMS to Portugal, UK and Luxembourg. Which SIM card is the best for me ?

    1. Author

      If you want as much coverage as possible on your road trip, you’ll probably want to go with a Telstra SIM, or one of its resellers like Boost Mobile.

  17. Hi Dave
    I’m not very techy so please bear with me 😉
    We’ll be travelling from the UK to Hong Kong to Australia (inc a weeks coastal road trip from Sydney to Melbourne) to Singapore and home again in December. My husband wants to get a Sim Card for his iPhone 6 so he doesn’t get harassed by work calls while we’re away but can still keep his phone fully functional. Any advice on this, please?

    1. Author

      Hi Ros,
      We’ve got advice on SIM cards for Australia in this article, and for Singapore here. None for Hong Kong at this point, unfortunately. If you buy a local SIM, you’ll achieve your goal — a different number, so no annoying work calls, but you’ll be able to use data, calls and texts as normal.

  18. We are coming over from the US to visit family and friends primarily in Brisbane, Townsville, Mullumbimby and Forster/Tuncurry. We have unlocked iPhones and our US carrier is T-Mobile. I’d appreciate suggestions on which carrier is the best suited to that travel itinerary and which reseller will give us the best combination of price and service. Thanks.

    1. Author

      Take a look at the coverage maps for both Telstra and Optus (linked near the top of this post), and see how they line up with your intended itinerary. If Optus coverage is sufficient, go with Amaysim. If it isn’t, Boost Mobile is your best choice for using Telstra’s network at an affordable price.

      The other thing to mention, though, is if you’re on one of T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plans, you get free data and text roaming, and cheap-ish calls, in Australia. That may well cover your requirements without needing a local SIM at all, although you’d probably want to find out who their roaming partner is in Australia if you’re worried about coverage outside major towns and cities.

  19. I have tried buying a sim from Amaysim but although I have given an address in Sydney their site won’t accept my passport details. I am only in Australia for a month travelling to Cairns, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth but would need a phone to arrange pick ups etc. Any ideas what to do now?

    1. Author

      Contact their support via live chat – they were reasonably responsive when I had an activation issue.

  20. Hello, I’m heading to Australia next month for 2 weeks in Melbourne, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula. Am planning on walking into a Telstra or similar store in Frankston to purchase a prepaid cell phone as my US phone has no support there. Along with my passport and friend’s local address, should I expect any difficulty in obtaining a cell phone?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Author

      That’s how it’s supposed to work, yup. You’re unlikely to have a problem, especially buying a phone rather than just a SIM, but if you do, maybe just get your friend to go in and buy it on your behalf.

  21. Dave,
    Great article on SIMs for Australia, and a great webite too. Lots of useful information.

    I just had a Live Chat with Amaysim customer support. She told me that the only way to activate a new SIM is via the activtion page on their website. She insisted that over-the-air activation (using the new SIM in my iPhone) was not possible. As a tourist, I won’t have any internet access, so will have no way to activate the SIM.

    If what she told me is accurate, I don’t see that Amaysim is a good choice for visitors to the country (unless they have internet access somewhere).

    1. Author

      Yeah, over the air activation would definitely be preferable. That said, it’s getting easier to find cafes etc with free WiFi in Australia, and almost all hotels and hostels offer it (paid or otherwise). There’s even free public WiFi in places like Federation Square in Melbourne, so it’s relatively easy for tourists to get online long enough to complete the activation process.

      1. @Dave,
        Thanks a lot for the reply.
        I’ve found that unlike Amaysim, a Boost SIM can be activated over-the-air. According to the Boost website, their SIM will permit an internet connection to their activation portal before the SIM has been activated.

        As of this month (Oct 2016), compared to Amaysim, the Boost $40 pre-paid plan is a better offer for Canadian tourists with unlimited calls home. That, of course, is subject to change in the dynamic world of cellphone marketing.

        Thanks again for the great website!

      2. Author

        If Boost is offering a deal that better meets your needs, go for it! There’s nothing wrong with Boost at all — it has better coverage due to being on the Telstra network, plus the over-the-air activation you mention, so there’s nothing to lose. 🙂

    1. Author

      By buying and using an Australian SIM card with a data package, then switching your number in WhatsApp to the new Australian number.

      If you just want to use WhatsApp with your existing number while you’re in Australia, simply buy and use a SIM card as per the details in this post. You don’t need to change your WhatsApp number to match your new Australian one if you don’t want to, and for most short-term travellers in a different country, it’s easier not to.

  22. My wife & I will be visiting Australia for a month soon and I just want to thank you for providing this information. It is so very useful! Thanks again.

  23. Dave, thanks for this informative post. Can you tell me if I will need a different SIM card for use in Australia and New Zealand?

    1. Author

      There might be a few operators that let you roam between the two countries, but even if they do, it’s expensive. Unless you’re only in one or the other for a few days, you’ll be much better off with local SIMs in each country.

  24. Dave,
    Thanks for the post on SIM cards. I’m heading down to Australia shortly from Chicago. I’ll pick something up once I arrive.

  25. Very useful site, thank you. I have just bookmarked it for further study.

  26. Heading to austrailia for military tour of 6 months. Currently have verizon. Need to video chat with family stateside usa. Looking for best option. Thoughts?

    1. Author

      Without knowing where you’ll be based / going to, I don’t really have any specific suggestions beyond what’s written above. Before you go, just make check your phone has a GSM SIM card slot unlocked for international use (most recent Verizon iPhones do, for example), so you can use a SIM from one of the companies mentioned in this post and comments.

  27. Hi dave,

    Thanks for the post. I will be travelling from melbounrne to brisbane
    I will stay at Kyneton in melbourne,canberra,katoomba in sydney,newcastle,coffs harbour and byron bay. Which sim card is the best to buy now?
    Im looking for more data,normal usage for calls.

    Thank you

      1. Author

        All of those places should have good coverage with both Optus and Telstra (and their resellers, as listed in this post and the comments), so I’d just check which company has the best deal at the time you arrive and go with that one.

      2. Hi dave,
        Thank you. This website helps loads

  28. Hi Dave!

    We will travelling from Canada to Australia in next May and June.
    I’d need to know if any of thd prepaid sim providers have a plan to call international on top of local calls and sms.
    As we will need to call local and would like to keep in touch with Montreal, are the Australian international rates affordable?

    Thank you in advance for your help!


    1. Author

      International calling rates with the major Australian carriers have traditionally been quite expensive, but some of the resellers have better prices. Lycamobile (for instance) currently has calls to Canada for 1-3c/minute — details here.

      You could also use Google Hangouts, which has free calls to the US and Canada (but you’ll be using your data allowance to do it, if you’re not on Wi-fi). We talk about setting that up here.

  29. Hi David,
    I really do appreciate your good work. Please, I will be coming to University of Adelaide, Waite Campus for my masters degree programme from Nigeria which will last for 2 years. Which sim will be the best for me with respect to cheap international (Nigeria) calls, local calls and 4G internet services and wide suburb coverage?.

    Thank you!

    1. Author

      As with the comment above this, Lycamobile offers reasonable rates to most overseas countries. Calls to Nigeria currently cost $0.01-0.15 AUD/minute, depending on which plan you’re on and whether you’re calling landline or mobile. Skype costs 0.125 EUR/minute to either landline or mobile, but does offer packages that bring the cost down, or you can do device-to-device Skype calls for free.

      Regarding the rest of the requirements (local calls, high speed internet, wide coverage), recommendations for those are in the post and comments already. You should get good coverage with any major provider throughout most of Adelaide.

  30. Hi David,

    My son will be studying abroad in Melbourne starting in July for 5.5 months. We are with Verizon in the states? Should he pick up a Sim card here in the states or wait until he gets to Australia? He will be calling and texting to the states, but will use WIFI as much as possible. We are looking for something that will allow calls to home without costing an arm and leg.

    1. Author

      If calls and texts back to the US are the main priority, and he’s happy to use Wifi to do it, use Google Hangouts / Google Voice. Calls to most US and Canadian numbers are free, via any Internet connection, including Wi-fi. Details here. If he also wants local calls, texts and data while in Melbourne (and he probably will), he should buy a SIM when he gets there, as per the info in this post.

  31. Hi Dave it’s not which SIM card to buy but what type I’ve got a microsoft Lunima it’s got two SIM cards a micro and a nano which one do I need for a date and an Australian phone it might seem obvious but I’m a bit dim

    1. Author

      Hi Bernie,

      There was a dual SIM version of that phone, although it looks like it was only available in ’emerging markets’ like India and China. The rest were single SIM, with a micro-SD card slot for extra storage.

      In any case, as best I can tell, the nano SIM slot is the one you’ll want to use.

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