Keeping in touch
There are loads of different options for calling home and it isn’t as expensive as you might think.
Our best advice to use a mix of these, for instance, if you’re in the outback and have access to a landline, but no mobile coverage, then pre-paid phone cards are the best option.
If you’re living in a city and your apartment has free Wi-Fi, then Skype to Skype calls are your best option.
Prepaid Phone Cards
Prepaid phone cards are one of the most inexpensive ways to call anyone overseas. They are probably the best and cheapest way to contact someone at home who doesn’t have a PC, like your grandparents.
There are lots of different cards with different rates for different countries, so don’t just buy any old phone card. The cheapest card is around $10 AUD. How many minutes you can get for that $10 depends on which country you’re calling and what type of card you buy.
Call usually cost as little as 1c per minute, with a 50c connecting charge – which isn’t much to call the other side of the world. However, it does cost more to call mobiles so they really are best used for calling landlines.
Using Telstra or Optus
Telstra and Optus are the leading mobile network providers in Australia. Virgin is another big one, but if you plan on venturing into the outback or regional areas (and remember you probably will have to, to get that second year visa!) then going with either Telstra or Optus is a MUST.
If you go pre-paid, which you probably will have to as your visa is only for a year, you will get a certain amount of free minutes if you top up by a certain amount (usually $30 AUD). You can use these free minutes to make international calls!
Skype is probably the most popular for backpackers to keep in contact with people at home. Every hostel you walk into, you’ll see at least one backpacker making a Skype call.
You can make free Skype to Skype video calls or you can buy Skype credit to call landlines and mobiles. It’s definitely cheaper than calling from your mobile, but if you do have a laptop or access to a computer (most hostels have computers with headphones) it is completely free to call another person with Skype on their PC.
Free Smartphone Apps
If you have an iPhone then you can also use FaceTime to call other iPhone users for free. You can also use to call anyone with a 4th and 5 th generation iPod touch.
For Android and iPhone users, apps like Viber, Fring and Nimbuzz allow you to make free calls and are also free to download. These apps are great if you have Wi-Fi or unlimited data plans; remember that while they are free they will use up your data.
Portable modems can be quite handy if you’re going to be travelling around a lot. Pre-paid is the best option for backpackers as most plans require a 24-month commitment. Again, if you think that you will be travelling into the outback or regional Australia, then go with either Telstra or Optus for your mobile broadband.
Buying data can also be quite expensive, so the best ways to not use up too much data are to not to watch YouTube videos; make Skype to Skype calls without using video; and only download/upload when you have access to free Wi-Fi.
Mobile phone providers
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