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The best place to find a public phone in Australia is outside a post office, at a bar or a service station. The country’s payphones are color-coded – red ones are strictly for local calls while green, gold and blue ones can also be used for international calls. Public phones accept coins or phonecards, which are available at most stores and newsagents. Creditphones, which are located at most hotels and airports, accept most major credit cards. Local calls from a public phone cost around $.50 and are untimed and Country Direct calling cards (available for purchase through hotels and travel agents) allow you to make international calls for the price of a local call.
The emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) number in Australia (equivalent to 911 in North America), is 000 (Zero-Zero-Zero). (See Emergencies for more information).
The international country code for Australia is 61 and phone numbers within Australia usually have 10 digits - 2 for the area code and 8 for the number. A typical Sydney number might be listed as (02) 9876 5432. If you were calling this number from outside Australia, you would add your international dialing code (usually 00), add 61, drop the 0, then the number. So calling the example number would be 00 61 2 9876 5432. In North America, the international dialing code is 011, so from North America, the example number would be 011 61 2 9876 5432.
The area codes for the main Australian cities are:
The International dialing code from within Australia is 0011 (take care when dialing, as 000 is used as the emergency services number). In general, you would dial 0011 + Country Code + Area code + Telephone Number. For example, to call the United States or Canada, with a country code of 1, you would dial 0011 + 1 + Area Code + Tel #. To phone the United Kingdom, with a country code of 44, you would dial 0011 + 44 + Area Code + Tel #.
Australia uses the 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM bands for mobile phones. Before you arrive in Australia check that your phone will work on these bands. Either look at the instruction booklet that came with your phone, call the phone supplier or Google the make and model number. Many mobile phones used in North America are CDMA band phones only, and will not work in Australia. If your phone is marketed as "GSM", "tri-band" or "quad-band" it's a good bet your phone will work and this includes most Smartphones.
If your phone works on these bands, you have two options for making and receiving calls in Australia:
If you are using your existing SIM card, the only thing you need to check is if your service operator has enabled "roaming." This will allow you to use the networks in Australia with your SIM card. There are sometimes very high call charges for this though - although most networks offer internatonal roaming deals which can be purchaed in advance. Check with your service operator before you leave.
You can purchase international travel SIM cards in advance which usually provide lower rates than the data roaming charges from your home service provider for multiple countries, although this may not be as low as obtaining a SIM card for each country when you arrive.
If you wish to buy a new SIM card once you get to Australia, your phone must be "unlocked." This service may be performed by your phone manufacturer or a local mobile phone shop. SIM cards can be purchased from service operators like Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile and cost around $20-30 and they area available from their stores and also from many supermarkets and convenience stores. Also, to save money on SMS use a free SMS service to Australia such as SMS4all or a messaging service such as WhatsApp which doesn't use the SMS network.
Before buying a new SIM card check carefully which regions the telecom operator covers. Vodafone SIM cards, for example, do not have coverage in rural areas north of Perth in Western Australia. Telstra provides better coverage in this region. More information about the Australian network providers for visitors here.
Note that in Australia, the person initiating a call involving a mobile phone pays for the airtime. You can identify a mobile phone as the phone number starts with 04. (This means that receiving calls on a mobile phone in Australia are free; if you call a mobile phone, you pay for the airtime).
If you do not have a mobile phone of your own, or want to purchase one when you get to Australia, there are many options. The main service operators have phone and SIM card packs to buy for as little as $59-99. This will get you a basic phone and around $10 in phone credit which you can top up at any time.
You can rent a mobile phone from such providers as RebelFone, Vodafone Rental, Landwide and Cellhire. In general, if you do not already have a GSM phone, it is less expensive to rent a phone for short stays. There are other solutions on the market as well. You can purchase a prepaid (or pay-as-you-go) phone or SIM for longer stays from providers such as SIMsmart prepaid. Some telecom providers, such as TravelSim, provide an unlocked mobile phone when you order a prepaid SIM card. The card can be used also when you leave the continent. The provider should be able assist in making the correct choice.
If you don't have a mobile phone and don't want to pay too much for calling internationally, pick up an international calling card - you can find these at any convenience store, some supermarkets or online. They come in many different denominations and each will have its own rate for different countries. You buy a card, then use an existing phone (usually a payphone) to call a special number listed on the card. You can then dial the number you wish to call and you will be charged at the cheap rate.
You can also use Voice over IP networks (such as Skype) to make local and international calls from your computer or smartphone when connected to a WiFi network.