Staying in contact with friends and family back home helps make life in Australia just that little bit easier.
In Australia, there are plenty of places that offer free wireless. You can often find Wi- Fi hotspots in some airports, cafés, public libraries, McDonalds and your campus (although you may have to sign up to use these – check with your institution first).
If you’re struggling to find a connection anywhere, there are a few Wi-Fi-Finder apps on smartphones too. Just head over to one of these spots, pull up a chair and connect to the web – too easy!
Check out: Wi-Fi Spots in Your City
Mobile Broadband and 3G
There will be times when free wireless will not be available, and you need an alternate. Wireless dongles are ideal for this situation. They plug into your computer through your USB port and are available from phone companies like Vodafone. They are available in a range of options depending on your monthly data usage. Another option is using the data (3g or 4g) connection on your phone through your laptop. Don’t do this too often though as most phone plans have relatively low data allowance.
If you’re living in a house a more cost effective solution may be entering a contract. There is a whole range of different plans and deals out there, so make sure you do your research and choose the right one for you. Try to find one that includes a wireless modem or router. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy one separately. Plans usually include a download limit, and the higher the cost per month, the more downloads you receive. You can often sign up for a year or more and the longer you sign up for, the cheaper it gets. We recommend getting Naked ADSL (uses your landline) as let’s be honest, who uses landline phones these days anyway?
If you prefer to see as well as hear your loved ones back home, Skype is certainly your best option. Combining video and sound, it’s basically a video call and, best of all it’s free if the person you’re calling has Skype too. So make sure your family signs up back home to keep things cheap. Just visit the Skype website, download the software and you’re done! Another voice-based option is Skype credit which also allows you to call overseas mobiles at great rates.
If your parents aren’t very computer savvy, perhaps a phone call might be easier. To keep your costs down, make sure you buy a phone card – it’s about 80% cheaper than calls from a home phone.
Living in Australia, almost everyone has a mobile phone, and chances are you had one back home too. Unfortunately, that one might not work here, as it may be locked to your provider back home. There are ways around this, but most short-term travellers will often purchase a cheap mobile phone on a pre-paid deal, meaning you pay for what you use and aren’t locked into any monthly contracts. You can buy these pre-paid SIM cards (and rechargeable credit) from almost anywhere – supermarkets, service stations and mobile phone outlets.
Alternatively, if you’re here for a while, you can sign up to a plan, which can often provide greater value (and better phones), but comes with a fixed-term contract (usually 24 months).
If you have got a smartphone, there are a few apps out there that can help you save your dollars while still communicating with the people you want. Viber and WhatsApp are great apps which use all your existing contacts. The apps let you make calls and send media – all for free. It uses your 3G connection to connect with other app users, so it’s a great alternative to other methods. Best of all, it works with any network and any operating system (Android, Windows and iOS).