Where the SIM cards are at Brisbane airport, and which one to get
A guide for where to find a SIM card at Brisbane Airport, and a comparison of which ones are available. I made this guide to help anyone confused by which SIM card options are available when arriving at Brisbane Airport. I know what it’s like to arrive somewhere new so I put together this guide to help find a way through some of that confusion.
There are two shops that sell SIM cards at Brisbane Airport:
|Shop||Location||SIM Cards Available|
Open 5:30am to 12:30am
|International Terminal. To the right after customs, behind the cafe. See map above.||Optus Epic, from $10 AUD|
Open 5am to 10:30pm
|International Terminal. To the left after customs, behind the cafe and information kiosks. See map above.||Vodafone, from $20|
At the Brisbane Airport International Arrivals area, there are 2 shops to buy prepaid SIM cards:
Many travellers arrive in Brisbane having transited in Sydney. It’s more difficult to find a SIM card when arriving at Brisbane domestic terminal. If you have time on your transit in Sydney, a SIM card can be bought while transiting in Sydney Airport. I’ve included how to do this in my guide to Sydney airport here: Where to find a SIM card at Sydney airport
Of the SIM cards available at Brisbane Airport, I usually prefer to buy Optus, starting from $10 AUD.
Which SIM cards are available at Brisbane Airport?
There are 2 mobile phone networks represented at Brisbane Airport, Optus has one and Vodafone has the other. A third network, Telstra, is available and shops selling their SIM cards can be found outside the airport.
Based on my experience and some further research, I compared the options available at Brisbane airport based on their:
- Coverage (I find Optus better),
- Data (Optus as well),
- Making phone calls locally and abroad (Vodafone wins this one).
Great for coverage: Optus, starting from $10 AUD
Optus is my pick of the SIM cards available at Brisbane Airport for coverage.
Coverage is important in Australia if you plan on travelling outside the major cities and towns. If you’re trip is limited to Brisbane, any of the major mobile phone networks (provided by Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone) will work. For other common visitor destinations:
- Sunshine Coast, in my experience the Optus network has full coverage in the towns and highways that make up the Sunshine Coast, Vodafone should have good coverage as well.
- Scenic Rim and Tamborine Mountain, along the major roads both Vodafone and Optus have good coverage. For ventures into the mountains, I found the Optus network to be a little more reliable.
- Gold Coast, Vodafone, Optus, and Telstra all work well on the Gold Coast.
Telstra consistently offers the best network in my experience. Unfortunately Telstra SIM cards are not available in the international arrivals area of Brisbane Airport. If I’m travelling to the outback, I prefer taking a Telstra SIM card with me.
A Telstra SIM card can be picked up in Brisbane itself, rather than at the airport.
Great for data: Optus, from $30 AUD
For visitors staying up to 90 days in Australia, I’ve found Optus to offer the best deal on data. The $30 (AUD) Optus Prepaid Epic Data SIM card includes up to 35GB of data for each 28 day period as a bonus for roughly 3 months. After that it drops down to 10GB/28-days, though this isn’t a concern for most short term travellers.
Great for calls: Vodafone, $20 or $40 depending on current deals
Of the SIM cards available at the airport, Vodafone looks to me like the best deal for making phone calls.
For calls back home, Vodafone includes generous minutes with its prepaid SIM card to dozens of countries. The price for this SIM card seems to be inconsistent, either it’s $20 or $40 AUD. I feel it’s a good deal at either price point if you are interested in making phone calls back home.
The Vodafone prepaid SIM includes:
- 500 minutes of calls to: Singapore, Malaysia, China and territories, Japan South Korea, UK, US and territories, and many more
- 100 minutes of calls to: Most of South America, Most of Europe, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and also many more
For local calls in Australia, both Telstra and Vodafone offer unlimited local calls to standard Australian phone numbers. Optus offers 100 minutes of local calls, which is enough for most people.
Is it better to buy a SIM card in Brisbane city or at the airport?
If buying a Telstra prepaid SIM card, which is a good option if travelling to national parks and outside major towns, the best option is to buy it in Brisbane city itself. As of writing, I couldn’t find any Telstra SIM cards sold in the international arrivals area at the airport.
For convenience, and as I typically buy an Optus prepaid SIM card, I find it better to buy a SIM card at Brisbane airport.
Which SIM cards are better value if bought in the city?
For better coverage: Telstra, from $10 AUD
Telstra provides better coverage than Optus or Vodafone. More remote roads are covered by Telstra, as are smaller towns, remote areas, mountains, and national parks. For adventures further afield into the outback of Australia, I like to use Telstra. (An aside though, while Telstra has the best coverage, it is still not available everywhere; if spending a lot of time in remote Australia, consider a satellite phone for emergency use only)
Two preferred options from Telstra are3:
- $10 AUD for 2GB data, unlimited local calls, but with 7 days expiry
- $30 AUD for 20GB data, unlimited local calls, and 28 days expiry
All prepaid SIM cards I’ve seen in Australia can be topped up and have the expiry time extended.
For better value data: Coles Mobile for $20 AUD
Coles, a large supermarket chain in Australia, offers a $20 AUD plan that includes 28GB of data. It is valid for 35 days. Coles has a large number of shops that you can buy this SIM card from. Network coverage is the same as Optus. Unlimited local calls are available though the rates aren’t as good as Vodafone.
For calls: Stick with Vodafone
For international calls, it’s hard to beat the Vodafone prepaid deal with 500 minutes to most of the world’s population.
For local calls, Coles has a 10 day $10 AUD SIM card that includes unlimited local calls.
How to get from the airport to the city, while connected
Here are the options on how to get to the Brisbane city before buying a SIM.
Catching the train
Airtrain is the service that runs from Brisbane Airport to the central business district of Brisbane.
Free onboard Wi-Fi is available on the Airtrain service. The Wi-Fi generally works well too.
If getting off at the Central station, there is a Telstra shop in the Queens Street Mall and a Coles in Queens Plaza.
Uber and ride-share, using the airport Wi-Fi to book
It is possible to book an Uber using the Brisbane Airport free Wi-Fi. I don’t like this option as the Wi-Fi coverage isn’t always available after you leave the terminal building, and it’s a short walk to the Uber pick up area.
Similarly, DiDi, Ola, and GoCatch are available using the Brisbane Airport free Wi-Fi.
Taxis in Brisbane do not have free Wi-Fi. The taxi fare can be a bit pricey, but I find it more convenient than Uber.
Some service stations sell prepaid SIM cards, and most shopping malls have outlets for the major mobile phone providers. I often have to hire a car when I visit Brisbane, and heading to a shopping mall to pick up a Telstra SIM card is necessity if I’m planning on driving out to the countryside.
There is a shopping centre near the airport at Toombul which has a Telstra store and a Coles.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Brisbane Airport?
Identification is required to buy a SIM card at Brisbane Airport and anywhere else in Australia. A passport is sufficient, and the address you’re staying at will also need to be supplied. An activation process may be required for the SIM. Staff at the shops are generally friendly and can help you through the activation process. It’s done either on their computer or on your phone.
Recording identification is done either when you buy the SIM card, or when you activate. If you’re not sure about the process, buy from a shop where they can help you activate the SIM card.
Is Wi-Fi available at Brisbane Airport?
Yes, Wi-FI is available at Brisbane Airport. Look to connect to the
@BNE_FREE WI-FI network. An email address is required for activation, but I don’t recall having to open the email to use the Wi-Fi (that would be a bit pointless…).
Can I roam with my Australian SIM card to another country
Optus offers 5 days of 10GB data roaming with its prepaid sim cards for an extra $20. This is only worth it for trips to New Zealand of 5 days or less. For trips longer than 5 days, local SIM cards can be bought at most airports that have flights from Australia and further abroad.
This Optus prepaid data roaming also works in Hong Kong, Singapore, USA and UK.
Prepaid roaming credit can be added on the Optus recharge website or in an Optus shop.
Direct flights are just over 3 hours to New Zealand and from Brisbane are available to: Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Despite being neighbours, roaming a prepaid Australian SIM card into Indonesia is expensive.
Telstra offers a very expensive $29 AUD for 100MB of data.
Vodafone is slightly cheaper at $25 AUD for a mix of data or calls (up to 200MB data), but it only lasts 3 days. A 7 day option is available for $35 AUD.
I don’t like the idea of taking an Australian SIM card to Indonesia, especially when there are so many local options available.
From Brisbane, it’s a 6.5 hour flight over to Bali, Indonesia.
For short trips of up to 5 days, the Optus prepaid 10GB data roaming plan is $20.
Written by Chris who travels frequently for work and understands what it can be like to arrive somewhere new and unfamiliar.
I wrote Landing Last Minute to help the hurried traveler get necessary information about any destination.