Finding a Tourist SIM card in Darwin: Map Included
To help tourists and short-term travellers to Darwin figure out where to buy a SIM card and which one to buy, I put together this guide. I understand how confusing it can be to arrive in a new city and be overwhelmed by options. Hopefully this guide clears up some of that confusion.
There are no shops at Darwin Airport that sell prepaid SIM cards for Australia. From each of the three major providers in Australia, the three nearest shops are:
|Casuarina||Head north from the airport, follow the road around to the shopping centre.||
|Darwin CBD||After leaving the airport, turn left and follow the signs for Darwin. SIM cards are sold in the Mitchell Centre.||
|Palmerston||After leaving the airport, turn right and follow the signs for Palmerston. SIM cards are sold in the Gateway Shopping Centre.||
Prepaid SIM cards are also available at some petrol stations.
Overall, I find Telstra to offer the best prepaid SIM card options when arriving in Darwin. When I travel to Australia, I look out for the best coverage, the best data, and a reasonable price; I find:
- Telstra to have the best coverage,
- Optus to have the most data,
- Vodafone to have the best international calling options.
As Telstra consistently offers me the best coverage, it’s the option I look for when arriving in Darwin.
If transiting in Sydney on the way to Darwin, it is possible to buy a Vodafone or Optus SIM card at Sydney Airport. I included this option in my Sydney SIM card guide, check it out here: Where to find a SIM card at Sydney airport
Which SIM cards are available near Darwin Airport?
Each of the three providers in Australia (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) have shops located near Darwin Airport.
I’ve compared the options for SIM cards further below based on:
- Coverage (I like Telstra),
- Data (Optus or Coles Mobile - see below - are my preferences),
- Calling internationally (Vodafone).
Overall, I find Telstra to offer me the best deal, it’s available in Casuarina, Darwin CBD, or Palmerston.
Darwin and surrounding towns and highways are covered by the three network providers in Australia: Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. Each of these providers has smaller re-sellers that can provide slightly cheaper prices (or more data/calls), but often aren’t as conveniently available, particularly for the short term traveller.
When travelling around the Northern Territory, I find coverage to be more important than saving a few dollars. Telstra plans can be slightly more expensive than their competitors, but they tend to offer the better coverage. Even with their excellent coverage, Australia is big and sparsely populated, there are large parts of the country that have no coverage.
For Coverage, Telstra
Coverage is important in Australia if you plan on travelling outside the major cities and towns.
In Darwin, Humpty Doo, and the Berry Springs area, all of the mobile phone networks have coverage. The roads between these areas also typically have coverage with all providers.
If driving into the outback be careful of reduced mobile phone signal: GPS may not work and it may be difficult to even make a phone call.
Coverage is mostly unavailable outside the larger towns in the Northern Territory. Cell phones cannot typically be relied on in case of emergency.
- Adelaide River, Telstra has strong coverage throughout the town and the roads leading to it; Optus covers only the township itself; Vodafone does not currently have coverage in the area.
- Kathrine, Telstra provides coverage on the highway leading to Katherine; Optus only covers the townships; Vodafone currently does not have coverage.
- Kakadu National Park, all three providers have coverage around Jabiru; only Telstra has other coverage (and seemingly spotty at best) around the park.
Telstra shops near Darwin Airport include:
- Near the airport: Casuarina Square, generally open 9am - 5:30pm with reduced hours on Sunday.
- In Darwin itself: Mitchell Centre, generally open 9am - 5:30pm with reduced hours on weekends.
- If driving south: Palmerston, Gateway Shopping Centre, generally open 9am - 5:30pm with reduced Sunday hours.
Some petrol stations may also sell Telstra SIM cards.
For Data, Optus or Coles
The standard good value data package from Optus is the $30 AUD Prepaid Epic Data which includes up to 35GB for each 28 day period. This includes a bonus data amount that expires after the first few months.
Optus offers other plans that start from $10 AUD.
Optus stores are located at:
- Near the airport: Casuarina Square, generally open 9am to 5.30pm with reduced Sunday hours
- In Darwin itself: Mitchell Centre, generally open 9am to 5.30pm, closed on Sundays
- Driving south: Palmerston Gateway Shopping Centre, generally open 9am to 5:30pm with reduced Sunday hours
Coles, a large supermarket chain in Australia, offers a $20 AUD plan that includes 28GB of data3. 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 international call rates aren’t as good as Vodafone.
There is a Coles Supermarket in North Lakes, very close to the airport. Stores are also located in Casuarina, and the Mitchell Centre (Darwin CBD).
For International Calls, Vodafone
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 AUD4. 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
Vodafone has shops in Casuarina (near the airport), or Palmerston; there are no Vodafone branded shops in Darwin itself.
Getting to the city centre to buy a SIM card
Darwin is typically accessed by shuttle/tour bus, or by car. There are a few public bus routes in and around Darwin, but these are mostly for locals and do not serve the airport. As transport from the airport is privately run, it will typically take you to your accommodation (shuttle bus, tour bus, private transfer, or taxi/Uber).
Driving opens up more options to get a SIM card. All of the providers are available near the airport, in areas such as Casuarina and Palmerston. Many petrol stations will also sell SIM cards.
If not hiring a car, I’ve put together some information on how to get around to find a SIM card.
The bus to Darwin Airport is run as a shuttle bus service.
The service is available for most flights, though to make sure it’s available for yours a booking can be made: https://darwincityairportshuttleservice.com.au/index.php
Drop off locations are at accommodation locations - staff at the accommodation can provide directions for a shop that sells SIM cards.
Wi-Fi is not available on the bus.
Uber and ride-share, using the airport Wi-Fi to book
Uber is current available at Darwin Airport. The pick up area is located away from the terminal building. This means it’s a walk to the carpark to find the Uber. I haven’t had any experience with the airport Wi-Fi at Darwin, but I imagine it doesn’t provide coverage out to the car park.
I don’t like to use Uber when it isn’t available at the terminal. Airport Wi-Fi often doesn’t stretch to remote Uber pick up locations (and I don’t like walking there with my luggage). If there is a problem finding the driver, it can be awkward walking back to the terminal to get Wi-Fi again.
I assume Wi-Fi is not available once in the car.
Taxis in Darwin do not have Wi-Fi.
Is Wi-Fi available at Darwin Airport?
Yes, free Wi-Fi is available at Darwin Airport. Connect to
DarwinAirport to use the Wi-Fi.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Darwin Airport?
Yes, identification is required to buy a SIM card at Darwin 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.
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.
I’ve written guides to picking up local SIM cards at:
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.