Where to find a SIM card at Sydney airport, and which one to get
I used to help my friends locate SIM card shops at Sydney Airport whenever they came to visit me. It can be confusing when first arriving in a new city, to figure out where to buy a SIM card, which option is best, and how much it’s going to cost. I put together this guide to try to make it a bit easier for anyone arriving at Sydney airport.
There are four shops at Sydney airport that sell prepaid SIM cards, two from Vodafone and two from Optus. These shops are located as follows:
|Shop||Location||SIM Cards Available|
Open 6am to 10pm
||Optus Epic, from $10 AUD|
Open 6am to 10pm
||Vodafone, from $20|
At Sydney Airport International Terminal (Terminal 1), there are shops close to both exits following baggage collection and customs:
If using Arrivals Hall A (baggage carousels 7-17)
- Optus is to the right, towards the train station entrance
- Vodafone is also to the right, near Optus
If using Arrivals Hall B (baggage carousels 1-6)
- Optus is to the right
- Vodafone is also to the right
At Sydney Airport Domestic Terminals (Terminals 2 and 3), options are more limited. SIM cards should be available at the Australia Post outlets. It is not as common to buy SIM cards at the domestic airport terminals.
Overall, I find Optus to offer the best deals on prepaid SIM cards out of those available at Sydney Airport. Plans start from $10 AUD1 (though often the $20 or above plans are kept in stock).
Telstra is also a good option for travellers visiting parts of Australia away from the larger towns and cities; they typically offer better coverage. Telstra prepaid SIM cards are not available at the airport, but they can be found throughout the central business district, and in Manly or towards Bondi.
I compare in this guide which of these SIM cards are better for coverage, data, and making phone calls.
Which SIM cards are available at Sydney Airport?
Of the SIM cards available at Sydney Airport (those from Vodafone and Optus), I consider which one to get based on:
- Coverage (Optus)
- Data (Optus again)
- Making phone calls (Vodafone, particularly international calls)
Great for coverage: Optus, starting from $10 AUD
Out of the options available at Sydney Airport, my favourite for coverage is Optus. Telstra is my usual preference, but it’s unavailable at the airport.
Coverage is important in Australia if you plan on travelling outside the major cities and towns. For plans in and around Sydney (Manly, Bondi, Blue Mountains, even Hunter Valley) any of the major mobile phone networks (provided by Telstra, Optus, or Vodafone) will work.
Optus is the carrier I recommend if you have to buy a SIM card with good coverage at Sydney Airport. I find it works better on highways and for trips outside major population areas. Vodafone is catching up however.
For destinations around Sydney, my experience of coverage:
- Blue Mountains (Katoomba and Jenolan Caves), ranges of mountains tend to block even the best mobile phone providers. In towns, all carriers have service; in the mountains, I find Optus to be slightly better than Vodafone, but the difference isn’t much.
- Hunter Valley, along the highways to reach the Hunter, and all the towns along the way, both Optus and Vodafone provide good coverage.
- Royal National Park, terrain makes coverage difficult here as well. Optus appears to offer slightly broader coverage again than Vodafone.
I usually like SIM cards from the Telstra network when coverage is important, however these are not easily available when arriving at Sydney airport international terminal.
For trips further into the Australian countryside, or even the Australian outback, I like SIM cards from the company Telstra. Smaller towns and villages will often have Telstra coverage but won’t be covered by the other two providers. While Telstra’s coverage is excellent, much of Australia’s remote wilderness is only covered by satellite phone.
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
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 AUD2. 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 Sydney or at the airport?
If buying a Telstra prepaid SIM card the best option is to buy it in Sydney city itself (or nearby areas such as Bondi or Manly). The Telstra SIM card is a good option if you are travelling outside major town centres, and it can offer better coverage through the Blue Mountains and the Hunter. 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 Sydney airport.
For staying in Sydney or Australia longer than a few months, better options can be found as well (such as Boost prepaid annual plans). I wrote a guide to Australian SIM cards available for students and other visitors, click here to check it out: https://landinglastminute.com/australian-sim-card-guide/
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 data4. 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.
If you’re heading to Bondi and make the interchange at Bondi Junction, there are two Coles. The easier one to locate is in eastgate on Spring St, near the transport interchange. The other is located inside the Westfield.
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
There is no way to travel from Sydney airport to any destination with Wi-Fi.
Most destinations are close though, and it’s easy to pick up a SIM card after leaving the airport.
For travellers heading to Circular Quay as their first stop, there are some shops opposite the train station / ferry pier area that should sell SIM cards.
Catching the train
Sydney uses suburban trains to service the airport. This means the airport train runs frequently, but does not have Wi-Fi.
Heading into Sydney, Central, Museum, Circular Quay, and Wynyard all have convenience stores and phone shops nearby that can be used to purchase SIM cards. Town Hall station does as well, towards the Darling Harbour side.
Uber and ride-share, using the airport Wi-Fi to book
It is possible to book an Uber using the Sydney 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. The Uber pick up is also an inconvenient walk from the Arrivals Hall.
Similarly, Ola, and GoCatch are available using the Sydney Airport free Wi-Fi. Taxify may be available at Sydney, I’ve never tried though and there are reports about unjustified extra charges for Taxify at Sydney Airport.
Taxis in Sydney do not have free Wi-Fi. As the taxi stand is very close to the terminal, I often prefer it to walking out to the carpark to find the Uber.
Sydney is a hub for flights from all over the world connecting with many domestic destinations in Australia. Many people transit from an international flight to a domestic flight via Sydney Airport.
Many smaller airports in Australia do not have SIM card shops. I have never seen a place to buy a SIM card in the domestic arrivals area of any airport I’ve visited in Australia.
If transiting to a Qantas domestic flight:
- From Arrival Hall A (baggage carousel 7-17), turn right and you’ll pass the Optus and Vodafone shops on your right on the way to the Qantas Transfer Lounge
- From Arrival Hall B (baggage carousel 1-6), turn right and you’ll see the Optus and Vodafone shops also on your right. Continue on to the Qantas Transfer Lounge
If transiting to a Virgin Australia domestic flight:
- From Arrival Hall A (baggage carousel 7-17), turn left and you’ll pass the Optus and Vodafone shops on your left on the way to the Virgin Seamless Transfer Lounge
- From Arrival Hall B (baggage carousel 1-6), turn right and you’ll see the Optus and Vodafone shops. After buying a SIM, head back to the Virgin Seamless Transfer Lounge
Is Wi-Fi available at Sydney Airport?
Yes, Wi-FI is available at Sydney Airport. Look to connect to the
Free SYD Wifi network.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Sydney Airport?
Yes, identification is required to buy a SIM card at Sydney 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 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.
All major New Zealand destinations are accessible from Sydney: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Queenstown.
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 Sydney, flights are available to Bali and Jakarta.
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.