Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Choosing your mobile provider

Dear readers, we have safely arrived and are now OFFICIALLY Aussie PRs!

After a largely sleepless night aboard JQ8, our friends J and R very kindly received us at Melbourne airport. Customs clearance, surprisingly, was a huge breeze, with just a few questions asked about my three bike boxes (two bicycles and a third box for the wheels)

One man, two bikes, three boxes. I do share one of these bikes with A occasionally...

Friendly Customs Officer (FCO): "What sort of bikes do you have here?"

Me: "Mountain bikes" (cringing internally)

FCO: "Where did you ride them?"

Me: "On the road, mostly. The tires are clean, you can check..." (fingers crossed because while they were nice and black from tire shine, it would be a lot of inconvenience)

FCO: "No, I mean, which country did you ride in?"

Me - heaving sigh of relief while maintaining big smile: "Singapore!"

FCO: "Ok, no worries mate!"

She must have known that there is very little contamination of concern from our rather barren country (for most part). In fact, I can't imagine our pathogens surviving the harsh Australian conditions at all.

In fact, there were quite a number of FCOs. After we claimed our baggage, we had two trolleys between the both of us, but couldn't fit everything on them. So a few FCOs took turns helping me push the extra box along the airport. It's not unheard of in SG, but their friendliness and helpfulness is really a cut above what I was used to. Not to put SG down... I would say that we are "satisfactory", and the Aussies are "great"!

Anyway, I've digressed...

Consider the following statements:

"TPG is the cheapest, but reception not so good"

"Telstra is the best, but the most expensive"

"I got Optus because it's the only one available at the airport"

Quotable quotes from our friends from Singapore living in Australia. In the end, we went with Lebara.

Why did we choose Lebara?

- We were looking for pre-paid plans and couldn't find any from TPG ("cheapest").
- Comparing Lebara, Telstra and TPG, Lebara seemed to be the cheapest.
- Unlimited calls AND SMS to Australian numbers.
- 1.5GB of data.
- Only $29.90 per 30 days for the Unlimited National Plan.
- There was a convenience store nearby selling their SIM cards. And we couldn't find any other providers. Yeah, we are still lazy Singaporeans after all. But hey, we sort of tried...

Other comments on Lebara

- Targeted at migrants with cheap international call options (not of concern to us, and our plan provides no credit for international calls or SMS). If you need that, try the Lebara Unlimited Plan. Only $49.90 for 30 days.

Do contribute your comments on Aussie mobile providers if you have any. We just need something basic for now for the job and house hunt, but I can't think of anything else that we might need that a Lebara Unlimited National Plan doesn't provide. Unless the reception is terrible...

- S


  1. I've been a silent but avid reader of your blog for some time. I can imagine the exhilaration and joy (fatigue notwithstanding) felt upon landing in Melbourne as PRs. Congratulations and my best wishes to both of you in your journey forward!

  2. Hey bro.. welcome to Oz. You have arrived, finally!


  3. Welcome to Melbourne! The sunny weather today is a good start to a your new life here.

  4. Once you settled down, do consider Boost (Available in JB Hifi or Dick Smith). They are resellers of Telstra and is one of the cheapest. Whatever you get, don't get Vodafone.

    1. Thanks for your comments everyone!

      I was told Lebera runs on Vodafone. Bummer. Still got a second line to get eventually, and there's a JB Hifi which we passed by (didn't know they sell prepaids there) near our current place. Will check it out for sure. I hear only good things about Telstra's coverage


    2. Hi, I am the poster for the above comment. Forgot to leave my name, but I shall elaborate more.

      Because you just reached here, you are not aware of the local news. Vodafone has lost 500,000 customers in just first half of the year. Many reasons which I shall not go into ... the masses are ditching to Telstra even though it is more expensive.

      Why is that so? I shall share my personal experience. Now that you are here, you will start to travel everywhere to do site-seeing during weekends or for a short getaway. When you go to little small towns, Optus and Vodafone coverage are almost non-existential. It is so frustrating when the local visitor's centre tell you upfront that there is no coverage other than by Telstra. All of a sudden the "cheap" package that you have becomes useless, and the thing is that you WILL travel often to small towns and you will frequently encounter this annoying issue once you stay here.

      Why Vodafone and not Optus. Vodafone is like M1, the smallest of the 3. Their coverage is just simply not on par with the other 2. It is alright you get Lebera. In OZ, number portability is a breeze. You get your number, and if you are unhappy with the provider, it is very easy to switch to another provider if you are not in contract.

      One of the advice that I have received from IT savvy folks here is that if you do consider a plan with Telstra, you might as well get a contract and get one with those expensive phones (iPhone, Note 3, etc) because it is cheaper in the long run.

      Lastly, based on your consumption experience, I believe you might have been recommended TPG for Internet access? It possibly is the cheapest, but the customer service is a pain if you have tech issues. But once those are resolved, TPG is really pretty value for money. If you have NBN access in where you live, you are one lucky SotB.

      Have fun in OZ OZ OZ ... will give you tips along the way if you have questions. :)

    3. TM, this is extremely useful and I will update my post accordingly.

      For the prepaid, I think I will check out Boost then. The plan seems sufficient. Of course I will compare with contract plans from Telstra.

      Btw I am an ardent supporter of M1, so I think the analogy doesn't quite work because Singapore is tiny. At my workplaces, somehow I've always found M1 to have the best reception and I have used all three telcos. But, water under the bridge! :)



  5. I feel like watching a movie and waiting impatiently as the plot unfold. Congratulations on your new life in melbourne.

  6. Hey Welcome to Melbourne! My hubby and I arrived at the airport with 3 trolleys and just like u, we had a FCO who extended his help to push one of our trolley :) All the best mate! - Joey

  7. Hi S,

    I've been an avid follower of your blog for a while now and am really impressed with what you and A have achieved so far! Really appreciate you sharing your journey with all of us =)

    My hubby and I are also preparing for our big move and I'm wondering if you are able to share with us which shipping company would you recommend. Thanks very much in advance and keep up the great work!

    Cheers =)

  8. Hi Snowflake,

    Can't comment much on shipping companies, but DO NOT USE SEVEN SEAS.

    There, consider yourself "warned". We had a very bad experience with them which we will go into more detail once we have the time. Been very busy doing other things and having a fantastic time over here.

    Wish you all the best with your move!

    Oh btw, you can buy 40kg checked baggage with Jetstar, per pax. So do factor this in when you make your move.

    We have an SUV and if you were to leave your contact info, we can get in touch and help you with your initial move from the airport.. If you want we can rent a trailer too, it's pretty cheap (like A$30 a day or something...) I'm sure it's cheaper than taxi.. ;)

    One of our readers was so kind as to help us move to our friends' place from the airport, and even though we can't "repay" him the favour, we could always do this for our fellow (ex) countrymen :)


    1. As in, our SUV can tow a trailer. so we can fit extra luggage capacity.. Especially if you come armed with 50kg of luggage per person... (10kg carry on, 40kg checked)

    2. Thanks S for your kind offer =) Unfortunately, we are moving to Brisbane and not Melbourne. Hopefully we will also be able to make friends with other couples who have moved or are moving to Brisbane too.

      And because we are moving to Brisbane, Jetstar does not have a direct flight there.. hence we will have to explore other airlines.

      Got it, we won't use Seven Seas, wondering if anyone else have any idea of other shipping companies to explore?

      Here's wishing you and A, luck every step of your way! Jia you! Cheers =)

  9. Snowflake. I have extracted these from Melbourne SG Kampung's facebook page. These are anecdotes and not backed by a large user base, so beware:

    - http://www.olx.com.sg/a1-professional-transportation-movers-iid-58605177
    - Raffles Movers
    - Seven Seas (Didn't work for me)

    NOT Recommended
    - Astro
    - Panther International

    You can try Singpost as well. Also get quotes from DHL and the other usual suspects.

    We were a bit last minute on this so went with Seven Seas. Their website looks good. Everything good until they told me I forgot some documents...

    Regardless of which company you go with, read very carefully what is allowed into Oz and what isn't. Also, avoid shipping stuff which MAY be frowned upon. Like bicycles which have been used offroad for e.g.

    A tip from us. Stuff in Oz can be very cheap when it's on sale, and is affordable otherwise. But that's in Melbourne. Not sure about Brisbane. So you may want to consider selling or giving away more stuff in SG and buying new things over here. There's free stuff on websites like Freecycle, and good buys when it comes to furniture and appliances on Gumtree, if you can't or don't want free stuff (I didn't use Freecycle, but had lots of hand-me-downs from friends and family here).

    In short, try to minimise what you bring over. It's fun to source (or buy if you can afford) for stuff anyway.. Just bring a few changes of clothes, that's about it. Clothes can be cheap here too though.. ;)


  10. Get a membership with Costco for $60 a year. If you need household stuff, electronics, clothing etc .. The prices are quite good. You don't have sign up straight away, they let you in to take a look if you ask them. Membership also gives you free parking for 2 hours in Docklands and it's close to CBD so very convenient for you :-) ..

  11. I had a chance to go to Costco. I was unimpressed with their prices, and appalled by having to buy stuff in bulk.

    If we had a huge family to shop for, the membership might be worthwhile. Not for just the two of us.. We support local grocers and are happy to pay a bit more at Coles or Woolies for the small portions that we need. I've been told that it's false economy, but I do dig the 4c/8c Shell petrol discount I get from Coles as well


    1. We normally buy stuff like toilet paper and bleach etc. which keeps well. It's quite cheap for the same brand / quantity listed outside .. anyway, that's what we use the garage for, cheap storage :-p

  12. Hi S,
    just stumbled on your blog while researching online. Interesting blog u have. wish we had that when we were migrating those years back. We are ex-singaporeans too, migrated to OZ, Melbourne too, a decade now, also no kids by choice! (Our 'kids' are our 3 beautiful chooks - oz slang for hens that we got a year ago ... now we loved them to bits, and not just coz of the eggs they give us... :) ) Handed in the NRICs to get our CPF money some years back (YES, You can get your CPF money out regardless of what others tell you! We did it. lol ). Re mobile providers, those who advised u against Vodafone, they gave great advice. We had bad run with them too previously. If you are after prepaid, with no contracts, try Amaysim. We used to go with Savvytel but switched to Amaysim months back ... (hubby's in IT, so he does the research). And agree with you re Costco... just 2 of us, so the bulk buys dun serve us either... you can get better deals at safeway or coles during their specials...

    Which suburb are you guys in? Seems like more and more people from SG migrating over... there's just another fam from SG who moved into the house across our street recently ... anyway, welcome & Good luck to you both. From memory, the first few years are the toughest, but it does yet easier. :)
    - RG

  13. Hi RG, thanks for your comment!

    Well, we prefer not to name the exact suburb, except that we are in the western suburbs. Don't want to be triangulated by strangers if we can help it. Of course, the authorities in sg have our current address though, if they want to know (i'm not kidding myself about their surveillance ability).

    Well, if it's been tough by any standard, our life journey in sg has prepared us well. Certainly some things here are a bigger pain, while some things over there are. Different ball game completely!

  14. Hi again.
    No worries. I understand perfectly. Felt like that too in the couple of years when we first got here, re SG authorities, esp prior to renouncing citizenship and getting out our CPF. And we have all our family and friends in SG still, who may be impacted by what we say or do, so we do understand your concerns. If our familes are here with us in OZ, (most sadly they are not, parents too old to adjust to life here), I doubt we will go back to SG at all.
    And yes, it's a totally different ball game here completely. But a worthwhile one in the long run.
    If anything else, on the material side, things here seem to have gotten lots cheaper over the years, (based on comparison when we went back to SG to visit fam and frens, and assuming you guys aren't hung up on big brands like most Singaporeans are, and you are happy to shop at places like Kmart and Aldi ...btw, cheap doesn't always mean bad quality ... I've a hand held mixer and toaster I got for $10 when we first got here with very very little $ & no jobs, and surprisingly 10 years on, it still works fine to this day, lol, so much so i needed another excuse to shop for another that i like. ;p ), air is definitely fresher, and you can always grow your own veges, so won't starve. If you guys are still settling in, if not urgent, wait for coming post christmas / boxing day sales; most things go real cheap then, sometimes more than half price, and you can pick up a real bargain for most stuff you need in the household.
    Re the emotional side of things, you'll feel it every now and then about not really fitting in OZ, but not in SG anymore either, (assuming you feel like you've fitted in before, We never did.). But one day some years down the road, you'll wake up and realize in your heart that OZ is home now, and SG, while your birthplace, it ain't home anymore, and you'll feel that that's perfectly ok, and you'll even rejoice that you are different from the others, both in SG and even here, becoz if not, you wouldn't have migrated, and that this journey has been well worth it. Just remember that if at first you don't succeed, have a good cry, and then, try again, and try again till you succeed, coz you will eventually if you don't give up. The migration journey is not paved with roses. If it is, the thorns are there as well. But as the Aussies love to say, 'You'll be right, mate!"
    Have fun, and enjoy the journey.
    Cheers ;)

    1. Everything you say is exactly right, and we know because we probably move along a bit faster than the average migrant of whatever nationality :). One year in and pretty much been there, done that!

      Well, from the beginning, we've fit here better than we ever did in sg, just like you guys. Personally never really felt like we stuck out like a sore thumb, except perhaps at a party hosted by a neighbour from Liberia, and even then they were a great bunch and we had a nice time. As we know, Melbourne is that multi-racial and many migrants don't assimilate anywhere near as well as we do (simply by clustering with their own kind and speaking their own language whenever they can). But even then it's not really a problem, as there is no compulsion for anyone to assimilate.