If you are used to suburban life and rarely venture too far from regional areas, then you probably haven’t experienced the real struggles of phone reception to any great extent. But, if you are planning on taking an extended road trip beyond the boundaries of urban services or a trip around Oz, then you may need to be prepared to face some challenges when it comes to communicating with those you left behind and of course dealing with communications in the event of an emergency.

Staying in touch is often a major concern for many travellers (and their families they leave behind).

Mobile Phone Coverage

Digital phone coverage in Australia has improved a lot over the past few years with dramatic investment by the major telco's and with help from the mining industry in some remote areas. But its fair to say phone coverage still has a long way to go. Australia is HUGE! And although some telco's promote themselves as servicing 99% of the population (which sounds great), the reality is there is still a vast area that is left with no coverage. In some parts of Oz you may find yourself travelling hundreds of kilometres between towns and getting a few bars or 2 of signal in some of these places is like getting blood out of a stone. Simply, where there isn’t a phone tower, there isn’t a signal. And its unrealistic to think a phone tower could/should be erected every 50-100kms to service no permanent residents of an area. Its just not feasible and would be too expensive. So lets just be clear, your average digital mobile phone is not going to get you a lot of conversation in between towns, and unfortunately its between towns where if an emergency was to happen that you need phone signal the most. Unfortunately that's just the nature and downside of living and travelling in such a big country.

Its fair to say however, some Telco's are better than others and have a few more towers in operation and with a bit of research it wont take you long to find out who they are- just ask any seasoned traveller and they will soon let you know which provider that is. Another point worth mentioning is that many public phone boxes you find in remote areas are 'Card Only' and do not take coins. It may be worthwhile purchasing a phone card and keep it in your wallet just in case.

Satellite Phones

If you are serious about heading to the more remote reaches of this country, plan on spending some extended time in lesser-serviced communities or have a concerning medical condition then take a serious look at Satellite phones. The have come down in price a lot over the years and some companies offer affordable rentals of handsets and you can even pre-pay instead of signing costly and lengthy contracts for a device that you may only use once or twice. Just try not be too shocked at the cost of calls from a satellite phone, they are substantially more expensive, but remember you are paying for phone signal that isn’t offered on the digital networks. At the end of the day, reliability is what you are paying for and in some situations having a sat phone could save your life.

Internet and Date Usage

Moving on from mobile phone communications, you are more than likely wanting to keep in touch with family and friends using other means. Sure, grab a postcard and send it off – they are always fun to receive in the mailbox. But with our modern lives taken over by the internet, you may still want to utilise the convenience of sending an email. And lets not forget social media for the instant sharing of all your great adventures (Facebook, Twitter Instagram etc) just to rub it in and make everyone back home a little jealous. Accessing websites for holiday planning, accommodation bookings, internet banking and other useful information gathering is also important.

There are a few ways to maximise your access to the internet whilst you are on the road- below are a few suggestions to staying connected:

- Choose a mobile phone plan with sufficient data included or consider purchasing a pre-paid data plan so you can pay as you go.

- Use your mobile phone as a Wi-Fi 'hotspot' to connect devices such as laptops and tablets. However you may want to look at your automatic update settings on your devices. Some software and app updates can be quite data hungry and you don’t want to be using your precious mobile data allowances for these (wait till you find some free Wi-Fi for this).

- A lot of cafes and fast food outlets offer free Wi-Fi these days in order to entice you stay longer and browse the internet and check email in hope you will order more food and drinks- these are a great way to get your emails sent and perhaps get those updates done! (and make sure you do buy something, don’t be one of those cheapskates that hang around outside tapping in to their hotspot to send emails off).

- A lot of holiday parks will offer Wi-Fi too, take advantage of free Wi-Fi where you can. A good chance to upload and backup your photos and let people know that you are ok.

- Visit libraries- for a few dollars you get a nice quiet spot to catch up on business, do some research, pay your bills online and perhaps send a g'day back home.

- Before you leave on your adventure, take some time to pick the brains of your local mobile phone dealer. Ask them for advice and see if they will help set up your devices for you so its easy to connect when you are out on your travels.

Some more tips on using shared Wi-Fi in public areas:

- Always logout of your web pages and accounts when you are finished using a public computer.

- Never select 'save your password' when logging into an account (especially banking or social media accounts).

- Install security software on your smartphone and laptop that offers internet protection especially designed for use over public Wi-Fi networks.