Thursday, December 8, 2022
Australia travel guide - Travel S helper

Australia

travel guide

Australia, formally the Commonwealth of Australia, is a nation that spans the Australian continent, including the mainland, the island of Tasmania, and a slew of smaller islands. It is the sixth-largest nation in the globe in terms of total area. To the north are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor; to the north-east are the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu; and to the south-east is New Zealand. Canberra is the capital of Australia, while Sydney is the biggest metropolitan area.

Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 50,000 years prior to the arrival of the first British settlers in the late 18th century. Indigenous Australians spoke languages classified into approximately 250 groupings. Following the European discovery of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, Great Britain claimed Australia’s eastern half in 1770 and colonized it originally through convict transportation to the colony of New South Wales on 26 January 1788. The population increased rapidly over the following decades, and by the 1850s, the majority of the continent had been explored, with the establishment of five more self-governing crown colonies. The six colonies federated on 1 January 1901, creating the Commonwealth of Australia. Since then, Australia has maintained a stable liberal democratic political system in which it operates as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy composed of six states and numerous territories. The 24 million-strong population is largely urbanized and centered along the eastern coast.

Australia has the 13th biggest economy in the world and the ninth greatest per capita income (IMF). With the world’s second-highest human development index, the nation excels in several areas, including quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and civil freedoms and political rights. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the Pacific Islands Forum.

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Australia - Info Card

Population

25,940,200

Currency

Australian dollar ($) (AUD)

Time zone

UTC+8; +9.5; +10 (Various)

Area

7,692,024 km2 (2,969,907 sq mi)

Calling code

+61

Official language

English

Australia | Introduction

Weather & Climate in Australia

As a large continent, there is a wide variety of climates throughout Australia. The majority of the country has more than 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. In general, the north is hot and tropical, while the south is more subtropical and temperate. Most rainfall occurs on the coast, and much of the centre is dry and semi-arid. Maximum daytime temperatures in the tropical city of Darwin rarely fall below 30 ° C, even in winter, while nighttime temperatures in winter are usually between 15 and 20 ° C. Australian winters are generally milder than in similar latitudes in the northern hemisphere, and snow never falls in most parts of the country. Temperatures at high altitudes in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter (and sometimes even in summer), and metres of winter snow accumulate in the Snowy Mountains in the southeast. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England, and it is not uncommon for snow to fall in summer in some mountainous regions of the state.

As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is June to August, while December to February is summer. Winter is the dry season in the tropics and summer is the wet. The seasonal variation in temperature is greater in the southern parts of the country. Rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the southern parts of the east coast, while in the rest of the south beyond the Great Dividing Range, summers are dry and most of the rain falls in winter.

Geography of Australia

The land mass of Australia is either the smallest continent in the world or the largest island in the world. make up most of the land area of Oceania.

The Australian nation comprises the Australian mainland and some smaller islands (such as Tasmania). With an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres, it is the sixth largest country in the world. Its size is comparable to that of the 48 contiguous United States, although it has less than a tenth of the population, with distances between cities and towns easily underestimated. Australia is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the west and the South Pacific Ocean to the east. To the southeast is the Tasman Sea, which separates it from New Zealand, while to the northeast is the Coral Sea. Australia’s northern neighbours are Papua New Guinea, East Timor as well as Indonesia, which are divided from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.

All of Australia is very urbanised, with most of the population being highly concentrated on the east and southeast coasts. Most inland regions are semi-arid. The most populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but Western Australia is by far the most populous state.

Australia has large areas that have been cleared for agriculture, but there are still many areas of native forest in large national parks and other undeveloped areas. Australia’s long-term concerns include salinity, pollution, biodiversity loss, and the management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.

Culture of Australia

Australia has a multicultural population that practices almost every religion and lifestyle. Over a quarter of Australians were born outside Australia, and another quarter have at least one foreign-born parent. Virtually every major Australian city reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that took place after World War II and continued until the 1970s. In the half century after the war, the Australian population boomed from around 7 million to just over 20 million. The cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are culturally diverse and host communities from all parts of the world.

In all major cities, you will find a variety of global foods in many restaurants. Melbourne promotes itself as a centre for the arts, while Brisbane introduces itself through a variety of multi-cultural urban villages. Adelaide is known as a centre for festivals and German cultural influences, while Perth is known for its food and wine culture, pearls, gems and precious metals, and the International Festival of Fringe Arts. Smaller rural settlements generally still reflect the majority Anglo-Celtic culture, often with a small Aboriginal population. Most of the rural areas of the country are still welcoming visitors and typically have a history and local products to share.

There are about half a million Australians who identify as Aboriginal. Most live in the major cities, but some live in Aboriginal communities scattered around the country. There are many opportunities and cultural activities for people who want to explore their culture.

Contrary to popular mythology, descendants of convicts are a minority, and even in the years of transport, settlers outnumbered convict migrants by at least five to one.

People in Australia in general can be relatively socially conservative in comparison to some European cultures. However, Australians tend to be more relaxed when it comes to religious observance. Address modes are informal and familiar, and most Australians address you by your first name from first contact and expect you to do the same to them.

Demographics of Australia

Until World War II, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants were from the British Isles, and the majority of Australians have British or Irish ancestry. At the 2011 Census of Australia, the main nominated ethnic ancestries being English (36.1%), Australian (35.4%), Irish (10.4%), Scottish (8.9%), Italian (4.6%), German (4.5%), Chinese ( 4.3%), Indian (2.0%), Greek (1.9%) and Dutch (1.7%).

Since the end of the WWI, Australia’s population has quadrupled, most of this population increase is the result of immigration. After World War II and up to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that almost two in seven Australians were born in another country. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration rate includes categories for family members and refugees. By 2050, the current Australian population is expected to reach around 42 million. However, population density remains among the lowest in the world at 2.8 people per square kilometre. As such, Australians have more living space per person than residents of any other nation.

24.6% Australians where born elsewhere and 43.1% of the population had as least one parent born overseas. The five largest immigrant groups were those from Britain, New Zealand, China, India and Vietnam. After the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, numerous government initiatives were launched to promote and encourage racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism. In 2005-2006, more than 131,000 people migrated to Australia, mainly from Asia and Oceania. The migration target for 2012-2013 is 190,000 compared to 67,900 in 1998-1999.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – was estimated at 548,370 (2.5% from the total population), significantly increased in 2011 compared to 115,953 in the 1976. The increase is partly due to many people of Indigenous heritage being previously overlooked in the census due to undercounting and cases where their Indigenous status was not recorded on the form. Indigenous Australians have higher than average rates of incarceration and unemployment, lower levels of education and lower life expectancy for men and women, 11 and 17 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians respectively. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having ‘state failed’ conditions.

Like many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population with more retirees and fewer people of working age. An average age of the population in 2004 was 38.8 years.

Religion in Australia

Australia does not have a state religion; section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making laws establishing a religion, enforcing religious observance or prohibiting the free practice of a religion. According to the 2011 census, 61.1% Australians identified as Christian, from which 25.3% were identified as Roman Catholic and 17.1% as Anglican. 22.3% from the population said they had “no religion”; 7.2% identify themselves with non-Christian religions, of which the most numerous are Buddhism (2.5%), to be followed by Islam (2.2%), Hinduism (1.3%) and Judaism (0.5%). The remaining 9.4% of the population did not give an adequate answer.

Prior to European settlement, the animistic beliefs of Indigenous Australians had been practised for many thousands of years. Mainland Australian Aboriginal spirituality is known as Dreamtime and places great emphasis on belonging to the land. The collection of stories it contains shaped Aboriginal law and customs. Aboriginal art, history and dance continue to draw on these spiritual traditions. The spirituality and customs of the Torres Strait Islander people living on the islands between Australia and New Guinea reflected their Melanesian origins and dependence on the sea. The 1996 Australian census counted more than 7000 respondents as adherents of a traditional Aboriginal religion.

Since the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788, Christianity has become the most important religion in Australia. Christian churches have played a significant role in the development of education, health and social services in Australia. For much of Australia’s history, the Church of England (now known as the Anglican Church of Australia) was the largest religious denomination. Multicultural immigration, however, contributed significantly to a decline of its relative position, giving the Roman Catholic Church the advantage from recent immigration for becoming the largest group. Similarly, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism have grown in Australia over the last half century.

Australia has one of the lowest religious attachments in the world. In 2001, only 8.8% of Australians attended church weekly.

Language in Australia

The English language is universally spoken and understood in Australia. However, as Australia is a global melting pot, you will encounter cultures and hear languages from all over the world, especially in the major cities, and you will often find areas and suburbs that mainly reflect the language of their respective immigrant communities. Foreign languages are taught in school, but students rarely progress beyond the basics.

It is rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas where there is a large population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are common; and also around Cairns and on the Gold Coast in Queensland, where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese or Chinese because of the large number of tourists. On the beaches, some warning signs are written in several foreign languages.

Australian English generally follows British spelling conventions and vocabulary choices, although it is also known for its own colouring and slang. People in rural areas still tend to speak with a strong accent and use some slang words that are outdated in the big cities. Australian slang should not be a problem for tourists, except perhaps in some remote areas of the outback. Australians understand several varieties of English, and you could look foolish if you try to use local slang.

There is very little provincialism in Australia, although accents tend to be broader and slower outside the major cities. Within cities, there is little variation in pronunciation, but it is becoming more common. For example, the word “thou”, which is often rolled across the language, is more pronounced on the south-east coast, almost like “ewe” as opposed to the west coast and other areas. Accent variations mainly reflect the linguistic origin of the speaker.

Visitors who do not have a basic knowledge of English will have a hard time communicating with Australians and should do some planning. Some tour operators specialise in selling packages for Australia tours with guides who speak specific languages.

More than 100 indigenous languages are still known and spoken by Aboriginal people, especially those living in rural communities in the outback and those on the Torres Strait Islands. Because these languages are all different, you won’t find a book of “indigenous” phrases in travel bookshops. Many Aboriginal place names are derived from Aboriginal languages that have been lost, and their meaning is still uncertain. Almost all Aboriginal people also speak English, although people in some remote communities are not fluent in English.

The standard sign language is Auslan (which means Australian Sign Language). When a sign language interpreter is present at a public event, they use Auslan. Users of British and New Zealand Sign Language will be able to understand much, but not all. Auslan and NZSL are largely derived from BSL, and all three languages use the same two-handed hand alphabet. Users of sign languages with other origins (e.g. the French sign language family, which also includes American and Irish sign languages) will not be able to understand Auslan.

Internet & Communications in Australia

Internet

Australia offers many ways for travellers to access the internet:

Internet cafés can be found in most tourist areas and usually cost 4 to 5 dollars per hour. However, in many internet cafés, 12 to 20 computers share a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet terribly slow. If possible, ask to check the speed of a café’s connection before paying $4-5 per hour.

Public libraries usually offer travellers some form of internet access, either free of charge or for a small fee. Some prohibit access to electronic mail, encouraging the use of their facilities for research purposes. Others offer both Wi-Fi and terminals, as Wi-Fi is usually not restricted.

Large hotels offer internet access, usually at exorbitant prices. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least one internet terminal at the reception. Some other accommodation providers offer Wi-Fi to their guests, almost always for a fee. It is still common to find motels and other smaller hotels that do not offer internet access to their guests.

  • Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi to their customers.
  • McDonalds offers free Wi-Fi in almost all of its branches.
  • Internode has free Wi-Fi hotspots, including much of downtown Adelaide.
  • Telstra has partnered with Fon to create an extensive network of WiFi hotspots across Australia. This will use Telstra payphones and Telstra broadband customers to create hotspots bearing the Telstra Air name with the tagline “Australia’s largest WiFi network”. Look for a prominent white WiFi logo on a pink background and the words “Telstra Air” to identify key access points. Networks appear in WiFi listings as “Telstra Air” or “Fon WiFi”. Expect good network coverage in the city centre, although it may be necessary to search for a hotspot outside the CBD areas. Hotspot maps are available on the Telstra and Fon websites.
  • Access can be purchased for $6.60 for 1 hour, $10 for 1 day or $23 for 5 days.

Open Wi-Fi hotspots are rarely found.

3G/4G wireless

There are three mobile networks in Australia. They all offer 3G/UMTS and 4G/LTE mobile data services.

As the data is transmitted via the mobile phone network, the notes on frequencies, obtaining a SIM card and using a foreign device in the section Mobile Phones apply.

If you intend to use your phone with your home provider, ask them about data roaming charges (probably quite high). If your phone is not locked, it may be much cheaper to buy a local SIM card.

Several operators offer prepaid, contract-free mobile data access from around $20 to $30 per month, with different tariffs and inclusive services. For about $50, you get a USB modem or Wi-Fi dongle. There are thousands of plans available from hundreds of providers. A comparison site on the internet will guide you to the best offers of the moment.

Phone

Calling abroad from Australia

The most important international dialling code is 0011. (When using a mobile phone, the symbol “+” can also be used instead of the prefix 0011).

Numbering codes

The country code for international calls to Australia is +61. If you are calling from overseas, omit the “0” in the code.

For example, the local tourist information number for Broken Hill is 8080-3300. The area code is 08 because Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or another place in the same region, you can optionally omit the area code and simply dial 8080-3300. To dial the number of Sydney or any other place in Australia outside the area code region, you must dial 08 8080-3300. If you don’t know your region, you can still dial the area code and it will still work. To dial the number from abroad, you need to dial your local international code (00 for most European countries or 011 in the USA and Canada), then dial 61 8 8080-3300, i.e. remove the “0” from the area code.

Australian area code list:

  • 02 = Central East (New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and the north-eastern edge of Victoria)
  • 03 = Southeast (southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania)
  • 04 = Mobile phones throughout Australia (call charges are higher).
  • 07 = Northeast (Queensland)
  • 08 = Central & Western (Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and the far west of New South Wales)

Local calls cost about $0.25 on most landlines and $0.50 on all Telstra phones.

  • When calling an Australian number from a mobile phone outside Australia, it is best to use the format +618803300 with no spaces and no prefix (0).
  • When making an international call from your mobile phone in Australia, use the “+” followed by the country code, followed by the area code of the destination, then the local number of the destination. Do not use “0” prefixes and do not include spaces.
  • When dialling from a mobile phone in Australia, it is not necessary to use an international dialling code (e.g. 0011). The “+” symbol followed by the country code of the destination country is sufficient to access the international telephone system from your handset.

Special numbers

  • Numbers starting with 13 are charged at the rate of a local call and the connection may vary depending on the location. They can be 10-digit or 6-digit numbers. For example, the number 1300 796 222 will connect you to the Albury Tourist Information Centre wherever you are in Australia. The number 131 008, on the other hand, connects you to a different local taxi service depending on your location. 13 22 32 connects you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne. Calling these numbers abroad can be problematic.
  • Numbers beginning with 18 are free when dialled from a payphone or landline and are usually used for hotel reservations or tourist information.
  • Numbers starting with 19 are premium rate numbers, which are often very expensive (check before you dial).
  • Numbers starting with 12 are operator services and depend on the network you are connected to. For example, 12 456 is a general information number for Telstra. Vodafone offers a similar service on 123. These numbers can also be value added services.

When abroad, it is often possible to call special numbers. Simply dial the number preceded by the country code +61. In many places there is another direct call number that can be used for international calls.

You can make reverse rate calls using the 1800 REVERSE number (1800 7383773).

Mobile phones

Australia has mobile networks operated by TelstraOptus and Vodafone, and each of these networks has multiple resellers with different price plans. All three operate GSM (2G) and UMTS/HSPA (3G) networks, with varying degrees of LTE (4G) deployment.

There are no restrictions for overseas residents who want to get Australian prepaid SIM cards, but you will need to show photo identification, such as your passport.

The three 2G networks operate in the 900/1800 MHz bands. Telstra and Vodafone have 3G HSPA+ services on 850/2100 MHz, and Optus on 900/2100 MHz. Telstra and Optus also have LTE 4G services on 1800 MHz; Vodafone provided 4G on 1800 MHz in 2013-14 in some major cities only. 4G coverage is very limited outside urban areas. As 4G LTE is mainly a high-speed data service, most mobile phones will “fall back” on 3G frequencies provided by the same operator.

CDMA phones (phones without SIM cards) do not work in Australia.

With foreign SIM cards, international roaming on Australian GSM 900/1800 and 3G (UMTS/W-CDMA) networks is usually straightforward, depending on the agreements between operators. Check with your home operator before you leave.

All major cities and their suburbs have good coverage on all three networks, as do the smallest rural towns. Telstra’s 850 MHz 3G network provides the best coverage in rural areas (although it is also the most expensive), but unpopulated or sparsely populated areas far from main roads are unlikely to be covered. If you are heading into the bush, a satellite phone may be your only option. Remember that all mobile phones can be used for emergency calls on all networks, even if they do not have a local SIM card or are not roaming. This also applies to satellite phones.

A cheap prepaid mobile phone with a SIM card is sold in most Australian shops, supermarkets and post offices for about $40; a SIM card alone for an existing phone costs about $2 to $3. Prepaid credit is topped up with top-up cards available at all supermarkets, kiosks, some vending machines and other outlets.

You can buy a seemingly endless variety of tariffs, SIM cards and phones, with different combinations of data, SMS and talk time. Some operators complicate the calculation of included calls by giving you a dollar “value” that is included in your package and then you have to search the call, SMS and data rates to calculate what is included. These prices can vary from package to package. Make sure that the package you choose includes everything you need, as using data or making calls outside the package is often much more expensive.

Satellite phones

If you need full coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Hiring a satellite phone costs about $120 per week, plus the cost of the call. Satellite messaging devices that send your location and a text message or help email can be rented for about $80 per week.

These devices are only available in specialised shops, often only in big cities (far away from the remote areas you might visit). You should be able to buy or rent these devices in your home country before you leave, if you wish.

Satellite phones allow you to make emergency calls without a SIM card or subscription. The cheapest model costs about $300, a little more than a PLB.

Public telephones

Most cities and suburbs have at least one payphone. Most railway stations have a payphone. Text messages can be sent from many public phones, using the keypad as on a mobile phone. Follow the instructions on the phone’s display.

Post

Australia Post operates the Australian postal service. Letters can be posted in any of Australia Post’s red letterboxes, which can be found in all post offices and many other places. All stamps can be purchased at post offices, and some stamps can also be purchased at kiosks and hotels. Mailing a standard letter costs $1 (up to 250 g) in Australia, $1.85 (up to 20 g) in Asia/Pacific and $2.75 (up to 20 g) in the rest of the world. The ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ stamps are different, as the international stamp is tax-free, so be sure to use the correct stamp. Parcels, express mail services and other services are also available.

Addresses in Australia are usually formatted as follows, similar to addresses in the USA and Canada

Name of the beneficiary
House number and street name
(If required) Suite or flat or building number.
City or town, two- or three-letter state abbreviation, postal code

You can receive mail from Poste Restante in any town or village. The mail must be addressed to your full name c/o Post Restante and you only need to go to the post office with an ID to receive your mail.

Economy of Australia

Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy with a GDP per capita comparable to other advanced economies.

The service industry, including tourism, education and financial services, accounts for just over half of Australia’s GDP – about 60%. Within the services sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia as it creates jobs, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.

Primary industries – mining and agriculture – have accounted for most of Australia’s exports in recent decades. In addition to wheat, beef and wool, iron ore and coal are by far the largest exports. The mining sector is sensitive to global demand for iron ore, with events in the Chinese and Indian economies having a direct impact.

Australia has a comprehensive social security system and a higher minimum wage than the US or the UK. Due to the lack of supply, artisans in Australia are well paid, often more than white-collar workers.

Things To Know Before Traveling To Australia

Time In Australia

In Australia, there can be up to five different time zones during summer time, and three at other times.

In the east, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria always have the same time. Queensland does not observe daylight saving time and is therefore one hour behind the other eastern states during this time.

In the middle, South Australia and the Northern Territory are half an hour behind in winter, but the Northern Territory does not observe daylight saving time, while South Australia does. During daylight saving time, South Australia is half an hour behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, but half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory stays half an hour behind Queensland, but moves one and a half hours behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

In the west, Western Australia is two hours behind the eastern states in winter and also does not observe daylight saving time. It is three hours behind the eastern states that observe daylight saving time (two hours behind Queensland).

There are no official abbreviations or names for the Australian time zones, and you may see some variations used. EST, CST, WST as well as EDT, CDT are sometimes used. Sometimes AEST, etc., with the prefix “A” to distinguish them from North American time zones with the same names. Abbreviations are not used in conversation. People tend to say Sydney timeBrisbane time or Perth time. Expect blank looks from most people when you start talking about Central Daylight Saving Time.

In states that use daylight saving time, it begins on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.

State/Territory Standard time Summertime
Western Australia UTC+8 N/A
South Australia UTC+9.5 UTC+10.5
Northern Territory UTC+9.5 N/A
Queensland UTC+10 N/A
New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania. ACT UTC+10 UTC+11

Power In Australia

The mains voltage specified in AS 60038 has been 230V with a tolerance of +10% -6% and 50Hz since 2000. This was done for voltage harmonisation reasons – however, 240V (and rarely 250V) is within the tolerance and is commonly supplied. Mains voltage is still popularly referred to as “two forty volts”. Hotel bathrooms are often fitted with a type I, C and A plug labelled “for shaver only”, as shown right, and a normal 3-prong (earthed) plug; two-prong (the two angled pins) non-earthed plugs are also common. For larger appliances, a 3-phase (415V) plug is also used.

Work In Australia

Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents can work in Australia without a permit, but others need a work visa. It is illegal for foreigners to do paid work in Australia on a tourist visa. Be aware that any form of compensation for services rendered, whether monetary or otherwise (e.g. room and board), is considered payment in Australia, which means that such work would be illegal on a tourist visa. Volunteering is allowed as long as it is related to the trip (i.e. not the main purpose of the trip). Foreign nationals on student visas are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during school holidays. Working illegally in Australia carries a very real risk of arrest, detention, deportation and a permanent ban on re-entry to Australia. All visitors who are not permanent residents or Australian citizens (including New Zealand citizens who are not also permanent residents or Australian citizens) are not eligible to access the Australian Unemployment Insurance Scheme and have limited or no access to the Australian government’s health care payment system.

Working Holiday Programme

Australia has a working holiday program for citizens of certain countries aged 18 to 30. This programme allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter the country. You can work during this time, but only for 6 months with the same employer. The idea is that you take a leave of absence that is subsidised by casual or short-term employment. If you are interested in working leave, some useful skills and experience might be: Office skills that you can use for temporary work, or hospitality skills that you can use to work in a bar or restaurant. An alternative is seasonal work, such as fruit picking, although many seasonal jobs require you to work outside of major cities. If you work in seasonal work for three months, you can apply for a second 12-month visa.

You can apply for a Working Holiday Visa online, but you do not need to be in Australia at the time. It usually only takes a few hours to process your application and costs around $360 (as of April 2013). When you arrive in Australia, get the Working Holiday Visa “notarised” so you can present it to your future employer.

Work visas

Visas for working in Australia change frequently and sometimes without notice. Always check with your local Australian High Commission, consulate or embassy and the Department of Immigration website.

The easiest way to get a work visa (subclass 457, 186 and 187) is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. Your employer must prove that they cannot hire someone with your skills in Australia. Locally advertised jobs usually require a valid work visa before your application can be considered. It may take a few months from the start of the application process to obtain the visa, and you will need to undergo a medical examination by an immigration doctor before it is granted (including a chest X-ray to show you do not have tuberculosis). An employer with good experience and effective immigration lawyers could have your 457 approved within a week. Note that your work visa is only valid for the employer who sponsored you and that you must leave within 30 days of the end of your employment.

The RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) visa (subclass 187) is the easiest visa for employers to obtain, although you must live and work in a designated ‘regional’ area. These areas tend to be rural and away from major cities, although Adelaide is included in this scheme.

Qualified independent visas (subclass 189, 190, 489) can be applied for if you have a valuable specialised skill and do not want to be tied to a particular employer.

There is also a temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) that allows graduates of Australian universities to stay and work in Australia. This visa is usually valid for between 18 months and 4 years, depending on your level of education and your major field of study. Your major field of study must be on a list of skilled occupations for which there is a labour shortage in Australia. This list is updated every year and whether you can get this visa depends on the list when you graduate, not when you start your studies.

Immigration

You can apply for immigration as a professional or business person, but this procedure takes longer than applying for a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residence status as a work or study visa holder, but your application will not be automatically accepted. If you have a lot of money, there are a number of investor visas that allow you to live in Australia for permanent residence. After four years of legal residence, including one year as a permanent resident, you can apply for Australian citizenship.

Volunteering

There are several opportunities for volunteering in Australia. Many global organisations offer longer trips for those who want to give up their time to work with local people on projects such as habitat restoration, conservation and development, scientific research and education programs, such as Australian Volunteers, World Wildlife Fund, International Student Volunteers Australia, Youth Challenge Australia, Gap 360 and Xtreme Gap Year.

Payment and taxes in Australia

Most Australian employers pay by direct deposit into Australian bank accounts, so you should open a bank account as soon as possible. You can open an account from overseas with some banks, such as Commonwealth Bank and HSBC.

You also need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) as soon as possible. You can apply for a TFN for free online at the Australian Taxation Office website, but you can usually get it faster by simply visiting an Australian Taxation Office. You can also start working without a tax number, but it is advisable to get one as soon as possible as your employer will have to deduct 45% of your wages for tax if you don’t provide a number. Register your TFN with your bank as soon as possible or the interest you receive will be taxed at the highest rate. The Australian tax year runs from 1 July to 30 June and tax returns for each year are due on 30 October, four months after the end of the year. Find out about Australian tax obligations and how to complete an Australian tax return from the Australian tax authorities.

The Australian employer makes a compulsory payment on your behalf from your earnings into an Australian superannuation (retirement) fund. Visitors on a temporary work visa who are not Australian or New Zealand citizens must apply for this money when they leave Australia. This payment is known as the Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP) and you can apply for it online. New Zealand citizens can transfer their superannuation money to their KiwiSaver account in New Zealand; contact your provider to arrange this transfer.

Entry Requirements For Australia

Visa & Passport for Australia

All visitors – with the exception of New Zealand citizens – require a visa before travelling.

If you are entering for a stay of less than 90 days, you can apply for three types of visa depending on your nationality.

  • Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) Subclass 601 is available online for nationals of Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea (ROK), Taiwan and the United States. There is a $20 service fee. This fee can sometimes be waived if you obtain your ETA through a travel agent when you book your trip with them. Some online agents can also sell ETAs.
  • eVisitor (subclass 651) for citizens of the European Union, the EEA, Switzerland and some European micro-states. These visas are free of charge, but otherwise virtually identical to the ETA. You need to apply online.
  • Visitor visa (subclass 600). Passport holders from 55 countries, including all countries eligible for ETA and eVisitor, as well as Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can apply online. Other nationalities must apply using the paper form and may need to visit an embassy or visa processing centre.

Like the ETA and eVisitor, a Visitor 600 is issued by default for a three-month stay. Unlike the other options, however, a 600 visa can be issued for a longer stay of up to one year. However, immigration is somewhat reluctant to approve tourist visas for more than three months, regardless of the legitimacy of your reasons for such a long stay. You will probably be asked to provide a lot of documentation about the reason for your visit and your links to your home country, and you may have to attend an interview. Depending on your nationality, the embassy or visa processing centre may also require you to have an Australian sponsor before issuing your visa. The fee is $110. ETAs and eVisitors are valid for multiple entries within a 12-month period. If you qualify for both, it may be easier to stay for the three months you originally planned, go to New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand or another country accessible on a budget airline for a few days, and then return – restarting the 90-day clock. However, if you do this more than once, immigration might get suspicious, so be careful if you go this route.

There is a special arrangement for parents of Australians, including permanent residents. The 600 visa can be valid for 18 months, three years or five years and allows a maximum stay of 12 months in an 18-month period, depending on the circumstances.

In most cases, ETAs and eVisitors are approved immediately and the visa is issued and ready to use. If you need more information, you may be asked to return to the application system later to see if your application has been approved. In the worst case, your application will be forwarded for manual review, which can take weeks. It is best to submit your application in advance, just in case.

If you are travelling to Australia for work, study or medical treatment, you need to check that you have the right type of visa as a tourist visa may not be sufficient. If you do not comply with the conditions of your visa or plan to do so, you may face cancellation of your visa, deportation and/or a debarment period.

For all categories of tourist visa, you must be able to demonstrate that you are able to support yourself financially for the time you intend to spend in Australia and that you meet the character requirements. If you have a criminal conviction, contact an Australian embassy or visa processing centre before applying or making travel arrangements.

If you are in transit through Australia, remain in the air for a maximum of 8 hours, have a confirmed reservation, have the correct entry documents for your next destination and are a citizen of New Zealand, the European Union, Andorra, Argentina, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea (ROK), Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (regardless of citizenship status), United States, Vanuatu or Vatican City, you do not need to apply for a visa in advance. All other passengers travelling through Australia must apply for a free transit visa (subclass 771) before departure.

New Zealand citizens can travel and work in Australia without a visa for the duration of their stay – they will be issued with a Special Category Visa for New Zealand Citizens (subclass 444) on arrival. Permanent residents who are not New Zealand citizens are not eligible for visa-free entry. New Zealand citizens may still be refused entry due to criminal convictions; they should seek advice from an Australian diplomatic mission before travelling.

At some airports, visitors with citizenship from Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States can use SmartGate to obtain automatic entry clearance when entering Australia. Note that using SmartGate does not exempt you from visa requirements.

When you leave Australia, you need to fill in a form similar to the one you received when you arrived. It asks, among other things, how long you have been in Australia, in which state, where you will be going next. If you are a permanent resident or citizen, the answers may be used for future tax purposes, so answer the questions carefully!

Customs and quarantine

Australia has strict quarantine regulations for importing animal and plant products (any food, wood products, seeds, etc.). You must declare all such material, even if the items are allowed, and luggage is often scanned and can be examined by dogs. You can be fined $220 on the spot if you accidentally fail to declare, or even prosecuted in serious cases. Declared material will be examined and may be retained, disposed of, returned to you or quarantined at your expense, depending on the circumstances. Chocolate and other processed and sealed confectionery are generally permitted after declaration and inspection, as are reasonable quantities of infant food with an accompanying infant. Different rules apply depending on the country of origin of the food as well as the state you are entering Australia.

Travellers aged 18 and over are allowed to import up to 2.25 litres of alcoholic beverages and up to 50 cigars or 50 grams of other tobacco products (including cigars) into Australia duty free. These items may not be imported by persons under 18 years of age, and travellers who exceed their allowance must pay tax on all goods in this category, not just the amount that exceeds the allowance.

Certain shells, corals and items made from a protected species are also banned to prevent trade in items that may come from an endangered ecosystem or species.

Although there is no limit to the amount of money that can be brought into or taken out of the country, Australian Customs requires you to declare if you are bringing $10,000 (Australian) or more (or the foreign currency equivalent) into or out of the country and you must complete certain documents. If you do not make a declaration, you can be arrested and the money confiscated.

How To Travel To Australia

Get In - By plane

Australia is far from the rest of the world, so for most visitors the only practical way to enter Australia is by air.

About half of all travellers arrive in Australia for the first time at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney (IATA: SYD). A significant number of travellers also arrive in Australia at Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international connections to Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island.

Sydney is a 3-hour flight from Auckland, New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from many Asian countries, a 14-hour flight from the Western United States and Canada, a 14-hour flight from Johannesburg, a 13-16 hour flight from South America and up to 24+ hours flight from Western Europe. Due to the length of the journey from some destinations, travellers from Europe have to make a stopover, usually in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

If you need to transfer to a domestic flight within a gateway city, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have separate domestic terminals that require some time and complexity for transit: consult the guidebooks. Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast all have boarding gates in the same terminal or within walking distance of each other.

Australia’s national airline is Qantas, which, together with its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar, offers numerous flights to Australia from all six inhabited continents of the world. Virgin Australia and its low-cost subsidiary Tigerair operate several routes to Australia from North America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. For those coming from Europe, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong are good alternatives to Qantas, British Airways or Gulf Airlines for flights to Australia. Some routes to Australia are operated by low-cost airlines such as AirAsia X, AirAsia Indonesia, Scoot, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Airways.

Get In - By boat

Cruise ships are mainly available during the cruise season from November to February, and around 10 ships from other countries usually arrive in Australia during this time. You can take a cruise in Australia and then fly home. Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean all offer cruises to Australia via the Pacific.

You can also travel to Australia with your own boat, but be aware of customs regulations. For more details, visit the Australian Customs website.

There are no international ferry connections.

Get In - By overland transport

There was a time when two tour operators offered an overland trip from London to Sydney, with a short hop by plane from South East Asia to North West Australia. Currently, the only such tour operator is Madventure, which offers four different itineraries: 26 weeks in Iran, Pakistan and India; 26 weeks in the Caucasus and Central Asia; and 64 weeks in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

For those determined to travel overland from Europe as much as possible, there is the option of travelling independently from Europe by train and/or bus on regular services to Singapore and flying from there to Perth (3,500 kilometres by air). For travellers who are keen to travel overland, you can take a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia and travel to Bali, from where you can fly to Darwin (2,000 kilometres by air). For the intrepid, ferries to West Timor, a bus to Dili and a flight to Darwin mean only 700 kilometres in the air.

Despite what you may read on the forum, travel to Darwin by cargo/barge through ANL and Swire (the only two routine cargo carriers between Dili and Darwin) is not permitted under any circumstances (as of June 2016). For certain travellers, it may be possible to obtain passage from Singapore by cargo barge, organised by a travel agent.

How To Travel Around Australia

Australia is huge but sparsely populated, and you can sometimes be on the road for many hours before you find the next trace of civilisation, especially if you leave the south-eastern coastal fringe.

Almost all modern Australian maps, including street directories, use the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) as a grid reference, which is virtually identical to the WGS84 used by GPS. You can locate most things on an Australian map or street directory if you only have “GPS coordinates”.

Quarantine

There are restrictions on the transport of fruit and vegetables (including honey) between states and even between regions within states engaged in fruit production. If you are travelling long distances by car or between states, or if you are travelling by air between states, you should not stock up on fruit and vegetables.

Get Around - By car

Australia has a generally well-developed network of roads and highways, and cars are a commonly used mode of transport. Most state capitals are connected by good quality highways. Some parts are two-lane, but many sections are single-lane in each direction. Large areas have two-lane paved roads, but occasionally there are unpaved roads or even poorly maintained paths. Distances and speeds are given in kilometres and fuel is sold by the litre. Outside the urban areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, there are no tolls on roads or bridges.

Australia drives on the left-hand side. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right should be careful when driving for the first time, as well as when driving on country roads with little traffic.

As a rule, foreign driving licences are valid for driving in Australia for three months after arrival. If the licence is not in English, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in addition to the licence. Licensing requirements and traffic laws vary slightly from state to state.

Australia’s low population density and size mean long car journeys between major centres. Here are some approximate driving times, excluding rest periods:

  • From Sydney to Melbourne by car: 9-10 hours (900 km / 560 mi)
  • Brisbane to Sydney: 12-13 hours (1,000 km / 620 mi)
  • Perth to Sydney: 45 hours (4,000 km)
  • Sydney to Canberra: 3.5 hours (300 km / 185 mi)
  • From Adelaide to Melbourne: 8 to 10 hours (750 km / 465 mi)
  • From Brisbane to Melbourne: 19-20 hours (1,700 km)
  • From Melbourne to Perth: 40 hours (3,500 km)
  • From Perth to Adelaide: 32 hours (2,700 km / 1,677 mi)
  • From Brisbane to Cairns: 22-24 hours (1,700 km)

It is almost impossible to predict the journey time just by knowing the distance. Ask your neighbours for advice on the best route and time. It is possible to achieve an average speed of 100 km/h or more on some relatively low-traffic roads if they are straight and there are few towns. On other motorways that cross mountain ranges and pass through small towns, even an average of 60 km/h can be a challenge.

Although the main roads are well maintained, anyone leaving paved roads in the Australian outback is advised to check with local authorities, check weather and road conditions and carry sufficient fuel, spares, spare tyres, matches, food and water. On some remote roads, one car per month or less can be seen.

There is no mobile phone reception outside the major motorways and cities, and you will need to take certain precautions in case of an emergency. It is a good idea to inform someone you know and trust of your itinerary and instruct them to alert the authorities if you do not report within a reasonable time of your expected arrival at your destination. Carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or satellite phone should be considered when travelling in remote areas, especially if you are unable to make contact for several days. The police will not automatically start looking for you if you do not turn up. Make sure you get one with a built-in GPS. You can rent them from some local police stations, for example in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. If you want to rent one, make sure you get one before you leave a big city, as you won’t find rental spaces in small towns. Expect to pay about $100 for a week’s rental or $700 for a week’s purchase. Do not expect an immediate bailout, even if you take out a PLB.

Heat and dehydration can kill you at any time of year. If you get stuck, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Don’t take this advice lightly; even locals die on the spot if their car breaks down and they are not reported missing. If you have to leave your car (say you break down and need to be picked up by a vehicle), call the local police station quickly to avoid the embarrassment and expense of a search being initiated for you.

Get Around - Car rental

In Australia’s major cities, there are a number of outlets offering a wide range of rental vehicles from leading international rental companies. In smaller towns it can be difficult to find a rental car. One-way charges often apply in smaller regional outlets.

Contractual restrictions
Rental vehicle conditions generally apply to travel to or from Western Australia and the Northern Territory or on ferries to Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and Fraser Island. Rental cars in capital cities usually have unlimited mileage. In small towns, they usually cover only 100 km per day before an extra charge is made. Some companies allow driving on all gazetted roads, while others prohibit driving on gravel or dirt roads unless you hire a four-wheel drive vehicle. Always check the vehicle carefully for damage, including to windows and roof parts, and document any damage in detail with the hirer before leaving the depot.

You must have an English driving licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country to drive anywhere in Australia. Check the terms and conditions carefully if you are under 25 years of age and make sure your licence category matches the vehicle you wish to hire before booking.

Companies include Redspot, Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, Thrifty, Aries and Bayswater.

The small cars you can rent can be manual (stick-shift), while the larger cars are usually automatic.

If you don’t have an Australian driver’s licence, some car rental companies will ask you to take a free tourist driver’s test, which covers basic traffic rules, or take you on a short drive to see if you are competent to drive.

Get Around - Campervans

campervan is a vehicle converted into a camper (recreational vehicle), usually a minivan, that accommodates the large number of young European and American backpackers who traverse the country. The east coast, from Sydney to Cairns, is particularly rich in happy and hungover young people travelling in these vehicles.

Britz and Maui tend to operate in the high-end segment of the motorhome market, while competition is fierce in the low-end segment: the largest operators include JucyRentals, Hippie Camper and Spaceships.

The equipment and quality of the motorhomes varies considerably. Some are equipped with showers, toilets, kitchens and other facilities, while others have little more than mattresses in the rear. It is usually suitable for 2-6 people, depending on the size of the vehicle. Check the surcharges very carefully and make sure you are not paying the same or more for a lower quality vehicle.

Don’t think that hiring a campervan is a cheaper way to see Australia. Fuel costs vary greatly depending on where you are. Fuel costs in the Australian outback are much higher than in urban areas. Add in the cost of car hire etc. and travel and hostel accommodation is often cheaper and more comfortable – but the freedom on your own four wheels can make up for it.

Get Around - Buy a car

There is a large second-hand market for cars and campervans for walkers who want to make long trips to Australia. Take common sense precautions when buying a car. Remember the importance of a full mechanical checklist, driver’s licence, registration and insurance. Government benefits are available free of charge to ensure it is not burdened with a financial package and has not already been written off in an accident.

  • Travelling Car Barn
  • Gumtree provides a guide for backpackers to buying motorhomes in Australia. It also lists vehicles for sale privately and from dealers.
  • VINNER REVS Check by entering a vehicle identification number (VIN). A VINNER REVS Check report tells you if a car is in debt or if it has already been written off or stolen. You can check the VIN, VIN and VIN number and it works for most states and terrorists, including New South Wales, Quebec, Colombia and West Africa.
  • Redbook is an Australian authority responsible for setting car prices. Find the market price of any vehicle.

Get Around - By taxi

In big cities, taxi services are quite expensive. Uber is available here (with the usual controversies), as well as smartphone apps like myDriverGoCatch, which can be extremely useful to find a licensed taxi when there is none on the street.

If you are travelling alone, it is usual for a passenger to sit in the front passenger seat next to the driver and not in the back seat. But if you prefer to sit in the back seat, that’s no problem.

Get Around - By plane

Due to the long distances involved, air travel is a popular mode of transport in Australia. Flights along the main business travel corridor (Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane) are operated almost like a bus service, with departures every 15 minutes during the day.

The best fares are almost always on the most competitive routes, while routes to remote destinations with fewer flights tend to be more expensive. It should be noted that Qantas often offers competitive fares, so don’t ignore this option just because it’s the national carrier. There are only a handful of major airlines in Australia, so it won’t take long to compare prices for domestic routes:

  • Qantas, the only full-service national airline serving major cities and some key regional cities;
  • Virgin Australia, a national airline serving major cities and some larger regional cities;
  • Jetstar, the discount arm of Qantas, with limited service and assigned seats.
  • Tigerair Australia, Virgin Australia’s low-cost airline, whose hub is in Melbourne and which flies to Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Alice Springs, Hobart, Mackay, Perth and Canberra, has very reasonable prices.

Several airlines serve regional destinations. Expect discounts to be harder to get on these airlines and standard fares to be higher than what you would pay for the same distance between major centres.

  • Qantaslink, the regional branch of Qantas covering small towns in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia;
  • Regional Express, which covers the major cities on the east coast as well as South Australia;
  • Skywest, which covers the Western Australia, Bali and Darwin region;
  • Airnorth, which covers the Northern Territory;
  • SkytransAirlines, which covers the Queensland region.
  • Sharp Airlines, which covers several regional cities in Victoria and South Australia.

Charters

Scheduled air services serve only a handful of the thousands of airports in Australia. There are many opportunities to charter aircraft that can take you directly to small country towns or even offshore islands. Costs can be comparable to scheduled airlines when 3 or more people fly as a group. The Australian Private Pilot Licence allows private pilots to carry passengers and recover the cost of the aircraft and fuel from passengers, but not to solicit passengers or operate commercial flights. That said, if you check the websites of local flying clubs, you will see that there are always private pilots willing to fly a nice weekend if someone is willing to pay for the cost of the aircraft and fuel.

Get Around - By train

Visitors from countries with well-developed long-distance transport systems, such as Europe and Japan, may be surprised to learn that there are no high-speed trains in Australia. A historical lack of interstate cooperation, combined with considerable distances and a relatively small population to serve, has meant that Australia has a relatively slow national rail network, used mainly for freight. Nevertheless, inter-city rail journeys can be very scenic and offer the opportunity to discover new aspects of the country. They are also a cost-effective way to travel to regional cities, which are usually more expensive than flights between national capitals.

Existing long-distance trains are mainly used to connect regional communities with the state capital, such as Bendigo in Melbourne or Cairns in Brisbane. In Queensland, a high-speed train connects Brisbane with Rockhampton and Brisbane with Cairns. Queensland also offers passenger services to inland centres including Longreach (The Spirit of the Outback), Mount Isa (The Inlander), Charleville (The Westlander) and Forsayth (The Savannahlander). There are also inter-city train services operated by Great Southern Railways on the Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan) routes; however, as mentioned above, these are not ‘high speed’ services, so if you don’t like train travel as part of your holiday, this is probably not for you.

There is no passenger rail service in Tasmania. The Northern Territory has only the Darwin to Adelaide railway line, which passes through Alice Springs, and the Australian Capital Territory has a single railway station near the centre of Canberra.

Long-distance train operator

  • Great Southern Railways – Private rail operator running tourist train services, the Ghan, Indian Pacific and overland routes between Sydney, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin, Perth and Melbourne.
  • NSWTrainlinkRegional – Connects Sydney with Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, with regional services to most New South Wales cities, including Dubbo, Coffs Harbour and Wagga Wagga.
  • V/Line – train and bus services within Victoria, including combined train and bus services between Melbourne and Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra.
  • Queensland Rail -Traveltrain – Long Distance Passenger Train Service in Queensland
  • TheSavannahlander – A Queenstrain service connecting Cairns with the hinterland town of Forsayth, using old heritage trains and offering accommodation and sightseeing along the route.
  • TransWA – a state government-owned company that operates rail services to Kalgoorlie and Bunbury. TransWA also operates bus services in large parts of the state where rail services have operated in the past, particularly in the south-western part of the state.

Rail passes

No rail pass includes all train travel throughout Australia. However, if you are a train lover and plan to travel a lot by train, there are passes that can save you money. Plan your trip carefully before investing in a rail pass. Rural trains are rare and can arrive at regional destinations at uncivilised times.

  • Fit. Use all NSW Trainlink services (trains and buses). You can travel anywhere in NSW, but also north to Brisbane and south to Melbourne.

There are four passes that include all Great Southern Railways (GSR) services and optionally NSW Trainlink and Queensland Rail services, which are only available to overseas travellers. Remember that NSW Trainlink operates the XPT services from Sydney to Melbourne, so passes that include NSW Trainlink can also be used for this service.

  1. Rail Explorer Pass- GSR only ($450 for 3 months)
  2. Trans Aus – GSR + NSW Countrylink. ($598 for 3 months)
  3. From Reef and Outback – GSR + Queensland Rail. ($672 for 3 months)
  4. AusrailPass – GSR + NSW Countrylink + Queensland Rail ($722.00 for 3 months, $990.00 for 6 months)

Public transport

Trains and buses are integrated into the city’s public transport system in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Wollongong and Newcastle. Trams also run in Melbourne and Adelaide, and ferries in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In the other capital cities, there are only bus services. For more details on public transport, see the city guide articles.

There are local bus services in some regional towns, but check guidebooks for connections as frequency can be low and services may not be available at weekends and in the evenings.

Get Around - By motorail

On some trains you can transport your car on special trolleys attached to the rear of the train.

With the Ghan and Indian Pacific you can transport cars between Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth and Darwin. You cannot pick up your car at any of the intermediate stations.

There are no more car transport services in Queensland.

Get Around - By bus

Bus transport in Australia is cheap and convenient, although the distances on the interstate routes are impressive. Greyhound has the largest network of bus routes. Note that there is no bus service from other capital cities to Perth.

  • Firefly Express1300 730 740 (local rate), +61 3 8318 0318 (international calls), email: [email protected] Firefly Express operates services between Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
  • Greyhound, 1300 473 946 (local rate), email: [email protected] Greyhound travels to more than 1,100 destinations in Australia every day of the year. A range of ticket options are available, allowing you to travel at your own pace and hop on and off as often as your ticket allows.
  • Murrays, +61 13 22 51, email: [email protected] Murrays offers connections from Canberra to Sydney, the south coast of New South Wales and the Snowfields.

Get Around - By boat

Many major Australian cities have ferries as part of their public transport system. Some smaller roads in regional areas still have poles to take cars across rivers and canals. The Barrier Reef Islands are regularly visited and some cruises also cross the tip of Australia.

However, large ferry connections between the cities are not common.

  • The Spirit ofTasmania. The only long-distance ferry line connecting Tasmania with the mainland, it carries cars and passengers daily by road across Bass Strait between Melbourne and Devonport.
  • Sealink connects Kangaroo Island, the second largest island in South Australia, with regular car ferries.
  • Sea Saturday offers a shortcut across Spencer Gulf between Adelaide and the Eyre Peninsula, with daily car ferry services.

Get Around - By thumb

Hitchhiking is legal in some Australian states, provided certain guidelines are followed. However, the practice is less common than in neighbouring New Zealand. In Australia, hitchhiking is often frowned upon by residents and police, especially in urban areas.

Hitchhiking is illegal in Victoria and Queensland. It is also illegal to stand or walk on highways (often called “motorways” in New South Wales) in all states (which actually makes hitchhiking illegal in many convenient locations in all states).

If you are forced to hitchhike due to an emergency, you may find a motorist willing to give you a lift to the nearest town for help. (Many major motorways and interurban roads have emergency call boxes where you can request help).

It is common to see a tourist hitchhiking in rural areas. The best time to hitchhike is early in the morning. The best place is near the main exit of the town you are in, but not on it.

Get Around - By bicycle

Long cycling distances between cities are not common in Australia, and most Australian trunk roads are poorly equipped for cyclists. In some states, old railway lines have been converted to railways. The Rail Trail Australia website has good material on routes off the main highways that are much safer.

Nevertheless, some intrepid travellers manage to cover the longest distances by bike and experience Australia differently. Long-distance cyclists can be found on the Nullarbor and other remote roads.

Long-distance cycling routes have been developed in Western Australia that are well worth exploring.

Journeys and itineraries need to be carefully planned to ensure that the necessary supplies are transported.

Cycling between Sydney and Brisbane takes 2 to 3 weeks at about 80 to 100 km per day.

Get Around - Hiking

Walking is the only way to discover certain landscapes in some parts of Australia. In Tasmania, the Central Highland Overland Track and the South Coast Track are good examples of things to do on a walking holiday. The Bicentennial National Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the world and stretches from Cooktown in North Queensland to Healesville.

Destinations in Australia

Regions in Australia

  • New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory (NSW) & (ACT)
    Australia’s most populous state also has the largest city, Sydney, and surrounds the purpose-built capital, Canberra. The coast of New South Wales is lined with coastal communities; further inland are the Blue and Snowy Mountains; still further inland, agricultural plains give way to desert.
  • Northern Territory (NT)
    From the red deserts around Uluru and Alice Springs to the tropics of Darwin and Kakadu National Park, the Northern Territory is stunningly beautiful and easier to get to than you might think.
  • Queensland (QLD)
    Famous for its warm and sunny climate, Queensland offers coastal explorations from the ambience of the Gold Coast to the tropics of the Great Barrier Reef and the bustling city of Brisbane. It is also home to the tropical rainforests of the Daintree National Park and the seaside resorts of the Whitsundays. Inland are the mountain ranges of the hinterland and further out the vastness and beauty of the Australian outback.
  • South Australia (SA)
    Known for the fine wines of the Barossa Valley, the beauty of the Flinders Range and hinterland, and the events and culture of the church city of Adelaide.
  • Tasmania (TAS)
    Separated from the mainland by Bass Strait, the mountainous state of Tasmania offers the rugged beauty of Cradle Mountain to the west, beaches to the east and wilderness to the south. Hobart was the site of the second European settlement in Australia, and many historic sites are well preserved.
  • Victoria (VIC)
    Small, vibrant and offering something for everyone, Victoria has spectacular surf beaches along the southwest and central coasts, lush farmland and photogenic national parks. Melbourne is Australia and Victoria’s capital for sport, shopping, fashion and food.
  • Western Australia (WA)
    A huge state. The southwest contains the state capital and the main city of Perth. The wine-growing and tourist towns of Margaret River and Albany are focused on the southern region. In the far north are the tropics and the seaside resort of Broome. Small towns, truck stops, mining communities and national parks are scattered over long distances.

Islands in Australia

Tasmania is the most important island in Australia. Among other things:

  • Lord Howe’s Island – A showcase of nature, just a two-hour flight from Sydney.
  • Norfolk Island – Halfway to New Zealand, with nature and beaches.
  • Christmas Island – Famous for the migration of red crabs. Flights from Perth and Kuala Lumpur.
  • Cocos Islands – Inhabited coral atoll accessible by flights from Perth.
  • Torres Strait Islands – Indigenous culture between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, requiring permission from traditional owners to visit. Flights from Cairns.
  • Ashmore and Cartier Islands – uninhabited islands.
  • Coral Sea Islands – largely uninhabited islands.
  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands – uninhabited islands located more than 4000 km from the Australian continent.
  • Macquarie Island – An Australian base halfway to Antarctica.
  • Rottnest Island – Rottnest Island, located opposite Fremantle off the coast of Western Australia, is a Class A reserve with 63 beaches and 20 bays.
  • King Island – in Bass Strait, above Tasmania.

Cities in Australia

  • Canberra – Australia’s relatively small, specially designed national capital Canberra is home to many museums
  • Adelaide – South Australia’s “City of Churches”, a relaxed alternative to the big cities of the East
  • Brisbane – capital of sunny Queensland and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches
  • Cairns – gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Daintree National Park and many beautiful beaches and resorts; a great place to escape and relax
  • Darwin – the tropical capital of northern Australia, at the tip of the Northern Territory
  • Hobart – picturesque and tranquil capital of Tasmania, site of Australia’s second largest prison colony
  • Melbourne – Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne is the sporting, commercial, gastronomic and cultural capital of the country and is considered the most European city in Australia.
  • Perth – the most remote mainland city on earth on the south-western edge of Western Australia
  • Sydney – Australia’s oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour and natural beauty.

Other destinations in Australia

  • Blue Mountains – a mountainous region in New South Wales, including the natural element of the Three Sisters.
  • The Dandenong Mountain Ranges – these beautiful ranges offer world-class gardens and picturesque villages
  • Great Barrier Reef – discover this natural wonder off the Queensland coast and easily accessible from Cairns
  • Great Ocean Road – a spectacular coastal road in Victoria, passing many picturesque icons, including the “Twelve Apostles” rocks standing in the sea.
  • Kakadu National Park – Outback Adventure Tours, Aboriginal Culture and Nature Activities in the Northern Territory
  • Nitmiluk National Park – includes the incredible Katherine Gorge near the town of Katherine
  • Snow-capped mountains – almost entirely protected in national parks and home to a number of ski resorts
  • Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast – playgrounds by the sea and in national parks north and south of Brisbane
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – Uluru (also called Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) are emblematic rock formations of the “Red Centre” in the middle of the Australian desert.
  • Watarrka National Park – best known for Kings Canyon, a mighty gorge up to 270 metres deep.

Accommodation & Hotels in Australia

Accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and destinations. Like everything else in Australia, it is the most expensive by international standards.

Hotels in Australia

All state capitals have a number of 4- or 5-star hotels, often with restaurants, bars, room service and other high-end amenities. Other 2- or 3-star hotels are scattered in the city centres and suburbs. It’s best to check local guidebooks and magazines to find out what to expect. Most hotels offer internet access, but usually at a high price. Most hotels (as opposed to country inns that call themselves hotels) have en-suite bathrooms. It is not uncommon for all facilities to be exhausted during major events in cities such as Melbourne and Adelaide.

Camping in Australia

Camping is a popular pastime. Most caravan parks rent out overnight pitches where you can pitch your tent, and these pitches are available in most towns. The caravan park provides showers and toilets, and sometimes washing and cooking facilities. Sometimes for an extra charge. It costs about $20 for a tent pitch and a few dollars per person. You can even find caravan parks on the beach, with swimming pools and playgrounds in the lagoon, all free for guests.

National parks often offer free campsites, so you have more self-care. There are often washrooms and sometimes cold showers. Camping permits are sometimes required in the busiest parks, and some popular sites fill up during the summer holidays. In Australia, it is common to be within an hour’s drive of a national park or recreation area where you can camp in some form, even in capital cities. You should expect to pay around $5 to $10 per person per night for a camping permit, as well as entrance fees at the most popular national parks (e.g. Wilsons Promontory National Park, Kosciuszko National Park, etc.), but entrance and camping are free at most national parks further away from population and tourist centres.

Some other campsites are managed by the government or even local owners. Depending on the time of year, you should expect to pay about $10 per person per night.

You can try your luck by sleeping on a beach or pitching a tent at a motorway service area, or by going into the bush and looking for a free bed. Most rest areas and beaches prohibit camping and many even prohibit overnight parking to discourage camping. In general, the closer you are to civilisation or a tourist area, the more likely you are to be harassed by the authorities.

It is often better to camp in state forests than in national parks if you prefer camping to sightseeing, as you are allowed to collect your own firewood (sometimes tree cutting is allowed depending on the area) and camping is not restricted to campsites. Other activities that are generally allowed in state forests and not allowed in national parks are: bringing dogs/pets, open fires, motorbikes and four-wheel drive. State forests are typically free to access, but you must check locally if public access is allowed.

Youth hostels and hikers in Australia

The price for budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often dormitories is around $20-30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and storage space for food. Most hostels also have a living room equipped with sofas, dining tables and TVs.

There are several backpacker hostel chains in Australia. If you spend many nights in a hostel of the same brand, consider their discount cards, which usually offer a loyalty bonus on accommodation and other discounts on attractions and tours negotiated by the chain.

Pubs hostels in Australia

Most pubs in Australia offer some form of accommodation. These can range from very basic, shabby rooms to recently refurbished shops. The price is usually a good reflection of what you will find. It is still quite rare to have your own bathroom, even in the nicest pubs.

Outside the major centres, the pub is called a hotel. A motel does not have a public bar. A motel that has a bar is called a hotel/motel.

In very small towns, local pubs are the only ones that offer accommodation to travellers. Accommodation in these pubs is usually budget accommodation, with shared bathrooms but private rooms.

It’s even possible to stay in a pub in central Sydney so you can return to your room after a beer.

If you are travelling alone and want a private room, pubs usually offer single rooms at a reduced price compared to a double room. Most motels charge the same price for one or two people sharing a room.

Motels in Australia

Motel-type accommodation usually has a private room with one or more beds and its own shower and toilet. Many motels have family rooms, usually with a double bed and two single beds in the same room.

Motel rooms in cities usually cost from $80. Usually the cost is the same for one or two adults, with each additional person paying extra. Prices for additional children can range from free to $20 per child. During quiet periods, it is not uncommon for motels to offer discounts for waiting rooms.

Most motels serve a cooked or continental breakfast in your room in the morning for an extra charge. Some have a restaurant or serve dinner. Some have a toaster in the room and kettles are widely available.

Cabins

Cabins are an inexpensive way for families to stay overnight on the road. Sometimes built on private land, sometimes in caravan parks, cabins usually have a kitchen/living area and one, two or three bedrooms.

Stay on the farm

As the name suggests, this is usually a cabin or dwelling on a working property. This accommodation is suitable for a stay of two days or more and usually allows you to get a little involved in the management of the farm if you wish. It is customary for dinner to be served on the farm and breakfast to be served in your cabin.

Holiday home

Holiday homes are houses rented out by their owners, often through local estate agents or specialised websites. They are sometimes in prime locations, but sometimes in residential areas of towns and villages. The minimum rental period is usually two days, but can be up to a week at peak times. There is at least one bedroom, a living room and a bathroom.

Bed and breakfast

Bed-and-breakfasts are generally a premium form of accommodation in Australia, often focused on weekend couples. They certainly don’t offer the form of discounted accommodation that some parts of the UK do, and the local motel is usually cheaper.

Sometimes additional rooms in a person’s house, but often a purpose-built building. You can expect a comfortable and well-maintained room, a common room and a cooked breakfast. Possibly private facilities. Significant discounts on guest rooms are often offered for mid-week stays.

Resorts

There are many real resorts all over Australia. Many have lagoon pools, tennis, golf, kids clubs and other organised activities. The Whitsundays offer a choice of resorts, some of which take up entire islands. Port Douglas also has many world-class resorts.

Caravans, motorhomes, campers and recreational vehicles

Most Australian cities have caravan parks that offer pitches with or without electricity for caravans. You will often see the Grey Nomad Brigade travelling around Australia in campervans and caravans.

The motorhome has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camper lifestyle, whether for weekends or for a longer trip into the wilderness where there are no facilities. You need to be self-sufficient and carry appropriate spare parts and a good tool kit.

Station Wagon / Vans

In most parts of Australia it is illegal to sleep in your vehicle. However, this can be circumvented by simply putting curtains on the windows so that no one can see inside from the outside. It is possible to trade in a van for as little as $1,000, with a more reliable van fetching no more than $3,000 to $4,000. Add a mattress, pillow, portable gas cooker, cooking utensils and a 20-litre water tank and you’re on your way. If you get caught, the fine can be up to $150 per person, so do it at your own risk. But if you’re strategic about where you go, you probably won’t get caught. Just be sensible and don’t harass the locals. Also be aware of parking restrictions in some parts of the city, although overnight parking restrictions are rare. Parking inspectors can be ruthless and it is not uncommon to be fined more than $100.

All Australian cities have free public toilets. Many parks and most beaches also have free electric barbecues. Popular beaches have freshwater showers to wash off after swimming in the salt water. For those on a tight budget (or for those who just like waking up on the beach), just wash in the sea (please don’t pollute the sea or waterways with detergents or soaps) and rinse in the showers. Almost all taps in Australia are drinking water, those that are not are marked. Petrol stations (petrol/gas) almost always have water taps, so it’s a good place to fill up with water every time you fill up.

Some of the best experiences you can have in Australia are to take the road on the map that looks like it leads to a beach, a bay, a waterfall or a mountain and follow it. You may find paradise and not another soul in sight. And if you are lucky, you will have a bed, food and water with you.

Travelling in a small group reduces fuel costs per person as this is likely to be your biggest expense.

Appreciate and respect the earth by taking your waste/bottles/cigarette butts and disposing of them properly.

Things To See in Australia

Wildlife

Australia’s flora and fauna are unique to the island continent, the result of millions of years of isolation from the rest of the world. Australian animals include a large group of marsupials (pocket mammals) and monotremes (egg-laying mammals). The kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala are just a few of Australia’s animal icons. A visit to Australia would not be complete without the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.

Nature parks and zoos

  • Wildlife parks and zoos can be found in every state capital, but you can also visit the zoos if you’re passing through smaller towns like Mildura or Mogo, or if you’re staying on Hamilton Island. Visit the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary if you’re in South Australia, or see the world’s most beautiful koalas at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

In the wild

  • Kangaroos and wallabies can be found in national parks all over Australia. You won’t see kangaroos on the streets of central Sydney, but they are common in the outskirts of most urban areas.
  • Wombats and echidnas are also common, but harder to find due to their camouflage and presence in tunnels. You can see many echidnas on Kangaroo Island.
  • Koalas are native to the forests of Australia, but they are notoriously difficult to spot. If you look up through the branches of trees, they are usually lying on a tree root. Mostly you see them during the day, but there is a thriving and friendly population on Raymond Island, near Paynesville in Victoria. You have good chances on the Otway Coast on the Great Ocean Road, or also in the Walking National Park near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
  • Emus are more common in central Australia. You are sure to see them if you venture into the Outback National Park in Currawinya.
  • Platypuses can be found in reedy creeks on the gentle banks of the Victoria River, in southern New South Wales and the very southern part of Queensland – they can be seen at dusk and dawn – you have to be lucky to see one. Try the platypus reserves at Bombala or Delegate in New South Wales or Emu Creek in Skipton, near Ballarat.

Convict sites

For much of Australia’s modern history, the United Kingdom was a penal colony for condemned prisoners, and there are many historic sites that still commemorate the time when condemned prisoners were transported. Perhaps the most famous of these sites are Port Arthur in Tasmania and Fremantle Prison in Fremantle, near Perth, Western Australia. There are also many other sites scattered around the country.

Landmarks

Australia has many landmarks that are famous around the world. From Uluru, the Red Centre, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Sport

Sport is an integral part of Australian culture, from the capital to the countryside. This is evidenced by the fact that despite its relatively small population, Australia is one of the top performing teams at the Olympic Games. Most of the games take place on weekends (Friday night to Monday night). Australian sports fans are generally well behaved and it is not uncommon for fans of two opposing teams to sit together during a match, even if the teams are bitter rivals. While cheering can get really passionate, actual crowd violence is extremely rare.

  • In winter in the state of Victoria, Australian football (Aussie Rules, or simply “footy” in some areas) is more than a sport, it’s a way of life. Watch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Although it originated and is popular in Victoria, the main national competition, the Australian Football League (AFL), features teams from Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast. The AFL Grand Final, held annually at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in late September or early October, is one of the most important events in the Australian sporting calendar.
  • International cricket is played in the summer between Australia and at least two touring teams. The matches revolve around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game, check out the 5-day New Year’s Eve Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground from 2 January or the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne. Or for a livelier and more entertaining form that only lasts a couple of hours, try a Twenty-two-a-side match. The final form is One Day Cricket, international matches usually start at 1pm and finish at 10pm or 11pm (a ‘day-nighter’), with most domestic and occasionally international matches being played from 11am to 6pm. The Australia Day One Day International is held every 26 January in Adelaide. The Ashes is a series of five Test matches played between the Australian and British national teams. It takes place in Australia every three or four years and is one of the highlights of the cricket calendar. Whenever Australia hosts the series, the five matches take place in the five largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
  • The Australian Open, one of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments, is held every year at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
  • Attend a Union Super Rugby match featuring teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in late summer/autumn. The Australian national team, the Wallabies, also hosts international teams including New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina for the Rugby Championship (formerly the Three Nations Tournament) in the winter.
  • Rugby League is a winter game played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League (NRL) being the main competition. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, one team from New Zealand, with the remaining teams coming from the Sydney suburbs and some from regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra. The competition culminates in the NRL Grand Final, held annually at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
  • Netball is Australia’s biggest women’s sport and there are weekly matches in an international competition between teams from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Football is a booming sport that aspires to European levels. Many immigrants and second-generation Australians come from European countries where the passion for the sport is very strong. The Australian national team (the Socceroos) won the Asian Cup for the first time in 2015 and has greatly increased the visibility of the sport. There is a national A-League, a fully professional league with teams from Australia and New Zealand, with weekly matches during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional “state league” played in the winter. Most clubs are built around a specific ethnic/migrant community, for example one club from the Newcastle League, Broadmeadow Magic, built around the cities’ Macedonian population.
  • F1 Grand Prix The Melbourne Grand Prix in March is held on a road course around Lake Albert Park, just a few kilometres south of Melbourne city centre. It is used every year as the circuit for the Australian Grand Prix and associated companion races.
  • V8 Supercars are a popular, Australian-only form of motorsport featuring powerful cars, comparable to NASCAR racing in the United States. Races are held around the country between March and early December. The famous Bathurst 1000 traditionally takes place in October.

Things To Do in Australia

Swimming

  • in the surf. Australia has seemingly endless sandy beaches. Follow the crowds at Sydney’s world-famous Bondi Beach or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. You can also get there on your own (but beware of dangerous beach rips, it’s much safer to find a supervised beach). The surf is smaller and warmer in the tropical north where the reef breaks the swell, and bigger and colder in the south with waves coming off the Southern Ocean. (And yes, in the middle, that’s quite normal).
  • in the calm tropical oceans. Cable Beach in Broome is tidal every day, the sand is perfect and the water is warm – go there in winter.
  • in the thermal pools. South of Darwin there are many natural thermal pools like Berry Springs and Mataranka, surrounded by palm trees and tropical foliage. The most expensive resort in the world could not dream of building such a good pool.
  • in freshwater lakes. Inland Australia tends to be dry, but there are freshwater lakes where you’d least expect them. Explore inland from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands, or drive to Currawinya National Park.
  • in the rivers. If it is hot and there is water, there will be a place to swim. Wherever you are, just ask for your favourite swimming spot, with a watering hole and a rope to swing on.
  • in artificial pools. In the country towns of New South Wales and Victoria, the local swimming pool is often the centre of community life on a summer Sunday. In many suburbs of Sydney and Newcastle, artificial stone or concrete pools called “baths” allow people to swim by the sea.
  • on the beach! Find a spot by the water and get out the towel. The tropical north in winter, the south in summer. As always in Australia, protect yourself from the sun.

Diving

  • Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef on the Queensland coast or the Ningaloo Reef off the coast of Western Australia. You can also take a trip to Julian Rocks off Byron Bay or simply dive from the beach to see Bundaberg’s tropical fish.
  • Scuba diving

Sport

  • Golf
  • Climbing
  • Mountain bike. Try the trails of the Snowy Mountains or Black Mountain in Canberra or bike for days on the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike Trail in Western Australia.
  • Horseback riding. The horse has a rich tradition in colonising Australia since the arrival of the first European settlers. Relying on the horse to cover Australia’s vast distances and challenging environments has been the basis for a strong and enduring relationship between Australians and their horses. Today, equestrianism in Australia encompasses a wide range of recreational and professional activities, from extensive cattle ranching in large resorts to the multi-million dollar racing industry. On the outskirts of cities and in the rural countryside, you will see the many pony paddocks and popular horses that demonstrate the enduring passion and commitment of Australian horse owners for their horses and the joy they bring.

Surfing

If you think Australia is the most populated and remote place in the world to go to escape all traces of human contact, just find a good surf break in the most remote corner of Australia and you are guaranteed to find someone surfing there. Australians love to surf and wherever there is surfing, there are Australian surfers, at all times and in all conditions. Virtually every coastline, with the exception of the area between upper Cairns and Karatha, has surfing and the surfers are there to practice it.

Sensational activities

  • Sky Diving, around Australia
  • Ballooning, in Canberra, Brisbane or the Red Centre.
  • Kitesurfing and Windsurfing in and around Geraldton, Western Australia and Coronation Beach, the Australian Kitesurfing and Windsurfing Capital.

Gamble

They say if two flies crawl along a wall, you only have to look around to find the Australian who will direct a book.

  • Casinos. The Crown Casino in Melbourne is the largest in Australia and is located in Southbank, but there are others scattered around the capital cities, as well as in Cairns, Launceston, the Gold Coast and Townsville.
  • Day at the races. Horse races are held every weekend in all the capitals, with betting on and off the track. These are mostly family occasions where fashion and being seen are part of the fun. Almost every pub in New South Wales has a TAB where you can bet without leaving your chair at the bar. Greyhound racing and harness racing take place in the evening, usually with a smaller crowd, more beer and less fashion. Smaller country towns hold racing events every two or three months or even every year. These are real events for local communities that allow you to see how small towns come alive. Head to the outback to watch the Birdsville races, or if you find the streets deserted, it’s probably 3.10pm on the first Tuesday in November (the Melbourne Cup).
  • The unusual. Lizards, toads, camels, crabs. Betting on these races is completely illegal and you will find TIB (Totally Illegal Betting) at the back of the shed.
  • There are two above. If you’re in the area on Anzac Day (25 April), betting on the coins being tossed in the air will take place at your local RSL club, wherever you are.
  • Australia has almost a quarter of the world’s gaming machines (locally called “pokies” or “poker machines”), and more than half of them are in New South Wales, where most pubs and clubs have gaming rooms (called “VIP lounges” for legal reasons) where you can “get drunk” and go to the movies.
  • If none of this appeals to you and you just have too much money in your pocket, there is a TAB in every city and suburb in Australia. Choose your sport, pick a winner and hand over your money at the ATM.

Gambling is illegal for persons under the age of 18. This can often restrict children’s access to certain parts of pubs, clubs and casinos.

Food & Drinks in Australia

Food in Australia

Places to eat

  • Australians often eat out in restaurants, and even in small towns you can usually find one or two options to eat out, with more choice in larger cities.
  • BYO restaurants, BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many urban communities in Australia you will find small, cheap restaurants that are not allowed to serve alcohol, but allow customers to bring their own bottle of wine bought elsewhere. This is often much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine from a restaurant. Some BYO restaurants allow beer to be brought in, while others only allow wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee, which can range from $2 to $15 or is charged per head. In restaurants licensed to sell alcohol, BYO is generally not allowed.
  • Pubs, lunch at the bar is the term for a lunch served in a pub bar. Traditionally it is only served in the lounge at lunchtime. Today, most pubs offer lunch and dinner and many have a separate bistro or restaurant. Steak, chicken parmigiana, nachos are common.
  • Clubs, such as bowling clubs, leagues, RSLs, are found in many cities. They are more common in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Most of them welcome visitors and sometimes offer cheap meals. Some offer attractive locations, such as the water view of the twin towns of Tweed Heads.
  • Cafés, most towns and suburbs have a café or coffee shop that serves breakfast and light meals and cakes all day. It is not unusual for them to close before dinner.
  • Bakeries, usually a good place to buy rolls, cakes or sausage sandwiches. Some, like the bakery in Beechworth or the bakery in the historic district of Gundagai, also offer an experience.
  • Fast food, McDonalds, Subway and KFC are widely available. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s. Red Rooster is an Australian chain that offers grilled chicken and other chicken products.
  • Milk bars or take-out shops usually sell pies, grilled (fried) chicken, hamburgers, fried fish, gyros and kebabs. Ubiquitous in all cities and suburbs.
  • Most shopping centres have food courts, even in country towns.
  • For picnicking, the Australian climate is generally great for eating as much as possible and heading to the nearest park, river, lake or beach.
  • Barbecuing is a popular pastime in Australia and many Australian parks offer free barbecues for public use. Contrary to the stereotype, Australians rarely throw a prawn on the barbie (in Australia, a prawn is more commonly referred to as a shrimp). Steaks, chops, sausages, chicken fillets, fish and skewers are popular on the barbecue.

Local food in Australia

It can be disappointing to find that local food is not really offered in Australian restaurants and Australians themselves rarely consider it. They are available in supermarkets and in some remote parts of the country.

  • Kangaroo, if you fancy it, is available in most supermarkets and butchers. Go to the nearest park and grill it until it is perfectly cooked. It is best not to overcook it as it can become very tough. It tastes like beef. It is sometimes on restaurant menus, especially in tourist areas. Kangaroos are not threatened with extinction, and kangaroo grazing causes much less damage to the fragile Australian environment than ungulates, as well as much less carbon emissions. If you’re not ready to become a vegetarian, kangaroos are the best environmental statement you can make at a barbecue.
  • Crocodile meat, sourced from farms in the Northern Territory and Queensland, is available upmarket and sometimes elsewhere. In Rockhampton, the capital of Australian beef, you can see the ancient reptile on a farm while eating a crocodile.
  • Emu, yes, you can eat the emblem of Australia. Emu is low in fat and is available in some specialised butcher shops. Try the emblem in a pie in Maleny or on a pizza in The Rocks.
  • On many tours you will have the opportunity to sample the Bush Tucker, the berries, nuts, roots, ants and worms of the native Australian bush. Macadamia nuts are the only plant native to Australia that is grown commercially for food. Try other bush foods and you’ll find out why.

Beyond cuisine

Vegemite, a spread made from salted yeast that is best spread in a thin layer on toast. If you’re not prepared to buy a tin, Vegemite on toast is available in every coffee at breakfast time. It may not even be on the menu, but the Vegemite will be at the very back of the jar next to the jam. If you buy a jar, the secret is to spread it very thinly and don’t forget the butter. The taste is similar to marmalade in the UK or Cenovis in Switzerland. Australians are used to this taste and can spread Vegemite very thickly, but this is not recommended for beginners.

The Tim-Tam is a chocolate sandwich filled with two chocolate biscuits, all dipped in chocolate. You can buy a packet (or two) at any supermarket or convenience store. The Tim-Tams are needed to perform the Tim-Tam slamming manoeuvre. This involves biting both ends of the Tim-Tam and then using it as a straw to drink your favourite hot drink, usually coffee. The hot drink melts the caramel in the centre, creating an experience that is difficult to describe. It takes finesse to suck the entire biscuit into your mouth in the microseconds between complete satiation and dissolution. Tim-Tams are sold in packs of 11. So be sure to agree on the split before buying a pack with your travel partner, otherwise travel arrangements may be disrupted. In summer, Tim-Tams are often stored in the freezer and eaten cold.

Lamington is a sponge cake cube covered in chocolate icing and dipped in desiccated coconut. It is named after Lord Lamington, who was Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. You can find this homemade cake at a local market on Saturday mornings or, if you’re desperate, you can buy one at a bakery. Be sure to avoid the plastic-wrapped varieties sold in supermarkets.

Pavlova is a meringue cake with a cream filling, usually decorated with fresh fruit. It is served on special occasions or after a barbecue at lunchtime. There is often a dispute with New Zealand about the original origin of the recipe.

ANZAC biscuits are a mixture of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and golden syrup. They are thought to have been sent in care packages to World War I soldiers by wives and care organisations, but the story is probably apocryphal. They are available in bakeries, cafés and supermarkets and are very popular as ANZAC Day (25 April) approaches.

Damper is a traditional soda bread baked by drovers and shepherds. It contains basic ingredients (flour, water and possibly salt) and is usually baked in the embers of a fire. It is not available in bakeries and is usually only served to tourists on organised tours. It is best eaten with butter and jam or golden syrup, as it is dry and bland.

pastry is a South Australian dish available around Adelaide. It is a pie turned over in a bowl of thick, frothy pea soup. Variations of similar pies are sometimes available in other regions.

chiko roll is a deep-fried snack inspired by the egg roll or spring roll. Despite its name, it does not contain chicken. Its filling is boneless mutton, vegetables, rice, barley and spices. Its shell is thicker than that of an egg roll to withstand handling at football matches. Available wherever you can buy fish and chips.

The Australian meat pie is considered by many to be the national dish.

Other cuisines

Common cuisines in Australia, often prepared by members of the culture concerned, are

  • Australia’s British colonial heritage is perhaps best represented by the ubiquity of ‘fish and chips’, and virtually every neighbourhood and small town in a coastal area will have a local fish shop. Common types of fish used in Australia include flake (various types of small shark), bullhead fish, barramundi and King George whiting. British and Irish style pubs are common in all populated areas of Australia, although they serve Australian staples such as chicken parmesan, schnitzel and pasta.
  • Chinese, synonymous in earlier generations with the term “takeaway”. Many Chinese restaurants still offer takeaway food, mainly of the Australian Chinese variety, but in the major cities there are small “Chinatowns” or suburbs with large numbers of ethnic Chinese residents that have excellent restaurants serving authentic Chinese food. Dim sum in Cantonese is available in speciality restaurants in most major shopping centres.
  • The number of Thai restaurants has exploded in the last decade. Sydney in particular is known as one of the world’s best destinations for Thai cuisine.
  • The Italian community is one of the largest ethnic communities of non-Anglo-Saxon origin in Australia and has contributed much to the coffee culture that has developed in major cities in recent decades. Restaurants serve either Italian cuisine tailored to Australian tastes or authentic regional Italian cuisine, the latter tending to be more expensive and upscale. If you’re a fan, head to Lygon Street in Melbourne or Leichhardt in Sydney.
  • Greek, as above.
  • Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East, including Sydney.
  • Indian, mainly North Indian.
  • Japanese, including takeaway bento shops, udon restaurants and sushi trains. They are often run by Koreans, whose own cuisine is also well represented in the big cities.
  • The Vietnamese, Pho and Cha Gio (spring rolls) are easy to find in the big cities.
  • Asian fusion, generally refers to Asian-inspired dishes.

Vegetarian

Vegetarian food is quite common in Australia and many restaurants offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes. Some have a whole vegetarian menu section. Vegans may have more difficulty, but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu should offer some flexibility. You will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the larger towns, as well as in the walker-friendly coastal towns along the east coast. The town of Kuranda or the coastal towns of Byron Bay are a vegetarian paradise. In other areas, vegetarians are often poorly served, but most towns have a Chinese restaurant serving rice and steamed vegetables. Sydney and Melbourne in particular welcome vegans and vegetarians with a large number of vegetarian-only restaurants, vegan clothing shops and vegan supermarkets.

Religious regimes

Those who follow kosher or halal cuisine can easily find specialised butchers in the main cities and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the main cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in a strictly religious way.

Markets

Every capital city and many regional towns in Australia have a “farmers’ market”, which is usually held weekly at a specific location on Saturdays or Sundays. These markets mainly sell fresh fruit and vegetables, as Australian hygiene standards prohibit the sale of meat directly from market stalls. Butchers who set up shop at a farmers’ market usually exchange their wares from a display case in their boot. The attraction of the markets is the lower prices and the freshness of the produce. The attraction for the traveller is the cheap and excellent range of fruit – depending on the region and season. In the regions, the market usually takes place outside the city itself, in an empty paddock or sports field. Markets in the main towns are easier to get to, but prices are usually closer to those in supermarkets. For more details, see the destination guides.

Drinks in Australia

Beer

The consumption of beer is rooted in Australian culture. Although Fosters is advertised abroad as Australian beer, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia and is almost impossible to find. Beers are very regional and each state has its own breweries: Coopers and West End in South Australia, Carlton and VB in Victoria, Tooheys in NSW, XXXX (pronounced “fourex”) in Queensland, Boags and Cascade in Tasmania and Swan in Western Australia. There is also a selection of local microbreweries that may be harder to find, but are often worth seeking out. A selection of bottled beers imported from Europe and America is available in all but the most basic pubs.

Light beer (Lite) refers to beer with a low alcohol content, not a low calorie content. It contains about half the alcohol of full beer and is taxed at a lower rate, which means it is also cheaper than full beer. Low-calorie beer is sold as low-carbohydrate beer.

Australians like to keep their beer cold when drinking, so draft beer glasses come in a variety of sizes so you can drink a whole glass before it gets warm in the summer heat. Beer glass names vary from state to state, often in confusing ways: a schooner is 425 ml everywhere except South Australia, where it’s only 285 ml, a size known elsewhere as a middy or pott, except in Darwin, where it’s a handful, but in Adelaide a “pott” means a whole pint of 570 ml, and a pint means what is a schooner elsewhere, and…. You get the idea. Local beers and local descriptions are covered in detail in the country guides.

Bottle designation is a little simpler: standard sizes in Australia are the 375 ml stubby and the 750 ml long neck, or tallie. Beer cans are called tins and 24 of them form a platecase, box or crate.

Wine

Australia produces quality wine on a truly industrial scale, with major multinational brands supplying Australian bottlers and exporting around the world. There are also a large number of boutique wineries and small suppliers. Very good red and white wines can be bought in Australia at very low prices, often under $10 a bottle, and even the smallest shop can expect to have a selection of 50 or more varieties.

The Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley and Margaret River areas are particularly well known for their vineyards and cellar door tasting opportunities, but there’s also plenty of variety in northern Victoria and Mudgee. Throughout South Australia, you are never too far from a wine route.

Taste local wines wherever you can find them and ask for local recommendations. Don’t be fooled by the label or the price. The best wine is rarely the one with the best design or the highest price. However, it is probably advisable to avoid homemade wine if it comes straight from a barrel (4 litre container). Wines at the cellar door are almost invariably sold at a premium of about 20% over the same wine in the city’s shops.

If you still prefer wines from overseas, New Zealand’s Marlborough region is generally well represented on wine lists and in bottle shops in Australia.

Spirits

Bundaberg (Bundy) Rum is an Australian black rum that is particularly popular in Queensland and many Queenslanders won’t touch any other brand of rum. It is probably Australia’s best-known alcohol, mass-produced in Bundaberg and available everywhere.

You’ll have to look much further to find other Australian distilled spirits, mainly from niche suppliers, but there are distilleries in all Australian states if you look hard enough. Visit the Lark Distillery, located in Hobart’s picturesque waterfront. Grab a bottle of 151 East Vodka in Wollongong, or after a few days in Kununurra, you’ll definitely need an Ord River Rum.

Mixed drinks are also available, especially blends of vodka, scotch, bourbon and other whiskies. Spirits are also available in pre-mixed bottles and cans, but are subject to higher taxation in this form, so it is cheaper to mix them yourself. Spirits are served in all pubs and bars, but not in all restaurants. A simple spirit and mixer (e.g. vodka and orange juice) costs about $7 in a bar or nightclub, but can range from $5 to $12.

The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18. It is illegal to either buy alcohol for yourself if you are under 18, or to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. The only legally acceptable proof of age is an Australian driver’s licence, government-issued proof of age or passport, and it is advisable to carry one if you wish to purchase alcohol or tobacco and are under 25. It is illegal to enter a pub or club where gambling is taking place if you are under 18.

Often a pub or club will have a lounge, restaurant or bistro where minors are allowed, as long as they are accompanied by a responsible adult over the age of 18 and are not at the bar or out for a walk. Some city pubs even have video games and play areas for children. Some country pubs have large open areas in the back where children can run and play.

Generally, you can take alcohol (e.g. a bottle of wine or beer) to drink in a park or on the beach. In some public places, drinking alcohol is prohibited under the term “street drinking”. These are often marked with signs, especially in parks and on footpaths where public drunkenness is a problem. However, if you are out as a family with your picnic basket and stock up on a bottle of wine at lunchtime, you are unlikely to have any problems.

Alcohol can only be purchased for consumption in licensed places: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can buy alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate shops that sell alcohol in bottles. In some states, but not all, you can buy alcohol in supermarkets. In states where this is not possible, bottle shops and large supermarkets are often very close to each other. Although laws and opening hours vary from state to state, and shops have different opening hours, alcohol is generally available for takeaway in towns and cities from 8am to 11pm seven days a week in bottle shops, supermarkets, convenience stores/milk bars and licensed pubs. Outside these hours, however, it is almost impossible to buy takeaway alcohol; unless you are in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne. So if you’re planning to party at home, it’s a good idea to stock up and check local opening hours so you don’t run out of booze at 12.30am with no way to top up. Alcohol is not available at petrol stations and 24-hour shops across Australia.

Public drunkenness is more or less acceptable. You will certainly find a lot of it around pubs and clubs at night, but much less during the day. Public drunkenness is a criminal offence, but you only risk being arrested by the police if you cause a nuisance. You can spend the night in a remand cell to sober up or be charged.

In Australia, drink driving is both stigmatised and controlled by police patrols conducting random breath tests, and is inherently dangerous. Drink driving is a very serious offence in Australia, punishable by a number of mechanisms, including loss of licence. The maximum permissible blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or prohibited for drivers of heavy vehicles and young or inexperienced drivers. Police officers are also authorised to randomly test drivers for recent use of prohibited drugs. Driving a motor vehicle under the influence of prohibited drugs or alcohol always results in an arrest and a mandatory court appearance several weeks after the date of arrest and can completely disrupt travel plans. Random breath tests are common early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and many people are arrested the next morning.

A shout

In Australia, as in many parts of the world, it is customary to buy a round of drinks. It is generally expected that when you arrive at a pub and do your first pub crawl, you will offer to buy a drink for the people you are drinking with. Similarly, it is likely that you will do this when someone else joins the group. This is called a ‘shout’ and involves a commitment to return the favour on a subsequent tour and to maintain the same drinking rhythm as your colleagues on the tour throughout the evening. If someone on the same tour as you has an empty glass of the drinks you bought in front of them, you must explain that this is your shout and go to the bar. If someone offers to buy you a drink but does not offer for the person who has already bought you a drink, you must say that you are already shouting and refuse.

If this person offers you a drink and the people who are with you, they have joined the conversation. It is not usually polite to move from one offer to another during an evening. If you shout and refuse a drink, you will still have to pay for a drink in the round when it is your turn. If you wish to skip a round, it is advisable to do so while shouting. It is generally frowned upon to buy a round and then refuse a drink when it is bought for you. Often the drink is simply bought for you without you asking for it. Don’t be surprised if someone who offered you a drink earlier in the night tells you later that it’s your turn. In some groups it can be embarrassing not to join a call. It is best to say you are driving and get your own drinks. This is also an acceptable way to give up after a round if the score is tied.

Money & Shopping in Australia

The Australian currency

The Australian currency is known as the dollar ($), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). The dollar is called the “Australian dollar” and is usually written “AUD” or A$.

The coins are available in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 1 and the lowercase $2. They are quite similar in size and shape to the coin issues in the United Kingdom. The notes are available in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 (all in different colours). $100 notes are rare and can sometimes be difficult to use in shops. Australian banknotes are printed on plastic polymer rather than paper. If the total amount of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents, the amount will be rounded up to the nearest 5 cents when you pay in cash. If you pay by card, the exact amount will be debited.

The dollar is not pegged to any other currency and is widely traded on the world’s foreign exchange markets, especially by currency speculators. Its exchange rate against other currencies can be quite volatile, and fluctuations of 1 to 2% in a day are fairly regular.

Currency exchange

In Australia, money changers operate on an open market and charge a range of fixed commissions, percentage fees, undisclosed fees embedded in the exchange rate, or a combination of all three. You can avoid fraudulent rates by using banks in major centres and avoiding airports and tourist spots. However, the best and worst rates come from small private sellers, and you can certainly save money on banks by shopping around. Always ask for a quote before exchanging money. You usually need to carry photo ID, although you may be exempt if you are only changing a small amount.

Specialist bureaux de change are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. These bureaux de change – especially those at the airport – can charge 10 per cent more than the best exchange rate you get when shopping. Australian banks usually offer an exchange rate of about 2.5 per cent above the current average rate. In addition, a flat fee of $5 to $8 may be charged. Some outlets advertise a commission-free exchange, usually with a less favourable exchange rate. Do not assume that all banks offer the same exchange rate. A simple calculation will show you which is the best offer for the amount you want to exchange. Commission-free exchange vouchers from American Express can be found in the Sydney Airport Tourist Brochure.

Terminals at international airports will be equipped with ATMs that can dispense Australian currency using Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa cards.

Banking

Opening an Australian bank account is relatively easy and in some cases can be done online. In order for your application to be processed, you will need to provide the bank with proof of identity, such as a passport. The largest retail banks in Australia are National Australia Bank (NAB)Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank and Westpac.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) can be found in almost all Australian cities. Australian ATMs are deregulated and may charge a surcharge on top of the fees charged by your bank or card issuer. Fees can vary from facility to facility and location to location, but are generally in the range of $2. The ATM will display the fee and you will have the option to stop the transaction before you are charged. Check with your bank to see what additional fees they charge for withdrawals in Australia.

Costs

Australia is generally an expensive country. In some recent surveys, Australia is ranked as the third most expensive country in the world in terms of consumer prices, just behind Norway and Switzerland.

Dormitories in the capital cities cost around $30, but in Cairns or cheaper backpacker centres they can cost as little as $15. A basic motel in the countryside or on the outskirts of the capital would cost around $100 for a double room. In the main cities, accommodation in a city centre hotel costs about $150 for a double room. Formula 1/Motel 6 type hotels (which are not common) can cost around $60-90 for a double room.

Renting a car costs about $65 per day. Public transport tickets cost between $10 and $20 per day, depending on the city.

A meal in a café costs around 10 to 15 dollars, a main course in a restaurant starts at around 17 dollars.

A simple takeaway meal – a hamburger, a fancy sandwich or a couple of slices of pizza – would cost $5 to $10, a Big Mac $4.50 and you can usually get a pie for about $3 or a sausage roll for $2.50. A Pizza Hut takeaway pizza big enough for two people costs about $10.

A middy/jug (285 ml) of home-made beer costs about $4, a glass of home-made wine about $6 at a cheap pub. Takeaway: A case of 24 cans of beer costs about $40, a bottle of wine about $8.

A plane ticket between the neighbouring eastern capitals costs about $120 each way, but can cost up to $60 if you book at the right time, or about $350 to cross the country, provided you are flexible about dates and book in advance. A train ride on the national railway usually costs a little less. A bus ride, a little less still. A train ride on private trains is the most expensive way to travel.

Access to beaches and city parks is usually free. Some popular national parks charge between $10 and $20 per day (per car or per person, depending on the state), while other, more remote national parks are free. Art galleries and some attractions are free. Museums usually charge about $10 per entry. Theme parks cost about $70 per person.

Tax

Australia has a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is levied on all goods and services except unprocessed food, education and medical services. GST is always included in the price of a consumer purchase. Receipts (tax invoices) include the amount of GST.

Refund scheme for tourists

If you buy goods worth more than $300 at one place and time, you can get a refund of GST if you take them out of Australia within 60 days. Make sure you get a tax invoice from the supplier (showing details of the goods, the GST paid and the supplier’s NBA). Pack the items in your hand luggage and present the item(s) and receipt to TRS after immigration and security screening when you leave Australia. Also, allow at least 30 minutes extra time before departure and, if possible, enter the details online before you arrive at the airport. Refunds can be made either by cheque, credit to an Australian bank account or by payment to a credit card. There are no refunds of GST on services. Remember that goods are now considered duty free and you will have to pay GST on these goods if you bring them back to Australia and they exceed your duty free allowance.

Credit cards

Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all major retailers such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many small shops. Australian debit cards can also be used through a system called EFTPOS. Any card that carries the Cirrus or Maestro logo can be used at any terminal with these logos. VISA or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted cards, followed by American Express and then Diners Club with other cards never or very rarely accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted in larger supermarket chains and department stores.

Smaller shops may have a minimum purchase amount to use a credit or debit card because they have fixed transaction costs. Others may simply discourage the use of cards for small purchases.

All cards issued in Australia use a PIN code for purchases. If you have a foreign-issued card without a PIN, you can still sign for purchases, but merchants who are not used to dealing with foreign-issued cards may not be aware of this. If you can, try to have a PIN on your card if your bank allows it. Otherwise, in places where a PIN is expected, you may have to explain that you have a card from abroad – and wait for them to find a pen.

Credit card surcharges are applied at all car rental agencies, travel agencies, airlines and at some discount stores and petrol stations. Surcharges are much more frequent and higher for American Express and Diners Club (typically 2-4%) than for VISA and MasterCard (typically 1.5%).

UnionPay credit cards are increasingly common in tourist shops and restaurants due to the growing number of Chinese visitors. However, it is difficult to use them in other businesses.

Haggling

Negotiation is rare in Australian shops, although sellers are usually willing to match or beat an offer or advertised price from a competing retailer. It is also worth asking for a ‘better price’ for higher value goods or for purchases involving multiple items. For example, it is not uncommon to get a 10% discount on a piece of jewellery that has not yet been discounted. The person you are dealing with may have limited authority to sell items at a price other than the stated price.

Tipping

Tipping is never compulsory and is generally not expected in Australia. Staff are paid a reasonable salary and will certainly not sue you for a tip. It is acceptable to pay only the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it is often about leaving change from a cash payment (usually for convenience, so the change doesn’t drag on the person – not as a tip), rather than a fixed percentage.

In upscale restaurants, the staff will certainly accept a tip if you choose to leave one, but it is not expected and locals usually leave none. In a more informal café or restaurant, even with table service, and even in tourist places, it is unusual to tip. Sometimes the cashier will have a coin jar marked “tip”, but most of the time customers don’t leave one. Bartenders rarely receive a tip.

Other types of hotel employees, including hotel staff, porters and tour guides, do not expect to receive tips.

Taxis also do not tip, and drivers usually bring change down to the last 5 cents unless you tell them to round up to the nearest dollar (it is not uncommon for passengers to ask the driver to round up to the nearest dollar).

In Australia, it is generally illegal to tip gaming staff in casinos as this is considered corruption. Similarly, tipping government officials is generally construed as bribery and can be considered a criminal offence.

Operating hours

Australian base operating hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. In most cities, shops are open until 9pm on Fridays, and on Thursdays in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Sunday shopping is common but not available in all rural areas. Opening hours beyond these basic hours vary by shop type, location and state. Check our local guides for more detailed information.

Large supermarket chains in major centres are usually open at least until 9pm (and often until midnight) on weekdays, but usually have reduced opening hours at weekends. Convenience stores like 7/11 are open 24 hours a day in major centres.

Fast food chains are usually open 24 hours a day, or at least very late. Many food courts in city centres usually close at 4pm and are completely closed on weekends when they cater to office workers, but other food courts in shopping centres have longer opening hours.

Petrol stations are open 24 hours a day in the big centres, but often close at 6 pm and on Sundays in the rural towns.

In Australia, the weekend is the Saturday and Sunday of every week. Retail is now almost universal in the major cities on weekends, albeit with slightly reduced opening hours. Again, Western Australia is the exception, with restrictions on department stores opening on Sundays. In small country towns, shops are closed on Sundays and often also on Saturday afternoons.

Cities and tourist shops can stay open longer. Tourist areas within cities, such as Darling Harbour in Sydney, have longer opening hours at night.

Australian banks are only open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and often close at 5pm on Fridays. Money is available 24 hours a day at automated teller machines (ATMs). Exchange offices have extended opening hours and are also open on weekends.

Festivals & Holidays in Australia

The national holidays in Australia are:

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day
  • 26 January: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the landing of the first fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788.
  • Easter weekend (“Good Friday”, “Easter Saturday”, “Easter Sunday” and “Easter Monday”): four-day weekend in March or April, set according to the Christian dates of the Occident.
  • 25 April: ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) in honour of military veterans.
  • Second Monday in June: Queen’s Birthday Celebration (celebrated in Western Australia in September, with WA celebrating Foundation Day a week earlier).
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
  • 26 December: Boxing Day

Many states celebrate Labour Day, but on different days. Most states have one or two additional public holidays, with Victoria and South Australia having a day off for horse racing (the Melbourne Cup and the Adelaide Cup). In Western Australia, Foundation Day is usually celebrated on the first Monday in June (in recognition of the founding of the state since 1829), but the Queen’s Birthday is also celebrated on a different date to the rest of the country, in late September or early October, as the usual date in June is so close to Foundation Day.

If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday (and Tuesday if applicable) is usually declared a public holiday instead, even though there are celebrations and shop closures on the same day. Most tourist attractions are closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Supermarkets and other shops may open for limited hours on certain public holidays and compensation days, but are almost always closed on Christmas Day (25 December), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and the morning of ANZAC Day.

Main holiday periods

Most attractions in Australia are open all year round, although some operate with reduced frequency or shorter opening hours in the low season.

Employed Australians have four weeks of annual leave and school children in major population centres have the month of January as a long break. Domestic tourism is strongest after Christmas and in January and during the Easter school holidays.

Summer is generally the peak travel season in much of the south, while winter (dry season) is the peak travel season in the tropics.

Australian teenagers celebrate the end of school in late November and early December during 3 weeks called “schoolies”. The number of teenage partygoers can completely change the character of some of the towns and villages they visit, especially in coastal towns such as Byron Bay in New South Wales, the Gold Coast in Queensland and various communities along the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.

Traditions & Customs in Australia

Unless you are actively trying to offend someone, it is unlikely that a traveller will insult or offend an Australian out of cultural ignorance.

Australian addressing patterns are usually familiar. It is acceptable and normal to use first names in all situations, even with people several years older than you. Many Australians like to use and give nicknames – even to new acquaintances. It is likely that such a name indicates that you are considered a friend and as such would rarely be condescending.

In Australia, it is generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing. Bikinis and swimming costumes are accepted on the beach, usually also at the kiosk on the other side of the beach. It is normal to wear at least a shirt and shoes before moving on. On most beaches, sunbathing is actually topless. Almost all women wear a top when walking in or near the water. There are a few beaches with optional clothing (topless), usually a little further away from residential areas. G-string bikinis (more commonly called thong bikinis in Australia, as thongs refer to tap shoes) are appropriate for all beaches and some outdoor pools for both women and men, although they are not as common as regular beachwear. Some outdoor pools have “high standards” for women.

Cover up a little more when visiting places of worship such as churches. In hot weather, casual clothing such as T-shirts and shorts predominate, except in formal situations. Business attire, on the other hand, is a long-sleeved shirt, tie and long trousers for men, even in very hot weather.

Using stereotypical Australian expressions can be seen as an attempt to mock rather than communicate. If you are successful, you may even be able to crack a smile.

Australians often belittle themselves; however, it is impolite to agree with a self-deprecating remark. Bragging about one’s achievements is rarely well received.

Most Australians are happy to help a lost traveller find their way, but many city dwellers assume that someone saying “excuse me” is asking them for money and may pass them by. Looking lost, holding a map in your hand, looking like a backpacker or getting to your destination quickly will probably help.

Indigenous Australians

The Australian Aborigines probably came to Australia 50,000 years ago and now number more than half a million people. They have suffered significant discrimination over the years since Europeans took their traditional lands, and sensitivity must be shown at all times. Aboriginal people are in fact from many different “nations”, with different cultures and identities, speaking up to 250 different languages before the Europeans came.

Many areas of the indigenous territory are freely accessible. For some areas there is an Aboriginal request not to enter and you can choose whether or not to comply with this request. An example of an Aboriginal request is to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock). There is no law against climbing this rock (except in heat, rain or wind), but the local indigenous communities (the Anangu) ask that you do not climb it. Uluru is of great spiritual importance to the Anangu. The Anangu feel responsible if someone is killed or injured on their land (as has happened many times while climbing) and ask tourists not to endanger themselves by climbing. However, as many people who travel to Uluru climb, you will certainly not be alone if you choose to do so.

Some Aboriginal areas require approval or permission, and some areas are protected and access to them is illegal. It is advisable to check before planning a trip off the beaten track. Permits are usually only a formality for areas that are visited regularly or if you have another activity in the area you are travelling through. Often it is simply an agreement to respect the land you are travelling on as Aboriginal land. Some Aboriginal land councils make them available online.

If you must refer to race, the politically correct term is ‘indigenous Australians’Aboriginal people generally agree, and there is no harm in referring to sacred sites and land as Aboriginal sites or Aboriginal land. Avoid using Aboriginal or Indigenous to refer to a person, as some people see a negative connotation in these words. The abbreviation “Abo” is deeply offensive and should never be used. The word “Native” is also offensive.

Other aspects to consider when dealing with Indigenous Australians include

  • Australia Day is regarded by many Aborigines as Invasion Day.
  • It is better not to mention the name of a deceased person to an Aboriginal Australian. Although Aboriginal customs vary, it is best to avoid any possibility of offence.
  • Permission to photograph an indigenous person must always be obtained, but especially in the most remote areas like Arnhem Land. There is an old belief among them that the flash of a camera would steal their souls.

Gay and lesbian travelers

In Australia, the age of consent is set at 16 in all states except Tasmania and South Australia, where it is 17. Queensland prohibits “sodomy” for those under 18, but generally supports homosexuality. Although a strong majority of Australians support the legalization of same-sex marriage, current law does not yet allow it. Nonetheless, Australia officially recognizes a “de facto relationship” for same-sex couples equal to that of heterosexual couples – there is a special interdependent visa as a gay counterpart to the traditional marriage-based migration route.

Attitudes towards homosexuality are similar to those in most Western countries. Although central Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, caution is still advised in conservative, rural areas, especially in rural Queensland and the Northern Territory. Australia has banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and you may have legal options if you are discriminated against.

Sydney is Australia’s gay capital and hosts one of the world’s most famous gay pride festivals, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, every February and March. The festival culminates in a huge parade through Sydney’s city centre, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. Alice Springs celebrates the Alice Is Wonderland Festival, a gay and lesbian pride festival held in late April/early May. In Melbourne, an annual “Pride Walk” takes place on the first Sunday in February.

Culture Of Australia

Since 1788, the main influence on Australian culture has been Anglo-Celtic Western culture, with some Indigenous influences. The divergence and evolution that took place over the following centuries led to the emergence of a distinctive Australian culture. Since the mid-20th century, American popular culture has strongly influenced Australia, especially through television and film. Other cultural influences have come from neighbouring Asian countries and from massive immigration from non-English speaking nations.

Art in Australia

Australian Aboriginal rock art is the oldest and richest in the world. It dates back 60,000 years and encompasses hundreds of thousands of sites. Traditional motifs, patterns and stories permeate contemporary Indigenous Australian art, “the last great artistic movement of the 20th century”; Emily Kame Kngwarreye is one of them. In the first century of European colonisation, European-trained colonial artists showed a fascination for the unknown land. The naturalistic and sunny works of Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and other artists associated with the 19th century Heidelberg School – the first “quintessentially Australian” movement in Western art – gave rise to an emerging Australian nationalism in the pre-federation era. While the school remained influential in the new century, modernists such as Margaret Preston and later Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd explored new artistic trends. Landscape remained a central theme for Fred Williams, Brett Whiteley and other post-war artists whose works, eclectic in style but uniquely Australian, oscillated between figurative and abstract. The National Gallery of Australia and state galleries hold collections of Australian and international art. Australia has one of the highest per capita attendance rates at art galleries and museums in the world.

Australian literature developed slowly in the decades following European colonisation, although the oral traditions of the indigenous people, many of which have since been recorded in writing, are much older. 19th century writers such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson captured experiences in the bush with a distinctively Australian vocabulary. Their works are still very popular; Paterson’s bush poem “Waltzing Matilda” (1895) is considered Australia’s unofficial national anthem. Miles Franklin is the namesake of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, awarded annually to the best novel about Australian life. Its first winner, Patrick White, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. Australian Booker Prize winners include Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally and Richard Flanagan. Author David Malouf, playwright David Williamson and poet Les Murray are also well-known literary figures.

Many Australian performing arts companies receive funding from the Australian Council of the Federal Government. There is a symphony orchestra in every state and a national opera company, Opera Australia, known for its famous soprano Joan Sutherland. In the early 20th century, Nellie Melba was one of the world’s greatest opera singers. Ballet and dance are represented by the Australian Ballet and various state companies. Each state has a state-supported theatre company.

Media in Australia

The story of Kelly’s Strip (1906), the world’s first feature film, sparked a boom in Australian cinema during the silent era. After World War I, Hollywood monopolised the industry and by the 1960s Australian film production had virtually ceased. Thanks to government support, the Australian New Wave of the 1970s produced provocative and successful films, many of which dealt with themes of national identity, such as Wake in Fright and Gallipoli, while “Crocodile” Dundee and the Ozploitation movement’s Mad Max series became international blockbusters. In a film market flooded with foreign content, Australian films achieved a 7.7% share of the local box office in 2015. The AACTAs are the major awards for Australian film and television. Australian Oscar winners include Geoffrey Rush, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger.

Australia has two public broadcasters (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Multicultural Special Broadcasting Service), three commercial television networks, several pay-TV services and numerous non-profit public television and radio stations. Every major city has at least one daily newspaper, and there are two national dailies, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. In 2010, Australia ranked 18th on a list of 178 countries ranked by press freedom, behind New Zealand (8th) but ahead of the United Kingdom (19th) and the United States (20th). This relatively low ranking is mainly due to the limited diversity of commercial media ownership in Australia; most print media is controlled by News Corporation and Fairfax Media.

Cuisine in Australia

Most tribal groups of Indigenous Australians subsisted on native wildlife as simple hunter-gatherers, also known as bush tucker. Early settlers brought British food to the continent, much of which is now considered typical Australian food, such as Sunday roast. Multicultural immigration has transformed Australian cuisine; after World War II, European immigrants, especially from the Mediterranean, contributed to the rise of coffee culture in Australia, and the influence of Asian cultures has produced Australian variations on their staple foods, such as Chinese-inspired dim sim and chiko roll. Vegetables, pavlova, lamb and meat pies are considered iconic Australian foods. Australian wine is mainly produced in the southern and cooler parts of the country.

Sport and recreation in Australia

Approximately 24% of Australians over the age of 15 participate regularly in organised sporting activities. Internationally, Australia has excelled in the sports of cricket, hockey, netball, rugby league, swimming and rugby union. The majority of Australians live in the coastal zone, making the beach a popular recreational area and an integral part of the nation’s identity. Australia is a powerhouse when it comes to water sports, such as swimming and surfing. The surf lifesaving movement was born in Australia, and the volunteer lifeguard is one of the country’s icons. Other nationally popular sports include Australian football, horse racing, basketball, surfing, football and car racing. The annual Melbourne Cup horse race and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race attract a lot of interest.

Australia is one of only five nations to have participated in all the Summer Olympics in the modern era and has hosted the Games twice: in Melbourne in 1956 and in Sydney in 2000. Australia has also participated in all Commonwealth Games, hosting the event in 1938, 1962, 1982 and 2006, and will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Australia participated in the Pacific Games for the first time in 2015. In addition to regularly participating in the FIFA World Cup, Australia has won the OFC Nations Cup four times and the AFC Asian Cup once – the only country to have won championships in two different FIFA confederations.

The country regularly competes in the world’s elite basketball competitions and is one of the top three teams in the world when it comes to qualifying for the Summer Olympics basketball tournament. Other major international events held in Australia include the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament, international cricket matches and the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. Popular television programs include sports broadcasts such as the Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup, The Ashes, domestic rugby league and the National Rugby League and Australian Football League grand finals. Skiing in Australia began in the 1860s and snow sports are practised in the Australian Alps and parts of Tasmania.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Australia

Stay safe in Australia

Emergencies

The number 000 (also called “triple zero” or “triple oh”) can be dialed free of charge from any phone in Australia. This number will connect you to the police, fire, coastguard, or ambulance service after you have told the emergency call center which service you need.

If you want to contact these services but the situation is not urgent, do not call 000: You can call the police helpline on 131 444. The Poison Information Service, which also advises you on snake, spider, and insect bites, can be reached on 131 126. For information on the location of the nearest medical service, call 1800 022 222 (except in Tasmania).

If you need help in the event of a flood, storm, cyclone, tsunami, earthquake, or other natural disasters, you can contact the emergency service on 132.500 in any state (except the Northern Territory). You will be put in touch with your local unit and help can be organized from there. If the emergency is life-threatening, call Triple Zero instead.

You can dial 000 from any mobile phone. Mobile phones sold in Australia recognize this number as an emergency number and will use any available network to make the call. However, if you have a phone obtained outside Australia, it is best to use the universal emergency number 112. 112 uses any available network, works even if your phone is not roaming, and works even if the phone does not have a SIM card. 112 also works from phones purchased in Australia.

Those with hearing or speech impairments who have a TTY device can dial 106. Those who have an Internet connection can use the Internet Relay Service via the website.

Calls from landline phones can be traced so that emergency services can reach you. Emergency services have limited ability to trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, especially outside urban areas, so be calm and clear about your location. Due to the number sequence of emergency calls, approximately 60% of calls to emergency numbers are made in error.

No one is likely to answer your call if you cannot effectively tell the operator that you need help. If you need help but cannot speak, you will be directed to an IVR and will have to press 55 to confirm that you need help and have not called by mistake. Your call will then be connected to the police.

With the exception of 112 from a mobile phone, emergency numbers from other countries (e.g. 911) do not work in Australia.

Driving

Keep your wits about you. Tourists are far more likely to be killed or injured as a pedestrian, driver or passenger on Australian roads than all other causes of death and injury combined.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Most states use a prescribed blood alcohol standard to determine whether driving is punishable. The prescribed (legal) BAC ranges from zero to .05. Random breath tests are conducted to determine the presence of alcohol in the blood.

Australia is a huge country and driving between cities and towns can take longer than expected, especially if you are used to driving on motorways or motorways in Europe or North America. While the main roads are comparable to those overseas, you should be a little careful on secondary roads in rural areas. Speed limits vary by location, road and state. Avoid fatigue by not planning to drive too far in one day. The authorities strongly recommend taking a break (walking a little outside the vehicle) every two hours.

Driving between cities carries the risk of collision or accident due to wildlife avoidance. Kangaroos are used to being startled by cars and then surprisingly jumping in front of them. Be especially alert when crossing vegetation near roads and at dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active. Wildlife is generally not a problem in large urban areas (except in Canberra, where a number of parks provide ample habitat for kangaroos, which often cross main roads).

Australian city dwellers walk on the pavement, dodge cars and anticipate the sequence of traffic lights. Although most drivers stop at a red light, it is common to run the yellow light. It is therefore always advisable to make sure that traffic is stopped before you leave the pavement. It will take some time for right-turners to get used to looking in the right direction when crossing.

Beaches

Every year, about 10 to 20 foreign travelers drown in Australia. Most of these drownings occur on ocean beaches, where statistics show visitors are at much higher risk than locals.

Beachgoers must swim between the red and yellow flags that mark the patrolled areas. Beaches are not patrolled 24 hours a day or even all day. In most cases, local volunteer surf lifeguards or professional lifeguards are only available at certain times, on some beaches only at weekends and often only in summer. If the flags are not raised, there is no patrol. Many beaches in rural areas are not patrolled at all. If you decide to swim, be aware of the risks, check the conditions, stay at depth and do not swim alone.

Hard surfboards and other watercraft such as surf skis, kayaks etc. are not permitted between the red and yellow flags. These boats may only be used outside the blue flags “Surfcraft permitted”.

On the beaches of the Australian Ocean there are sometimes large tears that even the strongest swimmers cannot swim against. Tears are invisible channels of water that run down the beach. These channels drain the water that the surf waves bring to the shore. Swimmers can make mistakes when using these channels or areas as they can appear to be calm water and appear to be a more accessible area to swim. Problems occur when the swimmer tries to swim against the current back to shore or rips, quickly tires and eventually drowns. Rips are recognizable by one or more of these signs: a wavy appearance when the surrounding water is relatively calm; foam protruding above the rip area; brown, sand-coloured water; waves that continue to break on either side of the rip.

If you get into a skirmish on a patrolled beach, save your strength, swim or walk on the water and raise a hand. The surf lifeguards will come to you. Don’t wait until you are so tired that you can no longer swim. You will probably find that local swimmers or surfers will come to your aid just as quickly. Usually flags are placed where there are no tears, but this is not always the case because tears can move.

If you get into a fender bender on an unguarded beach, stay calm to save energy and swim parallel to the beach (not against the current). Most dykes are only a few metres wide and once you are out of the current you can swim or catch a wave to return to shore. Never swim alone. Don’t assume that with the right technique you will get out of any situation. In the waves at the bottom of the beach, it can be difficult to walk on the water as the waves crash against you every few seconds. If you haven’t seen this, it’s hard to comprehend how quickly a rip can carry you 50 meters out to sea and into much bigger waves. If you are at an unsupervised surf beach, be extremely careful and never go beyond your limits.

Beach signs often have a number or an alphanumeric code. This code can be passed on to the rescue services if necessary so that they can locate you quickly.

Crocodiles and jellyfish can be found on tropical beaches, depending on the season and region. Sharks are found on many Australian beaches. See the section below on dangerous creatures. Patrolled beaches monitor the sea for shark activity. If you hear a continuous siren, go to the beach and wave a red and white flag or hold it out of the tower to indicate you have seen a shark, then head towards the coast. As soon as the coast is clear, you will hear a short siren sound, which usually means you can safely return to the water.

Cyclones

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) occur in the tropics (the northern part) of Australia between November and April. You need to understand how a tropical cyclone can affect you during the tropical wet season. The effects of cyclones vary depending on their intensity and your proximity. Weak cyclones can cost you a day or two of your holiday because of rain and wind while you stay in your hotel, and within an hour’s drive of the centre of the cyclone the weather can still be fine. More severe tropical cyclones can be deadly for those who are not prepared and can force you to evacuate an area and seriously disrupt your travel plans. Even low intensity cyclones or tropical depressions can close roads for days or weeks in more remote areas.

On average, a city in the tropics experiences a tropical cyclone about every 30 years. The low population density in the north and northwest of Australia (where cyclones are most common) means that many cyclones pass by the coast without hitting cities.

However, if you are planning to travel to the tropics during hurricane season, you should be aware of and consult the weather bureau’s information page before you leave and keep an eye on this page during your trip to be alerted quickly to any problems that may arise.

Floods

In the tropical north, the rainy season falls in the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent flooding to these areas. It is not uncommon for some coastal areas to be cut off from the outside world for a day or two while the waters recede. This can be a good time to visit some of the well-populated and touristy areas, and except in the case of exceptionally severe flooding, you can always see the rushing waterfalls and other attractions that make this an interesting time to visit.

Floods in outback and inland Australia are rare and occur decades apart, so you would have no chance of encountering them. However, if you are planning a trip to the outback or inland and the area is flooded, you should reconsider your decision. The terrain is flat and it can take weeks for the water to drain and the area to become swampy. Insects and mosquitoes go crazy with all the fresh water gathering around them, and these things eat insecticide for breakfast and are always hungry. Roads are closed, which often increases travel time. Many attractions are often on a short stretch of dirt road off the main roads, and these sections become impassable even if the main road remains open. Plan to return in a few weeks and the country will still be green, the lakes and rivers will still be flowing and the birds will still be there.

The wettest time for the south of the country is generally around June, July and August. It is rare for there to be so much rain at one time that flooding occurs. The main cities are rarely, if ever, affected by flooding to any significant extent.

Fires

National parks and forested areas in southern Australia, including parts of major cities in close proximity to national parks and forests, can be at risk of wildfires in summer.

In case of extreme fire danger, the parks may be closed, especially the backcountry areas. Therefore, you need an alternative plan if you want to camp or hike in the parks during the summer. In the event of a fire in a park, the park is usually closed.

Whole rural towns can sometimes be evacuated if a bushfire threatens them. Often there is no sign of fire at the time of evacuation, but it is advisable to leave early as it is dangerous to evacuate through a fire front. The best advice is to move forward and not stand around and watch.

Ensure that fires you start are legal and under control. The fire brigade enforces a fire ban system during times of extreme fire danger. When a fire ban is in effect, all outdoor fires are prohibited. Most parks announce a ban and it is your responsibility to check the local fire danger level. There are fines or even jail sentences for fires that get out of control, not to mention the feeling that you may be responsible for any damage you cause to property, wildlife and people.

If you get caught in a bushfire, most fires pass quickly. You need to find shelter that will protect you from smoke and radiant heat. A house is best, then a car, then a clearing, cave or on the beach is the best place. Get everything you can wet. Stay on your stomach and cover your mouth. Cover yourself with non-flammable (wool) clothing or blankets and reduce skin directly exposed to the heat. If you have access to a tap, collect water early; do not rely on water pressure as you approach the fire front. Unless your holiday goes further than towns and beaches, this will not really affect you.

Water supply

Australia is a very dry country with large stretches of desert and can also get very hot.

If you are travelling in remote areas off paved roads, where the risk of being stuck for a week without seeing another vehicle is very real, it is essential that you have your own water supply (4 gal or 7 L per person per day). Don’t be misled by map markings such as “well”, “spring” or “reservoir” (or other markings indicating a body of water). Almost all are dry, and most inland lakes are dry salt marshes.

Many cities have water restrictions that limit the use of water for activities such as washing cars, watering gardens or public showers. It is common to see signs in homes asking visitors to limit how long they shower.

Poisonous and dangerous creatures

Although Australia is home to many of the world’s deadliest species of insects, reptiles and sea creatures, the traveller is unlikely to encounter them in an urban environment, and even in the bush these creatures usually try to avoid humans. The vast majority of deaths from stings and bites in Australia are due to allergic reactions to bees and wasps.

Some of the information about Australia’s dangerous wildlife is exaggerated, often joked about by Australians themselves. However, you should take warnings about jellyfish and crocodiles in the tropics seriously and keep your distance from snakes in national parks and bushland.

If you are travelling to rural areas, it is a good idea to carry basic first aid supplies, including compression bandages, and learn what to do after a snake or spider bite.

Snakes

Snakes are not common in urban areas of Australia, but they are common in grasslands, national parks and other bush areas. Snakes generally try to get as far away from you as possible. If you see a snake while walking, go around it or walk in the other direction. It is not advisable to walk blindly in areas with dense bushes and grass, as snakes can hide there. Most snakes are afraid of humans and are long gone before you have a chance to see them.

Never try to pick up a snake, even if you think it is a non-poisonous species. Most people who are bitten by snakes try to pick up the snake or kill the creature, or they accidentally step on one while walking.

There are some snakes in Australia that are deadly. Therefore, all snakes should be treated with respect and any snake bite should be treated urgently. Take a first aid kit suitable for snakebites with you when travelling off the beaten track. In case of a bite, immobilise the wound by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages and seek medical attention immediately. Do not clean the wound as poison residue may be tested to determine which antivenin to use. If you are in a remote area, send another person to help. The venom of some snakes (especially taipan) takes 15 minutes to take effect, but if the wound is immobilised immediately and you rest, the effect of the venom can be delayed by one to several hours. Multi-purpose anti-venom medications are available at most hospitals, containing anti-venom for all dangerous Australian snakes.

Spiders

It is common to see spiders in Australia and most of them will not hurt you. Wear gloves when gardening or handling dead leaves. Check or shake any clothes, shoes, etc. left outside before putting them on. Do not put your fingers under rocks or in tree holes where spiders may be. Some spiders are common in buildings and houses, including large, hairy hunting spiders, which are generally harmless and reduce other insect pests such as cockroaches. Large spider webs stretched between trees and occupied by garden or tarantula spiders are more of a nuisance than a hazard.

But some spiders are also very dangerous. The most poisonous spider in the world is the Sydney funnel-web spider, which can be found in and around Sydney and in eastern New South Wales – mostly under stones and dead leaves. The spider is up to 5 cm wide and usually black in colour. If you are in an area known for funnel-web spiders and you are bitten by what you think is a funnel-web spider, it is important that you go to hospital as soon as possible. The funnel web spider spends most of its time underground (it can usually only live for 30 minutes outside a damp hole) and it is therefore very unlikely that you will encounter one walking around.

The redback spider (usually easily recognised by a red spot on the abdomen) is common and after a bite it is important to see a doctor, even if it is not as urgent as with a funnel web spider. Redbacks usually hide in dark places and corners. It is very rare to see them indoors; however, they can hide in sheds, around outdoor tables and chairs, and under stones or other objects on the ground.

First aid treatment for spider bites may vary in Australia compared to other parts of the world. Always seek medical attention after a bite. If possible, try to identify the creature that bit you. Take a photo or capture it so the appropriate antivenom can be administered quickly. But do not risk being bitten again.

Jellyfish

Travellers to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or northern Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal jellyfish stings from box jellyfish when swimming in the sea between October and May. They are very difficult to spot and can be found in very shallow water. Jellyfish stings are “horrible” and often fatal. Immediate application of vinegar to the attached tentacles reduces the amount of venom injected, but immediate medical attention is required. The season of danger varies from place to place. Jellyfish are usually found near the coast as they breed in estuaries. They are not usually found on the Great Barrier Reef and many people swim on the reef without taking any precautions. Look for reliable local information. Some beach dwellers may be a little reckless in the face of danger.

The Irukandji are another species of tiny jellyfish (about the size of a fingernail) that live in the waters off northern Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific islands. They are also very difficult to see and can be dangerous, although stings are rare. Unlike the ear jellyfish, they are found on the reef. The first sting may go unnoticed. It is not known if they can be fatal, but they can certainly hospitalise a victim and cause extreme pain for several days. If you feel nausea or stabbing pain shortly after getting out of the water, seek medical attention.

A jellyfish stinger costs about $100 or can be rented for about $20 per week.

Blue-ringed octopus

The tiny blue-ringed octopus is found in the rocky basins off the Australian coast. Normally this creature has a dull, sandy-beige colour, but when threatened it has bright blue circles on its skin. The blue-ringed octopus is rare and shy. Avoid putting your hand under rocks or in crevices in rock pools or near the shore, as they like to hide there. Most locals do the same. It contains a potent, paralysing venom that can cause death if artificial respiration is not provided. In Australia’s history, there have only been two confirmed deaths from the blue-ringed octopus.

Crocodiles

Travellers to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or northern Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal attacks by saltwater crocodiles in northern waters and adjacent areas (ocean, estuaries and freshwater) between King Sound, Western Australia, and Rockhampton, Queensland. In these areas, saltwater crocodiles can grow up to 25 feet long and attack without warning in the water. Despite their name, they are found in both salt and fresh water. On land, crocodiles are generally immobile, but they have the ability to move in short bursts with extraordinary speed. There are relatively few injurious attacks – most attacks are fatal. Dangerous swimming areas usually have clear warning signs. You can only swim in inland waters in these areas if you are specifically told that they are safe. Since 1970, there has been about one crocodile attack on a human every year.

The small freshwater crocodile, unlike the saltwater crocodile, is shy and will avoid humans if possible. Freshwater crocodiles may attack to defend themselves or their eggs, or if startled. It can inflict a nasty bite, but this rarely leads to death in humans due to its small jaws and teeth.

Dangerous flora

Gympia (Dendrocnide moroides), also called Stinging Tree, is a stinging plant whose microscopic stinging hairs on the leaves and twigs can cause severe pain for several weeks. It is found mainly in north-eastern Queensland, especially in clearings in tropical forests. However, the Gympia shrub and other closely related stinging tree species (there are about five) are found in south-east Queensland and further south in eastern Australia. People who are in these areas are advised not to touch the plant under any circumstances.

Crime

The crime rate in Australia is roughly comparable to that in other First World countries: few travelers become victims of crime. You should take the usual precautions against pickpocketing, purse snatching and the like. Some areas of major cities are more dangerous after dark, but generally there are no dangerous areas to enter unless you are from the area.

Australian police are accessible and trustworthy and you should report assaults, robberies or other crimes to them as soon as possible.

There are two types of police in Australia: the state/territorial police and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Generally, you will only deal with the state police, with the AFP focusing on very specific government-related duties, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), where the AFP is the main police force. State police are responsible for enforcing local laws in their respective jurisdictions. Laws are enforced at the state level.

Under no circumstances should you offer a bribe or gratuity to an Australian police officer (or indeed any other government official such as a customs officer) as this is a criminal offence and the laws are enforced in this regard.

If you leave your car alone, make sure it is locked, the windows are rolled up and there is no obvious target for theft in the vehicle, as thieves often break windows to get at a phone, GPS device or bag that is visible in the car.

Racism

Racism is a sensitive issue in Australia. A history of state-sanctioned discrimination and racism dating back to the 20th century has given way to multiculturalism. Post-war European immigrants were joined by Asian and African immigrants in the late twentieth century. The law prevents discrimination on the basis of race, and it is rare for anyone to openly express aggression towards a racial group. On the surface, Australia is a multicultural and racially tolerant society.

Some expressions that are familiar to ethnic groups may not be considered offensive by the standards of some Australians. Terms such as yank, pom, paki and to a lesser extent wog are often used between friends of different races in informal conversations in the presence of those respective nationalities. Do not use colloquial racist terms yourself if you do not want to cause offence. Never call Aborigines “Abos” – it is a very offensive term that comes from Australia’s bad history with its First Peoples. If you are not ready for discussion, it may be best to avoid any discussion of race.

If you are (unfortunately) involved in an argument or conflict, it is possible that some people may choose a racist term if you are of a different race to them. If you have been called a ‘skip’, a term reserved for white Australians for racial abuse, and there are many others for other races. Either way, it’s best to walk away and ignore it. Unfortunately, some people have faced random incidents of racial abuse. If you are a victim, you can report it to the police and expect action to be taken. Call “000”. Fortunately, violent incidents are very rare.

There are anti-immigration and anti-multicultural groups operating on the fringes of Australian society. As a visitor, you are unlikely to come into contact with them. If it’s late at night in a pub and you start pushing people to express their racist views, the bets are off – be prepared for anything.

It is not offensive to use the term Aussie (Ozzie) to describe Australians, but it is not a term Australians generally use to identify themselves. They are more inclined to apply it to things (Australian rules etc) than to themselves. When the song “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi Oi Oi” is sung at an international sporting event, some Australians start shaking, others join in. This often depends on their own social status, drunkenness, or both. In addition, in areas of Australia where there is a racial divide, the terms “Aussie” and “Australian” can both be used as divisive terms to identify the racial origin. Be careful to use the terms “Aussie” and “Australian” when including Australians of any race.

Fraud

Attempts to scam tourists are not common in Australia; take the usual precautions, for example by doing a little research on your destination. There have been cases of criminals tampering with ATMs to block money or record card details for thieves. After using an ATM, check your transaction records to see if there are any strange transactions and contact the bank controlling the machine immediately if a transaction appears to be successful but the machine is not dispensing money to you. Always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN code to prevent fraud machines that have cameras from recording your PIN code.

Illegal drugs

Opium, heroin, amphetamines (speed), cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, marijuana, and hashish, among other drugs, are illegal to possess or sell in all Australian states. Trafficking offenses are punishable by long prison sentences and can even result in life imprisonment in serious cases. Australia shared information on drug trafficking with other countries, including those that used the death penalty.

Penalties for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana are generally lower than for other drugs and vary from state to state. In South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory, prison sentences do not apply to first-time offenders who use marijuana. In some states, on-the-spot fines can be imposed for small amounts of marijuana, while in other states a court appearance is still required. Foreigners should not expect any more lenient treatment from Australian police for drug offenses than they would receive on the premises. Driving under the influence of drugs is a serious offense and driving under the influence of drugs inevitably leads to arrest and prosecution, and even imprisonment in serious cases.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to bring illegal drugs, including marijuana, into Australia; this is strictly prohibited and punishable by long prison sentences of up to life, and customs officials often use dogs to sniff out drugs from the luggage of arriving passengers.

Australia’s proximity to Asia means that heroin is a much more common illicit drug than cocaine or crack. In some areas of major cities you need to be on the lookout for discarded needles; however, these are usually found in side streets and not in popular tourist areas.

Stay healthy in Australia

Skin

In Australian latitudes, sun exposure often leads to sunburn, and Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Sunburn can leave you feeling feverish and uncomfortable, and it can take a few days or weeks to heal, depending on the severity. This means that you cannot return to the sun until the sunburn has subsided. So sunburn on the first day of your beach holiday can significantly reduce the enjoyment of your trip. In Australia, it can take as little as 15 minutes to get sunburnt on a nice summer day, even in shaded outdoor areas. You should wear sunscreen (SPF 30+), clothing, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.

Reapply the sunscreen every 2-3 hours during the day as it disappears quickly when you sweat or swim. Make sure you cover all parts of your body. UV radiation in the middle of the day can be twice as high as in the early morning or late afternoon. Therefore, if possible, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. Daily UV forecasts are published online by the Meteorological Office.

If you are going to the beach, consider buying a solar tent (less than $20 at discount stores and hardware stores). Umbrellas are not usually available for hire on Australian beaches and are very exposed.

Food preparation

Australia has high standards of hygiene and restaurants must adhere to strict food preparation standards. Rates of food poisoning are comparable to other first world countries.

Water

Tap water in Australian cities is almost always safe to drink, and if not, it is labelled on the tap. The taste and hardness of tap water vary widely across the country. Bottled water is also available everywhere. It is a good idea to take water with you on hot days in urban areas, and it is a necessity if you are walking or driving outside the city. In locations where tap water is untreated, water purification tablets can be used as an alternative to boiling. When travelling long distances on roads with little traffic, be sure to carry drinking water. This is essential in hot regions and on unpaved roads or tracks. It is rare that not one person dies of thirst in the course of a year in the Australian hinterland. It is recommended to stay with the car in case of breakdown to provide shade and increase your chances of being found. Before travelling long-distance, seek advice on how to calculate the amount of water you will need for your planned trip and how to allow for breakdowns.

Vaccinations

There are no endemic communicable diseases in Australia that require non-standard vaccinations. Like many countries, Australia requires proof of yellow fever vaccination on entry if you have been in a country where there is a risk of infection within 6 days prior to arrival in Australia.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are present all year round in the tropics, and in southern regions even in summer. Window and door screens are common, and repellents are readily available. The Ross River virus is transmitted by mosquitoes in the tropics and can make you sick for a few weeks. Cases of dengue fever have occurred. Malaria is not present in Australia.

Medical care

As described above, 000 is the Australian Emergency Services number. In the event of a medical emergency, you should call this number and request an ambulance and, if necessary, other emergency services to take you there.

Australia has the highest medical standards in the world. In particular, it is possible to receive blood transfusions safely in Australia because donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis, and many other blood-borne diseases.

The population density in Australia is low and parts of the country are far from any medical facilities. Many of these areas are served by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Smaller towns with a population of 5,000 or more have a small hospital that can provide emergency care. Larger towns have a basic hospital that can perform routine and some emergency operations. In some cases, you may need to be evacuated to one of the main towns for specialized treatment.

In the main cities, there are medical centers you can visit that are often open at weekends or late into the day. In rural towns, you may need to make an appointment and have no choice but to go to the nearest hospital after work and at weekends. You can also expect to wait a few hours if your condition is not urgent.

  • The Poison Information Hotline: 13 11 26 will advise you free of charge if you have accidentally taken medicines or poisons. They also give advice on the necessary treatment, e.g. in case of a spider bite. However, if you think you are in immediate danger, call “000” for an ambulance.

Medical expenses and travel insurance

Australian citizens and permanent residents can obtain health care through the taxpayer-funded Medicare system. Foreign nationals working or studying in Australia without a reciprocal agreement are usually required to take out private health insurance as part of their visa requirement. Foreigners on short-term visits should ensure that their travel insurance is in order, as medical costs can be burdensome for those who are not eligible for Medicare. Medicare does not cover private hospitals or dental treatment, so you will need to take out private health insurance to pay for these.

Travelers from Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom are entitled to free reciprocal treatment under Medicare for medical problems arising during their stay. It is advisable to familiarise yourself with the terms of the reciprocal agreement with your country. For example, Irish and New Zealanders are only entitled to free hospital treatment, while other reciprocal nationalities are also entitled to subsidized treatment by GPs. No reciprocal program covers private hospitals and the full cost must be borne by you or travel insurance.

If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of a country that has signed a reciprocity agreement, travel insurance is strongly recommended. For a visit to a general practitioner, expect to pay around $80, plus additional fees for any pathology or radiology that may be required. The cost of visiting a local hospital can be much higher, and private hospitals may charge even more. You can pay up to $500 even if you are not admitted, and possibly several thousand dollars if you are admitted. Ambulance and Royal Flying Doctor services are free, but evacuation or ambulance services can cost several thousand dollars if they take you from a country town to a capital city or from an island to the mainland.

Even if you are an Australian citizen, ambulance and evacuation services are not free. If an air ambulance is needed, it can still cost thousands of dollars. Most health insurance companies only sell ambulances for the Australian market. Ambulance membership programs may only cover you in your own state – check before traveling between states. National travel insurance does not usually cover medical or ambulance expenses. Medical insurance coverage does not include the cost of an ambulance (at least several hundred euros) in an emergency; only private insurance with ambulance coverage will cover these costs.

Anti-venom for snake and spider bites is very expensive. The cost can be well over $10,000 even if you do not need hospitalization.

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