FAQs and Travel Tips
Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, and comprises of a number of islands. There is the mainland of Australia, the world’s largest island, as well as the smaller islands of Tasmania, Melville Island, Kangaroo Island, Fraser Island and Lord Howe Island amongst others. Australia also has a number of external territories which include, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling Islands), Norfolk Islands and the Australian Antartica Territory. To the southeast of Australia, are the islands of New Zealand and to the north are Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor. New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands are to the northeast and to the south is Antartica.
It is approximately 14 hours to fly non-stop from the west coast of the US to Sydney, 13 hours to Brisbane and 15 hours to Melbourne. The airlines that fly nonstop are Qantas Airways, Virgin Australia, United and Delta. Air New Zealand flies via Auckland, Air Pacific via Fiji, and Hawaiian Airlines via Hawaii. Air Tahiti Nui also flies there but via Papeete and Auckland. If you are flying from other parts of the world, you can enter Australia through Perth, Darwin, Adelaide or Cairns.
Visas are required for entry into Australia, unless you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen. If you hold a New Zealand passport you can apply for a visa upon arrival in Australia, otherwise all other passport holders must get the visa before leaving home. There are a number of visas including tourist visas or ETAs (Electronic Travel Authority), business visas and working holiday visas. Tourist visas are valid for multiple entries of up to 3 months each over a one year period. Business and working holiday visas have different restrictions. You do not need any vaccinations unless you have been in a country infected with yellow fever within the past six days of your arrival in Australia.
Due to the isolation of Australia, their customs laws are quite strict. These laws prevent you from bringing in items like weapons, firearms, steroids and drugs and protected wildlife (skins and feathers). They are very strict about the type of food that can be brought in and do not allow any meat, eggs, fruit, seeds and plants. If you have any of these , you must declare it on your custom form when arriving and if you are found in procession of any these and do not declare it, there are very stiff fines. Even though there is no limit to the amount of foreign currency that you bring in, you must declare anything over $10,000. Also, medicine for personal use must be declared upon your arrival, and it is recommended to bring your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating your medical condition and medicine that you are bringing in.
With Australia being in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are reversed. The summer months are December through March, with the “wet” season in the north. It is preferable to go to the southern part of the country during these months. The winter months are June through August, and even though the weather is reasonably mild and rarely below freezing, you can get snow in the southern mountain ranges. It is more preferable to go the northern part of the country and the Outback from April through September, when the temperatures are between 65 and 88 degrees F and it is not the rainy season. It is important to note that in the summer months the temperatures and sun can be extremely hot, so it is very important to protect yourself with a shirt, hat and over a SPE30 sunscreen.
Australia has three time zones – Eastern Standard Time (EST) is for the eastern states, Central Standard Time (CST) is for the middle states of Northern Territory and South Australia and Western Standard Time (WST) is for Western Australia. Central Standard Time is half an hour behind Eastern Standard Time and Western Standard Time is two hours behind Eastern Standard Time.
Except for Queensland and the Northern Territory, the rest of the states move their clocks forward for Daylight Savings. In the states of New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, daylight savings is from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. In Western Australia, daylight savings is from the end of October to the end of March.
It is always recommended to buy travel insurance, especially a policy that includes accidents, medical problems, theft and loss. If you will be doing adventure sports, like bushwalking, skiing, scuba diving or even bungee jumping make sure that the policy fully covers you. Through Medicare, the Australian Government has reciprocal agreements that cover limited subsidized medical treatments with some countries.
Australians use the metric system for weights and measures and the Celsuis scale for measuring temperatures.
Even though Australia has become a melting pot for many nationalities, the official language is English and is spoken throughout the country. However the accent is different from other English speaking countries and they have their own unique slang. Spelling and grammar is more along the lines of British English, and dates as written as day, month, year as in 30/4/2010 (30 April 2010).
The voltage is 220/240 AC/50 cycle (which is also in New Zealand as well). You will need to get an adaptor as the plugs for the electrical outlets are different. You will need a converter is your appliance is 110/120 wattage, and make sure to buy one before you enter Australia as they tend to sell those required for travel to the US and Europe.
This would depend on the season and where you are going. Dress during the day is usually casual, and should be light clothes in the summer months and layered clothing in the winter months. Even though many restaurants are becoming more casual, it is good to have something a little more dressy just in case.
30SPF Sunscreen, brimmed hats, sunglasses, swimwear and cover-up, reef shoes, bug repellent, prescription medicines; sweatshirt or light wind breaker and still and/or video camera, and necessary batteries.
The level of communication networks in Australia is very advanced and most people have their own cell or mobile phone. To dial Australia, the international access code is 61. Local calls from public phones usually cost around 50 cents AUD. Mobile phone networks are available all across Australia, but in some of the more remote areas the access could be limited. For the visitor, it is possible to rent a mobile phone while down there. However it is good to check with your own cell provider to see what they offer for travel within Australia. Access to the Internet is widely available and can be found in Internet cafes, hotels and other accommodation and libraries. The Internet country code for Australia is .au.
Post Offices are generally open from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Fridays, and some post offices are open on Saturday mornings in the bigger cities.
Australia's currency is the Australian dollar (AUD) and cents. The denominations for notes (bills) are $100, $50, $20, $10, and $5. Currencies or coins are now $2, $1, 50 cents, 10 cents, and 5 cents. Money can be changed at banks, hotels and international airports. Credit cards are widely accepted and the most common are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club, Bankcard and JCB.
Tax on Goods and Services
Australia now has a tax of 10% on goods and services (Goods and Services Tax, similar to VAT). Foreigners can get a refund of their GST on goods bought in Australia, if you spend at least $300 in a shop within the past 30 days before you depart the country. Offices for the VAT Tourist Refund Scheme can be found in the departure halls of the international airports. However you must have all your receipts and the actual items that you bought with you at the time you are requesting your refund. This means it must be part of your carry-on luggage as you will have already gone through immigration and the security checks.
Tipping and Bargaining
As a rule, Australians tend not to tip unless they get exceptional service. In more expensive restaurants it is becoming more customary to tip 10% but it is at the discretion of the diner. It is not usual to bargain in Australia.
Banking and Business
Banks are open Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm and on Friday to 5pm. ATM’s are to be found all over and can be used at any time. If you need to change money outside these hours, the only places to do so, would be in hotels or at the airports. Businesses hours are usually 8:30am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday.
Shopping hours are usually 9am – 5:30pm Monday through Friday, and many places are now open all day Saturday. Only malls and bigger stores are open for varying hours on Sunday. Stores in main tourists areas usually have longer hours of opening and are often open on Sunday as well.
The emergency number for police, ambulance or the fire department is 000.
Australia has a very extensive public transport system. Each city has a train and bus system, and many have a ferry system. Melbourne still has a tram system. In many cases, the system operates 24-hours but with limited service during the late night/early morning hours. It is possible to get transportation passes in each of the cities, based on a certain number of days and different inclusions. These are very popular with tourists as it keeps the transportation costs down. Taxis or cabs are a very popular way of traveling especially in the major cities.
There are a number of long distance trains between the major cities, like Sydney to Melbourne, or Brisbane. As well you have some overnight trains – along the Queensland coast; from Sydney to Perth, and from Adelaide to Alice Springs and then on to Darwin.
There is also an extensive airline system with service to many of the smaller towns and islands within the continent. However the service to more remote areas is usually on a limited basis, and often it is necessary to plan your trip around the dates and times of these flights.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road, and the speed limit on freeways is 100 kilometers an hour (60 mph). If you are driving on a freeway you must keep to the right unless you are overtaking. Drunk driving rules are very strict, and most people find it is better to have a designated driver or get a taxi.