Oceania : Australia
Australia is the only country that has a whole continent itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia has an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres (2,966,152 sq mi). Many travellers underestimate the distances between cities and towns.
Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes: forest areas survive in extensive national parks and some other areas.
As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. The north is hot and tropical, while south tends to sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter. Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the timing of the seasons is reversed with respect to Europe and North America. June-August is winter in Australia while December-February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. On the other hand, in the southern parts of the country, the summer tends to be hot and dry with temperatures sometimes climbing as high as 45°C, while winters tend to be much cooler (5-20°C) and is when most of the rain falls. The seasons start at the beginning of the months rather than on the solstices. Christmas falls in the summer in Australia.
Summer tends to be the peak travel season through much of the south, with the winter (dry) season the peak travel season in the tropics, although most attractions remain open year-round.
Much of Australia is prone to severe drought, especially during the summer months.
The continent of Australia was first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close (spiritual) relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian aborigines maintained a hunter/gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aborigines is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of aborigines amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.
Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600's, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.
In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 Apr 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on 22 Aug 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by more than 160 years.
Following the exploration period, the first wave of British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonization that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigenous populations drastically and marginalized them to the fringes of society.
While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were along the east coast, Adelaide (settled in 1836) and Perth being settled by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.
The system of separate colonies federated to form an independent country in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a proportionally huge contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit.
Government in Australia is based on a federal system (with States and a National Governments) similar to the USA, but these Governments follow a British model, with two elected houses (similar to the US House and Senate) with an unelected representative of the Queen of The United Kingdom in the (notionally powerless) executive position 'above' the parliament. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999.
Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
Most of the population is concentrated in the south-east of the country, to the east of the Great Dividing Range. This is because the inland and western areas of the country are at best semi-habitable desert, known as the Outback. The most-inhabited states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.
Broadly speaking, Australian culture closely resembles that of the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding increased migration from all corners of the globe, 93% of the population is of British or Irish by birth or descent. Contrary to popular mythology, descendants from convicts are in a small minority, and even during the years of transportation free settlers outnumbered convict migrants by at least five to one.
Australia also has a large multicultural population from various nations and practicing almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-fifth of Australians were born to immigrant parents. The most multicultural cities are Melbourne and Sydney. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially promotes itself as a centre for the arts. Smaller rural settlements generally still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), however virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s; in the half century after the war when Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.
There are approximately half a million Australians who identify as being of Aboriginal descent. Many fewer maintain elements of traditional Aboriginal culture.
Australian English was once known for its colour and colloquialisms but has lost a great deal of this to outside influence, although people in rural areas still tend to speak in a broader accent, using many of the slang words that have become outmoded in metropolitan areas. There is very little provincialism in Australia and although accents tend to be broader and slower outside of the large cities.
Australians can be socially conservative compared to some European cultures, and most resemble Canadians or New Zealanders in their political outlook. They tend to be relaxed in their religious observance. While the mythic Australian sense egalitarianism has declined in economic terms, modes of address still tend to be casual and familiar compared to some other cultures. Most Australians irrespective of socioeconomic status will tend to address you by your first name and will expect that you do the same to them.
The national holidays in Australia are:
- January 1: New Years' Day
- January 26: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
- Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
- April 25: ANZAC Day, honouring military veterans
- Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (celebrated in Western Australia in September)(WA observes Foundation Day a week earlier)
- December 25: Christmas Day
- December 26: Boxing Day
Many states observe Labour Day, but on completely separate days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays.
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday (Easter excepted), the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are sometimes declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the major retail shutdowns will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed on public holidays. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day morning and Christmas Day.
Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave every year and domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies.
The Australian Dollar (AU$) is a stable and reasonably strong unit of currency. It has been the official currency of Australia since 1966, replacing the Australian pound (£) and introducing decimal currency. It is the 6th most traded currency in the foreign exchange markets. All Australian coins depict Queen Elizabeth II on one side.
Services – tourism, education, financial services. The service industry accounts for the majority of the Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – about 69%. Within the service sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia, as it provides employment, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.
Agriculture is yet another significant part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 3% of the GDP, although historically it was far more important, representing 80% of the GDP as recently as the 1950s.
Time around Australia
Australia has three time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST) for the eastern states, Central Standard Time (CST) for the Northern Territory and South Australia and Western Standard Time(WST) for Western Australia. CST is half an hour behind EST and WST is two hours behind EST.
Daylight Saving Time Most Australian states wind their clocks forward an hour during the Daylight Saving period. New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia do this from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. In Western Australia, Daylight Saving lasts from the end of October to end of March. The Northern Territory and Queensland don’t observe the practice of Daylight Saving.
230V-240V 50Hz. Outlets are of the Australian standard, which has two angled flat blades and a third vertical flat blade for grounding. It is a standard shared with New Zealand and some other Pacific nations.
European and other travellers with 230V 50Hz appliances need only a plug adapter. U.S., Canadian and travellers from other 60Hz countries need to check whether their power adapters can handle both 230V/50Hz and 110V/60Hz. If so, they only need a plug adapter. If not then step down transformer is required. Many laptops, shavers and iPod-type chargers can handle both voltages and frequencies.
- Lord Howe Island - Two hours flying time from Sydney, with a permanent population, and developed facilities.
- Norfolk Island - Direct flights from the East Coast, and from Auckland. Permanent population, and developed facilities.
- Christmas Island - Famous for its red crab migration. Flights from Perth and Kuala Lumpur, developing facilities.
- Cocos Islands - Coral atolls, populated, accessible by flights from Perth, with some facilities for travel.
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands - uninhabited with no developed traveller facilities.
- Coral Sea Islands - largely uninhabited, with no developed traveller facilities.
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands - uninhabited islands over 4000km from the Australian mainland.
- Macquarie Island - An Australian Antartic base, halfway to Antartica. No facilities for travellers.
- Canberra - the purpose-built national capital of Australia
- Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
- Brisbane - sun-drenched capital of Queensland and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches.
- Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts. A great place for people to getaway to and relax.
- Darwin - Australia's smallest and northern-most capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
- Hobart - small and quiet capital of Tasmania
- Melbourne - Australia's second largest city and the nation's first capital city. Melbourne is a large sporting and cultural capital, known as a shopping destination in Australia. Melbourne is regarded as Australia's most European city in style.
- Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
- Sydney - Australia's oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales
Other cities can be found under their respective state articles.
- The Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast are the beachside and national park playgrounds, north and south of Brisbane.
- Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), rock formations located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.
- The Great Ocean Road is a spectacular coastal drive in Victoria past many scenic icons including the 12 Apostles.
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY). After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services into Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand or Southeast Asia.
To Sydney it is a 3-hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the west of the United States of America and Canada, a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, a 13-16 hours flight from South America, and up to a 24+ hour flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, some travellers opt to have a stop-over, commonly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
There are some routes into Australia that are operated by discount airlines, that can often be combined with other fares to make getting to Australia cheaper. Select your point of entry and exit to give you a cheaper round-trip, and possibly some interesting stopover opportunities on the way.
- Air Asia X, flies into the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth from Kuala Lumpur, at often deeply discounted fares. You can save money from Europe if having a stopover in Malaysia.
- Viva Macau , flies into Sydney from Macau, offering the same possibility from or via Hong Kong.
- Tiger  flies from Singapore to Perth.
- Jetstar International  flies to Hawaii and several South East Asian destinations, including Osaka and Phuket.
- V Australia [] flies between Melbourne Brisbane Sydney and Los Angeles.
November to February is the cruising season, and there are usually about 10 ships that arrive in Australia during this time. You can cruise to Australia, and then fly home.
Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Carribean, all offer cruises to Australia across the Pacific.
By overland tour
There are a couple of expedition companies such as Ozbus or Exploratory Overland Expeditions that conduct organized trips from London to Sydney but the last leg of the journey involves flying to Darwin from East Timor or Singapore while the bus is shipped across. These are targeted at backpackers able to take months for the trip.
Customs and quarantine
Australia has a strict customs requirement when it comes to animal and vegetable derived products, including wood. This is because Australia is an island, and thus far free of many diseases and insect pests sometimes found in other countries. All incoming visitors must pass a customs check for these items. No fresh fruits, vegetables, meat or other food products are allowed. Most manufactured, packaged food (chocolates, cookies, etc) is usually found to be acceptable, and will generally be inspected and returned to you. However, even permitted food items must be declared to customs and inspected before they are allowed into the country. Most baggage is scanned and examined by dogs prior to entry.
There is no penalty provided goods are declared - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed or held in quarantine. If you attempt to bring them in without declaring them, there is the possibility of extremely heavy penalties including fines (in the order of thousands of dollars) and even a possible jail term. More likely an on-the-spot fine of $220 will be payable. It is far safer to declare any items that might be prohibited; if they are not then you will suffer no consequences.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website  has more details.
There are also some restrictions when travelling from one state to another, or even within the same state. This especially relates to items such as fruit and vegetables which can transmit pests.
Visas and documentation
Most citizens of New Zealand may travel to and work in Australia for any length of time without a visa, but entry is not guaranteed: check with Australian immigration if you have a criminal record or have been refused entry to other countries recently. Citizens of New Zealand immigrating to Australia might want to apply for Australian permanent residency in order to be eligible for some welfare payments. Permanent residents of New Zealand no longer receive any special privileges (except Medicare benefits) and are treated just like any other foreigners from their country of citizenship, meaning that the usual visa requirements apply.
All other nationalities require some form of visa. There are two types:
- Electronic Travel Authorities (ETAs), an electronic visa available to holders of certain passports, see the immigration website . These are valid for visits of up to 3 months and allow multiple entries for a year. Australian employment is not allowed. ETAs are available online at https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ and may be available through your travel agent. Apply for the ETA through your travel agent if buying tickets from them, as the fee for applying online is usually waived.
- Non-electronic visas, the only option if you do not hold an ETA-eligible passport, also required if you are staying for a longer period of time or wish to seek Australian employment. These will require a written application and processing by an Australian consulate or embassy. Contact the Department of Immigration for more information.
Overstaying or violating any terms of your visa can result in deportation and a 3-year entry ban.
Australia is huge but sparsely populated. By land area it is the world's sixth biggest country, but the population of the entire country is only comparable to that of the Seoul or Mexico City metropolitan area. This means that great distances separate its cities and after leaving one city, you can sometimes expect to travel for hours before finding the next trace of civilization.
Almost all modern Australian maps, including street directories, use the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) as their grid reference, with is for all purposes identical to the WGS84 used by the GPS. You can locate most things on an Australian map or street directory if you just have the "GPS coordinates".
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways, and cars are a commonly used method of transport. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. Some parts are dual carriageway but many sections are one lane each way. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Distances and speeds are specified in kilometres and fuel is sold by the litre.
Australia drives on the left. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right should take care when they first drive, and again when they are driving on country roads with little traffic.
Car hire companies and local police will give advice on whether your car license is valid in Australia. Rules can depend on the state but generally overseas licenses are valid for visitors for a few months, without a international drivers permit if the licence is in English.
Australia's low population density makes for long driving times between major centres; its large size means there is sometimes great distance between key locations. Here are some indicative travel times:
- Melbourne to Sydney: 9-10 hours (900 kilometres / 560 miles)
- Brisbane to Sydney: 12-13 hours (1000 kilometres / 620 miles)
- Perth to Sydney: 50 hours (4100 kilometres / 2550 miles)
- Sydney to Canberra: 3-3.5 hours (300 kilometres / 185 miles)
- Adelaide to Melbourne: 8-10 hours (750 kilometres / 465 miles)
- Brisbane to Melbourne: 19-20 hours (1700 kilometres / 1056 miles)
- Melbourne to Perth: 40 hours (3500 kilometres / 2175 miles)
- Perth to Adelaide: 32 hours (2700 kilometres / 1677 miles)
- Brisbane to Cairns: 22-24 hours (1700 kilometres)
It is almost impossible to predict your travel time just by knowing the distance. Seek local advice for the best route, and how much time to allow. Averaging 100km/h or more is possible on some relatively minor highways when they are straight and there are few towns. On other national highways that traverse mountain ranges and travel through small towns, averaging 60km/h can be a challenge.
While major highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed roads anywhere in inland Australia is advised to take advice from locals, check weather and road conditions, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tires, matches, food and water (minimum 4-5 litres per person per day). Some of these roads might see one car per month (or less). It is common to hire a satellite phone (cellular coverage does not extend to many remote areas) in case of emergency. It is the best idea to advise a friend, relative or trustworthly person know your route and let them know to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. The carrying of an EPIRB could be considered when travelling in remote areas, especially where you may not be able to make contact for several days. Local police stations would prefer that you call in and say hello and give them your itinerary, but they will not automatically start looking for you if you don't report in. It is not unusual for people stranded in remote areas to wait for a week or more before being rescued (if they are lucky enough that anyone notices they are missing). Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you rapidly. If stranded, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Do not take this advice lightly, even local people die out there when their car breaks down and they are not reported missing. If you do have to abandon your car (say you breakdown and then get a lift), call in quickly to the local police station, to avoid the embarrassment and cost of a search being started for you.
See also: Driving in Australia
Due to the large distances involved, flying is a well-patronised form of travel in Australia. Services along the main business travel corridor (Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane) are run almost like a bus service, with flights leaving every 15 minutes during the day.
The only way to get the best airfare is to visit each of the airlines pages directly, and compare fares. Never assume the Qantas fare will be more expensive, as their online deals often are the cheapest available on a route. The best fares are always available on the most competitive routes. Consolidator websites and travel agents almost invariably add a surcharge to direct booking. Use them to compare, but always check the airline website before booking.
The are four domestic airlines in Australia that operate jet aircraft linking capital cities and major destinations.
- Qantas , the only nation-wide full service airline, flying to major cities and some larger regional towns;
- Virgin Blue , a nation-wide budget airline, flying to major cities and a few larger regional towns;
- Jetstar , Qantas's discount arm with limited service and assigned seating.
- Tiger Airways Australia , one of Asia's largest LCC has a hub in Melbourne serving about 10 destinations across the mainland and Tasmania, prices are very competitive.
Several airlines service regional destinations. Expect discounts on these airlines to be harder to come by, and for standard airfares to be above what you would pay for the same distance between major centres.
- Regional Express , covering larger towns & cities on the eastern seaboard;
- Skywest , covering regional Western Australia;
- Airnorth , covering the Northern Territory;
- MacAir Airlines , covering regional Queensland (services currently disrupted due to being placed in administration).
Visitors from countries with well-developed long distance rail systems such as Europe and Japan may be surprised by the lack of high-speed, inter-city rail services in Australia. A historical lack of cooperation between the states, combined with sheer distances and a relatively small population to service, have left Australia with a national rail network that is relatively slow and used mainly for freight. As a result, travel between major cities will not only be faster by air, but often cheaper as well depending on the route you wish to travel. Train travel between cities is, however, more scenic, and tourists are likely to see more of Australia travelling by train than they would otherwise see, as well cutting down on their carbon footprint. It is also often a cost effective way of getting to regional towns and cities, which don't have the frequent and cheap flights found between the capital cities.
The long-distance rail services that do exist are mainly used to link regional townships with the state capital, such as Bendigo to Melbourne, or Cairns to Brisbane. In Queensland, a high speed train operates between Brisbane to Rockhampton and Brisbane to Cairns. Queensland also has 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 routes Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan) however as noted above, these are not "high speed" services, so if you do not enjoy train travel as part of your holiday in its own right then this is probably not for you.
Tasmania has no passenger rail services. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, and the Australian Capital Territory has only a single railway station close to the centre of Canberra.
Long distance train operators
- Great Southern Railways . A private train operator running tourist train services, The Ghan, The Indian Pacific and The Overland between Sydney, Broken Hill, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin, Perth and Melbourne.
- CountryLink  - Links Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, and regional connections to most New South Wales towns, including Dubbo, Coffs Harbour, and Wagga Wagga.
- V/Line Passenger  - Train & coach services in Victoria, including combined Train and Coach services between Melbourne and Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra.
- Queensland Rail - Traveltrain  - Long distance passenger train services in Queensland
- The Savannahlander  - A Queenstrain service that links Cairns with the outback town of Forsayth, using old heritage trains, and providing overnight accommodation and tours on the way.
- East Coast Discovery Pass. Get on and off as many times as you like on the east coast trains between Melbourne and Cairns. Different prices apply depending on which section of the line you want to traverse. One way travel only is permitted. Discounts apply on other train journeys, and often bus connections to local towns are included. This ticket is available to everyone, international visitors and Australian residents.
- Australian Flexi-Pass. Available to non-Australian passport holders. Allows unlimited train travel on the Ghan and the Indian Pacific, New South Wales Countrylink and Queensland Rail. It will get you to every capital city on mainland Australia, as well as the tropical north of Queensland. If you are not travelling to Western Australia or the Northern Territory there are probably cheaper options.
Local public transport
Some trains allow you to carry your car with you on special car carriages attached to the back of the train.
Bus travel in Australia is cheap and convenient, although the distances involved for interstate connections are daunting. Greyhound has the largest bus route network.
- Firefly Express, ☎ 1300 730 740(+61 3 8318 0318 - international callers, firstname.lastname@example.org), . Firefly Express has services connecting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
- Greyhound, ☎ 1300 473 946(email@example.com), . Greyhound travels to over 1100 destinations in Australia daily every day of the year. It has a variety of ticketing options allow you to travel at your own pace, hopping on and off as many times as your ticket allows.
- Murrays, ☎ 13 22 51(firstname.lastname@example.org), . Murrays has services connecting Canberra with Sydney, the NSW South Coast and snowfields.
- Oz Experience  runs bus tours in Australia aimed at backpackers.
Due to Australia's size and layout inter city ferries are not common.
- The Spirit of Tasmania,. The only long distance ferry route connects Tasmania to the mainland and runs between Melbourne and Devonport. The Spirit of Tasmania carries cars and passengers on the route across Bass Strait daily.
By tour operators
Organized tours by bus allow you to visit the famous tourist spots most easily reached by private vehicle (such as Ayers Rock, Kakadu National Park) without the hassle of organizing the trip. A variety of accommodation from camping to five star hotels is available. Competition among operators is strong, so checks rates and itineraries and for discounts and special offers.
Check destination articles for local tour options.
- AAT Kings 
- Adventure Tours  Mini bus and 4WD tours all over Australia
- NatureTour Australia  Natural habitat wildlife tours
- Wayward Bus  Mini bus tours in SA, NT and Vic. Slower paced tours.
- Groovy Grape  Mini bus tours in SA, NT and Vic
- Contiki Tours .
- Down Under Tours 
- Down Under Coach Tours 
- Diamantina Touring Company  Outback 4X4 Expeditions
- Connections Tours
If you have special needs, such as a kneeling bus, or disabled facilities, you should check wth the tour company in advance.
Whilst it is certainly possible to hitchhike in Australia, it is not common, and is often frowned upon by both locals and the police.
If you are in a position where you have no choice to hitchhike due to a broken down car, or other similar problem, you may be able to get a passing motorist to give you a lift to the nearest town to call for help. It would be rare that you’d find a motorist who would take you further afield. Most major inter-city routes have specific help stations which people can call for help from.
There is much to see in Australia that you can't see easily in its natural setting anywhere else:
Australian flora and fauna is essentially unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs!) Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia would not be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.
- Wildlife parks and zoos are in every capital city, but also check out the animal parks if you are passing through smaller towns, like Mildura or Mogo, or staying on Hamilton Island. See the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary if you are in South Australia, or visit the koalas with best view in the world, at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
- In the wild. You can see the emus, kangaroos and wallabies in many of Australia's national parks. Wombats and Echidna are also common, but harder to find. You won't see any Kangaroos hopping down the street in Central Sydney, but you will see some not too far from the centre of the nation's capital
- One of the best places to see koalas in the wild is the Otway Coast, on the Great Ocean Road, in southern Australia, in the state of Victoria. The Otway Coast is abut 2 hours drive from Melbourne and the large wild koala population is visible in all the small townships and national parks along the coast. The koala habitat in this region is protected thus making it an ideal environment for growth of the koala population, unlike many other parts of Australia where koala populations are dwindling.
- There are tour companies around Australia that offer tours to see many of these unique creatures in their natural habitat such as NatureTour Australia 
See some of the Big things in Australia.
Weekend sport is an integral part of the Australian culture from the capital cities to country towns. The vast majority of games are played over the Weekend, with the most important games generally played on Friday night. Every professional league is televised, with every match to be viewed on either Free to Air or Pay television.
- In the winter in Victoria Aussie Rules is more than just a sport, it is a way of life. Catch a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There are many teams from Melbourne, with Adelaide and Western Australia hosting two teams each, Sydney and Brisbane both have a single team.
- In summer, international cricket is played between Australia and at least two touring sides. The games rotate around all the capital cities. To experience the traditional game catch the New Year's test match at the Sydney cricket ground played for 5 days starting from the 2nd of January. Melbourne also hosts the iconic Boxing Day Test match, with Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth almost always hosting one Test Match per Season. Darwin and Tasmania also occasional host matches.
Or for a more lively entertaining form, that only takes a few hours, try a twenty-twenty match. The final form is "One Day" Cricket, international matches generally start at 1pm and finish at 10 or 11pm (a "Day-Nighter"), with most domestic and occasional international matches played from 11am to 6pm.
- The Australian Open, one of the tennis Grand Slams, is played annually in Melbourne. Or the Medibank International in Sydney Olympic Park in January.
- Catch a rugby union Super-14 game, with teams playing from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in Brisbane, during winter.
- Rugby League is played mainly in New South Wales and Queensland, with the National Rugby League comeptition played in Winter. Teams include Melbourne in Victoria, Brisbane, North Queensland and the Gold Coast in Queensland, a team from New Zealand, with the rest of the teams coming from suburban areas in Sydney, and some in regional areas of New South Wales such as Newcastle and Canberra.
- Netball is Australia's largest female sport, and there are weekly games in an international competition between Australia and New Zealand teams.
- Football is a small event by European standards, but there is still the A-League, which is a fully professional league involving teams from Australia and one from New Zealand competition, with games played weekly during the summer. Most cities have a semi-professional "state league" played during winter, with most clubs being built around a specific ethnic/migrant community.
- in the surf. Australia has seemingly endless sandy beaches. Follow the crowds to the world famous Bondi Beach in Sydney, or Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Or find a stretch all for yourself. The surf is smaller and warmer in the Tropical North, where the reef breaks the swell, and larger are colder in the south with waves rolling in from the Southern Ocean. (And yes, in the middle it is just right).
- in calm tropical oceans. Cable Beach in Broome is swept pristine daily by the tide, has perfect sand, and warm water - go in winter.
- in thermal pools. South of Darwin there are many natural thermal pools, surrounded by palms and tropical foliage. The most expensive resort in the world couldn't dream of making a pool this good.
- in freshwater lakes. Inland Australia tends to be dry, but there freshwater lakes where you would least expect them. Explore inland of Cairns at the Atherton Tablelands, or head outback to the Currawinya National Park.
- in rivers. If its hot, and there is water, there will be a place to swim. Wherever you are, just ask around for the favourite swimming spot, with a waterhole and rope to swing on.
- in man-made pools. The local swimming pool is often the hub of community life on a summer Sunday in the country towns of New South Wales and Victoria. Many of the beachside suburbs of Sydney have man made rock pools for swimming by the ocean beaches.
- just Sun Baking. Find your spot by the water, and get out the towel. Tropical north in the winter, down south in the summer.
- Snorkelling take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, or to the rocks off Byron Bay, or just dive in off the beach to see the tropical fish in Bundaberg.
- Scuba Diving
- Rock Climbing
- Mountain Biking. Try the trails in the Snowy Mountains or black mountain in Canberra, or cycle for days along the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail in Western Australia.
- Skiing. New South Wales and Victoria have well developed ski facilities. Tasmania can also have skiing for a few months of the year, given the right weather.
It has been said that if there are two flies crawling up a wall, then you just need to look around to find the Aussie who will be running a book.
- Casinos. Crown Casino in Melbourne is Australia's largest, nicely located at Southbank, but there are others scattered in every capital city.
- Day at the races. All capital cities have horse racing every weekend, with on-track and off-track betting available, they are usually family occasions, and fashion and being seen are part of the event. Just about every pub in New South Wales will have a TAB, where you can place a bet without leaving your chair. Greyhound racing and trotting happens in the evenings, usually with smaller crowds, more beer, and less fashion. Smaller country towns have race meetings every few months or even annually. These are real events for the local communities, and see the smaller towns come to life. Head outback to the Birdsville races, or if you find the streets deserted it is probably ten past three on the first Tuesday in November (the running of the Melbourne cup).
- The unusual. The lizard races, cane toad races, camel races, crab races. Betting on these races is totally illegal, and at you will find the TIB (Totally Illegal Betting) around the back of the shed at the annual guinea pig races at Grenfell.
- Two up. If you are around for Anzac Day (25th April), then betting on coins thrown into the air will be happening at your local RSL club, wherever you are.
Expect everyone in the tourist industries, hotels and retail industries, and almost every other Australian, to speak English. English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians and British English spellings are used generally. It is the only language used in the school curriculum, and generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults.
There is no single commonly used second language. Australians commonly do not have a fluent second language unless they are educated or part of a family who immigrated recently. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists. Some warning signs at beaches are written in several foreign languages. As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including (but not limited to) Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian and Greek.
Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding some Australians. Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. As with other regional accents a few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive in the US are common vernacular in Australian speech (and vice versa, telling an Australian you "root for" a sports team may leave them in fits of laughter).
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find communicating in Australia difficult, and should do some advance planning. There are some tour companies who specialize in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages, and non-English speaking travellers might find this easier.
Australian prices are equivalent to other first world countries in North America, Western Europe or Japan. A basic meal would cost anywhere from $5-15 and prices can easily rocket up to hundreds of dollars in the most expensive restaurants. Backpackers should budget around $100 a day to be safe and the cheapest accommodation available in large cities would be in the region of $30-50 per night, though you would have to share a bathroom and bedroom with other people.
Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $. There are 100 cents in every dollar. The dollar is called 'the Australian dollar' usually written as 'AUD' when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries that call their currency 'the dollar'.
The dollar is not pegged to any other currency, and is a highly traded currency on world foreign exchange markets, particularly by currency speculators. Its exchange value to other currencies can be quite volatile, and 1-2% changes in a day are reasonably regular occurances.
No other currency is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia. Some businesses in international terminals of some airports may accept some other currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars).
The coin denominations are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper.
If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents the amount will be rounded to the nearest five cents if you are paying in cash. The exact amount will be charged if paying by credit or debit card.
Moneychangers in most Australian airports and banks charge a fee of anywhere from $5-$10 depending on the amount. A no-commission moneychanger can be found in most Australian capital cities.
Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. Australian ATMs are deregulated and may impose a surcharge over what is charged by your bank or card issuer. The fees can very between institutions and between locations. The ATM must display the charges either on-screen or on a visible sticker by the ATM. The charges will be displayed and you will have the option to stop the transaction before you are charged. Check with your bank as to what additional fees they apply to withdrawals in Australia.
Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. These exchange outlets - especially the ones at the airport - can charge 10% over the best exchange that can be obtained from shopping around. Australian banks usually offer an exchange rate around 2.5% from the current exchange midpoint. A flat commission of $5-8 can be charged on top. Some outlets advertise commission free exchange, usually accompanied by a worse rate of exchange. Don't assume every bank will offer the same exchange. A simple calculation will let you know what offers the best deal for amount you wish to exchange. There are vouchers for commission free exchange at American Express available in the tourist brochure at Sydney Airport.
There is also no need to arrive in Australia with cash if you have a Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa card: international airport terminals will have multiple teller machines that can dispense Australian currency without the hefty commissions of the exchanges.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. If you have an Australian bank account, many supermarkets also provide a "cash out" service which you can use to withdraw money over the counter when paying for your purchases. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos.
VISA or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted and are both accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations, but they may not be accepted or may incur a surcharge at smaller stores or fuel stations. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is never accepted.
Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though vendors are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-value goods or purchases involving several items. For example, it would not be unusual to get 10% of an item of jewelry that was not already reduced in price. The person you are dealing with may have limited authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.
Tipping is never compulsory and is often not expected in Australia. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip.
It is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment (usually as a convenience so the change does not hang around loose on someone's person - not as a gratuity), rather than a fixed percentage.
Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last 5 cents, unless you indicate that they should round the fare to the nearest dollar (it is not unusual for passengers to instruct the driver to round up to the next whole dollar.
In higher-end capital city restaurants where table services is offered a tip is usually expected (although still never compulsory). In this cases, 5%-10% is usually sufficient, and a New York style tip of 20% is definitely excessive.
In a suburban or country restaurant where table service is offered, they will certainly take a tip of 5%-10% should you decide to leave one, but it is often not expected.
In a cafe or more informal restaurant, even with table service, and even in tourist centres, leaving a tip is unusual. Sometimes there is a coin jar by the cashier. Sometimes a charity jar.
Australia's base trading hours are M-F 9am-5pm. These days, in many larger cities, shops will stay open until 9pm on Thursdays in the suburbs and on Fridays in the city centre. Supermarkets are generally open till 9pm M-F, while some larger convenience stores are open even longer hours.
Australia's weekend is on Saturday and Sunday of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal in larger cities on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. The city of Perth and some rural towns still severely restrict Sunday trading even of essentials (although independently-owned 'IGA' supermarkets open until 8pm every day of the week).
Australian banks are open M-F 9am-4pm only, often closing at 5pm on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.
Australia has a more or less universal sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST. Only basic supplies such as unprocessed foods, medical services and certain input taxed supplies by financial institutions such as banks and insurers are exempt. GST is included in the price of any item you purchase rather than added at the time of payment.
Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies.
Sales tax refunds
If you are planning to buy items over $300 at one place at one time, you might be interested in the Tourist Refund Scheme , which allows you to obtain a refund of the GST paid (effectively a 9.1 % discount). Note that you must buy the goods less than 30 days before departure and take them with you when you leave Australia. You need to show the item(s) plus the receipt at the TRS desk in the departure lounge, so you should carry the items with you and also allow an extra 30 min before departure. The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card.
The TRS is for goods taken as personal hand luggage at the time of departure. There is also a GST reclaim scheme for services consumed in Australia by non-resident enterprises.
Places to Eat
- Restaurants. Australians eat out frequently, and restaurants are nearly everywhere, with a large range in larger towns and cities.
- BYO Restaurants: BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find small low-cost restaurants that are not licensed to serve but allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine purchased elsewhere. This is frequently much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Beer can be taken to some BYO restaurants, others allow only wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee which can vary from $2 or $3, to $15, or may be calculated by head. BYO is not usually permitted in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
- Pubs. The counter lunch is the name for a lunch served in the bar of a pub. Traditionally served only at lunchtime in the lounge. Today some pubs provide lunch and dinner and many have a separate bistro or restaurant. Meals of steak, chicken parmigiana, nachos are common.
- Clubs. Clubs, such as bowling clubs, leagues clubs, RSLs are in many towns and cities. They are most common in the states of Queensland and New South Wales. Most allow visitors, and sometimes offer good value meals. Some offer attractive locations, like the water views from the Twin Towns in Tweed Heads.
- Cafes. Most towns and suburbs have a cafe or coffee shop, serving breakfast and light meals and cakes throughout the day. Not unusual for them to close before dinner.
- Bakeries. Usually a good place to buy bread rolls, a pie or a sausage roll. Some, like the Beechworth bakery, or the bakery in historic Gundagai offer an experience as well.
- Fast food restarants. McDonalds, Subway and KFC are common. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack's. Red Rooster is a Australian chain, offering barbecued chicken and other mostly chicken-based items.
- Take-away. Milk bars or take-away stores usually sell pies, barbecued (rotisserie) chicken, hamburgers, fish and chips, gyros, kebabs. Ubiquitous in every town and suburb.
- Food Courts. Most shopping malls have a food court, even in country towns.
- Picnic. The Australian climate is usually amenable to getting whatever food you can, and heading to the nearest park, river, lake or beach.
- Barbecue is a popular Australian pastime and many parks in Australia provide free barbecues for public use. Contrary to the stereotype, Australians rarely "Throw a shrimp on the barbie" (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn). Steaks, chops, chicken fillets, fish, kebabs are popularly barbecued.
- Kangaroo. While it is not frequently consumed by locals, you can buy Kangaroo steak in some supermarkets, and occasionally it makes it onto the menu in a restaurant. It is a very low fat strongly flavoured game-like red meat, often marinated. Contrary to the concerns of some visitors who know that many Australian marsupials are endangered, the kangaroo species from which the meat comes are far from being endangered or threatened species, and damages the environment less than beef cattle or sheep.
- Crocodile meat from farms in the Northern Territory is widely available around the top end, and occasionally elsewhere.
- Bush Tucker. Many tours may give you an opportunity to try some bush tucker, the berries, nuts, roots, ants, and grubs from Australia's native bush. Macadamia nuts are the only native plant to Australia that is grown for food commercially. Taste some of the other bush foods, and you will see why.
Vegemite, a salty yeast-based spread similar to the British product Marmite, or the Swiss product Cenovis. Famously unpalatable to those unfamiliar with it, novice samplers should start with a very thin spread of Vegemite on hot buttered toast. Any coffee shop will serve you vegemite toast and coffee for breakfast - usually even if it isn't on the menu.
A popular biscuit is the Tim Tam. A chocolate fudge-filled sandwich of two chocolate biscuits, all wrapped in chocolate, this decadent biscuit gave rise to the "Tim Tam Slam". This decidedly messy maneuver requires nibbling the chocolate off both ends of a Tim Tam, then using the biscuit as a straw to suck up your favourite hot beverage, typically coffee. The hot drink melts the fudge centre and creates an experience hard to describe, but finesse is needed to suck the whole biscuit into your mouth in the microseconds between being fully saturated and dissolving into your cuppa.
The lamington, a small sponge cake covered in a thin layer of chocolate and then dipped in desiccated coconut. Can be obtained from most bakeries, but the home-baked form is often found at a local saturday-morning market.
The pavlova, a meringue cake with a cream topping usually covered with fresh fruit. Don't believe any New Zealand traveler who says they invented it over there. A popular alternative to Christmas pudding during the holiday season
ANZAC biscuits are a mix of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and Golden Syrup which are sometimes, but erroneously, reported as having been baked and sent to soldiers by anxious First World War wives and mothers.
Damper is a traditional type of bread that was baked by stockmen during colonial times in the Outback. It is made with the most basic of ingredients and usually cooked in the embers of a fire. Do not expect to find this bread in urban bakeries - it is only commonly served to tourists on camping trips in the Outback. Best eaten with as much butter and jam as possible.
A 'pie floater' is a South Australian dish which is available around Adelaide. It consists of an upside down pie in a bowl of thick mushy pea soup.
Cuisines widely available in Australia, often prepared by members of the relevant culture, include:
- Thai, especially in Sydney. Suburban Thai restaurants of indifferent quality are starting to replace the previous generation of Chinese restaurants of indifferent quality, but Australia also has excellent and authentic Thai restaurants.
- Indian, especially North Indian
- Chinese. As above, many Chinese restaurants cater to takeaway addicts, but major cities have small "Chinatowns" with excellent restaurants
- Vietnamese, due to the large number of migrants during the Vietnam war, major cities will usually have a Vietnamese neighbourhood or two, and food sold at Vietnamese restaurants in those areas can be pretty good.
- Asian Fusion refers generally to Asian-inspired dishes
Eating vegetarian is quite common in Australia and many restaurants offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes. Some will have an entire vegetarian menu section. Vegans may have more difficulty but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu should offer some flexibility. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as in the coastal backpacker-friendly towns along the east coast. The market town of Kuranda or the seaside towns of Byron Bay are a vegetarian's paradise. In other country towns and regional areas be prepared to shop in supermarkets or to carry extra food with you, as vegetarians is often poorly catered in such areas. Most towns will have a Chinese restaurant that can provide steamed rice and vegetables.
People observing kosher or halal will be able to find specialist butchers in the capital cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capital cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in the correct way.
All of the capital cities and many regional towns in Australia host a "farmer's market", which is generally held each week in a designated area on a Saturday or Sunday. These markets mostly sell fresh fruits and vegetables, as hygiene standards in Australia forbid the selling of meat from market stalls. The attraction of markets is the lower prices and freshness of the produce. The attraction for the traveller will be the cheap and excellent fruits on offer - depending on the region and season. In regional areas the market is usually held outside the town itself in an empty paddock; markets in capital cities are easier to reach but the prices are typically more in line with those you would find in supermarkets. It’s best to ask a local as in most cases they will be able to direct you.
Drinking beer is ingrained in Australian culture. Although Fosters is promoted as an Australian beer overseas, it is rarely consumed by Australians in Australia. There are the mass produced Australian beers available everywhere and widely consumed, produced by the two primary brewers, Lion Nathan, and Carlton United. There are smaller brewers, whose products are widely distributed, such as Coopers and Boags. There are also local microbrew choices, which can be harder to find, but often worth seeking out. There are also usually a wide range of imported European and American beers available, in all but the most basic pub.
Light (Lite) beer refers to lower alcoholic content, and not lower calories. It has around half the alcohol of full strength beer, and is taxed at a lower rate, meaning it is also cheaper than full strength beer.
Australia also has a very active wine industry and local consumption of wine is increasing. Drinking imported wine is a novelty; you will find that most wines for sale both in bottle shops and restaurants will be Australian wines.
Mixed drinks are also served, particularly vodka, bourbon and whiskey mixers. These are sometimes sold pre-mixed in bottles and cans. Spirits are served in pubs, but not in all restaurants.
See also: Grape grazing in Australia
Legal and cultural aspects
The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years. It is illegal either to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The only legally acceptable proof-of-age is an Australian drivers licence, state-issued proof-of-age card or a passport, and it would be wise to carry one if you want to purchase alchohol and look under 25. Alcohol retailers must ask for ID if you look under 25. It is illegal to go into a gambling area of a pub or club when under 18.
Often there is a lounge, restaurant or bistro area in a pub or club that permits under-age people provided they are accompanied by a responsible adult over 18 and don't approach the bar or wander around.
In general, you can take alcohol (say a bottle of wine or beer) to consume in a park. Alcohol consumption is banned in some public places. These is indicated by signs and is particularly the case in parks and footpaths where public drunkenness has been a problem. However, if you are a family with your picnic basket and blanket out at lunchtime with a bottle of wine, you are unlikely to encounter any problems.
Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licensed venues: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. In some but not all states you can buy alcohol in supermarkets. In those states where you can't, bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity.
Public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at night time but much less so during the day. Public drunkenness is an offence but you would only likely ever be picked up by the police if you were causing a nuisance. You may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.
Driving while affected by alcohol is both stigmatized and heavily policed (by random breath testing police patrols) in Australia (especially around holidays), as well as being inherently dangerous. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. In Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs is also a serious offence.
If you are intending to study in Australia, you may need to be on a visa class that allows this, rather than a tourist visa. Students and academics invited to visit Australian universities will generally also need an appropriate visa, even if their visit is of a short enough period to be covered by a tourist electronic visa. For extremely short term or part time courses, check with your Australian consulate or embassy.
Australian students attend a high school program of approximately six years, and enter university (also called "uni") at seventeen or eighteen years of age. (In Australia, neither "school" nor "college" are used to refer to tertiary institutions; they are referred to only as "universities" - in fact, some primary and secondary educational institutions are referred to as 'colleges') Australian undergraduate programs are usually three to four years in length. A fifth year is compulsory in some professional undergraduate programs such as engineering, law, medicine and dentistry. Medicine at the undergraduate level is either five or six years. Students in three-year degree programs can take an optional fourth year known as honours if they want to proceed into a postgraduate research program, whereas student enrolled in four year programs typically can incorporate their honours thesis into their fourth year.
Australia does not have universities whose prestige competes with Harvard or MIT in the US or Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. However many are ranked in the top 200 in the world (Times Higher Education Supplement).
All tuition at university level is in English, save for courses that specifically focus on other languages. Students who have not previously earned a qualification in an English speaking program (or passed high school English) will have to take one of a number of English competency tests before being allowed to enrol.
Postgraduate studies in Australia fall into two classes: coursework and research. Coursework degrees are generally at the Masters level. Research degrees are at the Masters and Doctoral level.
Undergraduate admission to university is centralized at the state level. You make a single application for admission to the state admissions body stating your course preferences. The universities select students from this common applicant pool based upon their ranking and preferences. Unless you are applying for a creative arts degree, your ranking will be based solely on previous academic performance at both high school and previous university studies.
Postgraduate admission is managed by individual universities and you will need to apply separately to each institution you are considering.
The full fees are very competitive compared to many Western universities. Australian citizens have the option of substantially reduced fees and also have the option of deferring payment and having the money taken from their taxable income along with tax after graduation. Other students will generally be required to pay full tuition on enrolment each semester.
Scholarships are rarely awarded for undergraduate or postgraduate coursework degrees. A comparatively large number of scholarships are available for postgraduate research usually covering both tuition, where required, and living costs. These are awarded by individual universities.
Accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and tourist destinations. It comes in a number of different styles.
Camping is a popular past-time. Most caravan parks will rent camping sites by the night, where you can pitch a tent, and these are available in most towns and cities. The caravan park will provide showers and toilets, and sometimes washing and cooking facilities. Sometimes for an additional fee. Expect to pay around $20 for a tent site, and a few dollars per person. You can even find caravan parks right on the beach, with lagoon swimming pools and playgounnds all free for guests.
National parks often provide camping sites, which expect you to be more self-sufficient. Often toilets are provided and sometimes cold showers. Camping permits are usually required, and popular spots fill up during the holidays in summer. Mostly in Australia it is common to be within an hours drive of a national park or recreation area that will permit some form of camping, even in the capital cities. Expect to pay around $5-$10 per night per person for a camping permit, and national park admission fees.
Some other camping areas are run by government or even local landowners. Expect around $10 per person per night, depending on the time of year.
You can try your luck sleeping on a beach or pitching a tent overnight in a highway rest area, or out in the bush for a free bed. Most rest areas and beaches prohibit camping and many even prohibit overnight parking to discourage this. Generally the closer you are to civilisation or a tourist area, the greater the chance of being hassled by the authorities.
Hostels and Backpackers
Budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often with dormitories is approximately $20-$30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and food storage areas. Most hostels also have living room areas equipped with couches, dining tables, and televisions.
There are several backpacker hostel chains in Australia, including the most well known YHA, and Nomads. There are many indepedent ones also. If you are staying many nights in the same brand of hostel, consider their discount cards, which usually offer a loyalty bonus on accommodatino, and other attraction and tour discounts negotiated by the chain.
Most pubs in Australia offer some form of accommodation. It can vary from very basic shabby rooms, to newly renovated boutique accommodation. The price is usually a good reflection of what you are in for. It is still quite unusual to have a private bathroom, even in the nicer pubs.
Outside of the major centres, the pub is called a Hotel. A motel won't have a public bar. A motel that does have a bar attached is called a Hotel/Motel.
In very small towns local pubs offer the only accommodation available to travellers. Accommodation in these pubs tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms.
Pub accommodation is even available in the centre of Sydney, making getting back to your room after a beer a simple endeavour.
If you travel as a single, and want a private room, pubs usually have single rooms at a discount over a double room. Most motels will charge the same price for one or two people sharing a room.
Typically, motel-style accommodation will have a private room with a bed or number of beds, and a private, shower and toilet. Many motels have family rooms, that will usually have a double bed and two single beds in the one room.
Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost upwards from $80. Usually the cost is the same for one or two adults, with any extra people charged an additional fee. Prices for additional children can range from free to $20 per child. During quiet times its not unusual for motels to offer standby discounts.
Most motels will serve a cooked or continental breakfast to your room in the morning, for an additional charge. Some may have a restaurant or serve an evening meal. Some may have have a toaster in the room.
A number of local and international chains offer motel-style accommodation:
All state capitals have at least one major hotel at 5 star standard, with several available in the major capitals. The majority of Australia's hotels are located in the Central Business Districts (CBD) of the capital city. Hotel services and hospitality are often excellent such as room cleaning services, free morning newspapers, meals to your door and a high-speed internet connection up to 24mb/s (often with a premium fee).
All hotels have a restaurant (or bistro, depending on the type of hotel you are staying in). The restaurant or bistro would often serve food that comparable to many other up-market restaurants outside the hotel. Also on the ground floor would normally be a fully equipped bar.
Cabins are an economical way for families to stay while travelling. Sometimes built on private land, sometimes in caravan parks, cabins typically have a kitchen / lounge area, and one, two or three bedrooms.
Much as the name suggests, this usually involves a cabin or homestead accommodation on a working property. Suited for a stay of two or more days, this accommodation usually allows you to get a little involved in teh running of the farm if you wish. It is common for dinner to be provided in the homsstead, and a breakfast pack to be provided to your cabin.
Holiday homes are homes rented by their owners, often using local real estate agents or specialised web sites. Sometimes located in prime positions, but also sometimes in the residential sections of cities and towns. Minimum rental periods of at least 2 days usually apply, rising to a week during periods when they are busy. At a minimum will have bedrooms, a lounge, bathroom.
Bed and Breakfasts
Bed and Breakfasts tend to be a premium form of accommodation in Australia, often focussed on weekend accommodation for couples. They certainly don't offer the discount form of accommmodation they do in part of the United Kingdom, and the local motel will usually be cheaper.
Sometimes extra rooms in a person's home, but often a purpose built building. You should expect a cosy, well kept room, a common area, and a cooked breakfast. Possibly private facilities. Substantial discounts often apply for mid-week stays at bed abd breakfasts.
There are many true resorts around Australia. Many have lagoon pools, tennis, golf, kids clubs, and other arranged activites. The island of the Whitsundays have a choice of resorts, some occupying entire islands. Port Douglas also has many resorts of a world standard.
Serviced apartments are widely available, for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms.
Caravanning, Campervan, Motorhome and RV
Caravan parks exist in most towns and cities in Australia that will provide powered and unpowered sites for Caravans. You will commonly see the Grey Nomad brigade on their trips around Australia in motorhomes and caravans.
The camper trailer has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camping lifestyle, whether it be weekends away or an extended trip into the great outdoors where no facilities exist. You will need to be self-sufficient and carry suitable spares and a good tool kit.
Station Wagons / Vans
In most parts of Australia it is illegal to sleep in your vehicle but it is possible to get around this by simply rigging up curtains all around the windows so no one can see in from the outside. Trade vans can be picked up for as little as $1000, with a more trustworthy van setting you back no more than $3000-$4000. Add a mattress, pillow, portable gas cooker, cookware and a 20L water container and you are off. If you get caught the fine could be as much as $150 each, so do it at you own risk. But if you are strategic in where you stay you probably won't get caught. Just be sensible and don't the disturb the locals. Also, be aware of parking restrictions in certain parts of the cities and town, including overnight parking restrictions. The parking inspectors can be ruthless and a $100+ fine is not uncommon.
All cities and towns in Australia have free public toilets. Many parks, and most beaches have free electric BBQ's as well. Popular beaches have fresh water showers to wash the salt water off after you swim, so for those on a tight budget (or for those that just love waking up at the beach) simply wash in the ocean (please do not pollute the ocean or waterways by using detergents or soaps) and rinse off at the showers. Almost all taps in Australia are drinking water, the ones that aren't will be marked. Service stations (petrol/gas) almost always have taps, so these are a good place to refill the water containers each time you refuel.
Some of the best experiences you may have in Australia will be by taking that road on the map that looks like it heads to a beach, creek, waterfall or mountain and following it. You may just find paradise and not another soul in sight. And lucky you, you've got a bed, food and water right there with you.
Travelling in a small group lowers the fuel bill per head, as this will likely be your biggest expense.
Enjoy, and respect the land by taking your rubbish/bottles/cigarette butts with you and disposing of them properly.
Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia can work in Australia without any further permits, but others will require a work visa of some kind. All visitors who do not hold Australian permanent residency or citizenship (including New Zealand citizens who aren't also Australian permanent residents or citizens) are not allowed to access Australian social security arrangements for the unemployed, and will have limited, or more usually, no access to the Australian government's health care payment arrangements.
Payment and taxes
Most Australian employers pay via direct deposit to Australian bank accounts. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Your passport will not be enough ID to open a bank account. You will need to show the bank teller 100 points of ID .
As soon as you have an address it is wise to apply for a tax file number. You can apply for it online (though, only in Australia) for free at the Australian Tax Office website , though you can generally get it quicker if you just go to their offices. The Australian financial year runs from July 1 to June 30, and tax returns for each financial year are due on October 30, four months after the accounting period concludes. Check with Australian tax agents about Australian tax liability and filing an Australian tax return.
Australian employers will make compulsory payments out of your earnings to an Australian superannuation (retirement savings) fund on your behalf. Temporary visitors who are not citizens of either Australia or New Zealand can have this money returned to them  when their visa expires and they have left Australia.
Working holidaymaker scheme
Australia has a working holidaymaker program for citizens of certain countries between 18 and 30 years of age. It allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter. You may work during that time, but only for 6 months at any one employer (was 3 months until July 2006). The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidized by casual or short-term jobs. If you're interested in a working holiday, some useful skills and experience might be: office skills to be used for temp work; or hospitality skills to be used for bar or restaurant work. An alternative is seasonal work like fruit-picking, although much seasonal work will require that you work outside the major cities. From 2006, working for 3 months in seasonal work will allow you to apply for a second 12 month visa.
You can apply online for a working holiday visa , but you must not be in Australia at the time. It takes just a few hours to process usually and it costs about 170AUD. On arriving in Australia ask for the working holiday visa to be "evidenced", so you can show your future employer. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs. Don't waste your time applying for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship for a different visa class. Contract jobs generally mean employers are looking for solid experience, so make your resume reflect that. Search for jobs on Seek  or for IT related roles Jobnet . It is wise to try arranging a few interviews and prospects before you arrive in Australia in order to be in the better paid jobs.
Sponsored work visas
The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. However, this just 'easier', not 'easy' as such. Your employer will need to demonstrate that they cannot hire your skills in Australia, and the approval will take several months. If applying in search of sponsorship, be prepared for a long wait for success. Note that getting the visa might take a couple of months from the beginning of the application process, and that you will need a medical examination by a doctor approved by the immigration officials before it can be granted (among other things, you will need a chest x-ray to show that you do not have tuberculosis). Check with your local Australian High Commission, Consulate or Embassy.
For details of work visas see the Immigration Department's website .
Both teachers and nursers are desperately needed in Australia (especially Western Australia) and those from the United Kingdom have a very good chance of being sponsored by the relevant Education or Health Department.
You can apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer than receiving a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residency as the holder of a work or study visa, but your application will not be automatically accepted. After three years of permanent residency you are eligible for Australian citizenship.
There are several volunteer opportunities in Australia. Many worldwide organizations offer extended travel for those wanting to volunteer their time to work with locals on projects such as habitat restoration, wildlife sanctuary maintenance & development, scientific research, & education programs.
- Australian Volunteers, .
- World Wildlife Fund (AU), .
- International Student Volunteers Australia, .
- Youth Challenge Australia, .
Australians are generally an informal, easy-going bunch of people. Australian modes of address tend towards the familiar. It is acceptable and normal to use first names in all situations, even to people many years your senior, and some Australians are fond of using and giving nicknames - even to recent acquaintances.
Profanity is perhaps more common than in North American countries. Unless you find this truly off-putting it is best not to react adversely as you might be considered pompous.
It is generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing in Australia. Bikinis and swimming attire is okay on the beach, and usually at the kiosk across the road from the beach. It is normal to wear at least a shirt and footwear before venturing any further. Most beaches are effectively top optional (topless) while sunbathing. Just about all women wear a top while walking around or in the water. There are some clothing optional (nude) beaches, usually a little further removed from residential areas. Thong bikinis are fine on all beaches and some outdoor pools for both women and men. Some outdoor pools have a "top required" policy for women.
Cover up a little more when visiting places of worship such as churches. In warm conditions casual "t-shirt and shorts" style clothing predominates except in formal situations. Business attire, however, is considered to be long sleeved shirt, tie, and long trousers for men, even in the hottest weather.
Australians are very fond of their seemingly laid-back way of life. Outside of the main cities, travellers may need to be patient so as not to seem too imposing.
Using Australian stereotypical expressions will be viewed as an attempt to mock, rather than to communicate. If you pull it off well, you might raise a smile.
Australians are often self-deprecating, and are rarely arrogant. It is rude to ever agree with a self-deprecating remark. Boasting about achievements is rarely received well.
Most Australians are happy to help out a lost traveller with directions, however many urban dwellers will assume that someone asking "Excuse me", is going to be asking for money, and may brush past. Looking lost, or holding a map, or getting to the point quickly will probably help.
Indigenous Australians (Aborigines)
Do not mention the name of a deceased person to an Aboriginal. Though Aboriginal custom varies, it is best to avoid the possibility of offence.
Some areas of land are sacred to Aboriginal people, and require additional respect.
Many areas of Aboriginal land are free to enter. Some areas carry a request from the Aboriginal people not to enter, and you may choose yourself whether or not to honour or respect that request. An example of an Aboriginal request is climbing Uluru (Ayers Rock). No law prohibits people from climbing the rock (except in heat or strong winds), however, local indigenous communities (The Anangu) request that you do not climb. Uluru holds great spiritual significance to the Anangu. The Anangu feel themselves responsible if someone is killed or injured on their land (as has happened many times during the climb) and request tourists not to place themselves in harm through climbing. Many people who travel to Uluru do climb, however, so you certainly won't be on your own if you choose to do this.
Other areas require permission, others require a permit, and some others are protected and illegal to enter. Some areas in Australia are only open to indigenous populations and non-indigenous people will require a permit to travel to or through these areas. Tourists should check these regulations before making plans. Permits are often available if you agree to show a suitable level of respect to the land you are travelling on, and some Aboriginal Land Councils make them available online.
The number 000 (called 'triple zero' or 'triple oh') can be dialled from any telephone in Australia, home or payphone, free of charge. This number will connect you with emergency operators for the police, fire brigade, and ambulance service. The first question that the operator will ask is which service you need.
If you want to contact these services but the situation is not an emergency, don't call 000 -- call your local police, fire brigade, or ambulance station.
You can dial 000 from all mobile phones sold in Australia. However, using the universal emergency number 112 on your mobile phone will ensure that you can connect to the emergency services if there is coverage from any mobile network, even if there is no coverage from your own provider. You can also call it from phones whose SIM cards have been removed.
The teletext (TTY) emergency service number for hearing or speech impaired people with appropriate equipment is 106.
Calls from fixed line/landline phones may be traced in order to assist the emergency services to reach you. The Australian emergency services have limited abilities to trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, especially outside of urban areas, so be sure to calmly and clearly provide details of your location. Because of an increasing number of calls made accidentally from cellular phones left in bags or pockets, the emergency operators will disconnect your call after 30 seconds if they do not think there is anyone at the other end of the line.
Emergency numbers from other countries (for example, '911' in the USA) do not work in Australia.
Take care on the roads
Keep a sense of perspective. Tourists are far more likely to be killed or injured as pedestrians, drivers or passengers on Australian roads than all the other causes of death and injury combined.
Driving between cities and towns can take longer than you think, especially if you are used to freeway or motorway driving in Europe or North America. Avoid the stresses of fatigue by not planning to drive too far in a day.
Urban Australians jaywalk, dodge cars, and anticipate the sequence of lights. Although most Australians will stop for a red light, running the amber light is common, so ensuring the traffic has stopped before stepping from the curb is always a good idea. People from countries who drive on the right will take a while to get used to looking the right way when crossing.
Around 10-20 overseas travellers drown in Australia each year. Most of these drownings occur at ocean beaches, where statistics put them at at significantly higher risk than locals.
Beach goers should swim between the red and yellow flags which designate patrolled areas. Beaches are not patrolled 24-hours a day or even during all daylight hours. In most cases the local volunteer surf lifesavers or professional lifeguards are only available during certain hours, and at some beaches only on weekends, and often only during summer. If the flags aren't up, then there's no one patrolling - and you shouldn't swim. If you do choose to swim, be aware of the risks, check conditions, stay within your depth, and don't swim alone.
Hard surfboards and other water craft e.g. surf skis, kayaks etc., are not permitted between the red and yellow flags. These craft must only be used outside of the blue 'surfcraft permitted' flags.
Australian ocean beaches can have extremely strong rips that most people are unable to detect or handle. Rips are invisible channels of water flowing away from the beach. These channels take out the water which the incoming surf waves bring into shore. These apparently 'calmer' channels of water are what experienced surfers use for a fast lane out to sea. Beach goers can mistakenly use these channels or areas since they can appear as calm water and look to be an easier area into which to swim. Problems arise when the swimmer tries to swim back into shore against the outgoing current or rip, realize they are getting nowhere so they panic and end up drowning.
If caught in a rip at a patrolled beach, float or tread water and raise one hand. The surf lifesavers will come out to you. Don't wait until you are so tired you can't swim any more. You will probably find local swimmers or surfers will also quickly come to your aid. Usually the flags are positioned where there are no rips, but this isn't always the case.
If you are caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach stay calm to save energy and swim parallel to the beach (not against the pull of the current). Most rips are only a few meters wide, and once clear of the undertow, you will be able swim or catch a wave to return to shore. Never swim alone. Don't think that the right technique will get you out of every situation. In the surf out the back of the beach, while you are trying tread water waves can be pounding you every few seconds. Unless you have seen it happen, its hard to appreciate how quickly a rip can take you 50 metres out to sea, into larger wave breaks. If you are at a surf beach, and its not patrolled proceed with great caution. It should be emphasised that even Australians often refuse to swim on unpatrolled beaches for fear of rips, and travellers should not assume familiarity with the local seas based on overseas experience.
Crocodiles, and the Box Jellyfish can all be found on Australia's tropical beaches, depending on the time of year and area. Sharks occur on southern beaches. See the section below on dangerous creatures.
Tropical cyclones (called hurricanes in the US) occur in the tropics during summer. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather, is available from the Bureau of Meteorology’s warning page  or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on 1900 926 113.
In the tropical north the Wet Season occurs over the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods to those regions. It is not unusual for some coastal areas to be cut off for a day or two while the water recedes. It can still be a good time to visit some of the well populated, tourist-oriented areas, and, except in unusually heavy flooding, you can still get to see the pounding waterfalls and other attractions that can make this an interesting time to visit.
Floods in outback and inland Australia are rare, occurring decades apart, so you will unlucky to encounter them. However, if you are planning to visit the inland or the outback and the area is flooded, then you should reconsider. The land is flat, so the water can take weeks to move on, leaving the land boggy. Insects and mosquitoes go crazy with all the fresh water pooling around, and these things eat insect repellent for breakfast and are still hungry. Roads close, often adding many hours to driving times. Many attractions often lie on a short stretch of dirt road off the main highways, and these sections become impassible, even if the main road remains open. Plan to return in a few weeks, and the land will still be green, the lakes and rivers will still be flowing, and the bird life will still be around.
The wettest period for the south of the country is usually around the winter months of June, July, and August. There is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding. The capital cities are rarely, if ever, significantly affected by floods.
National parks and forested areas of southern Australia, including some parts of major cities next to national parks and forests, can be threatened by bushfires (wildfires) in summer.
If the fire risk is extreme, parks may be closed, especially the backcountry areas, so you will to have an alternative plan if you intend to camp or hike in parks during summer. If there is a fire in a park, it will usually be closed entirely.
Entire country towns can sometimes be evacuated when there is a bushfire threatening them. Often there can be no signs of the fire at evacuation time, but you should leave early, as evacuating through a fire front is dangerous. Best advice is just to move on, and not stay around to watch.
Make sure any fires you light are legal and kept under control. The fire service operates a fire ban system during periods of extreme fire danger. When a fire ban is in place all outdoor fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, and it is your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Fines or even gaol terms apply for lighting fires that get out of control, not to mention the feeling you may get at being responsible for the property, wildlife, and person damage that you may cause.
If you are caught in bushfire, most fires will pass over quickly. You need to find shelter that will protect you from the smoke and radiant heat. A house is best, then a car, then a clearing, a cave, or on the beach is the best location. Wet everything what you can. Stay low and cover your mouth. Cover yourself with non-flammable (woolen) clothing or blankets, and reduce the skin directly exposed to the heat. If you have access to a tap gather water early, don't rely on water pressure as the fire front approaches. If your holiday goes no further than cities, major towns, and beaches, this won't really concern you.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert. It can also get hot. Some parts of the country are always in a drought situation.
When travelling in remote areas, away from sealed roads, where the potential to become stranded for up to a week without seeing another vehicle is very real, it is vital that you carry your own water supply (4 gallons or 7 litres per person per day). Do not be misled by entries on maps such as 'well' or 'spring' or 'tank' (or any entry suggesting that there is a body of water). Nearly all are dry, and most inland lakes are dry salt pans.
Many cities and towns have water restrictions, limiting use of water in activities like washing cars, watering gardens, or public showers.
Poisonous and dangerous creatures
Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of insects, reptiles and marine life on the planet. However, with very few exceptions, the average tourist is unlikely to encounter any of these in an urban environment. The vast majority of deaths from bites and stings in Australia are due to allergic reactions to bees and wasps: there have been no fatalities from spider bites since 1979, and bites from spiders that carry potentially fatal poison occur only a couple of times a year.
Anti-venom is available for most spider and snake bites. If bitten you should immobilize the wound (by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages) and seek immediate medical help. If you are in an isolated area send someone else for help. The venom of some snakes (the taipan in particular) can take effect within fifteen minutes, but if the wound is immediately immobilized and you rest it is possible to delay the onset of poisoning by one to a few hours, depending on the creature. If possible, you should attempt to identify the creature that bit you (in the case of spiders it might be possible to trap it in a jar and take it to the hospital) so that the appropriate anti-venom can be administered swiftly.
If travelling in rural Australia it would be a good idea to carry basic first aid equipment including compression bandages and to learn what to do after a snake or spider bite.
Australia is home to six of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Never try to pick up any snake, even if you believe it to be a non-poisonous species. Most people bitten by snakes were trying to pick up the snake, kill the creature, or inadvertently step on one whilst out walking. Snakes will generally try to put as much distance between themselves and you as possible, so if you see a snake while out walking, simply go around it or walk the other way. Walking blindly into dense bush and grassy areas is not advisable, as they are places where snakes may hide.
It is common to see spiders in Australia, and most will do you no harm. Wear gloves while gardening or handling leaf litter. Check or shake out clothing, shoes, etc that have been left outside before putting them on. Don't put your fingers under rocks, into tree holes, where spiders might be.
The world's deadliest spider is the Sydney Funnel Web spider, found in and around Sydney and eastern New South Wales. Until the late 1970s a bite from this spider could result in death, but anti-venom is now available. The spider is anywhere up to 5 cm large, and is usually black. If you are in an area that is known for having Funnel Web spiders and you are bitten by a spider you believe could be a Funnel Web it is important you get to hospital as quickly as possible. Funnel Webs can seek shelter indoors when there is a lot of rain, however they are usually found under rocks, especially if recent gardening has taken place.
The Red Back spider (easily identified by a red mark on its abdomen), is common and after a bite it is important to seek medical attention, however it is not as urgent as with a Funnel Web. Red Backs typically hide in dark places and corners. It is highly unusual to see them indoors, however they can hide in sheds, around outdoor tables and chairs and under rocks or other objects sitting on the ground.
Travellers in northern Queensland, Northern Territory, or northern Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal stings from the Box Jellyfish if swimming in the ocean between October and May. They are very hard to detect and can be found in very shallow water. Rather than being 'painful', stings from these jellyfish are 'excruciating' and often fatal. Vinegar applied immediately to adhering tentacles will lessen the amount of venom injected, but immediate medical assistance will be required. The danger season varies by location. In general the jellyfish are found close to shore, as they breed in the estuaries. They are not generally found out on the Great Barrier Reef, and many people swim on the reef without taking any precautions. Seek out reliable local information. Some locals at the beach can be cavalier to the risks.
Irukandji are another species of tiny (fingernail sized) jellyfish that inhabit the waters off of Northern Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific islands. They are also very hard to see, and can be dangerous, although bites are rare. Unlike the box jellyfish they are found out on the reef. The initial bite can go unnoticed. There is debate as to whether they can be fatal, but they certainly can place a victim in hospital, and cause extreme pain lasting days. If you have nausea or shooting pains not long after emerging from the water seek medical treatment.
To protect against jellyfish stings it may be best to use a wetsuit or "stinger-suit" that is resistant to jellyfish stings. Stinger suits cost around $100 or can be hired for around $20 a week.
Blue Ring Octopus
Found in rock pools around the coasts of Australia is the tiny, but still deadly poisonous, Blue Ring Octopus. Usually a dull sandy-beige colour, the creature has bright blue cicles on its skin if threatened. The Blue Ring Octopus is rare and shy. Bites occur if they are picked up. In the history of Australia there are only two confirmed deaths by Blue Ring Octopus.
Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or north Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal attacks by saltwater crocodiles in and adjacent to northern waters (ocean, estuarine and fresh water locations) between King Sound, Western Australia, and Hervey Bay, Queensland. Saltwater crocodiles in these areas can reach 25 feet in length and can attack in water without warning. Despite what their name implies, they can be found in both salt and fresh water. On land, crocodiles usually lie motionless, but they have the ability to move with extraordinary speed in short bursts. There are relatively few attacks resulting in injury — most attacks are fatal. Dangerous swimming areas will usually have prominent warning signs. In these regions only swim in inland waters if you are specifically advised that they are safe. Since 1970 there has been about one crocodile attack on a human each year.
The smaller freshwater crocodile is, unlike the saltwater, timid and will avoid humans if possible. The freshwater may attack to defend itself or its eggs or if startled. They can inflict a nasty bite but due to their small jaws and teeth this will rarely cause death in humans.
The Gympie bush (Dendrocnide moroides), also known as the stinging tree, is a stinging plant, whose microscopic stinging hairs on leaves and branches can cause severe pain for up to several weeks. They are mostly found in North-east Queensland, especially in rain forest clearings. However, the Gympie bush and other closely related species (there are about five) of stinging tree can be found in south-east Queensland, and further south in eastern Australia. People bushwalking in such areas are advised not to touch the plant for any reason.
Generally however, so long as you employ common sense and follow local instructions, you are likely to be safe. A lot of the rumours about Australia's wild life are larger than life and blown out of proportion.
Crime rates in Australia are roughly comparable with other first world countries: few travellers will be victims of crime. You should take normal precautions against bag snatching, pick pocketing and the like. There are some areas of the large cities that are more dangerous after dark, but there generally aren't "no-go" areas in the sense that the police refuse to patrol them or that it is dangerous to enter them if you aren't a local.
Australian police are approachable and trustworthy, and you should report assaults, theft or other crime to the police as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should you offer an Australian police officer (or for that matter, any other government official such as a customs officer) a bribe or gratuity, as this is a crime and they will enforce the laws against it.
When leaving your car alone, make sure it is locked, that the windows are rolled up, and that there are no obvious targets for theft in the vehicle, as thieves will often smash windows to get at a phone or bag that is visible in the car.
Racism is a sensitive subject in Australia. There are laws against any form of racial vilification or discrimination. However, you will not have too much difficulty finding an Australian with some prejudiced views on some race. It is much rarer to find someone who will openly express aggression towards a racial group. In practice, Australia is generally a multicultural and racially tolerant society.
The Cronulla riot in 2005 focused international attention on racism in Australia. However, the riot took place over 24 hours, and there has been no recurrance since.
Racism where it occurs, tends to be alchohol-fuelled, and occasionally people wearing religious dress can be abused or even assaulted. Any instances of this should be reported to the police immediately. Young males at night of South-East Asian or Middle-Eastern ethnicity in some city areas can have a higher risk of being in the crossfire of gang related violence.
Some offensive language used for ethnic groups may not be considered offensive by the standards of some Australians. Some will choose a racial abuse term if involved in an argument, over a more general abusive term.
Sentimient against middle-eastern groups is sometimes provoked by elements of the media.
Attempts to scam tourists are not prevalent in Australia; take normal precautions such as finding out a little bit about your destination. There have been instances of criminals tampering with ATMs so that cash is trapped inside them, or so that they record card details for thieves. You should check your transaction records for odd transactions after using an ATMs and immediately contact the bank controlling the ATM if a transaction seems to be successful but the machine doesn't give you any cash.
Opium, heroin, amphetamines (speed), cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and hashish among other drugs are all illegal both to possess and to sell in Australia, with trafficking offenses usually carrying a jail term. Penalties for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana are typically lower than for other drugs. In South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory jail terms do not apply to first time marijuana offences. Foreigners should not expect more lenient treatment than locals from Australian police for drug offenses.
Australia's proximity to Asia means that heroin is a far more commonly used illicit drug than cocaine or crack cocaine. In some areas of large cities you will need to be careful of discarded needles: however these will generally be found in back streets rather than in popular tourist spots. Australia has harm minimization policies: many cities have a needle exchange program and sometimes safe houses for heroin addicts, and HIV infection is thus comparatively low among heroin users in Australia.
Attempting to import illegal drugs into Australia is taken very seriously, and Australia has even co-operated with the police forces in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore in intercepting drug traffickers arriving from or travelling through those countries despite those countries having the death penalty for trafficking. Even information on Australian citizens has been handed to foreign police to assist in trials leading to possible execution. Australia itself has long jail terms (up to life imprisonment) for drug importation. Do not attempt to bring illegal drugs into Australia.
Exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes frequently results in sunburn. People spending time outdoors during the day should wear sun screen (SPF 30+), clothing, and a hat to shade the sun. Reapply suncreen throughout the day - it wears off quickly if you are sweating or swimming. It is also advisable in some areas to stay out of the sun during the hottest periods of the day. Sunburn hurts, causes the skin to peel, and can make you feel generally unwell. Getting sunburnt on your first day in Australia can really ruin your plans to spend more time in the pool or at the beach.
In the long term sun exposure also causes premature aging and skin cancer.
Australia's cleanliness standards are high. Restaurants are required to observe strict food preparation standards and food poisoning is no more common than it is in other first world nations.
The tap water in Australia is almost always safe to drink, and it will be marked on the tap if this is not the case. The taste and hardness of the tap water will vary considerably across the country. Bottled water is also widely available. Carrying water on hot days is a good idea. Even being caught in traffic or on a train in the heat can be uncomfortable without anything to drink. Headaches and nausea are early symptoms of not getting enough water on hot days.
Australia does not have endemic communicable diseases that will require non-standard vaccinations. Like many other countries, it will require evidence of yellow fever vaccinations on entry if you will have been in a country with a risk of infection within 6 days before your arrival in Australia.
When travelling in Australia take precautions against mosquito bites. In far northern areas there have been cases of dengue fever. Generally minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes anywhere in Australia (using repellents or screens) is advisable.
As described above, 000 is the Australian emergency services number and in any medical emergency you should call this number and ask for an ambulance and other emergency services as necessary, to attend.
Australia has first world medical standards. In particular, it is safe to receive blood transfusions in Australia, as donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis and many other blood borne illnesses.
However, since Australia's population density is low, parts of Australia are a long way from medical facilities of any kind. Towns with population 5000 or more will have a small hospital capable of giving emergency treatment in serious emergencies, and larger towns will have a base hospital capable of routine and some kinds of emergency surgery. In severe cases, particularly any kind of injury requiring microsurgery, you will need to be evacuated to one of the capital cities for treatment. Evacuation procedures are well established and normally involve being evacuated by plane or helicopter.
Capital cities will have medical centres where you can drop in, often open on weekends or until late. In country towns you may have to make an appointment, and may have no alternative other than the closest hospital after hours and weekends. You can also expect to wait a few hours if your condition isn't urgent.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who live in the country can receive health care through the taxpayer funded Medicare.
Travellers from New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway are entitled to free reciprocal Medicare treatment for medical problems that occur during their visit, but should familiarise themselves with the conditions of the reciprocal arrangement. For example Irish and New Zealanders are only entitled to free treatment at a hospital, whereas the other reciprocal nationalities are entitled to subsidised treatment at general practitioners as well. No reciprocal programs cover private hospitals, and the full cost will have to be met. Consider travel insurance. If not a citizen of a reciprocal country, you can expect to pay around $60 to see a general practitioner, plus any additional costs for any pathology or radiology required. The charge to pay to visit a local hospital can be much more expensive, private hospitals even more so, up to $500 even if you are not admitted, and thousands if you are.
- Poisons Information Hotline 13 11 26. Will give free advice if any medication or poisons is taken inadvertently. Will also give advice on what treatment is necessary for things like a spider bite.
Australia offers many Internet access options for travellers.
Internet cafés abound in most centres of population that normally cost $4-$5 per hour. Many internet cafés have 12-20 computers sharing a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet painfully slow. If possible ask if you can check the speed of a café's connection before forking out $4-$5 for an hour.
Public libraries usually offer some for of Internet access to travellers, either free or for a small fee. Some restrict access to email, promoting research use of their facilities. Others offer WiFi as well as terminals, with WiFi usually being free of restrictions.
Major hotels offer Internet access, usually for a fee. It is still unusual to find in-room Internet access in smaller hotels and in motels. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least an Internet terminal at reception.
- Many coffee shops offer WiFi, some free to their customers.
- Telstra  offers paid access at many McDonald's and all Starbucks outlets (minimum $5 for first 15 mins, $0.20 per minute after that. You can connect, and enter your credit card details in the store.
- McDonald's is now rolling out free WiFi in replacement of this scheme.
- Optus  has a similar scheme
Some cities have WiFi access provided free in some parts of their centre.
3G and GPRS wireless Internet connections are available through all cellular phone networks. Australia has cellular networks operated by Telstra , Optus , Vodafone  and Three . Short term rental of the access cards is available from some outlets.
Vodafone offers 3G access in all major cities on a month by month basis (no contract). No sign up fee, only $39 per month for approx. 1GB down/upload. You need to have your own 3G/UMTS capable laptop card or you buy one from Vodafone for $299 (sim-locked). They want to see your visa which has to be valid for at least another 3 months from time of sign up.
If you have a phone that supports 3G Internet, it will work when you roam onto the Australian networks. Check your with your home carrier for the fees (likely quite expensive). Alternatively if your phone is not network locked, you pick up a prepaid SIM easily and cheaply from the airport, or shops in any centre.
Dialup is another short-term option. There are many small but reliable ISPs in the $12–$15 per month flat rate range. There are also several ISPs who have a pre-paid arrangement at about $1 per hour of use. It can be surprisingly difficult to find Australian dialup ISPs with instant online signup, but they do exist (Beagle  is one). If moving around, check that your ISP has an access number that can be reached via a local call from landlines nationwide, rather than just in the ISP's home city.
The country code for international calls to Australia is +61. When dialing from overseas, omit any leading '0' in the area code.
For example, the local number for the Broken Hill tourist information is 8080 3300. The area code is 08 as Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or anywhere else inside the same area code region you can optionally omit the area code, and just dial 8080 3300. To dial the number from Sydney or anywhere in Australia outside the area code region, you will need to dial 08 8080 3300. If you don't know your area code region, you can still dial the area code, and it will still work. To dial the number from overseas you will need to dial your local international access code (00 for most of Europe or 011 in the USA and Canada) and then dial 61 8 8080 3300, that is drop the leading '0' from the area code.
There can be many ways of writing the same number, as people try to present the number from the caller's perspective.
- +61 (08) 8080 3300,
- (61 8) 8080 3300,
- (08) 8080 3300,
- 61 8 8080 3300
- 8080 3300
are all the same number, and the same rules apply. If you are dialing within Australia the area code must begin with a '0'. If you are dialing internationally, there is no leading '0'.
Australian Area Code List:
- 02 = Central East (New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and north-eastern fringe of Victoria)
- 03 = South East (Southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania)
- 04 = Mobile phones Australia-wide (higher call charges apply).
- 07 = North East (Queensland)
- 08 = Central & West (Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and far Western New South Wales)
The outgoing international dialing access code (from within Australia) is 0011 (note, "00" and "011", common elsewhere in the world, will not work in Australia).
Local calls are about $0.25 on most fixed lines and $0.50 on all Telstra Pay Phones.
- Numbers commencing with 13 are charged at a local call rate, and what they connect you to can vary according to your location. They can be 10 or 6 digit numbers. For example 1300 796 222, will connect you with the Albury tourist information, no mater where you are in Australia. However, 131 008 will connect you with a different local taxi service depending on where you are. 13 22 32 will connect you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne. Calling these numbers internationally can be problematic.
- Numbers commencing with 18 are free when dialed from a payphone or fixed phone, and commonly used for hotel reservation numbers, or tourist information numbers.
- Numbers commencing with 19 are premium numbers.
- Numbers commencing with 12 are carrier services, and are dependent on what network you are connected to. For example 12 456 is a general information number for Telstra. Vodafone offer a similar services on 123. These numbers can be premium services as well.
Calling special numbers internationally can often work - just try dialing the number prefixed with the +61 country code. Many locations will give an alternative direct number for use in international dialing. You can use the non-geographical number search on e164.org.au  to look up a normal number from a 13 or 18 number.
Mobile Cellular Phones
Australia has three nationwide cellular (mobile) phone networks based on the GSM standard (900 and 1800mhz) operated by Telstra , Optus  and Vodafone . There are also four UMTS networks, two of which are nationwide. One is operated by Telstra (UMTS 850mhz) and Optus (a combination of UMTS 2100mhz and 900mhz). The other two networks are limited to capital cities, are on the 2100mhz band and are operated by Vodafone and Three . It should be noted that the Three network is actually half owned by Telstra, therefore Telstra users can also access it. Also, Vodafone have announced a nationwide 3G rollout on the 900mhz band.
Coverage varies widely between carriers and is mostly limited to populated areas but to Australias large land mass and low population density. Major highways are generally well covered however. Of the land based cellular networks, Telstra's 850mhz 3G network provides the widest overall coverage.
Web address for coverage maps are linked below:
- Telstra 
- Optus 
- Vodafone 
- Three 
An easy way for travellers to chat to people is to buy a prepaid mobile phone. These can cost from $25 upwards, depending on the brand, and are available around Australia in most retail outlets and post offices. They can then be topped up with recharged cards. It is also possible to buy a prepaid SIM card for a GSM 900/1800 or 3G phone you already own. These cost around $30 (with $30 worth of calls included) (although this varies a little depending on the network. Some providers also sell just SIMs without credit, $3 for Optus and $2 for Virgin and Vodafone (Vodafone $2 SIMs are only available at Woolworths, Big W, Dick Smith). Prepaid calls cost roughly 30-40 cents per 30 seconds plus a 30-40 cent flagfall, again depending on the network. SMSs are generally 25c. The main GSM prepaid providers are Telstra , Optus , Virgin Mobile  and Vodafone . Surprisingly, it can be cheaper to call the United States than it is to call within the same city in Australia using a mobile phone.
Outside towns and major highways, cellular coverage is scarce.
If you need comprehensive coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Expect to pay around $120 per week to hire a satellite phone, plus call costs. There are satellite messaging units, which send your location and a help SMS or email, that can be hired for around $80 per week.
These units are only available from specialty dealers, often only in major cities (away from the remote areas you may be visiting). You should be able to acquire or hire this units in your home country before departure if you wish.
Text messages can be sent from many public phones, using the keypad in much the same way as a mobile phone. Follow the instructions on the phone display.
Australia Post  runs Australia's postal service. Letters can be posted in any red Australia Post posting box, which are found at all post offices and many other locations. Stamps can be purchased from post offices, some newsagents and hotels. Posting a standard letter costs $0.55 within Australia, $1.40 to other Asia-Pacific countries and $2.05 to the rest of the world. Postcards cost $1.35 no matter where they are posted to. Parcels, express mail and other services are also available.
This page was last edited at 01:56, on 29 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Ian Sergeant and jan, Wikitravel user(s) Hexagon1 and 1manfern, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.