In another few weeks Australia will enter its peak travel season. Millions of visitors from Europe, North America and other parts of the world will flock to the land down under in search of their own adventures. If you are one of the lucky travelers heading to Australia, here are some travel tips you need to know before you go.
1. Australia is Huge and Extremely Diverse
Unless you are planning to spend 6 months traveling around the country, you are not going to see it all. It may look small, but looks are deceiving. Consider this:
- Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, occupying a territory of 7 692 024 sq. km, which is more than the size of ALL European Union countries. Yet it has one of the lowest population density in the world of only 2.6 people/km
- A flight from East Coast (Brisbane) to the West Coast (Perth) will take you 5 .5 hours. If you were even considering a road trip across, don’t. Majority of the Australia population lives along the coast, so unless you are road tripping along the East Coast, prepare to be traveling for days on end without any interesting sites or towns to check out along the way. It’s a whole lot of nothingness out there.
- A road trip from Cairns to Brisbane is practically impossible in less than 3 days. And even then it’s really rushed. Same goes for road-tripping from Brisbane to Sydney.
- It will take you over 9 hours to drive from Sydney to Melbourne.
Conclusion: If you want to city hop – fly. If you want to check out off the beaten path towns – give yourself at least a month or two to explore. If you plan with the mindset of more time in fewer places, you’ll definitely enjoy it more!
2. Australia is Really Expensive
Budget at least $100 per day for accommodation, food and activities. Transportation will probably be on top of that. If you are looking for ways to save on your trip to Australia, consider the following suggestions.
- Fly with budget airlines, like Tiger Airways and Jetstar, instead of the full service Qantas and Virgin. Unlike in the US, one way flights in Australia aren’t more expensive when compared to return flights, so don’t be afraid to book one leg at a time. Webjet.com.au is the best place to search for domestic flights in Australia. Buy a Greayhound hop on/hop off bus pass instead of individual tickets to get from city to city. If you want the luxury of traveling on your own time without spending a fortune on hire cars, why not hire a relocation campervan and secure your accommodation and transportation for just $1/day plus gas!
- If camping isn’t your thing, stay in hostels, they are relatively cheap $30-$50/person/night and not as gross as you may think. If you want privacy, get a private room. It will still be a lot cheaper than getting a hotel room. If you are traveling as a couple, or with friends, consider staying in Airbnb accommodation. There are lots of affordable options all over Australia ranging from rooms in other people’s houses, to lovely homes suitable for groups.
- Cook your own food. There are lots of great restaurants in Australia, but this isn’t Vietnam or India where local food is incredible and cheap. There is no reason to eat out every meal. Go to a local grocery chain like Coles or Woolworths, stock up on some sausages and bread and have a sausage sizzle in the park. There are free public BBQs available in most parks all over Australia. You don’t even need your own kitchen and you’ll see plenty of Australians doing the exact same thing! Thumbs up for local experiences.
- Drink less. And when you do drink opt to pre-drink before you head out to a bar, or drink at BYO (bring you own alcohol) restaurants. Drinking at bars in Australia is expensive and will end up killing your budget. If budget is really tight, goon (boxed wine) is your best friend.
For more tips read: How to Travel Australia on a Budget
3. Get Acquainted With the Local Language
There are actually quite a few slangs and differences in Australia English vs American English. Here are just a few examples that you will likely come across on your trip.
(Australia English = American English) : Thongs = flip flops, bum bag – fanny pack, togs/swimmers – bathing suit, capsicums = peppers, ketchup = tomato sauce, chips = fries, lollies = candy, bushwalking = hiking/trekking, boot = trunk, bonnet = hood of a car, gas = petrol, ute =pick up truck, fortnightly = every 2 weeks. If you are out watching a sport with some new “mates”, don’t ask them who they are rooting for. Rooting means having sex, not cheering. If you want to find the centre of the city, don’t ask for directions downtown, here they call it CBD (Central Business Distric). If you get sick and needs some meds, ask for the nearest chemist, not pharmacy. If someone invites you to come over for tea, it often means you are being invited for dinner.
A lot of other words are shortened, like arvo – afternoon, not to be confused with avo = avocado, barbie = bbq, bickies = biscuits or cookies, breaky = breakfast and so on. Your name will most likely also be shortened to something that ends in “y”/”ie” or “z”. (Stevie, Robbie, Marky, Caz, Loz, etc)
4. Don’t Expect to be Surrounded by Kangaroos and Koalas
It is possible to spot them in the wild, but you’d have to venture out to a national park/reserve or further inland, away from the city buzz, to find them. Sometime you may even spot them in the suburbs or on a golf course. One of the best places to see wildlife in Australia is Kangaroo Island just south of Adelaide. Alternatively, try any of the zoos: Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Melbourne Zoo, Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, both located just outside of Brisbane.
While kangaroos and koalas aren’t common in highly populated areas, other Australian residents are. You will likely see a lot of bats, possums, some snakes, lizards, plenty of spiders and other bugs. There are also plenty of cool birds around. I live just outside the city centre and I see cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets on my patio on a weekly basis.
5. Mind Your Generosity!
Tipping in Australia is not common practice. You are not expected to tip in restaurants, bars, or taxis. You don’t need to add a tip to your hair cut bill, or give any money to staff in hotels. All workers in Australia are paid significantly better than elsewhere in the world, think $16.87 an hour as an absolute minimum, so the busboys and bartenders here aren’t relying on them to make a descent living. Of course, if you really want to acknowledge excellent service, especially if you are dining at a high end restaurant, you can leave a tip. But if you are out for the night, and leave a few coins behind as a tip at a bar, it’s likely that someone will tell you that you’ve forgotten your change.
6. Mind the Sun!
I don’t want to sound like your mom telling you to cover up or don’t spend too much time in the sun, but don’t! The sun is really strong here, so stock up on sunblock and respect the fact that you may get burned a LOT faster than you would back home, or anywhere else in the world. No, it’s not because the sun here is “different”. It’s the same sun, but for one environmental reason or another it has much stronger effect on skin here. South Eastern Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world! Just 30 mins in the Australian sun is enough to burn you to the crisp. Trust me, I speak from experience.
So balance your time in the sun with time in the shade, wear sunscreen, cover up, and don’t forget to stay hydrated to avoid heat stroke. And no, hydrating yourself with beer/cider/goon isn’t good enough.
7. Australian Weather Will Surprise You
Australian summer (December to March) isn’t always lovely like the summers are in North America and Europe. Here it’s hot, like really hot. In some parts of the country it rains a lot. In 2010 there was so much rain on the East Coast that the whole city of Brisbane was flooded. While in other parts it gets so dry, there are news about bush fires on the news on a daily basis. If you are flexible, plan to visit Australia during the shoulder season – which is October/November or April/May. It’s still really warm and sunny but there is a lot less rain and unbearable humidity/heat. And if you must come during the high season – pack an umbrella or a rain jacket.
At the same time, don’t assume that Australia is hot all year around. The northern parts of the country, like Darwin and Cairns, are actually fairly warm all year around, but temperatures in other parts of Australia a can go down to -5 °C or lower. Sometimes, it ever snows! Eeeeek!
8. Drink Local
When choosing drinks for the night, go local. Australia has a ton of great local brands and plenty of micro-breweries that are worth trying while you are here. Just please don’t ask for a pint of Fosters. If you want to go mainstream, try XXXX Gold, Coopers, Hahn, or James Squire instead.
Cider is also really popular with Australians. Here are some suggestions of the best brands from all over Australia.
9. Learn to be OK With Being Offline
Internet is Australia is slow and expensive. Wi-fi may be available in hostels and some cafes throughout your travels, but more likely than not, the connection will be crap. Libraries and Mcdonalds do have free wi-fi, so if you are desperate to get online, go there. Once of the best ways to stay connected on the road is to unlock your mobile phone before you leave home and pick up a Telstra Pay As You Go Sim card. Telstra has the best coverage across the country, so you’ll be able to stay connected even in the remote areas. It’ll set you back by $30-50/month, depending on how much data you want to have, but it might be well worth it in the end.
10. You Will Probably Really Like it Here
No actually, you will LOVE it here! You will see the most amazing sunsets, trek thought lush green rainforests, swim in the most crystal clear waters, and sunbathe on the most beautiful beaches. You’ll meet great people, hear great stories, and go on amazing adventures. You might even jump out of an airplane, learn how to dive, learn how to surf, or fall in love with sailing. You’ll see all the amazing things Australia has to offer and be devastated when you have to say good bye and board your plane back home. So why not scrap your idea of a holiday in Australia and consider a temporary move here? It’s a lot easier than you think!
Have you ever been to Australia? Got any other advice to share?
Leave your advice in the comments box below.
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