Australia Travel Guide

Australia travel guide map
Australia Travel Time: From Los Angeles to Sydney is 14 hours. Flights from the USA usually leave in the evenings and arrive two mornings later, so you actually loose a day when traveling to Australia. On the return to the USA, you arrive the same day you depart from Australia.

Australia Visa (ETA): You need a valid passport (valid 6 months after your trip ends) to visit Australia. Travel requires an Electronic Travel Authority for stay up to 90 days. This visa ( ETA) can be arranged by your travel agent if you hold a US or Canadian passport. As part of my travel service to my clients, I can issue this Australia visa, free of charge, to travelers who hold a USA or Canadian passport.

Australia Electricity : The domestic electrical supply in Australia is 240 volts, 50Hz Ac and uses 3 pin sockets. For the larger 110-volt appliances (e.g. hair dryers) converters are needed. If you have a newer electronic, such as a phone, Ipad or computer, then you will only need an adapter and not a voltage converter as newer electronics have the conversion already built in.

Australia Travel Seasons:
Spring: September to November
Summer: December to February
Fall: March to May
Winter: June-August (best time to visit northern Queensland & the Top End)
Insider tips to consider when traveling:
* Mid-Dec to late Jan. is peak travel time and holidays for students. Prices are at their highest for land and air travel.
* Anything north of the ‘Tropic of Capricorn has only two seasons. Wet & Dry which is Darwin & Cairns areas.
* In the Northern Territory (ie. Darwin area) the dry season (May – Sept) you will it the best weather to visit. It rains from Oct – May.
* In Central Australia (ie. Alice Springs/Ayers Rock) it has 4 seasons with Oct. – May being the hottest with warm nights. During June – Sept. you will find very cold nights so bring you winter coat.
* In Northern Queensland and the Top End (Darwin) May – Nov. is the drier, and best time to visit. During Jan.-Mar. you will run into the Monsoons season and lots of rain.
* In winter, the farther south you travel the colder it becomes. During their summer, the temps everywhere can reach the mid-forties. Summer is very dry and the further towards the center you travel, the hotter and drier it becomes. Up in Darwin, only. To view the weather forecast for any month, log on to: www.weatherbase.com

Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory in Australia. Tipping is not expected and historically has not been the norm – basic wage rates and overtime payments in the hospitality industry have generally been protected. You won’t cause offence if you don’t tip, service providers however are always grateful if you leave the change.

Getting Around:  Getting around locally is very easy and safe. Australia has a terrific public transport. Each city has its own way of purchasing for tickets.
* In Melbourne, no single ticket fares are available any longer. Everyone needs to purchase a Myka card for all public transport. The Myka costs AUD$6 upfront and then you add currency to it. A Visitor’s Myka package, valid for 1 day of unlimited transportation, is AUD$14. There FREE tram in the Melbourne central business district which will take you to many of Melbourne’s sights.
* In Sydney, single ticket fares are available and can be purchased either at the main station or a local store. There is a train, called the AirportLink, which will take you from the airport to the city center.
* There are several great Rail Journeys in Australia such as: The ‘Ghan’, Indian-Pacific, Great south Pacific Express & the Queenslander. Train schedules are limited.
* The Aussie RailPass, is for use on all the rail systems, offers between 14 and 90 consecutive days of unlimited travel for the holder. The Kangaroo pass, allows between 14 and 30 days-unlimited travel on coaches as well as trains
* A number of airlines have regular services to cities throughout Australia. It is recommended that you fly between cities unless you have allotted a lot of time in Australia as distances between cities can be great. Prices are best when purchased prior to departure from the U.S.
* Bus travel is one of the least expensive land transportation available. They will get you everywhere you need to got within Australia. All coaches are non-smoking.
* Taxis are metered. Drivers are sometimes a good source of information for what restaurant, nightclub or attraction to visit, will undoubtedly have an opinion on politics and will not expect a tip (although rounding up to the nearest dollar will be appreciated). It’s an Australian custom to use the front seat of a taxi.

Foreign currency/Paying: Currency exchanges are available throughout Australia. Credit cards are widely accepted (compulsory if you’re going to rent a car). ATM’s are located throughout the country and are highly recommended if you want to change currency exchange – the more you take out the less the per dollar fee will be. I recommend using your ATM to withdraw the local currency instead of purchasing currency while still in the USA. Most USA credit cards will charge you a 2% – 3%currency transaction fee to all purchases. There are some credit cards which don’t have a foreign transaction fee, which I recommend obtaining before you leave for your trip.

Accommodations: You can stay in luxury resorts, great international hotels, comfortable motels or self-catering apartments. Most rooms have a telephone, tea and coffee-making facilities, television, radio and private facilities. Self-catering apartments are available in most capital cities, large towns and resort or beach areas. For a different view of Australian life you can stay in the home of an Australian family – a home stay. If you wish to sample the life of rural Australians, a Farm Stay is an unforgettable experience. If you are traveling on a budget there are youth hostels, backpacker hostels and caravan/camping parks. All are safe and are a great way to meet travelers from all over the world. You can purchase accommodations passes, which are hotel pre-paid vouchers, good for a variety of properties throughout Australia.

Driving in Australia: Australians drive on the left hand side of the road. In most areas, the max. speed limit in cities and towns is 60 km/h (35 mph) and 100 km/h (60 mph). There are many speeding cameras located in Australia, so I don’t recommend speeding or you will pay a hefty fine. (Remember the car rental company does have your credit card) All car hires must have a mandatory collision insurance – which is included in the price. Your own US. driver’s license is accepted at all rental companies. Minimum age required is 25 yrs. Australia has very strict drink-driving laws and random breath testing is conducted in all of Australia’s States. The limit is only 0.05 compared with 0.08 to 0.1 in the United States.

Driving Distances:
Sydney – Melbourne = 12-13 hours
Sydney – Adelaide = 23 hours
Sydney – Brisbane = 17 hours
Brisbane – Cairns = 25 hours
Melbourne – Adelaide = 10 hours
Adelaide – Perth = 35 hours
Adelaide – Alice Spring = 6 hours

Calling to/from Australia: Check with your mobile phone carrier and find out what intentional plans they have. Calling within the country can be expensive however texting is cheap. You can choose to purchase a SIM card for your phone (it should be a tri/quad band phone), while in Australia which offer a variety of plans and will provide you with a unique, Australian phone number as well.
The country code for Australia is 61. When calling to Australia from overseas, dial your international access code (011 from the U.S./Canada) followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Australia are 9 digits in length.

Food & Restaurants: You can dine at elegant restaurants, leading hotels and other locations or enjoy a “pub” counter lunch. Bistros, cafes and family-style restaurants offer good food at reasonable prices. Ethnic restaurants offer a wide variety of cuisines from all around the world. There are many low cost eating places, including fast-food chains and take-away food stores. Some restaurants provide non-smoking dining areas. Food is fresh and plentiful at stores and supermarkets. Australian wines are good and inexpensive; beer is served chilled. Restaurants usually serve iced water on request only. Many restaurants have a full liquor service; others allow you to “bring your own” (BYO) wine or beer to serve with your meal.

Time Zones: There are three time zones in Australia – Eastern Standard Time (EST) which operates in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland; Central Standard Time (CST) in South Australia and Northern Territory; and Western Standard Time (WST) in Western Australia. CST is half an hour behind EST, while WST is two hours behind EST. New South Wales, ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia have daylight saving during the summer months.

Medical: Visitors can bring reasonable quantities of prescribed medications into Australia. All should be clearly labeled and identifiable. For large quantities, bring a doctor’s certificate to produce to Customs if necessary. Chemists (Pharmacists) can fill most prescriptions but some may need to be reissued by an Australian registered doctor. In the event of illness, your hotel should be able to call a doctor or refer you to one, or you can call your country’s High Commission, Embassy or Consulate General for a list of doctors. Canadian visitors and US are not covered by Australia’s national health insurance scheme. It is recommended that you travel with adequate travel insurance. Australian health care professionals are highly trained and medical services are among the best in the world. Medical and dental services and a wide range of alternative therapies are widely available and are comparatively cheap by most international standards. Visitors from the UK, New Zealand and Finland are entitled to free or heavily subsidized medical and hospital care under reciprocal national health care agreements with the taxpayer funded Medicare system. All visitors should take out travel insurance prior to departing for Australia and the south pacific.

Customs: Strict laws prohibit or restrict the entry of drugs, steroids, and firearms, protected wildlife and associated products. All animals, animal products, foodstuffs, plants, and plant products must be declared. There is no limit on the amount of Australian and/or foreign cash that may be brought into or taken out of Australia. However, amounts over A $5,000 or equivalent must be reported.
Travelers’ 18 years and over may bring I liter of alcohol and 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco duty free. There is a duty free allowance of A$400 per person 18 years and over, or $A200 per person under 18 years. Short term visitors may bring most articles into the country duty free, provided Customs is satisfied that they are for their own personal use. Keep receipts for all purchases. appliances (e.g. hair dryers) converters are needed.

Airport Distances & Travel Times: 
Sydney 9km,15 minutes
Melbourne 20 km, 30 minutes
Brisbane 13km, 15 minutes
Adelaide 8km, 10 minutes
Perth 13lm, 15 minutes
Hobart 20km, 22 minutes
Darwin 14km, 16 minutes
Cairns 12km, 14 minutes

Nightlife: It’s hard to generalize on nightlife as one person’s magic is another one’s mosh pit. In cities there are free publications on what’s happening in pubs, clubs, what bands/concerts, restaurants, theatre, opera, free events etc are on. Taxi drivers can usually match a personality with a place and hotel concierges know what’s on where and good ones can usually find tickets even if something is a ‘sell-out’. Many cities have ‘ethnic’ pockets for eating out (Little Italy, Chinatown etc) and a designated ‘nightclub’ area.

Beaches: Australian beaches rank with the best in the world. Golden sand and clean water within easy reach of major cities make them a major attraction for locals and visitors alike. They fall into two categories – still water harbourside beaches and open water ocean or ‘surf’ beaches. Beaches are very much part of the Australian way of life, for swimming, surfing, family outings or simply lazing about – however, they can be dangerous with deceptive rips, so common sense and obeying the rules should come into play. Flags: The main rule on Australian breaches is to ‘swim between the flags’. Beaches develop currents known as ‘rips’, which can be so strong they literally pull swimmers off their feet in water knee high and sweep them out to sea. These are hard to identify as they can occur in quite calm conditions with relatively small waves. Just a reminder about beach safety: Do not attempt to wade in the surf away from the flags or the crowds as a ‘rip’ or the undertow of receding waves can be so strong as to knock you off you feet and drag you to sea. If caught, concentrate on staying afloat by ‘treading water’ and wave one arm from side to side above your head. If there are no flags, the beach is not patrolled and you should play safe and not swim there.

General: Australia is the world’s smallest, flattest continent and largest island, with almost 70 per cent of its land mass below the Tropic of Capricorn. The island continent separates two great oceans — the Pacific to the east and the Indian to the west. New Guinea and South-East Asia are Australian’s nearest neighbors to the north, and New Zealand is located off the south-east coast. Australia is one of the world’s most urbanized countries, with 70 per cent of the population living in the 10 largest cities. Australia is divided into six states and two territories.

States & Territories: 6 States: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Mainland Territories: Australian Capital Territory (ACT) & Northern Territory.