Australia Travel Guide
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. For US passport holders, an Electronic Travel Authority Visa is required for a stay up to 90 days. This visa ( ETA) can be arranged by your travel agent if you hold a US or Canadian passport or online. As part of my travel service, I can issue this Australia visa, free of charge, to travelers who hold a USA or Canadian passport.
Australia Electricity : The electrical supply in Australia is 240 volts, 50Hz Ac and uses 3 pin sockets. For the larger 110-volt appliances (e.g. hair dryers, curling irons) converters are required. If you have a newer electronic, such as a phone, Ipad, Tablet or computer (2010 and newer), then you’ll 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)y
Best time to visit Australia is in late February, March, November or early December (before Dec. 15).
Weather to consider when traveling:
* Mid-Dec to early Jan. is peak travel time. Prices are at their highest for land and air travel. y
WHEN VISITING AUSTRALIA DURING CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR, IT’S BEST TO BOOK BY APRIL OR EARLY MAY.
* Anything north of the ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ has only two seasons. Wet & Dry which is where Darwin & Cairns are.
* Traveling in the Top End – Northern Territory: Be careful when visiting cities such as Darwin, Katherine & Kakadu as they have only 2 Seasons – Wet & Dry. The best weather is from May to Oct. It rains from Oct – May.
* In Central Australia (Alice Springs/Ayers Rock) it has 4 seasons with Oct. – May being the hottest with warm nights. During June – Sept. you’ll find very cold nights so bring a coat.
* In winter, the farther south you travel the colder it becomes (so Melbourne is colder then Cairns). During their summer, the temps everywhere can reach in the 80’s and sometime 90’s. To view the weather forecast for any month, log on to: www.weatherbase.com
Using your electronics in Australia: Australia is a very modern country with cell service available in all major cities. You’ll find access to free Wifi throughout Australia’s airports, shopping malls, coffee shops and more. Hotels are still catching up and for many hotels you may be required to pay a daily Wifi fee. Almost gone are the days of buying a SIM card for your phone however those are still available, which provide you with a local number – they are not cheap. I recommend checking with your US phone carrier to find out if you can purchase an international data plan – some carriers may provide free intentional data (though you’ll get a limited data though google maps will work with that) with free texts and inexpensive phone calls.
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 in Australia:
* Intra-Australia flights: Keep in mind that Australia only has about 3 or 4 airlines. Distances are great in Australia so it’s best to fly between cities. To save money, try to purchase your internal Australia flights along with your international airline tickets as you are getting a discount on internal flights when you do so. The most expensive cities to fly into are Ayers Rock & Alice Springs.
* City Public Transport: Australia has terrific public transport systems in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth & Adelaide. Purchasing bus/train tickets however is different in each city so ask your hotel for help. There is a free city tram in Melbourne.
* Airport Trains: Only Sydney has a train to city link – AirportLink while all the other cities will require you to use a shuttle service, private transfer or a very very long bus ride.
* City to City Train: There are several great Rail Journeys in Australia such as: The Ghan, Indian-Pacific, Great South Pacific Express & the Queenslander. Train schedules are limited and the Ghan although very scenic, if expensive.
* 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
* Bus travel is one of the least expensive land transportation available however you’ll be traveling for a very long time.T he bus from Melbourne to Sydney is 12hrs in length.
* Taxis and Australia Uber are available.
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 US driver’s license is accepted at all Australia car rental companies. Australia minimum age car rental hire is 25 yrs. Australia has very strict drink-driving laws and random breath testing are conducted in all of Australia’s States. The limit is only 0.05 compared with 0.08 to 0.1 in the United States.
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 international phone 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 with no problem. 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.
Australia 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
Australia 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.