Travel to Australia

The Commonwealth of Australia is the sixth largest country by area and consists of the mainland, the island of Tasmania and several smaller islands. It is surrounded by sea on all sides – the Indian Ocean on the west, the South Pacific Ocean to the east, the Tasman Sea to the south east, the Coral Sea to the northeast and the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea to the north.

The capital of the country is in Canberra, although the largest city is Sydney. The majority of the highly urbanized population live on the eastern seaboard. Some of the major cities in the country are Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.

English is spoken as the national language. Many Aboriginal languages are still used, although some of these may be dying out due to disuse.

Based on scientific evidence it is clear that Australia was settled more than 50,000 years ago, which was succeeded by successive waves of immigration.

Captain James Cook lead an expedition on his ship, the Endeavour, and charted the east coast of Australia, making landfall at Botany Bay in 1770. He is perceived as the first European discoverer of Australia, although in truth, Australia had been explored for centuries prior to this date.

Present day Australia is a developed, prosperous country with a comprehensive social security system, free universal healthcare and is a wonderful place to live and visit.

We hope that this carefully prepared travel guide will ease your travel planning and encourage you to plan a future trip to Australia.

Travel tips for Australia

Visa Requirements for Australia

All visitors to Australia require an entry visa for an Australia tour (i.e. apart from nationals of New Zealand).

Depending on your nationality, there are various types of Australian visa application. They consist of eVisitor (free for a select 31 countries), Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (available online with a service fee), Tourist Visa (paper based application for people from non-ETA eligible countries), Online Visitor Visa (for ETA and eVisitor eligible countries and 27 eligible countries- higher service fee), Visitor Visa (need to visit an embassy or visa processing centre with a fee) and Work and Holiday Visa (temporary work and stay visas valid for up to a year).

Please check the current guidelines, of the visa requirements for your country and ways to get an Australian visa before you fly to Australia.

Important Cultural Information

Australia has a large multicultural population with diverse customs, religions and traditions. A quarter of Australians were born outside Australia and another quarter have at least one parent born on foreign soil. Approximately half a million Australians identify themselves as having Aboriginal descent. A proportion of these people maintain elements of traditional Aboriginal culture. There are over a hundred Aboriginal languages still known and spoken.

The population of convicts that historically formed an estimated 50% of the population when the British and others landed on Australian shores, have become progressively diluted with wave upon wave of successive immigration.

Expect to converse in English, wherever you go in Australia. If you can’t speak English, expect to fall into communication problems. People in rural Australia tend to speak in a broader, colloquial accent. There are slight pronunciation differences from region to region within Australia but these differences are becoming less and less common.

Social conservatism seems to be the norm in Australian society compared to some European cultures. Religious observance is also relatively relaxed. Homosexuality is legal in Australia.

Banking & Money in Australia

The currency of Australia is the Australian Dollar ($) (AUD), with 100 cents making one dollar. Coin denominations in use are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. Note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

ATMs are spread widely throughout Australian towns. ATMs here may demand a surcharge, over and above that charged by the bank or card issuer. If you have a Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa card then teller machines at the international airport will dispense Australian dollars and charge the ATM plus bank fee.

Credit cards are widely accepted at most Australian shops along with debit cards. A minimum purchase amount is usually required. Visa and MasterCard are accepted universally. American Express and Diners Club at large supermarkets and departmental stores. JCB has limited acceptance.

The names of some popular Australian banks are Commonwealth Bank, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), National Australian Bank (NAB), Westpac Bank, Bank of Queensland, Macquarie Bank, Bendigo Bank, Suncorp Bank and Bankwest.

Medical Emergency Information

The number for police, fire and ambulatory emergencies is 000 (112 from an international phone).

The 000 number is only to be called in case of someone requiring urgent medical help, a serious injury, life or property being threatened or in the event of witnessing a serious accident or crime. Two non-emergency police numbers are 131 444. In Victoria, this protocol should be replaced by calling the local police station.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an air rescue service to extend healthcare to patients in remote areas. They transport patients as well as set up health care clinics.

Western Australia: 1 800 625 800

Southern Australia and Northern Territory: 08 8648 9555

Queensland: 07 4654 1443

New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria: 08 8088 1188

The names of some Australian hospitals of note include: The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The Sydney Private Hospital, Royal Adelaide Hospital, St John of God Bendigo Hospital among others.

To be sure, you should have travel insurance for Australia. Make sure to get good travel insurance for Australia beforehand. Compare options with both WorldNomads and SafetyWing.

Wi-Fi and Internet in Australia

The country code for Australia is 61. Australia has three nationwide cellular phone network operators. They are Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. They operate on the GSM standard (900 and 1800 MHz). There are also four UMTS networks. One is operated by Telstra, the other by Optus and the other two are found in capital cities and operated by Vodafone and Three.

Those travelers with foreign SIM cards can roam seamlessly onto Australia’s GSM and 3/4G LTE networks.

It is possible to buy an inexpensive mobile phone with prepaid SIM in Australia at most shops. Alternatively you can buy just the SIM, which can be topped up with recharge cards available at supermarkets and newsagents.

In case you are visiting remote areas then you should look into hiring a  satellite phone.

There are many Internet cafes available in most city centers but since there may be many computers sharing a single broadband connection, the connectivity may be quite slow. Public libraries and larger hotels may offer free Wi-Fi access or access for a small charge.

Free Wi-Fi hubs may be available about town in various coffee shops, McDonald’s cafes and at various malls. Make sure to set-up a VPN (like ExpressVPN) before using public Wi-Fi spots. Read more about why using a VPN while traveling is important.

Arrival in Australia

The most practical way to arrive in Australia is via air, given how far away the country is from the rest of the world.

Half of all international travelers arrive in the country via Sydney Airport (SYD). It is located 8km from the city centre of Sydney in a southerly direction. Other major international airports are located in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island also have international air connectivity to limited destinations.

Sydney is a 3 hour flight away from New Zealand and 7-11 hours away from Asian countries. It is about 14 hours away from North or South America and South Africa and more than 24 hours away from some Western European countries. Travel between Europe and Australia is preferably broken with a stopover in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

Discount Airlines like Air Asia X (from Kuala Lumpur), Air Asia Indonesia (from Indonesia), Scoot (from Singapore), Tiger (from Singapore), Jetstar Airways (from Hawaii, Denpasar, Osaka, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh) and Virgin Australia (from LA) all ply to various Australian destinations.

Search for flights to Australia on Expedia.

It is possible to arrive in Australia by boat during cruising season. November to February is cruising season. Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean all offer cruises to this destination. Search for cruises to Australia here.

Areas of Australia

Here are the major states of Australia. Some of the main Australian cities include Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Darwin and Cairns.

New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) (ACT)

New South Wales (NSW) is the most populous state of Australia and home to the largest city in the country – Sydney. The Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains are located a little inland. The capital city of Canberra has been excised from New South Wales to form the Australian Capital Territory. Plains are located further inland of NSW.

Northern Territory (NT)

A spectacularly beautiful state stretching centrally throughout the northern half of the country. The red deserts of Uluru and Alice Springs stretch to the tropical forests of Kakadu National Park.

Queensland (QLD)

Queensland with its warm, sunny weather, the coastal exploration of the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier Reef – offers lots of points of interest to the traveler. Brisbane is one of the major cities in this region.

Daintree Rainforest is another attraction on northeast coast of Queensland – read more about things to do in Daintree Rainforest.

South Australia (SA)

Apart from Adelaide, points of interest in the state of South Australia include the Barossa Valley, famous for its wines, the Flinders Ranges, the Outback and Kangaroo Island.

Tasmania (TAS)

The island of Tasmania, separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait, has beaches, wilderness, Cradle Mountain and the town of Hobart.

Victoria (VIC)

The small state of Victoria is home to Melbourne – a well known culinary, shopping, fashion and sporting capital of the country. Victoria also has wonderful surf beaches, farmland and national parks.

Western Australia (WA)

Western Australia is an expansive state. Some of the major areas include the city of Perth, Margaret River, Albany and Broome. Visiting the Bungle Bungles is a major attraction here, along with visiting the Australian town of Tom Price and Karijini National Park.

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Transportation in Australia

Given the size of Australia, the best way to get to far flung parts of the country is by air. The main air travel corridor is Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane with frequent flights between these destinations. The airlines dominating the Australian domestic aviation scenario are Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways Australia.

Several airlines fly more regionally and service smaller cities. They include Qantaslink, Regional Express, Skywest, Airnorth, Skytrans Airlines, Sharp Airlines and Northern Territory Air Services.

The roads and highways in Australia are well maintained and are a good option if navigating regional areas. Driving in Australia is on the left. A license in English or an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required to drive in Australia. Car rentals are numerous and easily available from some of the leading car rental global brands.

Inter-city rail travel is not the norm in Australia due to the lack of high-speed lines between major regional centers. Inter-city travel is hence, slow and usually reserved for freight. Nevertheless, train travel can be scenic and a unique way to enjoy the scenery without the hassles of driving.

The cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle and Wollongong have train and bus services in their public transportation network. Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and the Gold Coast have trams too with ferries in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle. Most other cities have just bus service.

Greyhound has the largest regional bus service along with long distance travel. Firefly Express, Murrays and Australia Wide Coaches are some additional Australian bus operators.

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Accommodations in Australia

Like most other developed nations, a wide variety of accommodation options presents itself to the traveler visiting Australia. Most state capitals and larger cities will have hotels in the 5-star category and even more so in the major capitals. Hotels meet the highest international standards with room cleaning services, free newspapers, and high speed internet connections.

The names of a few top hotels in the country include the Park Hyatt Sydney, the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins, the InterContinental Adelaide, the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney and the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.

Staying at a resort is a wonderfully spoiling way to enjoy the Australian atmosphere. The island of Whitsundays and Port Douglas are popular places to stay in a resort.

Holiday homes in key locations or bed and breakfasts are all good options. If you are venturing out into the countryside, cabins in the woods or caravan parks are the best way to soak in the tranquility of your surroundings. Even in the Outback, you can expect to see a sparse sprinkling of caravan parks. A Farm Stay will get you involved in the running an upkeep of the land in lieu for board and lodging. 

For those who love the outdoors, camping in Queensland‘s National Parks or outback camping are great options to consider. Also, read our guide on exploring Australia in a campervan.

We recommend looking for accommodation on Booking or Agoda.

What to Eat and Drink in Australia

The cuisine of Australia is similar to that of any Western country whose population is created from an admixture of several different cultures. You will be able to find cuisine here, from all around the world.

Nevertheless, there are a few native foods that originate here. Kangaroo, Crocodile and Emu meat are available here. Barbecued Kangaroo meat, croc burgers and low fat emu meat are consumed. Bush tucker are berries, nuts, roots, ants and grubs from the Australian native bush and can be sampled if you like, on a bush tour.

Some unique Australian food, drink and snack items to sample include:

  • Vegemite on toast (vegemite is a salty yeast-based spread)
  • Tim-Tam (chocolate fudge-filled chocolate biscuit sandwiches)
  • Lamington (a sponge cake with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut)
  • Pavlova (meringue cake with cream topping and fresh fruit)
  • ANZAC biscuits (made of coconuts, oats, flour, sugar and golden syrup)
  • A pie floater (a pie inverted in a bowl of mushy pea soup)
  • An Aussie pie.
  • Damper (a soda bread eaten with butter and jam)
  • A Chiko roll (a deep fried snack egg roll type snack with a mutton, vegetable, rice and barley filling)

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Things to Do and See in Australia

There are many iconic images that come to mind when thinking about beautiful places in Australia. Some of them are Uluru and the Sydney Harbor Bridge along with the Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. However, these Australian attractions are only the tip of the iceberg.

The immense, imposing red rock of Uluru will blow you away with its magnificence. With a prominent position on the World Heritage list, Uluru and the similarly impressive Kata Tjuta, are places in Australia whose images will be deeply embedded in your mind.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, the biggest steel arch bridge in the world, is an image that dominates the Sydney skyline from a multitude of positions around the city. Affectionately described as the ‘coathanger’, the bridge is best enjoyed on foot. Apart from visiting the bridge, you can also go whale watching in Sydney. And, do a walking tour in Sydney.

Australia has a wealth of natural beauty and biodiversity and nowhere is it more evident than at Kakadu National Park. Some points to add to your park itinerary include the falls at Jim Jam, crocs at Cahill’s Crossing, birds and crocs at Yellow Water, and rock art from 25,000 years ago at Uber and Nourlangie.

The view of the Twelve Apostles is one of many memorable Australian landmarks and an enduring image of a drive along the Great Ocean Road.

Melbourne is a stunning city and the Royal Botanic Gardens is the jewel in its crown. There is a wide array of both Australian and global flora. The Victorian design landscaping is just delightful. Here’s how to experience Melbourne on a budget and what to do in 36 hours in Melbourne.

Bondi Beach in Sydney is one of the most famous places in Australia and known for its surfing. There are child-friendly salt baths too, at either end of the beach if the waves seem too intimidating.

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Shopping in Australia

Some traditional Australian items to buy are:

  • Australian opals (the national gemstone of Australia)
  • Tim Tams (chocolate biscuit sandwiches)
  • Wine (from the Ybarra Wine Valley)
  • Aboriginal artwork
  • Macadamia Nuts (originate in Australia and are relatively cheap)
  • Vegemite (bread spread made from brewer’s yeast)
  • Bush Tea (from the Daintree Rainforest area)
  • A boomerang or a didgeridoo (piped musical instrument)

Some of the best places to shop in Australia include the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. Four floors of clothing, jewelry, accessories and homewares will assail you in this restored architectural delight. The Rocks is an open air marketplace with lots of food outlets and shops selling souvenirs.

For the elite shopping experience, visit the Emporium in Melbourne, for if nothing else, some window shopping. The Block Arcade is housed in one of Melbourne’s heritage buildings. Shop for chocolates, footwear and lots more. In general, Melbourne is known as the shopping capital of Australia, so do head here for some retail therapy.

Some of the best places to shop in Perth include Carillon City, London Court and for Adelaide this would extend to Rundle Mall and Adelaide Arcade. The Wintergarden in Brisbane is famous for its memorable design and has 60 stores selling clothing, cosmetics and more.

Australia’s Nightlife

The best city in Australia to head for the nightlife includes Sydney although Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Brisbane don’t lag far behind. Every city in Australia will provide you with enough opportunity to enjoy night-time activities but here are some of the best things to enjoy in the country.

A unique experience in Sydney is enjoying a night of entertainment at Sydney’s world-famous opera house. This multi-venue performing arts center has something to entertain everybody.

St George Open-Air Cinema is a wonderful way to watch a movie underneath the stars in the summertime. The scene is wonderfully set, backlit with the Bridge, Opera House and glistening waters in the background. Enjoy a three-course meal and wine with the show.

Melbourne has a vibrant street art scene. The hipster culture has also left its mark here. There are plenty of clubs and lounges that play great music and serve tasty food here. However, if you are looking for something quieter there are cruise dinners , cinemas and shows to keep you entertained.

One of the best places to let loose your inner party animal is Australia’s Gold Coast. A major holiday destination in Australia, the number of nightclubs, live show venues and art houses abound here. Brisbane, in addition, has numerous live music pubs, rooftop bars etc.

Safety Tips for Australia

Tap water is safe to drink in Australia although the hardness of the water might vary around the country. There is no rabies in Australia. Mosquitoes are present although Malaria has been eradicated. Ross River Virus and dengue fever cases do arise though.

Medical care in Australia does have a high standard. Medical facilities in sparsely populated areas is lacking and hence evacuation procedures via helicopter are in place for these regions.

There are some venomous and dangerous creatures to be aware of when visiting Australia. These extend to snakes, spiders, Box Jellyfish, Blue Ring Octopus and Saltwater Crocodiles. Six of the top ten deadliest snakes are found in Australia. The Sydney Funnel Spider is the deadliest spider in the world. Anti-Venom from this spider is now available.

000 is the Australian emergency service number to call. The Poisons Information Hotline 13 11 26 is the line to call for free advice.

Certain drugs are illegal to possess or sell in Australia.Trafficking offenses attract a long jail term. Beach goers should follow certain protocol when visiting Australian beaches. Firstly it’s essential to apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn. Beach goers should swim between red and yellow flags. Australian ocean beaches have strong rips that are a hazard for even the strongest swimmers.

Despite the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters (bush fires, cyclones, floods and dangerous flora and fauna, Australia has a low crime rate.

Conclusion

Australia is famous for its wide variety of terrains. Everything from bustling cities, regions of great natural beauty, deserts, beaches, the Bush and the Outback, exist here. In many senses, exploring the country is a traveler’s dream come true.

Australia has a vibrant multicultural population with a vast majority of the population stemming from foreign roots. As a result, every conceivable form of lifestyle, religion, arts and intellectual endeavors have been allowed to flourish in this congenial climate. Melbourne is the center of arts, Adelaide has a flair for festivals with a definite German influence. Sydney is a hub of arts, entertainment, education and more. Perth is known for its food and wine culture. Brisbane has multicultural urban villages. Each of these Australian cities is a cultural gem.

Australia has its fair share of places of exceptional natural beauty. The Great Barrier Reef, a giant coral reef, is famed for its diversity of marine life and is a diver’s paradise. The Great Ocean Road, a strip of coastline emanating from Victoria is a region of stunning coastal beauty, none so beautiful as the 12 Apostles in Port Campbell National Park.

Kakadu National Park is the place for intrepid Outback adventures. But perhaps the most iconic image of natural beauty in Australia is the red stone of Uluru or ‘Ayer’s Rock’. This is the red centre of the beautiful continent of Australia. Don’t forget to add this gem to your Australian trip itinerary!

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