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, you may want to reconsider. The 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.
So when planning a trip to Australia, give yourself lots of time to explore the country. If you want to city-hop, flying is your only option. 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-$200 USD 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
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 Greyhound 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 renting a car, consider renting a relocation campervan and secure your accommodation and transportation for just $1/day plus gas!
Accommodation in Australia can be expensive.
If you are traveling as a couple, or with friends, consider staying in Airbnb accommodation or opt for the smaller family run B&B’s, as nice hotels across Australia will set you back by no less than$100/night.
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 farmers market, pick up some veggies, then visit 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.
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 center of the city, don’t ask for directions downtown, here they call it CBD (Central Business District). If you get sick and needs some meds, ask for the nearest chemist, not a 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.
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 center 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 haircut 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 decent 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.
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!
We don’t want to sound like your parents 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 the 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 us, we 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. 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 flooded. While in other parts it gets so dry, there is news about bushfires 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.