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Australia Survival Kit
Australia is made up of 6 states and 2 territories and each of these areas offers a different Australian experience. From the Outback to the Great Barrier Reef to the beautiful cities, there is so much to explore. Australia has 47,000 kms (29,204 miles) of coastline, more than 3000 national parks and reserves and 11 World Heritage sites. To lose yourself in nature and meet with native birds and animals is easy, many of the national parks are close to and within cities. Some, such as the Blue Mountains National Park with its wildly spectacular mountain trails and scenery, are only an hours train ride from Sydney. For the more adventurous travel let us take you off the beaten track to some of the more unusual places that Australia has to offer. Let Downunder Journeys help you experience the best there is of Australia.
AUSTRALIA CLIMATE & WEATHER
With the reverse seasons of the northern hemisphere, Australia enjoys a largely temperate climate. Most of Australia receives more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, or an amazing 70 per cent of the total possible hours. Grab a hat and sunscreen and enjoy our delightful climate! Spending Christmas at the beach or skiing in August may seem strange but the fact is, Australia's seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere - summer starts in December, Fall in March, Winter in June and Spring in September. Due to the size of Australia, it's geographical location and the lack of extensive high mountains ranges Australia has a wide range of climates but generally no extremes. A winter day in the Outback (Alice Springs) can be very warm, or an alpine temperature on the same day can be somewhere near freezing. November to March is warm to hot everywhere, humid with tropical rain in the north, warm to hot with mild nights in the south. April to September is beautiful in northern and Central Australia – clear warm days, cool refreshing nights. At the same time in the south – cool and occasional rain but still plenty of sun.
This and the fact that Australia is the driest continent on earth makes the land a great all-year destination. In fact in our winter you can ski in the southern states one day and be diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland the next.....
Please check the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website for more up-to-date and detailed weather information. Weather details are indicative only. www.bom.gov.au
There are regulations and concessions covering personal effects, prohibited goods, alcohol, tobacco, sporting equipment and other goods brought into Australia. Please be advised that Australia imposes severe penalties on those found carrying narcotics and other controlled substances. http://travel.state.gov/Australia.html
Australia's passenger movement charge - or departure tax as it is commonly called is prepaid with your airline ticket, with payment noted on the ticket. Exemptions apply to children under 12 years of age, 24 hour transit passengers and transit passengers who stay longer than a day if departure is delayed by circumstances beyond their control.
Australians drive on the left hand side of the road as they do in England and some of the Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and Barbados. This can be confusing for Americans and Continental Europeans but after a short time on the road you usually get the hang of it. You can become complacent however and problems may occur, especially after making a turn. If you are not concentrating, you may find yourself facing oncoming traffic once you have made the turn at an intersection. Take your time and think about it. If you are on a road with two way traffic you will most likely be closer to the center line on the road if you are the driver than if you are the passenger. The reason for this is that the drivers seat and steering wheel are also on the opposite side of the vehicle compared to America.
It's probably best to start out in an automatic car as the manual stick shift cars in Australia have the gears shifted with your left hand. In most cases, the maximum speed limit in cities and towns is 60 km/h (35 mph) and 100 km/h (60 mph) on country roads and highways, unless signs indicate otherwise. Police regularly check motorists' speed with radar and camera devices.
Australia has very strict drunk-driving laws and random breath testing is conducted in all Australian States. The limit is only 0.05 compared with 0.08 to 0.1 in the United States. All drivers must hold a current drivers license (with an English translation shown on the license) from their country of residence, or an International drivers permit. State laws stipulate that licenses must be carried at all times when driving.
Australia is a huge country. Please allow yourself plenty of time if you plan to drive around the country. It is a wonderful way to see Australia but many people from the northern hemisphere are surprised by Australia's immense size.
The electrical current in Australia is 240/250 volt AC 50Hz. The Australian 3-pin power outlet is different so you will need an adaptor socket. If your appliances are 110v check if there is a 110/240v switch. If not, you will need a voltage converted. Universal outlets for 240v or 110v shavers are usually found in leading hotels.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS / VISAS
A valid passport is required for entry into Australia. In addition, Visitors of all nationalities (except Australian and New Zealand passport holders) must obtain a visa before traveling to Australia. Electronic Travel Authority Visas are issued free of charge and are available from your local travel agent. Some nationalities are not eligible to enter Australia using an Electronic Travel Authority Visa, your travel agent can check your requirements. www.austemb.org
FLYING TIMES TO AUSTRALIA
Los Angeles 14.5 hrs to Sydney
Los Angeles 15 hrs to Melbourne
From Honolulu to Sydney 10 hrs.
From Vancouver to Sydney 17.5 hrs
In Australia you can drink the tap water safely, and you enjoy all cuisines without hesitation. Australian health regulations are stringent. In the major cities you can find restaurants with globally inspired cuisines but we hope you will also try traditional Australian dishes. Food is fresh and abundant. Local specialties include a wide variety of seafood as well as beef and lamb. Both red and white Australian wines are exceptional as are the many varieties of domestic beers.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX
There is a 10% tax on all items & services in Australia. In most cases it’s included in the price you pay and will be stated clearly on your purchase receipt. Reclaim services are available at the airport prior to departure.
Doctor’s dentists and hospitals have modern equipment, highly trained staff and extensive facilities. Visitor’s health care costs are not covered by the Australian Health Scheme. For this reason insurance is strongly recommended (please consulate with your travel agent).
Overcrowded prisons in England and disruption caused by the American Revolution were two key reasons for the first shipment of convicts to the great southern land. It was the explorer and botanist Joseph Banks who, in 1779, suggested that New South Wales would be a fine site for a penal colony!
For more than 50,000 thousand years, Australia's Aboriginal people have lived and thrived in Australia's unique and challenging natural environment. Australia's rich vegetation and native wildlife helped them establish their presence on the land. Today it is believed the Aboriginals are the world's oldest civilisation.
'Terra Australis' was the last landmass to be discovered by European explorers. Talk of this mystical land and the riches it held inspired explorers to sail into the unknown. It wasn't until Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770 that the great southern land was officially discovered by Europeans.
Australia's defence force has a long and proud tradition dating back to the original ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). Australian soldiers have fought in both World Wars and numerous allied conflicts. All Australian troops are remembered each year on Anzac Day, 25 April, the anniversary of the first landing of Australian 'Diggers' at Gallipoli during the First World War. Australia is young, British sailing ships arrived a mere 200 years ago and the secret of this big, beautiful island in the South Pacific was out. Now the British and 120 other nationalities call Australia home making it one of the most multicultural countries in the world. The rich cultural blend of fashions, languages and cuisines color the streets. Australia in another sense is old - the Aboriginal people have lived here for about 50,000 years and are believed to be the oldest, continuous civilization in the world. Take a walk with an Aboriginal guide to learn about the special relationship they have with the land. Hear the stories handed down from generation to generation and see their rock art which is the oldest in the world.
Australians are known for their love of life and enjoyment of the great outdoors. While we have a reputation for being a little wild at times, our love of fine dining, the arts and music go hand in hand with our love of sport, the beach and BBQs. Wherever you go in Australia, you'll find a passion for getting the most out of life.
MONEY & BANKING
The Australian unit of currency is the Australian dollar. Exchange facilities can be found at all international airports an foreign currency or traveler's checks can be exchanged at banks and large hotels--normal bank opening hours are from 9:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Thursday; 9:00am to 5:00pm Friday. Major banks are open Saturday morning from 09.00am to 12.00pm.
ATM’s are widely available and accept all major debit cards. If you are unsure you can use your debit card overseas, please contact your bank.
Notes are: $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100
Coins are: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, and $2
- USA and 50 per cent larger than Europe, but has the lowest population density in the world - only two people per square kilometre.
- Beaches galore, Australia boasts over 7,000 beaches - more than any other nation.
- Aussie icon, The kangaroo is unique to Australia and one of our most easily recognised mammals. There are more kangaroos in Australia now than when Australia was first settled. Estimates suggest around 40 million.
- Flourishing flora, Australia supports at least 25,000 species of plants, while Europe only supports 17,500.
- Long haul, The longest stretch of straight railway track in the world crosses the Nullarbor Plain. From Nurina in Western Australia to near Watson in South Australia, the track is dead straight for 478 kilometres.
- Long drive, The Eyre Highway at Caiguna in Western Australia has the longest stretch of straight road in Australia 148 kilometres. Crossing the southern edge of the Nullarbor Plain, it is the only sealed road from Perth to Adelaide, a 2700 kilometre drive.
Pharmacists, better known as Chemists in Australia, dispense medicine ordered through doctor’s prescriptions. These chemists can be relied upon, as they are fully qualified professionals. Many of those favorite brands of cosmetics, toiletries and general medications are also available. In the larger cities some pharmacies are open 24 hours. It’s worth noting that a pharmacist is unable to fill a prescription supplied by a doctor practicing outside Australia. If you need one of your prescriptions filled during your visit, have an Australian doctor endorse it before you take it to a pharmacy.
All capital cities in Australia are served by a wide variety of public transport. From a ferry on the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour to a tram ride through the elegant streets of Melbourne, you'll find public transport efficient, clean, reliable and affordable.
Sydney Airport (Kingsford Smith) is located 10 kilometres south of the city. The domestic and international terminals are less than two kilometres apart and transfers are available between the two terminals. Airport buses operate at frequent intervals from both terminals and serve the city and some suburbs, starting at . There is also a reliable train service to the city, costing one way. A taxi to the city costs approximately . Transfer time is about 25 minutes. City travel options include trains, buses, ferries, monorail and light rail. There are also public transport options designed for visitors - the Explorer Bus, for example, follows a 28 kilometre route and stops at major attractions including the Sydney Opera House. You can hop on and off as often as you like. A Sydney Pass provides flexibility and choice, including unlimited train, bus and ferry travel, as well as access to certain harbour cruises and bus tours. You can travel by bus as far north as Palm Beach, take the Rivercat to the site of the 2000 Olympics at Homebush, or go for a swim at Bondi Beach. One of the joys of Sydney is catching a ferry. For a few dollars you can enjoy one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. Ferries depart regularly from points around the harbour. Circular Quay is the main terminal.
Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine) is located 20 kilometres north-west of the city. There is no train service to the airport. Bus transfers operate for . A taxi costs about . Travel to the city takes about 30 minutes. Melbourne is famous for its trams. Beside their charm as they trundle up and down city and suburban streets, they are also extremely efficient, cost-effective and a great way to get around. There is a free City Circle Tram that travels around Melbourne’s city centre throughout the day. Trains serve the city and suburbs. Flinders Street station is the key terminus for metropolitan and suburban travel. A MET ticket gives access to all public transport.
Brisbane Airport is 13 kilometres from the city. There are separate international and domestic terminals. Regular bus transfers are available to the city centre and some suburbs. Transfers cost by bus and by taxi. There are also regular coach services that operate to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast for about . The Airtrain delivers visitors from Brisbane’s airports to the city in 22 minutes and the Gold Coast in 90 minutes. Cost is to Brisbane, to the Gold Coast. There is a comprehensive and efficient rail and bus service in Brisbane that serves the city and suburbs. Brisbane is built on the Brisbane River, so there are regular ferry services. Ferries depart at regular intervals from Edward Street and Customs House. The ferry is an inexpensive way to see the city and surrounding areas. A City Sights bus tour is another option. It stops at 18 locations around Brisbane.
Cairns in Queensland is a popular destination for tourists. The airport is six kilometres from the city and is served by regular bus transfers. Costs are about by bus or by taxi. Regular bus services also operate between Cairns and the various beach resorts located north and south of Cairns including Port Douglas, Palm Cove and Mission Beach.
A tram service operates between the city and Glenelg and is a pleasant way to get to the seaside. Free inner city buses operate daily. Daily train services provide a picturesque journey through the nearby Barossa Valley wine country. The regional and interstate terminal is located at Keswick.
Darwin Airport is located 12 kilometres from the city. Transfers cost by bus or by taxi. The journey takes about 15 minutes. While there are no rail services, a regular bus service provides efficient transport for the city and suburbs.
Alice Springs is a popular tourist destination. The airport is located 17 kilometres to the south and transfers cost by bus and by taxi. Buses operate around town and to the suburbs
Rail services in Tasmania are primarily used for freight and limited tourist services. The passenger and vehicle ship the Spirit of Tasmania departs Melbourne for Devonport, on Tasmania’s north coast, three times weekly. Extra sailings are available at peak periods. The overnight crossing takes 14 hours. Fares include accommodation, breakfast and dinner. From December to April, the catamaran Devil Cat travels between Melbourne and George Town. The journey takes six hours.
Australia is a beautiful country free from many pests and diseases found elsewhere in the world. It's vital that you declare anything that could harm our wildlife, agricultural industries and plants, including fresh and packaged food, fruit, eggs, meat, vegetables, seeds, animals, plants and items made from plants or wood. Amnesty bins are available for unwanted items as you leave your aircraft or on arrival in Australia. If you've declared any food, plant or animal items on your Incoming Passenger Card make sure you use the red channel exits from the baggage halls where you'll be directed to a quarantine officer to have your items inspected. Many items will be allowed in after inspection or treatment, for banned items, you may be given an option to re-export them. Quarantine officers use detector dog teams, x-ray machines and random baggage checks to detect undeclared quarantine items. If you conceal items or quarantine concern, you may receive an on-the-spot fine or you could be prosecuted.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has information for travelers available on the following website: www.aqis.gov.au
Predominantly Christian, although services for most of the world’s religions are catered for.
Australia is a true shopping heaven. Big department stores, arcades, malls, gift and souvenir shops, fashion boutiques and specialty stores abound in Australia. Good buys include quality Australian opals and other precious or semi-precious stones, pearls, sheepskins and leather goods, Aboriginal crafts and paintings. Philatelic desks at main post offices sell sets of souvenir stamps. Duty-free shops are located in city centers and at international airports. Shops attached to galleries, museums and many other tourist attractions are stocked with an excellent range of interesting souvenirs. Markets such as Salamanca in Hobart, Mindil Sunset Markets in Darwin, Adelaide's Central Market, Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, The Rocks in Sydney, Fremantle Markets in Perth, and Riverside in Brisbane are good places to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, local arts and crafts and souvenirs.
SIZE & POPULATION
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. It's about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the USA and 50 per cent larger than Europe, but has the lowest population density in the world - only two people per square kilometers or around 18 million. 4025 km east-west. 3220 km north-south. It is wider across than the distance from New York to Los Angeles. 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. Australia is the only island to also be a continent. Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. It is approximately the size of the 48 mainland states of the USA and 50 per cent larger than Europe. 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 boasts over 7,000 beaches - more than any other nation.
It's no secret that Australians have a love affair with sport. With more than 120 national and thousands of local, regional and state sporting organisations, it's estimated that six-and-a-half million people in Australia are registered sport participants. Not bad from a population of just over 20 million!
STATES, TERRITORIES AND THEIR CAPITAL CITIES
Australia is made up of six states and two territories. Each state and territory has its own parliament, flag and floral emblem. Australia became a federated nation after the union of the six colonies on 1 January 1901. Bound by one parliament, one constitution and one flag, Australia celebrated its Centenary of Federation in 2001.
New South Wales - Sydney
Queensland - Brisbane
Victoria - Melbourne
South Australia - Adelaide
Tasmania - Hobart
Australian Capital Territory - Canberra (Capital of Australia)
Northern Territory - Darwin
Western Australia - Perth
The International Gateway Cities are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns* (*via Auckland only).
Country Code (61)
If you are traveling from USA or Canada and use AT&T, you are able to call 1800 881 011 toll free while in Australia to call home. This international toll free call number is available from any telephone in Australia.
Helpful telephone numbers you may need in Australia:
Emergency (police, fire, ambulance) 000
Internet and email access is readily available at Internet cafes, hotels and there are stations located in some airport lounges. Australia uses RJ-45 telephone plugs and Telstra EXI-160 four-pin plugs. If you do not have these connections you will need to obtain this connection before departure from a Best Buy or similar.
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. If you want to find out what time it is somewhere in the world, this website is a great tool. www.timeanddate.com
Tipping is NOT a general custom in Australia. Rule of thumb should always be; round your Taxi fare up to the nearest dollar, tip exceptional service 5-10% and tip bell boys. Tips are not expected ELSEWHERE and are considered a sign of extraordinary service if done so. If you have a private guide, tip at your discretion.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Opened in 1932 and affectionately known as the 'coathanger,' the bridge is 1,149 metres long, weighs 52,800 tonnes, has six million rivets and needed 272,000 litres of paint for its initial coat. Paint maintenance is a continual process. It takes 10 years and 30,000 litres of paint before they start all over again!
Sydney Opera House
A short walk from the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House is one of the world's premier performing arts centres. Taking almost 15 years to build, it was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.
The Blue Mountains
Dramatic canyons, sheer valleys, thundering waterfalls and gum forests all make up Australia's most recent World Heritage area - the Blue Mountains National Park. Also part of this latest listing is nearby Wollemi National Park - the home of the prehistoric Wollemi Pine.
The 12 Apostles
Located along the spectacular Great Ocean Road in Victoria, the 12 Apostles stand as sentinels against a dramatic backdrop of sheer cliff face and wild ocean. Formed over thousands of years by the action of the sea, only eight of the original 12 Apostles remain.
The Great Barrier Reef
Australia's most famous natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef, will stun you with its magnificence. It's as big as the total combined area of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and contains more than 1,000 islands, from sandy cays to rainforest isles. The beauty of the waters and the prolific life it supports enraptures visitors. You can reach coral sites by air and water taxi and scuba dive or snorkel for intimate reef views. Or choose comfortable accommodation on some secluded reef islands.
Stretching 120 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, World Heritage listed Fraser Island offers vast white beaches, beautiful headlands and rainforests, and the best camping ever. You can mingle with kangaroos, wallabies and other unique animals, or stay in style at a resort!
Reef and rainforest touch in this region of World Heritage protected beauty. The Daintree River winds gently through tangled woodland through jungle homes of unique birds, pythons and crocodiles, north to Cape Tribulation, a spectacular national park.
Located in the centre of Australia, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is the world's biggest monolith. It's 3.6 kilometres long, 2 kilometres wide and has a 9.4 kilometre circumference. Made of arkosic sandstone, Uluru changes colour in different lights, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
Limited development has ensured an abundance of wildlife on this island located close to the tip of South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula. Here, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, koalas and of course, kangaroos, live in a protected natural environment. Pure air and clean water provide one of the last unspoiled wonders of the world.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia, covering 1.38 million hectares. This stronghold of temperate rainforest and alpine vegetation provides pristine habitats for plants and animals found nowhere else in the world, including many rare and endangered species.
Kakadu National Park
In Australia's tropical Top End, the delicate pink beauty of the waterlily and the prehistoric brute strength of the crocodile merge in stunning Kakadu National Park. Rivers with roaring waterfalls and a landscape of towering sandstone escarpments cradle some of Kakadu's treasures waiting to be explored.
The Bungle Bungle Range, in Purnululu National Park, is one of the most fascinating geological landmarks in Western Australia. Orange and black stripes of silica and algae across the beehive-like mounds are clearly visible as you approach from the air. Closer up, a hidden world of gorges and pools is revealed, with fan palms clinging precariously to walls and crevices in the rocks.
If you are traveling from the United States or Canada directly into Australia, no vaccinations are required. If you plan to make a stopover enroute to Australia, please check the requirements with the nearest Australian Consulate or Embassy, which can be located at: www.austemb.org
WHAT TO WEAR
Summertime (November-March) Warm to hot everywhere. Casual clothes, pack a sun hat, sunglasses and swimwear. Occasional thunderstorms in the north. Wintertime (June-August) Southern Australia is cool. Suggest medium weight woolens, raincoat. Northern Australia has warm to hot days, mild coastal evenings, but inland nights can be cold. Dressing in layers is the key. In the tropical areas, lightweight clothing is suitable all year round. Always remember to pack a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses to protect you from the sun, year round. For special occasions, business meetings, theatres and formal dining, men will require a jacket and perhaps a tie or suit. Women will want a more formal dress.