AUSTRALIA TRAVEL INFORMATION
BEST TIME TO VISIT AUSTRALIA
School holidays and public holidays
As with most destinations public holidays and school holidays are popular times for locals to travel. This means transport, accommodation and tours/activity prices may be higher than normal and availability will be limited. If you are able to you might want to consider avoiding these times. We can advise you at your time of booking, if you want more information on specific dates see the links below.
There are always events happening in Australia such as international sporting events, wine and food festivals, live music and festival and celebrations. Some of the well known ones include the Australian Open, Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, Melbourne Cup, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to name just a few. These events attract a lot of visitors which means transport, accommodation and tours/activities will be more expensive and limited in availability. You would want to book in advance to ensure availability. More information on upcoming events can be found here Australian Event Calendar
Seasonal activities and weather
You can visit Australia all year round and pick activities to do no matter what time you decide to visit. There is so much on offer.
The south of Australia has four seasons:
Summer is from December to February (Hiking, beaches, swimming. Australian Open)
Autumn is from March to May (Foliage changes, Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne)
Winter is from June to August (Skiing, snowboarding, snorkeling Great Barrier Reef, Vivid Sydney)
Spring is from September to November (Whale watching, wildflowers, vineyards, visit rainforests)
The tropical north of Australia has two seasons:
Dry season is from April to September (clear skies and sunny warm days)
Wet season is from October to March (hot and humid with heavy daily rainstorms) - an excellent time to view waterfalls with the high water levels.
If you want to visit Australia and see both North and South, then the ideal months are March to April and September to October.
Australia has several time zones.
There are 3 different time zones in Australia:
AEST – Australian Eastern Standard Time (UTC +10)Covers the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
ACST – Australian Central Standard Time (UTC +9 ½) Covers the state of South Australia, Broken Hill in Western New South Wales and Northern Territory.
AWST – Australian Western Standard Time (UTC +8) Covers the state of Western Australia.
How many hours will I gain or lose traveling to Australia?
Traveling direct from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas for example you will arrive 2 days later. On your return the USA you arrive the same day that you left Australia.
TRAVELING IN AUSTRALIA
Australia is a big country, you need careful trip planning to factor in travel time between locations.
Many people underestimate the physical size of Australia and this can play havoc with their trip if they have not factored the time it takes to get between each location. To better understand exactly how big Australia is, compare it to the continental USA. The distance between New York and Los Angeles (East Coast to West Coast) is equivalent to traveling between Sydney and Perth (East Coast to West Coast). You need to take this into consideration when planning your trip. It is best to get advice if you haven't been to Australia before.
How will I get around in Australia?
You have a few options which we can walk you through. Australia is big therefore the fastest way to cover long distances is to fly and there are a number of domestic airlines to cater for this. Coach and bus travel can be done for long distance and sight seeing trips. Self-driving with rental cars or hired drivers enables you to see the spectacular scenery first hand. You also have the option of using trains. Given the distances between locations and your time limitations it’s a good idea to get advice, particularly if you haven’t visited Australia before.
If you are planning on self driving Travelmath.com is a good website to workout driving distances and provide maps for assistance.
In addition to being aware of travel times you also need to consider the frequency of flights, ferries, trains and buses between destinations.
While Australia is a large country by land mass the whole population (almost 25 million) is the same as the State of Texas. 80% of Australians live on the East Coast and that means there are huge areas with few people. When you are trip planning you need to take into account that there are less flights, trains etc to some areas you may want to go.
Can I hire a car in Australia?
Yes you can and car hire companies have locations conveniently located in all major centers. Major car companies such as Avis, Hertz, Thrift, Budget and Eurocar are available along with some Australian based companies. Most hire car companies will require a valid home country drivers license, a credit card for security and a passport for ID.
Driving in Australia
Important driving rules to adhere to:
All drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt at all times. Children under 7 years old must be in a child restraint appropriate for their size and weight. Hire companies have these seats available for hire.
You drive on the LEFT hand side of the road in Australia. That means the driver is seated on the right hand side of the vehicle and the front passenger is on the left hand side. The driver will always be in the middle of the road and the passenger in the front will be on the edge of the road.
Speed limits must be adhered to and are they are visibly signposted on roads. Even if the speed limit sign is not visible speed limits still apply. The speed limit is the maximum speed permitted on that road. Speed limits are strictly enforced in Australia, be careful in school zones and residential areas.
You are not permitted to use a handheld mobile phone when driving. So NO talking on phone calls, texting, playing games or any activity on your phone.
More information on driving in Australia can be found here.
Do you need a visa to enter Australia?
If you are a US citizen you do need a visa to enter Australia. US Citizens do not need a visa to enter New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji or French Polynesia.
What type of visa should I apply for?
There are different visa’s you can apply for that are for different purposes. The type depends on your passport, how long you want to stay in Australia and why you are visiting eg vacation or study. For vacation purposes you will need to apply for a eVisitor (subclass 651) visa which is a free visa for multiple visits to Australia for either business or as a tourist for up to 3 months each visit over a 12 month period.
More information can be found at the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
How do I apply for a visa?
We offer complimentary visa processing for US and Canadian citizens traveling to Australia. However, if you have any criminal convictions, we will not be able to process your visa and you will be required to undergo a background check. If we apply for a visa on your behalf we will require this page from your passport.
CUSTOMS & QUARANTINE REGULATIONS
What items can’t I bring into Australia
There are customs laws to control what comes into Australia. You cannot bring drugs, steroids, weapons, firearms and protected wildlife. Australia is an island and have strict biosecurity rules to limit exposure to any potential risks. This means you can’t bring in any fresh or packaged food, fruit, eggs, meat, plants, seeds, skins and feathers.
You can declare goods upon entry to Australia and they will be inspected by a biosecurity officer. They will assess what risk levels exist if you were to bring the goods into Australia. Depending on the risk level you will either have the goods returned to you, or you will have to pay to have the goods treated, pay to have them exported, or voluntarily dispose of the goods. There are heavy fines and penalties if you don’t adhere to these rules.
You can find more information at the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
How much money can I bring into Australia?
You need to declare any amount over $10000. More information can be found here and a form to report amounts over $10000 on the AUSTRAC website.
How much duty free can I bring into Australia?
Tobacco: 50 cigarettes or 50 grams (1,76 ounces) of cigars or tobacco products per adult.
Alcohol: Up to 2.25 liters (0.5 imperial gallons or 0.59 US gallons) of alcoholic beverages (liquor, wine and Champagne) per adult.
General goods: $AUD 900 worth of goods per adult (18 years or over), $450 worth of goods per child.
BANKING, MONEY & SHOPPING
What is the currency in Australia?
Australian dollars (AUD) is the currency and you will find notes in $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and coins come in $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c. You can find more information about the currency at the Reserve Bank of Australia.
What is the currency conversion for USD to AUD?
You can calculate the conversion rate using XE Currency Converter
Should I get money out before I go to Australia and what is the best way to pay for things?
We recommend you get some AUD before you leave and then use Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) when you are there for cash. ATM's are widespread but will be limited in remote towns and the Outback. You can get currency exchanged at banks, hotels and international airports.
EFTPOS is available in most shops and restaurants etc, so you can pay for goods and services using debit or credit cards. If you are using a card associated with an international account there are usually foreign transaction fees charged. American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, UnionPay and JCB are accepted in most places. Please note that VISA and Mastercard are accepted everywhere. American Express and Diners Club are more restricted and most accepted at large supermarket, department stores and many tourist destinations. Merchants may charge a fee for using credit cards in some places. A good idea is to carry multiple credit cards and some cash so that you are prepared for any purchasing restrictions. Travelers cheques are not widely accepted in Australia.
Australian banks are usually open 9.30am to 4.00pm/5.00pm Monday to Friday and offer the same services as those offered in other Western countries.
What you need to know about Goods and Service tax.
Australia has a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) that is included in the price of the item or service that you are purchasing. For example if a book price is advertised as $35 AUD this price already includes the 10% GST, it is NOT added on top of the $35. If you have spent more than $300 with a single business within 60 days before leaving Australia it may be possible to get a GST refund at the airport. More information can be found at the Tourist Refund Scheme site.
Do I tip for services in Australia?
In Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, tipping is not customary or expected. If you feel that your server, tour guide, or resort staff has gone above and beyond, you can feel free to tip 10-20%, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to tip.
Can I bargain with retailers and in markets for a better price?
It is not customary or expected that shoppers will bargain with the market prices in stores.
OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
What is the legal drinking age in Australia?
The legal drinking age in Australia (all states and territories) is 18 years old. You will be expected to provide acceptable proof of age, either a passport or drivers license.
What is the power in Australia and will I need an adapter?
The voltages is 220 - 240V, AC 50 Hz. It would be wise to pack an adapter to be able to plug in electronics like laptops, ipads, iphones etc. What you need to get is a Type 1 Australia plug like this one at World Standards.
What is the emergency number in Australia?
There is one number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade - 000
What is the mobile coverage like in Australia?
There is mobile phone coverage across Australia but this can be a bit patchy in remote locations. For more information on coverage in areas you will be located you can use Open Signal. Most cellphone networks operate internationally, check with your local carrier before you leave home to see what international roaming packages they have to Australia.
Where can I find WiFi?
Many cafes and accommodation options provide free wifi and internet access. You can also find internet cafes. For more information on WiFi in areas you will be located you can use Open Signal.
Can I use a drone in Australia?
Yes you can but you need to adhere to Australia's rules and regulations surrounding their use. They can be found on the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority website.
WEIRD & INTERESTING FACTS
Facts about Australia
Australia is the only country in the world that is both a country AND it's own continent. The smallest continent in the world.
Australia is the sixth biggest country in the world by land area.
It is the largest island in the world - as wide as the distance between London and Moscow.
Australia is the only nation to occupy an entire continent.
The highest point is Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales, at 2228 meters above sea level.
The lowest is Lake Eyre, South Australia at 15 meters below sea level.
Officially Australia is called the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living organism and has it's own Post Office box.
Uluru (Ayres Rock) is the largest monolith in the world and is nearly 5 miles at it's widest point. It can be seen from space.
Australia has the world's largest cattle ranch which is bigger than Belgium.
Australia's dingo fence is longer than the Great Wall of China.
The cleanest air in the world can be found in Tasmania.
It would take 27 years to visit one new beach in Australia every day.
The world's largest sand island can be found on Fraser Island.
Facts about Australian animals
The wombat has square poop.
The box jellyfish has caused more deaths in Australia than sharks and crocodiles combined.
A baby kangaroo is only 0.4" long when born.
There are over 60 different types of kangaroos.
There are over 1 million camels roaming in Australian deserts, the largest number of purebred camels in the world.
There are almost 3 times as many sheep than people living in Australia
The platypus and echidnas are the only two mammals in the world that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
17 of the world's more poisonous snakes are in Australia.
Kangaroos are considered both the national icon and a pest.
Koalas sleep for about 20 hours a day.
Facts about Australian food
Aboriginal traditional food is called "Bush Tucker" and includes kangaroo, emu, crocodile, witchetty grubs, Quandong, bush tomato, yams and macadamia nuts.
Iconic Australian foods include Vegemite (yeast spread), Tim Tams (chocolate biscuits), Lamingtons (sponge dipped in chocolate and coconut), Weetbix (wheat biscuits), fish and chips. This is just a taster, there are a lot more.
The wine cask was invented in Australia.
Australians drink 96 liters per person per year.
Australia produced 13.9 million hectoliters of wine in 2017
Vegemite was created by left over yeast used to create beer.
Kangaroo meat can be purchased in the supermarket.