So you’ve decided to visit Australia. You have your itinerary planned, right through from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Uluru, and are already preparing your taste buds for the onslaught of Vegemite. Now there are just a few logistical things you need to take into consideration before jetting down under for the adventure of a lifetime, and while this side of travel may seem the more tedious part, paying attention to these things are going to maximize your experience and make sure you don’t run into any hiccups along the way!
1. Understanding Australia’s Seasons
First you’ll need to figure out when the best time is for you to go. While Australia is generally fine to visit all year round, it’s best to be acquainted with its seasons so that you know what to expect when you go. The hottest months are December to February. During this time the whole country experiences high temperatures in the thirties (celcius), however up north closer to the equator will be particularly hot, sometimes reaching the late forties. Thankfully Australia is surrounded by water and you can find relief from the heat at the beach. Just be aware that during these months the tropic north is prone to thunderstorms and occasional cyclones.
The temperatures start to cool down in March, though much of the north will remain warm all year round. Towards the south of the country the cool winter starts to set in around June, giving way to the countries wettest season. Though, given that Australia is the driest, inhabited continent, this is nothing particularly unbearable.
2. Travel Visa
Next you’ll need to work out your visa, or else you’re not going to get into the country, regardless of how long you’re going for! Australia has a range of different visas for all kinds of people. Generally if you’re just coming for a holiday you will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). You can do this online. Alternatively, if your travels are of a different nature and you are unsure of what type of visa is appropriate for you, visit the Australian Government Website – Australia Visa Guide. It should be noted that even American need a visa before they arrive in Australia – unlike the UK where you can get a visa upon arrival, this is not the case in Australia.
The Australian Dollar (AUD) is currently at an all-time high, thought in the current economical climate, currencies can fluctuate before you’ve even finished your breakfast. For the best idea on currency exchange, keep an eye out online http://www.xe.com/.
In terms of budgeting, keep in mind that due to Australia’s remote location, some things can be quite expensive. Expect to pay around $2 AUD for milk, $4 AUD for bread, $80 – $180 AUD for a night of decent accommodation and about $8 AUD for a Cheeseburger meal. Alcohol is among the most expensive, at about $7 AUD for a beer. Of course, outside of the major cities and tourist attractions you’ll find these prices may be up to 50% cheaper.
As Australia is an island and is naturally protected from external influences, the rules at customs upon arrival are quite strict. You will be asked to declare any food items and anything made out of natural materials such as wood. You will also be asked to declare if you have recently traveled in certain regions such as the Amazon or parts of Africa. Customs Officers will be looking over your papers and travel documents and will often search your bags, so be sure to declare any necessary information as fines can get quite high if you don’t. If you’re unsure of what you should declare visit the following website for more information.
5. Be Prepared
Now that you’ve arrived be sure to stock up on a few necessities. Firstly, you will need sun screen and a hat. Australia is one of the hottest places in the world and has far more sunshine than it does rainy weather. Sunburn is one of the most common injuries in Australia and with the country’s high UV rays, sunburn still occurs when the clouds are out. Always opt for a 30+ UV water resistant sunscreen from the chemist. And in the event that you do get sunburned, buy some Aloe Vera gel, found right next to the sunscreens in the chemist. This provides temporary relief, and for the extra coolness, do what the locals do and keep the Aloe Vera gel in the fridge.
Next you’ll need insect repellant, especially around bush and wetland areas. Quite a few mosquitoes come out in these areas, especially around sunset, and while in some remote regions these mosquitoes are known to carry fever-based diseases such as Ross River Fever, mostly the only injury you’ll sustain from a mosquito is a rather annoying itchy bite. Should this occur, get yourself back to that chemist and buy some “Stingoes”, a cream that can relieve the sting from bites from mosquitoes, flies and ants alike.
6. Be Aware of the Land
Make sure you brush up on the dangers of the Australian land. For example, the Australian beaches, while beautiful and relieving from the sun, can at times be quite dangerous. Along the coast at many beaches, “rips” can occur. These are strong, dangerous currents under the water that can take unaware swimmers out to sea. They are almost invisible to the untrained eye and the best way to avoid them is to swim between the designated safety flags at beaches manned by lifeguards. Also avoid swimming at sunrise and sunset, as these are the feeding times of the sharks.
Acquaint yourself with Australia’s deadly snakes and insects. Mostly these are found in bushy areas and mostly they do keep to themselves. But when disturbed in their natural habitat the bites of the Funnel Web and Red Back Spider, or of the Brown or Red Belly Black Snake, can be lethal within thirty to sixty minutes.
Visit the following website for a better idea but if you’re ever unsure, Australians are taught the laws of the land from childhood, so are able to help you out with any questions on your travels.
7. Road Rules
In Australia, drivers sit on the right side of the car, and therefore drive on the left-hand side of the road. Aside from this rather confusing difference from American driving, the road rules are fairly similar, red means stop, green means go. If you will be driving in Australia, make sure you brush up on the local road rules.
Also keep in mind that because it doesn’t rain often in Australia, at times there can be quite a buildup of oil on the roads. This can lead to particularly slippery roads when it does rain, and therefore serious car accidents. Because of this you’ll find that when it rains, most Australian motorists tend to drive very slowly. This is for a reason, follow their lead.
8. Drug and Alcohol Laws
Australia has serious drug and alcohol laws. Aside from cigarettes, generally most drugs are banned. And while alcohol is legal, you will find Australia to have quite strict rules in this area.
Eighteen is the legal age for alcoholic drinking and anyone found assisting the service of alcohol to a minor may face hefty fines.
Only places with a license may serve alcohol, and only people who have completed a government certified course and earned their Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate, may work at these places.
In most places where alcohol is served, restrictions apply. A certain amount of drinks may be purchased by one person at any time, alcohol may not be served in glass after a certain time, shots may be prohibited and a person may be refused service or asked to leave the premises when showing signs of intoxication.
Visit the government website to learn more.
9. Cultural Sensitivity
Be mindful that Australia has been inhabited by the world’s oldest surviving culture for millions of years, and that even though today, Australia may act as a “western” country, a combination of modern and ancient traditions co-exist. For example many parts of the land are recognized as belonging to a local Aboriginal tribe, even in the cities, and you will find that at many events, proceedings are kicked-off by the MC acknowledging and thanking the local Aboriginal community.
Throughout the country you will find many grounds sacred to that region’s respective Aboriginal tribe and may find signs asking you to not enter. It is a sign of respect to adhere to these requests. You’ll even find at Uluru, that while you may legally climb the giant rock, it is revered as sacred by the Aboriginal people and therefore you are respectfully asked not to. Some places, such as Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, belong solely to the Aboriginal people and in order to enter you need permission.
10. The Outback
Much of Australia is covered by desert and consumed by dry heat, making it very dangerous to venture across. Travelers are generally advised against crossing some parts of the country across central and northern Australia, as cars are prone to breakdown in the heat and help is often faraway. Even for local people who wish to cross these regions, protocols are in place. Aside from getting thorough car checks and taking appropriate supplies, the driver must notify a person at the point of departure and a person at their destination that they are taking the journey, so that in the event of a breakdown out of mobile signal, someone knows to come look for them.
Of course experiencing the outback and the desert is part of the Australian journey, and if this is something you wish to do, the land is best experienced with a local tour guide who knows the country well.
Like with any country, Australia has some land laws and government rules that need to be adhered to, but all this makes the journey a safe and memorable one that’ll keep you coming back!