Planning a vacation to Australia. Then you need to read our helpful tips and useful visitor information to ensure you make the most of your upcoming holiday.
Visas & useful Visitor Information
Upon entering Australia for stays of less than 3 months visitors require a valid passport, a valid return or onward ticket and sufficient funds to pay for your stay. You can prove this by cash, traveler’s checks or a credit card. You also need to have a visa, including transit passengers (except for New Zealand nationals). There are no special health precautions (such as mandatory vaccinations) for tourists.
Upon arrival an “Arrival Card” must be completed with personal information; it will be distributed on board the aircraft. To protect the pristine nature and agriculture Australia has strict rules regarding the importation of food, animals and plants. This cannot be entered. On arrival, travelers will be ask to compete a quarantine statement, disclosing any food, plants or animal products that they may be bringing into the country.
International Departure in Australia
The check-in time for international flights from Australia is two to three hours before departure (depending on your flight). Airport taxes (“Airport Departure Tax”) is already included in the fare of tickets bought in advance.
The electricity in Australia is 240V/50Hz. The three-pole sockets are identical to those in New Zealand. For the connection of razors, hair dryers, and cell phone charges from other countries a world power adapter is required.
In addition to items of a personal nature (clothing, photographic equipment, etc.), visitors are allowed to enter these items tax-free.
• Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco or 50 cigars respectively. Or a combination of tobacco products whose weight does not exceed 250g suits.
• Alcoholic drinks 1 liter of wine, beer or spirits.
• Other items with a total value of AUD 400 (AUD 200 for persons under 18 years).
Entertainment & Night Life
In the small towns in Australia you will always find pub or two. In larger cities you will find extensive nightlife, cinemas (indoor and outdoor), and music, dance and opera performances. There are also some big casinos opened in Melbourne, Gold Coast, Cairns, Darwin, Perth, Hobart and Launceston.
Food & Drink
In Australia, you will find a wide choice of restaurants, from the well-known fast food chains, local “takeaways”, exotic restaurants to fine dining options. The ingredients used are typically fresh and of high quality. The clothing is usually informal “Aussie Casual”, although in expensive hotel restaurants sometimes an evening dress or suit jacket is appreciated.
On the window of restaurants you see sometimes are BYO, which means “bring your own” wine or beer. You give the bottle when entering for the restaurant off the control to cool and open for you and you will receive glasses from the restaurant. You will typically pay a nominal fee (corkage) for this privilege.
A popular way of eating on the go is the Aussie BBQ. When parking on the road and in the National Parks there are often brick grills where you can cook your meal yourself. You can buy in almost any grocery store BBQ coal, meat, sauces and all the necessities to create your own delicious Aussie BBQ.
If you bring your laptop or smartphone on your trip, you will be able to use these means to connect to the internet at many public places such as airports, hotel lobbies and cafes. Otherwise we would advise to buy a local SIM card (or dongle) with data from local shops of the major telecom providers (such as Telstra and Vodaphone). Along the main routes and in most places there is good mobile reception.
Typical Australian “icons” are the Kangaroo, Wallaby and Koala. Obviously there also many famous Aboriginal souvenirs, like the boomerang and the didgeridoo. Other popular souvenirs are the Outback “bushman hat & coat”.
Currency & costs
The currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). Other currency and travelers checks can be easily exchanged at most banks. Most hotels accept credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express).
There are coins of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, 1 and 2 Dollar. Banknotes come in 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar.
In Australia, the banking system is well developed. Even in small towns you are likely to find a bank or two. You generally have no problems with your debit card to withdraw money from ATMs, which can be found throughout Australia.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
On goods and services in Australia a sales tax of 10% is charged. We have the GST tax included in our prices. The tax is paid locally for the export of items (if above a certain threshold).
In principle, tipping is not mandatory, but if you have received exceptional service then you can express your appreciation by giving a small tip. Service charges and taxes are generally included in the price.
When to go
Australia is a fantastic year round destination. The country is so large that there are different climatic areas. The seasons are generally opposite to those of the northern hemisphere, the spring arrives in September, the summer is from December to February, autumn from March to May and winter begins in June.
The best time to travel to Northern Australia is outside the rainy season, i.e. from May to November. In the southeast is the best time September to December for little rain and a pleasant temperature. In Tasmania you choose the Australian summer from November to April for the most comfortable temperature. The Outback it is best to visit in spring and autumn.
What to wear for the climate
Given the large climatic differences between northern and southern Australia, it is advisable to plan your clothing choices accordingly. If you are traveling through the tropical north in the rainy season, it is best to take a thin raincoat and umbrella. For the warmer regions in the north and in the desert airy cotton clothing is recommended. Also bring a sweater for the evenings and when you enter air-conditioned buildings. South Australia has a climate like in Europe, so bring summer clothes if you are traveling from November / through March, winter in the months of June / August. In the mountains and in Tasmania it can freeze and snow.
In Australia the following public holidays (other than the international holidays like New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas 1 and 2) apply
• Australia Day: January 26
• ANZAC Day: 25 april
• Queen’s Birthday: Monday, June (different day each year, the actual anniversary of the Queen in September)
During school holidays and public holidays, please bear in mind that many Australians themselves going on holiday and therefore there can be extra pressure on hotels, camping sites, national parks and attractions.
Festivals and Events
Each year Australia hosts a large number of festivals and events. If you are planning to visit a particular city around a festival date make sure to reserve your accommodation well in advance.
• Formula 1 races in Melbourne (international opening of the Formula 1 racing season)
• Melbourne Cup (one of the most prestigious horse races in the world)
• Adelaide Festival (theater, partly in the open air. Similar to the Edinburgh Festival)
• Alice Springs Desert Regatta (sailing race in the desert, surrounded by lots of fun)
About half of all international travelers who are coming for the first time in Australia start with Sydney. After Sydney, large numbers of travelers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services in Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island, although this is largely restricted to flights from New Zealand, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.
Sydney is a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11am flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the western United States and Canada, a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg , a 13-16h flight from South America , and up to 24h + flight from Western Europe . Based on the long journey of several destinations, some travelers from Europe opt for a stop-over are often in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai , Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
If you need to change to a domestic flight in a gateway city, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have different domestic terminals, requires some time and complexity to transit, the manuals. Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast all gates in one terminal building or within walking distance of each other.
Qantas is national airline of Australia, it has extensive networks both internationally and domestically in New Zealand and Australia. Find out more here.
Australia is well suited to explore by rental car. The roads are well maintained and outside the cities the traffic is very quiet. There is left-hand traffic in Australia. Most places of interest are well marked with parking stations. For car rental we strongly advise you to take a credit card along with an international driving license (or a translation of your license if it is not in English).
Driving in Australia means that you often must travel great distances. The roads in remote desert areas are often empty and climate are often dry, hot and dusty.
It is wise to take regular breaks from driving. Along the main roads you will find regularly stations and “roadhouses” (roadside restaurants). A GPS device (such as a Tom Tom) can be very handy if you want to find the fastest route in Australia.
Observe the legal speed limit. We do not recommend driving at night on rural roads in the outback because of the many wild animals.
In the big cities there are toll roads such as the harbor bridge in Brisbane and the northern roads in Sydney. These toll roads can be avoided, but that often means that you spend more time to arrive at your destination. If you plan to drive on toll roads you should buy in advance the electronic pass. You can also post-pay (within 24 hours) online, but if you fail to pay you will get a hefty fine.
The towns are plenty of taxis available. The taxis have a taximeter. Subject to a higher rate in the evenings and holidays.
The cities all have very good public transport available in the form of bus, train, tram and ferry. Tickets must be purchased at the vending machine or at the counter in advance. Each area (state) has its own transport cards, often a public transport pass for several days cheaper.
Between the larger cities to drive long distance buses have a fixed timetable. These are comfortable air-conditioned buses with facilities such as reclining seats, video, toilet and bar. The main bus company is Grey-hound. If you make multiple journeys by bus, it is best to buy a bus pass in advance. Each city has a central bus terminal.
There are also a number of rail options in Australia, although trains as in the U.S. tend to be less frequent and driving slower than buses and must be booked in advance.
After an extensive wave of mergers in the early nineties, there are still two major domestic airlines remaining (Qantas and Virgin). Qantas has a timetable that covers the entire country. Can be flown to any domestic destination, flying is almost daily, as common as in the USA. However, in the meantime, Virgin and JetStar (“low cost carrier” Qantas) also fly extensively throughout Australia. On these flights headphones, alcoholic beverages and snacks are to be paid on board. The important connections between major cities have flights several times per day.
On domestic flights you can check in 20 kg bags. Excess baggage is a surcharge. Domestic flights are generally executed with modern jet aircraft (Boeing 737s and larger). In the smaller towns sometimes you fly with propeller aircraft. Check in at least one hour before your departure. Remember that airports in the major cities have separate terminals for international and domestic flights. The domestic airports usually have extensive and modern facilities.
Free camping is allowed, but not everywhere. We advise you to do your part to protect the environment and ensure your comfort and safety to stay at a campsite. The Big 4 is the largest chain of campgrounds in Australia. In busy holiday periods it is recommended to book a campsite in advance.
Health & safety
The environment in Australia is safe so you generally do not need to take any special medical precautions or vaccinations.
There are however a large number of dangerous and poisonous animals in Australia. Most dangerous are probably crocodiles, sharks and stingers (jellyfish). Make sure to follow local advice and take not of any signage (e.g. if it says don’t swim in particular river or beach, then make sure to abide by that).
Crocodiles live especially in the tropical north of Australia. They live mainly in swamps, lakes and rivers. Although exceptional, crocodiles have been known to come into more populated areas after floods. The most dangerous is the saltwater crocodile (salty’s), these are especially in brackish water, but usually no more than 50 meters from the banks. Watch out for banks in the tropical north of Australia, especially at night when the water surface is difficult to see. Always ask locals or guides where it is safe to go swimming.
Sharks come to the shores of Australia in all shapes and sizes, from small reef sharks to the deadly great white shark (which lives mainly on the south coast). A shark attack is rare and if it happens it usually goes to surfers who are attacked by a shark in error (see the shark surfboard for a dead fish). At many beaches lifeguards are on duty to ensure there are no sharks in the waters, in those beaches you can swim confidently.
Stingers (box jellyfish)
Off the coast of Australia you can come stingers (including the box jellyfish), these are extremely poisonous jellyfish. Even stung by the box jellyfish, even a mature, healthy person can die in a short time (usually by a heart attack). The box jellyfish is recognizable with its large size however there are also other deadly jellyfish that can barely be seen with the naked eye. If you are stung by a jellyfish, ensure you get medical attention immediately.
Many beaches in Australia have large jars with vinegar on hand, throw as fast as possible and as much vinegar over the wound. Vinegar makes sure that no more poison enters the body, and then you can remove tentacles safely. It does not ensure that the poison that is already in your body stops working. Therefore, make sure that you go to an emergency center or hospital for further treatment.
Stingers come in the Northern Territory, along the east coast of Australia especially during the summer / rainy season (November – April). The northern part of Queensland is really only in June and July stinger free. The stingers are uncommon on the south and west coasts of Australia. The popular beaches in Queensland often have stinger nets and lifeguards on duty. Make sure you always follow local instructions and stay inside the nets. Locally, you can buy an anti-stinger swimsuit made of thin nylon. If you do not have confidence, we advise you not to swim in the sea and make use of the swimming pool.
Ambulance & Police
Each city or region has its own ambulance service and police force. Consult the telephone directory or the hotel reception for the phone number. The nationwide telephone emergency number in Australia is 000.
Australia is a relatively safe country. But as in any country where many tourists come, you must be mindful of petty crime, such as purse-snatchers and pickpockets. So please do not leave valuables unattended.
Medical care in Australia
The medical standard in Australia is high. In the larger cities of Australia there are modern hospitals. In the smaller places there are typically emergency clinics operating 24 hours a day. In the remote outback, you are in the care of medical care through the Flying Doctors Service, it has 36 aircraft and 23 bases (see www.flyingdoctor.org.au). For emergency assistance, please call:
• Western Australia: 1 800 625800 (08 94176389)
• Central Australia (SA & NT): 08 86489555
• Queensland Outback:
• Charleville Base: 07 46541443
• Mt Isa Base: 07 47432802
• Cairns Base: 07 40400500
• For the remaining bases (Brisbane, Townsville, Rockhampton, Bundaberg one): 000
• South Eastern Section (NSW, Vic & Cups): 08 80881188
Tap water is usually safe to drink. For safety, we advise you to boil your drinking water in remote locations or buy bottled water.
The northern part of Australia is in the tropics and the air is clean and pure. This brings strong solar radiation to this part of earth. Therefore covering your head with a hat and regularly applying sunscreen with a high protection factor is highly recommended.
History & culture
The first inhabitants of Australia located more than 43,000 years ago. Originally migrated from Asia and New Guinea. They say that prior to the ice age Australia, New Guinea and Asia were linked by a chain of small islands when the ice melted the Aborigines were trapped on the Australian continent.
The Aboriginal community existed in prehistoric times from about 600 tribes, there were probably 200 different languages. They lived by hunting, fishing, keeping small animals and gather fruits. The Aborigines were true nomads, they had no permanent villages. They built huts rarely, only in the south as protection against the cold and in the north as shelter from heavy rains.
The Aborigines had a non-material culture. That came firstly from their nomadic lifestyle, where the carrying of many possessions was difficult, but on the other hand was dictated by their ideology (the earth is good as it is, it needs nothing to be added).
Aboriginals had sporadic contact with the outside world, which changed with the arrival of the first Europeans.
The first European explorer to Australia was Fernão de Magalhães, at the beginning of the 16th century on his trip to Timor. Another European, Luis Vaez de Torres sailed in the 16th century between Australia and New Guinea. It was the Dutchman Willem Janszoon with the ship Duyfken who was the first European to actually set foot on land in 1606. In 1642 Abel Tasman sailed a more southerly course and so encountered in Tasmania is now named after him.
History gave Australia once again a breather when William Dampier, an English pirate, also concluded half a century later that Australia was economically uninteresting.
Captain Cook had a different view. After a long journey that brought him to Tierra del Fuego, Tahiti and New Zealand, he landed in 1770 the first European on the east coast in a paradise-like bay. He named the bay because of the many plants Botany Bay (“botanical bay”). Signs of human life were only seen after three days.
Botany Bay Endeavour Cook sailed to the north and suffered (in the area of the current Whitsunday Islands) on a coral reef. In the time it took to repair the ship, the coasts of the continent and its inhabitants were further investigated. Captain Cook ended his mission as he had done in other places: he called the eastern part of the continent into official British crown colony, which was called New South Wales.
Five years later, the United States of America proclaimed their independence so the English did not know where to send those that had previously been banished to North America. English troublemakers, petty thieves and murderers had now found a new exile.
Australia’s indigenous people, the Aborigines, can trace back their culture 50,000 years. Aborigines have survived harsh desert conditions and have a detailed knowledge of the plants, animals and water sources available in the country.
For the traveler who wishes to gain an insight into their culture there are a number of tours hosted by or arranged in conjunction with Aboriginal communities. Many tours feature Aboriginal folklore, the Dreamtime, an epic tale of the land and how it was formed. To keep their folklore alive, the Aborigines re-tell their stories in songs, fables, dances and cave paintings. On many tours cave paintings and stone carvings can be visited.
Bark paintings, fabrics, ceramics, jewelry, clothing and musical instruments can be purchased at gift and souvenir outlets in major cities and some outback areas.
Major Aboriginal areas rich in cultural heritage are Arnhem Land and Uluru in the Northern Territory, Quinkan Reserves and Kuranda in Queensland, Bibbulmun Trek and the Kimberley in Western Australia, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Mootwingee National Parks in New South Wales, Tandanya in Adelaide, South Australia, The Grampians (Gariwerd), Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission in Victoria and Namadgi National Park in the Australian Capital Territory
It is generally thought that Aborigines have been living on the continent for the last 50,000 years, originally migrating from Indonesia. The oldest skeleton found in Australia was discovered at Lake Mungo in south-west New South Wales, is believed to be 38,000 years old, and bears traces of ceremonial ochre. This is thought to be the oldest sign of ochre use ever discovered.
Unlike most other races, Aboriginals were not cultivators, relying instead on a form of controlled burning of vegetation known as ‘fire-stick farming’. They did not develop a sense of land ownership, although Aboriginal children were taught from an early age that they belonged to the land and must respect tribal boundaries. Tribes returned to particular sites to bury their dead. Some areas were designated sacred sites because of their association with the Dreamtime, the time when the earth was formed and cycles of life and nature were initiated.
Aboriginal legends, songs and dances tell of powerful spirits who created the land and people during the Dreamtime. There is no written Aboriginal language and most of the 600 tribes spoke different dialects and languages. They rarely met except on ceremonial occasions. The tradition of the Dreamtime, however, was a unifying force and rock paintings depicting this creation period can be found dotted throughout the country. Some of the most striking and best preserved of these can be viewed at rock galleries in Kakadu National Park and other parts of northern Australia.
The arrival of white people gradually brought an end to the traditional Aboriginal way of life, when settlement began to encroach on tribal lands. Today, most Aborigines live in cities and towns or in isolated settlements near tribal lands. Few continue their nomadic ways. In recent years, white Australians have become more sensitive to the plight of Aborigines, resulting in increased health and educational services, greater recognition of Aboriginal land rights and a growing appreciation of Aboriginal culture. Specialised galleries display Aboriginal art, tools, musical instruments and artefacts. These are highly valued and avidly sought by collectors all over the world.
The population of Australia is 22.68 million.
More than 76% of the population belong to a particular religion. The Anglican Church and the Catholic Church each with 26% of the population are the largest religions. But with immigrants from all parts of the world there are also plenty of other beliefs, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
The official language is English. There are differences between Australian English and English spoken elsewhere. Visitors may have a few difficulties at first understanding certain phrases and words.
See some examples below of “Aussie Slang”:
• Ankle Bitter = A small child
• Arvo = Afternoon
• OJ = orange juice
• Bottle O = Bottle store (liquor store)
• Beauty mate = smoothing is great
• G’day = Good day
• Six- pack = Package of six cans or bottles of beer
• Barbie = BBQ
• Dunny = toilet
• Ta = thank you
• Bathers / Cossies = Swimming suit
• No hoper = someone who will never do well
• Billabong = a small pool or lagoon
• Boomerang = used as both a weapon and a clapping instrument to accompany songs and dances
• Cooee = long, shrill call originally used by an Aborigine to communicate with someone at a distance
• Walkabout = a journey on foot, as undertaken by an Aborigine in order to live in the traditional way. It originally referred to a hunting and gathering trip that would last from a few hours to a few days
• Tucker = food
• Yabber = to talk
• Yakka = work
• Dreamtime = the time of creation; a set of events beyond living memory which shaped the physical, spiritual and moral world. The Dreamtime stories tell of the time when the Ancestral Beings rose from the earth in animal and human forms and created the landscape as we now see it. Dreaming is an English word, and each Aboriginal language has its own word with the same or similar meaning
Car & Campervan Rental
In Australia, we partner with a number of car rental companies such as Apollo, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Maui and Thrifty / Territory. Basically, the choices of car type and car rental is up to you. Sometimes there are differences in terms and rates between the companies but generally the differences are very marginal.
Please note that most car rental companies only include standard basic insurance in the rate which has a relatively high deductible excess. We advise you to reduce the excess rate by purchasing an additional supplementary insurance.
The conditions and information about insurance, deductibles and additional costs of cars are listed on the relevant rental company website. The driver must be at least 21 years old, hold a current full driving license (if the license is not in English it is recommended to bring a translation of your license or better yet, get an international driving license). Please note that you will need a credit card.
• Apollo Autohuur
• Europcar Autohuur
• Hertz Autohuur
• Thrifty Autohuur
• Britz Autohuur
• Maui Autohuur
Four wheel drive rentals
The Outback of Australia is ideal for exploring with a 4 wheel drive off-road vehicle (4WD), taking you to places where you cannot go with a normal car.
Popular journeys with a 4WD include the tracks below:
• Birdsville Track (SA-NSW)
• Canning Stock Route (WA)
• Gibb River Road (WA)
• Gunbarrel Highway (NT-WA)
• Mereenie Loop Road (NT)
• Oodnadatta Track (SA-NT)
• Tanami Track (NT-WA)
For the serious 4WD Tracks we recommend long wheelbase terrain vehicles such as the Toyota Land cruiser. When planning your road trip you must take into account the season (rain) and the limited supply of petrol / diesel on these tracks. Also you should use particular caution when crossing river.
The so-called short wheelbase terrain vehicles like the Toyota RAV4, we recommend more for shorter unpaved paths including the following:
• Fraser Island
• Kangaroo Island (west side)
• Moorenie Loop Road (between Alice Springs and Kings Canyon)
• Snowy Mountains (’s winters)
The Bloomfield Track in Queensland (north of Daintree National Park ), you can only drive with a “long wheelbase” roader from Apollo / Hertz. We partner with several 4wd rental companies such as Apollo, Budget, Hertz, KEA, Maui and Thrifty.
Please note that in most 4WD car rental just a standard basic insurance is included with a relatively high deductible (excess). We advise you to reduce the excess by purchasing a supplementary insurance.
As for accommodation along the way there are many possibilities. You can choose from camping, hotels, motels and lodges. We strongly advice you especially in the high season to reserve your accommodation (December and January), otherwise you will waste a lot of time searching for a place to stay.
Camper and Motorhome hire in Australia
You can choose from a wide range of campers, from 2 to 6 persons. Also if you want to explore of the beaten track we recommend hiring a 4WD camper model, which are available from most suppliers. The rental companies have depots in major cities of Australia like Sydney, Melbourne , Adelaide , Brisbane , Cairns , Darwin , Alice Springs and Perth. Some companies also have a depot in Broome. Experience shows that the campers are very popular in the Australian summer (especially mid-December to late January). We advise you to book early.
Camper and Motorhome companies in Australia
• Apollo Campers
• Britz Campers
• Cheapa Campa’s
• KEA Motorhomes
• Maui Campers
• Mighty Rentals
• Star RV Campers
The conditions and information about insurance, deductibles and additional costs of campervan hire are listed on the relevant websites.
Camping in Australia
There is a wide choice of well-located and good campsites in Australia They are spread across the country and typically feature amenities such as electricity for your vehicle, proper sanitation, laundry and plenty of space.
Campers from Europe are often impressed by the clean and beautiful bathrooms and spacious facilities at campsites in Australia. Often campsites are located in beautiful and attractive locations and management can help plan excursions or advise on local public transport.
You can free camp in Australia, in principle, but that does not mean you can just stand with your camper or tent anywhere. You may only camp after you have asked for prior approval. For your health and safety we recommend that you stay in a campsite whenever possible. The Big 4 campgrounds are a popular choice across Australia.