Australia immediately conjures images of the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, big-wave surfing, miles of Outback and a rather strange, and endearing, assortment of animals. While the country’s main cities offer charm, glamour, unique festivals, a well-preserved historical heritage, fabulous beaches and fun events, it’s also a land of immense contrast and captivating nature. The nation offers something for just about everyone – from water lovers, desert wanderers and canyon climbers, to arts and culture buffs, historians, and foodies. The country’s vast size makes it almost impossible to take it all in during a single visit, but you can pick and choose a perfect holiday according to your personal preferences.
Banking and Currency
Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations.
Banks are normally only open weekdays 9h30-16h00 Monday to Friday, some stay open until 17h00 on Fridays. In larger metropolitan suburban centres, major banks are increasingly opening on the weekend, too.
Credit cards such as American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and JCB are accepted in Australia. Traveller's cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries.
ATMs can be found in all major towns and cities. However you may have limited or no access to ATMs in small towns and outback areas.
Travellers' cheques are widely accepted in major currencies at banks or large hotels. However, some banks may charge a fee for cashing traveller's cheques. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in a major currency.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Hire cars are readily available in all major towns. Australians drive on the left and all cars are right hand drive. Having access to your own car has the advantages of being able travel at your own pace, explore remote areas and visit regions with no public transport. However, as the country is so vast, this form of transport can be time consuming.
A faster option would be to make use of the numerous affordable, frequent, fast flights between major centres.
Reliable, frequent long-haul coach services are available countrywide but they are not always cheaper than flying and are time consuming.
Trains in Australia are slow, expensive and infrequent but the scenery is great. Opt for a sleeper carriage rather than an 'overnighter' seat.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Standards of hygiene in food preparation are very high. Milk is pasteurised and meat and vegetables are considered safe to eat. Care should be taken, however, if preparing 'bush tucker' in outback areas as some insects and fauna are highly poisonous unless properly cooked.
'Bush tucker' is food from Australia's endemic flora and fauna and can be lean and quite delicious; kangaroo meat in particular is growing in popularity since being made legal to trade to eat only in the past two decades. For all the advent of fine dining and exotic menu items, however, the humble barbecue remains for many the quintessential Australian food experience. Various beaches and parks have barbecue stations that can be used by the public. Steak, prawns and beer tend to feature prominently.
Seafood is an integral part of the cuisine scene in all its shelled and scaled forms. Production of organic foods is increasing to meet demand and is these days widely available in the cities and larger towns. There are fine dining restaurants throughout the larger cities, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, where big-name chefs have helped to give Australian cuisine an international reputation for bright, creative gastronomy. Regional food markets and increasing numbers of food festivals across the states are a great way to sample fresh produce. Look out for things like farmhouse cheese, speciality sausages and local fruits.
The major vineyards (wineries) are outside Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide. The largest single wine-growing region is in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, two hours' drive from Adelaide, where high-quality red and white wines are produced. Various wineries, breweries and distilleries are open for public visits.
Climate and Weather
Australia experiences temperate weather for most of the year but the climate can vary due to the size of the continent. The northern states typically experience warm weather much of the time, with the southern states experiencing cooler winters. Australia is also one of the driest continents on earth with an average annual rainfall of less than 600 millimetres. Like all countries in the southern hemisphere, Australia's seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Clothes in natural fibers will work better in the heat and it is worth popping in a lightweight sweater, cardigan or pashmina wrap for cooler weather or overly fierce air conditioning.
Travel light and buy your toiletries there. Must haves include sunglasses and wear plenty of high factor sunscreen.
If you are planning to visit very hot areas then a shirt with long sleeves and a higher neckline to prevent burning is recommended. A sunhat is also very useful in the intense sunshine.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in Australia are ‘Type I’ (AS/NZS 3112). If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in Australia usually supply electricity at 220-240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.