10 Things You Should Know before Traveling to Australia

Sitting apart from the rest of the globe, Australia is one of the world’s most intriguing destinations. With unique wildlife, gorgeous beaches, and gregarious locals, few come away from this place with a negative experience.

However, there are many things of which a first-time visitor should be aware. In this guide, will run down ten things you should know about Australia before booking your plane ticket. 

(1) Don’t forget to apply for your eTA/travel visa

Forgetting this has been the ruin of many an Australian holiday. The Australian government requires foreign visitors to apply for an eTA (electronic travel authority), an eVisitor visa, or a tourist visa. 

Australian immigration requires the first option from citizens of Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States. A non-refundable fee of $20 AUD is charged and usually takes minutes to process. However, other applications can take several days and may require you to take additional steps.

The eVisitor visa is similar to the eTA. It is offered to those who live in EEA countries (including, for now, the United Kingdom), as well as to citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, and Vatican City. There’s no charge to apply, and 90% of applications process with 48 hours.

Residents of all other countries are required to apply for a visitor visa. Its cost starts at $140 AUD, and it can take a month or longer to process. If you have to get this travel document, make arrangements well in advance of your flight.

(2) Australia is MASSIVE

Australia is the only country that is also a continent. Comparable in size to the contiguous United States, it can take a week of continuous driving to get from one end to the other. Travelling between Sydney and Melbourne is a full-day affair, with nearly nine hours of non-stop driving required.

Unless you’re spending a year on a working holiday visa, concentrate your sightseeing in a specific geographic area. If you’re flying into Sydney, stick to New South Wales. If you start in Melbourne, check out the Great Ocean Road. Want to check out the Great Barrier Reef? Fly into Cairns – Brisbane is a bit too far away. 

(3) Don’t expect a budget holiday

Oz among the most expensive nations in the world. Good luck finding a decent hotel room for under $100 per night. That beer in Kings Cross? $8 AUD, please. A simple brunch? $20 AUD and up.

Australia’s geographic isolation, lack of competition, and high wages can give visitors some serious sticker shock. To cope, we recommend budgeting $70-$100 AUD a day if money is tight. If you’re staying in hotels and taking tours, $200-$300 AUD is more realistic. 

(4) Plan a rough itinerary ahead of time

As mentioned above, there is a lot of territory to cover Down Under. Accordingly, the number of things to see and do in Australia can be overwhelming. Don’t waste time on the ground planning your itinerary – do your homework beforehand.

Start by figuring out what interests you. Don’t waste time exploring art museums if you’d rather be on the beach. Once you’ve got that sorted, focus on the city you’re flying into and the state that surrounds it. If you plan on visiting Sydney, search for things to do in the city and New South Wales. 

Plan to see no more than two sights per day. Why only two? You’re on holiday – you won’t enjoy things as much if you’re in a rush to see everything. Also, try to block off a day or two where you do nothing but relax. You’ve briefly stepped away from your real life – take time to recharge your batteries. 

(5) It has a diverse range of climates

Plan on hopscotching across Australia during your visit? You may need to pack extra clothes. If you are visiting Queensland in July, the weather will be hot, as most of this state has a tropical climate. 

However, jet down to Tasmania and you’ll be in for a shock – during this time, it is chilly, with plentiful rain and even snow. Don’t be stuck without a sweater and a coat – in Australia, seasons flip from those of the Northern Hemisphere.

Are you travelling to Australia to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter? If you plan on spending time in the tropical north, buy an umbrella soon after arrival. This time of year is smack in the middle of the wet season – there’s nothing worse being caught in a torrential downpour without protection. 

(6) The sun is obnoxiously strong

If you plan on working on your tan in Australia, you may get more than you bargained for. For the most part, the atmosphere is arid and free of dust/pollutants. As a result, more solar radiation can make it to the surface without being refracted.

Combine that with Australia’s proximity to the tropics, and you can get severely sunburned in less than 30 minutes. Cover up – slap on a hat, slip on a shirt, and slop on some sunscreen.     

(7) Tips are 100% unnecessary

Americans and Canadians are accustomed to leaving behind a little something for their server. If you try this in Australia, the wait staff may chase you down, thinking you forgot your change.

In Australia, the government has set the minimum wage at $17.29 AUD per hour, with many making more than that. Base wages in the hospitality industry are enough for most to make a decent living. That said, it is acceptable to tip if you receive exceptional service. However, some local Australians resent tourists for tipping, as they claim it is leading to a change in culture.   

(8) The internet can be maddeningly slow

Being situated at the end of the world has its drawbacks – for one, it limits the number of undersea communications cables. This fact makes Australian internet noticeably slower than in other first-world countries. 

It gets worse, though – after a change of government in the 2010s, the new administration scrubbed a planned rollout of fibre optic cable. Instead, they went with a Multi-Technological Mix network – a slower, pricier alternative.

Get acquainted with the buffering symbol – it’s an accepted fact of life here.

(9) Australia’s national healthcare plan does not cover non-residents

The healthcare debate is currently raging full force in America. Proponents of single-payer have heaped praise on Australia for offering free care at the point of service. Consequently, some travellers head Down Under expecting not to pay for medical assistance.

Healthcare in Australia is only free for citizens and permanent residents. If you require medical care and lack insurance, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for services rendered. While this may be less than in the USA, you may still be on the hook for thousands of dollars.

Take out travel insurance before leaving home, so your holiday doesn’t become a nightmare.

(10) Don’t expect to see kangaroos or koalas everywhere

Thanks to its isolation, Australia has some of the most exotic fauna in the world. However, many visitors are disappointed when they fail to spot any kangaroos or koalas in the wild. Like native animals back home, endemic species here fear humans. As such, they can be hard to spot for travellers to find.

Don’t be afraid to spend money on a tour – staffed by knowledgeable locals, they’ll know where the wild things are. Not only will they track down kangas and koalas, but they’ll also point out animals you didn’t know about. From platypuses to quokkas, this day of wildlife spotting will likely go down as one of the best of your Australian trip. 

Victoria Brewood
victoria@pommietravels.com

Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

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