Tips For Travel In Australia
Suggestions and recommendations are provided for the following topics in anticipation that they will contribute to the safety, wellbeing and enjoyment of persons planning to travel to Australia.
Customs, Quarantine & Visas
To enter Australia you will need a current passport valid for the duration of your stay. If your country of origin does NOT have a visa exempt status. you will also need a valid Australian tourist visa issued in the your own country and entered into the passport before the travel date.
Visa applications are made to the Australian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission, as applicable, in your home country, although is is now possible for Australian visa applications to be made online. Make sure you apply for the correct visa type. For example, if you plan to work, you will need to apply for a work permit which is generally limited to single under 25's and which only allows for casual work to be performed for up to 3 months.
Tourist visas are generally valid for a stay of 3 or 6 months. At the time of making your visa application you will have to sign an undertaking that you have an outward bound ticket and sufficient funds for the duration of your stay. In some cases you may also need a sponsor in Australia.
No duty is payable on personal effects. Adults may carry up to 50 cigarettes and 2.25 litres of alcoholic liquor in their personal effects provided it is carried with them. Duty and sales tax is applied to dutiable goods exceeding A$900. Strict regulations apply to narcotics and controlled substances.
When entering Australia you will have to surrender all fresh food, animal and plant products and any unprocessed foodstuffs. You will be required to sign a declaration to this effect. This is a quarantine requirement to prevent the entry of foreign organisms that may have a harmful effect on Australia's native vegetation, wildlife and farming products.
Strict regulations apply to the import and export of protected wildlife and items made from protected species. Any such items will be seized by customs officials upon arrival.
Travellers will always need to consider how they intend to get to and from the airport and their final destination. All airports have shuttle services with pick-up and drop off at loading areas located at the front of the airport terminals. Some cities have a light rail service that connect the CBD and airport.
Prices are reasonable and there are various choices available, ranging from conventional buses, mini-buses, private pick-up and limousines. Most transfers provide a door-to-door service between the airport and your city destination.
Airport transfers can be pre-booked online which eliminates standing in queues to buy tickets on arrival.
Australian accommodation is available that caters to all tastes and budgets. Choices range from back-packer budget dormitories through to 5 star luxury hotels and resorts. The capital cities and major towns have both conventional and boutique hotels. Capital cities usually also offer self catering apartments.
At beachfront holiday destinations such as the Queensland Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, self contained, resort style apartments provide the majority of accommodation, although there are hotels at these locations.
As you travel further afield into the country towns, accommodation in motels and motor-inns become the norm.
Australian traffic drives on the left hand side of the road. If you are in doubt about your driving licence being accepted in Australia, rather obtain an International Licence from your local automobile association prior to your departure.
Australia is a fabulous place for self drive holidays... the open road, great weather and great experiences along the way. For information about Australian car rentals, see our car rental FAQ's sheet and if your prefereneces run towards a campervan or motorhome then you will find a huge selection of rental options.
Road speed limits differ between states but are generally 100-110kph on the highways and 50-60kph in built-up areas. Interstate highways are not of the same standard as USA and European highway systems but nor do they carry the same traffic volumes.
Don't hitch-hike, it is illegal. Never leave small children or animals locked in vehicles in very hot weather. Dehydration occurs very quickly. This practice is illegal and offenders may be fined or even find themselves in court.
The most serious danger on the road is driver fatigue. Look for driver refreshment stations on the highways and pull off and rest after driving for several hours.
Be careful when driving on country roads at night in cold weather. Cattle and native animals such as kangaroos lie on the bitumen road surface which holds the warmth of the sun. Car lights blind and mesmerise the animals and they may just as easily run into your vehicle as run away from it.
When travelling on remote outback roads/tracks, always advise someone at the destination of your expected arrival time and number of people in your party. If you fail to arrive within a reasonable time, help procedures can be started. Do NOT leave your vehicle as a missing vehicle is much easier to find that a missing person. When travelling on unsurfaced or poor quality roads, always conduct a vehicle check before starting off on the next sector.
Extra care is needed when sharing the road with road-trains on unsealed outback roads. These are prime movers with multiple trailers of cattle attached and are about 50 metres (170 feet) long. Always give them plenty of room as the buffeting from displaced air as you pass in opposite directions can be quite severe.
Allow at least 1 kilometre (3000 feet) of clear road before overtaking a road train. Dust from passing vehicles on outback roads can obscure your vision. Don't take risks, slow down or stop until it settles.
Do not attempt to cross flooded rivers and causeways unless you are sure of the water depth and possible road surface damage. Most flash floods recede within 24 hours.
Recommended reading >> Official Guide To Road Safety In Australia
Avoid flying early morning and late afternoon on the eastern seaboard routes. These flights are usually heavily booked by business people travelling between the capital cities. Need extra leg room? Consider asking to be seated in an emergency row and get more leg room.
When checking in and getting seat allocation, ask if your seat is in the first row immediately adjacent one of the large central video screens. You may wish to ask for a different location, especially if on a long international flight.
A departure tax (aka PMC) of A$55 per adult is payable when leaving Australia and is usually included in the cost of the airline ticket.
Don't forget to take out Australian travel insurance. Don't learn the hard way that this is money well spent.
Language & Religion
English is the official language of Australia, although many other languages are in use. There is no official religion in Australia. Churches can be found in most towns for both the Catholic and Church of England faith. Other common religions are Methodist, Presbyterian and Uniting Church. Places of worship for Jewish, Muslim, Buddist and other minority religious denominations will only be found in the major towns and cities.
Need an interpreter? The telecommunications provider Telstra offers a 24 hour translation and interpreter service for an extensive range of languages. Try this website for all the contact numbers.
Medical & Pharmaceutical
Australian nationals and New Zealand visitors are covered by Medicare, the national health insurance scheme. It does not apply to visitors from any other country.
Visitors should always take out travel insurance cover prior to departure from their home country. The best prices for travel insurance is for cover arranged direct with the insurer which can be 50% of the price charged by your travel agent. Our Australian travel insurance discussion page is a recommended resource when considering the appropriate level of insurance cover for your travels.
Visitors will only require specific vaccinations if they have travelled through an area infected with yellow fever. Visitors passing through other countries when entering or leaving Australia should check the vaccination requirements of those countries.
All cities and most towns offer 24 hour medical facilities by way of private practice clinics or government run hospital facilities. They will be listed in the telephone book of the area you are visiting.
Chemists are located in all towns and cities throughout Australia. The Australian chemist does not operate the "soda fountain" type of drug store found in the USA.
Recommended reference >> Australian Medical Sites
Telephones & Communication
In an emergency dial 000 (not 999). This will link you to the ambulance, fire and police services.
Need an interpreter? The telecommunications provider Telstra offers a 24 hour translation and interpreter service. Try this website for all the contact numbers.
Phone cards are a popular way of accessing the public phone system. Cards are available from selected newsagents and stores. Selected public phones also accept credit cards as well as coins. Public phone call assistance (aka operator assistance) is available by dialling 1234.
Tips & Gratuities
Australians working in the touriism, hospitality and transport industries are paid a salary. Tipping is not standard practice but is generally considered an appropriate gesture of appreciation when the level of service has exceeded expectations.
A tip of around 10% would be considered appropriate in such cases.
Currency, Banks & Shops
Most shops are closed on Sundays although supermarkets and major shopping malls may open with limited hours. Not all shops within the mall will necessarily be open for business on Sundays. Tourism oriented outlets do have a 7 day trade as do convenience stores supplying basic needs.
Banks are open Monday through Friday and generally between the hours of 9.00 to 4.00. Most towns have automatic teller machines to cater for after-hours transactions.
All major city airports have currency exchange kiosks for changing foreign currency.
Australian currency consists of 5c 10c 20c 50c $1 $2 as coins. Notes are $5 $10 $20 $50 and $100.
Australian electricity supply is 240 volts. Most electronics stores stock wall plug adaptors for appliances with different pin arrangements. Always check if your 110v appliance has automatic switching for a 240v supply. If not, it is recommended that you get an 110v/240v transformer before leaving home.
Weather & Environment
Protect against sunburn at all times, but especially in summer. Use a wide brimmed hat, 15+ sunscreen, sunglasses, protective clothes and shoes. Australian sunlight has very high UV levels and skin damage occurs rapidly, especially during the middle of the day.
Check approaching storm fronts for signs of a greenish tinge. This often indicates a hail storm that may cause damage to persons and property.
Always observe correct beach safety. Swim only at patrolled beaches. Only swim between flagged areas. If in doubt, ask. Always check for warning signs.
If you intend to swim in shallow coastal waters north of Gladstone, make it your business to be informed about box jellyfish (marine stingers). They are generally found in shallow water near creek or river mouths, more likely after local rain, usually absent in rough water. Not usually found over deep water or coral. Stinger season is usually from December to March in the Gladstone (south) area and longer, from October to June, in the Cairns (north) area. Most popular beaches in the stinger areas are netted to provide swimmer protection.
Always wear thick soled shoes when walking in shallow tropical waters or reef walking as protection against the highly camouflaged stonefish. It has dorsal spikes which will rupture the skin of the foot and inject poison causing extreme swelling and agony. Deaths have been recorded as a result of stonefish poisoning.
There are other poisonous creatures on the reef such as some of the cone shell species and coral snakes, both of which are capable of causing death. If you intend spending time on the Barrier Reef without expert guidance, ensure you have a sound knowledge of what can hurt you before you start.
So.... we hope some or all of the above will help with your great Australian adventure.