Australia is one of the most beautiful places on earth. How many other countries can offer rainforests, beaches, a desert, bustling cities, and the Great Barrier Reef? This huge diversity makes Australia a popular spot to vacation, but for Westerners the long trek to the other side of the world is one that requires some serious planning. And because of the time it takes to get to Australia, many travelers take a longer vacation of 10 days or more.
April/May is one of the best times to visit, as it’s warm and sunny rather than hot and rainy like the summers can be. With spring still a few months away, here are a few travel tips to help you start planning your Australian getaway.
Secure your visa before you go
Australia requires that tourists secure a travel visa before entering the country. Your passport is not enough, and if you’re from a country other than the United States or Canada, you may have different requirements.
If your stay is for under 90 days, you can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is an electronic visa that can be applied for via the ETA website for a small fee. The ETA is then emailed directly to you and electronically linked to your passport. This ETA is also good for business purposes, as long as you’re under the 90-day limit.
Pack the Sunblock
The sun is seriously strong in Australia no matter where you visit, so pack your sunblock and reapply often. Even in 30 minutes you can get a severe sunburn.
Northern Australia has significantly higher UV indices than other parts of the country, and overall, in comparison to the rest of the world, the country ranks fairly high on the UV index scale across the board. The brutality of the sun may also be attributed to holes in the ozone layer. In fact, Southeastern Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
To protect yourself from sun damage, wear a hat during the day and avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time, especially in the northern parts of the country.
Expect Wi-Fi Woes
Australia is known for its spotty and expensive internet options for visitors. Don’t expect free wi-fi in every coffee shop you wander into. Some coffee shops and fast food places will have free wi-fi but it probably won’t be of the speed or reliability that you’re used to; however, it will depend on where you are in the country.
If you bring your own computer or use your own smartphone/mobile phone, you can purchase a Telstra pay-as-you-go or pre-paid SIM Card that will set you back only about 30 to 50 U.S. dollars a month depending on your plan. There are three major providers of mobile broadband for mobile wi-fi devices: Optus, Telestra, and Vodafone. Telestra can be the most expensive but it will also get you the most coverage.
Pick up Australian Etiquette
When eating out or receiving a service, keep in mind that Australians in service jobs are paid on salary rather than hourly, so tipping is not required. And since pretty much everything is more expensive in Australia, you won’t feel the need to add to your tab anyway.
When it comes to greetings etiquette, the Aussies are very laid-back and down to earth as a whole. When you meet someone, a basic handshake and smile will work, along with a hello or how are you? Aussies may greet you with “G’day” or “G’day, mate” but they may take offense if foreigners say this.
Overall, the people of Australia are relational and friendly and enjoy positivity. When shopping, for example, there’s no need to hassle business owners on the price of items or use other forms of bartering that might be acceptable in other parts of the world. The Aussies are pretty upfront, honest, and matter-of-fact.
One last tip here: When you go to a bar in Australia, don’t order a Fosters. There are excellent microbreweries all over the country so try to enjoy the true local flavors.
Learn the Lingo
While English is the official language of Australia, there are a handful of words that may throw a typical Western English speaker for a loop. The Aussies have their own slang terms for commonly used English words, as well as their own sayings and phrases. In addition, they shorten a lot of words and may even shorten your name when you introduce yourself.
You may want to refer to a list of these terms and sayings and familiarize yourself with some of the more popular words and sayings you may need to use. For example, you may hear “arvo” for afternoon, “bloody” for very, and “exy” for expensive. It’s not necessary to use these terms in conversation with an Aussie, but it’s nice to know what they’re saying so that you can respond appropriately.
Finally, beyond lingo, remember that Australians use the AUD, or Australian dollar. The current conversion rate is $1 AUD to 75 cents USD and $1 AUD to .98 cents CAD, so make sure you budget for the difference.