This page is designed to give you just a few hints on what to expect when you come to Australia. It is general information and should not be relied on for major decision making as all things can change without notice. For example, the valid length of your visa may be different depending on your circumstances.
Australia is full of famous postcard images. The Opera House or Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock alone cannot do justice to the variety of Australia's natural treasures or its cultural diversity.
- Full country name: Commonwealth of Australia
- Area: 7,682,300 sq km
- Population: 23,144,000 (approximate growth rate 1.44%per annum)
- Capital city: Canberra (pop: approx 380,000)
- Languages: English, Aboriginal languages (plus Italian, Greek
and numerous other European and Asian languages)
- Government: Independent member of the British Commonwealth
Australia offers a myriad of travel experiences, The sheer vastness of our island continent (its as big as the USA) means that many tourists will have to re-think their grasp of geography. Australia is an enormous country, You cannot see the Opera house this morning, have lunch on the Barrier reef and watch the Sun set over Ayers Rock or Uluru.
Australia has culture all it's own, largely because it has such diversity of cultures, from the 40,000 year history of the native Aborigines to the 200 year young European settlers and the more recent influx of immigrants from our asian neighbours. All these cultures have mixed harmoniously to give us outstanding variations in restaurants and shopping experiences.
There are three time zones: Eastern Standard Time is GMT plus 10 hours; Central Time is GMT plus 9.5 hours; and Western Time GMT plus eight hours.
Australia has one of the world's most advanced telephone networks and nost phones will allow you to plug in a laptop. Most hotels will be able to provide Internet access.
- Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road. - When crossing the roads, check for traffic on your right first. Remember too that many city streets have one way traffic, so be careful and check both ways. - It is illegal to drive while using portable mobile phones. - Everyone travelling in the car must wear seatbelts. Children must sit in the rear seats. - The speed limit in areas with street lights is 50 kilometres per hour, unless signposted otherwise. - It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.05 .If you are a learner or provisional driver, or under 25 with a licence less than three years old, you must not drive after drinking any alcohol at all. On long journeys, take a break every two hours. Driver fatigue is the cause of many crashes in Australia You can drive using a foreign licence in Australia; but if your licence is not printed in English carry a translation with you.
If you are hiring a car or motorhome be sure to download this free guide from Driveaway Holidays
Tourists visas are generally valid for six months. Every nationality except New Zealanders need visas, although this may be changing soon so please double check this before you travel.
Crime and security
Australia is a safe place to travel, however as with anywhere you can find trouble if you look hard enough for it. Use common sense and don't leave valuables unattended. Carry small amounts of cash in a money belt and leave important documents in the hotel safe. Many inner-city streets are well-populated at night, but avoid walking alone through quieter areas such as lanes and parks. In an emergency, dial 000. For less urgent matters, telephone the Police Assistance Line, 13 1444.
Major cities and towns are reasonably well-equipped for disabled travellers. Australia has strict laws for public disabled access in shopping centres and major buildings, so we are a "disabled friendly " destination.
Facilities for the disabled are widely available in public buildings, hotels, large shops and restaurants. Most taxi companies have vehicles that accommodate wheelchairs. Ferries and trains and some bus routes cater for the needs of disabled commuters, with services such as lifts and ramps; The Australian Quadriplegic Association (AQA) has a useful guide called Access Sydney . To get a copy, ring 02 9661 8855. AQA also has a comprehensive database on facilities and is happy to help with phone enquiries.
Another excellent source is an independent website that regularly audits venues to confirm their degree of accessibility,
There is also a book called the Wheely Good Access Guide, available in most good book stores.
Health and Wellbeing
The most common health risk in Australia comes as a result of over-exposure to the sun. Between 11am and 3pm is when our sun is strongest and best avoided. Wear a hat at all times and apply sunblock on exposed areas of skin.
While our beaches are beautiful, dangerous conditions when swimming at the surf beaches can arise unexpectedly. Most city beaches are patrolled during the summer months of October to April, but not necessarily on weekdays. Always swim at a patrolled beach, and always swim between the flags.
Australia has an excellent public health system. For emergencies, dial 000. For less serious matters, go to the casualty department at a hospital (you may have to wait) or look up "Medical Practitioners" in the Yellow Pages telephone directory. If you are staying at a hotel, ask a staff member for the name of a doctor.
Pharmacies, or chemist shops may be relied on for advice on minor ailments such as rashes, an upset stomach and so on, as well as for a range of health and cosmetics products. Medicare is Australia's national public health insurance system. Reciprocal arrangements cover visitors from New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Malta, Sweden, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands. For further information, contact the Medicare Information Service, 13 2011. Visitors from all other countries should ensure that they have adequate travel insurance.
- Buses, Trains, Ferries, Airlines, we have them all and they are all modern and safe. If you are travelling for an extended period there are passes that can be bought that will allow access to all services for a reduced price, or offer unlimited usage for a certain period of time. If you're on a tight schedule, we suggest you book your transport well in advance. That's what we can do for you. Talk to your travel agent and if he/she isn't sure, email us and we'll get it sorted out for you.
Australia has British dress/suit sizes and American shoe sizes. An American size six dress equals an Australian size eight; an English size five equals an Australian size seven. With imported European shoes, their size system is used. Major retailers are aware of the differences. Always try something on first and don't be afraid to ask for advice