Planning a trip to Australia? We have always found “local knowledge” invaluable when planning our trips. We are Australians who have lived on the East Coast of Australia for over 50 years. We have lots of local knowledge that can help you make the most of your trip to Australia and avoid making some of the mistakes overseas tourists frequently make. Below we have outlined a few things you need to know before visiting Australia.
Before you leave for Australia
Like all countries, Australia does have entry requirements you need to take care of before you leave. We have provided some links below to ensure you have up to date information.
- A visa is required to visit Australia, unless you are from New Zeland. Find out more details on visa requirements here
- Australia has a strict border control, with a number of prohibited items including food, plant products, and medications. Heavy fines can apply for bringing these items into Australia. Find more Detailed information here on prohibited goods.
- If driving within Australia, restrictions also exist for taking food between states, to protect agricultural industries.
When to visit Australia
The best time to visit Australia will depend upon where you wish to visit. Our summers run from December to early March, winter is from June to August. Temperatures can vary greatly from humid, tropical weather to freezing nights. If you are planning a beach holiday, you will of course want to make the most of our summer months.
Weather in Australia
The southern states, including Sydney and Melbourne enjoy temperatures up to around 30C (86F) in summer and around 15C (59F) in the winter months.
The northern states and outback have extremely hot, humid summers. Temperatures can soar as high as 50C (122F). It is also the wet season, so winter can be the best time to visit northern Australia. During winter, temperatures are around 20C (68F), however can drop down below 0C (32F) overnight.
The shoulder season from October to November or March to April may provide more pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds. Domestic flights and accommodation will also be significantly cheaper outside school holiday times.
- English is the language spoken, however we Australians do have our own “lingo” or dialect. We shorten words, and have nicknames for everything and every one. It can help to learn a little “Aussie Slang” before you go.
Transport in Australia
Our major cities and towns have excellent bus, train and flight connections. However, public transport between towns in rural and regional Australia can be non-existent. Driving will be the best option if you want to head out of the larger cities to explore. You will however need to be realistic about how much you can actually fit into the time you have to travel in Australia.
Distances between towns
Whether driving or flying, bear in mind when planning your itinerary that Australia is vast One of the biggest mistakes tourists make is to underestimate the distances. We once had visitors from Canada who planned to “pop up to Alice Springs” for the long weekend. This is simply not ever going to happen. It will take at least two days to get there and two days to get back, before you even see anything.
Whether driving or flying, the time to travel between towns and states states can be massive. A flight from east to west coast, for example takes 5 hours and costs several hundred dollars.You also need to be aware that smaller regional centres may only have one or two flights per day. This can make connecting flights tricky and involve long layovers. Smaller domestic airlines offer flights between most regional centres and often have some great deals.
Driving in Australia
Driving time between regional towns will be at least one hour, depending upon road conditions.
- When driving , ensure you keep your fuel tank full. Distances between fuel stations can be up to 200 kilometres and they may not necessarily be open 24/7
- Always carry a supply of water and snacks when driving in case you do get caught beside the road.
- Remember to pull over and rest often. You will find frequent roadside rest stops, with toilets, picnic area and sometimes water.
- Avoid travelling at dusk or sunset. This is when you are likely to find wildlife on the roads. A collision with a kangaroo or wombat will cause serious damage to your car, not to mention your trip.
- 000 is the emergency services number in Australia
Travelling in the Outback
Visiting the great Australian Outback is a great experience. However climate extremes and the natural terrain can make it a very unforgiving and inhospitable place. So make sure you do your research and prepare properly before you go.
- Most places can be accessed via bitumen roads, with some dirt roads which you should be able to navigate with a 2WD vehicle. If the signs say “4WD only” heed the warning. Renting a 4WD vehicle if you don’t need it will be very expensive in fuel costs
- As mentioned above, don’t underestimate the distance between attractions. It will take you at least one day to travel between attractions in the outback and at least one day to explore. Try to pick the attractions you really want to see for a memorable experience, rather than trying to cram too much in and spending all your time driving. After all, you’ve come to experience the outback, not empty outback roads.
- Start the day early to avoid the heat, even in the winter months.
- Phone coverage can be very limited or non-existent. Renting a UHF radio with your vehicle could be a good investment.
- Always make sure you have a good supply of water, sunscreen and clothing to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays
- Unless you are very experienced in desert travel, don’t attempt a trip into the desert without an experienced guide.
- Be prepared for hot days and freezing nights.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to arrive at your destination.
All around Australia you will find a great range of hotels, motels, caravan parks and other accommodation. However do book your accommodation in advance, even if it is only the night before.
- In smaller towns, hotels and motel receptions will not be open late, unless they know you are coming.
- Do make sure to get a confirmation of any emailed reservations.
I’ve seen people pop into our eatery, looking for accommodation that night at around 7pm and thinking they will just “pop onto expedia” and book it. Most motel receptions in regional Australia will be closed around 7.30pm unless they are expecting you. They certainly won’t be checking their emails until the next morning.
Visiting the Beach in Australia
Most Australians live in coastal Australia along our beautiful beaches. A visit to many of our great beaches is a must-do on any travel itinerary. However there are a few precautions to take to ensure your beach safety.
- Always swim between the red and yellow flags, Many of our beaches have dangerous rips and undertows. Our lifeguards mark out the safest places to swim, so you would be wise to take heed of any signs. If the beach is not patrolled, it is likely it is unsafe to swim there. Don’t be one of the tourists who drown on our beaches each summer.
- Cover up against the sun’s harmful UV rays. A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a shirt will help to protect you from a bad case of sunburn.
- Keep hydrated and drink plenty of water.
- Beware of bluebottles, octopii and other marine stingers which can give a nasty and potentially lethal bite. Obey any warning sights, carefully, particularly if travelling in the north, where crocodiles have been known to have a feed on careless tourists in the rivers.
Phone and internet
- Internet can be patchy and slow, as can mobile phone reception,particularly in regional areas. This is not the fault of your motel receptionist. This is internet in regional Australia.
- If you are planning to travel in regional Australia, you need to be with one of the major carriers, such as Telstra or Optus. You may find cheaper plans, but you simply won’t get reception in regional and remote areas.
- AUD Australian dollars is our currency.
- Always carry a little local cash. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are available in larger towns. However many smaller stores may have a limit on Eftpos purchases and charge a surcharge for card purchases.
- If you need to change currency, do so in the major cities. Foreign currency may not be easily changed in smaller towns.
- Tipping is not essential in Australia, however if a cab driver, waiter or porter has done a great job, they will appreciate you saying to “keep the change”
We hope a little local knowledge has helped you to plan your trip to Australia, to make your trip a memorable one. We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions.
What does it cost to visit Australia?
East Coast Australia travel budget
What you must see in Sydney on a budget
Cheap things to do in Melbourne
A local’s guide to visiting Adelaide.
Is Australia’s wildlife dangerous?
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