|Popular City in Australia
Owing to its unique geographical character, there is much to see in Australia that you can't see (easily / in its natural setting) anywhere else:
- Australian flora and fauna is essentially unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs!) Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia wouldn't be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.
There are many tour companies around Australia that offer tours to see many of these unique creatures in their natural habitat such as NatureTour Australia () Alternatively, there are many wildlife parks and zoos that exhibit excellent displays of native animals including the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary in South Australia.
- Scuba Diving
- Hot ballooning
- Rock Climbing
- Sun Baking
- Sky Diving
English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians and British English spellings are used generally. It is the only language used in the school curriculum, and generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults. Expect everyone in the tourist industries, hotels and retail industries, and almost every other Australian, to speak English.
Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding Australians. Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. As with other regional accents a few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive in the US are common vernacular in Australian speech.
As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including (but not limited to) Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian and Greek. However, since it is expensive to travel from Australia and there is no single commonly used second language, Australians commonly do not have a fluent second language unless they are educated or part of a family who immigrated recently. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs (but not road signs) are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find travelling in Australia difficult. There are some tour companies who specialize in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages, and non-English speaking travellers might find this easier.
Australian prices are equivalent to other first world countries in North America, Western Europe or Japan. A basic meal would cost anywhere from $5-15 and prices can easily rocket up to hundreds of dollars in the most expensive restaurants. Backpackers should budget around $100 a day to be safe and the cheapest accommodation available in large cities would be in the region of $30-50 per night, though you would have to share a bathroom and bedroom with other people.
Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $. There are 100 cents in every dollar. The dollar is called 'the Australian dollar' usually written as 'AUD' when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries that call their currency 'the dollar'.
The dollar is not pegged to any other currency, and is a highly traded currency on world foreign exchange markets, particularly by currency speculators. Its exchange value to other currencies can be quite volatile, and 1-2% changes in a day are reasonably regular occurances.
No other currency is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia. Some businesses in international terminals of some airports may accept some other currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars).
The coin denominations are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper.
If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents the amount will be rounded to the nearest five cents if you are paying in cash. The exact amount will be charged if paying by credit or debit card.
Australia is the only country that has a whole continent itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia is mostly arid and semi-arid: the centre is desert and much agricultural land is poor quality by the standards of continents with richer soil. The south east is temperate and the north tropical. Australia was massively deforested for agricultural purposes: forest areas survive in extensive national parks and some other areas.
Australia is prone to severe drought and water restrictions are currently in place in some areas, however these shouldn't affect travellers as they mostly relate to watering gardens and washing cars.
As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. The north is hot and tropical, while Melbourne has a much cooler Mediterranean temperate climate. Western Tasmania has a climate similar to England, although Tasmania's capital Hobart is the second driest Australian capital. Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the timing of the seasons is reversed with respect to Europe and North America. In other words, June-September is winter in Australia while December-March is summer. So Christmas actually falls in the summer in Australia, instead of in winter like in North America or Europe.
Australia has an area of 7,682,300 square kilometres (2,966,152 sq mi) and most Australians live on the coast. Many travellers underestimate the enormous distances between cities and towns
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands
- Christmas Island
- Cocos Islands
- Coral Sea Islands
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands
- Lord Howe Island
- Norfolk Island
- Macquarie Island
- Bruny Island
- Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
- Brisbane - sun-drenched capital of Queensland, fastest growing city in Australia (and the Southern Hemisphere) and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches.
- Cairns - gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, the Atherton Tablelands, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts. A great place for people to getaway to and relax.
- Canberra - the purpose-built national capital of Australia
- Darwin - Australia's smallest and northern-most capital, at the top of the Northern Territory
- Hobart - small and quiet capital of Tasmania
- Melbourne - Australia's second largest city and the nation's first capital city. Melbourne is a large sporting and cultural capital, known as a shopping destination in Australia. Melbourne is regarded as Australia's most European city in style.
- Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
- Sydney - Australia's oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales
Other cities can be found under their respective state articles.
- Queensland's Sunshine Coast, including Caloundra, Noosa, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.
- Queensland's Great Barrier Reef.
- The Outback: Australia's red centre.
- Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), rock formations located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory.
- Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory.
Australia is completely surrounded by ocean: there is no way to travel overland to Australia. Hence, all international visitors arrive by plane or by boat. Almost all travellers will first travel to one of the state capitals, as these have all the major airports and many of the major ports.
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, via Kingsford-Smith International Airport (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY). Assuming direct flights to Sydney from various parts of the globe, travellers can expect a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the west of the United States of America and Canada, an 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, a 13-16 hours flight from South America, and up to a 24+ hour flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, many travellers opt to book a stop-over in their flight in order to minimise the impact of jet lag and flight discomfort, commonly Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive first in Australia in Melbourne (Melbourne International Airport), Brisbane and Perth. Much smaller numbers arrive at international airports in Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast (Coolangatta), Norfolk Island, Newcastle, Broome and Christmas Island.
By overland tour
There are a couple of expedition companies such as Ozbus or Exploratory Overland Expeditions that conduct organized trips from London to Sydney but the last leg of the journey involves flying to Darwin from East Timor or Singapore while the bus is shipped across. These are targeted at backpackers able to take months for the trip.
Customs and quarantine
Australia has a strict customs requirement when it comes to animal and vegetable derived products, including wood. This is because Australia is an island, and thus far free of many diseases and insect pests sometimes found in other countries. All incoming visitors must pass a customs check for these items. No fresh fruits, vegetables, meat or other food products are allowed. Most manufactured, packaged food (chocolates, cookies, etc) is usually found to be acceptable, and will generally be inspected and returned to you. However, even permitted food items must be declared to customs and inspected before they are allowed into the country. Most baggage is scanned and examined by dogs prior to entry.
There is no penalty provided goods are declared - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed or held in quarantine. If you attempt to bring them in without declaring them, there is the possibility of extremely heavy penalties including fines (in the order of thousands of dollars) and even a possible jail term. More likely an on-the-spot fine of $220 will be payable. It is far safer to declare any items that might be prohibited; if they are not then you will suffer no consequences.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website has more details.
There are also some restrictions when travelling from one state to another, or even within the same state. This especially relates to items such as fruit and vegetables which can transmit pests.
Visas and documentation
Most citizens of New Zealand may travel to and work in Australia for any length of time without applying for a visa, but entry is not guaranteed: check with Australian immigration if you have a criminal record or have been refused entry to other countries recently. Citizens of New Zealand immigrating to Australia might want to apply for Australian permanent residency in order to be eligible for some welfare payments.
All other nationalities require some form of visa. There are two types:
- Electronic Travel Authorities (ETAs), an electronic visa available to holders of certain passports, see "Am I eligible?". These are valid for visits of up to 3 months and allow multiple entries for a year. Australian employment is not allowed. ETAs are available online at https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ and may be available through your travel agent. Apply for the ETA through your travel agent if buying tickets from them, as the fee for applying online is usually waived.
- Non-electronic visas, the only option if you do not hold an ETA-eligible passport, also required if you are staying for a longer period of time or wish to seek Australian employment. These will require a written application and processing by an Australian consulate or embassy. Contact the Department of Immigration for more information.