Prepare for your Australian trip with our practical tips. Learn about our currency, how to call home, keep safe, shop responsibly and travel with a disability. Then you’re ready to go.
Unless you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you will need a visa to enter Australia. New Zealand passport holders can apply for a visa upon arrival in the country. All other passport holders must apply for a visa before leaving home. You can apply for a range of visas, including tourist visas and working holiday visas, at your nearest Australian Consulate. For more detailed information please visit the Australian government Visas & Immigration website.
Customs and quarantine
Australia’s customs laws prevent you from bringing drugs, steroids, weapons, firearms and protected wildlife into Australia. Some common items such as fresh or packaged food, fruit, eggs, meat, plants, seeds, skins and feathers are also prohibited. There is no limit on currency but you will need to declare amounts over $10,000. For more detailed information please visit the Australian government Customs & Quarantine page.
Medicine brought into Australia for personal use is subject to controls and must be declared on your arrival. It is recommended you bring a prescription or letter from your doctor outlining your medical condition and the medicine you are carrying. For more detailed information please visit the Medicare Australia website.
You don’t require vaccinations unless you have come from, or have visited a yellow fever infected country within six days of your arrival. For more information, please read the Australian Government Yellow fever fact sheets.
Taking out a travel insurance policy that covers theft, loss, accidents and medical problems is highly recommended. If you plan on doing any adventure sports like scuba diving, bungee jumping, motorcycling, skiing and even bushwalking, check that your policy fully covers you. The Australian Government has reciprocal agreements covering limited subsidised health services for medical treatment with some countries through Medicare. For more detailed information please visit the Medicare Australia website.
Duty Free shopping
You can go duty free shopping once you’ve purchased your airline ticket. There is a limit on how much you can bring into the country including the quantities of alcohol and cigarettes. You’ll need to declare goods exceeding this limit at Customs. Also be aware of restrictions on the quantity of fluid you can take on board. For more detailed information please visit the Australian Customs website.
Australia’s climate varies across the continent, from hot and tropical in the far north to cool and even snowy in the south. Our seasons are the opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. Between December and February is summer for most of the country, and the wet season in the tropical north. The Australian winter from June to August is generally mild, but offers snow in the southern mountain regions and dry, sunny days in our northern states. It’s important to protect yourself from the Australian sun with a hat, shirt and SPF30+ sunscreen. For more detailed information please visit the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology.
Australia has three time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST) for the eastern states, Central Standard Time (CST) for the Northern Territory and South Australia and Western Standard Time (WST) for Western Australia. CST is half an hour behind EST and WST is two hours behind EST.
Most Australian states wind their clocks forward an hour during the Daylight Saving period. New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia do this from the beginning of October to the beginning of April. The Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland don’t have Daylight Saving.
Australia’s currency is Australian Dollars (AUD) and currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. The most commonly accepted credit cards are American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, JCB and their affiliates. Try this handy currency converter.
Goods and Services Tax
Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10 per cent. You may be able to claim a refund of the GST paid on goods bought here if you have spent AUD$300 or more in one store, no more than 30 days before departing Australia. Tourist Refund Scheme facilities are located in the departure area of international terminals. For more detailed information see Australian government information on the Tourist Refund Scheme.
You’ll find large department stores, arcades, malls, gift and souvenir shops across Australia. Trading hours vary across the country but shops in tourist and city areas are generally open until 6pm, with the exception of late night shopping on either Thursdays or Fridays in different states. In Australia you are covered by Australia’s consumer protection laws which require businesses to treat you fairly.
Tipping and bargaining
Hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill. In up market restaurants, it is usual to tip waiters up to ten per cent of the bill for good service. However, tipping is always your choice. It is not customary to bargain in Australia.
The emergency number for police, ambulance and or fire brigade is 000.
Surf and water safety
Australia’s popular beaches are usually patrolled by volunteer lifesavers from October to April and red and yellow flags mark the safest area for swimming. For information about marine stingers and crocodile safety read the Queensland Government website.
Australia’s official language is English. However, being a multicultural nation with a significant migrant population, we also enjoy a tremendous diversity of languages and cultures.
Electrical power points
Our electrical current is 220 – 240 volts, AC 50Hz. The Australian three-pin power outlet is different from some other countries, so you may need an adaptor.
Australia’s country code is 61. Local calls from public pay phones are untimed and charged at AUD$.050. Mobile, long distance and overseas calls are usually timed. Mobile phone network coverage is available across Australia; however coverage may be limited in some remote areas. Internet access is widely available at internet cafes, accommodation and libraries.
Post offices are usually open 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, with some city post offices open on Saturday morning. Travellers can arrange to collect mail at post offices throughout Australia.
Getting Around Australia
You know Australia is a big country, but you may not know how easy it is to get around. The untouched beaches that stretch for miles and deserts that touch the horizon are all within your reach. Want to sail the Whitsundays, cross the continent by car or take a train through the rainforest canopy? Following are the different ways you can explore our vast and diverse country.
Flying is the best way to cover large distances in a short time. You’ll spend less time travelling and more time on the ground savouring Australia’s can’t-miss landscapes and laid-back lifestyle. Australia’s domestic airlines – Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Rex and their subsidiaries – serve all state capital cities and regional centres. Competition amongst domestic airlines means that great fares are available.
Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads and some of the most beautiful touring routes in the world. Travel from Sydney to Brisbane past sleepy seaside towns and lush hinterland. Experience Australia’s Red Centre in an epic drive across the desert. Or follow Victoria’s Great Ocean Road as it hugs our spectacular south-east coast. You’ll find car rental companies at major airports, central city locations, suburbs and resorts. So hire a car, four wheel drive, caravans or motorbike and hit the highway.
Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car. The maximum speed limit in cities and towns is 60km/h and 50km/h in some suburban areas. On country roads and highways, the maximum speed is usually 110km/h. For your safety, drink-driving laws apply, and drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times. Motor cyclists and cyclists must wear helmets. An international visitor may drive in Australia on a valid overseas driver’s licence for the same class of vehicle. You should carry both your home licence and international licence when driving.
Coach and bus travel in Australia is comfortable, easy and economical. Coaches generally have air conditioning, reading lights, adjustable seats and videos. Services are frequent, affordable and efficient. Australia’s national coach operator, Greyhound, offer passes to fit every budget.
Train travel is a convenient, affordable and scenic way to explore Australia. Interstate and intra-state rail services connect our cities and regional centres, while cross-country train trips offer a unique insight into Australia’s size and diversity. Travelling options range from budget to luxury and a range of rail passes can reduce your costs if you plan to see large sections of the country.
Countrylink trains connect New South Wales destinations and also travel along Australia’s east coast to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. VLine trains link Melbourne with regional hubs in Victoria, Traveltrain covers Queensland and TransWA criss-crosses Western Australia.
Australia also has epic rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian-Pacific, which sweep across the continent, offering comfort and a sense bygone romance. The Indian-Pacific travels between Sydney to Perth, stopping for whistle-stop tours of Broken Hill, Adelaide and gold-rich Kalgoorlie. The legendary Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin, taking in Australia’s Red Centre and the tropical Top End.
All of Australia’s capital cities are served by a wide variety of public transport, including trains, buses, ferries, monorail, light rail and trams. Taxis charge according to their meter.
The Spirit of Tasmania runs a passenger and vehicle ferry service between Melbourne and Tasmania nightly. Extra services are running during summer peak times. Sealink ferries connect South Australia and Kangaroo Island several times a day. Ferries connect suburbs in our capital cities – they criss-cross Sydney Harbour, the Swan River in Perth and the Brisbane River in Brisbane.
Walking is a great way to get around our cities, so get ready to pound our wide, easy-on-the-feet pedestrian streets. You can also tackle some of the longest tracks and trails in the world in Australia – impressive journeys of a thousand kilometres or more that can take several weeks to complete.