Australia immediately conjures images of the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, big-wave surfing, miles of Outback and a rather strange, and endearing, assortment of animals. While the country’s main cities offer charm, glamour, unique festivals, a well-preserved historical heritage, fabulous beaches and fun events, it’s also a land of immense contrast and captivating nature. The nation offers something for just about everyone – from water lovers, desert wanderers and canyon climbers, to arts and culture buffs, historians, and foodies. The country’s vast size makes it almost impossible to take it all in during a single visit, but you can pick and choose a perfect holiday according to your personal preferences.
Banking and Currency
Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations.
Banks are normally only open weekdays 9.30-4pm Monday - Friday, some stay open until 5pm on Fridays. In larger metropolitan suburban centres, major banks are increasingly opening on the weekend, too. Bank staff stick to these times rigorously, so don't be late/early.
Credit cards such as American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and JCB are accepted in Australia. Traveller's cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries. ATMs are numerous in both city and country areas. ATMs in the walls of buildings on streets and inside the lobbies of banks, shopping centres and other buildings are numerous. At night, service stations and convenience stores are good places to look for ATMs away from the street. Pubs, especially in city areas, will usually have an ATM located on the premises. Some ATMs may require you to swipe your card to gain entry to a secure area.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world − so how you get from A to B requires some thought.
Hire cars are readily available in all major towns. Australians drive on the left and all cars are right hand drive. Having access to your own car has the advantages of being able travel at your own pace, explore remote areas and visit regions with no public transport. However, as the country is so vast, this form of transport can be time consuming.
A faster option would be to make use of the numerous affordable, frequent, fast flights between major centres. Carbon offset your flights if you're feeling guilty!
Reliable, frequent long-haul coach services are available countrywide but they are not always cheaper than flying and are time consuming.
Trains in Australia are slow, expensive and infrequent but the scenery is great! Opt for a sleeper carriage rather than an 'overnighter' seat.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Standards of hygiene in food preparation are very high. Milk is pasteurised and meat and vegetables are considered safe to eat. Care should be taken, however, if preparing 'bush tucker' in outback areas as some insects and fauna are highly poisonous unless properly cooked.
'Bush tucker' is food from Australia's endemic flora and fauna and can be lean and quite delicious; kangaroo meat in particular is growing in popularity since being made legal to trade to eat only in the past two decades. For all the advent of fine dining and exotic menu items, however, the humble barbecue remains for many the quintessential Australian food experience. Various beaches and parks have barbecue stations that can be used by the public. Steak, prawns and beer tend to feature prominently.
Seafood is an integral part of the cuisine scene in all its shelled and scaled forms. Production of organic foods is increasing to meet demand and is these days widely available in the cities and larger towns. There are fine dining restaurants throughout the larger cities, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, where big-name chefs have helped to give Australian cuisine an international reputation for bright, creative gastronomy. Regional food markets and increasing numbers of food festivals across the states are a great way to sample fresh produce. Look out for things like farmhouse cheese, speciality sausages and local fruits.
The major vineyards (wineries) are outside Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide. The largest single wine-growing region is in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, two hours' drive from Adelaide, where high-quality red and white wines are produced. Various wineries, breweries and distilleries are open for public visits.
Climate and Weather
Australia experiences temperate weather for most of the year but the climate can vary due to the size of the continent. The northern states typically experience warm weather much of the time, with the southern states experiencing cooler winters. Australia is also one of the driest continents on earth with an average annual rainfall of less than 600 millimetres. Like all countries in the southern hemisphere, Australia's seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
It really is casual all the way in Australia. Outside of the main cities, our advice would be not to bother with dressy clothes.
However if you plan to visit upmarket city restaurants then you may feel more comfortable in smart casual wear.
Clothes in natural fibers will work better in the heat and it is worth popping in a lightweight sweater, cardigan or pashmina wrap for cooler weather or overly fierce air conditioning.
Travel light and buy your toiletries there. Must haves include sunglasses and wear plenty of high factor sunscreen.
If you are planning to visit very hot areas then k a shirt with long sleeves and a higher neckline to prevent burning is recommended. A sunhat is also very useful in the intense sunshine .
Electricity and Plug Standards
Mains voltage in Australia is 230V 50Hz. Travellers from most nations in Asia, Africa and Europe should have appliances that work on the same mains voltage as Australia - therefore you will not need a voltage converter. The plugs in Australia have 2 flat metal pins shaped live a "V" and some may contain a third flat pin in the centre.