Information & Facts
Due to Australia’s large size, and influences from the temperature patterns in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the weather varies significantly in different regions of the continent. The north offers tropical regions with high temperatures, high humidity and distinct dry and wet seasons. The centre of Australia offers dry, desert regions with high daytime temperatures, low night time temperatures and low amounts of rain. The south offers temperate regions with moderate rainfall, hot to cold temperatures and snowfall in winter.
Australia’s seasons are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere, with summer in December, January and February; autumn (fall) in March, April and May; winter in June, July and August; and spring in September, October and November. The wet season in the northern regions can run from December through March and mainly affects the northern areas of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. Snow falls on the east coast of Australia, in the southern states of Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory. There is a regular snow season in several areas which have seasonal ski tourism industries.
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.
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service manage the security and integrity of Australia's borders. It works closely with other government and international agencies, in particular the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Department of Defence, to detect and deter unlawful movement of goods and people across the border.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) manages quarantine controls at Australian borders to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country.
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 so they will not need a voltage converter. Visitors from Japan, USA and Canada which all use 100/120V 50/60Hz will need to purchase a voltage converter. This will transform the voltage from the power outlet into one your appliance can use. Most cameras, laptops and tablets have built-in converters so please check the specifications of the devise first.
You will also need a power adapter. The plugs in Australia have 2 flat metal pins shaped like an upside down "V" and some may contain a third flat pin in the centre.
Flying is the best way to cover large distances in a short time. Australia has several domestic airlines that serve all state capital cities and regional centres, at great competitive low fares.
Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads and some of the most beautiful touring routes in the world. You can hire a car, four wheel drive, caravan or motorbike to explore Australia at your own pace.
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. 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. Canadian and US citizens do not require an international licence, unless their home licence is in a language other than English. 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 major 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.
Australia also has epic rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian-Pacific, which sweep across the continent. The Indian-Pacific travels between Sydney to Perth, stopping for whistle-stop tours of Broken Hill, Adelaide and gold-rich Kalgoorlie. The Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin, taking in Australia’s Red Centre and the tropical Top End. 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.
All of Australia’s capital cities are served by a wide variety of public transport, including trains, buses, ferries, monorail, light rail and trams. Transit passes are available at train stations, bus and transit terminals and most information centres. 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 many of the capital cities.
Walking is a great way to get around most cities. 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.
Travel Insurance & Medical Services
A travel insurance policy that covers you for theft, loss, accidents and medical problems is highly recommended. If you plan on doing any adventure activities like scuba diving, skiing, bushwalking or travelling in remote areas, check that your policy fully covers these activities. Remember to bring your insurance policy details and emergency contact numbers with you.
Australia's public health care system is called Medicare and Australian hospitals provide world-class medical facilities and standards of care.
Vaccinations & Medications
No special immunizations or vaccinations are required to visit Australia unless you have come from, or have visited a yellow fever infected country within six days of your arrival. However, it is recommended that you check with your family doctor or a travel clinic a few weeks before you travel.
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. If you need to obtain prescription medicine while you are here, the prescription must be written by a doctor in Australia.
The Australian sun is very intense and can burn your skin in as little as 15 minutes in summer. It is important to protect yourself all year round even on cloudy days.
While travelling in Australia, be 'sun smart' and protect yourself against sun damage by wearing clothes that cover as much of your skin as possible, even when swimming. Wearing a hat and sunglasses that provide good protection for the face, nose, neck, ears and eyes; and sitting in the shade rather than directly in the sun. Extra care should be taken in the middle of the day when UV radiation is most intense. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Surf & Water Safety
Between October and April, popular beaches are usually patrolled by volunteer lifesavers, with red and yellow flags marking the safest area for swimming. Be safe and always swim between these flags and always swim with other people.
If you intend to go scuba diving, check with a dive operator in the locality or contact the Diving Industry Association in the state that you are visiting for information on site conditions, safety regulations, licences, permits and diver rating requirements.
Australia’s official language is English. However, since it is a multicultural nation with a significant migrant population, you will find a tremendous diversity of languages and cultures.
Australian English started diverging from British English after the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788 and was recognised as being different from British English by 1820. It arose from the intermingling of children of early settlers from a great variety of regions of the British Isles with their different dialects and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English.
Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar (AUD) which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, $1 and $2 denominations. In 1988 Australia became the first country in the world to have a complete series of polymer (plastic) notes. These colourful notes depict famous Australians both past and present.
Where to buy Australian currency
Currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. Australian banks offer the same range of services as are typical in other western nations, and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, although facilities may be limited in remote towns and the Outback. EFTPOS is also widely available in most Australian shops. Fees may be charged on transactions when withdrawing from an international account.
Banking hours are usually 9.30am to 4.00pm Monday to Thursday and until 5.00pm on Friday. Some branches also open on Saturday mornings.
Australia Post also provides banking services on behalf of more than 70 banks and financial institutions, so you can use your credit or debit card for deposits and withdrawals, account balance enquiries, paying credit card bills and sending money overseas.
If you plan to stay in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa or other type of extended visa, you may wish to open an Australian bank account. In Australia, most income including salary or wages and government benefits is paid directly into a bank account.
If you need to receive money from overseas while in Australia, you can do this either online, by international money transfer (telegraphic transfer) or through a bank. It is best to organise a variety of ways to access your money from overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards before you leave home.
The easiest way to get cash from your home account is from an ATM (automated teller machine) with an international network such as Cirrus (Mastercard) or PLUS (Visa). Australian ATMs use a four-digit code, so check with your bank and make sure you change yours before you leave home.
Credit cards and Traveller’s Cheques
Credit cards such as American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and JCB are accepted in Australia. VISA or MasterCard are commonly accepted and are both accepted almost everywhere. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is not usually accepted.
It is best to carry more than one type of card as not all cards are accepted by all merchants. Always carry a little cash, because many shops will not take cards for purchases under AUD$15. Merchants may impose credit card surcharges in some places.
Traveller's cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries. If you do purchase them, it is best to buy them in Australian dollars as smaller shops, restaurants, and other businesses are unlikely to know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency such as Canadian dollars and US dollars.
Bringing money into Australia
There is no limit to the amount of currency you can bring in or out of Australia, however, if you plan to arrive in Australia with more than AUD$10, 000 in cash (Australian dollars or foreign equivalent), you must declare it to Australian Customs at the airport when you land. You may also be required to fill in a Bearer Negotiable Instruments (BNI) form if you're carrying promissory notes, traveller's cheques, personal cheques, money orders or postal orders.
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 in Australia 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.
It is not customary or expected to tip for services in Australia, with the exception of tour leaders.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is responsible for issuing visas to people who want to visit, work, study or live in Australia. It is responsible for the management of lawful and orderly entry and stay of people in Australia and for effective border security. It provides information and application forms for migration to Australia, and information about settling in Australia, Australian citizenship, and multicultural affairs.
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.
ETA (Visitor) (Subclass 976)
An electronically stored authority for short-term visits to Australia of up to three months. Available to passport holders from a number of countries and regions, who live outside Australia.
Working Holiday visa
The Working Holiday and Work and Holiday programs encourage cultural exchange and closer ties between arrangement countries by allowing young people to have an extended holiday supplemented by short-term employment. There are two types of Working Holiday visas
Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417)
For people from Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and United Kingdom.
Work and Holiday visa (Subclass 462)
For applicants from Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and the USA.
The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship has produced a number of fact sheets. These provide more information on temporary residence options in Australia, including the Working Holiday and Work and Holiday programs, and information on working in Australia.
There are special visas for students wishing to study in Australia and for parents, relatives or guardians of a student who is studying in Australia.
There are eight sub-classes of student visas depending on your passport country and course of study. Check with the Australian Government Department on how to apply for the correct visa to meet your individual circumstances.
Sponsored Training visas are also offered for people who want to come to Australia through a professional development program or to undertake workplace based training.
Australia is generally a safe destination for travellers. The stable political system, well-maintained roads, low crime rate and high standard of health make it a safe and easy country to explore.
With common-sense, you can safely enjoy Australia’s unique landscapes. However, as with all travel at home or away, you should observe the same precautions with your personal safety and possessions.
000 is the number for all emergency services in Australia. An operator will connect you to police, ambulance or the fire brigade. You should only call 000 in an emergency.
The Australian continent stretches over three time zones. Because Australia is situated west of the International Date Line, it is ahead of time compared to most other countries of the world. The proper names of Australia's time zones are: Australian Western Standard Time - UTC+08 (AWST), Australian Central Standard Time - UTC+09:30 (ACST), and Australian Eastern Standard Time - UTC+10:00 (AEST).
Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)
Covers the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales (with the exception of the town of Broken Hill), Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
AEST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 10 hours (UTC +10).
Australian Central Standard Time (ACST)
Covers the state of South Australia, the town of Broken Hill in western New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
ACST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 9 ½ hours (UTC +9 ½).
Australian Western Standard Time (AWST)
Covers Western Australia.
AWST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 8 hours (UTC +8).
Daylight Saving Time in Australia
Daylight Saving Time is the practice of advancing clocks one hour during the summer months of the year. New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia observe DST every year. This has resulted in three time zones becoming five during the daylight-saving period, so Australia has both horizontal and vertical time zones in summer. South Australia time becomes UTC+10:30, called Central Summer Time (CST) or Central Daylight Time (CDT), possibly with "Australia" prefixed (ACST or ACDT). The time in the southeastern states becomes UTC+11, using "Eastern" in the time zone name rather than "Central", with the abbreviations being EST, EDT, AEST, or AEDT.