Travel Tips to Australia
The land down under features highly on many people’s bucket lists, with its beautiful beaches, adorable animals and laidback lifestyle. Plus, Aussies are a friendly bunch who love meeting new people – especially if those people have come from across the seas to visit our island home. So, on behalf of my fellow Australians, let me share my top five tips to make sure you have the best possible time in Australia.
Do not underestimate how vast Australia is!
Australia is a truly massive country – so big, in fact, that it is also a continent. Australia is the 6th largest country on earth, and only about 25% smaller than all of Europe. This is why many Australians can’t help but chuckle when visitors make plans to “do” Australia in a fortnight or to do a day trip to Brisbane from Sydney (almost 1000km each way). It’s important to be realistic about what you want to do and see in Australia, and often spending more time in one or two places is the way to go, so you don’t lose too much time in travel.
One thing that often surprises visitors to Australia is that while the road-trip is a pretty popular past-time, expect to see an awful lot of nothing. Most of Australia’s population is scattered around the very outer edges of the country, and especially the East Coast. Therefore, elsewhere is pretty barren.
For example, if driving between Adelaide and its ‘neighbouring’ capital city Perth, you could expect to drive about 2,500km in total – with 1,675km being nothing but desert. To put that in perspective, that’s like driving from Barcelona to Berlin (via France) – or New York to Orlando, Florida – and seeing nothing but red dirt, a few shrubs and maybe a camel, if you are lucky. Therefore, if you are going to drive, make sure you take proper precautions such as bringing plenty of water and telling people where you’re going and when you expect to arrive.
Australia is more than just the East Coast.
Australia is largely synonymous with Sydney – landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, and the Taronga Zoo stick out on the ‘what’s what’ of key Aussie sights. For this reason, many people choose to base themselves on the East Coast, which is also not too far (by Australian standards) from other cities including cosmopolitan Melbourne and laidback Brisbane.
This is certainly not a bad choice, however, there is a lot more to Australia than what lies between Brisbane and Melbourne. Those seeking the true outback experience might prefer to base themselves on the more rugged West Coast (and especially the Kimberley region), or up north in the Northern Territory. This is crocodile country, and seems a whole world away from the latte-sipping culture of Sydney or Melbourne. You might just feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Crocodile Dundee.
The states of Western Australia and the Northern Territory are also great places to learn about the culture of Indigenous Australians. As the longest surviving culture on Earth, the First Nations people of Australia have many diverse, rich language groups with beautiful art, stories, and traditions. There are many locally owned and operated tour companies that will give you a unique insight into this 40,000-year-old culture, which is a very different side to Australia.
Watch your budget
While travel to Australia has become a little bit cheaper in recent years due to a decline in the Australian dollar against the Euro and US Dollar, it is still a pretty expensive country. In particular, despite Australia’s love of beer and wine, alcohol is very expensive, especially in pubs (which, for some reason, we generally call ‘Hotels’, even though you can’t sleep there). For this reason, many Australians prefer to buy their alcohol from ‘bottle shops’ (liquor stores) and drink at home. Not only is it a lot cheaper, but Australian wine is exceptionally good quality.
It is a good idea to do some research and keep an eye out for deals on things such as accommodation, activities, and transport if you are on a tight budget – otherwise, you might find it hard to keep a lid on your spending! Unfortunately, to an extent it is just unavoidable – so don’t let money woes ruin your trip.
Worry More About the Sun than the Wildlife
Australians by and large love scaring foreigners with stories about our terrifying wildlife: stories of vicious ‘drop bears’ are a particular favourite. While it is true that some of our animals are pretty frightening – in particular, watch out for crocodiles up north – for the most part, they are of the cute and cuddly variety like koalas and kangaroos. Despite what we might tell you, most Australians have not had to wrestle any sharks or flee from an angry snake. It’s wise to take basic precautions (like swimming between the flags at the beach and being alert in long grass), but on the whole, Australia is exceptionally safe.
The one thing that can get you is the sun! Even on an overcast or cloudy day, Australia sits beneath a hole in the ozone layer, which is pretty unfortunate for a culture that loves the outdoors! Be sure to “slip, slop, slap” as the Aussies say (translation: wear a hat, put on sunscreen, cover up with a t-shirt) to avoid looking like a lobster in all of your travel photos!
Australians are Genuinely Friendly and Will Love to Chat with you
On the whole, Australians are extremely friendly people who love nothing more than to make mates out of strangers and share a chat over a beer. Plus, our country is founded on multiculturalism so there’s an innate fascination with other cultures and places. Add in that being so far from the rest of the world we often feel a bit ‘left out’, and don’t be surprised if a foreign accent is enough to encourage an Aussie to strike up a conversation with you.
Obviously, there are some exceptions – I don’t recommend trying to stop and have a “chin wag” with a businessman scurrying off to his corporate job in the middle of Sydney, but on the whole, don’t be afraid to stop and chat. Most service people (such as waiters or retail assistants) will happily talk with you, without any expectation of a tip or anything like that. We’re just interested in hearing about what’s brought you to the land down under and what you think. So, if you think you mightn’t mind a new Aussie friend, have a conversation!