|Largest City||Sydney, NSW|
|Government||Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy; Commonwealth and Federation of States|
|Independence||1 January 1901 (from UK)|
|Currency||Australian Dollar (AUD$)|
|Area||7,686,850 sq km|
|Population||20,406,800 (September 2005 est.)|
|Time Zone||UTC +8 to +11|
Australia is the only country that has almost a whole continent to itself (although New Guinea, New Zealand, and numerous island chains are also part of Australasia). Famed for its natural wonders and wide open spaces (beaches, deserts and "the bush" or "the Outback"), Australia is ironically one of the world's most highly urbanised countries and is well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its cities, such as Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Australian capital city Canberra.
The Australian mainland comprises six states and two territories. Ranked in order of population:
(common abbreviations follow in parentheses)
- New South Wales (NSW)
- Victoria (VIC)
- Queensland (QLD)
- Western Australia (WA)
- South Australia (SA)
- Tasmania (TAS) - a small triangular island state located off the south coast of the Australian mainland
- Northern Territory (NT) - ranging between the "Red Centre" and the tropical Far North
- the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) (including Jervis Bay) - the small seat of federal government, focused on Canberra
Australia also possesses a number of island territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans:
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands
- Christmas Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Coral Sea Islands
- Heard and McDonald Islands
- Lord Howe Island
- Norfolk Island
In addition to this, Australia also maintains some bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory.
State and Territory Capitals
- Sydney - Australia's first and largest city, founded in 1788 as the capital of New South Wales - harbour, beaches, iconic buildings and structures
- Melbourne - somewhat more 'European' than Sydney, Melbourne is Australia's second largest city and the sporting and cultural capital of Australia as well as the capital of the state of Victoria
- Brisbane - sun drenched, somewhat more laid-back capital of Queensland
- Canberra - established only in 1923, Canberra is the purpose-built and -designed national capital of Australia, located in the Australian Capital Territory and situated between Sydney and Melbourne
- Adelaide - the City of Churches, a relatively laid back and relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
- Perth - the most remote continental capital city on earth, located on the south-western edge of Western Australia
- Hobart - small but fascinating capital of Tasmania
- Darwin - Australia's smallest and northern-most capital, located at the top of the Northern Territory
Other major cities
- Alice Springs, deep in the Northern Territitory, in the middle of Australia.
- Cairns, international gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Far North Queensland.
- Gold Coast, major tourist destination in Queensland.
- Mackay, Queensland
- Townsville, Queensland
- Fremantle, an Indian Ocean port in Western Australia.
- Geelong, second largest city in Victoria.
- Newcastle, second largest city in New South Wales.
- Wollongong, third largest city in New South Wales.
- Devonport, Tasmania.
- Ararat, the Gateway to the Grampians, in Broome, in North Western Australia.
- Queensland's Sunshine Coast, including Caloundra, Noosa, Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.
- the Great Barrier Reef
- Outback: Australia's red centre
- Uluru, aka Ayres Rock, located roughly in the middle, a gigantic wind-swept rock.
The continent of Australia was apparently first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close (spiritual) relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian aborigines maintained a hunter/gatherer culture successfully for thousands of years in association with a primitive artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aborigines is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of aborigines amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.
Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesion fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600's, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.
After a period of sea exploration, British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigeneous populations drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society. They remained second-class citizens almost until the modern day, only being recognised as full citizens in 1967. The process of reconciliation continues to the present day...
While Australia began its modern history as a penal colony (an island prison for Britain's unwanted convicts), the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries and China. Convict settlements were along the east coast, Adelaide and Perth being settled by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and then Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.
The system of separate colonies federated to form an independent country in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a proportionally huge contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit.
Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. Government in Australia is based on a federal system (with States and a National Governments) similar to the USA, but these Governments follow a British model, with two elected houses (similar to the US House and Senate) with an unelected representative of the Queen of England in the (notionally powerless) executive position 'above' the parliament. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was narowlly defeated in 1999, largely due to a split between those seeking a directly elected President (the majority) and those who believed the President should be elected by the Government. Demand for another vote has been discouraged by the current conservative Government, but it is likely to resurface.
Most of the population is concentrated in the south-east of the country, to the east of the Great Dividing Range. This is because the inland and western areas of the country are at best semi-habitable desert, known as the Outback. The most-inhabited states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.
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.
Generally arid to semiarid in the west and centre; temperate in south and east; tropical in north.
A regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Fremantle Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer.
A common perception of Australia is that it is always hot and sunny: wrong! Both Sydney and Melbourne can experience days or even weeks of almost continual rainfall, while Tasmania has a climate that closely resembles that of England.
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.
Eyre Highway in southeastern WA operate on an unofficial intermediate timezone between CST and WST (three quarters of an hour behind CST and three quarters of an hour ahead of WST).
Australia is an incredibly multicultural nation, its citizens' families originating in seemingly every country of the world, and practising almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-third of Australians were born to immigrant parents, and there are approximately half a million Australians of Aboriginal descent.
The most multicultural city is the largest: Sydney, closely followed by Melbourne. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially has been at pains to promote itself as a centre for the arts world-wide and the the coffee culture capital (http://melbournecoffeereview.com/) of Australia. That said, whilst smaller "Outback" and rural settlements might still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the relatively massive immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s. The changes that that might involve can be appreciated by the fact that, in the half century after the war, Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people. Perth, although relatively isolated, for example, has a population in which 32.5% were born overseas.
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy has been offsetting the global slump, and business and consumer confidence remains robust. The Federal government's emphasis on reform is another factor behind the economy's strength. The recent upturn in global commodity prices has helped Australia's economy grow since 2000.
While income disparities grew throughout the 80s, especially in outer suburban areas, strong employment growth and mandated minimum conditions for workers ensured that overall living standards kept growing until the 1990s.
Officially 240V 50Hz. Outlets are of the Australian AS-3112 standard, which features two angled flat blades and a third vertical flat blade for grounding. The configuration of the electrical contacts is similar to that found in Argentina and mainland China. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Australia.
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. Assuming direct flights to Sydney from various parts of the globe, travellers can expect a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 15 hour flight from the west of the United States of 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, most commonly Singapore or Dubai.
After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive first in Australia in Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport), Brisbane and Perth. Much smaller numbers arrive at international airports in Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast (Coolangatta), Norfolk Island, Newcastle and Broome.
Customs and Quarantine
Australia has a very strict customs requirement when it comes to animal and vegetable imports including wood, and other prohibited goods. This is because Australia is a large and isolated island, and thus far free of many diseases and insect pests found in other countries. All incoming visitors must pass a customs check for these items. No fruits, vegetables, meat or other food products are allowed in unless they are factory-made and on the approved list of imports (eg, chocolate is o.k.)
There is no penalty for declaring most goods that are prohibited from import - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed or held in quarantine - but if you attempt to bring them in without declaring them, there are extremely heavy penalties including fines and a possible jail term. It is far safer to declare any items that only might be prohibited, if they are not then you will suffer no consequence.
The Australian Quarantine and Immigration Service website Driving in Australia
Australia drives 'on the left'. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the 'right' should exercise great caution until they get used to this. Car hire companies and local (generally friendly) police will give advice on whether your car licence is valid in Australia.
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways. In Australia, as in many large countries, "the car is king". The vast majority of Australian adults own cars and would not seriously contemplate being without one. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by dual carriage highway systems. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Note that Australia's low population density makes for long driving times, often with 'nothing much' in between--here are some indicative travel times:
- Melbourne to Sydney: 12-15 hours (approximately 1100 kilometers)
- Brisbane to Sydney: 9-12 hours (approximately 1000 kilometers)
- Perth to Sydney: 50 hours (approximately 4100 kilometers)
- Adelaide to Melbourne: 8-10 hours (approximately 750 kilometers)
- Brisbane to Melbourne: 22 hours (approximately 1700 kilometers)
- Melbourne to Perth: 40 hours (approximately 3500 kilometers)
- Perth to Adelaide: 32 hours (approximately 2700 kilometers)
While major sealed highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed roads anywhere in inland Australia is advised to take advice from locals, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tyres, matches, food and water (minimum 4 gallons per person per day). Some of these roads might see one car per month (or less). Local police stations would prefer that you call in and say hello and give them your itinerary. It is also a good idea to advise a friend or relative of your itinerary and let them know to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. It is not unusual for people stranded in remote areas to wait for a week or more before being rescued (if they are lucky enough that anyone notices they are missing). Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you rapidly. If stranded, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Do not take this advice lightly, even Australians die out there.
Due to the extremely large distances involved, many people travelling between states and most people who want to cross the country from one side to the other will fly on one of the nation's airlines. The major domestic airlines in Australia are:
- Qantas  (http://www.qantas.com.au/), the only nation-wide full service airline, flying to major cities and some larger regional towns;
- Virgin Blue  (http://www.virginblue.com.au/), a nation-wide budget airline with limited service, flying to major cities and a few larger regional towns;
- Jetstar  (http://www.jetstar.com.au/), Qantas's budget arm with limited service and no assigned seating, currently serving major cities in the eastern states;
- Regional Express  (http://www.rex.com.au/), covering larger towns in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
- OzJet  (http://www.ozjet.com.au/), Currently only services the Melbourne - Sydney route this is a new All Business class airline. Routes will open in 2006 and 2007 to Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide.
Regional areas are served by several small state-based airlines.
Visitors from countries with well-developed long distance rail systems such as Europe and Japan may be surprised by the lack of high-speed, inter-city rail services in Australia. A historical lack of cooperation between the states, and the sheer distances involved, have left Australia with a national rail network that is relatively slow and used mainly for freight. As a result, travel between major cities will not only be faster by air, but often cheaper as well.
The long-distance rail services that do exist are mainly used to link regional townships with the state capital, such as Bendigo to Melbourne, or Cairns to Brisbane. There are also inter-city train services operated by Great Southern Railways on the routes Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan) however as noted above, these are not "high speed" services, so if you do not enjoy train travel as part of your holiday in its own right then this is probably not for you.
Within the capital cities, mass transit is by train or bus, and Melbourne also has a comprehensive tram network serving the inner suburbs. Sydney has an extensive rail system which includes stations within the metropolitan area. Some states also have an inter-urban train service, although it tends to be devoted to carrying people into and out of the state's capital.
Not all states have a public rail network. Tasmania, for example, demolished theirs more than 20 years ago and the ACT has never had one. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, apart from several minor freight lines.
- Northern Beaches and the New South Wales Central Coast; and the more famous car ferry services to Devonport in Tasmania departing from Sydney and Melbourne.
In some regions it is illegal to stand on the road to solicit a ride. Exactly what constitutes the road may vary but it is probably always legal to do so on the footpath. In any event you are more likely to be offered a lift by the police than be charged.
The great distances between towns in the Outback (or inner desert regions) can make hitchhiking difficult, but many travelers have made the coast-to-coast trek. Hitchhiking is more popular along the coastal regions (between Melbourne and Sydney, for example). During the 1990s several travellers went missing after hitchhiking along this route and were found to have been murdered by a serial killer. The perpetrator of these crimes has now been imprisoned; however, if you choose to hitchhike, you should use all caution.
The very lightly populated outback regions in Australia can provide the unique opportunity of a ride in a road train. Waits can be long and the climate harsh but the local people very warm and inviting and supportive of any venture to move around by hitchhiking (public transport is often non-existent). It is highly advisable if venturing into these regions without your own transport to carry enough food and water with you for at least a day and carry a good sun hat and warm clothes � people do die in these areas from lack of preparation.
English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians. 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 an adult. 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, but if both you and they speak clearly you will have no lasting difficulties. Beware: "Aussies" have an unconscious habit of speaking very quickly and "slurring" words together.... Don't be afraid to ask them to repeat their words more slowly. Australian slang is a language unto itself, but it only really becomes a problem for tourists who really want to get off the beaten track and into the Outback.
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 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, Cantonese and Mandarin are a common sight.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find travelling in Australia difficult as they will be unable to book tickets and the like easily. There are some tour companies who specialise in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages, and non English speaking travellers might find this easier.
Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $. The dollar (called "the Australian dollar" and written AU$ or AUD when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries which call their currency the dollar too) is worth between 70 and 80 US cents. Its buying power in Australia is a little less than that of the US dollar in the US. No currency other than the dollar is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia.
The smallest unit of currency that prices will be quoted in is the cent, which is worth $0.01. However Australia no longer has physical units of currency that allow for bills to be paid to the nearest cent. If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents you pay to the nearest five cents unless you are paying by credit or debit card, in which case you will pay the exact total. Yes that does mean that when buying small quantities of very cheap items, it is possible to buy them for free, or get an extra 50ml of fuel in a tank.
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.
Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. You are likely to pay a surcharge for international cash withdrawals, and holders of Australian debit cards will also pay a surcharge if they use an ATM that is not operated by their own bank. Most ATMs only dispense $20 and $50 notes.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal dislaying those logos.
Correct as of 17 November 2005:
$ US Dollar USD$1.00 = $1.36 $1.00 = USD$0.73 £ Pound Sterling £1.00 = $2.34 $1.00 = £0.43 € Euro €1.00 = $1.60 $1.00 = €0.62 $ New Zealand Dollar NZD$1.00 = $0.94 $1.00 = NZD$1.07 $ Canadian Dollar CAD$1.00 = $1.15 $1.00 = CAD$0.87 ¥ Japanese Yen JPY¥1.00 = $0.011 $1.00 = JPY¥87
Australia has a more or less universal sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST. Only basic items, such as certain foods, are exempt. GST is quoted as part of the price of any item you will purchase rather than added at the time of payment. Receipts will contain the tax amount, which is one eleventh of the value of taxable items.
Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though they are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-margin goods or purchases involving several items. Note that often the person with whom you are dealing will not have the authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.
Tipping is not compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. It is perfectly okay to pay the amount stated on the bill. Staff are paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip. You may feel free to tip for good service, in which case it will typically be appreciated.
Australia doesn't really have a distinct "Australian" cuisine. The closest you will come is restaurants specialising in Western style dishes made from local produce, meaning that the ingredients come from the local area. These restaurants are concentrated outside the major cities and can be excellent: some rural towns are developing a small tourist industry based on the quality of their restaurants.
In the cities, you will find that restaurants, especially in the mid-range, either serve Western dishes without the focus on local produce, or concentrate on foreign cuisine, especially various Asian cuisines including Thai, Japanese, and Chinese. Budget restaurants serving spicy Asian dishes are especially common in any area that is populated by university students. Most Asian restaurants are staffed by immigrants from the country in question, although at the high end chefs are increasingly experimenting with the "fusion" of cuisines from different countries.
Most meat that you eat in Australia will have been raised on Australian farms. Australia's high agricultural output makes lamb especially a lot cheaper than it will be in many other countries. Meat from native animals including kangaroo, emu, and crocodile is available in Australia, but is far less commonly eaten than beef, lamb, pork or chicken. Kangaroo meat, which has been sold only for the last decade or so, is worth seeking out: it is a very lean meat with a strong flavour.
Vegetarianism is quite common in Australia - usually for health, lifestyle and ethical reasons - and you will find that most restaurants will offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes, or will have an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes. Vegans may have a more difficult time finding food that is compatible with their diet, but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu will probably be able to sensibly discuss the ingredients of various dishes. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
People observing kosher or halal will be able to find specialist butchers in the capitial cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capitial cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in the correct way.
As in any first world economy countries, hotel, motel and hostel accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and tourist destinations. Smaller towns usually have a selection of motel rooms available at a number of venues. Accommodation rates are broadly comparable, if perhaps slightly less expensive than their equivalents in Europe or North America.
An expensive hotel in a large city might be as luxurious as any 5-star hotel in the world.
Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost $50 per person per night at the very least.
Typically, motel-style accommodation will have a private room with a bed or number of beds, and a separate, private, shower and toilet. Breakfast is commonly included in the price of the room.
A number of local and international chains offer motel-style accommodation:
- Budget Motels  (http://www.budgetmotelchain.com.au/) - over 460 venues in Australia and New Zealand; not plush, but clean and basically comfortable
- Best Western  (http://www.bestwestern.com.au/)
Serviced, short-term apartments are widely available throughout Australia and are available for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. A full range a quality properties exist from budget to 5 star.
- Southern Cross Apartment Rentals (http://www.sthrncross.com/) Offers a wide range of serviced apartments through out Australia.
Budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often with dormitories is approximately $20-$30 per person per night.
In very small inland towns (population 5,000 or less) there may not be either hotels or motels; instead, local pubs usually offer accommodation to travellers. Pub accommodation tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms.
Camping and Caravanning
Virtually every town, no matter how small, will have a caravan park where you can pitch a tent (or usually rent a cabin room).
Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia (http://cmca.net.au/index.htm)
The Camper Trailer has also become very popular in Australia . It is perfect for the Australian camping lifestyle, whether it be weekends away or an extended trip into the great outdoors where no facilities exist. Being self sufficient is a must in these circumstances as well as suitable spares & a good tool kit. The Australian Campertrailer Group (http://www.campertrailers.org/)
ExplorOz� is (http://www.exploroz.com/Splash.asp) an interactive site for people interested in camping, four wheel driving and caravanning in Australia. Used by more than 370,000 readers each month, this is the leading reference for Australian travellers!
Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia can work in Australia without any further permits, but others will require a work visa of some kind.
The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. Note that getting the visa might take a couple of months from the beginning of the application process, and that you will need a medical examination by a doctor approved by the immigration officials before it can be granted (among other things, you will need a chest X-Ray to show that you do not have tuberculosis). Check with your local Australian High Commission, Consulate or Embassy.
You can also apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer.
For details of work visas see The Immigration Department's website (http://www.immi.gov.au/).
Australia has a working holidaymaker program for citizens of certain countries between 18 and 30 years of age. It allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter. You may work during that time, but only for 3 months at any one employer. The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidised by casual or short-term jobs. If you're interested in a working holiday, some useful skills and experience might be: office skills to be used for temp work; or hospitality skills to be used for bar or restaurant work. An alternative is seasonal work like fruit-picking, although much seasonal work will require that you work outside the major cities.
You can apply online for a Working holiday visa (https://www.ecom.immi.gov.au/visas/jsp/index.jsp?visaType=WORKING_HOLIDAY), but you must not be in Australia at the time. It takes just a few hours to process usually and it costs about 170AUD. On arriving in Australia ask for the working holiday visa to be "evidenced", so you can show your future employer. As soon as you have an address it is wise to apply for a tax file number. You can apply for it online (though, only in Australia) for free at the Australian Tax office website (http://www.ato.gov.au/), though you can generally get it quicker if you just go to their offices. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs and it is almost a waste of time to apply for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship. Contract jobs generally mean employers are looking for solid experience, so make your resume reflect that. Search for jobs on Seek (http://www.seek.com.au) or for IT related roles Jobnet (http://jobnet.com.au). It is wise to try arrange a few Interviews and prospects before you arrive in Australia in order to be in the better paid jobs. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Your passport will not be enough ID to open a bank account. You will need to show the bank teller 100 points of ID (http://www.ocba.sa.gov.au/businessadvice/licensing/cardsystem/100points.html).
One of the most common causes of tourist deaths in Australia is found on its glorious beaches. Each year quite a number of tourists (and locals too it must be said) drown on the shores. Australian beaches - particularly the long strips common on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts - have extremely strong rips and pulls that most people are unable to detect or handle.
It is very important that people swim between the flags which designate patrolled areas. Despite the sunny climate beaches are not patrolled 24-hours a day or even during all sunlight hours. In most cases the local volunteer surf lifesavers or professional lifeguards are only available during certain hours. If the flags aren't up, then there's no one patrolling - and you shouldn't swim.
Australia is prone to various regular natural disasters, including cyclones (hurricanes), annual floods and bushfires. Be aware of the times and places at which these will occur. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather, including fire danger, is available from the Bureau of Meterology's warning page (http://www.bom.gov.au/weather/warnings.shtml) or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on 1900 926 113.
The rainy season for the south of the country is the winter and there is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding, while in the northern areas the 'Wet' occurs during the summer months, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods. Lotsa water.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert and a long-standing drought situation. While it is extremely unlikely that you would ever be refused assistance with water in remote areas, do not waste it and do not be surprised if you are charged for it. Generally if you offer to pay for something that logic tells you should be free, the gesture will be appreciated and turned down.
When travelling in remote areas, away from sealed roads, where the potential to become stranded for up to a week without seeing another vehicle is very real, it is vital that you carry your own water supply (4 gallons or 7 litres per person per day). Do not be misled by entries on maps such as 'well' or 'spring' or 'tank' (or any entry suggesting that there is a body of water). Nearly all are dry, and most inland lakes are dry salt pans.
Large parts of Australia, including parts of major cities like Sydney, are endangered by bushfires (wildfires) most summers. National parks and wildnerness areas are especially vulnerable to fires due to the oil content of eucalyptus leaves. Although fires are occasionally lit by lightning strikes and very occasionally by a hot tree spontaneously combusting, most out-of-control fires are human lit: some deliberately and some not. As a consequence there are severe penalties for deliberately or even accidently letting a fire get out of control. In addition, each state's fire service operates a fire ban system. When a fire ban is in place all open fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, but it is nevertheless your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Note that a total fire ban will even include a cigarette, though typically not in urban areas.
If you are staying in an area threatened by fire you will normally be evacuated by emergency services. Do not resist evacuation: fire fighters are instructed NOT to risk their own lives in order to save people, property or wildlife in danger.
Crime rates in Australia are roughly comparable with other first world countries. Travellers should take normal precautions against bag snatching, pickpocketing and the like. There are some areas of the large cities that are more dangerous after dark, but there generally aren't "no-go" areas in the sense that the police refuse to patrol them or that it is dangerous to enter them if you aren't a local.
Australia's proximity to Asia means that heroin is a far more commonly used illicit drug than cocaine or crack cocaine. In some areas of large cities you will need to be careful of discarded needles: however these will generally be found in back streets rather than in popular tourist spots.
When leaving your car alone, make sure it is locked, that the windows are rolled up, and that there are no obvious targets for theft in the vehicle, as thieves will often smash windows to get at a phone or bag that is visible in the car.
There are two banking scams particularly common in Australia: fraudulent bank notices via email; and tampering with ATMs so that cash is trapped inside them, or so that they record card details for thieves. The second is most applicable to travellers, and you should check your transaction records for odd transactions after using Australian ATMs, and immediately contact the bank controlling the ATM if a transaction seems to be successful but the machine doesn't give you any cash.
Australian police are approachable and trustworthy, and you should report assaults, theft or other crime to the police as soon as possible.
Hitch-hiking is reasonably common on major routes in Australia, but is dangerous: kidnappings and murders of (and by) hitch-hikers have happened. If you're on a route travelled by families and professionals, you will have to wait a while for a lift.
Sunny Australia has one simple message for the traveller (and for its own citizens!): "Slip, slop, slap!" food poisoning is no more common than it is in other first world nations.
Australia does not have endemic communicable diseases that will require non-standard vaccinations. Like many other countries, it will require evidence of yellow fever vaccinations on entry if you will have been in a country with a risk of infection within 6 days before your arrival in Australia.
When travelling in Australia take precautions against mosquito bite. In far northern areas there have been cases of Dengue Fever (a serious malaria-like disease). Generally minimising your exposure to mosquitos anywhere in Australia (using repellants or screens) is advisable. Heck, the bites itch anyway.
Australia has first world medical standards, and you can expect to receive treatment that is the equal of care in other industrialised countries. In particular, it is safe to receive blood transfusions in Australia, as donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis and many other blood borne illnesses.
However, since Australia's population density is low, parts of Australia are a long way from medical facilities of any kind. Towns with population 5000 or more will have a small hospital capable of giving emergency treatment in serious emergencies, and larger towns will have a base hospital capable of routine and some kinds of emergency surgery. In severe cases, particularly any kind of injury requiring microsurgery, you will need to be evacuated to one of the capital cities for treatment. Evacuation procedures are well established and normally involve being evacuated by plane or helicopter.
Poisonous and dangerous creatures
Whilst Australia has many dangerous and poisonous animals, insects and plants, this need not spoil your vacation. With very few exceptions, you are unlikely to encounter any of these in an urban environment. Be aware that they exist and you'll be okay. The primary rule is "If you don't recognise it, don't touch it". The vast majority of deaths from bites and stings in Australia are due to allergic reactions to bees and wasps: there have been no fatal spider bites since the 1950s, and fatal snake bites occur only a couple of times a year.
Anti-venom is available for most spider and snake bites. If bitten you should immobilise the wound (by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages) and seek immediate medical help. If you are in an isolated area send someone else for help. The venom of some snakes (the taipan in particular) can take effect within fifteen minutes, but if the wound is immediately immobilised and you rest it is possible to delay the onset of poisoning by one to a few hours, depending on the creature. If possible you should attempt to identify the creature that bit you (in the case of spiders it might be possible to trap it in a jar and take it to the hospital) so that the anti-venom can be administered swiftly.
If travelling in rural Australia it would be a good idea to carry basic first aid equipment including compression bandages and to learn what to do after a snake or spider bite.
Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or northern Westen Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal stings from the Box Jellyfish if swimming in the ocean between October and May. Box Jellyfish are very hard to detect and can be found in very shallow water. Rather than being 'painful', stings from these jellyfish are 'excrutiating' or fatal. Vinegar applied immediately to adhering tentactles will lessen the amount of venom injected, but immediate medical assistance will be required. The danger season varies by location, the best rule is to follow the advice of locals.
Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or northern Westen Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal attacks by crocodiles in and adjacent to northern waters (ocean, esturine and fresh water locations). Crocodiles in these areas can reach 30 feet in length and can attack in water without warning. On land crocodiles usually lie motionless, but they have the ability to move with extraordinary rapidity in short bursts. There are relatively few attacks resulting in injury�most attacks are fatal. Take advice from locals and only swim in inland waters if you are specifically advised that they are safe.
Australia offers a vast multiplicity of cheap internet access options for travellers. Internet caf�s abound in most centres of population.
Wi-Fi access is increasingly available through a number of outlets and communications companies:
- Telstra  (http://www.telstra.com.au/wirelesshotspots/index.htm) offers convenient paid access at many McDonalds and Starbucks outlets (minimum $5 for first 15 mins, $0.20 per minute after that; a credit card option also exists...)
- Optus  (http://optusbusiness.com.au/wirelessconnect/) has a similar scheme
In addition to the "big two", most cities have private internet caf�s that normally cost $1-$2 per hour.
The Country Code for overseas calls to Australia is +61.
Australia uses 8-digit local phone numbers for all customers with a 2-digit STD area code.
The outgoing IDD access code (from within Australia) is 0011 (note, "00", common elsewhere in the world, does not work in Australia).
Emergency calls (Fire / Police / Ambulance) should be phoned through to 000.
Australian Area Code List:
- 02 = Central East (New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory)
- 03 = South East (Victoria & Tasmania)
- 04 = Mobile phones Australia-wide
- 07 = North East (Queensland)
- 08 = Central & West (Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory)
Local calls are about A$0.25 untimed on most fixed lines and A$0.40 on all Telstra Pay Phones (timed).
Australia has nationwide mobile phone networks based on both the GSM 900/1800 and CDMA standards. All four providers have rolled out their UMTS (3G) networks in 2005. Call rates vary from carrier to carrier.
An easy way for travelers to chat to people is to buy a prepaid mobile phone. These can cost from A$50 upwards, depending on the brand, and are available around Australia in most retail outlets and post offices. They can then be topped up with recharged cards. It is also possible to buy a prepaid SIM card for a GSM 900/1800 phone you already own. These cost around A$30 (with $30 worth of calls included) although this varies a little depending on the network. Prepaid calls cost roughly 25-30 cents per 30 seconds, again depending on the network. The main GSM prepaid providers are Telstra (http://www.telstraprepaidplus.com.au/), Optus (http://www.optus.com.au/), Virgin Mobile (http://www.virginmobile.com.au/) and Vodafone (http://www.vodafone.com.au/).
- Big things in Australia
- Driving in Australia
- Grape grazing in Australia
- Winter sports in Australia
- Scuba diving in Australia