Having been born and raised in Australia, I feel as though I’m fairly qualified to share this guide to Australia. There is so much to love about Australia. From wide open roads that are perfect for road-trips, to thousands of incredible beaches with breathtaking sunsets and super friendly locals. You can’t really visit Australia and not enjoy yourself. If you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet you’re planning a visit to Australia. If so, you’ve come to the perfect place!
Although Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world, there are some things that people may not be aware of. For example: did you know that crocodiles can be found in almost the entire top half of Australia? So if you’re visiting the Northern Territory, Western Australia or North Queensland, be careful!
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Table of Contents
- 1 A Comprehensive Guide to Australia: 30 Tips for First Time Visitors
- 2 Travel & Transport
- 3 Seasons & Climate
- 4 Money, Prices & Currency
- 5 Alcohol, Food & Shopping
- 6 Things to See & Do in Australia
- 7 Other Tips & Advice
- 7.1 Australians do Indeed Talk Weirdly
- 7.2 Internet Kinda Sucks in Australia
- 7.3 We Actually do call Everyone Mate
- 7.4 Aussies are a Pretty Chilled Group of People
- 7.5 If you’re Traveling Solo, Keep your Wits about you
- 7.6 Yeah, we do have a lot of Dangerous Animals & Insects
- 7.7 I Guarantee, you won’t want to Leave
- 8 Did you like this post? Pin it for later or share with friends!
A Comprehensive Guide to Australia: 30 Tips for First Time Visitors
There is a lot that people aren’t aware of when it comes to traveling to Australia and surviving while you’re here. We are a very large, densely Outback country, so if you’re planning to spend an extended period of time here, you need to be prepared. Here are some of the most important things you should know, before visiting Australia for the first time.
Travel & Transport
If you’ve never visited Australia before, the cost of getting here and how long it takes are two of the most commonly asked questions. Here is everything you need to know when it comes to travel and transport within Australia!
Travel time to and from Australia
The length of time it takes to travel to and from Australia varies, depending on where you’re visiting from. For instance, a non stop flight from the United States to Melbourne takes around 14 hours. It takes between 3 and 4 hours to travel to Australia from New Zealand, 22 hours from London and 18 hours from Canada.
These are purely estimates, and are based on flying into the East Coast states of Australia. So make sure you’ve got a great pair of headphones, a good book or Kindle and plenty of entertainment – you’re gonna need it for the journey here!
Cost to fly to Australia
Just like travel time to and from Australia, the cost of flying to Australia varies, depending on where you’re traveling from. Prices can start from anywhere between $150 from New Zealand to $1,800 from London. Like the rest of the world, the cost of traveling to Australia will vary based on the time of year and where you’re flying from. Be sure to book as early as possible, for a better chance of scoring a great deal.
Australia is a huge country
I’m sure you’ve seen a map of Australia before. But have you noticed just how big we actually are? Australia is the sixth largest country in the world, and is almost as big as the United States. Twenty percent of Australia’s land mass is desert Outback, so embarking on an epic Australian road trip is a big task. Prepare to see tons of red sand, and a whole lot of nothing during your travels.
Australia’s public transport system
One of the worst things about Australia is our public transport system. In most states across Australia, public transport isn’t reliable nor anything to brag about. You’re much better off catching an Uber or Taxi to get to where you need to be. Uber is relatively well priced in Australia. Major cities tend to be a little more pricey, but generally speaking, this is the best form of transport.
That being said, if you’re going to be spending an extended period of time in Australia, consider hiring a car. You will have a lot more freedom, not to mention awesome convenience when it comes to luggage. There are tons of car hire companies in Australia, but on our visit to Queensland in October 2017, Russell and I hired a car for 12 days with Thrifty. They were awesome and we had no issues with our car. We were even given a free upgrade, which was a nice little surprise!
An Australian road-trip is the best way to see the country
Australia is one of the best countries in the world for a road-trip. You will see far more than you would traveling by air, and have the freedom to travel and explore at your own pace. Heading off the beaten track and discovering some of Australia’s hidden gems, is all part of the fun on an Australian road-trip. Hiring a camper van is definitely the best way to explore as much of Australia as possible.
There are a ton of RV and camper-van companies in Australia, hiring out all sorts of perfect road-trip vehicles. Check out Britz or Apollo for a wide range of camper-vans available for hire. Campervan Finder or VroomVroomVroom are great for comparing prices across all companies.
Flying Domestically is Perfect for Fast-Paced Travel
If you are short on time and money, flying domestically within Australia is the best option. There are always awesome deals on Australian domestic flights, especially if you book ahead. If you’re not keen on braving the Australian Outback, flying from state to state is the way to go. Most flights are under 4 hours, with the exception of West Coast to East Coast flights, which can be close to 6 hours.
Seasons & Climate
If you’re from the United Kingdom (or anywhere else which doesn’t really have a proper summer), our weather could shock you. Our summers can be horrible and disgustingly hot. Here is everything you need to know in regards to seasons and climate in Australia.
Our Seasons are Opposite to the Northern Hemisphere
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, keep in mind that our seasons are different. Summer in Australia is from December until February, autumn is from March until May, winter is from June until August and spring if from September until November. If you enjoy a white, snowy Christmas, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Australia during December! Instead of snow, you’ll be stuck with scorching hot days in front of the air conditioner.
The Northern Territory is Always going to be Hotter
If you’re planning a summer trip to Australia, keep in mind that the temperature is going to be higher in the Northern Territory, all year round. Expect highs of over forty degrees celsius in summer, and late twenties to mid thirties for the rest of the year.
Russell and I lived in Alice Springs for almost a year back in 2016/2017, and I definitely struggled during summer. If you’re planning to visit the Northern Territory during the hottest months of the year, be prepared for some scorchers.
Travel During Off-peak times for Less Crowds
Summer is the busiest time to visit Australia. Everyone loves the idea of relaxing on our beautiful beaches, soaking in the sunshine. But guess what? Our beaches are still here during the cooler months of the year, and they will be a lot less busy! So if you’re hoping for a more relaxing, quieter Australian adventure, book your visit between April and August.
Of course, if you are hoping to experience some of Australia’s summer activities, then November through to February are going to be the hottest months in the year. Just keep in mind that it will be quite a bit busier, and there will be a lot more people around, especially at the popular tourist attractions and theme parks across Australia.
Money, Prices & Currency
Visitors to Australia seem to have a lot of questions when it comes to the cost of everyday items in Australia. So much so that I’ve actually published an entire post, dedicated to the cost of traveling to Australia. Here is a brief recap of the most important tips when it comes to money, costs and currency in Australia.
Australia is Expensive
Unless this is the first article about Australia that you are reading, you would have probably already learnt that Australia is an expensive country to visit. Trust me, I hate to admit it just as much as you hate reading it. There’s nothing that can really be done, either.
Food can be fairly cheap if you shop at the big brand supermarkets, Coles or Woolworths. Stick to their home brand products, and you can definitely survive on a budget.
Alcohol and cigarettes are the biggest expense, with a carton of beer costing upwards of $70 (Australian dollars) and a bottle of spirits starting at $30. My advice is learning to love wine. I almost exclusively drink wine and not much else, purely because of how cheap it is.
I frequently buy a particular 1L bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for $7. No it doesn’t taste award winningly incredible, but it’ll do. Sticking to wine is the best way to keep to an alcohol budget in Australia!
That being said, Australia can be done on a Budget
With all of that being said, it is possible to travel in Australia on a budget. Keep an eye out for cheap flights and package deals with hotels, and fly during off-peak season. For the almost cheapest alcohol, head to a big liquor chain like First Choice or Dan Murphy’s for great weekly deals. If you’re doing an Australian road-trip, buy essentials items such as water and snacks in bulk at Coles or Woolworths, so you don’t need to keep re-purchasing them every day or two.
The Currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar
The currency used in Australia is the Australian Dollar. Keep an eye on the exchange rate, and if you have a trip already booked, exchange some cash each time the Dollar is decent. This is the best way ensure you’re getting good value for money, and aren’t losing too much in the conversion.
Tipping Isn’t Required in Australia
Tipping isn’t required in Australia. We don’t need to tip for any service, whether that’s in a restaurant, a Taxi or Uber driver or a hotel employee. The hourly rate in most companies and businesses is very decent, therefore tipping isn’t required.
I have never been anywhere, in my 25 years living in Australia, where I was required to leave a tip. This may sound strange for Americans and other countries that have the tipping system, but it’s perfectly normal for us Aussies!
Alcohol, Food & Shopping
Ahh, now we get to the most important topics: alcohol, food and shopping. Three of my favourite things! Australia is one of the best places in the world for wine, so I suggest developing a love for fermented grapes before you arrive. South Australia and Western Australia are known for their beautiful vineyards and delicious wines, so prepare to indulge.
Australia’s Liquor Laws are very Strict
The legal drinking age in Australia is 18 years old. In all states around Australia, you’ll be asked for ID if you look under 25 years old. In New South Wales, you’ll be asked for ID if you look under 40 years old. If you don’t have the acceptable form of ID, you will not be served.
An acceptable international form of ID can be a Passport or international drivers license (Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland only). Both of these need to have a photo and your date of birth, be valid and in date and of course, real.
If you plan on purchasing alcohol or cigarettes, be sure to take your Passport with you everywhere you go. If you are visiting the Northern Territory, New South Wales or Queensland, a valid international drivers license will be accepted.
Alice Springs (Northern Territory) has Much Stricter Liquor Laws
Russell and I lived in Alice Springs for 8 months, during 2016 and 2017. We learnt a lot about the crazy differences between living in a big city and living in the Australian Outback, and trust me, it doesn’t get more Australian Outback than Alice Springs. Due to some restrictions put on local members of the Alice Springs community, there are a few different liquor laws put in place.
Cask wine (or goon) is a restricted item and therefore not sold anywhere in town. Fortified wine (port or tawny) is only available after 6pm, and is limited to one bottle per person, per day. Other than needing to show an acceptable, valid proof of age card if you look under 25, each person buying alcohol is required to have their ID scanned. This is a procedure put in place to ensure those who are restricted and cannot purchase alcohol, aren’t slipping through the cracks and doing so.
Basically, if you are visiting Alice Springs or the Northern Territory in general, always have your acceptable, valid ID with you.
Kmart is Great for Cheap Essentials
I love Kmart. It’s hands down my favourite Australian store, and is perfect for almost everything. If you’re moving to Australia for a couple of months, Kmart has an endless amount of kitchen supplies at extremely affordable prices.
You’ll also find men and women’s clothes, shoes and underwear; as well as kids clothing, toys, books and more. There are Kmart locations all over Australia, so just do a Google Search to find one nearby!
Australia has a Wide Range of Food Options
Australia is great for a wide range of cuisines and food choices. Whether you’re a picky eater, meat lover, seafood fan or vegan, there’s something for everyone. Most of the major cities have a seemingly endless amount of international cuisines. Either do a quick Google search for the city you’re visiting, or ask around for some insider tips. Locals generally have a favourite restaurant, so have a chat to a nice looking Australian for the low down!
Our Snacks are Delicious
I may be biased, but I truly believe Australia has some of the best snacks in the world. Have you ever heard of Tim Tams or Fruchocs, or even Barbecue Shapes? Well these are some of Australia’s most delicious snacks. That’s one thing I miss when I travel to somewhere other than Australia – our snacks. Do yourself a favour, and save some space in your luggage. I promise, your friends and family back home will love you for it.
Things to See & Do in Australia
There are a butt load of things to do in Australia. Whether you’re a dedicated wine drinker, thrill seeker, museum appreciator or outdoorsy person, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few of the best things to see and do in Australia.
Queensland is Perfect for Theme Park Fans
The Gold Coast in Queensland is home to most of Australia’s major theme parks. It’s basically a thrill seeker’s heaven, and should definitely be included on your itinerary. There are five large theme parks on the Gold Coast: Movie World, Dreamworld, WetnWild, White Water World and Sea World.
I suggest spending a week doing all of them, especially if you haven’t visited Australia before. Movie World and WetnWild are my favourite!
Wine Tasting in South Australia
I’ve lived in South Australia all of my life. That’s 25 years living in the same place. South Australia is home to some of the best wineries in Australia. I work in the liquor industry, so I’ve learnt a lot about South Australian wines, and have come to familiarise myself with some of the best. Spend a day exploring the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills or Clare Valley, and enjoy a few delicious glasses of wine!
Australia has some of the world’s best beaches
Given that Australia is an island in itself, the entire country is surrounded by water. That means, no matter which major capital city you visit, you are always going to be super close to the beach. From Bondi Beach in Sydney, to the almost endless amount of beautiful beaches up and down the coast of Queensland, there’s no shortage of incredible Australian coastline to admire.
Some of my favourite beaches are Mooloolaba Beach and Noosa Beach on the Sunshine Coast and Semaphore Beach and Glenelg Beach in my home city of Adelaide. If you’re spending any time in Queensland during your visit to Australia, I recommend hiring a car and driving into the Hinterlands.
In particular, if you are visiting the Gold Coast, as you will be rewarded with incredible views of the coast line and Surfers Paradise while surrounded by beautiful nature.
Other Tips & Advice
Australians do Indeed Talk Weirdly
Us Aussies definitely have a different version of the English language. Our very cliche way of speaking can confuse tourists and visitors to Australia. Sorry about that – we’re normal, I promise. If you stay for long enough, you’ll be saying no worries along with the rest of us.
You’ll own more pairs of thongs (flip flops, not underwear) than you ever thought you would. You will be buying super expensive stubbies (bottles) of beer and throwing them back late in the arvo (afternoon). You’ll also be spewin‘ (really angry) if you miss out on that delicious brekkie (breakfast). Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Internet Kinda Sucks in Australia
Internet in Australia sucks. It’s slow, expensive and extremely frustrating. If you choose not to purchase a SIM card to use for date while you’re in Australia, there are plenty of places that offer free wifi, such as McDonalds. If you’d like more freedom, and not have to rely on free wifi, I suggest purchasing a pre-paid SIM card, or look into a portable wifi device.
We Actually do call Everyone Mate
It’s not a myth – Australians really do call each other and everyone else, mate. I work in a liquor store, and I call almost every male customer, mate. It’s become a habit, and sometimes I don’t even notice that I’m doing it. If you spend long enough in Australia, you’ll be calling every second person, mate too.
Aussies are a Pretty Chilled Group of People
Other than the odd exception to this rule, generally speaking, Australians are a pretty laid back bunch of people. You’ll occasionally come across someone who hasn’t had their chill pill, but most of the time, we’re super approachable! If you’re stuck and need help with something, either go into a store and ask a sales assistant, or just ask someone who is walking by.
I can honestly say, it’s rare that someone will just ignore you or be a downright asshole. And if they are, just say no worries mate, and walk away!
If you’re Traveling Solo, Keep your Wits about you
Australia isn’t an unsafe country per say, but we’re definitely not crime free. If you’re traveling alone, have some common sense and a basic knowledge of street smarts. There are stupid, heartless people everywhere in the world, so no regardless of where you’re traveling, it’s best to remain vigilant.
Important Tip: If you do get into any trouble or need Police, Ambulance or Fire assistance, the emergency phone number in Australia is 000. If anything seems strange or out of the ordinary, or someone is making you feel uncomfortable, always reach out to a Police officer.
Yeah, we do have a lot of Dangerous Animals & Insects
It’s true, sorry. Australia is home to a ton of super dangerous animals and insects. I’ll refrain from sharing any super scary statistics, because I’m trying to get you guys to actually visit Australia. Not hide in a corner repeating the phrase I will never go there, I will never go there. But basically, if you’re visiting Australia during summer, keep an eye out for snakes and poisonous spiders. They love this place, and roam free despite everyone calling the snake catcher and slamming a shoe down on them.
I Guarantee, you won’t want to Leave
I might be biased, but Australia is a pretty incredible country. No matter how long you stay, you’ll wish you stayed just that little bit longer. If your budget allows, definitely try and stay in Australia for as long as possible. You’ll see a lot more, and really get a chance to appreciate Australia for everything that it is.
There you have it, my guide to Australia for first time visitors. Australia may be expensive, and we do talk funny sometimes, but it’s definitely a country that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. From the endless amount of beaches to amazing wineries and bustling city centres, and even the Australian Outback. There’s something for everyone in Australia and I am so thankful to call this incredible place my home. No matter how far I travel, I will always appreciate coming back.
I hope you found my guide to Australia helpful! Have you visited Australia before? What did you like best? Tell me in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means, if you click certain links within this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. I will always only share my 100% honest opinion, and will never endorse a company or product I would not use myself.