Australia – Useful Travel Information
Some basic facts and visitor information to help plan your trip
Area: 7,617,930 square kms or 2,941,299 square miles – similar in size to mainland USA
Population: around 24.13 million
Official language: English
Entry Requirements – Passports & Visas
Visitors to Australia should visit the Australian Immigration Service website for information about entry regulations, visa exemptions, obtaining a visa and visa waivers.
Australia’s size means there’s a lot of climatic variation, but without severe extremes. The southern third of the country has cold (though generally not freezing) winters (June to August). Tasmania and the alpine country in Victoria and NSW get particularly chilly. Summers (December to February) are pleasant and warm, sometimes quite hot. Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May) are transition months, much the same as in Europe and North America. As you head north, the climate changes dramatically. Seasonal variations become fewer until, in the far north, around Darwin and Cairns, you’re in the monsoon belt with just two seasons: hot and wet, and hot and dry. The Dry lasts roughly from April to September, and the Wet from October to March; the build-up to the Wet (from early October) is when the humidity is at its highest. The centre of the country is arid – hot and dry during the day, but often bitterly cold at night.
Australia is a relaxed and casual place. The rule for most establishments is ‘enclosed footwear’. Sneakers, joggers, sandshoes, and sandals are fine for both men and women except in up-market restaurants and exclusive nightclubs. A jacket may be required for men in some nightclubs and restaurants. Comfortable shoes are a must for hiking through National Parks. Depending on the forecast, dressing in layers can be a good idea: a long-sleeved shirt, a light sweater and a jacket. The sun is very powerful in Austalia so make sure you use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15+ and apply it often, especially after you have been in the water.
The official currency is the Australian dollar.
ATMs are widely available especially in cities and urban areas. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club are very widely accepted. Travellers cheques, especially in foreign currencies, are generally not accepted except by hotels, large stores and select tourist shops. For the best exchange rate, cash your foreign currency or cheques at a bank or Bureau de Change rather than a hotel.
Tax & Refunds
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a flat 10% tax on all goods and services – accommodation, eating out, transport, electrical and other goods, books, furniture, clothing etc. There are exceptions, however, such as basic foods (milk, bread, fruits and vegetables etc). By law the tax is included in the quoted or shelf prices. If you purchase new or secondhand goods with a total minimum value of $300 from any one supplier no more than 30 days before you leave Australia, you are entitled under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) to a refund of any GST or WET (wine equalisation tax) paid. The scheme doesn’t apply to all goods, and for those that do qualify you must be able to either wear them or take as hand luggage onto the plane or ship. For more details, contact the Australian Customs Service website.
No service charge applies in Australia. Tipping is not mandatory but a 10% tip in restaurants and hotel bars is normal for good service. Waiters and waitresses do not rely on tips for their income, but tips are an incentive to performance as bad service usually results in no tip. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, but it is usual to `round-up’ the fare to the nearest dollar or two – a little more if you have plenty of luggage or the driver has been particularly helpful. Visitors may wish to tip a tour guide or tourist coach driver, though this is not mandatory.
240/250 volts AC 50HZ. Universal outlets for 110 volts (shavers only) are standard in hotels, apartments and motels.
Medical Services: Australian healthcare professionals are highly trained and medical services are among the best in the world. Medical and dental services and a wide range of alternative therapies are widely available and are comparatively cheap by most international standards. Visitors from the UK, New Zealand and Finland are entitled to free or heavily subsidised medical and hospital care under reciprocal national health care agreements with the taxpayer funded Medicare organisation.
It is strongly recommended that all travellers hold comprehensive travel insurance (including full medical and repatriation) before departing their home country.