There is some basic research that one must do before traveling to a new country. But the most important thing (which often gets overlooked) is what is the norm in a cultural sense. Different countries have different values, when it comes to what is socially accepted in religion, what’s considered safe practices and how you should behave in day to day life.
Keeping that in mind, here are ten tips for travel within Australia, which will hopefully help to provide some sort of insight into not only what to expect, but how to behave when traveling Down Under.
#1- Don’t underestimate how big Australia is
Australia is big. Like, size of Europe big. As such, you’d need a rather large chunk of time to see the country properly. I’ve heard people talk of making plans to drive around the perimeter of Australia in two weeks and I’ve actually laughed until I’ve cried.
If you wanted to do a proper trip around Oz, you’d probably need to take at least at least three months out of your schedule to do it justice. If you’re there for only a couple of weeks – plan small. Spend a few days in Sydney and/or Melbourne, go to Uluru or Queensland, or spend the entire time on the west coast. Just don’t be too ambitious with your itinerary and you’ll be right.
#2 – Australia is expensive
Gone are the days when you could have a cheap backpacking holiday in Oz. The price of essentially everything is going up in Australia – from food, to transport, accommodation and sadly everyday living expenses for all Aussies.
Your trip to Australia will be amazing – I can promise you that. Just know, that it won’t come cheap. Try not to cry too many tears of disappointment into your $4 cup of flat white coffee and think of it as the trip of a lifetime instead!
#3 – Don’t skimp on the sun protection
Australia is very inconveniently located smack bang under the hole in the Ozone layer. As such, the sun here has quite a bite to it – so much so that one in three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.
If you’re travelling to Australia during the summer (or late spring and early autumn) make sure you stay out of the sun at the hottest time of the day, between 11 AM and 2 PM. If you are out and about, wear protective clothing like a hat and sunglasses and slap on some sunscreen.
Do ensure that the brand is toxin free if you’re swimming amongst coral reefs, as the toxins in normal sunscreen bleach them (along with being horribly bad for you, in any case).
#4 – Don’t pack for just one season
There’s a perception internationally that Australia is a really hot country with eternal summers all year round. Well, no. Australia has the sixth largest land mass of any country in the world, meaning that it brings with it a range of climates.
Some places, like Far North Queensland and the Top End in the Northern Territory stay pretty hot all year round (making them far more delightful to visit in the winter months, to be honest). Inland, the temperatures can drop quite suddenly and unexpectedly and the winters do get quite cold, with some places seeing snow. It will be in your best interest to check the weather forecast and pack accordingly.
#5 – Don’t visit only in the summer months
That being said, summer isn’t exactly the optimal time to visit Australia. Being peak season, there are people EVERYWHERE, the price of everything ramps up and in my opinion, it’s too bloody hot to do anything, anyway.
I think the optimal time to visit is between March-October. It’s a lot cooler in many parts of the country (but if you’re visiting during the beginning and end of autumn and spring respectively, it’ll still be good beach weather), making the weather far more tolerable. Sydney in particular tends to do winter well and I would only visit the outback during the winter months in any case.
#6 – Shake out your boots before you put them on
Animals in Oz have a reputation of being quite deadly and for good reason. It’s not as though you won’t encounter them in your everyday life and if you did, you’d probably live to tell the tale. Only one person has died from a spider bite in Australia in the last forty years, so you’re working with pretty good odds there.
That being said, it doesn’t hurt to shake out your boots before you put them on, in case any critters have worked their way in there. I also ALWAYS check under the toilet seat when I’m in a rural setting, as deadly red-back spiders have been known to lurk there.
#7 – Leave the local wildlife alone
One of the joys of travelling to Australia, is the opportunity to see its weird and whacky fauna in the wild. You’d be very unlucky to not see a kangaroo in the flesh, alongside many beautiful birds and critters.
My advice? Leave the wildlife alone. Get excited and take photos sure, but do it from a distance. They’re just trying to go about their daily business uninterrupted and it’s important to respect that.
#8 – Don’t underestimate the raw power of the ocean
In Australia, the elements can be as deadly as the wildlife and none more so than the ocean.
Most Australians learn how to swim before they can walk. It’s pretty much assumed that you’ll end up spending a large proportion of your life at the beach and it’s important to know how to deal with the waves, in a worst case scenario.
Australian beaches will often have rip tides – a current that is so powerful that it can grab an unsuspecting swimmer and pull them out to sea, where they will drown if left unassisted.
ALWAYS swim between the yellow and red flags that are driven into the sand each morning by knowledgeable lifeguards. If you’re on an un-patrolled beach (there are 10,000 beaches in Oz, so it could happen) don’t go too far out into the surf.
#9 – Don’t keep to the cities
Melbourne and Sydney are amazing cities, but the charm of Australia can be found within its country towns. A fly and drive holiday is one of the best ways to experience the true Australia, which means a bit of preplanning with these fly drive tips.
I thoroughly recommend hiring a car and going for a road trip inland in the states of Victoria or NSW – visiting lesser known destinations like Dubbo, Mudgee and Goulburn in NSW, or Ballarat, Daylesford and Rutherglen in Victoria. Or, fly to Hobart and drive all over Tasmania. You won’t regret it, that’s for sure.
#10 – Don’t leave without trying an Aussie meat pie
Australia is not really renowned for its food, which is silly – as it is amazing. Being so close to Asia, the country has a lot of foreign influences in its cuisine and you can eat very well in any of the major cities at a pretty small expense.
As for “Australian cuisine” itself, the one thing I can recommend having is an Aussie meat pie. They’re pretty easy to get a hold of – stop at a “servo” (service station) and grab yourself a Mrs. Mac’s brand pie. Eat with a squelching of tomato sauce, for the full experience.
If you find yourself within the vicinity of a Bunnings homewares store on a weekend day, it would be within your favor to purchase and consume a sausage sandwich (“sanga”) from the tent out the front. Some places have an option of tomato sauce, mustard AND BBQ sauce. Now that’s fancy.
About the Author: LC is an ex-expat, who is currently exploring her home country of Australia. She also writes about sustainable travel on her blog Birdgehls. Her life’s ambition is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with eleven rescue dogs, a shetland pony and several pygmy goats.
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Kids in New Zealand grow up being constantly warned about the rip tides. They’re so unsuspecting yet so dangerous. We love Australia and have visited multiple times over the years.
Great tips! When I moved to Aus, I was also surprised by how expensive it was, especially Sydney! Also shocked that it gets cold here, was not expecting that my first winter.
I’d love to be able to spend months in Australia touring around, to take it all, and have enough time to do so. Not sure if that is in the cards, only time will tell. The ocean is a powerful beast for sure. I am so shaking out my boots! Yikes! And, I will definitely try a meat pie!
Living in Australia I have to agree, Australia is not cheap! And it’s huge and has so much to see. I went on a 5 months trip around the country once and still didn’t see it all. We are in Melbourne and it gets pretty cold here. Most people think Australia is always hot but that’s not the case down our way! A drive around Tasmania should definitely be on any Australian itinerary.
Haha, totally spot on!! The only other thing I’d add to your excellent post is that winter and summer are totally opposite to the Northern Hemisphere! Yes, I know it’s obvious to us Aussies, but you won’t believe how easy it is forget this basic fact when planning a trip downunder!
Yep, I am an Aussie and agree with you about every point (except the meat pie bit…. noooooo deal on the meat pie from the local servo, steer well clear of that (although I love that Mrs Macs are Australian), in this post. Can’t say no to a Bunnings snag on Sunday mornin tho, they are the BEST. My advise (as a qualified chef) re the food when visiting Australia is to speak to guest services and the tour desk at your accommodation, or make friends with someone that lives in the area. For the most part these people are locals and will be able to point you in the right direction of where the best food is served, who is using produce from the region and at reasonable prices too.
Nice post for someone who is new to travel to Australia. I have been only to Sydney, that too on the way to NZ. But keen to visit the country beyond the cities, esp Tasmania.
As an Australian myself, I appreciate this post! Especially on not underestimating how big the country is – you can’t just jump in a car and drive from Sydney to Darwin, or include all of the highlights of this HUGE country in a four day trip, as many people have asked me! Agree that 2 – 3 months is a good amount of time to explore, and that you should not be too ambitious; I’ve lived here my whole life and still have so much of the country to explore!
Seriously, excellent tips – and I was glad to see a warning about sun protection on here – our UV rays are brutal, and the best way to ruin a holiday is to be in bed blistering and sore for the better half of your vacation!!
I love how you give your tips on Australia in such an easy to understand manner. I’ve been to Australia 2 times and I totally agree with you. Things there are not cheap, especially food and accommodation. Well at least it’s worth it!
I have yet to visit Australia but I definitely want to go soon. I’ve heard it’s expensive but I live in Los Angeles where a flat white will also cost you $4! Great tips on the sun protection, keeping your hands off the wildlife, and ocean safety. I’ll pin this for later so it’s ready to go when I’m ready to go!
We’ve never been to Australia and will definitely go there one day. And of course we’ll have to return several times to cover different parts of this huge country! Thank you for your tips! We’ll probably follow your suggestion and go there during March and October.
Great tips. I have yet to visit Australia, but I appreciate its size and diversity and plan to see it for myself soon. I just met a woman who lives in Cairns, and she talked about the mangos, bananas, papayas, and other tropical fruit growing in her yard, which I don’t normally associate with Australia. It is a fascinating country and thanks for the tips. I’ll make sure to double check my footwear just in case when I visit.
Haha I’m guilty of looking at a map and planning to see everything. Damn maps everything always looks closer than it actually is. These are great times and I will remember them when I go there. So what exactly is in the meat pie?
Very informative as agree with most points as have been there a few times:)
Agree with all your points. Australia is so big that you can never see it one trip. It’s best to visit few places but do them well. And, i love the wildlife there.
Thanks for sharing. I will try to go there in future.