|Government||Parliamentary Democracy (Federal Constitutional Monarchy|
|Currency||Australian dollar ($, AUD)|
|Population||24,953,887 (Australian Bureau of Statistics)|
|Language||English (spoken by everyone), numerous other languages spoken. Aboriginal Australian languages still spoken in some Aboriginal communities even though many of these languages have been lost.|
|Electricity||240V, 50Hz (plug Type I)|
|Time Zone||UTC +8 to +10|
Australia is world famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback".
Australia is one of the world's most highly urbanised countries; it is well known for Glutes, Gooseys and the attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
Australia is the sixth-largest country by land area. Australia is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Coral Sea lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbours, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia is highly urbanised with most of the population heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Most of the inland areas of the country are semi-arid. The most-populous states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.
Australia has an area of 7,682,300km² (2,966,152 square miles) and the distances between cities and towns are easy to underestimate. The Government has published a National Public Toilet Map.
Australia has large areas that have been deforested for agricultural purposes, but many native forest areas survive in extensive national parks and other undeveloped areas. Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
As a large island a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. It is not completely hot and sun-kissed, as stereotypes would suggest. There are regions that can be quite cool and wet. However, a good portion of the country receives more than 3,000°hr of sunshine a year. Generally, the north is hot and tropical, while the south tends to be sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C (59-68°F). Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the South East experiences metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania and Victoria have a temperature range very similar to England.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere the winter is June-August while December-February is summer. The winter is the dry season in the tropics, and the summer is the wet. In the southern parts of the country, the seasonal temperature variation is greater. The rainfall is more evenly distributed throughout the year in the southern parts of the East Coast, while in the rest of the south beyond the Great Dividing Range, the summers are dry with the bulk of the rainfall occurring in winter.
Based upon scientific evidence and theory, the island of Australia was most likely first settled more than 50,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of people from the south and south-east Ameica. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close spiritual relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian people maintained a hunter-gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life – including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the modern impression of Australian people is largely built around an image of the 'aboriginal 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 people 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 mer had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries, it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600s, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Northwestern Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavourable, and Australia remained for them a symbolic 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.
In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under the command of Captain James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 Apr 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on 22 Aug 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although other European nations preceded his arrival by more than 160 years.
Following the exploration period, the first British invasion and settlement in Australia was founded in 1788 at what is today Sydney, led by Captain Arthur Philip who became the first governor of the colony of New South Wales. This started a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced the indigenous population drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society. Originally comprising the eastern two-thirds of the island, the colony of New South Wales was later split into several separate colonies, with Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land) becoming a separate colony in 1825, followed by South Australia in 1836, New Zealand in 1841, Victoria in 1851 and Queensland in 1859. The western third of the island was not settled by Europeans until the British establised a naval base in Albany, then known as King George Sound in 1826. The Swan River Colony was formally established in 1829 at what is today Perth. The Swan River Colony was officially renamed Western Australia in 1832.
While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, 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. Convict settlements were mostly along the east coast, with scattered pockets of convict settlements in Western Australia. The state of South Australia was settled entirely 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 immigrants from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to form a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.
The system of separate colonies federated to form the self-governing British dominion of Australia in 1901, each colony became a state of Australia, with New Zealand opting out of the federation. The new country rapidly developed its natural resources including agricultural and manufacturing industries. This development resulted in a large contribution (in relation to size of the population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops made a valuable, and 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. Australia and Britain passed the Australia Act in 1986, ending the official power that the British parliament may have had to pass laws for Australia, and ended appeals by Australia to British courts. While the parliament lost that power, the Queen of Australia and her appointees retained full rights to exercise all power.
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies and that has been remarkably resilient to the recent worldwide economic downturn.
The service industries, including tourism, education, and financial services, account for the majority of the Australian Gross Domestic Product – about 69%. Within the service sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia, as it provides employment, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.
The primary industries – mining and agriculture – account for most of Australia's exports. Iron ore and coal are by far the largest exports. Agricultural commodities such a wheat and beef are also of great importance, and the price of wool has recently hit historic highs.
Australia has a comprehensive social security system, free universal health care, and a minimum wage higher than both the United States or the United Kingdom.
Australia is a federated constitutional monarchy, with eight state and territory governments and a Commonwealth (federal) government. While each parliament is based upon the United Kingdom's 'Westminster' system, the similarities to the United States' federal 'Washington' system have resulted in Australia's system being described as a 'Washminster'system.
Each Australian government has an elected parliament, with the leader of each government being the leader of the largest party represented in the lower house of the parliament (at the federal level this person is known as the Prime Minister, and the Premier and First Minister at the state and territory level, respectively). At the federal level parliament consists of a Senate (upper house) and a House of Representatives (lower house). Each Member of the House of Representatives (colloquially known as a Member of Parliament (MP)) represents an electoral division, with more populous states having more electoral divisions and hence, more MP's. Similar to the US Senate, each Australian state has an equal number of senators, with 12 senators being directly elected by the people in each state, and 2 senators each from the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. The political party (or coalition of parties) which has the most members in the House of Representatives becomes the governing party and forms the national government. Ministers are drawn from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, though by convention, the Prime Minister comes from the House of Representatives. The current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is the current leader of the national government and the Liberal-National Coalition which holds a majority in the House of Representatives.
The Queen remains the head of state, and her representative in Australia – the Governor-General – according to conventional wisdom and lampoon – has a ceremonial and politically powerless role (while holding the ultimate power to dismiss the Prime Minister). In practice, the Prime Minister is believed to wield the most authority in government. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was defeated in 1999, but the issue remains a regularly debated topic.
The two major political parties in Australia are the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Liberal Party, which operates in coalition with the National Party. Emerging in power is the social democratic Greens Party, which maintains an environmentalist policy platform. It should be noted that the Liberal Party is (traditionally) a centre-right, conservative party – the term liberal refers to maintaining a free market economy.
The Prime Minister is determined by the party with the largest number of seats in the lower house of the federal parliament, rather than being elected directly by Australian voters. In this respect, the Australian system mirrors that of the United Kingdom. Despite having enjoyed a period of Prime Ministerial upheaval in recent years (having seen six Prime Ministers since 2007) Australia remains a stable democracy.
Australia has a multicultural population practising almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-quarter of Australians were born outside Australia, and another quarter have at least one foreign-born parent. Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney are centers of the multicultural. All three cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global arts, intellectual endeavors, and cuisine available in their many restaurants. Sydney is a hub of art, culture, and history containing the world class architectural gem, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Melbourne especially promotes itself as a centre for the arts, while Brisbane promotes itself through various multicultural urban villages. Adelaide must be mentioned in addition, as it is known for being a centre for festivals as well as Germanic cultural influences. Perth, also, is known for its food and wine culture, pearls, gems and precious metals as well as the international fringe arts festival. There are quite a few more that deserve mention, but this gives an idea via introduction. Smaller rural settlements generally reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic culture often with a small Aboriginal population. Virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the effect of immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s, in the half century after the war when Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.
There are approximately half a million Australians who identify as being of Aboriginal descent. Less maintain elements of traditional Aboriginal culture.
Descendants of the population of convicts mentioned in the country's history are currently a smaller minority compared to the estimated 50% of the population originally comprised of them when Britain and others landed on the shores and inhabited the land. Long ago during the involuntary transportation and relocation from Europe and other places, it must be noted that all records were not kept nor available to others, nor have those records that existed all survived the uses of people throughout history.
The English of Australia were once known for local colour and colloquialisms but that largely has been lost to outside influence and influx. People in rural areas still tend to speak in a broader, colloquial accent and have a different manner, using many of the slang words that have become outmoded in metropolitan areas. Accents tend to be broader and slower outside of the large cities. There are overall small pronunciation differences based upon culture of origin in the cities, but these are becoming less common. Speech has become more generic. For example the word "you" colloquially, is often rolled off the tongue sharply on the south east coast, almost as "ewe" as opposed to the west coast and other regions. Another modern variation based upon migrants from Africa is found in Afrikaans accents on the west coast, modifying the local accents slightly due to the larger population and numbers of Afrikaans and Boer African immigration there. In the urban English speaking world, an educated, white-collar and/or conservative Australian accent is softer or generic in tonal quality, rather than the sharp tones in some rural areas. Regarding other variations in speech, usually native speakers can recognise the subtle regional variations.
A trend among Australians is social conservatism compared to some European cultures and an acquired balanced attitude, defining their European origins within a preference for the growing Asian influence. They tend to be relaxed regarding religious observance. The Australian sense of egalitarianism in its gungho form has moderated; while modes of address still tend to be casual and familiar compared to some other cultures, such as Asian. Most Australians will tend to address you by your first name and will expect that you reciprocate.
The national holidays in Australia are:
- 1 January: New Years' Day
- 26 January: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
- Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian calendar.
- 25 April: ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), honouring military veterans
- Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (celebrated in Western Australia in September) (WA observes Foundation Day a week earlier)
- 25 December: Christmas Day
- 26 December: Boxing Day
Many states observe Labour Day, but on different days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays, with Victoria and South Australia having a day off for a horse race (The Melbourne Cup and The Adelaide Cup). Western Australia has Foundation Day typically the first Monday in June (recognising the founding of the state since 1829) but also celebrates the Queen's Birthday on a different date than the rest of the country, either at the end of September or early October, due to the usual June date's close proximity to Foundation Day.
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are usually declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the retail closures will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed Christmas Day and Good Friday. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Christmas Day (25 Dec), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day morning.
Peak holiday times
Most attractions in Australia remain open year-round, some operating at a reduced frequency or shorter hours during the off-peak season.
Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave and school children in the major population centres have January as a long break. Domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.
Summer tends to be the peak travel season through much of the south, with the winter (dry) season the peak travel season in the tropics.
Australian teenagers finishing high school celebrate the end of school (colloquially known as "Schoolies") for a week beginning at the end of October to mid to late November (depending on area). The volume of teen revellers can completely change the nature of some of the cities and towns they choose to visit, (particularly the nationally popular Gold Coast) especially seeing as the vast majority of school-leavers will have reached the legal drinking age of 18.
Australia can have up to five different time zones during the daylight savings period, and three at other times.
In the east, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria always have the same time. Queensland doesn't observe daylight saving, so it is an hour behind the other eastern states during that period. However Broken Hill, a town in western NSW, keeps South Australian time.
In the centre, South Australia and the Northern Territory are half an hour behind during the winter, but the Northern Territory doesn't observe daylight saving while South Australia does. During daylight saving South Australia remains half an hour behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, but moves half an hour ahead of Queensland. The Northern Territory remains half an hour behind Queensland, but moves an hour and half behind New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
In the west, Western Australia is two hours behind the eastern states in winter, and also doesn't observe daylight saving. It moves three hours behind the eastern states that observe daylight saving (remaining two hours behind Queensland).
There are no official abbreviations or names for Australian time zones, and you may see a few variations used. EST, CST, WST along with EDT, CDT are sometimes used. Sometimes AEST, etc, with the 'A' prefix distinguishing them from the North American time zones with the same names. In conversation, the abbreviations aren't used. People tend to say Sydney time, Brisbane time, or Perth time. Expect blank stares from most if you start talking about Central Summer Time.
In those states which observe daylight saving, it commences on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.
|New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) (NSW) & (ACT)|
New South Wales is Australia's most populous state. The Harbour City of Sydney is Australia's largest city. The coast of New South Wales is lined with beach side communities, each one offering experiences for the traveller. A little inland are the mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains, as well as the purpose built capital city of Canberra, excised from New South Wales. Further inland still expect sweeping plains, turning from agriculture to desert the further inland you venture.
Famous for its sunny warm weather, Queensland offers coastal exploration from the vibe of the Gold Coast to the tropics of the Great Barrier Reef to the bustling city of Brisbane. It is also home to tropical rainforests of the Daintree National Park, and the island resorts of the Whitsundays. Inland lies the ranges of the hinterland, and further on the vast expanses and beauty of outback Australia.
Separated from the mainland by Bass Strait, Tasmania has rugged beauty of Cradle Mountain and the west, the beaches of the east, and the complete wilderness of the south. Hobart was the site of the second European settlement in Australia, and many historic sites are well preserved. The island has well developed facilities for travellers.
Small, vibrant and with something for everyone, Victoria has dramatic surf beaches along the southwest and central coast, green rolling farmland and photogenic national parks. The diversity of rural Victoria is very easy to access due in part to its size and well maintained roads. Australia and Victoria's sporting, shopping, fashion and food capital is Melbourne.
A vast state. The south-west contains the state capital and major city of Perth closely surrounded by the wildflower, wine growing and scenic destinations of Margaret River and Albany. In the far north are the tropics and the beach side destination of Broome. Small townships, roadhouses, mining communities and national parks scattered around the long distances between.
- Lord Howe Island – Two hours flying time from Sydney, with a permanent population, and developed facilities. (Part of New South Wales)
- Norfolk Island – Direct flights from the East Coast, and from Auckland. Permanent population, and developed facilities.
- Christmas Island – Famous for its red crab migration. Flights from Perth and Kuala Lumpur, developing facilities.
- Cocos Islands – Coral atolls, populated, accessible by flights from Perth, with some facilities for travel.
- Torres Strait Islands – between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, most islands have some traveller facilities but require permission from the traditional owners to visit. Flights from Cairns.
- Ashmore and Cartier Islands – uninhabited with no developed traveller facilities.
- Coral Sea Islands – largely uninhabited, with no developed traveller facilities.
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands – uninhabited islands over 4000km from the Australian mainland.
- Macquarie Island – An Australian Antarctic base, halfway to Antarctica. No facilities for travellers.
- Kangaroo Island – The third largest island in Australia and a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers.
- Canberra — the purpose-built national capital of Australia
- Adelaide — the wine capitol of the world, a relaxed South Australian alternative to the big eastern cities
- Brisbane — capital of sun-drenched Queensland and gateway to beautiful sandy beaches
- Cairns — gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Daintree National Park, and many beautiful beaches and resorts; a great place for people to getaway to and relax
- Darwin — Australia's tropical northern capital, at the top end of the Northern Territory
- Hobart — picturesque and quiet capital of Tasmania, the site of the second convict settlement in Australia
- Melbourne — Australia's second largest city, Melbourne is a large sporting, shopping and cultural capital; it is regarded as Australia's most European city in style
- Perth — the most remote continental capital city on Earth, on the south-western edge of Western Australia
- Sydney — Australia's oldest and largest city, famous for its picturesque harbour
- Blue Mountains — a mountainous region in New South Wales, including the Three Sisters
- Dandenong Ranges — these beautiful ranges offer world class gardens and the picturesque villages of Mt. Dandenong
- Great Barrier Reef — off the coast of Queensland, easily accessible from Cairns, and even as far south as the Town of 1770
- Great Ocean Road — a spectacular coastal drive in Victoria past many scenic icons including the 12 Apostles
- Kakadu National Park — outback adventure travel, aboriginal culture and nature activities in the Northern Territory
- Nitmiluk National Park — the amazing Katherine Gorge, close to the town of Katherine
- Gold Coast — beachside and national park playground south of Brisbane
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park — Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are iconic rock formations in the Red Centre
- Watarrka National Park — most famous for Kings Canyon, a mighty chasm reaching a depth of 270 metres
All visitors – apart from citizens of New Zealand – require a visa in advance of travel.
If you are visiting for a holiday of less than three months, there are three types of visas you may apply for, depending on your nationality:
- eVisitor (subclass 651) for citizens of the 31 EEA countries as well as citizens of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. These visas are free, but otherwise effectively identical to the ETA. You must apply .
- Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) is available on-line to nationals of Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea (ROK) and United States. The citizens of some eVisitor eligible countries and citizens of Taiwan may also apply for the ETA but solely through a travel agent, airline, specialist service provider or an Australian visa office outside Australia. A service fee of AUD20 applies. This fee can be waived if you obtain your ETA through a travel agent. However, there are on-line services which charge much more, as much as double, for the ETA. If applying on-line, stay with the government service to save money.
- Tourist Visas is required for people who wish to come to Australia to travel or visit friends and family.Travellers from non-ETA eligible countries, those wishing to stay in Australia for more than three (3) months or tourists already in Australia wishing to extend their stay are required to make a paper-based tourist visa application.[]
- Online Visitor visa (subclass e600). Holders of passports of all the ETA and eVisitor eligible countries and also the following 27 eligible countries Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Micronesia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Nauru, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE and Ukraine can make visa applications online. The fee for this is AUD130.
- Visitor visa (subclass 600). Other nationalities must apply using the paper form, and may need to visit an embassy or visa processing centre.
- Like the ETA and eVisitor, a 600 Visa is by default issued for a three-month stay. Unlike the other options however, a 600 visa can be issued for longer stay of up to one year. That said, immigration is somewhat reluctant to approve tourist visas for more than three months, no matter how legitimate your reasons for staying so long. You will likely be asked for extensive supporting documentation about the reason for your visit and your ties to your country of origin and may need to attend an interview. Depending on your nationality, the embassy or visa processing centre may also require you to have an Australian sponsor prior to issuing the visa. The fee is AUD130.
- Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462) and Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417). These are two temporary visas which will allow you to stay and work in Australia for up to a year. These visas have age restrictions and are available to citizens of 40 different countries.
In most cases, Electronic Travel Authorities and eVisitors are approved instantly and the visa will be issued and available for use immediately. Nationals of certain countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania and other Eastern European EU member states, are rarely issued eVisitor visa automatically and must provide additional documentation.
If you are visiting Australia for employment, study or for medical treatment you will need to obtain the appropriate visa. If you are staying longer than 3 months continuously you are ineligible for an ETA or eVisitor, and should apply for a Visitor Visa (subclass 600).
For all visitor visa classes, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to support yourself financially for the time you intend to spend in Australia. If you have a criminal conviction, obtain advice from the Australian Embassy or visa processing centre.
All fees are payable in Australian dollars, converted to your local currency at the current rate of exchange.
If you are transiting through Australia, remain airside for a maximum of 8 hours, have a confirmed onward booking, have the correct entry documentation for the onward destination and are a citizen of New Zealand, the European Union, Andorra, Argentina, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Nauru, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Africa, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Korea (ROK), Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (regardless of nationality status), the United States, the Vanuatu or Vatican City, you do not need to apply for any advance visa. All other passengers who transit through Australia must apply for a free-of-charge Transit Visa (subclass 771) prior to travel.
New Zealand citizens may travel to and work in Australia for any length of time without a pre-arranged visa. Non-citizen permanent residents of New Zealand are not eligible for visa-free entry. New Zealand citizens may still be rejected entry on the basis of criminal convictions or being HIV-positive and should seek advice before travel.
Customs and quarantine
Be warned: Australia has incredibly strict quarantine requirements regarding importing animal and vegetable derived products (any food, wooden products, seeds, etc) due to the relatively unspoiled Australian biosphere that they want to maintain. You must declare all such material and baggage is frequently scanned and may be examined by dogs. You may be fined $220 or more on-the-spot if you fail to declare, or even prosecuted in some very serious cases. Processed and sealed commercially prepared foods (chocolates, cookies, etc) are often permitted. They will be examined and returned to you, but still must be declared. When in doubt, declare the items. Some prohibited items can be treated by quarantine at your expense and picked up at a later time.
Some shells, coral and items made from a protected species are also prohibited to discourage the trade in items that may originate from a threatened ecosystem or species.
While there are no restrictions on the amount of money that can be brought in or out, Australian customs also requires you to declare if you are bringing AUD10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) or more in or out of the country and you will be asked to complete some paperwork.
Australia is a long way from anywhere else in the world, so for most visitors, the only practical way of getting into Australia is by air.
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, (IATA: SYD). After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services into Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand, Oceania, or Southeast Asia.
To Sydney it is a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11h flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the west of the United States and Canada, a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, a 13-16h flight from South America, and up to a 24h+ flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, some travellers from Europe opt to have a stop-over, commonly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
If you have to change to a domestic flight in a gateway city, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth all have distinct domestic terminals, requiring some time and complexity to transit, check the guides. Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns and the Gold Coast have all gates in the one terminal building or within easy walking distance of each other.
There are some routes into Australia that are operated by discount airlines. These can often be combined with other fares to make getting to Australia cheaper. Select your point of entry and exit to give you a cheaper round-trip, and possibly some interesting stopover opportunities on the way.
- Air Asia X, flies into the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide from Kuala Lumpur, at often deeply discounted fares. You can save money from Europe if having a stopover in Malaysia. Sometimes this is possible also stopping in Bangkok.
- Air Asia Indonesia flies into Darwin and Perth from Denpasar, Indonesia
- Scoot flies into Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from Singapore.
- Tiger flies from Singapore to Perth.
- Jetstar Airways flies to Hawaii and several Asian destinations, including Denpasar, Osaka, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh, via Darwin, and also operates a substantial Asian regional hub in Singapore.
- Virgin Australia flies between Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, and Los Angeles, and competes strongly with Qantas and Delta on these routes.
Luxury planes and business jets are a popular way to reach Australia among executives and affluent travelers. Given the distance Australia and major cities in Europe and North America, direct flights to Australia can be difficult to find if you're not near a major international airport. Charter airlines may offer seasonal routing at smaller airports. On the other hand, private aviation companies such as Australia Jet Charter and JetCorpAustralia offer direct private flights year-round using a variety of aircraft, from luxury Gulfstreams to executive/VIP airliners. Popular airports for charter jets include Sydney Bankstown Airport, Gold Coast Airport, and Melbourne Essendon Airport.
November to February is the cruising season, and there are usually about 10 ships that arrive in Australia from other countries during this time. You can cruise to Australia, and then fly home.
Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, all offer cruises to Australia across the Pacific.
Alternatively, you may sail to Australia in your own yacht, but beware of customs regulations. See Australian Customs for details
By overland transport
There was a time when a couple of tour operators offered overland trips from London to Sydney, with only a short hop by air from South East Asia to North Western Australia while the bus went by barge. Currently, the only such tour operator is Madventure which runs 4 different routes: 26 weeks through Iran, Pakistan, & India; 26 weeks through the Caucasus and Central Asia; 64 weeks around Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia; and 64 weeks through Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, & Central Asia.
For those determined to travel overland as much as possible from Europe, you can travel independently to Singapore from Europe by train and/or bus on scheduled services, and fly from there to Perth (3,500 flight kilometres). For the truly determined overland traveller, you can get a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia and make your way across to Bali, where you can fly to Darwin (2,000 flight km). For the intrepid, ferries to West Timor, a bus to Dili and a flight to Darwin will mean only 700 km in the air.
Australia is huge but sparsely populated, and you can sometimes travel many hours before finding the next trace of civilisation, especially once you leave the south-eastern coastal fringe.
Almost all modern Australian maps, including street directories, use the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA) as their grid reference, which is for all purposes identical to the WGS84 used by the GPS. You can locate most things on an Australian map or street directory if you just have the "GPS coordinates".
There are restrictions on carrying fruit and vegetables (including honey) between states and even between regions of states that are involved in fruit growing. If you are driving long distances or interstate, or flying between states, don't stock up on fruits and vegetables. These restrictions are enforced very strictly at airports and sea ports and it is not very uncommon to see sniffer dogs trained to find these goods.
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways, and cars are a commonly used method of transport. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. Some parts are dual carriageway but many sections are one lane each way. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Distances and speeds are specified in kilometres and fuel is sold by the litre. There are no tolls on roads or bridges outside of the urban areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Australia drives on the left. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right should take care when they first drive, and again when they are driving on country roads with little traffic. One major frustration for visitors is that many Australian vehicles reverse all controls when they are redesigned to mount the driver's controls on the right front seat, including the levers on the steering column. This causes newly arrived visitors to inadvertently operate the windscreen wipers when they are trying to signal a lane change or turn on headlights, and vice versa.
Generally, overseas licenses are valid for driving in Australia for three months after arrival. If the licence is not in English an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in addition to your licence. Licensing regulations and road rules vary slightly from state to state.
Australia's low population density and large size makes for long driving times between major centres. Some indicative travel times, not including any rest periods, are:
- Melbourne to Sydney: 9-10 hours (900km / 560 mi)
- Brisbane to Sydney: 12-13 hours (1,000km / 621 mi)
- Perth to Sydney: 45 hours (4,000km / 2500 mi)
- Sydney to Canberra: 3.5 hours (300km / 185 mi)
- Adelaide to Melbourne: 8-10 hours (750km / 465 mi)
- Brisbane to Melbourne: 19-20 hours (1,700km / 1056 mi)
- Melbourne to Perth: 40 hours (3,500km / 2175 mi)
- Perth to Adelaide: 32 hours (2,700km / 1677 mi)
- Brisbane to Cairns: 22-24 hours (1,700km / 1,056 mi)
It is almost impossible to predict your travel time just by knowing the distance. Seek local advice for the best route, and how much time to allow. Averaging 100km/h or more is possible on some relatively minor highways when they are straight and there are few towns. On other national highways that traverse mountain ranges and travel through small towns, even averaging 60km/h can be a challenge.
While major highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed (paved) roads in inland Australia is advised to take advice from local authorities, check weather and road conditions, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tyres, matches, food and water. Some remote roads might see one car per month or less. Cellular coverage is non-existent outside of major highways and towns and you should take some precautions in case of emergency. It is a good idea to advise a person you know and trust of your route and advise them to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. Carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or satellite phone should be considered when travelling in remote areas, especially where you may not be able to make contact for several days. Police will not automatically start looking for you if you don't report in. Make sure you get one with a GPS built in. These can be borrowed from some local police stations, such as those in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. If you want to hire one, sort it out before you leave a major city, as you won't find hire places in small towns. Expect to pay around $100 to hire for a week, or $700 to buy one. Don't expect an immediate rescue even if you trigger a PLB. Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you. 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 local people die out there when their car breaks down and they are not reported missing. If you do have to abandon your car (say you break down and then get a lift), call in quickly to the local police station, to avoid the embarrassment and cost of a search being started for you.
Major cities around Australia have multiple outlets providing a wide range of rental vehicles from major international rental companies. In smaller towns car rental can be difficult to find. One way fees often apply from smaller regional outlets.
You will need to have a licence written in English or an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country to drive anywhere in Australia. Check the contract conditions carefully if you are under 25 and also check that your licence class matches the vehicle you wish to rent before you book it.
Budget car and camper rentals
Catering to the vast number of young European and American backpackers traversing the country are several low-budget car rental companies which rent cars and campers of varying quality. Prices range from as low as $30 per day. Check the extra charges very carefully and make sure that you don't end up paying the same or more for a lesser quality vehicle.
The very cheapest cars you can hire can be manual (stick-shift). Anything larger will usually be automatic.
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