This post was first published in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the most recent information about traveling to Australia.
In another few weeks, Australia will enter its peak travel season. Millions of visitors from Europe, North America and other parts of the world will flock to the land down under in search of their own adventures.
If you are one of the lucky travelers heading to Australia, here are some Australia travel tips you need to know before you go.
You Will Need A Visa Or An Eta
No matter how long you are planning to travel Australia, all visitors to Australia are required to obtain a Visa. There are several different types of Australian visas available, such as work, study, tourism, and permanent residency visas. Needless to say, you will also need a valid passport to travel to Australia.
Tourist visas, the most popular type of visa for Australia, can be obtained online. Electronic visas take only a few days to be processed, but we recommend giving yourself at least 1 week of buffer time, just in case.
As for the costs, for $20 AUD, residents of the US can obtain a visa online that is valid for up to three months. Citizens of the UK and Canada, do not need a visa, but they will need to apply electronically for and receive an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before they go.
AUSTRALIA IS HUGE AND EXTREMELY DIVERSE
Unless you are planning to spend 6 months traveling around the country, you are not going to see it all. It may look small, but looks are deceiving.
Imagine trying to see the Golden Gate Bridge, New York City, the Grand Canyon, and the beaches of Florida all in one 2 week trip to the USA. Yes, these sights are all in one country, but seeing them all in one trip is nearly impossible unless you plan to spend a long time in the country.
Consider this: Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, occupying a territory of 7 692 024 sq. km, which is more than the size of ALL European Union countries. Yet it has one of the lowest population densities in the world of only 3.1 people/km. Any Australia travel guide would tell you that you need to spend a lot of time in the country or make multiple visits to see it all of the best places to visit in Australia.
It Takes Time To Get Around
A flight from East Coast (Brisbane) to the West Coast (Perth) will take you 5 .5 hours. That’s almost as far as flying coast to coast across the USA. If you are considering traveling around Australia by car, you’ll want to give yourself at least a few months.
Keep in mind that the majority of the Australia population lives along the coast, so unless you are travelling Australia by road tripping along the East Coast, prepare to be en route for days on end without any interesting sites or towns to check out along the way. There are parts of Australia with a whole lot of nothingness.
It will take you over 9 hours to drive from Sydney to Melbourne.
If you want to city-hop, flying is an option, although there are better ways if you want to travel sustainably. As for traveling with a group, consider renting a car, otherwise trains offer another great option for traveling in Australia.
In case you want to check out off the beaten path towns – give yourself at least a month or two to explore. If you plan with the mindset of more time in fewer places, you’ll enjoy it Australia a lot more!
There are Some Destinations in Australia You Should Not Miss
The diversity within Australia is great. Some of the best places to see in Australia are stunning beaches, beautiful rainforests, metropolitan areas, and fantastic wine regions. The variety of the landscapes also makes travel in Australia enjoyable for every kind of traveler as there are so many different things to do in this beautiful country. There are one hundred and one possible way to spend 2-3 weeks in Australia, depending on your travel interests and your ideal Australia holiday dream.
But if your are planning your very first trip to Australia, there are some destinations that you should not miss.
- Sydney – Tour the Opera House or see the sights by boat
- Melbourne and the beautiful Great Ocean Road, one of the best road trips in Australia
- Great Barrier Reef – Visit the largest reef in the world for a chance to snorkel or dive with some of its curious inhabitants.
- Uluru – Experience a small group, sunrise walk around the base.
- Adelaide – Take a ferry to explore Kangaroo Island.
- Gold Coast – Learn to surf on the Gold Coast.
- Brisbane – Head out on a day tour to the rainforest and glow worm caves
READ NEXT: Top 10 Things To Do In Australia
Take Advantage of Unique Activities in Australia
One of our best Australia travel tips is to experience as much as you can during your time Down Under. There are several unique activities and things that you can only do in Australia, so it’s worth considering adding these to you Australia bucket list.
Our suggestions below include tours/activities in specific locations, but note that you can have these experiences several places around Australia.
- Go skydiving! Tandem skydive in Sydney as you have a gorgeous view from above. This is such a fun and exhilarating way to explore the island. You can also skydive in Byron Bay and Mission Beach.
- Dive and snorkel. See turtles, fish, and reefs as you snorkel and dive the Ningaloo Reef area. You can also snorkel and dive at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns.
- Whale watching in Exmouth allows you to view humpback whales in their natural habitat. You can also experience a 4-hour whale watching tour from Hervey Bay.
- Go kayaking with dolphins. Paddle alongside dolphins, whales, and turtles during a tour in Byron Bay.
- While in Sydney tour the Opera House. Learn the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site during a 1-hour guided tour.
Don’t Forget to Visit the Wine Regions
One of the things to know before going to Australia is that wine regions in the country are plentiful and fantastic destinations to visit! The country is actually the fifth largest wine exporter in the world and sends 60% of its wines to other countries. If you want to go winery hopping or merely want to go to one, here are a few Australian wine regions to consider.
South Australia – Barossa Valley
We spent a weekend exploring the Barossa Valley, and it did not disappoint. The region is about 70 km north of Adelaide. If you want to head to several wineries, you can rent a bike to go from place to place for about $20/day.
The food in the Barossa Valley is also excellent, so plan on budgeting for a few meals while you are there. Wines can range from $9/bottle up to $1500, so if you want to go home with a bottle, be sure to make a wise (but tasty) choice of the area’s specialties, such as Riesling or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Near Melbourne – Yarra Valley
Yarra Valley, located just an hour outside of Melbourne is another great wine region to visit. The area boasts over 80 wineries, and there are varieties to suit any taste. The views in the area are quite unmatched, and we saw the most beautiful sunset while sipping wine at SkyHigh Mount Dandenong. This region is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Near Sydney – Hunter Valley
Northwest of Sydney in New South Wales is where our favourite wine region – Hunter Valley – lies. This area has smaller, more boutique wineries that offer free tastings. Semillon and Shiraz are the specialties of this region.
Western Australia – Margaret River
With over 200 wineries, the romantic region of Margaret River is idyllic and quaint getaway for couples enjoying Australia holidays. This area is famous for many varieties of wine including Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rose. The climate for growing grapes is also very influenced by the ocean, and the region has lower temperatures.
Wildlife in Australia May be Hard to Find
It is possible to spot kangaroos and koalas in the wild while traveling in Australia, but you’d have to venture out to a national park/reserve or further inland, away from the city buzz, to find them. But you may be lucky enough to spot them in the suburbs or on a golf course.
If seeing wildlife is one of the reasons you are traveling Australia, then there are a few specific regions we recommend that you visit:
- Atherton Tablelands region in far North Queensland, near Cairns is great for wildlife. Here you can see platypuses, tree kangaroos, wallabies, and various reptiles and birds.
- Kangaroo Island, located about an hour from Adelaide, offers sightings of seals, cockatoos, koalas, and of course – kangaroos.
- The ecosystem at the Great Barrier Reef is very diverse. It contains 400 species of coral and 1500 types of fish across its 900 different islands.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a great day trip from Brisbane. You can take a 40 minute river cruise before you arrive to the sanctuary to see the koalas.
- If you want to spot crocodiles while traveling to Australia, the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland is the place to go on a Daintree River tour
While kangaroos and koalas aren’t common in highly populated areas, other Australian residents are. When going to Australia you will likely see a lot of bats, possums, some snakes, lizards, plenty of spiders and other bugs.
There are also plenty of cool birds around. We lived just outside the city center and we saw cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets on our patio on a weekly basis.
Australian Weather May Surprise You
Australian summer (December to March) isn’t always lovely like the summers are in North America and Europe. It’s hot, like really hot. So hot that over the last few years, bush fires have caused a lot of destruction for both humans and wildlife.
In some parts of the country, it rains a lot. In 2010 there was so much rain on the East Coast that the whole city of Brisbane flooded.
If you are flexible, plan to visit Australia during the shoulder season – which is October/November or April/May. It’s still really warm and sunny but there is a lot less rain and unbearable humidity/heat. And if you must come during the high season – pack an umbrella or a rain jacket.
At the same time, don’t assume that Australia is hot all year around. The northern parts of the country, like Darwin and Cairns, are actually fairly warm all year round, but temperatures in other parts of Australia can go down to -5 °C or lower. Sometimes, it ever snows! Eeeeek!
Spring and Fall are the Best Seasons for Australia Holidays
One of the things to know about Australia is that the seasons here are the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. So when Europe and North America are freezing in sub zero degree weather, Australia is enjoying the heat of summer.
Our favourite time to plan an Australia trip is during the shoulder seasons of March through May or September through November. The weather during these times isn’t as extreme as during the winter and summer months, prices aren’t as high and you don’t have to deal with sold out tours or overbooked experience
AUSTRALIA IS REALLY EXPENSIVE
Budget at least $100-$200 USD per day for accommodation, food, and activities when travelling Australia. Transportation is extra and will depend on the mode of transport you choose. If you are looking for Australia travel tips to help you save on your trip, consider the following suggestions.
Buy a Greyhound hop on/hop off bus pass instead of individual tickets to get from city to city. It is affordable and one of the greenest ways to see the country. Alternatively, consider taking the train. Australia’s landscapes are really beautiful, and utilizing the rail system is an easy, affordable way to take in the sights when going from place to place.
If you want the luxury of traveling on your own time without spending a fortune on renting a car, consider renting a relocation campervan and secure your accommodation and transportation for traveling in Australia. Campervan relocation deals can be as cheap as $1/day plus gas!
WANT TO EXPLORE AUSTRALIA BY CAR or CAMPERVAN?
Get the best car rental rates by booking on our favourite car rental website, DriveNow. It compares prices across all major car rental companies in Australia, so you are guaranteed to get the best deal.
Opt for B&B Type of Accommodation
If you are traveling as a couple, or with friends, consider staying in Airbnb accommodation or opt for the smaller family-run B&Bs, as nice hotels across Australia will set you back by no less than$100/night.
Many Airbnb accommodations can cost half that price, or you can pay just as much as a hotel room but have more space and amenities, such as a kitchen and living room to yourself. This is a great way to save a bit of money during your Australia trip.
For example, one apartment in Sydney with a kitchen, living room, and laundry facilities that sleeps up to 4 people lists for half the cost of similar hotel in the same area. Be sure to book Airbnbs early as they can fill up quickly if the price is right.
New to Airbnb? Sign up today using THIS LINK and get up to $40 off your first Airbnb experience!
Cook your own food
There are lots of great restaurants in Australia, but this isn’t Vietnam or Thailand where local food is incredible and cheap. You don’t need to eat out every meal when traveling around Australia as the prices can range from $15-$20 AUD for an average meal or around $40 AUD for a meal at a nice restaurant.
There are free public BBQs available in most parks all over Australia. You don’t even need your own kitchen and you’ll see plenty of Australians doing the exact same thing! Thumbs up for local experiences.
Support local businesses, by going to the farmers’ markets instead of visiting local grocery chains. You’ll end up paying less for your food and will be making a positive impact on the local community as well!
Drink less. And when you do drink opt to pre-drink before you head out to a bar, or drink at BYO (bring your own alcohol) restaurants.
Drinking at bars in Australia is expensive and will end up killing your budget. If budget is really tight, goon (boxed wine) is your best friend while traveling in Australia. This cheap wine only costs around $10 per 4-5 litres.
If you can’t afford to spend $100-200/day while traveling in Australia, consider backpacking! Camping and backpacking is one of the most budget-friendly ways to explore the country and it’s a fun way to soak in the Australian landscape at your own pace.
You could choose to camp under the stars near the rainforest or along the coast, or you could incorporate a campervan into your Australia trip. Australia has great public toilets and shower facilities to utilize while on the go, so you don’t need a fully equipped camper for your travels.
For more tips read: How to Save on Your Trip to Australia on a Budget
Australian English Is a Bit Strange
There are actually quite a few slangs and differences in Australia English vs American English. Here are just a few examples that you will likely come across while you are travelling to Australia.
Australian to American English Dictionary
- Thongs = flip flops
- Bum bag = fanny pack
- Togs/swimmers = bathing suit
- Capsicums = peppers
- Ketchup = tomato sauce
- Chips = fries
- Lollies = candy
- Bushwalking = hiking/trekking
- Boot = trunk
- Bonnet = hood of a car
- Gas = petrol
- Ute =pick up truck
- Fortnightly = every 2 weeks.
If you are watching a sport with some new “mates”, don’t ask them who they are rooting for. Rooting means having sex, not cheering. Whenever you want to find the center of the city, don’t ask for directions downtown, there they call it CBD (Central Business District).
If you get sick and need some meds, ask for the nearest chemist, not a pharmacy. Whenever someone invites you to come over for tea, it often means you are being invited for dinner.
A lot of other words are shortened, like arvo = afternoon, not to be confused with avo = avocado, barbie = bbq, bickies = biscuits or cookies, breaky = breakfast and so on.
Your name will most likely also be shortened to something that ends in “y”/”ie” or “z”. (Stevie, Robbie, Marky, Caz, Loz, etc)
Mind Your Generosity
Tipping in Australia is not a common practice. You are not expected to tip in restaurants, bars, or taxis. You don’t need to add a tip to your haircut bill or give any money to staff in hotels since they generally charge plenty as is, so no one ever expects a tip.
All workers in Australia are paid significantly better than elsewhere in the world. Minimum wage in Australia is whooping $19.49 AUD, so the busboys and bartenders here aren’t relying on tips to make a decent living.
Of course, if you really want to acknowledge excellent service, especially if you are dining at a high-end restaurant, you can leave a tip. But if you are out for the night, and leave a few coins behind as a tip at a bar, it’s likely that someone will tell you that you’ve forgotten your change.
Save up those tips and use them to splurge on eco-friendly accommodation for a few days, or to dine at slightly nicer restaurants, or spend them on ethical tours while in Australia.
Mind the Sun
We don’t want to sound like your parents telling you to cover up or don’t spend too much time in the sun, but don’t! The sun is really strong there, so stock up on sunblock and respect the fact that you may get burned a LOT faster than you would back home, or anywhere else in the world.
No, it’s not because the sun here is “different”. It’s the same sun, but for one environmental reason or another, it has a much stronger effect on the skin there.
South Eastern Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world! Just 30 mins in the Australian sun is enough to burn you to a crisp. Trust us, we speak from experience.
So balance your time in the sun with time in the shade, wear sunscreen, cover-up, and don’t forget to stay hydrated to avoid heatstroke. And no, hydrating yourself with beer/cider/goon isn’t good enough.
Sunscreen is a MUST on your Australia packing list and we recommend you choose a reef-safe environmentally friendly sunscreen brand. You’ll be spending a lot of time in nature, so be kind to the environment, especially if you plan on going into the ocean.
Stay hydrated with a good insulated reusable water bottle with you and refill it straight out of a tap. We recommend HydroFlask, it’ll keep your water cold for up to 12 hours even in the hot sun on the beach.
When choosing drinks for the night, go local. Australia has a ton of great local brands and plenty of micro-breweries that are worth trying while you in Australia.
Just please don’t ask for a pint of Fosters. If you want to go mainstream, try XXXX Gold, Coopers, Hahn, or James Squire instead or even better, opt to support one of the many eco-conscious craft breweries across the country!
Here are a few that we recommend:
Eco-Friendly Australian Beer
Even better, stick with local “green beer” like the following.
Bare Cove Radler was the first certified carbon neutral beer to enter the Australian market.
Coopers Pale Ale has won heaps of environmental awards, and its brewery produces a surplus of renewable energy that is sent back to the South Australian energy grid.
Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale was Australia’s first organic beer. They use renewable energy at their factory and have water
- Cascade Green produces preservative-free, and carbon-neutral beers. They use recycled and biodegradable products and vegetable ink for their packaging.
- 4Pines Brewing Company is known for their Save The Pines Program which advocates for a plastic-free Manly Beach, sustainable farming operations and marine and nature conservation.
- In other news, Australia’s Broo Ltd. is in talks to create the world’s most environmentally friendly brewery which will run on renewable energy and turn out carbon-neutral brews.
Other Craft Breweries in Australia
- ACT – Capital Brewing Company offers tours and is making great strides in creating a zero waste brewhouse.
- NSW – If you like spirits other than beer, Murray’s Craft Brewing Co also has a distillery and winery.
- NT – For a truly craft experience, Six Tanks Brew Pub’s beers are only served on tap at their location alongside more popular Australian beers.
- QLD – Bacchus Brewing Co. is a micro-brewery, and you can check their current tap list online before you go.
- VIC – Moon Dog Craft Brewery offers tours and specializes in a variety of things from pale ales to stouts and everything in between.
- SA – Pirate Life Brewing is breathing new life into Adelaide with its craft beer selections.
- TAS – If you want to experience beer on the waterfront, then Hobart Brewing Co is the place to be.
- WA – Froth Craft Brewery has 12 beers on tap, and they also have an extensive list of eats at their on-site restaurant.
Take Steps to Stay Connected
Internet in Australia has improved leaps and bounds over the last few years. Wifi is now available in every hotel/hostel/Airbnb and in almost every cafe, every restaurant and every shop. Some cities even have an opened free city wide wifi hotspot networks that allows you to stay connected while being outside.
But if you want to stay connected 24/7 while in Australia, you’ll want to unlock your phone and get a local SIM or invest in a Global Hotspot.
Unlock Your Phone Before You Arrive in Australia
One of the best ways to stay connected on the road is to unlock your mobile phone before you leave home and pick up a local SIM Card upon arrival. Telstra has the best coverage across the country and is our recommended telecommunications provider in Australia.
A SIM Card with a Telstra Plan will set you back by about $30/month, depending on how much data you want to have, but it might be well worth it in the end.
Can’t Unlock Your Phone?
Unfortunately, some providers will not allow you to unlock your phone, in this case, we recommend that you check what types of plans they offer overseas. You may be able to upgrade your current plan to give you data overseas or buy increments of data to use on an as needed basis. This should be done before you leave your home country for Australia.
Invest in a Hotspot Device
If unlocking your phone or upgrading is not an option or cost prohibitive, we recommend investing in a Wifi Hotspot device, like Skyroam that gives you unlimited wifi for just $9/day. And the best part is that you can use it across multiple devices, so the whole family can stay connected at once while you are traveling to Australia!
What to Do if You Need Medical Help While Traveling Australia
One of the things to know before traveling to Australia is that it is good to get travel insurance. It can save you from being hassled before you travel to Australia. Consider it as a necessity because you might get hurt as you travel Australia.
If you do get injured, contact your travel insurance agent first. They will give you a list of places in the area you can obtain treatment. In case of an emergency, be sure to contact them as soon as you can.
In the case that you are not insured, head to the nearest doctor or hospital, and the US Embassy (or the embassy of your own home country) can also assist. Again, it is best to travel with peace of mind and have insurance just in case!
Be Prepared to Really Like It Here
No actually, you will LOVE it here! You will see the most amazing sunsets, trek through lush green rainforests, swim in the most crystal clear waters and sunbathe on the most beautiful beaches as you travel to Australia.
You’ll meet great people, hear great stories, and go on amazing adventures. You might even jump out of an airplane, learn how to dive, learn how to surf or fall in love with sailing.
You’ll see all the amazing things Australia has to offer and be devastated when you have to say goodbye and board your plane back home, but at least you’ll be able to answer questions about how to go to Australia.
In fact, why not scrap your idea of a holiday in Australia and consider a temporary move here? It’s a lot easier than you think! Then you can spend more time traveling around Australia!
BEFORE YOU GO: DON'T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can't stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Australia. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or ever skydiving), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.
Have other questions about traveling to Australia? Leave them in the comments section below. We are always happy to answer your questions about Australia travel!