Weather and the Environment
- Guard against sunburn at all times, but particularly in summer. Use a wide brimmed hat, 15+ sunscreen, sunglasses, protecting clothes and shoes. Australian sunlight has very high UV levels and skin damage occurs quickly, especially during the middle of the day.
- Check future storm fronts for signs of a greenish tinge. This often indicates a hail storm that may cause damage to persons and property.
- Always observe correct beach safety. Swim only at patrolled beaches. Only swim between flagged areas. If in doubt, ask. Always check for caution signs.
- If you intend to swim in shallow coastal waters north of Gladstone, make it your business to be educated about box jellyfish (marine stingers). Usually found in shallow waters near creek or river mouths, more likely after local rain, usually absent in rough water. Not usually found over deep water or coral. Stinger season is usually from December to March in the Gladstone (south) area and longer, from October to June, in the Cairns (north) area. Most popular beaches in the stinger areas are netted to give swimmer protection.
- At all times wear thick soled shoes when walking in shallow tropical waters or reef walking as protection against the highly disguised stonefish. It has dorsal spikes which will rupture the skin of the foot and inject poison causing extreme swelling and agony. Deaths have been occurred as a result of stonefish poisoning.
- There are other venomous creatures on the reef such as some of the cone shell species and coral snakes, both of which are capable of causing death. If you intend spending time on the Barrier Reef without expert guidance, ensure you have a good knowledge of what can harm you before you start.
- Australian traffic drives on the left hand side of the road.
- If you are in doubt about your driving license being acknowledged in Australia, obtain an International License from your local automobile association prior to your departure.
- Road speed limits differ between states but are usually 100-110kph on the highways and 50-60kph in built-up areas. Interstate highways are not of the same standard as USA and European highway systems but nor do they carry the same traffic volumes.
- Don’t hitch-hike, it is illegal.
- Never leave small children or animals locked in vehicles in very hot weather. Dehydration occurs very rapidly. This practice is illegal.
- The most serious danger on the road is fatigue. Look for driver refreshment stations and pull off and rest after driving for some hours.
- Be cautious when driving on country roads at night in cold weather. Cattle and native animals such as kangaroos lie on the bitumen road surface which holds the warmth of the sun. Car lights blind and mesmerise the animals and they may just as easily run into your vehicle as run away from it.
- When traveling on remote outback roads/tracks, always tell someone at the destination of your expected arrival time and number of people in your party. If you fail to arrive within a reasonable time, help procedures can be started. Do NOT leave your vehicle as a missing vehicle is much easier to find that a missing person.
- When traveling on unsurfaced or poor quality roads, always carry out a vehicle check before starting off on the next sector.
- Extra care is needed when sharing the road with road-trains. These are main movers with multiple trailers of cattle attached and are about 50 metres (170 feet) long. Always give them plenty of space as the buffeting from displaced air as you pass in opposite directions can be quite severe. Allow at least 1 kilometre (3000 feet) of clear road before overtaking a road train.
- Do not try to cross flooded rivers and causeways unless you are sure of the water depth and road surface damage. Most flash floods recede within 24 hours.
- Dirt from passing vehicles on outback roads can obscure your vision. Don’t take risks, slow down or stop until it settles.
- Steer clear of flying early morning and late afternoon on the eastern seaboard routes. These flights are usually heavily booked by business people traveling between the capital cities.
- Require extra leg room? Ask to be seated in a row that serves the exit doors as these rows seem to have more room.
- When checking in and getting seat allocation, ask if your seat is in the first row immediately adjacent one of the large central video screens. You may wish to ask for a different spot, especially if on a long international flight.
- A departure tax of A$30 per adult is payable when leaving Australia.
Language and Religion
- There is no official religion in Australia. Churches can be located in most towns for both the Catholic and Church of England faith. Other general religions are Methodist, Presbyterian and Uniting Church. Places of worship for Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist and other religious denominations not frequent to Australia will only be found in the major towns and cities.
- Need an interpreter? The telecommunications provider Telstra offers a 24 hour translation and interpreter service for an extensive range of languages. Dial 13 14 50. The local white pages telephone book will give more information.
Medical and Pharmaecutical
- Australian nationals and New Zealand visitors are covered by Medicare, the national health cover scheme. It does not apply to visitors from any other country.
- Visitors should always get medical cover insurance prior to departure from their home country.
- Visitors will only require specific vaccinations if they have traveled through an area infected with yellow fever. Visitors passing through other countries when entering or leaving Australia should check the vaccination needs of those countries.
- All cities and most towns offer 24 hour medical facilities by way of private practice clinics or government run hospital amenities. They will be listed in the telephone book of the area you are visiting.
- Chemists are located in all towns and cities all over Australia. The Australian chemist does not operate the “soda fountain” type of drug store found in the USA.
Telephone and Communications
- In an emergency dial 000 (not 999). This will connect you to the ambulance, fire and police services.
- Phone cards are a popular way of accessing the public phone system. Cards are obtainable from selected newsagents and stores. Select public phones also accept credit cards. Public phone call assistance is available by dialing 013.
Tips and Gratuities
- Australians working in the tourist, hospitality and transport industries are paid a minimum salary. Tipping is not normal practice but is generally considered a suitable gesture of approval when the level of service has exceeded expectations. A tip of around 10% would be considered appropriate.
Customs, Quarantine and Visas
- To enter Australia you will need an up to date passport valid for the duration of your stay and a valid tourist visa issued in your own country and entered into the passport prior to the travel date. New Zealand visitors are exempt from these requirements and are granted an entry permit on arrival. Visa applications are made to the Australian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission, as applicable, in your home country. Make sure you apply for the correct visa type. For example, if you plan to work, you will need to apply for a work permit which is generally limited to singles under 25 and which only allows for casual work to be performed for up to 3 months. Tourist visas are usually valid for a stay of 3 or 6 months. At the time of making your visa application you will have to sign an undertaking that you have an outward bound ticket and sufficient funds for the period of your stay.
- No duty is payable on personal effects. Adults may carry up to 250 cigarettes and 1 litre of alcoholic liquor in their personal effects provided it is carried with them. Duty and sales tax is applied to dutiable goods exceeding A$400. Strict regulations apply to narcotics and prohibited substances.
- When entering Australia you will have to surrender all fresh food, animal and plant products and any unprocessed foodstuffs. You will be required to sign a statement to this effect. This is a quarantine regulation to prevent the entry of foreign organisms that may have a harmful effect on Australia’s native vegetation, wildlife and farming goods.
- Strict policys apply to the import and export of protected wildlife and items made from protected species. Any such items will be seized by customs officials upon arrival.
Currency, Banks and Shops
- Major shopping centres do not open on Sundays. Tourism oriented outlets do have a 7 day trade as do convenience stores supplying essential needs.
- Banks are only open Mondays through Fridays and usually only between the hours of 9.00 to 4.00. Most towns have automatic teller machines to cater for after-hours transactions.
- Australian currency consists of 5c 10c 20c 50c $1 $2 as coins. Notes are $5 $10 $20 $50 and $100.
- Australian electricity supply is 220-240 volts. Most electronics stores stock adaptors for 110v appliances as well as adaptors for 220-240v appliances with different plug types.