Last Updated on by Rodrigo @ OutofYourComfortZone
Are you planning a trip to Australia but aren’t quite sure what to expect down under?
I visited Australia 3 times before marrying an Australian and eventually moving to Australia in 2020. Our kids are dual citizens and I am a Permanent Resident.
One of my visits occurred before I met my husband, and because of that, I have officially seen more of the country than he has!
We love to travel and in the past few years, we have seen different parts of the country including rural towns, large cities, rainforests, the outback, and beaches.
Australia is a diverse country and hopefully, you are planning a trip that is long enough to enjoy a few different things that the country has to offer.
Though the national language is English and the food is similar to the US, there are still plenty of things to know before visiting Australia.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. You Need a Visa to Enter
- 2 2. Customs Control is Strict
- 3 3. Australia is Big
- 4 4. Cars Drive on the Left
- 5 5. Beware, There are Cameras on the Roads
- 6 6. Try to Avoid Driving at Dawn and Dusk
- 7 7. Wildlife Doesn’t Hang Out in Cities
- 8 8. Sure, the Wildlife can be Deadly, but You Won’t See Them
- 9 9. The Sun is Harsh
- 10 10. Swim Between the Flags
- 11 11. It Gets Cool at Night
- 12 12. Hotels Aren’t Always Where You Sleep
- 13 13. Bakeries aren’t Just for Sweets
- 14 14. Tax is Included
- 15 15. Beware of a Surcharge
- 16 16. Order at the Bar or Through Your Phone
- 17 17. You Do Not Need to Tip
- 18 18. The Smallest Coin is 5 Cents
- 19 19. Wifi Can be Painfully Slow
- 20 20. Learn Some Slang Words
- 21 21. Call 000 in an Emergency
- 22 22. Medical Care is Generally Affordable
- 23 23. Rain Can Close Roads
- 24 Planning your next trip?
1. You Need a Visa to Enter
All non-Australian citizens need a visa or a visa waiver to enter Australia.
While New Zealand citizens can enter Australia and receive a visa on arrival, most nationalities need to apply for a visa before arriving.
US citizens need to apply for an ETA which is an electronic visa that is good for 90 days. An ETA is generally granted within 3 days, but you can pay more for a faster arrival.
If you’re planning to extend your stay in Australia beyond 3 months, exploring various visa options, such as the partner visa, becomes crucial. This particular visa category is designed for individuals seeking to join their Australian partners and stay for an extended duration.
2. Customs Control is Strict
As you are filling out your declaration upon arrival, you will see that there is a long list of items that are not allowed into Australia.
Some of the items on the list can be brought in but must be declared. Be sure to follow the rules and declare any items you may have.
Generally, packaged food is allowed while fresh food is not.
If you aren’t quite sure what to pack, here is a packing guide for your trip to Australia.
3. Australia is Big
Australia is larger than it appears! It is actually the 6th largest country in the world, though it ranks as #55 for the country with the largest population.
Most of the population lives along the coast.
It takes at least almost 48 hours to drive across the country, and the drive is boring. Food stops, petrol stations, and hotels are far apart.
Flying is the most popular way to get around Australia. While you can sometimes get a deal, especially with budget airlines, prices tend to be higher than you may be used to.
Public transportation is available in cities and the areas nearby, but to get around in rural areas, you need a car.
4. Cars Drive on the Left
In Australia, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car and cars drive on the left side of the road.
Keep that in mind when crossing the street. Even if you are not driving, it is important to know which direction to look!
If you do decide to rent a car on your visit to Australia, one thing I always keep in mind is that the driver is in the middle of the road. That helps me stay on the correct side while driving.
5. Beware, There are Cameras on the Roads
You may not see a lot of police cars on the roads, but there are traffic cameras that will take your picture and send you a ticket.
Not only can you receive a ticket at a later time for speeding, but you can also receive a fine for using a cell phone and not wearing a seatbelt correctly.
The driver is always responsible for all of the passengers wearing their seatbelts correctly.
6. Try to Avoid Driving at Dawn and Dusk
Unless you are in a city, try to avoid driving at dawn and dusk.
This is because it is a popular time for wildlife to be out and they tend to go out into traffic. To avoid hitting a kangaroo, stick to daylight hours if possible, but definitely avoid the hours when they are most active.
Unfortunately, if you spend any time on the roads outside of cities, you will most likely be able to spot animals that have been hit by cars.
7. Wildlife Doesn’t Hang Out in Cities
Australian wildlife is one of a kind and if you have the goal of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, make sure that you allow plenty of time outside of the cities.
We lived in Australia for months before our kids ever saw a kangaroo in the wild!
At this point, they have seen plenty of kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and even an echidna in the wild, but there are no guarantees.
Talk to the locals to determine the best time and place to spot wildlife. If you want to guarantee an animal sighting, check out one of the zoos or wildlife sanctuaries.
8. Sure, the Wildlife can be Deadly, but You Won’t See Them
Yes, Australia has some of the most dangerous spiders, snakes, and bugs in the world, but unless you are hanging out in the most remote areas of the country, you are unlikely to encounter them.
Despite the threat being low, it is still important to be careful, especially while hiking and in rural areas.
Never touch wildlife and take precautions.
9. The Sun is Harsh
Though the Australian wildlife is unlikely to harm you, the Australian sun will.
Wear sunscreen and wear a sun-safe hat, especially during the summer months.
Reapply your sunscreen throughout the day. Australia has some of the highest UV rays in the world and you can start to get a sunburn in less than 15 minutes.
Look for shade and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
10. Swim Between the Flags
Patrolled beaches will have red and yellow flags up. It is important to swim between the flags in order to stay safe.
Lifeguards have placed the flags in specific areas and will be watching the water between the flags.
Signs will also be up to show safety levels. Do not swim in an area when it is not recommended.
In some areas, swimming is not recommended due to dangerous marine animals. Read the signs and follow the instructions. Sometimes, nets are set up so that people are able to swim without danger.
Most cities and towns have a free swimming pool. Large lagoon pools are set up so that swimming at the beach is not necessary.
11. It Gets Cool at Night
While the days can be hot, as soon as the sun goes down, it gets noticeably cooler in most parts of Australia.
Check the weather to determine whether or not you need to put on extra layers at night.
12. Hotels Aren’t Always Where You Sleep
Just because a place has hotel in the name, does not mean it is a typical place to sleep. Often in Australia, pubs are called hotels.
Sometimes you can sleep at a pub, but usually they are just a place to eat.
Australia doesn’t have a cuisine that it is known for, but pubs are the most common type of restaurant. In small towns, they will most likely just have a pub.
Pub food generally has large portions and includes items such as:
- chicken parmas
- fish & chips
13. Bakeries aren’t Just for Sweets
Most bakeries do sell pastries, but for Australians, a bakery is where you can get a meat pie or a sausage roll.
Pies, pasties, and rolls can be eaten any time of the day. They can be a snack or a meal.
If you are looking for something sweet and Australian, try a lamington, vanilla slice, or caramel slice.
14. Tax is Included
The number you see is the amount you pay. Tax is included for meals and shopping.
15. Beware of a Surcharge
On holidays and sometimes on the weekends, many restaurants will add a surcharge.
The surcharge is generally 10% but can go up to 15 or 20%.
This means that your meal will cost more than the number on the menu due to the staff being paid more on weekends and holidays.
16. Order at the Bar or Through Your Phone
Usually, when you enter a restaurant, you will be told how to order.
It is not uncommon to see a QR code on the menu. Use your phone to view the menu and order food and drinks. In this case, you will almost always pay through an app on your phone.
If there is no QR code and you are handed a menu, it does not mean that there is table service. Generally, the staff will let you know, but if you are sitting for a while and wondering where your waiter is, head to the bar to order.
The same goes for paying at the end of the meal. Often, even when you order at the table, payment is taken either at the bar or at the host stand at the end of the meal. Just let them know what table you were sitting at.
17. You Do Not Need to Tip
Tipping is not necessary in Australia.
Recently, especially in larger cities, restaurants that use a tablet to check out have a button for tipping. Know that Australia does not have a tipping culture and it is not out of the norm to decline a tip.
You do not need to tip your driver. You do not need to tip at a restaurant. You do not need to tip for salon services.
18. The Smallest Coin is 5 Cents
Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere in Australia so it may not even be necessary to use cash, but if you do want to use cash, here are a few things to know.
Australia’s lowest bill denomination is $5. While they do have $1 and $2, they are both coins.
If you go somewhere that asks for a gold coin donation, they are asking for a $1 or $2 coin.
Australian coins also include .50, .20, .10, and .05. There are no 1-cent coins. If you buy something that requires change below .05 cents, they will round up so that you are not getting your exact change.
19. Wifi Can be Painfully Slow
Depending on where you are, and the weather, wifi can be slow.
It is not always noticeable, but keep it in mind if you need to work while you are in Australia. The wifi may be slower in more remote areas. Even in the cities, it can be affected by rain.
20. Learn Some Slang Words
Yes, the country’s language is English, but I swear, many of the words and phrases are different! One of the most fun things about visiting Australia is learning the vocabulary.
Maybe you already know about brekkie (instead of breakfast) or that thongs mean flip flops. You may even know that bathers mean swimsuit, but do you know that tongs also mean swimsuit?
Here are a few words and phrases you may hear while you are in Australia.
- arvo = afternoon
- sweet as (cheap as, cold as, hot as, etc.) will never have an ending. That is a complete sentence.
- ta = thank you
- bottle o = liquor store
- serve o = gas station
- chook = chicken
- bin chicken = ibis
- defo = definitely
- devo = devastated
- esky = cooler
- sanga = sandwich
- yous = the plural version of you, similar to “you guys”
- mozzies = mosquitos
21. Call 000 in an Emergency
Need help? Call 000.
There are local non-emergency lines that you can call if something is not urgent, but in an emergency, dial 000.
22. Medical Care is Generally Affordable
Travel insurance is always worth getting, but if you find yourself in Australia and in need of medical attention, do not stress about the payment.
Most injuries and illnesses can be treated with a minimal cost, even if you do not have Australian health insurance.
23. Rain Can Close Roads
If you are traveling during the rainy season, beware that sometimes roads leading in and out of various towns will close.
That means you are stuck in the town, or you will not be traveling into the town.
While this is not common and does not happen each year, it does happen. If there is somewhere that you definitely want to see, make sure that you have a few extra days built into your schedule in case of weather delays.
Lanie started the blog Make More Adventures when her family moved from the US to Australia in 2020. An avid traveler, Lanie met her Australian husband while traveling through Europe. Together, they traveled through 4 continents before getting married and having 2 kids.
Though they settled down for a bit after the kids were born, Lanie and her family are once again exploring the world, though they now live in a different part of it.
Lanie enjoys sharing her family’s travels and helping other travelers plan their holidays.
Planning your next trip?
Already reserved your hotel or hostel? If not, we recommend Booking.com. They have a huge selection of hotels and hostels all over the world. Plus, in most cases, you can cancel your reservation without any costs up to a few days before the check-in date!
Still haven’t booked your plane ticket and want to save big? Take a look at Momondo. It’s a flight aggregator that combines several other ticket search websites to make it easier for you to compare prices and make sure you are getting the best deal.
And finally, will you need to rent a car during your trip? Then check out Rentalcar.com to search and compare car rental companies from all over the world in a single website. Then, you can find the cheapest price for the best car!
Planning your next trip?