Australia offers many Internet access options for travellers. Be aware that many internet companies cap usage, finding an unlocked Wi-Fi connection is uncommon.
Internet speeds generally range from ADSL speeds to Cable 30Mbps. Some cities have access to the new fibre optic network which means speeds of up to 100Mbps can be attained. Telstra is developing the world's largest WiFi network which means travellers will be able to connect to WiFi on public transport and in public areas around the nation.
Internet cafés abound in most centres of population that normally cost $4-$5 per hour. Many internet cafés have 12-20 computers sharing a single broadband connection, sometimes making the internet painfully slow. If possible ask if you can check the speed of a café's connection before forking out $4-$5 for an hour.
Public libraries usually offer some for of Internet access to travellers, either free or for a small fee. Some restrict access to email, promoting research use of their facilities. Others offer Wi-Fi as well as terminals, with Wi-Fi usually being free of restrictions.
Major hotels offer Internet access, usually for a fee. It is still unusual to find in-room Internet access in smaller hotels and in motels. Most youth hostels and backpacker accommodation have at least an Internet terminal at reception.
McDonalds has free Wi-Fi in just about all their stores.
Internode (https://hotspot.internode...) has free Wi-Fi hotspots, including much of Adelaide city centre.
Brisbane offers free uncapped public Wi-Fi in the Queen St Mall, South Bank Parklands and a free capped amount on a handful of Wi-Fi enabled trains
Perth's inner city center provides free Wi-FI to the public.
Some accommodation providers offer Wi-Fi to their guests, almost always with a charge.
GPRS and 3G wireless Internet connections are available through all cellular phone networks. Australia has cellular networks operated by Telstra (http://www.telstra.com.au), Optus (http://www.optus.com.au) and Vodafone (http://www.vodafone.com.au), and each of the networks have several resellers with different price plans. OpenSignal provide independent cellular coverage maps of Australia.
If you have a 3G/UMTS-enabled phone, make sure it supports the appropriate frequencies: 850/2100 MHz for Telstra, and 900/2100 MHz for Optus and Vodafone. Also check with your home carrier for data roaming fees likely quite expensive.
4G LTE Networks have been rolled out via Telstra and Optus in major cities on the 1800mhz frequency band.
Several carriers offer prepaid 3G access with no contract from around $25 per month with various bundles and inclusions, which can be found in shopping centres and supermarkets. For around $40 you can get a USB modem or WiFi dongle. If you plan to stay for more than a month, LiveConnected (http://www.liveconnected....) which runs on the Optus network offer the best value mobile plans with no contracts, starting at $8 per month, however the service must be ordered online. TPG also runs on Optus network is another company which offers mobile and broadband services, and offers the most affordable mobile and ADSL broadband. (http://www.tpg.com.au/mob...)
It should be noted that while most phone providers will give good coverage in metropolitan and most regional areas, Telstra's mobile network is generally regarded as to having superior coverage, particularly in less built up areas. However, their rates are often significantly higher. See coverage maps for Vodaphone (http://www.vodafone.com.a...), Optus (http://www.optus.com.au/a...) and Telstra (http://www.telstra.com.au...).
There are no restrictions on overseas residents getting an Australian prepaid SIM card. In fact, it is extremely easy to go into Woolworths/Safeway Australia's largest grocery chain and buy a SIM card over the counter, either for $2 with no pre-loaded value or $30 with $30 pre-loaded.. Take your passport for identification in case it is required.
There are many small but reliable ISPs offering dialup Internet the $12–$15 per month flat rate range.
There are also several ISPs who have a pre-paid arrangement at about $1 per hour of use. It can be surprisingly difficult to find Australian dialup ISPs with instant online signup, but they do exist Beagle (http://www.beagle.com.au/ is one).
You can buy prepaid dialup cards for several ISP's from Dick Smith stores, for around $20 per month unlimited. In the cities, many small business mobile phone shops sell a large range of prepaid phone cards, including prepaid dial-up cards. The ISPs Dodo (http://www.dodo.com.au/di...) and Planet for example have prepaid internet cards available for around $10 a month from a variety of retail outlets.
If moving around, check that your ISP has an access number that can be reached via a local call from landlines nationwide the access number starts with 019 or 13, rather than just in the ISP home city. All prepaid cards that can be purchased from Dick Smith have access from anywhere in Australia for a local call fee.
The country code for international calls to Australia is 61. When dialling from overseas, omit any leading '0' in the area code.
For example, the local number for the Broken Hill tourist information is 8080-3300. The area code is 08 as Broken Hill is in the Central & West area code region. To dial the number from Adelaide or anywhere else inside the same area code region you can optionally omit the area code, and just dial 8080-3300. To dial the number from Sydney or anywhere in Australia outside the area code region, you will need to dial 08 8080-3300. If you don't know your area code region, you can still dial the area code, and it will still work. To dial the number from overseas you will need to dial your local international access code 00 for most of Europe or 011 in the USA and Canada and then dial 61 8 8080-3300, that is drop the leading '0' from the area code.
There can be many ways of writing the same number, as people try to present the number from the caller's perspective.
+61 8 8080-3300
+61 08 8080-3300,
61 8 8080-3300,
08 8080 3300,
61 8 8080 3300
are all the same number, and the same rules apply. If you are dialling within Australia the area code must begin with a '0'. If you are dialling internationally, there is no leading '0'.
Note that numbers are sometimes written as just the last six or seven digits e.g. 311 202 is used on road signage as opposed to the full number 08 90311202 for the Laverton Shire Council in Western Australia. This occurs due to the change in the Australian numbering plan in the 1990s, where all numbers were changed and made a uniform length. In this change, the old area code was incorporated in to the start of the new, 8 digit number, and thus locals often still regard this as the 'area code' sometimes omitting it when written. These numbers are not to be confused with 13 numbers see Special Numbers.
Australian Area Code List:
01 = Special numbers satellite phones, dial-up Internet
02 = Central East New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and north-eastern fringe of Victoria
03 = South East Southern NSW, Victoria and Tasmania
04 = Mobile phones Australia-wide higher call charges apply.
07 = North East Queensland
08 = Central & West Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and far Western New South Wales
The outgoing international dialling access code + from within Australia, is 0011 note that 00 and similar codes common elsewhere in the world, will not work in Australia.
Local calls are about $0.20 on most fixed lines and $0.50 per minute on all Telstra public phones. SMS from Telstra public phones costs $0.20.
If calling an Australian number from a mobile phone outside Australia it is best to use the format +61880803300 with no spaces and no 0 prefixes included.
If making an international call from your mobile phone from within Australia use the '+' followed by the country code, followed by destination area code, followed by the local number at the destination. Omit all leading '0' prefixes and do not include any spaces.
If dialling from a mobile telephone in Australia it is not necesssary to use an international dialling prefix such as 0011. The '+' symbol followed by the destination country code is all that is needed to access the international telephone system from your handset.
Numbers commencing with 13 are charged at a local call rate, and what they connect you to can vary according to your location. They can be 10 or 6 digit numbers. For example 1300 796 222, will connect you with the Albury tourist information, no matter where you are in Australia. However, 131 008 will connect you with a different local taxi service depending on where you are. 13 22 32 will connect you to New South Wales Railways in Sydney or Victorian Railways in Melbourne.
Reverse charge collect calls may be made by using the 12550 service, or third-parties such as 1800 Reverse 1800 738377. Note that these services may charge very high rates and should be used sparingly - it costs upward of $20 to accept a 1800 Reverse mobile call.
Directory assistance is available on 1223 and international directory assistance is available on 1225. From fixed lines, 1223 is free of charge, 1225 is upwards of $1.20.
Australia has three nationwide cellular mobile phone networks based on the GSM standard 900 and 1800mhz operated by Telstra, Optus (http://www.optus.com.au) and Vodafone (http://www.vodafone.com.au). There are also four UMTS networks, two of which are nationwide. One is operated by Telstra UMTS 850mhz, also marketed by Telstra as Next G and the other by Optus a combination of UMTS 2100mhz and 900mhz. The other two networks are limited to capital cities, are on the 2100mhz band and are operated by Vodafone and Three. Vodafone have announced a nationwide 3G UMTS rollout on the 900mhz band.
For those holding foreign SIM cards, international roaming is generally seamless onto Australia's GSM 900/1800 and 3G UMTS/W-CDMA networks, subject to agreements between operators. Check with your home operator before you leave to be sure.
All carriers offer service in major cities, large towns, and major highways on the East Coast. No carriers offer service in unpopulated areas away from major roads. Telstra's 850mhz 3G network provides wider coverage in smaller towns and lightly populated areas.
Web address for coverage maps are linked below:
You can buy a cheap prepaid mobile phone in Australia with a SIM for around $40 in most retail outlets, supermarkets, and post offices, or a SIM for your existing phone at around $2-$3. You can then top it up with credit using recharge cards you can purchase at all supermarkets, newsagents, some ATMs, and other outlets.
Prepaid calls cost roughly 60c per minute plus 30c flagfall, again depending on the network. SMS is generally 25c. You can buy a seemly infinite variety or packages, caps and bundles, with combinations of data, sms, call time, and SIM cards. Read the fine print, and as a rule, the more "value" that is included in your "package" or "cap", the more expensive the elements of the package are. For example call charges can rise from 60c to $1.20 per minute on a $29 cap that includes $150 value. All is fine if you stay within the minutes allowed for the cap you choose, but it can cost a fortune very quickly if you exceed what you thought you would use.
There are no restrictions on overseas residents getting a Australian prepaid SIM card. Take your passport for identification in case it is required.
If you need comprehensive coverage in rural and remote areas, you can use a satellite phone. Iridium, Globalstar and Thuraya satellite services are available in Australia. Expect to pay around $120 per week to hire a satellite phone, plus call costs. Satellite messaging units, which send your location and a help SMS or email, that can be hired for around $80 per week.
These units are only available from specialist dealers, often only in major cities away from the remote areas you may be visiting. You should be able to acquire or hire these units in your home country before departure if you wish.
Crime rates in Australia are roughly comparable with other first world countries: few travellers will be victims of crime. You should take normal precautions against bag snatching, pick pocketing and the like. There are some areas of the large cities that are more dangerous after dark, but there generally are no areas that the police refuse to patrol or that are dangerous to enter if you aren't a local.
Australian police are approachable and trustworthy, and you should report assaults, theft or other crime to the police as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should you offer an Australian police officer or for that matter, any other government official such as a customs officer a bribe or gratuity, as this is a crime and they will enforce the laws against it.
When leaving your car alone, make sure it is locked, that the windows are rolled up, and that there are no obvious targets for theft in the vehicle, as thieves will often smash windows to get at a phone, GPS or bag that is visible in the car.
Racism is a sensitive subject in Australia. There are laws against any form of racial vilification or discrimination with jail terms possible for breaches of some states racial vilification laws. It is rare to find someone who will openly express aggression towards any racial group. Australia is outwardly a multicultural and racially tolerant society. However, a very strong sense of nationalism runs high in Australia, especially in more rural communities, and this can incite racist sentiments towards foreigners.
Some language used for ethnic groups that you may find offensive may not be considered offensive by the standards of some Australians. Terms such as Yank, Pom, Paki and to a lesser extent Wog are used in casual conversation in the presence of those respective nationalities, often between friends, and as such are not seen as offensive. However, tread carefully before using slang racial descriptors yourself, to avoid the possibility of offence.
The indigenous population of Australia are sometimes called "Abos". This is considered a racist term.
It is not offensive to use Aussie Ozzie to describe Australian people, in fact many Australian's use it to identify themselves, though some see it as low-brow. They are likely to apply it to things Aussie Rules, etc. as well as to themselves. When the chant of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie - Oi Oi Oi goes up at an international sporting event, some Australians will cringe, and others will join in. Often this depends on their own perceived social standing, or their state of inebriation, or both.
Homosexuality is generally accepted in most areas of Australia with exception to the Northern Territory and Queensland but it is worth noting that because of religious beliefs varying from very strict to loose this can vary even in big cities so be careful and if you don't see others showing public affection you should avoid it too. Also note that the state of Queensland has a potentially dangerous law that LGBT travelers should be aware of. The so called "gay panic" defense allows that if a heterosexual person murders a homosexual person because they felt "threatened", the charge can be reduced from murder to manslaughter. This isn't an obscure defense clause, it has been used as recently as 2009. Also tolerance is varied depending on the location. Sydney will be much more welcoming than say Brisbane so tread lightly. Also Queensland's non-discrimination laws are in law but aren't well enforced. Expect that you might get turned away from businesses there and expect that your complaints will be ignored.
Poisonous and dangerous creatures
Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of insects, reptiles and marine life on the planet. However the average tourist is unlikely to encounter any of these in an urban environment. The vast majority of deaths from bites and stings in Australia are due to allergic reactions to bees and wasps.
Some of the information spread about Australia's dangerous wildlife is blown out of proportion. However, you should take warnings about jellyfish and crocodiles seriously in the tropics, and keep your distance from snakes in the national parks and bushland.
If travelling in rural areas it would be a good idea to carry basic first aid equipment including compression bandages and to learn what to do after a snake or spider bite.
The cane toad that has been rampaging in its millions across northern Australia is in fact poisonous when consumed. This poses little danger to humans as long as you don't eat one, but if a cane toad is consumed by a pet or even another wild animal will almost surely lead to death. Australian Parks service has a program in the north to train indigenous wild animals not to eat cane toads, with growing success.
Australia is home to six of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Never try to pick up any snake, even if you believe it to be a non-venomous species. Most people bitten by snakes were trying to pick up the snake, kill the creature, or inadvertently step on one whilst out walking. Snakes will generally try to put as much distance between themselves and you as possible, so if you see a snake while out walking, simply go around it or walk the other way. Walking blindly into dense bush and grassy areas is not advisable, as they are places where snakes may hide. For the most part, snakes fear humans and will be long gone before you ever get the chance to see them.
It is common to see spiders in Australia, and most will do you no harm. Wear gloves while gardening or handling leaf litter. Check or shake out clothing, shoes, etc that have been left outside before putting them on. Don't put your fingers under rocks, into tree holes, where spiders might be.
The world's deadliest spider is the Sydney Funnel Web spider, found in and around Sydney and eastern New South Wales. Until the late 1970s a bite from this spider could result in death, but anti-venom is now available. The spider is anywhere up to 5 cm large, and is usually black. If you are in an area that is known for having Funnel Web spiders and you are bitten by a spider that you believe could be a Funnel Web it is important you get to hospital as quickly as possible. Funnel Webs can seek shelter indoors when there is a lot of rain, however they are usually found under rocks, especially if recent gardening has taken place.
The Red Back spider usually easily identified by a red mark on its abdomen, is common and after a bite it is important to seek medical attention, however it is not as urgent as with a Funnel Web. Red Backs typically hide in dark places and corners. It is highly unusual to see them indoors, however they can hide in sheds, around outdoor tables and chairs and under rocks or other objects sitting on the ground.
Anti-venom is available for most spider and snake bites. If bitten you should immobilise the wound by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages and seek immediate medical help. Do not clean the wound as hospitals can test venom residues to determine what species anti-venom should be used. If you are in an isolated area send someone else for help. The venom of some snakes the taipan in particular can take effect within fifteen minutes, but if the wound is immediately immobilised and you rest it is possible to delay the onset of poisoning by one to a few hours, depending on the creature. If possible, you should attempt to identify the creature that bit you in the case of spiders it might be possible to trap it in a jar and take it to the hospital so that the appropriate anti-venom can be administered swiftly.
Unlike snakes in other parts of the world, Australian snakes have short fangs. Getting bitten means the venom will enter your lymphatic system, rather than the circulatory system, so there is no need to cut off blood flow, but the wound should be immobilised using tight bandages. You should avoid moving, as this will cause the venom to move more quickly through your body. A traditional Aboriginal method of dealing with snake bites was for the person to rest for a few days until the venom left their system and they had recovered. However, you should send for help and seek medical attention if bitten.
First aid treatment for spider bites may vary in Australia compared to other areas of the world. Always seek medical advice after a bite has occurred.
Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, or northern Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal stings from the Box Jellyfish if swimming in the ocean between October and May. They are very hard to detect and can be found in very shallow water. Stings from these jellyfish are 'excruciating' and often fatal. Vinegar applied immediately to adhering tentacles will lessen the amount of venom injected, but immediate medical assistance will be required. The danger season varies by location. In general the jellyfish are found close to shore, as they breed in the estuaries. They are not generally found out on the Great Barrier Reef, and many people swim on the reef without taking any precautions. Seek out reliable local information. Some locals at the beach can be cavalier to the risks.
Irukandji are another species of tiny fingernail sized jellyfish that inhabit the waters off Northern Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific islands. They are also very hard to see, and can be dangerous, although stings are rare. Unlike the box jellyfish they are found out on the reef. The initial bite can go unnoticed. There is debate as to whether they can be fatal, but they certainly can place a victim in hospital, and cause extreme pain lasting days. If you have nausea or shooting pains not long after emerging from the water seek medical treatment.
A "stinger-suit" that is resistant to jellyfish stings costs around $100 or can be hired for around $20 a week.
Found in rock pools around the coasts of Australia is the tiny Blue Ring Octopus. Usually a dull sandy-beige colour, the creature has bright blue circles on its skin if threatened. The Blue Ring Octopus is rare and shy. Avoid placing your hand under rocks or in crevaces in rock pools or near the shore as this is where they tend to hide. Most locals do the same. It has a powerful paralysing toxin which can result in death unless artificial respiration is provided. In the history of Australia there are only two confirmed deaths by Blue Ring Octopus.
Travellers in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory or north Western Australia should be aware of the risk of fatal attacks by saltwater crocodiles in and adjacent to northern waters ocean, estuarine and fresh water locations between King Sound, Western Australia, and Rockhampton, Queensland. Saltwater crocodiles in these areas can reach 25 feet in length and can attack in water without warning. Despite what their name implies, they can be found in both salt and fresh water. On land, crocodiles usually lie motionless, but they have the ability to move with extraordinary speed in short bursts. There are relatively few attacks resulting in injury — most attacks are fatal. Dangerous swimming areas will usually have prominent warning signs. In these regions only swim in inland waters if you are specifically advised that they are safe. Since 1970 there has been about one crocodile attack on a human each year.
The smaller freshwater crocodile is, unlike the saltwater, timid and will avoid humans if possible. The freshwater may attack to defend itself or its eggs or if startled. They can inflict a nasty bite but due to their small jaws and teeth this will rarely cause death in humans. Make sure to check warning signs around freshwater lakes and pools.
The Gympie bush Dendrocnide moroides, also known as the stinging tree, is a stinging plant, whose microscopic stinging hairs on leaves and branches can cause severe pain for up to several weeks. They are mostly found in North-east Queensland, especially in rain forest clearings. However, the Gympie bush and other closely related species there are about five of stinging tree can be found in south-east Queensland, and further south in eastern Australia. People bushwalking in such areas are advised not to touch the plant for any reason.
Tropical cyclones hurricanes occur in the tropics during summer. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather is available from the Bureau of Meteorology’s warning page (http://www.bom.gov.au/wea...) or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on 1900 926 113 beware, premium rates apply.
In the tropical north the Wet Season occurs over the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods to those regions. It is not unusual for some coastal areas to be cut off for a day or two while the water recedes. It can still be a good time to visit some of the well populated, tourist-oriented areas, and, except in unusually heavy flooding, you can still get to see the pounding waterfalls and other attractions that can make this an interesting time to visit.
Floods in outback and inland Australia are rare, occurring decades apart, so you would be unlucky to encounter them. However, if you are planning to visit the inland or the outback and the area is flooded, then you should reconsider. The land is flat, so the water can take weeks to move on, leaving the land boggy. Insects and mosquitoes go crazy with all the fresh water pooling around, and these things eat insect repellent for breakfast and are still hungry. Roads close, often adding many hours to driving times. Many attractions often lie on a short stretch of dirt road off the main highways, and these sections become impassable, even if the main road remains open. Plan to return in a few weeks, and the land will still be green, the lakes and rivers will still be flowing, and the bird life will still be around.
The wettest period for the south of the country is usually around the winter months of June, July, and August. There is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding. The capital cities are rarely affected by floods, however, in recent years 2010-11 and 2013 Brisbane has been victim to devastating floods, cutting off suburban roads, damaging infrastructure and halting public transport. Additionally, after long dry periods, sudden storms can cause flooding due to hardened ground, poor infrastructure and blocked drains.
National parks and forested areas of southern Australia, including some parts of major cities next to national parks and forests, can be threatened by bushfires wildfires in summer.
If the fire risk is extreme, parks may be closed, especially the backcountry areas, so you will need to have an alternative plan if you intend to camp or hike in parks during summer. If there is a fire in a park, it will usually be closed entirely.
Entire country towns can sometimes be evacuated when there is a bushfire threatening them. Often there can be no signs of the fire at evacuation time, but you should leave early, as evacuating through a fire front is dangerous. The best advice is just to move on, and not stay around to watch.
Make sure any fires you light are legal and kept under control. The fire service operates a fire ban system during periods of extreme fire danger. When a fire ban is in place all outdoor fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, and it is your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Fines or even jail terms apply for lighting fires that get out of control, not to mention the feeling you may get for being responsible for the property, wildlife, and personal damage that you may cause.
If you are caught in a bushfire, most fires will pass over quickly. You need to find shelter that will protect you from the smoke and radiant heat. A house is best, then a car, then a clearing, a cave, or on the beach is the best location. Wet everything what you can. Stay low and cover your mouth. Cover yourself with non-flammable woolen clothing or blankets, and reduce the skin directly exposed to the heat. If you have access to a tap gather water early, don't rely on water pressure as the fire front approaches. If your holiday goes no further than cities, major towns, and beaches, this won't really concern you.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert. It can also get hot. Some parts of the country are always in drought.
When travelling in remote areas, away from sealed roads, where the potential to become stranded for up to a week without seeing another vehicle is very real, it is vital that you carry your own water supply 4 gal or 7 L per person per day. Do not be misled by entries on maps such as 'well' or 'spring' or 'tank' or any entry suggesting that there is a body of water. Nearly all are dry, and most inland lakes are dry salt pans.
Many cities and towns have water restrictions, limiting use of water in activities like washing cars, watering gardens, or public showers. It is common to see signs in accommodation asking visitors to limit the length of their showers.
Keep a sense of perspective. Tourists are far more likely to be killed or injured as pedestrians, drivers or passengers on Australian roads than all the other causes of death and injury combined.
Driving between cities and towns can take longer than you think, especially if you are used to freeway or motorway driving in Europe or North America. Speed limits vary by location, road and by state. Avoid the stresses of fatigue by not planning to drive too far in a day. It's also worth noting that speed limits are strictly enforced in Australia and going more than 2 kilometres over the speed limit can result in a large fine. Note also that in many places the speed limit cannot in practice be safely reached. Speed limits are indeed limits and a certain amount of credit is being given to the driver to adjust their driving habits to the conditions. Even if weather is not a factor, driving for example in Tasmania is just not possible at the posted speed limit continuously. To attempt to do so will put yourself and others in danger. A danger which magnifies at night with the immense wildlife population, and when weather is inclement. The wise motorist will observe how fast other drivers are travelling and also start out travel on unfamiliar roads well below the posted limit, and work up to a comfortable speed once the road has been evaluated as to its safety at various speeds. In practice, top limits are generally only possible in a sustained fashion on double lane freeways.
Driving between towns and cities comes with a risk of hitting or crashing due to swerving to avoid wildlife. Kangaroos have a habit of being spooked by cars and then, bewilderingly, jumping in front of them. Take extra care when driving through areas with vegetation close to the road and during dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active. Wildlife is not usually an issue in major urban areas with the exception of Canberra where a series of parks provides ample habitat for kangaroos, which often cross major roads.
Urban Australians jaywalk, dodge cars, and anticipate the sequence of lights. Although most drivers will stop for a red light, running the amber light is common, so ensuring the traffic has stopped before stepping from the curb is always a good idea. People from countries who drive on the right will take a while to get used to looking the correct way when crossing.
Roundabouts are common, always give way to traffic already in the circle.
Complete novices to right hand drive cars and left lane traffic flow will find value in visiting the local police station and picking up a free copy of the booklet used by young people who are trying to get a driving license. It will describe many Australian situations you may not be aware of, and its good as a refresher in any case. For example, it is not legal to turn left on red or right as the case may be, which is a permitted action in many other major countries.
Expect almost everyone to speak English. Generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults.
There is no single commonly used second language. It is fairly rare to find signs in a second language, except in urban areas with a high population of Asian immigrants and students, where signs and restaurant menus in Vietnamese and Chinese are a common sight; and also around Cairns in tropical Queensland where some signs but not road signs are written in Japanese, due to the large number of Japanese tourists. Some warning signs at beaches are written in several foreign languages.
Australians usually do not speak a second language fluently unless they are part of a family who immigrated recently. As Australia has a large number of immigrants, there are a number of minority languages spoken by a sizable number of Australians including but not limited to Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, German, Italian, Polish and Greek. In Australia's Chinatowns in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, Cantonese is the dominant language.
Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. A few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive elsewhere are common vernacular in Australian speech. Fanny, as in the UK, means vagina and is not used widely. The word "thong" generally refers to flip-flops in Australia, and not necessarily a G-string as it does in most other places. Still, Australians are familiar enough with the differences to know what you mean, but they may still have a laugh at your expense.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find communicating with Australians difficult, and should do some advance planning. There are some tour companies who specialise in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages.
There are over a hundred Aboriginal languages still known and spoken by Aboriginal people. These languages are all different, and you won't see an Aboriginal phrasebook in the travel bookshops. Many Aboriginal place names derive from Aboriginal languages that have been lost, and their meanings remain uncertain. Aboriginal people living in rural Aboriginal communities continue to speak their respective languages. The Torres Strait Islander people, who originate from a group of islands in northern Queensland near Papua New Guinea also continue to speak their own languages. Almost all Aboriginal people speak English as well, although some elders may not be fluent.
The standard sign language in Australia is Auslan a contraction of "Australian Sign Language", a member of the British Sign Language BSL family. Another closely related language is New Zealand Sign Language NZSL. When interpreters are present for public events, they will use Auslan. Users of BSL or NZSL may be able to understand Auslan; the languages share a significant amount of vocabulary and syntax, plus the same two-handed manual alphabet. By contrast, users of languages in the French Sign Language family, which includes American Sign Language and Irish Sign Language, will not be able to understand Auslan. Much of the vocabulary and syntax are different, and those languages use a one-handed manual alphabet.
Australia Post runs Australia's postal service. Letters can be posted in any red Australia Post posting box, which are found at all post offices and many other locations, often on roadsides in residential areas or town centres. All stamps can be purchased from post offices, and some stamps can be purchased from newsagents and hotels. Posting a standard letter costs $0.70 anywhere in Australia up to 250g, with rates varying for elsewhere, generally upwards of $1.75 Canada, UK, US & RoI costs $2.60 for under 50g. Parcels, express post and other services are also available, for rates usually upwards of $20.
When purchasing stamps, make sure you specify either 'international' or 'domestic,' as the two are separate. This is due to the difference in tax between international and domestic articles. It is possible to use domestic stamps on international articles, however; this will be more expensive and sometimes impractical due to the amount of stamps required. You cannot use international stamps on domestic services.
You can receive mail via Poste Restante in any city or town. To receive mail addressed to you via the Poste Restante service, you may visit a post office and present your passport. Having mail addressed to you should stick to this format:
Full name c/- Poste Restante town POST OFFICE state postcode AUSTRALIA
For example, for Poste Restante addressed to John Smith visiting Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, one would write:
John Smith c/- Poste RestanteKALGOORLIE POST OFFICE W.A. 6430AUSTRALIA
It is best not to mention the name of a deceased person to an indigenous Australian. Though Aboriginal custom varies, it is best to avoid the possibility of offence.
Permission to photograph an Aboriginal person should always be asked, but in particular in the more remote areas such as Arnhem Land. There is an old belief among them that having their photograph taken will steal their soul.
Some areas of land are sacred to Aboriginal people, and require additional respect.
Many areas of Aboriginal land are free to enter. Some areas carry a request from the Aboriginal people not to enter, and you may choose yourself whether or not to honour or respect that request. An example of an Aboriginal request is climbing Uluru Ayers Rock. No law prohibits people from climbing the rock except in heat, rain or strong winds, however, local indigenous communities The Anangu request that you do not climb. Uluru holds great spiritual significance to the Anangu. The Anangu feel themselves responsible if someone is killed or injured on their land as has happened many times during the climb and request tourists not to place themselves in harm through climbing. Many people who travel to Uluru do climb, however, so you certainly won't be on your own if you choose to do this.
Some Aboriginal land requires permission or a permit, and some areas are protected and illegal to enter. You should check before making plans to travel off the beaten track. Permits are usually just a formality for areas which regularly see visitors, or if you have some other business in the area you are travelling through. Often they are just an agreement to respect to the land you are travelling on as Aboriginal land. Some Aboriginal Land Councils make them available online.
If you need to refer to race, the politically correct term is Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal people is usually okay and referring to sacred sites and land as Aboriginal sites, or Aboriginal land is okay too. Avoid using Aborigine or Aboriginal as a noun to describe a person, as some people see negative connotations in these words. The contraction "Abo" is deeply offensive and should never be used. The word Native should also be avoided when referring to a person, as should colour-based terminology such as Black or White the polite term for Australians of British or Irish descent is Anglo-Celtic.
Unless you are actively trying to insult someone, a traveller is unlikely to insult or cause offence to an Australian through any kind of cultural ignorance.
Australian modes of address tend towards the familiar. It is acceptable and normal to use first names in all situations, even to authority figures or people many years your senior. Australia is a nation that prides itself on witty and imaginative nicknames and thus fond of using and giving nicknames - even to recent acquaintances. It is likely being called such a name is an indication that you are considered a friend and is it would be rare they are being condescending.
While attitudes towards alcohol in Australia have moderated in recent years, there is still much goodwill in venturing and accepting the sharing of a drink mainly beer amongst newly made acquaintances. In rural locations especially, refusing the offer of a quiet drink is still something that is capable of causing offence. Within the bounds of health, safety and culture, one should try and accommodate this custom, even if you only partake of a glass of lemonade.
It is generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing in Australia. Bikinis and swimming attire is okay on the beach, and usually at the kiosk across the road from the beach. It is normal to wear at least a shirt and footwear before venturing any further. Most beaches are effectively top optional topless while sunbathing. Just about all women wear a top while walking around or in the water. There are some clothing optional nude beaches, usually a little further removed from residential areas. Thong bikinis more commonly called g-string bikinis in Australia as thongs refer to flip-flop footwear are fine on all beaches and some outdoor pools for both women and men although they are not as common as conventional beachwear. Some outdoor pools have a "top required" policy for women.
Cover up a little more when visiting places of worship such as churches or mosques. In warm conditions casual "t-shirt and shorts" style clothing predominates except in formal situations. Business attire, however, is considered to be long sleeved shirt, tie, and long trousers for men, even in the hottest weather. In the northern part of the country, a short sleeved, open neck shirt with slacks, known as 'Darwin Rig', is acceptable.
Using Australian stereotypical expressions may be viewed as an attempt to mock, rather than to communicate. If you pull it off well, you might raise a smile.
Australians are often self-deprecating, and are rarely arrogant. However, it is rude to ever agree with a self-deprecating remark. Boasting about achievements is rarely received well.
Most Australians are happy to help out a lost traveller with directions, however many urban dwellers will assume that someone asking "Excuse me", is going to be asking for money, and may brush past. Looking lost, holding a map, looking like a backpacker or getting to the point quickly will probably help.
It is common in Australia to call random strangers 'Mate'.
Profanities may not hold the same offensive value as they do in other English-speaking countries.
The number 000 called 'triple zero' or 'triple oh' can be dialled from any telephone in Australia free of charge. This number will connect you with emergency operators for the police, fire brigade, and ambulance service. The first question that the operator will ask is which service you need.
If you require assistance during a flood, storm, cyclone, tsunami, earthquake or other natural disaster you can contact the State Emergency Service in each state except for Northern Territory on 132 500. You will be connected with your local unit and help can be organised from there. Note that if the emergency is life-threatening, call triple zero.
If you want to contact these services but the situation is not an emergency, don't call 000: you can call the police assistance line on 131 444. Poisons information advice, which can also advise on snake, spider and insect bites, is available on 131 126. Information on locating the nearest medical services can be obtained by calling 1800 022 222 except for Tasmania.
You can dial 000 from all mobile phones. Mobile phones sold in Australia recognise it as the emergency number and will use any available network to place the call. However, if you have a phone obtained outside Australia, using the universal emergency number 112 is a better idea. Using 112 will use any available network, will work even if your phone is not roaming, and will work even if the phone does not have a SIM. 112 works from Australian purchased phones too.
Hearing or speech impaired people with TTY equipment can dial 106. Those with Internet connectivity can use the Internet Relay Service, via the website.
Calls from fixed line landline phones may be traced to assist the emergency services to reach you. The emergency services have limited ability to trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, especially outside of urban areas, so be sure to calmly and clearly provide details of your location. Because of the number sequence for emergency calls, around 60% of calls to the emergency numbers are made in error.
Nobody will likely respond to your call unless you can effectively communicate to the operator that you need assistance. If you are in need of assistance, but cannot speak, you will be diverted to an IVR and asked to press 55 to confirm that you are in need of assistance and have not called by accident. Your call will then be connected to the police.
Emergency numbers from other countries for example, '911' in the USA do not work in Australia. '112' will not work from a landline phone.
Australia's cleanliness standards are high. Restaurants are required to observe strict food preparation standards and food poisoning is no more common than it is in other first world nations. Visitors might observe Australian food preparation and vendingstandards far exceed their own. All food in self serve restaurants, for example, must be taken on to a plate... no food is allowed onthe countertops, even a muffin in a paper wrapper.
Exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes frequently results in sunburn. Getting sunburnt can make you feel feverish and unwell and may take a few days or weeks to heal depending on the severity. It means you can't go back out into the sun until the sunburn fades, so getting sunburnt on the first day of your beach holiday can seriously reduce the fun of your trip. It can take as little as 15 minutes to burn in Australia on a fine summer's day. You should wear sunscreen SPF 30+, clothing, and a hat to shade the sun.
Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours throughout the day as it wears off quickly if you are sweating or swimming. Make sure to cover all parts of your body. UV radiation in the middle of the day can be double what it is in the early morning or later afternoon, so if possible avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. Daily UV forecasts are issued by the Bureau of Meteorology and are available online. (http://www.bom.gov.au/uv/...)
If you are heading to the beach, consider buying a sun-tent less than $20 from discount and hardware stores. You can't hire beach umbrellas at Australian beaches, and they are very exposed.
gay and lesbian travellers
Australia has an equal age of consent set at 16 for all states except Tasmania and South Australia where the age is 17. Queensland outlaws 'sodomy' for under 18s, but is not supportive of homosexuality. The Northern Territory also is not supportive of LGBT. Despite widespread public support, gay marriage is not granted in Australia, however, Australia offers official 'de facto relationship' recognition to gay couples that is equal to that offered to straight couples - a special Interdependency Visa exists as a gay counterpart to the traditional marriage-based migration route.
Attitudes to homosexuality are similar to those found in the urban United States. Violence against gay people is also at a level similar to the United States. While inner Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly places in the world, caution is advisable in rural areas and parts of the greater metropolitan areas, as well as in Queensland and the Northern Territory, the most conservative areas of the nation.
Sydney is Australia's gay capital, and hosts one of the world's most famous gay pride parades - the Sydney Mardi Gras. Less known is the Alice Is Wonderland Festival - a popular gay and lesbian pride festival around central Alice Springs in late April/early May.
The tap water in Australia is almost always safe to drink, and it will be marked on the tap if this is not the case. The taste and hardness of the tap water will vary considerably across the country. Bottled water is also widely available. Carrying water on hot days is a good idea in urban areas, and it is a necessity if hiking or driving out of town. At sites where tap water is untreated, water sterilization tablets may be used as an alternative to boiling.
Australia does not have endemic communicable diseases that will require non-standard vaccinations. Like many other countries, it will require evidence of yellow fever vaccinations on entry if you will have been in a country with a risk of infection within 6 days before your arrival in Australia. There is no rabies in Australia.
Mosquitoes are present all year round in the tropics, and during the summer in southern areas. Screens on windows and doors are common, and repellent is readily available. Ross River Virus is spread by mosquitoes in the tropics, and can make you sick for a few weeks. There have been cases of dengue fever. Malaria is not present in Australia.
Attempts to scam tourists are not prevalent in Australia; but take some precautions such as finding out a little bit about your destination. There have been instances of criminals tampering with ATMs so that cash is trapped inside them, or so that they record card details for thieves. You should check your transaction records for odd transactions after using an ATMs and immediately contact the bank controlling the ATM if a transaction seems to be successful but the machine doesn't give you any cash. Always cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN to prevent any skimming devices which have cameras recording your PIN.
Opium, heroin, amphetamines speed, cocaine, LSD and ecstasy among other drugs are all illegal both to possess and to sell in all states of Australia. Trafficking offences are federal offences, and carry a long jail term. Australia shares information on drug trafficking with other countries, even those with the death penalty.
Penalties for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana are typically lower than for other drugs, but laws vary between states and territories. In South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory jail terms do not apply to first time marijuana offences. Small scale personal marijuana growing is decriminalised in the ACT, South Australia and Western Australia, so tourists can expect smoking weed to be more accepted in these places. Some states can issue on-the-spot fines for small amounts of marijuana whereas others always require a court appearance. Foreigners should not expect more lenient treatment than locals from Australian police for drug offences.
Amongst the youth in Australia, minor drugs such as cannabis are more socially acceptable. Travellers to the main cities are more likely to experience Alcohol violence over any form of drug violence or problem, if you choose to possess an illicit substance police patrols can be high within Metropolitan areas bringing Police Dogs through even the smallest of Pubs.
Around 10-20 overseas travellers drown in Australia each year. Most of these drownings occur at ocean beaches, where statistics put visitors at significantly higher risk than locals. Check the Beach Safety website.
Beach goers should swim between the red and yellow flags which designate patrolled areas. Beaches are not patrolled 24-hours a day or even during all daylight hours. In most cases the local volunteer surf lifesavers or professional lifeguards are only available during certain hours, and at some beaches only on weekends, and often only during summer. If the flags aren't up, then there's no one patrolling - and you shouldn't swim. If you do choose to swim, be aware of the risks, check conditions, stay within your depth, and don't swim alone.
Hard surfboards and other water craft such as surf skis, kayaks etc., are not permitted between the red and yellow flags. These craft must only be used outside of the blue 'surf craft permitted' flags.
Australian ocean beaches can sometimes have strong rips that even the strongest swimmers are unable to swim against. Rips are invisible channels of water flowing away from the beach. These channels take out the water which the incoming surf waves bring into shore. Beach goers can mistakenly use these channels or areas since they can appear as calm water and look to be an easier area into which to swim. Problems arise when the swimmer tries to swim back into shore against the outgoing current or rip, tire quickly, and end up drowning. Rips can be recognised by one or more of these signs: a rippled appearance when the surrounding water is fairly calm; foam that extends beyond the break zone; brown, sandy coloured water; waves breaking further out on either side of the rip.
If you are caught in a rip at a patrolled beach, conserve your energy, float or tread water and raise one hand. The surf lifesavers will come out to you. Don't wait until you are so tired you can't swim any more. You will probably find that local swimmers or surfers will also quickly come to your aid. Usually the flags are positioned where there are no rips, but this isn't always the case as rips can move.
If you are caught in a rip at an unpatrolled beach stay calm to conserve energy and swim parallel to the beach not against the pull of the current. Most rips are only a few metres wide, and once clear of the undertow, you will be able to swim or catch a wave to return to shore. Never swim alone. Don't think that the right technique will get you out of every situation. In the surf out the back of the beach, treading water can be hard with waves pounding you every few seconds. Unless you have seen it happen, its hard to appreciate how quickly a rip can take you 50 m out to sea and into much larger wave breaks. If you are at an unpatrolled surf beach, proceed with great caution and never go out of your depth.
Beach signs often have a number or an alphanumeric code on them. This code can be given to emergency services if required so they can locate you quickly.
Crocodiles and Box Jellyfish are found on tropical beaches, depending on the time of year and area. Sharks occur on many of Australia's beaches. See the section below on dangerous creatures. Patrolled beaches will be monitoring the ocean for any shark activity. If you hear a continuous siren, go off at the beach and a red and a red and white quartered flag is waved or held out of the tower as it indicates a shark sighting, so make your way to shore. Once it is clear, a short blast of the siren will be sounded, which usually means that it is safe to return to the water.
As described above, 000 is the Australian emergency services number and in any medical emergency you should call this number and ask for an ambulance and other emergency services as necessary, to attend.
Australia has first world medical standards. In particular, it is safe to receive blood transfusions in Australia, as donors are screened for HIV, hepatitis and many other blood borne illnesses.
However, since Australia's population density is low, parts of Australia are a long way from medical facilities of any kind. Towns with populations of 5,000 or more will have a small hospital capable of giving emergency treatment in serious emergencies, and larger towns will have a base hospital capable of routine and some kinds of emergency surgery. In severe cases, particularly any kind of injury requiring microsurgery, you will need to be evacuated to one of the capital cities for treatment. Evacuation procedures are well established and normally involve being evacuated by plane or helicopter. For this reason travel insurance or ambulance membership is highly recommended for those travelling to remote areas as helicopter evacuation could cost thousands.
Capital cities will have medical centres where you can drop in, often open on weekends or until late. In country towns you may have to make an appointment, and may have no alternative other than the closest hospital after hours and weekends. You can also expect to wait a few hours if your condition isn't urgent.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who live in the country can receive health care through the taxpayer funded Medicare.
Travellers from New Zealand, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, Malta and Norway are entitled to free reciprocal Medicare treatment for medical problems that occur during their visit, but should familiarise themselves with the conditions of the reciprocal arrangement. For example Irish and New Zealanders are only entitled to free treatment at a hospital, whereas the other reciprocal nationalities are entitled to subsidised treatment at general practitioners as well. No reciprocal programs cover private hospitals, and the full cost will have to be met. Consider travel insurance. If not a citizen or permanent resident of a reciprocal country, you can expect to pay around $60 to see a general practitioner, plus any additional costs for any pathology or radiology required. The charge to pay to visit a local hospital can be much more expensive, private hospitals even more so, up to $500 even if you are not admitted, and thousands if you are. Further information about reciprocal healthcare arrangements is available from the Department of Human Services (http://www.humanservices....) .