Sydney Harbour Bridge
In this article I aim to answer all the practical questions that may pop up as you're planning your trip to Australia. How will you get there: how to have an affordable holiday : the in's and out of traveling Down Under.
If you don't already know, Much of Australia is harsh Outback country, characterized by savannah
land, spectacular rocky outcrops, shifting deserts, and dry salt lakes. In these parts of the country, the soil is poor, the
rainfall scarce, and some rivers don't even make it to the ocean. The roads that traverse the interior are
sometimes barely worthy of the name, and most people choose air travel or stick to the coastal fringe.
Australia is made up of six states, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australa, and Tasmania and two internal
territories, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory.
When planning your trip, keep in mind that Australia is about the same size as the 48 contiguous US States. Melbourne and
Brisbane are a long day's drive from Sydney, and takes the best part of a week to drive from Sydney to Perth.
Allow plenty of time before your trip to aply for a passport, if you dont already have one. processing normally takes 3 weeks but can take longer
during busy periods (especially spring). And keep in mind that if you need a passport in a hurry, youll pay a higher processing fee.
When traveling. Safeguard your passport in an inconspicuous, inaccessible place like a money belt and keep a copy of the critical pages
with our passport number in a separate place. If you lose your passport, visit the nearest consulate of your native country as soon as possible for a
General Travel Tips
Even if you never set foot in a youth hostel, an all time great buy is membership in the Australian Yourth Hostels
Association or its US counterpart, Hostelling International American Youth Hostels. It entitles you to a huge array of discounts.
Try to buy a discounted ticket. Many companies, particularly airline ticket consolidators that buy tickets wholesale,
and some Australian tour companies, offer discounts for booking direct with them, rather than through a travel agent,
to whom they must pay commission. Make sure you check with the travel agent, too, to make sure you're getting the est
deal, or if you have complex traveling needs.
When booking a hotel room at a major chain or renting a car from a major agency, be sure to ask whether you qualify
for frequent flier miles. If you have acquired a load of frequent flier miles, they may be redeemable for
award travel, lodging, and other travel needs.
If you are a senior or student, ask about discounts at every chance, when booking your airfare, hotel, Rental Car, orThe opera house: The Opera House on a rainy day, with a rainbow seen in background
sighseeing tour: buying theater tickets, or visiting museums or attractions.
Full time students should arm themselves with an International Student Identity Card which offers substantial savings on rail
passes, plane tickets, and entrance frees. It also provides you with basic health and life insurance and a 24 hour helpf line. The card is available for $22 from STA Travel in the US if your not in North America there's probably a local number in your country.
Before you purchase travel insurance, check that you do not already have it as part of your credit card agreement or existing
health insurance policy. Check to see if your current health insurance covers you fully for medical treatment and evacuation anywhere
in the world and if your credit card company isures you against travel accidents if you buy plane, train, or bus tickets
with its card. Your home owners insurance should cover stolen luggage.
In terms of airfare, the off season runs from mid April to the end of August. This is not only the cheapset time
to fly from other countries, but it's also the best time to visit Australia. That's because Down Under winter
(June, July and August), when the days are balmy and nice, is more pleasant than the too-hot summer ( Dec, Jan, and Feb)
Traveling on certain days of the week can save you money. Monday to Thursday departures can shave an extra US$60 off your air
Consider a package. Whether you opt for an independent or group tour, package deals are terrific values because they
typically include airfare, decent accommodations, some or all meals, tours, transfers, and other extras.
The per day price of a package (including airfares) can work out to be about the same as a night's accommodations in a
Look for travel agents and consolidators specializing in cheap fares to Australia.
The quickest way between two points is not always the cheapest. Sometimes airlines and travel agents release spot specials for people
prepared to trvel via a lengthier route, or at short notice. If this is you scour thetravel sections of newspapers, and visit airline websites for
the latest deals.
Flying within Australia is expensive but not if you pre purchase Qantas coupons. The coupons can cost less than half the regular fares. Only non-Australians can buy them, and you must buy them before you leave home.
If you belong to a frequent flier club, use your miles to contribute toward your airfare, or take advantage of any offers to buy miles
at a reduced rate to reach an award level. If you are not a frequent flier, join when you buy your ticket. The flight to Australia may earn you another trip.
To get even more frequent flier miles, pay for your airline ticket on a credit card that gives you miles for every dollar you spend. Kangaroo's Australia's famous Native animal
Just be sure you don't get zapped with sky-high interest charges.
Airfare and accommodation will take the biggest bite out of your budget, so look for package tours that include both plane ticket and 5 or more night's accommodations often at substantial savings for both.
If you get an apartment with a full kitchen, you can save money by not eating out at every meal. Australian cities and holiday destinations are awash with this kind
of accommodations. Even if you only make breakfast every morning, you could save enough to splurge on a really special meal.
Try to avoid visiting Australia during the country's school holidays. Hotel and apartment rates in popuar vacation spots like the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast,
and Cairns in Queensland soar during the Australian school vacations.
Many pubs, especially those in the country, offer lodging. Staying in a pub can be a money saving option if you don't mind sharing a bathroom and coping with the din of drinkers in the bar downstairs.
Most hotels accommodate kids up to age 12 (and even older) free of charge in your room if they use existing beds: if a hotel does charge extra for
a child, it's usually not much per Maybe around $10 per night.
Bed and breakfast are a friendly alternative to a cheerless motel room, and in Oz they're often quite cheap, about the same as a motel room with out breakfast.
Wining and Dining
The letters to look for when dining out in Oz are BYO, which means Bring Your Own Grog: Buy wine or beer at the cheapest bottle shop you can find, and take it with you to the restaurant. That way you avoid the markup of 100%, 200% or more that restaurateurs are so fond of adding. All you pay is a corkage fee.
Go ethnic and you're almost guaranteed great food at low prices, Indian, Cambodian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Italian, and Thai are all pretty sure bets.
The smarter Chinese restaurants are good, but often a tad pricey, and not always BYO.
An advantage of going out for Asian food is that dishes are usually shared, so small eaters can get away with not ordering a whole meal for themselves. Because one Asian main course is often enough for two people, the golden rule is to order and eat one dish first, then order a second if you neet it.
Tours and Sightseeing
Australian City councils are big on prodiving free entertainment for example, Sydney has free dance performances or concerts at Darling Harbour
many weekends, and free lunchtime concerts in Martin Place most days: Brisbane has street performers at South Bank Parklands most weekends,
and Darwin has free Sunday Jazz by the sea at the MGM Grand Casino in Dry Season.
Walking tours can be half the price of bus tours, and they give you a good close up view of the city and sights.
Shopping in Australia
Skincare products, cosmetics, perfume, electronics, imported designer accessories, liquor, cigarettes, and other luxury items
attract high duty in Australia. If you need to buy these products, get them in duty-free stores, which can be found in capital cities and major
tourist destinations. You will need to show your airline ticket and passports to buy.
If you buy anything expensive ask if there is a tax free price for international travelers. Most non duty free stores selling high ticket items
offer taxfree prices to internation travelers who show their airline ticket and passport.
There are no cover charges at pubs, and drinks are cheaper than in nightclubs. Some have live entertainment, pool, and sports video screens.
Aussies love beer any time, but it never tastes better than during happy hour, that period from around 4 to 6pm when many city bars and pubs mark
drinks down to half price or less. Happy hours are especially common on Thursday.
Customs and What you can Bring into Australia
The duty free allowance in Australia is A$400 (US$260) or, for those under 18 AU$200 (US$130). Anyone over 18 can bring in up to 250 cigarettes or 250 grams or cigars or other tobacco products.
Dutiable goods are luxury items such as perfume, watches, jewelry, furs, plus gifts of any kind. Keep this in mind if you itend to bring presents for
family or friends in Austrlaia. Gifts given toyou also count toward the dutiable limit. Personal goods that you're taking with you are usually
exempt from duty, but if you are returning with valuable goods that you already own, file form B263.
Cash in any currency, and other currency instruments such as traveler's checks, under a value of A $10000 need not be declared. Firearms in Australia are
Crocodile Sydney zooBecause Australia is an Island, it is free of many agricultural and livestock diseases. To keep it that way, strict
quarantine applies to importing plants, animals, and their products, including food. Sniffer dogs are used at Australian airports to detect these products (
as well as drugs). Some items may be held for treatment and returned to you, others may be confiscated, and others may beheld over for you to take with you
whey you leave the country.
For American and European travelers, Australia is very affordable because of the perilous state of the Australian dollar the past few years. Most travelers
will find money matters are relatively easy in Australia, But beware the small town where traveler's checks may ot be readily accepted.
The Australian Dollar is divided into 100c. Coins are 5c 10c 20c and 50c pieces and $1 and $2 pieces (gold). Prices often end in a variant of 1c and 2c. Prices
are rounded to the nearest 5c so 77c rounds down to 75c, and 78c rounds up to 80c. Bank notes come in denominations of A$5, A$10, A$20, A$50, A$100.
When you change money, ask for some small bills or loose change. Petty cash will come in handy for tipping and public transportation in australia.
Consider keeping the change separate fromyour larger bills, so that it's readily accessible, making you less of a target for theft.
If you have enough trouble (as I do) getting your kids out of the house in the morning, dragging them thousands of miles away may seem like an insurmountable
challenge. But family travel can be immensely rewarding, giving you new ways of seeing the world through smaller pairs of eyes.
Australians travel widely with their own kids, so facilities for families, including family passes to attractions, are common.
A great accommodations option for families is Australia's huge stock of serviced or unserviced apartments. Often less expensive than a hotel room, they offer
a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom or two, and the privacy of a separate bedroom for adults. Most Australian hotels will arrange babysitting given a day's notice.
International airlines and domestic airlines in Australia charge 67% of the adult fare for kids under 12. Most charge 10% for infants under 2 not occupying a
seat. Australian transport companies, attractions, and tour operators typically charge half price for kids under 12 or 14 years of age.
Many Australian resorts have kids clubs, with extensive programs designed for children under 12, and in some cases teenages. The French owned Accor chain of hotels and resorts, which is Australi's largest chain, has kids clubs, kids menus designed by a nutritionist (and not just the same boring fodder you get everywhere else, and other family-friendly facilities including family rooms, while other resorts such as Hamilton Island have Kids stay, eat, and play free offers, particularly
during holiday periods. Many hotels will offer interconnecting rooms or family rooms. But don't forget children entering Australia on their parnet's passpoprt
still need their own visa.
When to travel to Australia
When it is winter in the northern Hemisophere, Australia is basking in the Southern Hemispher's summer, and vice versa. Midwinter in Australia is July and August,
and the hottest months are November through March.Remember unlike in the northern Hemisphere, the farther south you go in Australia, the colder it gets.
High Season in AustraliaBeach's in Australia
The peak travel season in the most popular parts of Australia is the Aussie winter. In much of the country Queensland from around Townsville and northward, all of the top end and the Red Centre, and most of Western Australia, the most pleasant time to travel is April through September, whey day time temperatures are not to high and it rarely rains. June, July, and August are the busiest months in these parts: you'll need to book laccommodations and tours well in advance, and you will pay higher rates then, too.
On the other hand, Australia's summer is a nice time ot visit the southern states, New South Wales, Victoria, South Austrlaia, Western Australia and Tasmania
Even in winter, temperatures rarely dip below freezing, and snow falls only in parts of Tasmania, in the skifields of Victoria, and in the Snowy Mountains of
southern New South Wales.
I think the best months to visit Australia are September and October. It's often still warm enough to hit the beach in the southern states, and cool enough to tour Ayers Rock. The humidity and rains have not come to Cairns and the Top End, and the wildflowers are in full bloom in Western Australia.
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