Visiting Australia? What to Know Before You Go

Visiting Australia? Learn what you need for a successful trip – from Australian visas, to what to pack, and knowing whether or not to tip. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time visiting Australia, or you’re a proper Oz addict, these tips will help you have a fantastic and stress-free trip.

visiting Australia
People love visiting Australia – for good reason.

Travelling to Australia and don’t know where to start?

Don’t worry too much – Australia is a relatively easy country to visit.

It’s generally safe, Aussie culture is relaxed and there’s plenty to explore when you get here.

For most people, the biggest deterrent is the distance. Australia is of course, rather inconveniently nestled right down the bottom of the globe and it can take sometimes over a day to travel to the country.

Fun for all us living here too, when we wish to go pretty much anywhere else that isn’t New Zealand.

Anyway, it helps to be prepared when travelling to to any new place and Oz is no exception.

Whether you’re visiting Australia for the first time, or coming for a return trip, these tips (written from a local’s perspective) should help make your holiday easier and with luck, prepare you for any sort of surprises.

Read more: What NOT To Do When Visiting Australia

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Australia For First Timers: 20 Tips

visiting Australia for the first time
Australia’s Twelve Apostles. We have a surplus of famous rocks.

1. Don’t travel to Australia without a visa

All travellers to Australia need a visa upon entry – only holders of Australian and NZ passports are exempt, as the two countries have an partnership. Brothers in arms, standing together at the bottom end of the world – you know, that sort of thing.

Luckily, the Australian visa is fairly inexpensive and you can easily apply for it online.

We have several visas to choose from, but the most requested variant is the eVisa, which can be used for both work-related trips, as well as for tourism purposes.

Visas are generally valid for 12 months and you can travel to Australia multiple times on the one visa, although most only allow you to stay for a three month period.

Make sure you find out which visa is right for you before you travel. You can view more information on applying for an Australia visa here.

2. Budget accordingly

Australia has fast become one of the most expensive countries in the world to travel to and live in. It’s very upsetting for everyone, trust me.

Hotels, car rental, petrol, public transport, food – most things don’t come cheap in Oz.

Our produce is fresh, our food scene very underrated and our country is absolutely beautiful – but you pay a fine price, to either live in, or travel to paradise.

Make sure you budget accordingly and put a little aside for some of the special experiences that Oz offers – touring some of the stunning natural scenery, a nice dinner in a fancy restaurant, or perhaps staying somewhere that’s a little off the beaten path.

My advice? Find out when the best time to visit Australia is.

The weather is generally better during a lot of our off-peak season, and expenses such as accommodation tend to be cheaper too.

thinking of moving to australia
Sydney’s famous Opera House – one of the most iconic buildings of the world.

3. Get travel insurance before you go

Make sure you’re covered by travel insurance before visiting Australia.

While our healthcare is mostly quite affordable for Australian citizens, doctors will often charge non-residents a pretty penny.

An emergency ambulance can cost over a thousand and being airlifted to hospital could ruin a person financially.

Apart from health, travel insurance does of course protect you from things like theft, lost items, flight delays and such.

It’s a good idea to purchase cover in general. I know I never travel without it.

4. Pack for the weather and you should be okay

Packing for Australia is fairly easy. We don’t have any major fashion rules – you can wear what you want (within reason of course).

Just dress for the weather and you should be okay.

I do recommend checking the Bureau of Meteorology for accurate weather temperatures, so you can get some kind of an idea of what to expect.

Forget something? Don’t worry.

Oz is a developed country after all. We have things – pretty much all the things.

If there’s something you’ve forgotten or misplaced, you’ll easily be able to find it here.

visas for australia

5. Be aware that we have our own power plugs

Australia has its own plug socket, featuring two flat metal pins shaped like a “V”. Aren’t we special?

Oh, not so much as it turns out that these plugs can also be used in NZ, Taiwan and China.

It’s worth investing in a travel adaptor, which will save you from scrambling through your collection of plugs for each country you visit.

5. Think about which city you want to start in when visiting Australia

There are plenty of choices of cities in Australia and I strongly recommend considering which city you want to start in.

Many head straight to Sydney, which is fair enough – it’s a truly remarkably, beautiful place.

However, I highly recommend flying into Melbourne. It may not have the sights that Sydney has to offer, but it’s a very interesting place, in its own right.

Don’t neglect our smaller cities either. Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Hobart and even our capital of Canberra all have something to offer visitors, in their own, unique flavours.

If you want to know more about the best places to travel to in Australia, then here’s a bit of a guide.

travelling in australia
Wide open roads, paired with next to no phone coverage.

6. Get a sim-card with Telstra if you’re travelling Outback

Mobile service in Australia can be patchy when you go regional.

Telstra is our national service operator and they’re the best option if you plan to travel to remoter parts of Australia.

Shop around for a plan that’s best for you.

And keep in mind, we call them “mobile phones” here, not cell phones!

7. Sign up for airline sales before heading over

Unfortunately due to its size, air travel is often the best option for getting around Australia, although I’d recommend busing or training where you can.

Jetstar, Tigerair and Virgin Australia are all good options for flights.

Subscribe to their email lists to be notified about sales and watch out for the weekly “Happy Hour” discounts.

driving in australia
Fancy cars in small country towns.

8. Check whether you can drive on your foreign licence

Australia is a bit stupid in that we don’t have one licence body for the entire country – instead it’s handled by the separate states and territories.

So, driving rules differ state to state – you may need to have an International permit, depending on where you’ll be driving.

So while you’re organising your visa for Australia, it may be a good idea to apply for an International licence as well. See here for more details.

Something also worth mentioning, is that we drive on the left hand side of the road in Australia.

If this is something you don’t feel comfortable with doing… maybe just avoid it!

9. Having a car in Australia is pricey

If you want to buy your own car to travel around Australia (which many backpackers do), be aware that the whole thing is very pricey, which is quite annoying when our public transport is as a rule, quite unimpressive.

Petrol prices can be astonishingly expensive and cars require some kind of insurance.

You can opt for C’omprehensive’ where you’re fully covered, or ‘Third Party’, which will cover the damage to anyone who you may hit.

Shop around for the best option before you make your decision. AAMI, GIO and Allianz are some of the more popular insurance providers.

drink driving laws australia
Don’t mix drinking with driving… do mix it with cheese.

10. We have stringent rules for drink driving and speeding

When you are on the roads, be careful not to speed, as there are always cops about.

We have really strict drink driving laws, where someone on a full licence cannot have a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.05.

Keep to this, as the consequences can be financially and emotionally devastating.

Once again, driving laws change state to state, so read up on what is expected of you before you drive.

11. Join groups on Facebook to save money on travel

Don’t want to drive or can’t fathom the expense?

Never fear. There are many backpacker groups on Facebook that organise trips from capital cities, to see some of the most popular sights.

I regularly see shoutouts for example, for shared bus trips along the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, something that is otherwise quite exy to do on your own.

Look for some groups you can join. It’ll be a great way to meet new people on your travels as well.

thinking of moving to australia
Australia is weird and also weirdly delightful.

12. Get used to the Aussie lexicon

Australians seem to almost have their own language – slang is a part of every day life here.

We call it “Straylian” and are proud to be fluent in it.

You’ll pick some up eventually, but it doesn’t hurt to read up on some of our more popular words and phrases before you arrive, so you’re not left scratching your head in confusion.

13. Be sun smart

The Aussie sun has a nasty bite and as such, be careful of how much time you spend in the sun.

Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and be sure to stay in the shade as much as possible.

PLEASE buy a brand that is non-toxic and reef safe.

thinking of moving to australia
Don’t swim alone.

14. Avoid swimming on unattended beaches

Likewise, our beaches are deadly due to the presence of riptides – ocean currents that will happily pull you out to see.

Also, our oceans are teeming with dangerous creatures, from tiny, poisonous jellyfish to giant sharks.

It’s best to only swim on patrolled beaches, where lifeguards are positioned to keep an eye on proceedings.

Read more about beach safety in Australia here.

15. Don’t harass the local wildlife

Our wildlife is special, unique and best left alone.

This is partly because much of Australia’s fauna has inbuilt defence mechanisms and won’t hesitate to strike, if they feel threatened.

Admire them, but leave them to do their own thing and don’t feed them, please.

16. Shake out towels and check your boots

Although some critters do get a little bit enthusiastic when it comes to crawling into your personal items.

It’s best to always check clothes and shoes for spiders and other creepy crawlies. Shake ’em out and shake ’em off.

thinking of moving to australia
Aussies love their coffee.

17. Drink all the coffee

We looooove our coffee here in Oz and will happily profess to having the best in the world.

I’m not sure if this is true (I’m a tea drinker, myself) but I have it on good authority that it’s certainly up there.

Do your best to sample all the beans whilst you’re here and do your bit for the environment, by bringing your own, resusable coffee cup.

18. Pick up your litter

Australia is quite a clean country in some ways (it’s sadly changed a lot in recent years).

Please don’t litter, rather dispose of your trash thoughtfully in bins provided.

thinking of moving to australia
It’s not cheap but at least the views are good.

19. Alcohol is really expensive

Aussies love a drink, but they certainly pay for it. Alcohol in Australia is not cheap – far from it.

There are taxes on alco-pops bought in stores, and the average price of beer is probably around $8.80 for a schooner, depending on where you are in the country.

Despite this, Australia has a fantastic wine and craft beer scene and you can at least get some quality booze for the prices you’ll find yourself paying.

20. Traditionally, we don’t tip

We don’t really have a tipping culture in Australia, although this has changed in recent times, I think due to the influx of visitors from countries who do tip and changes to wages (for the worse, of course).

If a meal is good and I have cash on me, I tend to leave a few dollars.

If it’s crap, then I don’t!

It’s quite uncommon for bills to be split when dining in groups, which is lazy and annoying.

Be prepared for this by bringing cash, or accepting that one person will have to foot the bill and be sent everyone else’s contributions via electronic means.

Woot! That’s about everything you need to know before visiting Australia – it’s quite a list!

Whether you’re in Australia for the first time or a return visitor, I hope these travel tips help.

Above all, please make sure you purchase travel insurance, apply for your Australian visa well before you fly and please be respectful of our beautiful country and its unique culture – keep it clean and be nice to our flora and critters (otherwise they may bite back!).

More articles about Australia

Here are some great road trip ideas for Australia.
These are some of Oz’ loveliest small towns.
Find out which neighbourhoods are best to stay in Sydney and Melbourne.
These weird facts about Australia may entertain you.
Here’s a guide on basic Australian etiquette.

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Visiting Australia? Make sure you get the right visa, purchase travel insurance and prepare well. Here's a guide, written by an Oz local. / Australia Travel Tips / #Australia / Travelling in Australia / Traveling in Australia / Australia Travel /

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  1. Great post LC! You really hit the spot and these tips would absolutely help first timers visiting Australia. Learning the slang will also help, so that they won’t be surprise if lads ask them to do some shoey 😀

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