Australia

Australia

City by dicktay2000 Flickr Creative CommonsThere is nowhere on the planet quite like Australia. It has lured people from all over the globe with its amazing scenery and wildlife, laid back lifestyle and some of the best beaches in the world. Australia has something for everyone. Perhaps the most enduring images of Australia are the Outback and Uluru, the vast outcrop in the ancient and breathtaking Red centre, or Sydney’s Opera House and harbour Bridge – there is so much here that you could spend years exploring this huge continent.

The landscapes in Australia are spectacular and unique. The wilderness of Tasmania, pristine rainforests in the North such as those in the Daintree National Park, Kakadu National Park, The Great Barrier Reef, Frazer Island, The Whitsundays, and the majestic Outback are all well worth spending time in if you can. Extraordinary wildlife seems to thrive everywhere, such as Koalas, Crocodiles, Dingoes, Possums, Kangaroos, Wallabies and Wombats, and you can see most – if not all – of these in their natural habitat.

And of course there are the cities, Sydney is a must for any visitor who wants to experience a young vibrant Australia at its best. Apart from the picture postcard harbour views, Sydney boasts excellent eating, drinking and nightlife, and alongside Melbourne in Victoria, with its colourful café culture make for an exciting visit. There is lots to see in Australia and many people just can’t stop coming back again and again.

Visas

All visitors (except from NZ) need Visas to enter Australia.

ETA’s (Electronic Travel Authority) are free and valid for 3 months to UK, US, most European, Malaysian, Singaporean, Japanese and Korean nationals. The Visa is valid for 12 months from the issue date, and can be used for multiple entries up to 3 months.

Tourist Visas cost $50 and are valid for 6 months with multiple entries in a 12-month period. Long stay visas (also $50) can be used for multiple entries over a period of 4 years with a maximum stay of 6 months on each visit.

Working Holiday Visas allow people between 18-25 (18-30 for Brits and other nationals whose governments have working agreements with Australia) to work in Australia for 1 year. In theory this Visa only allows a maximum period of 3 months employment with any one employer. Working Holiday Visas can be applied for 12 months before you go – there are a limited number available each year so it is a good idea to get applications in early.

For current information on Visa requirements see:
www.immi.gov.au

Currency

The currency is the Australian Dollar.For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter.

US$1 = AUD$2
UK£1 = AUD$3
EURO 1 = AUD $1.7

It’s a cheap country to travel in by European standards – with prices comparable to parts of the USA for hotels, hostels, drink and travel. For shoe string travel, budget for living off at least $50 US a day.

People

Children by electricnerve Flickr Creative CommonsThe Aboriginals are the oldest inhabitants of any continent, and have dwelt in Australia for 40,000 years. Although they are the original people of this nation, population figures taken in 1996 estimate the Aboriginal peoples to number fewer than 400,000.

Numerous immigrant groups such as Italians, Greeks, Turks, Lebanese, Maltese and Yugoslavs added to the predominantly white population of British and Irish settlers of Australia’s 19 million population. Large numbers of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian neighbours have added to the blend creating a multicultural population largely found in the South East corner of the country and the metropolitan centres of Melbourne and Sydney alone make up for more than a third of the entire population.

Food

Food in Australia isn’t necessarily all meat pies and steak, although the good old-fashioned Barbeque is an Australian institution and is synonymous with the Australian party. Immigrants from all over the world have brought their cuisine with them and eating out may involve dishes from just about everywhere in the world – Greek, Italian and Asian cooking is especially prevalent. For those who want something particular to Australia you might like to try the specialist steaks – Kangaroo, Emu, or even Crocodile.

Travel

Bridge by Paul Bica Flickr Creative CommonsThere are many modes of transport depending on which region you are visiting. If you’re planning on hiking in the Outback, you’ll need to hire a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Internal flights are reasonable priced, but long distance Greyhound bus is a cheaper alternative for long distance. It’s a reasonably safe place to hitch hike, but some areas outside of the cities are very remote.

Language

Although English is the official language of Australia, you may sometimes wonder. Australian slang has permeated all corners of the world and most of us are familiar with its rudiments. It’s not hard to pick up and stays with you long after you leave, but long before white settlers reached Australia’s shores there were many Aboriginal languages spoken and all but about 30 of these have died out.

Climate

Due to its enormous size the climate differs enormously from state to state and from season to season, and despite what many people think it’s not sunshine all year round. The seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern hemisphere so Christmas is one of the hottest days of the year and often spent on the beach. Summer starts in December, winter in June. Generally speaking the further south you go in winter the colder it gets, and in the far north it is always warm but extremely wet in the summer as the monsoon season begins. Temperatures reach the mid to high 30’s C in the north during summer in Northern Queensland and Darwin, and as low as freezing in Canberra winters. The Red Centre of Australia, the heart of the outback, fluctuates between near freezing temperatures in winter and high 30’sC in summer.

Health

There are no special health requirements for Australia. The most hazardous thing to your health that you are likely to encounter down under is the sun. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and there have been numerous campaigns to raise awareness of the damage excessive exposure can cause. You wont find many places that sell sun block under factor 15.

Apart from blistering heat, Australians share their country with a selection of nasties, but with a few exceptions you are unlikely to have any difficulties.

Jellyfish Sign by jazzae Flickr Creative CommonsBox Jellyfish – or Stingers as they are more commonly known – drift into the coast of Queensland during summer months and can be fatal. You will see containers at posts along beaches filled with vinegar and it’s not for your fish and chips. Liberal dousing with vinegar is the only way to get the tiny spines out of the victim. These are a hazard along the northern coast during the summer months and nets are put out for swimmers between October and January on some beaches.

Australia has a host of other creatures that should be avoided, snakes of any sort should be left alone, as should crocodiles (“salties” and “freshies”), and any spiders. Wear long sleeved shirts and trousers when exploring the bush – Australia has more varieties of venomous snake than the rest of the world put together.

By Dan Porter

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