'''Australia''' is the only country in the world that is an island and a whole continent itself. The country is aptly named - the name comes from the Latin word ''australis'', which means ''southern''. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the [[Outback]]", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as [[Sydney]], [[Melbourne]], [[Brisbane]], and [[Perth (Australia)|Perth]].
'''Australia''' is the only country in the world that is an island and a whole continent itself. The country is aptly named - the name comes from the Latin word ''australis'', which means ''southern''. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the [[Outback]]", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as [[Sydney]], [[Melbourne]], [[Brisbane]], and [[Perth (Australia)|Perth]].
Australia is the only country in the world that is an island and a whole continent itself. The country is aptly named - the name comes from the Latin word australis, which means southern. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.
Melbourne - Australia's second largest city and the nation's first capital city. Melbourne is a large sporting and cultural capital, known as a shopping destination in Australia. Melbourne is regarded as Australia's most European city in style.
Australia is the world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; it's slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States. The highly urbanised population is heavily concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. Australia is bordered on the northwest, west, and southwest by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, while the Great Barrier Reef lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia's northern neighbors, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Australia is mostly arid and semi-arid: the center is desert and much agricultural land is poor quality by the standards of continents with richer soil. The south east is temperate and the north tropical. Australia was massively deforested for agricultural purposes: forest areas survive in extensive national parks and some other areas.
Australia is prone to severe drought and water restrictions are currently in place in some areas, however these shouldn't affect travellers as they mostly relate to watering gardens and washing cars.
As a large continent a wide variation of climates are found across Australia. The north is hot and tropical, while Melbourne has a much cooler mediterranean temperate climate. Western Tasmania has a climate similar to England, although Tasmania's capital Hobart is the second driest Australian capital. Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the timing of the seasons is reversed with respect to Europe and North America. In other words, June-September is winter in Australia while December-March is summer. So Christmas actually falls in the summer in Australia, instead of in winter like in North America or Europe.
Australia has an area of 7,682,300 square kilometers and most Australians live on the coast. Many travellers underestimate the enormous distances between cities and towns. You can use this distance tool to display the distance between any two points in Australia.
The continent of Australia was first settled more than 40,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration of Aboriginal peoples from south and south-east Asia. With rising sea levels after the last Ice Age, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on a close (spiritual) relationship with the land and nature, and extended kinship. Australian aborigines maintained a hunter/gatherer culture for thousands of years in association with a complex artistic and cultural life - including a very rich 'story-telling' tradition. While the 'modern impression' of Australian Aborigines is largely built around an image of the 'desert people' who have adapted to some of the harshest conditions on the planet (equivalent to the bushmen of the Kalahari), Australia provided a 'comfortable living' for the bulk of aborigines amongst the bountiful flora and fauna on the Australian coast - until the arrival of Europeans.
Although a lucrative Chinese market for shells and beche de mere had encouraged Indonesian fishermen to visit Northern Australia for centuries it was unknown to Europeans until the 1600's, when Dutch traders to Asia began to 'bump' into the Western Coast. Early Dutch impressions of this extremely harsh, dry country were unfavorable, and Australia remained for them something simply a road sign pointing north to the much richer (and lucrative) East Indies (modern Indonesia). Deliberate exploration of the Australian coast was then largely taken over by the French and the British. Consequently place names of bays, headlands and rivers around the coastline reflect a range of Dutch, French, British, and Aboriginal languages.
In 1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under command of James Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on April 29, 1770. Cook continued northwards, and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on August 22, 1770. Here he formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the British Crown, naming it New South Wales. Given that Cook's discoveries would lead to the first European settlement of Australia, he is often popularly conceived as its European discoverer, although he had been preceded by more than 160 years.
Following the exploration period, the first wave of British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonization that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigenous populations drastically and marginalized them to the fringes of society.
While Australia began its modern history as a British penal colony, the vast majority of people who came to Australia after 1788 were free settlers, mainly from Britain and Ireland, but also from other European countries. Convict settlements were along the east coast, Adelaide and Perth being settled by free settlers. Many Asian and Eastern European people also came to Australia in the 1850s, during the Gold Rush that started Australia's first resource boom. Although such diverse immigration diminished greatly during the xenophobic years of the White Australia policy, Australia welcomed a successive series of immigration from Europe, the Mediterranean and later Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society by the late 20th century.
The system of separate colonies federated to form an independent country in 1901, each colony now becoming a state of Australia. The new country was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and made a proportionally huge contribution (considering its small size of population) to the Allied war effort in World Wars I and II. Australian troops also made a valuable, if sometimes controversial, contribution to the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Australian Diggers retain a reputation as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit.
Long-term Australian concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. Government in Australia is based on a federal system (with States and a National Governments) similar to the USA, but these Governments follow a British model, with two elected houses (similar to the US House and Senate) with an unelected representative of the Queen of The United Kingdom in the (notionally powerless) executive position 'above' the parliament. A referendum to change Australia's status to a republic was narrowly defeated in 1999, largely due to a split between those seeking a directly elected President (the majority) and those who believed the President should be elected by the Government. Demand for another vote was discouraged by the then conservative Government, but it is likely to resurface following a change of government in late 2007.
Most of the population is concentrated in the south-east of the country, to the east of the Great Dividing Range. This is because the inland and western areas of the country are at best semi-habitable desert, known as the Outback. The most-inhabited states are Victoria and New South Wales, but by far the largest in land area is Western Australia.
Modern culture of Australia largely reflects its British origins, Anglo Australians are very protective of their culture and country. Australia has a large multicultural population from various nations and practicing almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-fifth of Australians were born to immigrant parents, and there are approximately half a million Australians of Aboriginal descent.
The most multicultural cities are Melbourne and Sydney. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially promotes itself as a center for the arts. Smaller rural settlements might still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), however virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s; in the half century after the war, Australia's population boomed from roughly 7 million to just over 20 million people.
The national holidays in Australia are:
January 1: New Years' Day
January 26: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
April 25: ANZAC Day, honoring military veterans
Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday (not celebrated in Western Australia, which observes Foundation Day a week earlier)
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day
Many states observe Labour Day, but on completely separate days. Most states have one or two additional state-wide holidays.
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday (Easter excepted), the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the major retail shutdowns will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed on public holidays. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, ANZAC Day and Christmas Day.
Salaried Australians have four weeks of annual leave every year. There is no fixed time to take it, but many take the three working days between Christmas and New Year and the following week. Domestic tourism is strongest during January and the Easter school holidays.
Australia has a prosperous Western-style capitalist economy, with a per capita GDP on par with the four dominant West European economies. Rising output in the domestic economy has been offsetting the global slump, and business and consumer confidence remains robust. The Federal government's emphasis on reform is another factor behind the economy's strength. The recent upturn in global commodity prices has helped Australia's economy grow since 2000.
While income disparities grew throughout the 80s, especially in outer suburban areas, strong employment growth and mandated minimum conditions for workers ensured that overall living standards kept growing until the 1990s.
The Australian Dollar (AU$) is a stable and reasonably strong unit of currency. It has been the official currency of Australia since 1966, replacing the Australian pound (£) and introducing decimal currency. It is the 6th most traded currency in the foreign exchange markets. All Australian coins depict Queen Elizabeth II on one side.
Services – tourism, education, financial services The service industry accounts for the majority of the Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – about 69%. Within the service sector, tourism is one of the most important industries in Australia, as it provides employment, contributes $73 billion to the economy each year and accounts for at least 11% of total exports.
Agriculture is yet another significant part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 3% of the GDP, although historically it was far more important, representing 80% of the GDP as recently as the 1950s. At the moment, the agricultural sector is experiencing a lot of difficulty due to the current drought, particularly in NSW.
Western Standard Time (WST) - operates in Western Australia (two hours behind EST, 8 hours ahead of GMT).
In NSW, ACT, VIC, SA, daylight savings time applies from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April. In WA it is the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March. Queensland and the Northern Territory do not use daylight savings time. Due to the half hour difference between CST and EST, this means that during summer there are five different time zones operating in Australia: GMT+9 (WA), GMT+9.5 (NT), GMT+10 (Qld), GMT+10.5 (SA) and GMT+11 (NSW, ACT, Vic, Tas).
Note 2 - The city of Broken Hill (NSW) operates on CST and the few roadhouses along the Eyre Highway in southeastern WA operate on an unofficial intermediate timezone between CST and WST (three quarters of an hour behind CST and three quarters of an hour ahead of WST).
240V 50Hz. On paper, 230V with the introduction of AS60038-2000 in line with European countries. Outlets are of the Australian AS-3112 standard, which features two angled flat blades and a third vertical flat blade for grounding. The configuration of the electrical contacts is similar to that found in Argentina and mainland China. Lamp sockets are predominantly bayonet (B22d), though Edison screw (E27)is used for some specialized or imported fittings.
European and other travellers with 230V 50Hz appliances need only a plug adapter. U.S., Canadian and travellers from other 60Hz countries need to check whether their power adapters can handle both 230V/50Hz and 110V/60Hz. If so, they only need a plug adapter. If not then step down transformer is required. Many laptops, shavers and iPod-type chargers can handle both voltages and frequencies.
Australia is completely surrounded by ocean: there is no way to travel overland to Australia. Hence, all international visitors arrive by plane or by boat. Almost all travellers will first travel to one of the state capitals, as these have all the major airports and many of the major ports.
There are many expedition companies such as Ozbus that have organized trips from London To Sydney but the last leg of the journey involves flying to Darwin from East Timor while the bus is shipped across.
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, via Kingsford-Smith International Airport (IATA: SYD, ICAO: YSSY). Assuming direct flights to Sydney from various parts of the globe, travellers can expect a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7-11 hour flight from countries in Asia, a 15 hour flight from the west of the United States of America and Canada, an 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, a 13-16 hours flight from South America, and up to a 24+ hour flight from western Europe. On account of long journey times from some destinations, many travellers opt to book a stop-over in their flight in order to minimise the impact of jet lag and flight discomfort, commonly Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.
Australia has a very strict customs requirement when it comes to animal and vegetable imports including wood, and other prohibited goods. This is because Australia is a large and isolated island, and thus far free of many diseases and insect pests found in other countries. All incoming visitors must pass a customs check for these items. No fruits, vegetables, meat or other food products are allowed in unless they are factory-made and on the approved list of imports (for example, chocolate is acceptable).
There are also some customs restrictions when travelling from one state to another, or even within the same state. This especially relates to items such as fruit and vegetables which can transmit pests.
There is no penalty for declaring most goods that are prohibited from import - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed or held in quarantine - but if you attempt to bring them in without declaring them, there are extremely heavy penalties including fines (in the order of thousands of dollars) and a possible jail term. It is far safer to declare any items that only might be prohibited, if they are not then you will suffer no consequence.
The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service website  has more details.
Visas and documentation
All foreigners except citizens of New Zealand require visas for all visits to Australia. The citizens of some countries, however, can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is a tourist or business visa valid for up to three month stays, at one time, up to one year in duration, online . These are often also available through travel agents at the time of booking your flight to Australia: apply for the ETA through your agent if possible, as the fee for applying directly is usually waived. Citizens of New Zealand may remain in Australia indefinitely without restrictions regardless of reason.
If your purpose is to arrive in Australia looking for work you´ll see that Australia is a huge melting pot of culture, custom, personalities and beliefs.
Australia is huge but sparsely populated. By land area it is the world's sixth biggest country, but the population of the entire country is only comparable to that of the Seoul or Mexico City metropolitan area. This means that great distances separate its cities and after leaving one city, you can sometimes expect to travel for hours before finding the next trace of civilization.
Australia drives on the left. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right should exercise great caution until they get used to this. Car hire companies and local (generally friendly) police will give advice on whether your car license is valid in Australia. Distances and speeds are specified in kilometers and fuel is sold by the liter.
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways. In Australia, as in many large countries, cars are widely used. Many Australian adults own cars. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. Some parts are dual carriageway but many sections are one lane each way. Major regional areas have sealed (paved) dual-lane roads, but isolated areas may have poorly maintained dirt roads or even tracks. Note that Australia's low population density makes for long driving times between major centers; its large size means there is sometimes great distance between key locations. Here are some indicative travel times:
While major sealed highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed roads anywhere in inland Australia is advised to take advice from locals, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tires, matches, food and water (minimum 4 gallons per person per day). Some of these roads might see one car per month (or less). It is common to hire a satellite phone in case of emergency. Local police stations would prefer that you call in and say hello and give them your itinerary. It is also a good idea to advise a friend or relative of your itinerary and let them know to alert authorities if you do not contact them within a reasonable amount of time after your scheduled arrival at your destination. It is not unusual for people stranded in remote areas to wait for a week or more before being rescued (if they are lucky enough that anyone notices they are missing). Heat and dehydration at any time of year can kill you rapidly. If stranded, stay with your vehicle and do what you can to improve your visibility from the air. Do not take this advice lightly, even Australians die out there.
Due to the extremely large distances involved, flying is a well-patronised form of travel in Australia. Fares are generally low, due to the amount of competition, and flights depart regularly. Services along the main business travel corridor ( Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane ) are run almost like a bus service, with flights leaving every 15 minutes during the day. The major domestic airlines in Australia are:
Qantas, the only nation-wide full service airline, flying to major cities and some larger regional towns;
Virgin Blue, a nation-wide budget airline with limited service, flying to major cities and a few larger regional towns;
Jetstar, Qantas's budget arm with limited service and assigned seating, currently serving major cities in the eastern states & Perth;
Tiger Airways Australia, one of Asia's largest LCC has a hub in Melbourne serving about 10 destinations across the mainland and Tasmania, prices are very competitive, also fly to/from Singapore via Darwin or Perth;
Regional Express, covering larger towns & cities on the eastern seaboard;
Regional areas are served by several small state-based airlines. These include:
Fare prices tend to be quite volatile and can vary greatly day to day and carrier to carrier.
Visitors from countries with well-developed long distance rail systems such as Europe and Japan may be surprised by the lack of high-speed, inter-city rail services in Australia. A historical lack of cooperation between the states, combined with sheer distances and a relatively small population to service, have left Australia with a national rail network that is relatively slow and used mainly for freight. As a result, travel between major cities will not only be faster by air, but often cheaper as well depending on the route you wish to travel. Train travel between cities is, however, more scenic, and tourists are likely to see more of Australia travelling by train than they would otherwise see.
The long-distance rail services that do exist are mainly used to link regional townships with the state capital, such as Bendigo to Melbourne, or Cairns to Brisbane. In Queensland, a high speed train operates between Brisbane to Rockhampton and Brisbane to Cairns. Queensland also has passenger services to inland centers including Longreach (The Spirit of the Outback), Mount Isa (The Inlander), Charleville (The Westlander) and Forsayth (The Savannahlander). There are also inter-city train services operated by Great Southern Railways on the routes Melbourne-Adelaide (The Overland), Sydney-Adelaide-Perth (Indian Pacific), Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin (The Ghan) however as noted above, these are not "high speed" services, so if you do not enjoy train travel as part of your holiday in its own right then this is probably not for you.
Within the capital cities, mass transit is by train or bus, and Melbourne also has a comprehensive tram network serving the inner suburbs. Sydney has an extensive rail system which includes stations within the metropolitan area. Some states also have an inter-urban train service, although it tends to be devoted to carrying people into and out of the state's capital.
Not all states have a public rail network. Tasmania, for example, discontinued passenger services more than 20 years ago, though tourist railways still exist. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, and the Australian Capital Territory has only a single railway station a couple of kilometers from the center of Canberra.
CountryLink - Trains to and from regional cities in New South Wales; also linking Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
CityRail - Trains within the Sydney metropolitan area, linking to the regional cities of Newcastle, Maitland, Wollongong, Nowra, the Blue Mountains and Lithgow as well as the Central Coast area of New South Wales.
V/Line Passenger - Train & coach services in Victoria, including combined Train + Bus services between Melbourne & Adelaide, Melbourne & Canberra and to places not served by railway lines
A nation-wide (except Tasmania) interstate bus service is provided by Greyhound Australia. Other bus companies include: Firefly, Murrays.
Greyhound travels to over 1100 destinations in Australia daily, has now operated in Australia for over 100 years and is one of the oldest operating coach companies in the world.
Buses run 365 days a year carrying 1.3 million passengers over 29 million kilometers a year. Greyhound Australia also one of Australia’s largest charter bus companies. It has a wide variety of ticketing options allow you to travel at your own pace, hopping on and off as many times as your ticket allows.
Due to Australia's size and layout inter city ferries are not common. The main ferry route runs between Melbourne and Devonport, Tasmania. The Spirit of Tasmania carries cars and passengers on the route across Bass Strait daily. 
Organized tours by bus are popular, especially for young people, allowing you to visit the famous tourist spots most easily reached by private vehicle (such as Ayers Rock, Kakadu National Park) without the hassle of organizing the trip. A variety of accommodation from camping to five star hotels is available. Competition among operators is strong, so check rates and itineraries and for discounts and special offers.
Emu Run Tours based in Alice Springs run some excellent tours with very well informed guides. If you need a disabled bus, however, do not go on the one day trip to Uluru with this company. It does not kneel and the armrests are fixed. Front seats full of equipment and not available for disabled passengers.
In contrast the Adelaide Sightseeing company is excellent. Booking agent saw my w/stick, rang to confirm bus on the Victor Harbour tour next day could kneel and offered to reserve a front seat for me.
Diamantina Touring Company  Outback 4X4 Expeditions
It is not illegal to hitchhike in Australia though it is an offense to obstruct traffic by "soliciting ... a ride ... from within the roadway". If you stay on the footpath, you're legally in the clear.
The great distances between towns in the Outback (or inner desert regions) can make hitchhiking difficult, but many travelers have made the coast-to-coast trek. Hitchhiking is more popular along the coastal regions (between Melbourne and Sydney, for example). During the 1990s several travellers went missing after hitchhiking along this route and were found to have been murdered by a serial killer. The perpetrator of these crimes has now been imprisoned; however, if you choose to hitchhike, you should use great caution.
The very lightly populated outback regions in Australia can provide the unique opportunity of a ride in a road train. Waits can be long and the climate harsh but the local people very warm and inviting and supportive of any venture to move around by hitchhiking (public transport is often non-existent). It is highly advisable if venturing into these regions without your own transport to carry enough food and water with you for at least a day and carry a good sun hat and warm clothes — people do die in these areas from lack of preparation.
In most Australian cities and towns, hitchhiking is often frowned upon, which can make getting a ride extremely difficult as many Australians are not generally comfortable with the idea of allowing a complete stranger to enter their car.
Owing to its unique geographical character, there is much to see in Australia that you can't see (easily / in its natural setting) anywhere else:
Australian flora and fauna is essentially unique to the island continent, the result of having been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Amongst Australian animals are a large group of marsupials (mammals with a pouch) and monotremes (mammals that lay eggs!) Just some of the animal icons of Australia are the kangaroo (national symbol) and the koala. A visit to Australia wouldn't be complete without taking the chance to see some of these animals in their natural environment.
There are many tour companies around Australia that offer tours to see many of these unique creatures in their natural habitat such as NatureTour Australia () Alternatively, there are many wildlife parks and zoos that exhibit excellent displays of native animals including the Warrawong Fauna Sanctuary in South Australia.
English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians and British English spellings are used generally. It is the only language used in the school curriculum, and generally the only Australians who are not fluent English speakers are older people who immigrated as adults. Expect everyone in the tourist industries, hotels and retail industries, and almost every other Australian, to speak English.
Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding Australians. Australian slang should not present a problem for tourists except possibly in some isolated outback areas. As with other regional accents a few words and euphemisms that are considered offensive in the US are common vernacular in Australian speech.
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, Italian and Greek. However, since it is expensive to travel from Australia and there is no single commonly used second language, Australians commonly do not have a fluent second language unless they are educated or part of a family who immigrated recently. 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.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find travelling in Australia difficult. There are some tour companies who specialize in offering package deals for Australian tours complete with guides who speak particular languages, and non-English speaking travellers might find this easier.
Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $. The dollar (called "the Australian dollar" and written AU$ or AUD when it is necessary to distinguish it from the currencies of other countries which call their currency the dollar too) is worth 90 to 95 US cents. Its buying power in Australia is a little less than that of the US dollar in the US. No currency other than the dollar is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia; except for businesses in international terminals of airports, which may accept some of the major world currencies, i.e. US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars.
Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. There is no real black market in currency, and no need to even seek one out in any case. It is recommended that travellers exchange money outside of Australia, as rates are significantly worse in Australia than their overseas counterparts and a AU$5-8 commission is usually levied in most major currency exchanges, however it is possible to find a non-commission outlet. If travellers transit in Hong Kong, Bangkok or Singapore, currency exchangers such as American Express offer competitive rates with no commission.
The smallest unit of currency that prices will be quoted in is the cent, which is worth $0.01. However Australia no longer has physical units of currency that allow for bills to be paid to the nearest cent. If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents you pay to the nearest five cents unless you are paying by credit or debit card, in which case you will pay the exact total. Yes that does mean that when buying small quantities of very cheap items, it is possible to buy them for free, or get an extra 50ml of fuel in a tank. This tends to even out though, as half the time your total will be rounded up rather than down.
The coin denominations are: 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper.
Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. No Australian ATM's will impose a surcharge over what is charged by your bank or card issuer. Check with your bank as to what fees will apply to withdrawals in Australia.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. If you have an Australian bank accound, many supermarkets also provide a "cash out" service which you can use to withdraw money over the counter when paying for your purchases. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos. Cards bearing the VISA or Mastercard logos are the most commonly accepted, though many other cards are as well. Travellers using cards other than VISA or Mastercard may find they are not accepted by smaller merchants.
As of 29 March 2008:
$ US Dollar
USD$1.00 = $1.09
$1.00 = USD$0.92
£ Pound Sterling
£1.00 = $2.18
$1.00 = £0.46
€1.00 = $1.72
$1.00 = € 0.58
$ New Zealand Dollar
NZD$1.00 = $0.87
$1.00 = NZD$ 1.15
$ Canadian Dollar
CAD$1.00 = $1.07
$1.00 = CAD$0.94
¥ Japanese Yen
$1.00 = JPY¥90.95
Unless you come from North America, Western Europe or Japan, Australia is generally an expensive country. A basic meal would cost anywhere from $5-15 and prices can easily rocket up to hundreds of dollars in the most expensive restaurants. Backpackers should budget around $100 a day to be safe and the cheapest accommodation available would be in the region of $30-50 per night, though you would have to share a bathroom and bedroom with other people.
Australia's base trading hours are 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday. These days, in many larger cities, shops will stay open until 9pm on Thursdays in the suburbs and on Fridays in the city center. Australia's weekend is on Saturdays and Sundays of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal in larger cities on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. The city of Perth and some rural towns still severely restrict Sunday trading even of essentials.
Australian banks are open weekdays 9am - 4pm only, often closing at 5pm on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.
Australia has a more or less universal sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST. Only basic supplies such as unprocessed foods, medical services and certain input taxed supplies by financial institutions such as banks and insurers are exempt. GST is included in the price of any item you purchase rather than added at the time of payment.
Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies.
Tourist Refund Scheme
If you are planning to buy items over $300 at one place at one time, you might be interested in the Tourist Refund Scheme, which allows you to obtain a refund of the GST paid (effectively a 9.1 % discount). Note that you must buy the goods less than 30 days before departure and take them with you when you leave Australia. You need to show the item(s) plus the receipt at the TRS desk in the departure lounge, so you should carry the items with you and also allow an extra 30 min before departure. The refund payment can be made by either check, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card.
GST reclaim by non-resident enterprises
An 'enterprise' is a business, government department, not for profit or an academic institution.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) permits non-resident enterprises to reclaim the GST incurred on the consumption of services within Australia. Typically this includes accommodation, communications, meals, transport, professional fees.
The non-resident may reclaim its GST by registering with the ATO and filing claims on a quarterly or monthly basis. It is normal for the non-resident to appoint a local fiscal representative to act on their behalf in Australia.
It is rarely understood that non-resident enterprises (refer definition above) may claim GST input tax credits without making taxable supplies 'connected with Australia'. For an obligation free consultation on GST refunds visit http://www.GSTreclaim.com.
The difference between TRS and GST reclaim
The TRS is for goods taken as personal hand luggage at the time of departure. GST reclaim is for services consumed in Australia by non-resident enterprises.
Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though they are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-margin goods or purchases involving several items. Note that often the person with whom you are dealing will not have the authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.
Tipping is not compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. Most people think it is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment (usually as a convenience so the change does not hang around loose on someone's person - not as a gratuity), rather than a fixed percentage. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip. You may feel free to tip for exceptional service, in which case it will typically be appreciated. Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last cent.
Aspects to Australian cuisine that a visitor should look out for include:
BYO Restaurants: BYO stands for Bring Your Own (alcohol). In many of the urban communities of Australia you will find small low-cost restaurants that are not licenced but allow diners to bring their own bottle of wine purchased elsewhere. This is frequently much cheaper than ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant. Beer can be taken to some BYO restaurants, others allow only wine. Expect to pay a corkage fee which can vary from $2 or $3, to $15, or may be calculated by head. BYO is not usually permitted in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol.
Asian Fusion refers generally to Asian-inspired dishes
Counter lunch is the name for meals served in a pub. Traditionally served only at lunchtime in the lounge, today some pubs provide lunch and dinner. Meals of steak, chicken parmigiana, nachos are common.
The barbecue is a popular Australian pastime and many parks in Australia provide free barbecues for public use. Contrary to the stereotypical belief of foreigners, Australians rarely "Throw a shrimp on the barbie" (also, in Australia a shrimp is more commonly referred to as a prawn). Steaks, chops, chicken fillets, kebabs are popularly barbecued.
Refer to the individual sections on Australian regions for lists of restaurants.
Perhaps the only dish than can truly be called Australian is kangaroo steak. Many say that it has a texture similar to that of beef. It is widely available in many restaurants throughout Australia.
Eating vegetarian is quite common in Australia and many restaurants offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes, or will have an entire vegetarian menu section. Vegans may have more difficultly but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu should offer some flexibility. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. In country towns and regional areas be prepared to shop in supermarkets or to carry extra food with you, as vegetarianism is often poorly catered in such areas. Most towns will have a Chinese restaurant that can provide steamed rice and vegetables.
People observing kosher or halal will be able to find specialist butchers in the capital cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capital cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in the correct way.
A famous Australian food item is Vegemite, a salty yeast-based spread similar to the British product Marmite, or the Swiss product Cenovis. Famously unpalatable to those unfamiliar with it, novice samplers should start with a thin spread of Vegemite on hot buttered toast.
A popular Australian commercial biscuit that has had export success is the Arnott's Tim Tam. A chocolate fudge-filled sandwich of two chocolate biscuits, all wrapped in chocolate, this decadent biscuit gave rise to the "Tim Tam Slam". This decidedly messy maneuver requires nibbling the chocolate off both ends of a Tim Tam, then using the biscuit as a straw to suck up your favorite hot beverage, more typically coffee. The hot drink melts the fudge center and creates an experience hard to describe, but finesse is needed to suck the whole biscuit into your mouth in the microseconds between being fully saturated & dissolving into your cuppa.
Other Australian sweets include the lamington, a small sponge cake covered in a thin layer of chocolate icing (frosting) and then dipped in desiccated coconut; the pavlova, a meringue cake with a cream topping usually covered with fresh fruit - a popular alternative to traditional Christmas pudding during the holiday season and ANZAC biscuits a mix of coconut, oats, flour, sugar and Golden Syrup which are sometimes, but erroneously, reported as having been baked and sent to soldiers by anxious First World War wives and mothers. It is generally accepted that Pavlova and ANZAC biscuits are originally a New Zealand invention.
Damper is a traditional type of bread that was baked by stockmen during Colonial times whilst in the Outback. It is made with the most basic of ingredients and usually cooked over a woodfire. Do not expect to find this bread in urban bakeries - it is only commonly served to tourists on camping trips in the Outback.
All of the capital cities and many regional towns in Australia host a "farmer's market", which is generally held each week in a designated area on a Saturday or Sunday. These markets mostly sell fresh fruits and vegetables, as hygiene standards in Australia forbid the selling of meat from market stalls. The attraction of markets are the lower prices and freshness of the produce. The attraction for the traveller will be the cheap and excellent fruits on offer - depending on the region and season. In regional areas the market is usually held outside the town itself in an empty paddock; markets in capital cities are easier to reach but the prices are typically more in line with those you would find in supermarkets. Its best to ask a local as in most cases they will be able to direct you.
The Australian staple drink is beer. Australia also has a very active wine industry and local consumption of wine is increasing. Drinking imported wine is a novelty; you will find that most wines for sale both in bottle shops and restaurants will be Australian wines. Mixed drinks are also served, particularly vodka, bourbon and whiskey mixers. These are sometimes sold pre-mixed in bottles and cans. Spirits are served in pubs, but not in all restaurants.
The legal drinking age throughout Australia is 18 years. It is illegal both to purchase alcohol for yourself if you are under 18 years of age or to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone who is under 18 years of age. The seller will get in the most trouble for doing this and therefore many alcohol vendors will require proof of age if you appear to be under 25 (sometimes under 30) in their judgment. Acceptable proof is generally government issued photo ID with both your name and date of birth on it: in particular, a drivers license issued by any Australian state, a photographic identity card issued by any Australian state or a passport are generally accepted. Many licensed venues do not even allow under-age people on their premises. Those that do will require that the under-age person is accompanied by someone over 18.
Broadly speaking, Australian culture closely resembles that of the United Kingdom. Notwithstanding increased migration from all corners of the globe, 93% of the population is of Anglo-Saxon origin, although Australians tend to use "Anglo-Celt" in recognition of substantial Irish migration during the early years of white settlement. Contrary to popular mythology, white Australians are mostly descended from free settlers rather than convicts, who even during the years of transportation outnumbered convict migrants by at least five to one.
Australian English was once known for its color and colloquialisms but has lost a great deal of this to outside influence, although people in rural areas still tend to speak in a broader accent, using many of the slang words that have become outmoded in metropolitan areas. There is very little provincialism in Australia and although there are a few subtle regional accents.
Australians can be socially conservative compared to some European cultures, and most resemble Canadians or New Zealanders in their political outlook. They tend to be relaxed in their religious observance. While the mythic Australian sense egalitarianism has declined in economic terms, modes of address still tend to be casual and familiar compared to some other cultures. Most Australians irrespective of socioeconomic status will tend to address you by your first name and will expect that you do the same to them.
Alcohol can be purchased for consumption on premises only in licensed venues: pubs, clubs and many restaurants. You can also purchase alcohol for private consumption in bottle shops, which are separate stores selling bottled alcohol. You typically cannot buy alcohol in supermarkets or other retail outlets, but bottle shops and major supermarkets are often found in very close proximity. Some major chain supermarkets do however offer a small selection of wines and beers that can be purchased in the store.
Alcohol consumption is banned in many other public places, particularly parks and footpaths. This is under the control of local council authorities. Otherwise, public drunkenness varies in acceptability. You will certainly find a great deal of it in close proximity to pubs and clubs at nighttime, much less during the day. Being drunk with a group of friends is far more acceptable than wandering around drunk and alone. Note that public drunkenness is a misdemeanor offense and if picked up by the police you may spend the night sobering up in a holding cell or be charged.
Driving while affected by alcohol is both stigmatized and heavily policed (by random breath testing police patrols) in Australia, as well as being inherently dangerous. The acceptable maximum blood alcohol concentration is 0.05% in all states, often lower or not allowed for operators of heavy vehicles and young or novice drivers. This alcohol level is reached by approximately one standard drink per hour of consumption (the term 'standard' is a misnomer: most drinks sold in pubs and restaurants are substantially larger than a standard drink). In Australia every single police car can operate as a breath test station. There are also "booze buses" which are large vans set up typically on busy routes to test large numbers of drivers. Booze buses are usually deployed more heavily on long weekends, i.e. Australia day , Easter and Christmas. A summary of Australia's attitude to driving under the influence is the massively popular government slogan "if you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot".
In Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia police officers are also empowered to randomly test drivers for the recent use of prohibited drugs. The operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prohibited drugs is also a serious offense.
Generally speaking, if you are intending to study in Australia, you will need to be on a visa class that allows this, rather than a tourist visa. Students and academics invited to visit Australian universities will generally also need an appropriate visa, even if their visit is of a short enough period to be covered by a tourist electronic visa. For extremely short term or part time courses, check with your Australian consulate or embassy.
Australian students attend a high school program of approximately six years, and enter university (also called "uni") at seventeen or eighteen years of age. (In Australia, neither "school" nor "college" are used to refer to tertiary institutions, they are referred to only as "universities".) Australian undergraduate programs are usually three to four years in length. A fifth year is compulsory in some professional undergraduate programs such as engineering, law, medicine and dentistry. Medicine at the undergraduate level is either five or six years. Students in three-year degree programs can take an optional fourth year known as honours if they want to proceed into a postgraduate research program, whereas student enrolled in four year programs typically can incorporate their honours thesis into their fourth year.
Australia does not have universities whose prestige competes with Harvard or MIT in the US or Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. However many are ranked in the top 200 in the world (Times Higher Education Supplement). Its most prestigious research universities are equivalent to the next tier of universities. However, these universities are very competitive on tuition compared to other Western universities.
All tuition at university level is in English, save for courses that specifically focus on other languages. Students who have not previously earned a qualification in an English speaking program will have to take one of a number of English competency tests before being allowed to enroll.
Postgraduate studies in Australia fall into two classes: coursework and research. Coursework degrees are generally at the Masters level and are terminal: they do not proceed into a research degree. Research degrees are at the Masters and Doctoral level.
Undergraduate admission to university is centralized at the state level. You make a single application for admission to the state admissions body stating your course preferences. The universities select students from this common applicant pool based upon their ranking and preferences. Unless you are applying for a creative arts degree, your ranking will be based solely on previous academic performance at both high school and previous university studies.
Postgraduate admission is managed by individual universities and you will need to apply separately to each institution you are considering.
The full fees are very competitive compared to many Western universities. Australian citizens have the option of substantially reduced fees and also have the option of deferring payment and having the money taken from their income tax after graduation. Other students will generally be required to pay full tuition on enrollment each semester.
Scholarships are rarely awarded for undergraduate or postgraduate coursework degrees. A comparatively large number of scholarships are available for postgraduate research usually covering both tuition where required and living costs. These are awarded by individual universities.
Hostel, motel and hotel accommodation is readily available in most Australian cities and tourist destinations. Smaller towns usually have a selection of motel rooms available at a number of venues. Accommodation rates are broadly comparable, if perhaps slightly less expensive than their equivalents in Europe or North America. often Pubs in small towns will offer an amount of rooms available
Budget hostel-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and often with dormitories is approximately $20-$30 per person per night. Facilities usually include a fully equipped kitchen with adequate refrigeration and food storage areas which allow travellers to stay healthy and save money by cooking their own meals. All hostels also have living room areas equipped with couches, dining tables, and televisions to provide travelers with a cozy and relaxing environment. About 150 hostels are part of YHA Australia, a member of Hostelling International. You'll also find a network of Nomads World Hotels properties, almost always a cheaper option than most other hostels but part of the now fading "flashpacking" movement. (Flashpacking - backpacking in style but still at budget prices!)
All state capitals would have at least one major hotel up to 5 stars that is comparable to many other high profile hotels around the world. The majority of Australia's hotels are located in the Central Business Districts (CBD) of the capital city. Hotel services and hospitality are often excellent such as room cleaning services, free morning newspapers, meals to your door and a high-speed internet connection up to 24mb/s (but often with a premium fee twice the cost of the local internet).
All hotels would have a restaurant (or bistro, depending on the type of hotel you are staying in) on the ground floor next to the check in desk. The restaurant or bistro would often serve food that comparable to many other up-market restaurants outside the hotel. Also on the ground floor would normally be a fully equipped bar.
Tourists choosing accommodation in Australia normally consider the itinerary before booking for a hotel in a particular area. It is best to carve out the trip before considering the hotel of choice. There are many helpful travel portals that enable people to choose the right kind of hotel based on their travel plans.
Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost $50 per person per night at the very least.
Typically, motel-style accommodation will have a private room with a bed or number of beds, and a separate, private, shower and toilet. Breakfast is commonly included in the price of the room.
A number of local and international chains offer motel-style accommodation:
Budget Motels - over 460 venues in Australia and New Zealand; not plush, but clean and basically comfortable
Golden Chain Motels - over 325 Members Locations in Australia offering affordable accommodation at small owner operated businesses.
In very small inland towns (population 5,000 or less) there may not be either hotels or motels; instead, local pubs usually offer accommodation to travellers. Pub accommodation tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms. In some metropolitan areas, some pubs still offer accommodation of standards somewhere between backpacker hostels and motels.
Serviced apartments are widely available, for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms.
Camping and caravaning
Virtually every town, no matter how small, will have a caravan park where you can pitch a tent (or usually rent a cabin room).
The camper trailer has also become very popular in Australia. It is perfect for the Australian camping lifestyle, whether it be weekends away or an extended trip into the great outdoors where no facilities exist. You will need to be self-sufficient and carry suitable spares and a good tool kit.
Camping is a popular past-time, and you will see people camped in selected locations beside some major (particularly inland) highways, mainly during holiday periods. These locations vary, and while some may be set up with toilets and fresh water to accommodate the traveler, some prohibit camping. A fine and a midnight wake-up visit my accompany the latter.
Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens and permanent residents of Australia can work in Australia without any further permits, but others will require a work visa of some kind. All visitors who do not hold Australian permanent residency or citizenship (including New Zealand citizens who aren't also Australian permanent residents or citizens) are not allowed to access Australian social security arrangements for the unemployed, and will have limited, or more usually, no access to the Australian government's health care payment arrangements.
Payment and taxes
Most Australian employers pay via direct deposit to Australian bank accounts. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive. Your passport will not be enough ID to open a bank account. You will need to show the bank teller 100 points of ID .
As soon as you have an address it is wise to apply for a tax file number. You can apply for it online (though, only in Australia) for free at the Australian Tax Office website , though you can generally get it quicker if you just go to their offices. The Australian financial year runs from July 1 to June 30, and tax returns for each financial year are due on October 30, four months after the accounting period concludes. Check with Australian tax agents about Australian tax liability and filing an Australian tax return.
Australian employers will make compulsory payments out of your earnings to an Australian superannuation (retirement savings) fund on your behalf. Temporary visitors who are not citizens of either Australia or New Zealand can have this money returned to them  when their visa expires and they have left Australia.
Working holidaymaker scheme
Australia has a working holidaymaker program for citizens of certain countries between 18 and 30 years of age. It allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months from the time you first enter. You may work during that time, but only for 6 months at any one employer (was 3 months until July 2006). The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidized by casual or short-term jobs. If you're interested in a working holiday, some useful skills and experience might be: office skills to be used for temp work; or hospitality skills to be used for bar or restaurant work. An alternative is seasonal work like fruit-picking, although much seasonal work will require that you work outside the major cities. From 2006, working for 3 months in seasonal work will allow you to apply for a second 12 month visa.
You can apply online for a working holiday visa, but you must not be in Australia at the time. It takes just a few hours to process usually and it costs about 170AUD. On arriving in Australia ask for the working holiday visa to be "evidenced", so you can show your future employer. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs. Don't waste your time applying for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship for a different visa class. Contract jobs generally mean employers are looking for solid experience, so make your resume reflect that. Search for jobs on Seek or for IT related roles Jobnet. It is wise to try arrange a few interviews and prospects before you arrive in Australia in order to be in the better paid jobs.
Sponsored work visas
The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. However, this just 'easier', not 'easy' as such. Your employer will need to demonstrate that they cannot hire your skills in Australia, and the approval will take several months. If applying in search of sponsorship, be prepared for a long wait for success. Note that getting the visa might take a couple of months from the beginning of the application process, and that you will need a medical examination by a doctor approved by the immigration officials before it can be granted (among other things, you will need a chest x-ray to show that you do not have tuberculosis). Check with your local Australian High Commission, Consulate or Embassy.
For details of work visas see the Immigration Department's website .
You can apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer than receiving a work visa. You can also apply for permanent residency as the holder of a work or study visa, but your application will not be automatically accepted. After three years of permanent residency you are eligible for Australian citizenship.
There are several volunteer opportunities in Australia. Many worldwide organizations offer extended travel for those wanting to volunteer their time to work with locals on projects such as habitat restoration, wildlife sanctuary maintenance & development, scientific research, & education programs.
Australians are generally an easy-going bunch of people and usually do not go for much formal respect. It is also generally acceptable to wear revealing clothing in Australia, though it would be wise to cover up when visiting places of worship such as churches. In warm conditions casual "t-shirt and shorts" style clothing predominates except in formal situations.
However, note that Australians are very fond of their seemingly laid-back way of life, and any attempt to get them to speed up will usually be taken to offense. East Asian travellers in particular should be very patient when dealing with Australians so as not to seem too imposing.
Australian modes of address tend towards the familiar. Foreigners working in Australian firms are sometimes disquieted when they are given nicknames by people whom they have only recently met. Profanity is perhaps more common than in North American countries. Unless you find this truly offputting it is best not to react adversely as Australian people might consider you to be overly pompous.
The number 000 (called 'triple zero' or 'triple oh') can be dialed from any telephone in Australia, home or payphone, 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 want to contact these services but the situation is not an emergency, don't call 000 -- call your local police, fire brigade, or ambulance station.
You can dial 000 from all mobile phones sold in Australia. However, using the universal emergency number 112 on your mobile phone will ensure that you can connect to the emergency services if there is coverage from any mobile network, even if there is no coverage from your own provider. You can also call it from phones whose SIM cards have been removed.
The teletext (TTY) emergency service number for hearing or speech impaired people with appropriate equipment is 106.
Calls from fixed line/landline phones may be traced in order to assist the emergency services to reach you. The Australian emergency services cannot trace the origin of emergency calls from mobile phones, so be sure to calmly and clearly provide details of your location. Because of an increasing number of calls made accidentally from cellular phones left in bags or pockets, the emergency operators will disconnect your call after 30 seconds if they do not think there is anyone at the other end of the line.
Emergency numbers from other countries (for example, '911' in the USA) do not work in Australia.
Take care on the roads
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. Avoid the stresses of fatigue by not planning to drive too far in a day.
Urban Australians jaywalk, dodge cars, and anticipate the sequence of lights. Although most Australians will stop for a red light, running the amber light is common, so ensuring the traffic has stopped before stepping from the kerb is always a good idea. People from countries who drive on the right will take a while to get used to looking the right way at crossing.
Drowning is a leading cause of death in Australia.
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 sunlight hours. In most cases the local volunteer surf lifesavers or professional lifeguards are only available during certain hours, and at most beaches only on weekends. If the flags aren't up, then there's no one patrolling - and you shouldn't swim.
Hard surfboards and other water craft e.g. surf skis, kayaks etc., are not permitted between the red and yellow flags. These craft must only be used outside of the blue 'surfcraft permitted' flags.
Many Australian ocean beaches have extremely strong rips that most people are unable to detect or handle. Rips are generally channels of water perpendicular to the beach which take out the water which the incoming surf waves brings into shore. These apparently 'calmer' channels of water are what experienced surfers use for a fast lane out to sea. Inexperienced beach goers mistakenly use these channels or areas since they appear as calm water and look to be an easier area into which to swim in and out to shore. Problems generally arise when the novice swimmer tries to swim back into shore against the outgoing current or rip, realize they are getting nowhere so they panic and end up drowning.
If caught in a rip, stay calm to save energy and swim parallel to the beach (not against the pull of the current). Most rips are only a few meters wide, and once clear of the undertow, you will be able to return to shore. If you are not a strong swimmer, simply tread water and alert surf rescue to your plight by raising one hand above your head. You will probably find local swimmers or surfers will also quickly come to your aid. It is recommended that tourists unfamiliar with local beach conditions never swim alone.
Crocodiles, sharks and the Box Jellyfish can all be found on Australia's tropical beaches, depending on the time of year and area.
Australia is prone to various regular natural disasters, including tropical cyclones (called hurricanes in the US), annual floods and bushfires. Be aware of the times and places at which these will occur. Information on and advanced warnings of severe weather, including fire danger, is available from the Bureau of Meterology's warning page  or by calling the National Telephone Weather Services Directory on 1900 926 113.
The wettest period for the south of the country is usually around the winter months of June, July, August. There is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding. In the tropical north the Wet Season occurs overs the summer months of December, January and February, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods to those regions.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert and a long-standing drought situation. While it is extremely unlikely that you would ever be refused assistance with water in remote areas, do not waste it and do not be surprised if you are charged for it.
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 gallons or 7 liters 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.
Most larger cities now have water restrictions, limiting use of water in activities like washing cars and watering gardens, due to the extremely low levels of water. Wasting water could result in fines, so it is common sense to only use water for essential purposes.
Large parts of Australia, including parts of major cities like Sydney, are endangered by bushfires (wildfires) most summers. National parks and wilderness areas are especially vulnerable to fires due to the oil content of eucalyptus leaves. Although fires are occasionally lit by lightning strikes, most out-of-control fires are human lit: some deliberately and some not. As a consequence there are severe penalties for deliberately or even accidentally letting a fire get out of control. Even throwing a lit cigarette butt from your car window could result in a jail term.
In addition, each state's fire service operates a fire ban system. When a fire ban is in place all open fires (outdoor fires) are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, but it is nevertheless your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. Note that a total fire ban will even include a cigarette, though typically not in urban areas.
If you are staying in an area threatened by fire you will normally be evacuated by emergency services. Do not resist evacuation: fire fighters are instructed NOT to risk their own lives in order to save people, property or wildlife in danger.
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, pickpocketing and the like. There are some areas of the large cities that are more dangerous after dark, but there generally aren't "no-go" areas in the sense that the police refuse to patrol them or that it is dangerous to enter them 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 or bag that is visible in the car.
Recent events such as the race riots in Cronulla have focused international attention on the unfortunate development of racism in Australia. At the same time, it is not unusual to read of individual persons wearing religious dress to be attacked, although generally these are spontaneous attacks by drunken people rather than organized racist groups. These attacks are taken seriously by police and should be reported immediately.
Attempts to scam tourists are not prevalent in Australia, take normal 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.
Opium, heroin, amphetamines (speed), cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and hashish among other drugs are all illegal both to possess and to sell in Australia, with the offense usually carrying a jail term. Penalties for possession or sale of small amounts of marijuana are typically lower than for other drugs. In South Australia, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory jail terms do not apply to first time marijuana offences. Foreigners should not expect more lenient treatment than locals from Australian police for drug offenses.
Australia's proximity to Asia means that heroin is a far more commonly used illicit drug than cocaine or crack cocaine. In some areas of large cities you will need to be careful of discarded needles: however these will generally be found in back streets rather than in popular tourist spots. Australia has harm minimization policies: many cities have a needle exchange program and sometimes safe houses for heroin addicts, and HIV infection is thus comparatively low among heroin users in Australia.
Attempting to import illegal drugs into Australia is taken very seriously, and Australia has even co-operated with the police forces in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore in intercepting drug traffickers arriving from or travelling through those countries despite those countries having the death penalty for trafficking. Even Australian citizens have been turned over for trial and execution. Australia itself has relatively long jail terms (10+ years or even life imprisonment) for drug importation. Do not attempt to bring illegal drugs into Australia.
Exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes frequently results in sunburn. Australia also has the world's highest rate of potentially fatal skin cancer (melanoma). People spending time outdoors during the day should wear sun screen and a hat to shade the sun. It is also advisable in some areas to stay out of the sun between midday and 2.00 pm. In the long term, premature aging and skin cancer are also a risk. Even in cooler southern areas, proximity to the hole in the ozone layer means that the risk of sunburn is much higher than in the northern hemisphere. Fair-skinned people are especially at risk, and it is advisable to use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30+. 
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.
Two other useful emergency numbers are the Alcohol & Drug Information Service (1800 422 599, toll free from any landline phone, charges apply to cellular phones), and the Poisons Information Hotline (13 11 26, local call charge from any landline phone, higher charges apply to mobile phones).
Australia's cleanliness standards are high. The tap water in Australia is almost always safe to drink -- there have been occasional alerts about high bacteria levels in some dams, but you will find these are widely publicized and that boiled water will be on offer everywhere when this happens. Restaurants are required to observe strict safety standards and food poisoning is no more common than it is in other first world nations.
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.
When travelling in Australia take precautions against mosquito bites. In far northern areas there have been cases of dengue fever. Generally minimizing your exposure to mosquitoes anywhere in Australia (using repellents or screens) is advisable.
Australia has first world medical standards, and you can expect to receive treatment that is the equal of care in other industrialized countries. 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 population 5000 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.
Australian citizens and permanent residents who live in the country can receive health care through the taxpayer funded Medicare system (although in most states ambulance costs are entirely the user's responsibility). Other travellers should hold appropriate insurance covering medical expenses, as they will be required to pay the full cost of care. Visitors from New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway are entitled to free reciprocal Medicare treatment for medical problems that occur during their visit.
Poisonous and dangerous creatures
Australia is home to many of the deadliest species of insects, reptiles and marine life on the planet. However, with very few exceptions, 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: there have been no fatal spider bites since 1979, and fatal snake bites occur only a couple of times a year.
Anti-venom is available for most spider and snake bites. If bitten you should immobilize the wound (by wrapping the affected area tightly with strips of clothing or bandages) and seek immediate medical help. 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 immobilized 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.
If travelling in rural Australia 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.
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-poisonous 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.
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. Their webs are easily identifiable by their funnel-like shape, hence the name, and are a good indication that funnel web spiders are present in the vicinity.
The Red Back spider (easily identified by a red mark on its abdomen), is more common but not life threatening. Both are likely to be found under rocks or leaf litter, although Funnel Webs have the unfortunate tendency to seek shelter indoors when there is a lot of rain.
Travellers in northern Queensland, 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. Box Jellyfish are very hard to detect and can be found in very shallow water. Rather than being 'painful', 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, the best rule is to follow the advice of locals. Irukandji are another species of jellyfish that inhabit the waters off of Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific islands. They are also very hard to see and are quite dangerous. They can be fatal if not treated immediately, but generally leave the victim in agony for a couple of days. Vinegar is also recommended for their treatment, however, to avoid stings altogether it is best to use a wetsuit that is resistant to jellyfish stings.
Blue Ring Octopus
Found in rock pools around the coasts of Australia is the tiny, but still deadly poisonous, Blue Ring Octopus. Usually a dull sandy-beige colour, the creature will show bright blue rings in its skin if threatened. Most often Blue Rings are found in rock pools, and bites occur when children (or tourists) pick them up. The Blue Ring Octopus is rare; deaths caused by this creature are also rare. 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 Hervey Bay, Queensland. Saltwater crocodiles in these areas can reach 30 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.
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.
Generally however, so long as you employ common sense and follow local instructions, you are likely to be safe. A lot of the rumors about Australia's wild life are larger than life and blown out of proportion.
Australia offers a vast multiplicity of internet access options for travellers. Internet cafés abound in most centers 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 painstakingly slow. If possible ask if you can check the speed of a café's connection before forking out $4-$5 for an hour.
Many libraries offer free internet access.
Wi-Fi access is increasingly available through a number of outlets and communications companies:
Telstra  offers convenient paid access at many McDonald's and Starbucks outlets (minimum $5 for first 15 mins, $0.20 per minute after that; a credit card option also exists...)
In addition to the "big two", several cities have wireless access provided for free in some parts of their center. Better wireless connections are slowly becoming available through the cell phone network. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have 3G connections. Short term rental of the access cards is available from some outlets.
If signing up for a personal Internet connection while travelling, dial-up is the best short-term option. There are many small but reliable ISPs in 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 who have instant online signup, but they do exist (Beagle is one). If moving around, check that your ISP has an access number that can be reached via a local call from landlines nationwide, rather than just in the ISP's home city.
Broadband connections are available in about 80% of Australian households. ADSL is the most common, with 512kps the most common speed, but higher speeds slowly becoming available. Faster cable connections are available in a smaller number of households. A typical cost is about $20 per month for 500MB included downloads, and $40 per month for up to 10GB included usage (both uploads and downloads). Australia has high excess bandwidth costs at up to 17c per MB. Broadband connections will typically require an initial contract period of 6–12 months and incur a one-time setup fee of up to $100.
Vodafone offers cheap UMTS / 3G access in all major cities on a month by month contract (no contract). No sign up fee, only $49 per month for approx. 1GB down/upload. You need to have your own 3G/UMTS capable laptop card or you buy one from Vodafone for $299 but then it is sim-locked. They want to see your visa which has to be valid for at least another 3 months from time of sign up.
The Country Code for overseas calls to Australia is +61.
Australia uses 8-digit local phone numbers for all customers with a 2-digit STD area code.
The outgoing international dialing access code (from within Australia) is 0011 (note, "00", common elsewhere in the world, does not work in Australia).
Emergency calls (Fire/Police/Ambulance) should be phoned through to 000 (or 112 from mobiles).
Australian Area Code List:
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
07 = North East (Queensland)
08 = Central & West (Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory)
Local calls are about A$0.25 on most fixed lines and A$0.50 on all Telstra Pay Phones.
Australia has nationwide mobile phone networks based on the GSM 900/1800 standards. In addition all four providers have now rolled out WCDMA (3G UMTS) networks in capital cities and some major regional centers. Call rates vary from carrier to carrier.
An easy way for travelers to chat to people is to buy a prepaid mobile phone. These can cost from A$25 upwards, depending on the brand, and are available around Australia in most retail outlets and post offices. They can then be topped up with recharged cards. It is also possible to buy a prepaid SIM card for a GSM 900/1800 or 3G phone you already own. These cost around A$30 (with $30 worth of calls included) although this varies a little depending on the network. Prepaid calls cost roughly 25-30 cents per 30 seconds, again depending on the network. The main GSM prepaid providers are Telstra , Optus , Virgin Mobile  and Vodafone. Telstra no longer provide a CDMA network, and they are slowly being phased out around the country. Surprisingly, it can be cheaper to call the United States than it is to call within the same city in Australia using a mobile phone!
It is also worth remembering that while rural towns usually have GSM access, in other rural areas, GSM coverage is scarce. If you intend to travel in rural areas, it is best to use a satellite phone. While Iridium was the only satellite phone service provider in Australia until now, Thuraya is expected to cover Australia around April 2008. While both phones are expensive to buy or rent, Thuraya calling costs are much cheaper than Iridium. Check the coverage in advance for the areas you will be visiting where you need coverage.
Australia Post runs Australia's postal service and post offices can be found throughout Australia. Posting a standard letter or postcard costs $0.50 within Australia, $1.30 to other Asia-Pacific countries and $1.95 to the rest of the world. Parcels, express mail and other services are also available.
This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!