Difference between revisions of "Australia"
Revision as of 07:37, 14 June 2005
Australia is both the world's smallest continent and the only country that has a whole continent to itself. Famed for its natural wonders and wide open spaces (beaches, deserts and "the bush" or the "the Outback"), Australia is ironically one of the world's most highly urbanised countries and is well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne and the Australian capital city Canberra.
The Australian mainland comprises six states and two territories. Ranked in order of population:
(common abbreviations follow in parentheses)
Australia also possesses a number of island territories in the Indian and Pacific Oceans:
In addition to this, Australia also maintains some bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory.
State and Territory Capitals
The continent of Australian was apparently 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, Australia became largely isolated from the rest of the world and the Aboriginal tribes developed a variety of cultures, based on close kinship, hunting, gathering and well-adapted to the range of environments found around the continent.
British settlers came to Australia in 1788, starting a process of colonisation that almost entirely displaced the Aboriginal people who inhabited the land. This reduced indigeneous populations drastically and marginalised them to the fringes of society. They remained second-class citizens almost until the modern day, only being recognised as full citizens in 1967.
While Australia began its modern history as a penal colony (an island prison for unwanted convicts), the vast majority of people who came to Australia were free settlers, mainly from the British Isles, but also from other European countries and China. 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, in the gold rush that started Australia's 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 then Asia to formulate a highly diverse and multicultural society.
The separate state-based colonies joined together to form a Commonwealth of the British Empire in 1901. It was able to take advantage of its natural resources to rapidly develop its agricultural and manufacturing industries and to make a major contribution to the British effort in World Wars I and II. Australian Diggers retain a reputation in England and the US as some of the hardest fighting troops along with a great social spirit.
Long-term concerns include salinity, pollution, loss of biodiversity, depletion of the ozone layer, and management and conservation of coastal areas, especially the Great Barrier Reef. A referendum to change Australia's status, from a commonwealth headed by the British monarch to a republic, was defeated in 1999.
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.
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.
Generally arid to semiarid in the west and centre; temperate in south and east; tropical in north.
A regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Fremantle Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer.
A common perception of Australia is that it is always hot and sunny: wrong! Both Sydney and Melbourne can experience days or even weeks of almost continual rainfall, while Tasmania has a climate that closely resembles that of England.
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.
Mainland Australia has three time zones, on account of its large geographical range:
Several Australian states observe daylight saving time during the summer season. In NSW, ACT, VIC and SA, daylight savings time applies from the end of October to the end of March and in Tasmania from the beginning of October to the end of March. Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia 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+8 (WA), GMT+9.5 (NT), GMT+10 (Qld), GMT+10.5 (SA) and GMT+11 (NSW, ACT, Vic, Tas).
Australia is an incredibly multicultural nation, its citizens' families originating in seemingly every country of the world, and practising almost every religion and lifestyle. Over one-third of Australians were born to immigrant parents, and there are approximately half a million Australians of Aboriginal descent.
The most multicultural city is the largest: Sydney, closely followed by Melbourne. Both cities are renowned for the variety and quality of global foods available in their many restaurants, and Melbourne especially has been at pains to promote itself as a centre for the arts world-wide. That said, whilst smaller "Outback" and rural settlements might still reflect a majority Anglo-Celtic monoculture (often with a small Aboriginal population), virtually every large Australian city and town reflects the relatively massive immigration from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific that occurred after World War II and continued into the 1970s. The changes that that might involve can be appreciated by the fact that, in the half century after the war, Australia's population boomed from roughly 3 million to just under 20 million people. Perth, although relatively isolated, for example, has a population in which 32.5% were born overseas.
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. Canberra's emphasis on reforms is another key factor behind the economy's strength. The stagnant economic conditions in major export partners and the impact of the worst drought in 100 years cast a shadow over prospects for 2003.
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.
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.
Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, via Kingsford-Smith International Airport. Given the most direct flights to Sydney from various parts of the globe, travellers can expect a 4 hour flight from New Zealand, a 15 hour flight from the west of the United States of America and up to a 24 hour flight plus 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.
After Sydney, significant numbers of travellers also arrive first in Australia in Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport), Brisbane and Perth. Much smaller numbers arrive at international airports in Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, the Gold Coast (Coolangatta), Norfolk Island, Newcastle and Broome.
Customs and Quarantine
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 (eg, chocolate is okay.) There is no penalty for declaring illegal goods - they'll just be confiscated and destroyed - but if you attempt to bring them in without declaring them, there are extremely heavy penalties including fines and a possible jail term. See AQIS for details.
Visas and Documentation
All foreigners require visas but citizens of certain richer countries can obtain a short stay tourist or business visa online at http://www.immi.gov.au/visit/index.htm.
The major methods of mass-movement in Australia are planes, trains and automobiles.
Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways. In Australia, as in many large countries, "the car is king". The vast majority of Australian adults own cars and would not seriously contemplate being without one. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by dual carriage highway systems. Major regional areas have sealed 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, here are some indicative travel times:
See Driving in Australia for more information.
Due to the extremely large distances involved, many people travelling between states and most people who want to cross the country from one side to the other will fly on one of the nation's airlines. The major domestic airlines in Australia are:
Regional areas are served by several small state-based airlines.
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, and the sheer distances involved, 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.
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. 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, demolished theirs more than 20 years ago and the ACT has never had one. The Northern Territory has the rail line linking Darwin to Adelaide through Alice Springs only, apart from several minor freight lines.
While Sydney has a fleet of extremely fun ferries that serve the population living around the harbour and boat sports are popular in many regional locations, there are very few inter-city boat services other than cruise ships. Some exceptions are the ferries between Palm Beach on Sydney's Northern Beaches and the New South Wales Central Coast; and the more famous car ferry services to Devonport in Tasmania departing from Sydney and Melbourne.
English is by far the dominant language spoken by Australians. 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 an adult. Expect everyone in the tourist industries, hotels and retail industries, and almost every other Australian, to speak English.
The Australian accent resembles that of the south of England (particularly that of east London, and the accent also has strong Irish influences) and even more closely that of New Zealand. Travellers accustomed to North American accents may have a little trouble understanding Australians, but if both you and they speak clearly you will have no lasting difficulties. Beware: "Aussies" have an unconscious habit of speaking very quickly and "slurring" words together.... Don't be afraid to ask them to repeat their words more slowly.
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) 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 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, Cantonese and Mandarin are a common sight.
Visitors who do not speak basic English will find travelling in Australia difficult as they will be unable to book tickets and the like easily. There are some tour companies who specialise 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 between 70 and 80 US cents. Its buying power in Australia is approximately equivalent to that of the US dollar in the US. No currency other than the dollar is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia.
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.
The coin denominations are: 5c, 10c, 20c, 5c, $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. You are likely to pay a surcharge for international cash withdrawals, and holders of Australian debit cards will also pay a surcharge if they use an ATM that is not operated by their own bank. Most ATMs only dispense $20 and $50 notes so be wary if you are withdrawing money to use to pay a bus or taxi fare -- many drivers do not carry change for $50 notes.
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.
Correct as of the 21 February 2005:
Australia has a more or less universal sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST. Only basic items, such as certain foods, are exempt. GST is quoted as part of the price of any item you will purchase rather than added at the time of payment. Receipts will contain the tax amount, which is one eleventh of the value of taxable items.
It is very uncommon to attempt to argue for a lower price in Australian stores, and will normally not be effective. Often the person with whom you are dealing will not have the authority to sell items at any price other than the marked price in any case.
It is not compulsory or even expected to tip for service in Australia - staff will certainly not chase you down for their tip. Since in restaurants tipping is not expected, many Australians would prefer visitors not to tip so that staff don't start getting use to it.
Australia doesn't really have a distinct "Australian" cuisine. The closest you will come is restaurants specialising in Western style dishes made from local produce, meaning that the ingredients come from the local area. These restaurants are concentrated outside the major cities and can be excellent: some rural towns are developing a small tourist industry based on the quality of their restaurants.
In the cities, you will find that restaurants, especially in the mid-range, either serve Western dishes without the focus on local produce, or concentrate on foreign cuisine, especially various Asian cuisines including Thai, Japanese, and Chinese. Budget restaurants serving spicy Asian dishes are especially common in any area that is populated by university students. Most Asian restaurants are staffed by immigrants from the country in question, although at the high end chefs are increasingly experimenting with the "fusion" of cuisines from different countries.
Most meat that you eat in Australia will have been raised on Australian farms. Australia's high agricultural output makes lamb especially a lot cheaper than it will be in many other countries. Meat from native animals including kangaroo, emu, and crocodile is available in Australia, but is far less commonly eaten than beef, lamb, pork or chicken. Kangaroo meat, which has been sold only for the last decade or so, is worth seeking out: it is a very lean meat with a strong flavour.
Vegetarianism is quite common in Australia - usually for health, lifestyle and ethical reasons - and you will find that most restaurants will offer at least one or two vegetarian dishes, or will have an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian dishes. Vegans may have a more difficult time finding food that is compatible with their diet, but any restaurant with a large vegetarian menu will probably be able to sensibly discuss the ingredients of various dishes. In large cities you will find a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
People observing kosher or halal will be able to find specialist butchers in the capitial cities, and will also find a number of restaurants with appropriate menus and cooking styles. Outside the capitial cities, it will be much more difficult to find food prepared in the correct way.
Australia has an active tourist industry and Australians regularly travel within the country, so hotel, motel and hostel rooms are readily available in large cities and in most towns motel rooms are available. However, being a first world country, expect to pay first world rates. Motel rooms in the cities will generally cost at least $50 per person per night at the very least, and hostel beds will be approximately $20-$30 per person per night.
Typically motel 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. Budget accommodation will be hostel-style with shared bathrooms and often shared bedrooms. An expensive hotel in a large city might be as luxurious as any 5-star hotel in the world.
In very small inland towns (with population of 5,000 or less) there may not be hotels, but often in these towns pubs will offer accommodation to travellers instead. Pub accommodation tends to be budget-style with shared bathrooms but private rooms. However virtually every town, no matter how small, will have a caravan park where you can pitch a tent (or usually rent a cabin room).
You can find a nation-wide list of backpackers hostels at http://www.greathostels.com
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.
The easiest way to get a work visa is to find an Australian employer who will sponsor you. 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.
You can also apply to immigrate as a skilled person or business person, but this process will take longer.
For details of work visas see The Immigration Department's website.
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 3 months at any one employer. The idea is for you to take a holiday subsidised 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.
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. 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. A working holiday visa restricts you to contract type jobs and it is almost a waste of time to apply for permanent jobs in the hope of sponsorship. 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. Open a bank account as soon as you arrive, all you need is a passport.
Australia is prone to various regular natural disasters, including cyclones (hurricanes), 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 rainy season for the south of the country is the winter and there is rarely enough rain at one time to cause flooding, while in the northern areas the 'Wet' occurs during the summer months, bringing torrential rains and frequent floods.
Australia is a very dry country with large areas of desert and a long-standing drought situation. In some isolated areas, water is not available to travellers due to the drought, so you will need to carry your own. This especially applies if you are travelling in the Outback.
Large parts of Australia, including parts of major cities like Sydney, are endangered by bushfires (wildfires) most summers. National parks and wildnerness areas are especially vulnerable to fires due to the oil content of eucalyptus leaves. Although fires are occasionally lit by lightning strikes and very occasionally by a hot tree spontaneously combusting, most out-of-control fires are human lit: some deliberately and some not. As a consequence there are severe penalties for deliberately or even accidently letting a fire get out of control. In addition, each state's fire service operates a fire ban system. When a fire ban is in place all open fires are forbidden. Most parks will advertise a ban, but it is nevertheless your responsibility to check the local fire danger levels. If you are staying in an area threatened by fire you will normally be evacuated by emergency services. Do not resist evacuation: fire fighters will risk their own lives together with property and wildlife in order to save people who are in danger.
Crime rates in Australia are roughly comparable with other first world countries. Travellers 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.
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.
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.
There are two banking scams particularly common in Australia: fraudulent bank notices via email; and tampering with ATMs so that cash is trapped inside them, or so that they record card details for thieves. The second is most applicable to travellers, and you should check your transaction records for odd transactions after using Australian 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.
Australian police are approachable and generally trustworthy, and you should report assaults, theft or other crime to the police as soon as possible.
Hitch-hiking is reasonably common on major routes in Australia, but is dangerous: kidnappings and murders of hitch-hikers have happened. If you're on a route travelled by families and professionals, you will have to wait a while for a lift.
Sunny Australia has one simple message for the traveller (and for its own citizens!): "Slip, slop, slap!"  In other words, "Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat!" Over-exposure to the sun at Australian latitudes is responsible for many cases of sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion every year. 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+.
The number 000 can be dialled 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.
While you can dial 000 from an increasing number of cellular phones sold in Australia, the universal emergency number on these is actually 112. All carriers provide a 112 service to all phones within their coverage area, so you may be able to call 112 from your phone even if you do not have normal phone coverage from your own provider. You can also call it from phones whose SIM cards have been removed.
Because of an increasing number of calls made accidently 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.
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 cellular 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 publicised 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.
Australia has first world medical standards, and you can expect to receive treatment that is the equal of care in other industrialised 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.
Whilst Australia has many dangerous and poisonous animals, insects and plants, this need not spoil your vacation. With very few exceptions, you are unlikely to encounter any of these in an urban environment. Be aware that they exist and you'll be okay. The primary rule is "If you don't recognise it, don't touch it". 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 the 1950s, 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 immobilise 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 half an hour, but if the wound is immediately immobilised and you rest it is possible to delay the onset of poisoning by some hours. 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 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 offers a vast multiplicity of cheap internet access options for travellers. Internet cafés abound in most centres of population.
Wi-Fi access is increasingly available through a number of outlets and communications companies:
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 IDD 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.
Australian Area Code List:
Local calls are about A$0.25 on most fixed lines and A$0.40 on all Telstra Pay Phones and are not timed.
Australia has nationwide mobile phone networks based on both the GSM 900/1800 and CDMA standards. 3G (UMTS) networks are also being rolled out. 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$50 upwards, depending on the brand, and are available around Australia. They can then be topped up with recharged cards. It is also possible to buy a prepaid SIM card for a GSM 900/1800 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.