The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about travel to Australia.
Feel free to call us, if we don't know the answer we'll make one up for you!
Australia lies in the South Pacific in the temperate zone, except for parts of the north which reach into the tropic zone. The island state of Tasmania lies about 140 miles off the south coast.
United States citizens are required to have a valid passport and an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). Amazing Down Under will be happy to help you obtain this document. CLICK here to apply for your ETA.
You will be required to show your passport when you check in for your departure flight and again upon arrival in Australia. Therefore, it is important that you carry your travel documents on your person. We suggest you photocopy your passport and airline ticket then keep them separate from the originals as you travel.
Packing for the Trip
In the tropics, lightweight clothing is suitable all year round. In the southern, temperate regions, summers (Dec. - Feb.) are warm to hot and lightweight clothes are suitable for daytime wear, but keep a jacket or sweater handy as nights may be cool. For the southern winters (Jun. - Aug.) sweaters, a jacket or light coat and generally warmer clothes are advisable. In keeping with Australia's relaxed lifestyle, dress is informal on most occasions. A jacket and tie is recommended only for those intending to visit a better restaurant or an evening show such as the opera.
A couple of hints about what to pack: you should be as ruthless as possible in keeping your packing to an absolute minimum - the smaller and lighter your baggage, the more convenient it is for you. After you have packed everything you think you need, go through it and take out some of the extra pairs of underwear, shirts, etc. and bring things back to the bare minimum that you truly need.
Your airline ticket will show the luggage restrictions by which you must abide. Label your luggage inside and out with a contact telephone number and address in the country to which you are traveling.
Finally, relax. As long as you have your ticket, passport, visa and credit cards, anything else can be purchased at your destination if you truly need it.
Communications & Business Hours
Australia has excellent communications, similar to those in the United States. Australia has five television stations which carry several U.S. shows, including CNN. The Sydney Morning Herald is the major metropolitan newspaper plus The Australian is distributed across the country. USA Today is also available.
English is the written and spoken language of Australia, with an expression or two (and an accent) that can confuse even the English.
In Australia the electric current is 220/250 volts, AC 50Hz. The Australian 3-pin plug (slant pin outlet) is different from that in some countries so you will need an adapter. Be sure to check any appliance you are thinking of taking. If it has a 240-volt switch it is okay. If not, you will need a voltage converter.
In Australia you drive on the left side of the road. Please take care when crossing the road or driving for the first few days.
An international driver's license is not required; a valid United States driver's license and passport is accepted.
Medical and Emergency Facilities
You will encounter few health hazards when traveling in any part of Australia. Standards of hygiene are high, particularly in food preparation. Doctors and dentists are highly trained and hospitals are well equipped. Medical and emergency facilities are available but are not free to visitors. Please arrange for insurance coverage before you depart the United States. In the event of illness, your hotel can call a doctor, refer you to one, or you can ask your embassy, high commission or consulate for a list of approved doctors.
Visitors are permitted to bring reasonable quantities of prescribed (non-narcotic) medications. All should be clearly labeled and identifiable. For large quantities, it is advisable to bring a doctor's certificate to produce to Customs if necessary, and to an Australian doctor if required. Local pharmacies are called "chemists."
You should check with your medical insurance company as to what type of coverage, if any, they might give you while you are out of the United States. If there are any doubts as to your coverage, you should consider getting a comprehensive health insurance policy for your journey in case of illness or accident. Most health care providers in Australia will treat you first, and ask for your money second. If you have no coverage, you will be expected to pay immediately for services.
Dial 112 or 000 to be connected with police, fire, or ambulance departments.
Water & Health Precautions
Domestic water is drinkable throughout the South Pacific. Bottled water is also available.
There are no current official requirements for vaccinations or inoculations, but you may want to check with your doctor about any specific needs. You are permitted to carry a four-week supply of prescribed medication, in the original containers, which should always be packed in you carry-on luggage. If you have a health problem for which you might need to buy prescription drugs, ask your doctor to write a prescription using the drug's generic name as brand names can vary widely. Then, if need be, a local doctor will be able to endorse the prescription and a local pharmacist can fill it.
In addition to prescription medications, you may wish to ask your doctor for recommendations for colds, headaches, indigestion, motion sickness, constipation, diarrhea, and difficulty sleeping - all of the maladies which can affect travelers.
Similarly, if you wear glasses, it might be a good idea to have a copy of your eyeglass prescription with you in case you need to replace them while on vacation.
Ladies using low-dosage oral contraception (or anyone taking medication on a regular basis) should be careful to try and keep the daily interval between pills fairly close to 24 hours. Crossing the International Dateline might mean that you find yourself taking Tuesday night's pill on Wednesday at lunchtime or something similar, and so on while your are in Australia, but in theory this should balance out when you return to the United States. Please note that feminine hygiene products are much more expensive in Australia that here.
The South Pacific has very little pest or insect problems for a tropical location. Your greatest threat is SUNBURN. Go easy the first few days and be sure to use sunscreen, especially on children. Sun hats and sunglasses are a necessity. Due to a much thinner ozone layer over Australia, you will find that the sun is twice as strong as it is here in the United States. This doesn't mean twice as hot, but it does mean that you will get sunburned twice as quickly and twice as severely.
One other thing to be aware of is that some parts of Australia are in the tropics. Like any other tropical area, there are potentially various tropical ailments that are not common back in the United States. Should you become unwell on your return, be sure to tell your doctor both that you have been overseas and that you have been "in the tropics" - many people do not automatically think of Australia as a tropical destination!
Experts say the best way to deal with jet lag is to:
All in all, jet lag is not too much of a problem - don't let it interfere with the enjoyment of your wonderful vacation!
United States Customs
United States Customs allow returning residents to bring back goods up to the value of $200 per person duty free. Some restrictions apply to the maximum amount of alcohol and tobacco that can be brought in duty free, not withstanding this limit.
This is the basic policy, however there are various rules and exemptions to this policy. If you have questions, you should check directly with the US Customs Department prior to your departure to get accurate and up to date information.
Take a good book or electronic device (in case you don't care for one of the movies), wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes that will fit even if your feet swell a bit during the flight. Apply moisturizing lotion during the flight to counteract high-altitude dryness. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum and drink an 8 ounce glass of water for each hour of flight and get as much exercise and sleep as possible.
The Weather in Australia
Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, therefore it's seasons are the reverse of those in the United States.
Currency and Credit Cards
The Australian ($AUD) is the standard currency and one dollar equals 100 cents. Notes come in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. Coins come in 5s, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 units. You will notice that bank notes are more colorful and that the different value notes vary in size. Exchange rates change daily. US dollar travelers checks can be cashed at all airport exchange facilities, hotels and banks.
A cash withdrawal of up to $200 per day can be made using a Visa or Mastercard at any bank. ATM cards can be used at most retail locations so long as they have been validated for international access. Cardholders must use their personal identification number (PIN) when obtaining cash or services. Contact your local bank or credit card provider for information on availability and service charges.
You will get a better exchange rate, generally, converting your US dollars into Australian dollard in Australia. However, we do recommend you have on hand a small amount of cash in Australian dollars for small purchases and taxis before you go. We can purchase this from our foreign exchange dealer for you, please allow at least two weeks. When converting US funds to local funds, be sure to only do this at a bank. Do not use the hotel or currency exchange services because the exchange rates are not nearly as favorable.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted on much the same basis as they are in the United States. Small country stores and discount stores are not likely to accept anything other than cash, but the large stores in the towns and cities will generally accept these cards without any bother and with no surcharge. Mastercard is sometimes also referred to as "Bankcard" which is the same thing.
American Express and Diners Care are also accepted in Australia but be sure to have a Visa or Mastercard as a backup.
We would encourage you to use a credit card to pay for things whenever possible. You get a very good exchange rate with credit cards and you have a good record of the transaction to refer back to. Also, if there is an unexpected problem, the credit card company might help you in any future dispute with the company from whom you bought the item.
One last suggestion: Try and spend your foreign currency before you come back, i.e. in the last few days. Preferentially, use up most of it so that you do not have to go through the bother and cost of reconverting it back to US dollars upon your return.
Tipping and Sales Tax
Australians do not tip. Australians do not depend on tips for their income, and tips are not expected for normal service. All employees are paid a fair wage and do not need tips to live on. It is the same when you take a taxi. It is not customary to tip hairdressers or barbers.
While a tip would probably be accepted if you choose to give one, we would encourage you not to tip at all. Australians are proud of the fact that their country gives good service "for free" and hope that you will start acting like a local, keeping your money in your pocket!
Australian sales tax is generally included in the price of all goods and is not added at time of purchase. Most stores, however, will deduct taxes levies on opal jewelry when overseas purchasers show their passports and airline tickets.
Languages & Mobile Network
English is the official language of Australia.
Mobile network: GSM
There is a tax of $38 AUD, which is included in your international airline ticket. Exceptions apply to children under 12 years of age and passengers transiting through Australia.