10 Things About Australia

Australia is easily one of the most fascinating places I’ve visited. I spent three months traveling through it and I feel like I’ve only explored a small piece of it. I probably could’ve spent the whole year here and still walked away with that same feeling.

If you’re lucky enough to travel Australia, then here are some tips on what you need to know before visiting:

1. Australia Is Massive

Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, so traveling through it isn’t a simple task. Flying from the East Coast (Brisbane) to the West Coast (Perth) takes 5 1/2 hours by plane. Doing the popular East Coast Trail (Sydney to Cairns) by road means traveling over 2,400kms. That would take around 3 days of driving to complete. Anyway you cut it, Australia is massive.

These distances have a major impact on how you’ll plan your time in Australia. You may not fully appreciate this until you actually come here, but it takes time to get from one city to another. Trust me, the travel time will cut into the number of actual tourist days you have here. It’s best to be realistic when planning your trip in Australia.

If you only have two weeks then you should focus on 2 or 3 major cities. If you over extend your itinerary with too many stops, you’ll end up with more memories of traveling through Australia rather than experiencing it. Personally, I feel that Australia needs at least a month to get a taste of what it has to offer.

2. Australia Is Not A Desert

I’m exposing my ignorance here, but when I came to Australia (for some reason) the only picture I had of this country was Ayers Rock. I thought Australia was mostly desert, I couldn’t have been more wrong about anything.

Most Australians live around the coastal regions and these tend to be green and verdant areas. In fact the further North you go (and closer you get to the equator) the more tropical the region becomes. North Australia has thick canopied forests, similar to what you’d find in any South Asian country. Australia is home to more than 500 national parks, which cover over 28 million hectares.

The middle (less inhabited) areas of the country are drier and mostly desert landscape.

Ayers Rock in Uluru

3. It's Bloody Expensive

This is one of the few bad points of Australia. It’s obscenely expensive.

I rank it up there with the Switzerland and New York.

It doesn’t help that most long term travelers who visit Australia usually come through South East Asia, which is one of the cheapest destinations in the world. So when they arrive to Australia the sticker shock is amplified significantly.

The locals don’t feel it since the minimum wage here is high (around 18 AUD per hour). This high wage, obviously, impacts EVERYTHING. For tourists, prices can make their eyes water and start to shed tears. You can easily expect to spend over $100 a day on food, entertainment and (cheap) housing. This $100 doesn’t cover transportation expenses inside the country.

Knowing this you should come to Australia with a pre-planned budget, a rough idea of how long you plan to stay, where you want to go and what you want to do. Nothing sucks worse than being stuck in a foreign country after your cash runs out.

4. Don't Tip

Good news on the money front. Since everyone in Australia is paid a living wage, tipping isn’t required or expected. You don’t need to tip in restaurants, hotels, taxis or anywhere else. This makes life a little easier.

Your wallet will take a hit in Australia.

5. The Internet Is Not That Slow

Reading online posts of travel blogger in Australia, I got the impression that the internet service in Australia was still stuck in the dialup modem era. Everyone who travels here belly aches that the internet is both slow and expensive. From my experience that’s simply not true.

As soon as I arrived I bought a prepaid SIM card from Vodaphone. At the time they were running an offer where I got a line (forgot how many minutes) with 8 GB data for only 30 AUD. That’s pretty good AND it was a 4G service so the internet was very fast.

As far as the WIFI access in the hostels and Airbnb accommodations, I frequently found it good enough to stream Netflix and to upload video files to my YouTube channel. Some of the uploaded files where over 2 GB in size.

So don’t worry, Australia is not stuck in the stone age when it comes to the internet.

6. Don't Forget The Sunscreen

Australia has around 50,000 kms of spectacular coastline and over 11,000 beaches. This country is practically forcing you to be outdoors enjoying yourself in the sun and sea. When you hit the beach make sure you take precautions to protect your skin from the sun. Skin cancer is a real danger in the land down under. The countries with the highest incidence of melanoma are Australia and New Zealand. It’s twice as high as North America.

So make sure you Slip on a shirt, Slop on the 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a hatIf need help remembering it, then check out the commercial from 1980. The song will be stuck in your head for days  ?

7. The Culture Is Extremely Laid Back

I’ve found Aussies to be very friendly, laid back and easy to get to know. The further out from the big cities I went, the friendlier they got. Australian culture has a strong sense of egalitarianism (equality); regardless of what you do, education or wealth everyone is equal. That said I did run into a couple of bad apples on my travels, but I’m discounting them as the minority. There’ll always be a few bad apples in any place you visit.

Then there’s the Aussie humor. They have a quirky sense of humor that stretches and bends the truth, to see how far they can take things before getting found out. It’s the humor that invented the “Drop Bear”, a dangerous meat eating Koala that drops from trees to attack its victims. These stories work on us because we imagine Australia as having the craziest most dangerous animals in the world.

We believe it because …. well  ….  it’s Australia!  Everything wants to kill you.

8. Don't Worry About Getting Eaten

Speaking of things trying to kill you.

Admit it, when planning your trip to Australia did you ever have a paranoid thought about running into a large animal with a ferocious bite or small one with enough venom to kill a village?

The truth is less dramatic than that. The odds of you getting killed by an animal is smaller than being hit by lightning. Here are some statistics for perspective:

  • Sharks: There were 25 deaths between 2000 and (March) 2012 in Australia, about 2 a year.
  • Crocodiles: Historically, crocodiles account for less than one death per year in Australia.
  • Snakes: Deaths from snakes in Australia average out at to less than two per year.
  • Spiders: Nobody in Australia has died from a spider bite since 1979 after the successful introduction of anti-venom for all native species.
  • Blue Ringed Octopus: There were just 3 recorded deaths in the last century attributed to Blue Ringed Octopus.
  • Killer Jellyfish: Between the box jellyfish and the Irukandji they’re responsible for one death per year in Australia.
The one thing you don't want to see when you're in the water. A Great White Shark.

9. Everything Is In Reverse

During my whole trip in Australia, I never rented a car, not once. I couldn’t get myself to do it.

The reason? Everything is in reverse.

Meaning the steering wheel is on the right side of the car (not the left) and everyone drives on the opposite side of the road. It just freaked me out!

When I called for cabs, I lost count of how many times I would instinctively go to the drivers side (which is the passenger side in the civilized world) when getting in. Crossing the road was another challenge I got confused about which direction the traffic was supposed to flow. I almost got run over a couple of times.

Everytime I thought about renting a car, I kept imagining myself getting confused and accidentally going against traffic and killing someone.

No one has been able to answer me why?  Why is everything is in reverse.

10. You Must Do The East Coast Trail

I enjoyed my time in Melbourne and Sydney, but I LOVED my time traveling the East Coast of Queensland. There are no words that I could type that would do it justice.

Queensland is a state that’s blessed with miles of incredible beaches (referred to as the sunshine coast) which are dotted with relaxed hippie surfer towns, beautiful verdant hinterlands, amazing national parks (some of which are recognized as World Heritage Sites) and of course the Great Barrier Reef. I spent a month traveling through Queensland and I wasn’t able to see everything, but what I did see provided me with a lifetime of amazing memories and experiences.

If you have three weeks, then do the East Coast trail. You won’t regret it.

Surfers at dolphin point

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