1. Don’t confuse American $ with Australian $
Don’t be fooled by the $sign in Australian currency. Although Australian currency is shown in dollars still it’s not the same as the U.S. dollar. Right now, Americans are at a great advantage due to the exchange rate ($1 USD equals to $1.4 AUD as I write this). But in some cases favorable exchange rates won’t help you with items like liquor, tickets for attractions, food and accommodations are highly inflated, and will cost you more than in the U.S.
2. Go with the flow
It’s good to make a rough outline of what you want to do on your trip to Australia, but quite a lot of events and even restaurants and stores often just “pop-up.” It’s all in the essence of the laidback lifestyle. Websites like The Urban List and Broadsheet are great resources to check out all of the major cities’ temporary and current affairs.
3. Avoid the Opera House Choose the open air Opera
For various people, Sydney gives a huge notion of the Opera House, so several tourists tend to flock there. However, you can get a better experience by booking the open air Opera instead (pictured above). With a dramatic stage mounted in the Sydney Harbour, you can cherish your eye-buds with the iconic sights while enjoying a unique show. And also not to forget that the open air performance concludes with a stunning firework display that’s set against the backdrop of renowned Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
4. Don’t Take Cabs or Ubers
Australian cities are renowned for having some of the best public transportation systems in the world. Some of their key features are- extremely easy to navigate, have more routes than you can imagine, and are very inexpensive compared to taxis. Frequent (and extremely clean and well maintained) buses will take you to all of Sydney’s beautiful beaches, and Melbourne even has a “free tram zone” in the city center.
5. Don’t Book a Flight with a Short Layover
People tend to book the most direct and quickest flight to Australia because it is convenient. But due to the huge time difference and distance, it is highly suggested by me to book a stopover or long layover where you can get a full night’s rest on your journey. If you’re coming from the East Coast, plan for a layover in California or Hawaii. Or, if you’re flying from Europe, stop in Dubai, India, or Southeast Asia.
6. Don’t Swim Outside the Flags
Not many warning signs are used at Australian beaches, but the red and the yellow flags are quite a big deal at the beaches. Due to strong riptides, beachgoers especially tourists, who are not used to strong currents, are asked to swim in-between the flags for their safety. A few beaches, like Sydney’s Tamarama, are often closed for swimming.
Check with local lifeguards, they will be wearing yellow and red clothing, including a bucket hat or bathing cap—before getting in the water, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer for your own safety so that the lifeguards could be extra cautious with you.
7. Don’t forget the Sunscreen
Australia is located close to Antarctica’s “ozone hole,” which means higher and more severe levels of UV radiation reach ground level. Australians also have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, proving that sun exposure is highly threatening.
8. Do not take travelers cheques to Australia
Withdraw money from ATMs at the airport. In the past travelers cheques were used as a way to save money on commissions, nowadays there are high commissions hidden when exchanging in any bank. Possibly use a credit or debit card with low commissions or free credit cards with zero commissions. And do not exchange money at the airport either. In Europe it’s next to impossible to get a zero-commission credit card. But in the US there are many of these credit cards available you can apply for. And to be on the safer side, do not rely on just one pre-paid or debit card. Carry more than one with you, as debit cards are not accepted everywhere in Australia.
9. Don’t be stagnant
If you’re intend to trek around the world, you might as well get a taste of all it has to offer. Special mentions such as Sydney and Melbourne deserve their great reputations, the Whitsundays, Adelaide, the Outback, Perth, Brisbane, Fraser Island, and the Great Barrier Reef are incredible as well.
10. Don’t Underestimate the Jet Lag
Tourists struggle to keep up with Australia because of the massive time difference especially with people from the U.S. It is advisable to give yourself a day or two to adjust, so that you’re able to make the most of your time in there. Your body clock will be completely out of its comfort zone, so to time your meals or sleep schedule around the time back at home.
11. Do not fly too much within Australia
If you want a real Australian experience then hire a car as there is nothing more enjoyable than a road trip. Domestic flights in Australia are not that expensive if you book early, do not fly if the distance is below 800 km. If you are planning a 14 day trip to Australia then do not book more than two flights and hire a car to travel by road.
12. Don’t Order (Too Many) Cocktails
The alcohol scene in Australia is very expensive (the average cocktail price is around $13-15 USD—no joke). Not only is it extremely expensive but you will also be kicked out of establishments for being overserved or, in Sydney, if you try and enter a bar or club past 1:30a.m. While the craft cocktail scene is worth experiencing, just be careful of your behavior—and your wallet.
13. Don’t Expect Table Service at Restaurants
You find servers and hostesses at high-end restaurants, but most of the causal food joints will have a self-serve setting. Typically you will have to seat yourself with your group, look over the menu, go to a stand with either a person or computer, and place your order. You’ll then be given a stand with a queue number; a food runner will bring you your order once it’s ready. Napkins, water, utensils, and condiments will typically be found at self-serve stations, too, and it’s common to see that all of your group’s food won’t come out at the same time.
14. Do not use your mobile phone Sim card in Australia
Buy for 2 dollars an Australian Sim Card that allows you to call landline and mobile numbers in Oz at reasonable rates or it will definitely cost you a hell lot of money. Plan start from 30 AUD for 250 minutes. For international calls use Skype for free or any international phone card for 10 AUD which can be used with any landline for 6-8 hours calls. A quick tip- Telstra is the only provider in Oz that can guarantee a decent coverage in rural areas of Australia.
15. Enjoy free Wi-Fi
Tourist Information offices will let you know about free Wi-Fi places in town and give you a map with Wi-Fi hot-spots. There are also mobile apps that can identify the next free-wifi near your location. From public places, libraries to a friend’s flat internet connection! Internet is very expensive in Australia.
16. Do not buy any electronics in Australia or camera spare parts
Electronic goods are very expensive in Australia. Carry all your electronic devices and extra spare memory cards with you, as these can cost up to 40 AUD. Carry a spare compact camera just in case something happens to your good camera.
17. Do not be surprised by what they wear or not wear on the beaches. Lady Jane is the nude beach in Sydney.
18. Do not take fruits and vegetables with you
Quarantine law is strict in Australia not only when you enter into Australia from abroad but also when travelling within Australian states and to/from New Zealand. Specifically while you are travelling by car from Northern Territory into Western Australia and from Victoria into South Australia you shall not be allowed take food with you or you will have to place it into disposal bins along your way. The fine for getting caught with fruits & vegetable is about 2.500 AUD. So please beware not to pack any fresh food while you are travelling through Australian states. You can get more info about Quarantine Law in Australia here.
19. Be careful with road trips
Don’t embark on the idea of traveling by road too much though since Australia is pretty big. It takes 24hrs to reach Sydney from Brisbane by road. And a solid week’s drive to the western coast. Several low cost carriers are available in Australia that service most of the regional airports (Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Tiger, etc.).
20. Make sure to behave well
Do not touch, pat or hug other men in public which is considered socially unacceptable.