Planning a trip to Australia for the first time?
Travelling to Australia? Then it’s time to get excited! Australia is without a doubt the ULTIMATE destination for young travellers when it comes to real adventure and diversity! So we’ve put together an Australia Travel Guide to make sure you have everything you need before you arrive.
There’s something for everybody here in the land we all know as ‘God’s Country’. A fantastic climate; incredible wildlife; diverse landscapes; some of the best beaches and surf breaks in the world…and to top it all off, a truly unique Aussie culture.
And as more and more of you find yourselves drawn to our far-away land, the number of visitors and young travellers heading our way has been rising sharply year upon year. Australia is now the most desirable destination for young travellers to visit on this planet! And this looks set to continue for the next few years at least.
But as more and more of you choose to travel the long distances needed to visit Australia, what is it that you need to know to make sure your experience is mindbogglingly awesome and concern-free – start to finish?
Australian Surf Tours has a unique insight into just this. We host and assist over 20,000 young travellers new to Australia every year, and we encounter the same problems, questions and concerns every single week!
So, we thought we’d put together a complete guide to travelling Australia for you. Most importantly, we’ve included what we believe to be the 10 most important things that every young backpacker and traveller needs to know before they start their adventures in paradise!
Australia Travel Guide: 10 Things Young Backpackers Need to Know
1. Before you leave home…
Just before you jump on a plane for the trip of a lifetime, there are a couple of things you are going to need to decide.
- When is the best time to book your tickets and head down under?
- What city should you pick as your arrival destination in Australia?
Hopefully the following information will help you to make these decisions:
When's the Best Time to Visit Australia?
The real answer is there is never really a bad time to visit Australia. It’s all about planning where you’ll be and at what time of the year you’ll be there.
Australia is HUGE. In the southern states in the middle of winter, air temperature averages around 8°C. Whilst at the same time in the northern regions it’s a balmy 30°C. But take note…in the middle of summer temperatures in some parts of Australia can climb to in excess of 55°C. You’d want to avoid these central arid regions as this is way too hot for anyone!
Luckily, most populated areas around Australia are on the coast. Ocean temperatures range from around 12°C in the coldest regions, to over 30°C in the warmest, and tend to keep the air temperatures much more comfortable.
The last thing to consider is the wet/dry seasons in the tropical north of Australia. Between November and May it becomes very hot, wet and humid in the northern tropics (north of the Tropic of Capricorn). At this time of year, it is best to avoid this region, particularly as many tourism operators will actually close for the wet season, and wait for the dry to return.
Arrive in Australia in either Spring (Sep-Nov) or Autumn (Mar-May).
At these times, it is not going to be too hot or cold, and will give you plenty of time to acclimatise and plan your movements and activities around the changing seasons as they happen.
If you’re here for a longer period of time, perhaps spend the summer months in the southern regions. Then when it starts to cool down head north for the winter warmth and the start of the dry season in the tropics!
Where should I Start my travels? Sydney or Melbourne?
Sydney – Australia Travel Guide
- Generally, Sydney is a little cheaper to fly into from international destinations
- Over 70% of travellers start their Australian travelling experience from Sydney
- The airport is central to the city, and public transport options are extensive
- There’s a greater number of accommodation options than any other Australian destination
- The cost of essential purchases for travellers is often cheaper in Sydney than in Melbourne
- Sydney is far more central to most other popular destinations around Australia
- More people, and longer waiting times
- Traffic can be horrendous, particularly at peak periods of the day
- February – hot, humid and sticky (you’ll just have to head to the beach!)
- Sydney Lockout Laws – There’s a legal restraint on all night partying in Sydney
Melbourne – Australia Travel Guide
- Backpacker accommodation is often cheaper than in Sydney
- Trams in the CBD (Central Business District) are free
- Cafes; Bars; and Restaurants are better…very few will argue with this, particularly if you like a good coffee!
- For those of you that love to shop, Melbourne will always be the winner!
- Melbourne is Australia’s sporting mecca, and the birthplace of AFL
- Melbourne is well situated to start a long-distance travelling adventure. You’re almost at the southern tip of Australia, so the only way to go is north!
- It can be a little more expensive to fly to than Sydney
- The airport is a 30-minute drive out of the city
- The closest beach is 2 hours away (and we’re not counting Melbourne Bay)
- Day to day purchases can be costlier than in Sydney
- The weather is very unpredictable and can get fairly cold…even in Summer
- There are far fewer tours and activities running out of Melbourne than there are from Sydney
- The beer is more expensive
With all of this in mind, Sydney continues to be our recommended arrival destination. In our opinion, there are simply more options for young travellers and backpackers arriving in Australia for the first time.
But bear in mind, there are plenty of other destinations with international airports you can choose from. Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin are also viable options…all very popular destinations with young travellers visiting Australia for the first time.
2. Getting Around Australia – Travel & Transport
For those of you that didn’t already know it…
Australia is a HUGE country!
Travelling from place to place can take a lot longer than you may be used to, and distances are often a lot further than they might at first appear on a map. It is always important to plan ahead when it comes to travelling around Australia, and to make sure you are aware of how long a journey might take, and how far you intend to travel in a day.
Most young travellers and backpackers that visit Australia travel along the East Coast, between Melbourne and Cairns. This covers a distance of 3,000km! It is a REALLY long way. Most young travellers do not aspire to cover the full distance, and unless you are here for more than 12 months, you probably don’t have time. However, even a much shorter trip from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast in QLD covers over 1,000km, and there is a lot to see in-between.
As a result, it is important you think about how you plan to get around whilst you are in Australia. The following information should help you to decide what is going to work best for you and your budget. As well as how long you intend to stay, and what you want to see whilst you are here:
Our Top 4 Suggestions:
Hire a Campervan
This is an incredibly popular choice with young travellers planning a self-drive trip around Australia. You will be amazed at how affordable hiring a campervan can be, and how reliable these vehicles are when exploring every corner of Australia.
The top-rated companies here in Australia ensure their campervans come fully equipped with comfortable beds, a kitchenette, storage space for 2 or more people, living equipment, and even an ice-box to keep your drinks cold. They’re a fantastic option for cheap and comfortable living whilst on the move, and they can go almost anywhere – from the city to the outback; or even just down to the beach for a quick swim to cool off!
They provide the freedom you need to be able to explore the less travelled areas along your route. And you have the comfort of knowing that any breakdowns or incidents are covered by a network of trusted mechanics across Australia.
There are a number of options to choose from when you arrive in Australia, but here are our top 2 selections so you can do some early research!
Travellers Autobarn offer range of station wagons and campervans for hire or sale from six branches spread around Australia: Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Perth and Melbourne.
Jucy Rentals have won the Golden Backpackers’ Award for Best Australian Campervans two years running. They have depots in Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide & Perth.
If you need any help booking a campervan, or setting the right package for your Australia travel needs, Australian Surf Tours can help you…and we offer a discounted rate on your booking!
Hop-on Hop-off Coach Pass
Public buses with ‘Hop-on’ ‘Hop-off’ services offer some real flexibility for young travellers and backpackers. They provide one of the most affordable transport options to get you between point A and point B, and they offer a number of passes to choose between to best suit your Australia travel needs.
Hop-on Hop-off buses are definitely one of the cheapest option for getting around on the East Coast of Australia. They offer the flexibility you need to be able to change your Australia travel plans last minute, which you will find happens more than you might think! You might know exactly where you’re going…then you meet a bunch of great people, or learn of something new and exciting to see or do, and your well-made plans go straight out of the window. Your hop-on hop-off pass allows for this, enabling you to change your plans everyday should you need to.
Your pass allows you to stop at hundreds of different locations around Australia. But remember, you’ll need to find your own way around once you step off the bus, and in the more rural and outback regions this can sometimes be difficult and expensive.
There are two major providers in Australia – Greyhound and Premier. If you book early the prices tend to come down. Prices range from $1 specials, through to $3,000. But a 90-day pass between Sydney and Cairns will cost you around $450.
Backpacker Bus Tours
Alongside these two major Australian services, there are also a number of backpacker specific bus options. Two such examples we often hear positive feedback from are Oz Experience, and Contiki Australia.
These are a little more expensive, but are tourist focused which means routes are often scenic and there are regular activities available to you as you go. There is also the added benefit of travelling with like-minded young travellers, and usually have a guide on hand to offer advice and suggestions on where to go and what to see.
This option is growing really fast here in Australia, and it seems there are more and more opportunities appearing every week!
Ride sharing allows backpackers to save money, and meet other young travellers with similar Australia travel plans. There are loads of ways you can find a ride that’s heading in your direction. Here are just some of the most popular ways backpackers in Australia are finding their rides:
- Backpackers & Hostel Notice Boards
- Word of Mouth
- Facebook – (Travel Mates; Backpacking Australia; Australia Rideshare; etc.)
- Gumtree – Rideshare & Travel section
- Rideshare Australia
How safe is Ride-Sharing in Australia?
Within the Australian backpacking community, most people consider ride-sharing as one of the safest options for young travellers to get around. It is low cost; highly social; and tends to match like-minded travellers who are all working towards a similar goal.
Its a matter of trust on both sides, as one party assumes you won’t steal their vehicle, whilst the other assumes you won’t kidnap them. Australia is considered relatively safe and crime-free in comparison to many other countries young travellers visit. But there are certainly some precautions backpackers can take when taking up ride-sharing offers or using ride-sharing apps or services:
- Make sure the vehicle and driver match the one in the ad or the app
- Take a picture of the car and the registration plate before you get in
- Check any reviews available
- Use a ‘pooling’ option (meaning you’re not the only ride-sharing passenger in the vehicle)
- Call a friend during the trip
- Follow the journey on your mapping app in offline mode
Our suggestion would be to not plan your whole trip around ride-sharing. However, for unexpected journeys, or for when other travel options don’t work out for you, this is a great option.
Buying a Vehicle
Having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to travel (almost) anywhere in Australia you’d like to go at your own leisure. Some believe that if you want to see the ‘real’ Australia, the idea of travelling around by bus is not a realistic option. But is buying your own vehicle a good idea?
A decade ago, you might have heard horror stories. Young travellers breaking down in the middle of the Australian wilderness and ending up stranded in the outback with an expensive repair bill. This can still happen, but is far less common for the following reason:
In the last few years, a number of businesses have popped-up in Australia with the sole purpose of selling reliable cars and vans to young travellers and backpackers. These businesses provide certain warranties and assurances in relation to reliability and breakdowns, and will even guarantee to buy the vehicle back off you at the end of your trip…regardless of the condition!
In our opinion, this option is much safer than it has been in the past, and is well worth exploring if you plan to be in Australia for 6 months or more.
What should be my Budget?
You will need a budget of between AU$3,000 and $5,000 to find something reliable. And if you want to buy a reliable campervan that you can also live in, you will need to up this budget to a minimum of AU$8,000. But if you have this it might just be worth it!
If you like the sound of owning your own vehicle in Australia, we suggest you checkout the following service:
Travellers Autobarn not only rent campervans and station-wagons to young travellers at very affordable prices. But they also sell you their vehicles. They offer full-service; warranty; buyback; and even a try & buy scheme for all the vehicles they sell. The have depots all around Australia, and you don’t need to return the vehicle to the same location when you want to sell it back.
You can find a list of vehicles for sale through their website, or you can give them a call and they will be able to advise you on what you’ll need.
The above 4 Australia travel and transport options would be our top recommendations for young travellers and backpackers visiting Australia for the first time. But bear in mind there are other options as well. Australia has a great rail network, that is very affordable compared to many other countries, and an excellent network of domestic flights that cut down travel time considerably if you have the budget.
If you still need any help of support in planning your Australia travel and transport options, give Australian Surf Tours a call or drop us an email. We love offering advice, and can often book things for you quickly and easily at our reduced agency rates!
3. The Australian Climate – Where & When To Go
One of Australia’s biggest draw cards for young travellers is our incredibly attractive climate.
Australia is home to 2 distinct climates: the tropical zone in the countries north, and the temperate zone in the south. The northern tropical zone makes up around 40% of the country and spreads north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
There are two main seasons in the north – The ‘Wet Season’ (Summer) and the ‘Dry Season’ (Winter).
In the southern temperate zone (south of the Tropic of Capricorn) there are the full four seasons – Winter (Jun-Aug); Spring (Sep-Nov); Summer (Dec-Feb); and Autumn (Mar-May). Each season varies a little depending on where you are, but in Sydney average summer temperatures are around 26°C (80°F), and winter temperatures average around 16°C (60°F).
This information is extremely useful when it comes to organising your Australia travel plans. Ensuring you plan your trip around the seasons can make all the difference between a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, or a washed-out, cold and challenging experience.
We have put together some tips for planning your trip around the seasons, and when to avoid certain regions to ensure you make the most of your adventures:
Australia’s Tropical North
Unless you are a fan of oppressive heat; high humidity levels; and regular thunderstorms and rain, we would recommend visiting the Tropical north in the dry-season, and avoiding the Tropical North of Australia between the months of November and May. This time is known as the ‘wet-season’ and it is for good reason! Many tours and activities are closed during this time, and most backpackers will be further south where it will be peak-time in regards to the weather – hot, sunny and mostly dry!
The best time to visit Australia’s tropical north is between May and October. This is the ‘dry-season’, and it will be warm, mostly sunny, the humidity will be much more comfortable and the southern states will be cool and scary…a great time to head up north!
Stinger Season – Australia’s Tropical Oceans:
During the wet-season it is strongly advised to avoid the ocean altogether in northern regions due to the deadly ‘Stingers’ (Box Jellyfish) and Irukandji jellyfish that are found in Australian tropical waters at this time of year. Although there have been less than 100 deaths from these stings in the last 100 years, it is still important to know the dangers and avoid the risk altogether.
When you are up in the tropical north during the wet season, a dip in the ocean can seem very inviting, but sticking to a swimming pool is going to be the best option where there are no little (or large) critters that can cause you harm!
Saltwater Crocodiles (Salties):
Crocodiles in Australia’s tropical north are also something young travellers should be aware of, particularly when travelling off the beaten track and away from the cities and urban areas.
Saltwater crocodiles live in both saltwater and freshwater areas of Northern Australia. They are common throughout the seasons in the top end of Australia, and you should always be aware of the risk of a saltwater crocodile attack.
To stay safe, avoid swimming in all creeks, oceans and waterways unless designated a crocodile free zone, and a safe swimming area. It is also a good idea to stay a safe distance from waters edge to avoid the risk of crocodile attacks.
Australia’s Temperate South
Australia is renowned for its great summer vibe! The beaches, the surf, the sun…the chilled out ‘Aussie culture’ – all things that you’ll want to experience during your Australia travel adventures. And the best place to do this is in the temperate south during the summer months.
Sydney sees on average about 340 sunny days a year, with the humidity in summer around 70%. It is often a relief that there are a number of beaches in close proximity to Sydney’s CBD, but as you travel north, things start getting even warmer.
Regions such as the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast are warm and sunny for most of the year (September – April). But as you travel south, the window does start to close down a little. If you intend to visit Tasmania for these summer vibes, best to plan your trip between December and February. Otherwise you might be in for a cold wake-up!
If it is the ocean that appeals to you (and this is what we are all about at Australian Surf Tours), then rest assured that unlike the tropical north, you are safe to swim all year around without the fear of deadly stingers and other jellyfish encroaching on your safety. There are also no crocodiles in temperate Australia…another bonus when you’re feeling a little warm and see somewhere appealing to take a dip!
How to Plan your Trip around the Australian Climate
In summary, if you are arriving into Australia in our Spring or Summer (Sep-Feb), then stay south with the intention of heading further north in time for the start of the dry-season (May-Jun).
If you are arriving in Autumn or Winter it may well be worth heading up to our northern regions to enjoy the warmer climates and join the majority of young backpackers staying in this area. And then aim to head south to the temperate regions in time for the start of summer in Nov/Dec.
4. Accommodation & Camping
Budget accommodation in Australia is widely available. Particularly in backpacker hubs such as Sydney, Melbourne, the South Coast, Byron Bay, and the Gold Coast.
But it is also very popular. So, it’s well worth booking early to get the best deals and ensure there’s availability for the dates you need.
When it comes to selecting your accommodation there are definitely some factors you’ll want to consider. They include:
As you will quickly discover, not all backpacker accommodation is equal!
So we have put together our top recommendations for Sydney and Melbourne. From there you should have a good idea of where to book as you begin your adventures:
Melbourne Central YHA
AirBnB & Couchsurfing.com
Both Airbnb and couchsurfing.com are becoming more and more popular with backpackers and young travellers visiting Australia. It is definitely worth checking out if you are short of somewhere to stay for a night or two!
From as little as AU$18 per night, you can find a comfortable and safe place to sleep on Airbnb with little more than the internet and an idea of where you’re heading.
Likewise, on couchsurfing.com all you need to do is simply upload your profile, say where you are heading, reach out to some friendly looking profiles and wait for even more hosts to contact you.
One of our AST guests spent over 3 months couchsurfing around Australia and said it was probably the cheapest 3 months of his adult life!
Camping in Australia
Take an early morning look on the outskirts of any Australian town and you’ll likely find a number of young travellers and backpackers who have quietly pulled in and setup camp for the night.
Campervans, roof-top tents, station-wagons, and swags are favourites amongst an amazing cross-section of people. All looking to see and traverse one of the world’s best camping destinations!
But there are also some rules and etiquette that must be adhered to when camping in Australia. If you choose not to adhere to these rules, you will quickly be moved on or even fined by local councils; park rangers; and even the police…so beware.
Pulling off to the side of the road and bunking down for the night has been going on in Australia since the first roads were laid. Everyone has done it at some point, from truckies to young travellers. It’s a sensible option in such as big country when driver fatigue starts to set in. But are you allowed to do it?
Its a very grey area in regards to the law. Rest from driver fatigue is highly encouraged, however overnight camping in undesignated areas is not. You really need to use some common sense…but here are some helpful suggestions:
- Avoid setting up camp in state or national parks (outside of designated camping areas)
- Avoid roadside camping in popular tourist towns, particularly in the summer. 20kms outside town is advised
- Use the roadside bays designed for cars or turn into a side road and find a peaceful bit of bush
- Station owners are fairly understanding in outback Australia. Ask them and you’ll almost always get a ‘Yes’
- Always leave your camping area as clean or cleaner as when you arrived
If you are confronted by the authorities for camping in an undesignated area, remember that you haven’t actually spent a night by the side of the road until you’ve woken up in the morning. Parking and Rest Bay’s are exactly what the signs announce. They exist for people to park and rest, and very few officials will argue with the fact that you were ‘too tired to continue’.
The better and more accepted option would be to seek out designated camp sites along your route or at your destinations. There are literally thousands of camp sites and parks around Australia, and a lot of these are completely free to use!
They offer useful facilities to those that use them. From basic toilets and showers at some of the free sites, to full laundry services, swimming pools, kitchens, and games rooms at the larger holiday parks you can setup in.
There are loads of guides and apps you can purchase or download to guide you to some of these camping spots. However, our favourite by far is Wiki Camps. It will cost you about AU$8, but once you have it, you have access to the largest and most up-to-date database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, and day use areas available.
5. Money Tips – How to access your money securely in Australia
Gone are the days of requiring bundles or local currency stashed in your suitcase. Or sheets of travellers cheques that no one is really to sure what to do with!
Ensuring you can access your hard-earnt savings when you need to, whilst ensuring your money is secure and safe is a concern for every traveller. Based on our experience, here are our suggestions for setting your finances up correctly so that when you arrive in Australia you don’t encounter any unexpected surprises, and can easily access your cash.
By law, you can carry as much cash into and out of Australia as you wish, but you must declare amounts of AU$10,000 or more. However, as a young traveller it would be very un-wise to bring large amounts of cash with you to fund your travelling expenses. Hostels are not particularly secure, especially if you are bunking in shared dorms. You will also likely be moving around a lot – another reason large amounts of cash can easily get misplaced.
Our advice would be to only bring a small amount of Australian currency into the country to keep you going for the first 24-48 hours. AU$500 should be more than enough. This will give you enough time to get your bearings and work out where the closest ATM’s; exchanges; and local banks are situated.
Prepaid Travellers Cards
Prepaid travel cards offer easy access to your money when you’re overseas, and you can use them just like you use a credit or debit card at home. They are a great option if you are only staying in Australia for a short period of time (less than 3 months). With a little research you will find some great deals on prepaid traveller cards in your home country. Just keep an eye on the cost of ‘loading’ a prepaid credit card, and then ‘retrieving’ any unspent money at the end of your trip.
You prepaid travellers card should work in most Australian ATMs; banks; and in shops at the EFTPOS terminal where you’ll usually be able to see both the cost in Australian dollars, and the charge in your local currency.
If you have a credit card that works at home, then in all likelihood it will work in Australia as well. Visa & MasterCard are accepted in Australia almost universally, however AM-EX and other card types are far less common.
Exchange rates can often be expensive, and so can international fees, so it would be worth checking these rates with your bank prior to departure. Many people will often change their credit card to one more suited to international travel, where with a little research, fees can be as low as 0%, and exchange rates can be a lot lower than standard.
Australian Bank Account
If you are planning to be in Australia for a long period of time (more than 3 months), our recommendation would be to setup a local bank account.
Australian Surf Tours offers a complete Arrivals Package that sets up young travellers with a Bank Account; a Tax File Number; a Medicare card; and much more, but you can do this yourself very easily too.
The 4 biggest banks in Australia are Commonwealth Bank; Westpac; ANZ; and NAB, and all offer suitable accounts. But our recommendation would be Commonwealth Bank. You can setup an account online…even before you arrive in Australia. It is free to do, and you can transfer money from anywhere in the world and view you balance before you arrive. You get a Debit card that can be used anywhere in Australia, and you will not be charged any monthly accounting fees for the first 12 months of holding the account.
So what the bloody hell is WWOOFing???
It stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and it is quickly becoming a worldwide institution! It is incredibly popular here in Australia with young travellers and backpackers. As it offers the opportunity to work and travel in Australia in return for free food and accommodation.
There are over 1,500 registered farms across the country that are actively seeking young travellers. They require between 4-6 hours per day, 5 days a week. In return you will learn new skills like milking a cow, growing organic vegetables, and driving a combine harvester!
WWOOFing is great if you are looking to improve your English language skills. Or if you want to understand better where your food comes from and developing sustainability methods in Australia.
Even better WWOOFing offers young travellers and backpackers a guaranteed source of food and shelter when funds might be running a little low!
You can register with WWOOFers Australia online and start working as soon as you want. Australian Surf Tours can help you to register correctly, and can even help you get you out to your first WWOOFing destination…wherever that may be.
7. Staying in Touch – Communicating with Friends & Family
Modern technology has removed most of the challenges associated with staying in touch with your friends and family whilst overseas. But now the problem is that there are literally hundreds of options to choose from!
So which options are the best for you? After testing out almost all of them over the years, we recommend the following for staying connected to everyone back at home:
This app is awesome for texting your loved ones from android-to-android or iPhone-to-android. Because Android phones don’t have iMessage, you can only SMS them over a network. This can lead to some hefty international call fees, so Google Hangouts is the perfect solution! With Google Hangouts, you can message anyone who uses it, or make call to other users for free. Other features include video messaging, and Google Voice if you want to go the paid phone number route for incoming calls.
WhatsApp is very similar to Google Hangout, and connects with other WhatsApp users. This is probably the most popular communications app worldwide, and is extremely popular here in Australia. It works for both iPhone and Android, and is free to use.
Make sure all of your friends and family have downloaded this app before you leave!
Facebook messenger has changed a lot over the years and is now considered a true communications application to most tech users. Not only can you quickly message any of your listed friends anywhere in the world. But you can also call and video chat completely free of charge.
It is particularly handy when those minor emergencies pop-up whilst you are overseas, and you don’t have the right contact information for somebody (but you are friends on Facebook). You can simply go to their profile and click ‘call’…how would life go on without Facebook?
Get a Local Number
If you intend to be in Australia for more than a few months, our advice would be to get a local sim card for your phone. Just don’t make the same mistake SO many travellers do, and forget to unlock the phone to other networks before you leave home! You can purchase an Australian sim card almost as soon as you land in Australia. Just head to the airport’s Vodafone store and purchase a local sim for your phone that comes without a lock-in contract.
Everyone has a different opinion on which network is best here in Australia, but Vodafone have some great plans for travellers; their network works well around most of Australia; and they generally offer the cheapest deals. They’re a great option in our opinion!
8. Safety – Staying Safe Whilst Travelling Australia
When embarking on any travelling adventure, safety should always be one of your top priorities.
Luckily for all of us, Australia is generally considered a relatively safe country. But there are still a few things you should keep in mind while exploring the variety of landscapes, cultural experiences and social attractions this amazing country has to offer.
Did you know that around 90% of the animals native to Australia are found nowhere else in the world! This can make Australia an incredibly alluring destination for many nature-loving travellers.
Whilst this may be a huge draw-card for some, others may not be quite so excited at the prospect. Visiting a country home to more deadly snakes than any other country worldwide can be intimidating. To add to this, Australia hosts some of the most venomous spiders on the planet. And there are a few other local critters hanging around that are known for their large and pointy teeth.
At this point it is important to point out that despite what many are made to believe, everything in Australia is not out to kill you! We’ll go through this myth in more detail in the next section. But for now it’s worth keeping these facts in mind and taking a few day-to-day precautions to ensure your Australia travel plans are not thwarted by our native inhabitants.
You’ll be pleased to know, there have been no deaths from spider bites in Australia since 1979. And there are only currently 2 spiders in Australia that are considered dangerous – The Funnel-Web Spider and the Red-back Spider. Even so, the following precautions can be taken to ensure you don’t inadvertently take on one of these 8 legged wonders:
- Always shake out your shoes before putting them on,
- Avoid leaving clothes or towels on the floor,
- Wear shoes when you’re outside and also at night.
- Always wear gloves when rummaging through the bush, or picking fruit and vegetables.
Australia does have its fair share of poisonous snakes. But lets be clear…the chances of spotting one during your stay in Australia are fairly slim. There is more chance of you being struck by lightning that bitten by a snake! With this in mind, the following precautions can be taken:
- Leave them alone if you see them and let them move away in their own time
- Avoid long grass and reeds, and watch where you’re putting your feet in the bush
- Wear shoes when out in the wilderness, and long pants when out for a trek
One word nobody wants to hear when they are swimming, surfing, snorkeling or diving. There isn’t much you can do to ensure you will never encounter a shark while enjoying the Australian ocean. But we can promise you that the likelihood is incredibly low!
We’ve been surfing in Australia all of our lives, and we spend every moment we can at the beach. In over 30 years, we can all count on one hand the number of sharks we have spotted.
There are lifeguards and shark alarms at every major beach to alert you to any sightings. There are also shark nets that (somewhat controversially) help prevent sharks straying close to popular swimming spots. If we could give you a single word of advice when you visit Australia: it is not to let a fear of sharks prevent you from enjoying our beautiful beaches!
Box Jellyfish & Irukandji:
Box jellyfish and Irukandji are highly venous jellyfish that are found in our tropical oceans in the northern regions of Australia. Although there have been less than 100 deaths from these stings in the last 100 years, it is still important to know about them and avoid taking unnecessary risks when travelling up north.
When you are up in the tropical north during the wet season, a dip in the ocean can seem very inviting. But seek out any warning signs relating to ‘stingers’ as they are known, and any lifeguard instructions in regards to these jellyfish. Sticking to a swimming pool is going to be the best option where there are no little (or large) critters that can cause you harm!
Saltwater Crocodiles (Salties):
Crocodiles in Australia’s tropical north are also something you should be aware of, particularly when travelling off the beaten track and away from the cities and urban areas.
Saltwater crocodiles (also known as ‘salties’) live in both saltwater and freshwater areas of Northern Australia. They are common throughout the seasons in the top end and you should always be aware of the risk of a saltwater crocodile attack.
To stay safe, avoid swimming in all creeks, oceans and waterways unless designated a crocodile free zone, or a safe swimming area. It is also a good idea to stay a safe distance from waters edge to avoid the risk of crocodile attacks when travelling through the north.
Socialising & Drinking
While Australia isn’t particularly renowned for its nightclubs and bars, we do enjoy a few refreshing beers, and the occasional wild night out in the big smoke.
I’m sure this has been drilled into you since the day you reached legal drinking age, but the same wise words are just as applicable in an Aussie pub as it is a Parisian nightclub: never leave your drinks unattended! Although the majority of us are very honest, trustworthy boys and girls, there are a few rotten eggs in every town. Protect yourself from any unsafe encounters by watching yours and your friend’s drinks, not accepting drinks from strangers that you didn’t see opened/poured at the bar, and keeping your eye on any friends who have had a few too many.
The Australian Sun
Aussie’s love their sun. Whether we’re hanging out at the beach, having a barbecue with mates, or watching a sporting match, many of our social events involve being outdoors in the sun for a number of hours. The unfortunate result of this is that Australia now has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
The best way to stay safe in the Aussie sun is to do what we all learnt as kids:
Slip on a t-shirt
Slop on some sunscreen
Slap on a hat; and
Wrap on some sunnies.
If you do intend to enjoy the sun for a few hours, it’s best to avoid the hottest parts of the day, typically between 11am and 2pm. Try to find some shade during these hours. You may not have heard, but Australia can get pretty bloody hot!
Hostels in Australia and budget backpacker accommodation is a lot different to what it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. Most hostels are clean, friendly, social, and safe places, but there are still a few precautions we recommend you take…particularly if you are carrying valuables or cash.
Most young travellers are honest, and well intention-ed individuals, but there are always exceptions to the general rule. Therefore we recommend bearing the following points in mind when lodging in on of Australia’s finest:
- Always carry a padlock, and lock your valuables and cash in a locker in the hostel
- Be aware of hostel opening times, and how to access the property after hours
- Never discuss that you may be carrying any cash or valuables with any other travellers, no matter how friendly they might seem, or how well you think you know them
- Always pack your belongs back into your backpack when you plan to leave your room, even if only for a few minutes. A closed backpack is less inviting than an open one!
- Only charge your phone when you are with it and when you are awake
9. Working in Australia – Finding a Job & Earning Money Here
Finding a job in Australia is much the same as finding a job back at home. You are going to have to put the effort in to find a job that you want. And you’ll need to be realistic as to what you can apply for. Make sure you are fully aware of any restrictions imposed by your visa. Whether or not your visa even allows you to work whilst you are travelling in Australia. Breaching your visa requirements can often result in being shipped out of Australia fairly swiftly. It can then be very tricky to return!
So, if you’re reading this before you’ve arrived in Australia, and you’d like the option of working here,read on. You need to apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa before you leave.
Working Holiday Visas
Working Holiday Visas are available to any one aged between 18 and 30, and from the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan or United Kingdom. You can apply for your working holiday visa here.
You are also eligible for a working holiday visa if you are from these additional countries, although the process is a little different to acquire one: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China – People’s Republic of, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Uruguay, Vietnam. In these circumstances you can apply for this working holiday visa here.
Once your working holiday visa is approved, your visa is valid for entry to Australia for 1 year. It allows you to stay for a year once you arrive. You may work for each employer a maximum of six months or study in Australia for up to four months on your visa. At the end of one year, you may be eligible to apply for a second working holiday visa. (See the next section if this is what you intend to do).
Finding a Job
Our recommendation would be to seek out jobs in the tourism and/or hospitality industries. They are much easier to secure on a working holiday visa. Employers know that they cannot hold onto you for more than 6 months (unless they decide to sponsor you to stay in Australia), so they tend to be reluctant to employ overseas travellers on temporary visa.
It’s worth keeping an eye on hostel noticeboards, and make sure you have plenty of CVs in English. Run some Google searches for local jobs in your areas. Check the local newspapers as many jobs are often advertised in these.
Here are some useful websites you could visit to find temporary jobs in Australia:
Aside from a Visa, what do I need to work in Australia?
In order to get a job in Australia, you are first going to need to setup a few essentials:
- Australian Bank Account
- Australian Tax File Number
- If you want to work in a bar or restaurant with alcohol, you’ll need an RSA certificate
- If you want to work on building sites or as a tradie, you’ll need a White Card
Make sure you have this all setup before you start applying for jobs and positions. You don’t want to be turned down after having been offered a job because some of these elements will take to long to establish!
If you need any help with setting up the above, Australian Surf Tours offers an Arrivals Package for when you first arrive in Australia. This includes all of the above, and we’ll even help you find a job! Contact us about our arrivals packages anytime via phone or email. We’d love to hear from you and we’re all about helping young travellers out!
10. Second Year Visas – How to Stay for Longer!
So you are approaching the end of your 12 months here in Australia! Like most other travellers to this land, you don’t want to head back home. Well you might not have to! If you haven’t left it too late, there’s the option to extend your 12-month working holiday visa for another year!
To qualify for your second year visa, you’ll need to complete a minimum of three months (or 88 days) farm work. This is specific work that is required in a regional area of Australia.
You can find more information about the specifics of where and what you need to do online. We definitely recommend checking this out thoroughly. However, more often than not the easiest work to find will be fruit picking, farm work or horticultural work in regional areas.
TOP TIP: While you are working, make sure you collect plenty of evidence to prove you’ve completed the requirements. This can be in the form of bank statements, payslips or employer references.
Then, once you have your three months of work under your belt, you can begin the easy process of extending your visa. Its really not that hard to postpone the prospect of returning home for another 12 months!
Finding Farm Work – Where do I look?
There are a few places we would recommend you check out if you are looking into where to find farm work to extend your Working Holiday Visa in Australia:
We suggest giving both organisations a call directly. The staff on the end of the phone line are very knowledgeable and know where the best places for you to work would be for the time of year.
Finally, we HIGHLY recommend checking out the following business if you are looking to extend your visa for a second year – visitozworkers.org. These guys are amazing, and ensure you’re not taken advantage of when working in rural Australia; that you are paid a far wage; and best of all, they guarantee that your second year visa will be signed off as long as you complete your 88 days of work! You can register here.
Get in touch with us if you have any questions. We LOVE to help and make sure young travellers have the very best experience whilst they are here in our beautiful homeland – Australia!