Australia Travel Guide

 

Australia Travel Guide

 

Australia is a goldmine when it comes to real adventure and diversity. The 6th largest country in the world is blessed with pristine white sand beaches, incredible wildlife, activities enough for multiple trips, and attractions which need months to explore them all. Whether you are a diver, surfer, backpacker or outdoor enthusiast, Australia has got you covered. Located so far away from Europe, it might take 24 hours just to get there. But the Down Under is definitely worth doing that trip! Check my ultimate Australia Travel Guide to make sure you have all the information you need to plan an epic trip.

1. Australia Travel Guide – When is the Best Time to Visit?

 

Australia is a large country, which essentially means there is a wide variation in climate. When the United States and Europe are under a blanket of snow, Australia starts to bask in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer. Midwinter in Australia is July and August, and the hottest months are November through March.

 

After spending over three weeks in Australia and covering 73 miles from Sydney to Newcastle, I have established that September to November and March to May for me is the best time to visit Australia. At these times, the country is not going to be super hot or bitterly cold, so you can travel almost anywhere around the country with warm days in the southern regions and dry warm days in the Northern Territory.

 

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2. Australia Travel Guide – Getting Around

 

The biggest challenge for travellers is how to get around within Australia. With the vast spaces between major cities, getting around Australia requires careful planning. Travelling across the country might take a longer time than you may be used to. And distances are often a lot further than they might at first appear on a map. If you consider that the travel distance from Melbourne to Cairns is 2,800 km and from Sydney to Perth is almost 4,000 km you soon get a picture of how big Australia is. As you start creating your Australian itinerary, it is always a good idea to plan in advance.

 

Rent a Campervan

Driving through the Outback is a quintessential Aussie experience. That is why driving is an incredibly popular choice with travellers planning a long-term trip around the country. Not only it is a cheap way to see much of Australia but also the most flexible, especially if you travel in a group.

 

If you have a bit more time up your sleeve, exploring Australia slowly by campervan gives you plenty of freedom. Every time I think about my Aussie friends who spent over 6 months on the road in their old campervan I get a little tingle of excitement and promise myself that I will return to Oz to do just the same.

 

The great thing about hiring a campervan is that you get enough space in the back to sleep. At the same time, some campervans often come with included camping gear that you can use at free campsites, or in caravan parks for a small fee. But make sure you bring warm layers because nights can get chilly even in summer.

 

Depending on your itinerary, you may also consider hiring a car or a sturdy 4WD. If you plan to go off-road you should need to check that the rental company allows off-road driving. Hiring a car usually worth the money. And often hire deals are available from major Australian cities only and as long as you return the car to the same location. But during my trip, public transport was my pick. I stuck to it not just because I wasn’t going to explore the Outback or save money but to avoid traffic jam during peak times of the day.

 

Bus / Coach

If you’re not going to leave major cities or just don’t feel like driving and navigating around, there is an extensive coach network that can take you virtually anywhere. While travelling by coach is slower than driving yourself, you can expect them to be a safe, clean, and comfortable way to get from A to B. Do your own research if you’re on a tight budget.

 

The most popular bus service is Greyhound Australia. They offer point-to-point tickets and kilometre based passes for most of the country and cover the majority of individual destinations. Most Greyhound buses now have onboard Wi-Fi. While Australia is an expensive country to travel around, Greyhound is the cheap substitute for covering long distances in areas where flights and renting a car would be too expensive.

 

Take an advantage of using free public transportation routes. Do your research before you arrive since most Australian cities have free inner city trams and shuttles. For example, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Parramatta have a free bus zone in the CBD area. Major cities like Melbourne and Adelaide offer free tram service.

 

Alongside Greyhound and Premier, there are two specific bus options for backpackers. Another bus service I often hear positive feedback from is Oz Experience. They operate much like Greyhound but are tourist focused which means routes are often scenic and there is a hop-on-hop-off system. They also offer different passes depending on the length of trip and often have a guide on hand to offer advice and suggestions on where to go and what to see. Which is great for young travellers!

 

Trains

Australia doesn’t boast a great rail system like Europe and Asia, so unless you are a rail enthusiast chances are you will end up using buses. Train travel in Australia isn’t cheap and usually quite slow because there are no fast and high-frequency trains. But exploring Australia by train allows seeing things from a different perspective. The Indian Pacific train runs between Sydney and Perth via Adelaide, and the Ghan travelling through the Red Centre from Adelaide to Darwin. Both routes offer options for those on a budget (not as cheap as coaches) as well as those looking for the ultimate in rail travel luxury.

 

Flying

Flying within major Australian cities allows covering lots of the country in a short time. Not only it is an efficient way to get around Australia, but also quite pricey. With two major airlines that – Qantas and Virgin, air travel is getting more competitive. So you can find low-cost airlines like Jetstar (a conglomerate of Qantas) and Tiger Airways that offer fare sales and budget deals (like Sydney to Perth for as low as $130 AUD one way).

 

If you are looking for cheap flights in Australia you can check out Rex Airline where you can find their backpacker passes. Rex (Regional Express) flies to areas such as Coober Pedy, Kangaroo Island, Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln. Regional flights in Australia are very expensive and they come at even higher prices during peak seasons like Christmas, Easter or on public holidays. When it comes to flying domestically, I would recommend booking flights in Australia at least 2 or 3 months prior to the desired departure time to get the cheapest rates.

 

When searching for flight deals in Australia try using travel search engine like Skyscanner. This comparison website trawls thousands of flights and once it finds what you need, you can book it directly through the airline. They also have a Skyscanner App, which makes it easier for you to find the best travel deals. I have encountered situations when the prices the app showed me were lower than the ones I actually saw on their website. You may also want to use VPN or use your browser’s incognito mode to avoid fare hikes.

 

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3. Australia Travel Guide – Accommodation

 

Down Under offers any type of accommodation. Ranging from cool and sociable backpacker hostels, camping grounds and guesthouses to most prestigious and elegantly furnished luxury hotels. You can expect that during school and public holidays prices are usually at their highest, so I’d recommend booking ahead to secure the best accommodation deals. If you can, take advantage of low season discounts and find great accommodation opportunities.

 

B&B and Guesthouses

Since I’m not only a frugal traveller but also the one who enjoys the odd home comfort on his travels I take booking my accommodation very seriously. On my recent trip to Australia, it quickly became apparent that the guesthouses I was staying at would live up to all my expectations. When planning a travel itinerary bear in mind that there are plenty of family-run guesthouses that range from converted barns to bungalows and townhouses.

 

If you’re looking for a bed and breakfast, Australia has plenty of great options to choose from. These are more intimate accommodations than large hotels with rates depending on the area, location and facilities offered. Usually, they offer personal attention, individually decorated, comfortable rooms and expertise of an innkeeper.

 

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Hotels

You will be spoiled for choice when picking a hotel in the main Australian cities. While they usually range from business to luxury hotels with all types of facilities, I have a few favourite booking sites I use to find the best deal. And once I have found my best deal using the travel resources below, I also call the particular hotel directly as sometimes you can get a better price by going direct. Since so many travelers explore Australia by car they often need a stopover on the way to their destination. In this case, consider staying in motels because they offer a comfortable mid-range accommodation at reasonable prices.

 

During my trip to Australia, I used one of the most renowned hotel comparisons sites that also deliver the cheap hotel deals and the largest selection of hotels. Hotelscombined is one of the best-suited engines in Australia that trawls through over 25 search engines like Expedia, Booking, and Travelocity.

AirBnB

I tried AirBnb when traveling around Australia and it was definitely a lifesaver. It is becoming more and more popular with backpackers and those who short of somewhere to stay for a night or two. As an example, I stayed in an awesome apartment in Sydney that cost me only $40 per night. Every other apartment I found was at least $90. I also love AirBnB because it connects you to unique travel experiences and locals are almost always willing to show you some off-the-beaten-path places. If you have not used Airbnb before, you can save $35 off your first stay with this AirBnb link.

 

Camping

As I have already mentioned a trip to Australia would not be complete without spending the night under stars. Renting a caravan or a campervan allows you to save money on traditional accommodation, drive yourself around the country, stop everywhere and enjoy outdoor sleeping. Camping in the Australian bush becomes easier when you have some options to choose from. Check big international companies like Britz, Avis, Hertz, Mau, Apollo, KEA, if you wish to rent a campervan or RV.

 

With literally thousands of campgrounds around the country, a lot of these are completely free to use. While Australia is a massive country with lots of wide open space, I discourage you from setting up camp in national parks or outside of designated camping areas. The rules and regulations can differ with every council, but on average one night could cost you $200 in a fine for camping in non-designated place.

 

Sticking to designated campgrounds allows you to use facilities that often range from basic toilets and showers at some of the free sites, to full laundry services, swimming pools, kitchens at campsites where you have to pay for entering. There are way too many guides and apps you can purchase or download to get the exact campsite you want. WikiCamps is a great app I’ve just discovered which gives you access to the largest and most up-to-date database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels with user reviews.

 

Hostels

If you prefer to cut costs, there plenty of clean, friendly, social, and safe hostels in Australia. Despite what many people often think, hostels aren’t just for 22-year-old backpackers. Many Australian hostels offer private dorm beds that on average will be $50 to $85. So they can be a fancier option than the standard hotel room if you’re a solo traveller.

 

Some hostels are better than others and getting the right hostel is essential because it will affect the type of people you meet and the experience that you have. I’ve stayed in some of YHA hostels as they are clean and well-run hostels with heaps of facilities and so far are my personal favourite. They are great if you want to socialize, but you can still get some sleep at night.

 

Hostels like Nomads and Base and the Arts Factory are more party hostels, which is great if you want to party, but not so great if you want to sleep and get up early for sightseeing or a tour. You can also get YHA memberships to save at least 10% on accommodation costs in YHA Hostels worldwide. Not so much, but every little bit helps when travelling around Down Under. I’d also recommend getting a padlock to lock your valuables and cash in a locker in the hostel.

 

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4. Australia Travel Guide – How to Manage Money in Australia

 

Gone are the days when you would resort to carrying around bulky sheets of travellers cheques that no one is really sure what to do with. Thankfully things have changed as tech innovations have changed the way we live and created plenty of great tools for travellers to manage their money abroad. Based on my experience, here are my suggestions for setting your finances up correctly, so that you don’t encounter any unexpected surprises, and can easily manage your money upon arrival.

 

Bring Some Cash

I love Euros. However, dollars are still the most widely accepted currency and the best option. It goes without saying that having a mix of large and small dollar notes to fund your travelling expenses is essential for the first few days in the country.

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I don’t use my cash stash often but it’s important to have one. I have encountered some problems with finding an ATM at the airport as I landed in Beijing. But I had about 50 dollars worth in Chinese money to pay for the train to downtown and my dinner. It’s a good idea to have at least one $100 bill because these often get better exchange rates.

 

Take Multiple Debit and Credit Cards

While it can be insecure I tend to have at least two debit cards and one credit card. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Australia, however, AM-EX and Diners Club are far less common. International and exchange fees can often be expensive, so it would be wise to know exactly the figures. As my credit card doesn’t charge international fees I use it when I can and pay it off in full each month. Some travellers use credit cards to earn frequent flyer points, but I only find it worthwhile in the United States where credit card companies reward you with large sign-up bonuses.

 

Notify Your Bank

Let your bank know when and where you’ll be travelling, ask them to provide you with an emergency helpline number that you can use in case your card is blocked. I know, letting them know doesn’t always help and your card might still be blocked. That is why you need an emergency helpline number, so you can easily get your card unblocked straight away. Consider paying for Skype credit since it is easier than finding a phone locally and international rates are low.

 

Open an Australian Bank Account

Withdrawing money from ATM machines by using a debit card is an easy way to access your money on the road. While some banks charge high fees for withdrawals abroad (check your bank’s fees), you might consider switching banks or opening a different bank account. If you are planning to travel in Australia for more than 3 months, check the four biggest banks – Commonwealth Bank; Westpac; ANZ; and National Australia Bank. The latter allows you to set up an account online and transfer money from anywhere in the world even before you arrive. They will also provide a debit card that you can use anywhere in Australia and not be charged any withdrawal fees.

 

Avoid Exchange Bureaus

If your bank has a partner in Oz, stick to withdrawing money from their ATM. By doing it you’ll be exchanging money at interbank rates, which tend to be 2 to 5 percent better than the rates exchange bureaus charge. Also, keep in mind that most banks will charge you to withdraw money at a foreign ATM or make a purchase in a foreign currency.

 

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5. Australia Travel Guide – Staying Safe

 

I spent amazing three weeks in Oz and never had a bad experience. However, it always pays to be aware. Especially when heading to the Outback or when go surfing. Safety is always one of my top priorities.

 

Australia does have its fair share of dangerous critters like snakes, sharks, jellyfish, and crocodiles, so once you leave the cities, chances are you will hear shark attack stories or something like that. You can expect every major beach and lifeguards to alert you to any sightings.

 

I’m not trying to scare you. Oz is generally considered a relatively safe country and the odds of a shark attack are pretty much non-existent. As they say, you’re more likely to die from a fall or from choking on food. I’ve never seen a spider or a snake in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane as well.

 

Aussie’s love their sun. But Australian sun can be incredibly strong. Whether you’re hanging out at the beach, exploring the neighborhoods or having a picnic I’d recommend slipping on a shirt, slopping on some 30+ factor sunscreen, and slapping on a wide-brimmed hat to protect skin from harmful rays. It is advisable to avoid the hottest parts of the day, typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. UV levels can still be high even on cool and overcast days, so try to find some shade during these hours.

 

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6. Australia Travel Guide – What to Pack

 

Oz has something for everyone. And when it comes to packing for a trip to Australia, you should exactly know your itinerary. You aren’t going to see much of the country if your backpack is overloaded with stuff you don’t need. As I usually say, it is better to underpack and buy everything you need once you’re there. But, of course, you shouldn’t forget passport, currency and essential travel documents at home.

 

Night time temperatures in the South of Australia can reach below zero in September, October, May, and June. That is why I recommend pack appropriately and bring layers to combat temperature fluctuations. Depending on the region you are visiting and your interests, you may want to pack waterproof trousers, a jacket, a scarf and backpacking boots that go above the ankle if you’re doing anything outdoorsy.



Daytime temperatures can rise above 40 degrees Celsius in summer, you should be prepared. To avoid sunburn I recommend not to forget packing loose, cool, long-sleeved shirts, a sun hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

 

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7. Australia Travel Guide – Staying in Touch

 

For my three-week stay in Oz, I decided to proceed with my Vodafone and stick to free Wi-Fi hotspots. Network coverage was fine in major cities and along the roads. Phone calls and Internet are ridiculously expensive in Australia, so you may want to use free Wi-Fi hotspots in libraries and McDonald’s. In hotels, they sometimes offer modem connection. Outside of popular routes, Internet connection is painfully slow.

 

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