The famous ‘Land Down Under’ is known to everyone around the world mostly for cheeky Kangaroos, epic surfing, cuddly koala bears and the impressive firework display over Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year’s Eve.
It is a huge draw for many people to explore, visit, and live there and if you are currently planning your very first trip then this guide should hopefully make it a little easier for you.
It’s a huge country and can be quite overwhelming to someone who hasn’t been before, but luckily for you, I have lived and travelled there gaining valuable knowledge I wish I had known before I even left the UK.
In my guide, we will cover currency, what to pack, where to visit, cultural differences and safety.
1. Getting Prepared
Before you even step foot in Australia there is a whole bunch of important bits you need to have sorted to make your transition a lot easier and having you turned back by border control.
Firstly, you need to have a Visa. There are a number of different types you can get depending on how long you will be there for. If you are just going for a short holiday, a year or two or even permanent residency then you will need to apply for a visa at https://www.australia.gov.au.
2. What to Pack
This ultimately depends on what time of year you are going. The seasons are reversed compared to the UK and Europe so Winter starts around May/June until October and Summer starts around October/November until April/May.
If you are heading there during the summer I would definitely suggest just taking light clothing like shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops, sandals, dresses, skirts as it can get really hot. Due to the O-Zone layer being virtually non-existent there the sun is really harsh and you will need at least Factor 50 sun cream to stop yourself from burning. A really good brand to buy over there is Cancer Society which is made primarily for their type of sun.
If you are heading, there for the winter then definitely take a lot of warm clothing as it can get super cold there. I would definitely suggest a thick coat, warm jumper and lots of layers. Of course, there are plenty of shops to buy what you haven’t got and need so I wouldn’t worry too much.
The Aussies use the Australian Dollar which is a fairly strong currency in the world and I would highly suggest downloading a currency converter application to make sure you fully get your grasp on the rates.
4. Where to Live & Work
Once this has been sorted you will need to decide where you want to work and live. This is super important and can really affect your experience while in Australia so definitely put some research in and figure out what sounds more appealing to you.
The most general consensus amongst most travellers are Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. I personally opted for Melbourne as it had a great night life, friendly vibes, lots of restaurants and cafes, great shopping, lots of attractions nearby and a great way of living. The only downside is that it hasn’t got the best beaches and will be a bit of a drive to get some decent ones.
Sydney has more of a London city vibe to it, packed with lots of tourist attractions, restaurants, huge fitness scene and some of the most famous and beautiful beaches. However, it is a nanny state and quite restrictive on its night life activities, plus I found the people there to be less friendly.
Brisbane, was a great place for a short stay. It has a smaller city feel to it with all the necessary shops, amenities and a handful of attractions. I found it to be very 50/50 with popularity. A bit like Marmite – some people love it and others hate it.
Last but not least is Cairns, which is a fun and lively city providing trips to the Great Barrier Reef, beautiful scenery and some really nice beaches. It’s quite a young place though with a lot of backpackers passing through (think of 18-30s partying) and other than that, not much else really happens there.
5. Where to Travel
If you are just in Australia to travel and see the beautiful sights that it has to offer, then you are definitely in for some special treats. Whether you base yourself on the East or West coast you will be privy to some of the most beautiful natural and man-made attractions you could possibly hope to experience.
⦁ The Whitsundays, Queensland
Consisting of 74 islands, The Whitsundays is truly a beautiful and stunning place to visit. It’s home my favourite beach in Australia, Whitehaven Beach, and numerous other fantastic beaches and secluded bays with clear turquoise water and pristine pure white sand. Throw in tropical sunsets, every water sport imaginable, and the fact you’re in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
The mainland town of Airlie Beach is a happening place with Hamilton Island being the most concentrated for accommodation and activities.
You can’t visit Australia and not spend at least a few days in one of the world’s most beautiful cities – many of you will fly through here anyway as it has a huge airport.
Sydney undeniably has a reputation of being on the expensive side, but most of the best activities are free or cheap, such as walking across the famous Harbour Bridge, picnic in the Botanical Gardens, walk around Circular Quay and admire the Opera House.
You can also pay a small price and take the ferry over to Manly to explore the Rocks District, and my personal favourite – the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk.
⦁ Byron Bay, NSW
This legendary beachside town in Northern NSW has been attracting surfers, the spiritually minded, spa lovers, yogis, backpackers and those trying to find themselves for years.
With some of the most famous surfing breaks in the country, the alternative lifestyle, and the stunning hinterland, Byron is the place to be, and be seen. Don’t miss the lighthouse walk past Wategos Beach, sunrise and sunset, take a surfing lesson or kayak with dolphins and whales.
⦁ Uluru, Northern Territory
Not many of you would have heard of this famous rock, but most will at least recognise it. Visiting Uluru in the Red Centre of Australia is an experience you will never forget. Known as the ‘spiritual heart of Australia’ Uluru is one of those places you just have to see, and feel, for yourself.
Don’t rush through here like most people, stay awhile and take it all in. Experience sunset and sunrise, walk around the base, take a camel ride, maybe a helicopter flight if you can afford it, and visit nearby Kata Tjuta.
⦁ Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
If you hadn’t heard of Uluru, then will most certainly know of the Great Barrier Reef. Getting out on the world’s largest coral reef and the largest living structure on the planet has to be on your Aussie ‘To Do’ bucket list.
Stretching a whopping 2,300km long, the GBR is a natural wonder of the world and in my opinion lives up to its reputation. If you’re a diver, or even just a snorkeler, the options are endless. Most people visit the reef from Cairns which is known as the unofficial gateway.
⦁ Fraser Island, Queensland
If you’re a hard-core 4×4 driving enthusiast put Fraser Island at the top of your Aussie bucket list. Fraser stretches 123 km long, 23 km wide, and is the largest sand island in the world dumped over 800,000 years ago from places as far as Antarctica when it was still joined with Australia.
You won’t be able to get enough of Fraser, it’s an adventure with nature you’ll crave more of. My favourite spots are 75 Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Maheno shipwreck, Lake Mackenzie, Indian Head, and Champagne Pools.
⦁ Melbourne, Victoria
If I could live anywhere in the world it would be Melbourne, and I’m not the only one apparently as it consistently ranks at the top of most liveable cities in the world, It takes a while to adjust to the four seasons in one day weather pattern, but it makes for a more interesting experience.
It has an incredible food scene, some of the best coffee and cafes in the country (if not the world), cool pubs, endless shopping, great festivals, awesome markets, handy public transport, and just an all-round addictive vibe! If you’re a sports fan then you will love the fact that it has the Australian Open Tennis, the Grand Prix, the Melbourne Cup, and the Australian Football League (AFL).
⦁ Great Ocean Road, Victoria
If you end up in Melbourne, then you really should make a road trip to visit the Great Ocean Road. It’s pretty famous around the world as one of the best road trips you can possibly do. Definitely check out the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and Port Campbell National Park as well as plenty of other beautiful spots to stop and admire along the way.
I have one tip, don’t rush it, don’t drive it in one day like the tour buses, slow down and give it the time it deserves.
⦁ Hobart, Tasmania
Tasmania is one those cool places you always kind of hear about but never think to actually visit. Hobart, is its main city and it’s definitely has a nice vibe with lots of history – it’s Australia’s second oldest city – and I really enjoyed a few other places within easy reach of the city so that’s why I’m including it in this list.
I do love the fact that it’s walkable, my favourite spots being Salamanca and Historic Battery Point, and of course, the famous MONA museum is a must visit. The other places close enough to Hobart I highly recommend are Bruny Island, Port Arthur, and historic Richmond.
⦁ Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria
This is truly a hidden gem, and one I only came across because some local friends of mine told me about it. It’s a three-hour drive from the city (Melbourne) and it’s a 50,000-hectare coastal wilderness area and so popular they have a ballot system to stay in the accommodation during peak season.
Your reward – stunning vistas of pink granite boulder mountains, turquoise water, squeaky white sand, intimate coves, forested valleys, and incredible hiking.
It is pretty easy to get about Australia what with cheap airfares through Jetstar, Tigerair and AirNZ, you can pretty much fly to anywhere in Australia with a lot more ease and speed than any other way.
You can also jump on greyhound buses, hire cars and campervans through companies such as Jucy and of course book any number of tour buses.
If you are living in Melbourne I would highly suggest getting a Myki card or in Sydney a Opal card to make getting trains and public transport a lot easier and cheaper (think of them like Oyster cards in London).
Australians are generally not formal, so greetings, even initial greetings, are casual and laid back. It’s common to shake hands and Australians would normally just use first names to introduce people.
The culture of Australia is a Western culture derived primarily from Britain but also influenced by the unique geography of the Australian continent, the diverse input of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other Oceanian people.
The oldest surviving cultural traditions in Australia (which are actually some of the oldest surviving traditions on earth) – are those of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Their ancestors inhabited Australia for between 40,000 and 60,000 years and they lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The boomerang and didgeridoo, which were invented by Aborigines, are to this day iconic symbols of the country.
So G’Day and Enjoy your time down under!