Accessible Travel

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

  • Levels of disability awareness in Australia are high and increasing.
  • Legislation requires that new accommodation meets accessibility standards for mobility-impaired travellers, and discrimination by tourism operators is illegal.
  • Many of Australia's key attractions, including many national parks, provide access for those with limited mobility and a number of sites also address the needs of visitors with visual or aural impairments. Contact attractions in advance to confirm the facilities.
  • Tour operators with vehicles catering to mobility-impaired travellers operate from most capital cities.
  • Facilities for wheelchairs are improving in accommodation, but there are still many older establishments where the necessary upgrades haven't been done.

Australian Resources

Deaf Australia (www.deafaustralia.org.au)

e-Bility (www.ebility.com)

National Information Communication & Awareness Network Australia-wide directory providing information on access, accommodation, sports and recreational activities, transport and specialist tour operators.

Vision Australia

International Resources

Access-Able Travel Source (www.access-able.com) US-based site providing information on disabled-friendly tours and hotels.

Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) In the US, advising disabled travellers on mobility issues. It primarily runs educational exchange programs, and some include Australian travel.

Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (www.sath.org) In the US; offers assistance and advice.

Air Travel

Qantas entitles a disabled person with high-support needs and the carer travelling with them to a discount on full economy fares; contact National Information Communication & Awareness Network for eligibility info and an application form. Guide dogs travel for free on Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and their affiliated carriers. All of Australia's major airports have dedicated parking spaces, wheelchair access to terminals, accessible toilets, and skychairs to convey passengers onto planes via air bridges.

Train Travel

In NSW, CountryLink's XPT trains have at least one carriage (usually the buffet car) with a seat removed for a wheelchair, and an accessible toilet. Queensland Rail's Tilt Train from Brisbane to Cairns has a wheelchair-accessible carriage.

All of Australia's suburban rail networks are wheelchair-accessible and guide dogs and hearing dogs are permitted on all public transport.

In Victoria, PTV offers a free travel pass to visually impaired people and wheelchair users for transport around Melbourne.

Bargaining

Gentle haggling is fairly common in weekend markets and secondhand shops, but it's not the done thing in most shops, where prices are fixed. It's common practice to ask for a discount on expensive items when paying cash (not that you're guaranteed to get one). In most other instances you're expected to pay the stated price.

Dangers & Annoyances

Australia is a relatively safe place to travel by world standards − crime- and war-wise at any rate − but natural disasters regularly wreak havoc. Bushfires, floods and cyclones decimate parts of most states and territories, but if you pay attention to warnings from local authorities and don't venture into affected areas, you should be fine.

  • Swimming in far-northern Australia is often dangerous thanks to crocodiles – always check with locals.
  • If driving on rural roads after dark, do so carefully and watch for wandering wildlife.

Government Travel Advice

The following government websites offer travel advisories and information for travellers.

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca)
  • French Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes (www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs)
  • Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri (www.viaggiaresicuri.mae.aci.it)
  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
  • US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)

Discount Cards

Travellers over the age of 60 with some form of identification (eg a state-issued seniors card or overseas equivalent) are sometimes eligible for concession prices for public transport.

The internationally recognised International Student Identity Card (ISIC; www.isic.org) is available to full-time students aged 12 years and over. The card gives the bearer discounts on accommodation, transport and admission to various attractions. The same organisation also produces the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC), issued to people under 26 years of age and not full-time students, and has benefits equivalent to the ISIC; also similar is the International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC), available to teaching professionals. All three cards are available online (from the ISIC website) and from student travel companies ($30).

Electricity

240V AC, 50Hz. Use a three-pin adaptor (different to British three-pin adaptors).

Emergency & Important Numbers

Regular Australian phone numbers have a two-digit area code followed by an eight-digit number. Drop the initial 0 if calling from abroad.

Australia's country code61
International access code0011
Emergency (ambulance, fire, police)000
Directory assistance1223

Entry & Exit Formalities

Arrival in Australia is usually straightforward and efficient, with the usual customs declarations. There are no restrictions for citizens of any particular foreign countries entering Australia – if you have a current passport and visa, you should be fine.

Customs Regulations

For detailed information on customs and quarantine regulations, contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

When entering Australia you can bring most articles in free of duty provided that customs is satisfied they are for personal use and that you'll be taking them with you when you leave. Duty-free quotas per person (note the unusually low figure for cigarettes):

  • Alcohol 2.25L (over the age of 18)
  • Cigarettes 50 cigarettes (over the age of 18)
  • Dutiable goods Up to the value of $900 ($450 for people under 18)

Narcotics, of course, are illegal, and customs inspectors and their highly trained hounds are diligent in sniffing them out. Quarantine regulations are strict, so you must declare all goods of animal or vegetable origin – wooden spoons, straw hats, the lot. Fresh food (meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables etc) and flowers are prohibited. There are disposal bins located in airports where you can dump any questionable items if you don't want to bother with an inspection. You must declare currency in excess of $10,000 (including foreign currency).

Quarantine

Australia takes quarantine very seriously. All luggage is screened or X-rayed − if you fail to declare quarantine items on arrival and are caught, you risk a hefty on-the-spot fine or prosecution, which may result in much more significant fines and up to 10 years' imprisonment. For more information on quarantine regulations contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Illegal drugs Don't bring illegal drugs in with you. Customs authorities are adept at searching for them and sniffer dogs are permanent fixtures in arrival and baggage halls.

Medication You need to declare prescription medicines. Bring medications in their original, clearly labelled containers. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician's letter documenting their medical necessity.

Money You need to declare currency in excess of $10,000 (including foreign currency).

Plant and animal matter When arriving or departing the country, declare all animal and plant material (wooden spoons, straw hats, the lot) and show them to a quarantine officer. If you bring in a souvenir, such as a drum with animal hide for a skin, or a wooden article (though these items are not strictly prohibited, they are subject to inspection) that shows signs of insect damage, it won't get through. Some items may require treatment to make them safe before they are allowed in. Food and flowers are also prohibited, plus there are restrictions on taking fruit and vegetables between states.

Weapons There are strong restrictions on the possession and use of weapons in Australia. If you plan to travel with weapons of any sort contact the customs service or consult its website well before departure − permits may be required.

Passports

There are no restrictions for citizens of any particular foreign countries entering Australia. If you have a current passport and visa, you should be fine.

Visas

All visitors to Australia need a visa, except New Zealanders. Apply online for an ETA or eVisitor visa, each allowing a three-month stay: www.border.gov.au.

Further Information

  • All visitors to Australia need a visa − only New Zealand nationals are exempt, and even they sheepishly receive a 'special category' visa on arrival.
  • There are several different visas available, depending on your nationality and what kind of visit you're contemplating.
  • See the website of the Department of Immigration & Border Protection for info and application forms (also available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and travel agents).

eVisitor (651)

  • Many European passport holders are eligible for a free eVisitor visa, allowing stays in Australia for up to three months within a 12-month period.
  • eVisitor visas must be applied for online (www.border.gov.au). They are electronically stored and linked to individual passport numbers, so no stamp in your passport is required.
  • It’s advisable to apply at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of travel to Australia.

Electronic Travel Authority (ETA; 601)

  • Passport holders from eight countries that aren’t part of the eVisitor scheme − Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the USA − can apply for either a visitor or business Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).
  • ETAs are valid for 12 months, with stays of up to three months on each visit.
  • You can apply for an ETA online (www.border.gov.au), which attracts a nonrefundable service charge of $20.

Visitor (600)

  • Short-term Visitor visas have largely been replaced by the eVisitor and ETA. However, if you're from a country not covered by either, or you want to stay longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a Visitor visa.
  • Standard Visitor visas allow one entry for a stay of up to three, six or 12 months, and are valid for use within 12 months of issue.
  • Apply online at www.border.gov.au.

Working Holiday (417)

On a normal visa you're not allowed to work in Australia, but you may be eligible for a 12-month Working Holiday visa, which lets you supplement your travels with casual employment. People from 19 countries (including the UK, Canada, Korea, the Netherlands, Malta, Ireland, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark) are eligible, but you must be between 18 and 30 years of age at the time of lodging your application (the government was considering raising the eligible age to 35 years at the time of writing, although nothing was confirmed). A visa subclass is available to residents of Chile, Thailand, Turkey and the USA.

The emphasis on casual rather than full-time work means that you can only work for six months at a time with any one employer – but you are free to work for more than one employer within the 12 months. There's a limit on the number of visas issued each year, so apply as early as possible to the Australian embassy in your home country before you leave.

Apply prior to entry to Australia (up to a year in advance) – you can’t change from another tourist visa to a Working Holiday visa once you’re in Australia. Conditions include having a return air ticket or sufficient funds for a return or onward fare.

Work & Holiday (462)

Nationals from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the USA and Uruguay aged between the ages of 18 and 30 years can apply for a Work and Holiday visa prior to entry to Australia.

Once granted this visa allows the holder to enter Australia within three months of issue, stay for up to 12 months, leave and re-enter Australia any number of times within that 12 months, undertake temporary employment to supplement a trip, and study for up to four months.

For details see www.border.gov.au.

Visa Extensions

If you want to stay in Australia for longer than your visa allows, you’ll need to apply for a new visa via www.border.gov.au. Apply at least two or three weeks before your visa expires.

Etiquette

Australia is a pretty casual place and there are very few rules of etiquette to take into account.

  • Greetings Usually a simple 'G'day' or 'Howzitgoin?' suffices. Shake hands with men or women when meeting for the first time. Australians expect a firm handshake with eye contact. However, when visiting an Aboriginal community this can be seen as overbearing. Here, a soft clasp with little arm movement, and virtually no eye contact can be expected. The best advice is to take it as it comes and respond in like manner.
  • Mate! Be prepared to be called 'mate' by everyone, regardless of whether you know them or not.
  • Shout Australians like to take it in turn to buy ('shout') a round of drinks for the group and everyone is expected to take part.
  • BBQs Bring beer, wine or some sausages (aka 'snags') to a BBQ.
  • Alcohol Check whether alcohol rules apply when visiting an Indigenous community. You may be breaking the law even with unopened bottles in your vehicle.
  • Photography As in any country, politeness goes a long way when taking photographs; ask before taking pictures of people. Particularly bear in mind that for Indigenous Australians, photography can be highly intrusive, and photographing cultural places, practices and images, sites of significance and ceremonies may also be a sensitive matter. Always ask first.

Insurance

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Level of Cover A good travel insurance policy covering theft, loss and medical problems is essential. Some policies specifically exclude designated ‘dangerous activities’ such as scuba diving, skiing and even bushwalking. Make sure the policy you choose fully covers you for your activity of choice.

Health You may prefer a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly rather than requiring you to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later make sure you keep all documentation. Check that the policy covers ambulances and emergency medical evacuations by air.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Wi-fi is increasingly the norm in urban Australian accommodation (often free for guests). Cafes, bars and even some public gardens and town squares also provide wi-fi access. Local tourist offices should have details of public wi-fi hot spots.

Even so, there remain a surprising number of black spots without mobile or internet coverage. Most of these are in rural or outback areas. In such areas, hotel wi-fi may be your saviour.

Access

There are fewer internet cafes around these days than there were five years ago (thanks to the advent of iPhones, iPads and wi-fi), but you'll still find them in most sizeable towns. Most accommodation is phasing out internet terminals and kiosks in favour of wi-fi, although most hostels still have a public computer.

Most public libraries have internet access, but generally it's provided for research needs, not for travellers to check Facebook – so book ahead or find an internet cafe.

LGBT Travellers

Australia is a popular destination for gay and lesbian travellers, with the so-called 'pink tourism' appeal of Sydney especially big, thanks largely to the city's annual, high-profile and spectacular Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. In general, Australians are open-minded, but the further from the cities you get, the more likely you are to run into suspicion or hostility.

Throughout the country, but particularly on the east coast, there are tour operators, travel agents and accommodation places that make a point of welcoming the gay and lesbian community.

Same-sex acts are legal in all states, but the age of consent varies.

Major Gay & Lesbian Events

Resources

Major cities have gay-community newspapers, available from clubs, cafes, venues and newsagents. Lifestyle magazines include DNA, Lesbians on the Loose (LOTL) and the Sydney-based SX. In Melbourne look for MCV, in Queensland, Queensland Pride. Perth has the free OutinPerth and Adelaide has Blaze.

Gay & Lesbian Tourism Australia (Galta; www.galta.com.au) General information on gay-friendly businesses, places to stay and nightlife.

Same Same (www.samesame.com.au) News, events and lifestyle features.

Gay Stay Australia (www.gaystayaustralia.com) A useful resource for accommodation.

Maps

Good-quality road and topographical maps are plentiful and readily available around Australia. State motoring organisations are a dependable source of road maps, while local tourist offices usually supply free town and region maps (though cartographic quality varies).

Bushwalking maps Bushwalkers and others undertaking outdoor activities for which large-scale maps are essential should browse the topographic sheets published by Geoscience Australia. The more popular topographic sheets are usually available over the counter at shops selling specialist bushwalking gear and outdoor equipment.

Outback Driving Maps Hema Maps (www.hemamaps.com) publishes some of the best maps for desert tracks and regions. They're available online and from some bookstores.

GPS You can hire a GPS from the major car-hire companies (subject to availability), but they're pretty unnecessary if you're sticking to the main roads.

Media

  • DVDs Australian DVDs are encoded for Region 4, which includes Mexico, South America, Central America, New Zealand, the Pacific and the Caribbean.
  • Newspapers Leaf through the daily Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au), Melbourne's Age (www.theage.com.au) or the national Australian broadsheet newspaper (www.theaustralian.com.au).
  • Radio Tune in to ABC radio; check out www.abc.net.au/radio for local frequencies.
  • TV The main free-to-air TV channels are the government-sponsored ABC, multicultural SBS and the three commercial networks – Seven, Nine and Ten. Numerous free spin-off and local channels enrich the viewing brew.

Money

ATMs widely available in cities and larger towns. Credit cards accepted for hotels, restaurants, transport and activity bookings.

ATMs & Eftpos

ATMs Australia's 'big four' banks – ANZ, Commonwealth, National Australia Bank and Westpac – and affiliated banks have branches all over Australia, plus a slew of 24-hour automated teller machines (ATMs); you'll even find them in some outback roadhouses. Most ATMs accept cards issued by other banks (for a fee) and are linked to international networks.

Eftpos Most service stations, supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and shops have Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (Eftpos) facilities, allowing you to make purchases and some even allow you to draw out cash with your credit or debit card.

Fees Bear in mind that withdrawing cash through ATMs or Eftpos may attract significant fees − check the associated costs with your bank first.

Credit Cards

Credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted for everything from a hostel bed or a restaurant meal to an adventure tour, and are pretty much essential (in lieu of a large deposit) for hiring a car. They can also be used to get cash advances over the counter at banks and from many ATMs, depending on the card, though these transactions incur immediate interest. Diners Club and American Express (Amex) are not as widely accepted.

Lost credit-card contact numbers:

American Express

Diners Club

MasterCard

Visa

Currency

Australia's currency is the Australian dollar, comprising 100 cents. There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Prices in shops are often marked in single cents then rounded to the nearest 5c when you come to pay.

Debit Cards

A debit card allows you to draw money directly from your home bank account using ATMs, banks or Eftpos machines. Any card connected to the international banking network – Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and Eurocard – should work with your PIN. Expect substantial fees.

Companies such as Travelex offer debit cards with set withdrawal fees and a balance you can top up from your personal bank account while on the road.

Exchange Rates

CanadaC$1$1.05
ChinaY1$0.19
Euro€1$1.40
Japan¥100$1.17
New ZealandNZ$1$0.94
South KoreaW100$0.11
UKUK£1$1.64
USUS$1$1.31

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com

Exchanging Money

Changing foreign currency (or travellers cheques, if you're still using them) is usually no problem at banks throughout Australia, or at licensed moneychangers such as Travelex or Amex in cities and major towns.

Opening a Bank Account

If you're planning on staying in Australia a while (on a Working Holiday visa for instance), it makes sense to open a local bank account. This is easy enough for overseas visitors provided it's done within six weeks of arrival. Simply present your passport and provide the bank with a postal address and it'll open the account and send you an ATM card.

After six weeks it becomes much more complicated. A points system operates and you need to score a minimum of 100 points before you can have the privilege of letting the bank take your money. Passports and birth certificates are worth the most points, followed by an international driving licence with photo, then minor IDs such as credit cards. You must have at least one ID with a photograph. Once the account is open, you should be able to have money transferred from your home account (for a fee, of course).

Before you arrive It's possible to set up an Australian bank account before you embark on your international trip and applications can be made online; check bank websites for details:

ANZ (www.anz.com.au)

Commonwealth Bank (www.commbank.com.au)

National Australia Bank (NAB; www.nab.com.au)

Westpac (www.westpac.com.au)

Tipping

It's common but by no means obligatory to tip in restaurants and upmarket cafes if the service warrants it − a gratuity of between 5% and 10% of the bill is the norm. Taxi drivers will also appreciate you rounding up the fare. Tipping is not usually expected in hotels.

Travellers Cheques

  • The ubiquity and convenience of internationally linked credit- and debit-card facilities in Australia means that travellers cheques are virtually redundant.
  • Amex and Travelex will exchange their associated travellers cheques, and major banks will change travellers cheques also.
  • In all instances you'll need to present your passport for identification when cashing them.

Opening Hours

Business hours vary from state to state, but the following is a guide. Note that nearly all attractions across Australia are closed on Christmas Day; many also close on New Year's Day and Good Friday.

Banks 9.30am-4pm Monday to Thursday; until 5pm on Friday.

Cafes All-day affairs opening from around 7am until around 5pm, or continuing their business into the night.

Petrol stations & roadhouses Usually 8am-10pm. Some urban service stations open 24 hours.

Post offices 9am-5pm Monday to Friday; some also 9am-noon on Saturday. You can also buy stamps from newsagents and delis.

Pubs Usually serving food from noon-2pm and 6-8pm. Pubs and bars often open for drinking at lunchtime and continue well into the evening, particularly from Thursday to Saturday.

Restaurants Open around noon-2.30pm for lunch and 6-8pm for dinner. Eateries in major cities keep longer hours.

Shops & businesses 9am-5pm or 6pm Monday to Friday, and until either noon or 5pm on Saturday. In larger cities, doors stay open until 9pm.

Supermarkets Generally open from 7am until at least 8pm; some open 24 hours. Delis and general stores also open late.

Post

Australia Post (www.auspost.com.au) runs very reliable national and worldwide postal services; see the website for info on international delivery zones and rates. All post offices will hold mail for visitors: you need to provide some form of identification (such as a passport or driver's licence) to collect mail.

Public Holidays

Timing of public holidays can vary from state to state: check locally for precise dates. Some holidays are only observed locally within a state.

National

New Year's Day 1 January

Australia Day 26 January

Easter (Good Friday to Easter Monday inclusive) late March/early April

Anzac Day 25 April

Queen's Birthday Second Monday in June (last Monday in September in WA)

Christmas Day 25 December

Boxing Day 26 December

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra Day Second Monday in March

Bank Holiday First Monday in August

Labour Day First Monday in October

New South Wales

Bank Holiday First Monday in August

Labour Day First Monday in October

Northern Territory

May Day First Monday in May

Show Day (Alice Springs) First Friday in July; (Tennant Creek) second Friday in July; (Katherine) third Friday in July; (Darwin) fourth Friday in July

Picnic Day First Monday in August

Queensland

Labour Day First Monday in May

Royal Queensland Show Day (Brisbane) Second or third Wednesday in August

South Australia

Adelaide Cup Day Third Monday in May

Labour Day First Monday in October

Proclamation Day Last Monday or Tuesday in December

Tasmania

Regatta Day (Hobart) 14 February

Launceston Cup Day (Launceston) Last Wednesday in February

Eight Hours Day First Monday in March

Bank Holiday Tuesday following Easter Monday

King Island Show (King Island) First Tuesday in March

Launceston Show Day (Launceston) Thursday preceding second Saturday in October

Hobart Show Day (Hobart) Thursday preceding fourth Saturday in October

Recreation Day (Northern Tasmania) First Monday in November

Victoria

Labour Day Second Monday in March

Melbourne Cup Day First Tuesday in November

Western Australia

Labour Day First Monday in March

Foundation Day First Monday in June

School Holidays

  • The Christmas and summer school holidays run from mid-December to late January.
  • Three shorter school holiday periods occur during the year, varying by a week or two from state to state. They fall roughly from early to mid-April (usually including Easter), late June to mid-July, and late September to early October.

Smoking

  • Smoking Banned on public transport, in pubs, bars and eateries, and in some public outdoor spaces.

Taxes & Refunds

Goods & Services Tax The GST is a flat 10% tax on all goods and services − accommodation, eating out, transport, electrical and other goods, books, furniture, clothing etc. There are exceptions, however, such as basic foods (milk, bread, fruit and vegetables etc). By law the tax is included in the quoted or shelf price, so all prices are GST-inclusive. International air and sea travel to/from Australia is GST-free, as is domestic air travel when purchased outside Australia by nonresidents.

Refund of GST If you purchase goods with a total minimum value of $300 from any one supplier no more than 30 days before you leave Australia, you are entitled under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) to a refund of any GST paid. The scheme only applies to goods you take with you as hand luggage or wear onto the plane or ship. Also note that the refund is valid for goods bought from more than one supplier, but only if at least $300 is spent in each. Check out www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Tour/Are-you-a-traveller for more details.

Income Tax Visitors pay tax on earnings made within Australia, and must lodge a tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). If too much tax was withheld from your pay, you will receive a refund. See the Australian Taxation Office (www.ato.gov.au) website for details. In 2016 the Australian Government introduced the so-called 'backpacker tax', whereby all 417 or 462 visa holders will, from 2017 on, be taxed at 15% for the first $37,000 earned.

Telephone

Australia's main telecommunication companies:

Optus (1800 780 219; www.optus.com.au)

Telstra (13 22 00; www.telstra.com.au)

Virgin (1300 555 100; www.virginmobile.com.au)

Vodafone (1300 650 410; www.vodafone.com.au)

International Calls

From payphones Most payphones allow International Subscriber Dialling (ISD) calls, the cost and international dialling code of which will vary depending on which international phonecard provider you are using. International phone cards are readily available from internet cafes and convenience stores.

From landlines International calls from landlines in Australia are also relatively cheap and often subject to special deals; rates vary with providers.

Codes When calling overseas you will need to dial the international access code from Australia (0011 or 0018), the country code and then the area code (without the initial 0). So for a London telephone number you'll need to dial 0011-44-20, then the number. In addition, certain operators will have you dial a special code to access their service. If dialling Australia from overseas, the country code is 61 and you need to drop the 0 in state/territory area codes.

Local Calls

Local calls cost 50c from public phones, and 25c from private phones (although it depends on the provider) – there are no time limits. Calls to/from mobile phones cost more and are timed.

Long-Distance Calls & Area Codes

Long-distance calls (over around 50km) are timed. Australia uses four Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) area codes. These STD calls can be made from any public phone and are cheaper during off-peak hours (generally between 7pm and 7am, and on weekends). The area codes are as follows.

ACT

Area code

02

NSW

Area code

02

NT

Area code

08

QLD

Area code

07

SA

Area code

08

TAS

Area code

03

VIC

Area code

03

WA

Area code

08

Area-code boundaries don't necessarily coincide with state borders; for example some parts of NSW use the neighbouring states' codes.

Mobile Phones

European phones work on Australia's network, but most American and Japanese phones don't. Use global roaming or a local SIM card and a prepaid account.

More Information

Numbers Numbers with the prefix 04 belong to mobile phones.

Networks Australia's digital network is compatible with GSM 900 and 1800 (used in Europe), but generally not with the systems used in the USA or Japan.

Reception Australia's mobile networks service more than 90% of the population, but leave vast tracts of the country uncovered.

Providers It’s easy enough to get connected short-term: the main service providers (Telstra, Optus, Virgin and Vodafone) all have prepaid mobile systems. Buy a starter kit, which may include a phone or, if you have your own phone, a SIM card and a prepaid charge card. Shop around for the best offer.

Phonecards

A variety of phonecards can be bought at newsagents, hostels and post offices for a fixed-dollar value (usually $10, $20 etc) and can be used with any public or private phone by dialling a toll-free access number and then the PIN number on the card. Shop around.

Public Phones Most of the few public phones that remain use phonecards; some also accept credit cards. Old-fashioned coin-operated public phones are becoming increasingly rare (and if you do find one, chances are the coin slot will be gummed up or vandalised beyond function).

Toll-Free & Information Calls

  • Many businesses have either a toll-free 1800 number, dialled from anywhere within Australia for free, or a 13 or 1300 number, charged at a local call rate. None of these numbers can be dialled from outside Australia (and often can't be dialled from mobile phones within Australia).
  • To make a reverse-charge (collect) call from any public or private phone, dial 1800 738 3773 or 12 550.
  • Numbers starting with 190 are usually recorded information services, charged at anything from 35c to $5 or more per minute (more from mobiles and payphones).

Time

Zones Australia is divided into three time zones: Western Standard Time (GMT/UTC plus eight hours), covering Western Australia; Central Standard Time (plus 9½ hours), covering South Australia and the Northern Territory; and Eastern Standard Time (plus 10 hours), covering Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, the ACT and Queensland. There are minor exceptions − Broken Hill (NSW), for instance, is on Central Standard Time.

Daylight saving Clocks are put forward an hour in some states during the warmer months (October to early April), but Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory stay on standard time.

Toilets

  • Toilets in Australia are sit-down Western style (though you mightn't find this prospect too appealing in some remote outback pit stops).
  • See www.toiletmap.gov.au for public toilet locations, including disabled-access toilets.

Tourist Information

Tourism Australia (www.australia.com) is the national government tourist body and has a good website for pretrip research. The website also lists reliable travel agents in countries around the world to help you plan your trip, plus visa, work and customs information.

Within Australia, tourist information is disseminated by various regional and local offices. Almost every major town in Australia has a tourist office of some type and they can be super helpful, with chatty staff (often retiree volunteers) providing local info not readily available from the state offices. If booking accommodation or tours from local offices, bear in mind that they often only promote businesses that are paying members of the local tourist association.

Travel with Children

If you can survive the long distances between cities, travelling around Australia with the kids can be a real delight. There's oodles of interesting stuff to see and do, both indoors and outdoors.

Lonely Planet's Travel with Children contains plenty of useful information.

Practicalities

Accommodation Many motels and the better-equipped caravan parks have playgrounds and swimming pools, and can supply cots and (sometimes) baby baths − motels may also have in-house children's videos and child-minding services. Top-end hotels and many (but not all) midrange hotels are well versed in the needs of guests with children. B&Bs, on the other hand, often market themselves as child-free.

Change rooms and breastfeeding All cities and most major towns have centrally located public rooms where parents can go to nurse their baby or change a nappy; check with the local tourist office or city council for details. Most Australians have a relaxed attitude about breastfeeding and nappy changing in public.

Child care Australia's numerous licensed child-care agencies offer babysitting services. Check under 'Baby Sitters' and 'Child Care Centres' in the Yellow Pages telephone directory, or phone the local council for a list. Licensed centres are subject to government regulations and usually adhere to high standards; avoid unlicensed operators.

Child safety seats Major hire-car companies will supply and fit child safety seats, charging a one-off fee of around $25 or a per-day rate. Call taxi companies in advance to organise child safety seats. The rules for travelling in taxis with kids vary from state to state: in most places safety seats aren't legally required, but must be used if available.

Concessions Child concessions (and family rates) often apply to accommodation, tours, admission fees and transport, with some discounts as high as 50% of the adult rate. However, the definition of 'child' varies from under 12 years to under 18 years. Accommodation concessions generally apply to children under 12 years sharing the same room as adults.

Eating out Many cafes and restaurants offer children's meals, or will provide small serves from the main menu. Some also supply high chairs.

Health care Australia has high-standard medical services and facilities, and items such as baby formula and disposable nappies are widely available.

Eating With Kids

Dining with children in Australia is relatively easy. At all but the flashiest places children are commonly seen. Kids are usually more than welcome at cafes, while bistros and clubs often see families dining early. Many fine-dining restaurants discourage small children (assuming that they’re all ill behaved).

Most places that do welcome children don’t have kids’ menus, and those that do usually offer everything straight from the deep fryer – crumbed chicken and chips etc. You might be best finding something on the normal menu (say a pasta or salad) and asking the kitchen to adapt it to your child’s needs.

The best news for travelling families is that there are plenty of free or coin-operated barbecues in parks. Note that these will be in high demand at weekends and on public holidays.

Sights & Activities

There’s no shortage of active, interesting or amusing things for children to focus on in Australia. Plenty of museums, zoos, aquariums, interactive technology centres and pioneer villages have historical, natural or science-based exhibits to get kids thinking. And of course outdoor destinations are always a winner.

In Victoria, Wilsons Promontory National Park is a favourite family haunt and keeps knee-biters occupied with bushwalks, swimming, surfing and wildlife spotting. The Penguin Parade of Philip Island is also a must for families.

In NSW, some surf schools in Byron Bay run camps specifically for kids during school holidays, and the Art Gallery of NSW runs the excellent GalleryKids program on Sundays.

In the Northern Territory you can take them wildlife spotting in the Territory Wildlife Park. Not quite as wild, but a family-must nevertheless, is the world-famous Australia Zoo in Queensland, the Alice Springs Desert Park in the Northern Territory and East Coast Natureworld in Tasmania.

For synthetic but scintillating fun spend a day at the Gold Coast theme parks in Queensland.

Volunteering

Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World provides useful information about volunteering.

See also the following websites:

GoVolunteer (www.govolunteer.com.au) Thousands of volunteering opportunities around the country.

Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) Travel to Australia and take up a fixed-term volunteering position when you arrive.

Volunteering Australia (www.volunteeringaustralia.org) State-by-state listings of volunteering opportunities around Australia.

Australian Volunteers International (www.australianvolunteers.com) Places skilled volunteers into Indigenous communities in northern and central Australia (mostly long-term placements). Occasional short-term unskilled opportunities too, helping out at community-run roadhouses.

Conservation Volunteers Australia (www.conservationvolunteers.com.au) Nonprofit organisation involved in tree planting, walking-track construction and flora and fauna surveys.

Earthwatch Institute Australia (www.earthwatch.org) Volunteer expeditions that focus on conservation and wildlife.

STA (www.statravel.com.au) Volunteer holiday opportunities in Australia − on the website, click 'Planning' then 'Volunteering'.

Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF: www.wwoof.com.au) WWOOFing is where you do a few hours of work each day on a farm in return for bed and board. Most hosts are concerned to some extent with alternative lifestyles and have a minimum stay of two nights. Join online for $70. You’ll get a membership number and a booklet listing participating enterprises ($5 overseas postage).

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Australia uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

Australia is generally a safe place for women travellers, although the usual sensible precautions apply.

Night-time Avoid walking alone late at night in any of the major cities and towns – keep enough money aside for a taxi back to your accommodation.

Pubs Be wary of staying in basic pub accommodation unless it looks safe and well managed.

Sexual harassment Rare, though some macho Aussie males still slip – particularly when they've been drinking.

Rural areas Stereotypically, the further you get from the big cities, the less enlightened your average Aussie male is probably going to be about women's issues. Having said that, many women travellers say that they have met the friendliest, most down-to-earth blokes in outback pubs and remote roadhouse stops.

Hitchhiking Hitching is not recommended for anyone. Even when travelling in pairs, exercise caution at all times.

Drugged drinks Some pubs in Sydney and other big cities post warnings about drugged or 'spiked' drinks. It's probably not cause for paranoia, but play it safe if someone offers you a drink in a bar.

Work

If you come to Australia on a tourist visa, you're not allowed to work for pay: you'll need a Working Holiday (417) or Work and Holiday (462) visa – see Visa section for details.

Finding Work

Backpacker magazines, newspapers and hostel noticeboards are good places to source local work opportunities. Casual work can often be found during peak season at the major tourist centres: places such as Alice Springs, Cairns and resort towns along the Queensland coast, and the ski fields of Victoria and NSW are all good prospects during holiday season. Other possibilities for casual employment include factory work, labouring, bar work, waiting tables, domestic chores at outback roadhouses, nanny work, working as a station hand and collecting for charities. People with computer, secretarial, nursing and teaching skills can find work temping in the major cities by registering with a relevant agency.

See also the following websites, which are good for opportunities in metropolitan areas:

  • Career One (www.careerone.com.au) General employment site; good for metropolitan areas.
  • Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au) Classified site with jobs, accommodation and items for sale.
  • Job Active – Harvest (www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvest) Harvest job specialists.
  • National Harvest Labour Information Service Info on when and where you're likely to pick up harvest work.
  • QITE (www.qite.com) Nonprofit Queensland employment agency operating around Cairns, Innisfail and the Atherton Tablelands.
  • Seek (www.seek.com.au) General employment site; good for metropolitan areas.
  • Travellers at Work (www.taw.com.au) Excellent site for working travellers in Australia.
  • Workabout Australia (www.workaboutaustralia.com.au) Gives a state-by-state breakdown of seasonal work opportunities.

Seasonal Work

Seasonal fruit-picking (harvesting) relies on casual labour − there's always something that needs to be picked, pruned or farmed somewhere in Australia all year round. It's definitely hard work, involving early morning starts, and you're usually paid by how much you pick (per bin, bucket, kilo etc). Expect to earn about $50 to $60 a day to start with, and more when your skills and speed improve. Some work, such as pruning or sorting, is paid at around $15 per hour.

Note that due to the complexities of visa situations, many local visitor information centres and backpacker hostels are stepping away from assisting travellers in finding work. To avoid disappointment, never put a deposit down to reserve a fruit-picking job and never pay for fruit-picking accommodation in advance.

Seasonal Work Hot Spots

NSW The NSW ski fields have seasonal work during the ski season, particularly around Thredbo. There's also harvest work around Narrabri and Moree, and grape picking in the Hunter Valley. Fruit picking happens near Tenterfield, Orange and Young.

NT The majority of working-holiday opportunities in the NT for backpackers are in fruit picking, station handing, labouring and hospitality.

Queensland Queensland has vast tracts of farmland and orchards: there's fruit-picking work to be found around Stanthorpe, Childers, Bundaberg and Cairns. Those looking for sturdier (and much-better-paying) work should keep an eye on mining opportunities in towns such as Weipa and Cloncurry.

SA Good seasonal-work opportunities can be found on the Fleurieu Peninsula, in the Coonawarra region and Barossa Valley (wineries), and along the Murray River around Berri (fruit picking).

Tasmania The apple orchards in the south, especially around Cygnet and Huonville, are your best bet for work in Tassie.

Victoria Harvest work in Mildura and Shepparton.

WA In Perth plenty of temporary work is available in tourism and hospitality, administration, IT, nursing, child care, factories and labouring. Outside of Perth travellers can easily get jobs in tourism and hospitality, plus a variety of seasonal work. For grape-picking work, head for the vineyards around Margaret River.

Tax

Tax File Number

If you're working in Australia, you should apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). Without it, tax will be deducted at the maximum rate from any wages you receive. Apply for a TFN online through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO; www.ato.gov.au); it takes up to four weeks to be issued.

Paying Tax & Tax Refunds

Even with a TFN, nonresidents (including Working Holiday visa holders) pay a considerably higher rate of tax than most Australian residents. For a start, there's no tax-free threshold (Australians pay no tax on their first $18,200) − you pay tax on every dollar you earn.

Because you have been paid wages in Australia, you must lodge a tax return with the ATO – see the website for info on how to do this, including getting a Payment Summary (an official summary of your earnings and tax payments) from your employer, timing/dates for lodging your tax return, and how to receive your Notice of Assessment.

Bear in mind that you're not entitled to a refund for the tax you paid − you will only receive a refund if too much tax was withheld from your pay. If you didn't pay enough while you were working, you will have to pay more. You are, however, entitled to any superannuation that you have accumulated.