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Kate Peebles / © Culture Trip
Kate Peebles / © Culture Trip
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19 Things to Know Before Visiting Australia

Picture of Ellie Griffiths
Updated: 22 April 2018
It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of going Down Under, from seeing kangaroos and koalas for the first time to swimming in the pristine waters and soaking up that summer sun. However, there are some crucial things you should know that can save you from embarrassment and confusion.

Never turn up to a BBQ empty handed

If you are invited to a BBQ in Australia, whether at a house, park or beach, never turn up empty handed. Whether you make a salad dish, provide some meat for the BBQ, bring dessert, or buy some booze to go around (a bottle of wine or champers are excellent options), always turn up with a little something as a helping hand and thanks.

Learn the local language

Aussies speak English, but they tend to have their own slang words that strongly control their Australian English. To help you out, here are some words to remember with American English translation: thongs = flip flops; togs/swimmers/bathers = bathing suit; tomato sauce = ketchup; chuck a u-ey = make a U-turn/turn around; do you want to join us for tea = do you want to join us for dinner.

Summer is different right across Australia

Each Australian city provides a different type of summer. Regardless, do wear plenty of sunblock no matter where you are. From the dry summers in Perth to the humid summer in Brisbane and a cold summer – if you can call it summer – in Hobart, plus a year-long summer that occurs in Darwin, each city offers something different to make you feel like you are travelling to different countries. So be prepared for anything.

Gold Coast, Queensland
Gold Coast, Queensland | Courtesy of Tourism Australia/© Jamie MacFadyen

Wear lots of sunblock

There is no doubt you want to go to the beach, soak up some rays and get a stunning tan. Don’t. Well, only if you smother yourself in sunblock, as Australia’s sun is harsh. With a thinner ozone layer, not only does Australia heat up very quickly, but the rays are also harmful to your skin, to a point where you can feel your skin sizzling, leaving you with sunburn that lasts weeks with the potential to blister. If you have very pale skin, it may be best to wear a hat and a sundress or shirt to keep your skin covered.

Australia is huge

No, really, Australia is massive! You may think you could hop on a quick flight from one side of the country to the other, but the reality is that a flight from Brisbane to Perth will take over five hours, or three days to drive. Not an easy feat. However, each state is so vast that there is plenty to do. Whether you make it to two or more states and territories or stick to just the one, there is never a dull day.

You will not see wildlife everywhere, nor is everything deadly

The hopes and dreams of seeing kangaroos and koalas roaming the streets are unrealistic; with cities developing fast, the wildlife has headed inland, and if you want to see these native animals, it’s best to visit a wildlife park. While on the subject of animals, not everything you see is deadly, and even if you do happen to have an encounter with a more dangerous creature, it is unlikely they will actually kill you.

Wallaby on Kangaroo Island
Wallaby on Kangaroo Island | Courtesy of Tourism Australia/© Greg Snell

Smoking isn’t cool

Whether you smoke or not is up to you, but in Australia, it’s not a cheap habit at all. With a legislation soon to be passed charging $40 for one packet of cigarettes, you won’t want to get into the habit over here, unless you’re prepared to say goodbye to that dream holiday, car, house, and the list goes on. Oh and not to mention, there are some cigarettes with truly gruesome pictures on the packets.

Be prepared to go offline

The internet in Australia can be slow and expensive, unlike in places such as London where the internet is everywhere. If you have to remain connected, the best and cheapest option is to buy yourself a hotspot to take around with you. The best part about these is not only will it connect you, but some also have the ability to double up as a portable charger for your phone!

Tim Tams are the new Oreos

Technically, Tim Tams came first, but Aussies like to keep these to themselves – you’ll understand soon enough. One packet of Tim Tams will be finished in the blink of an eye, so be sure to stock up, especially when you are packing your suitcase to leave Australia.

Aussies don’t have pennies

Australian money is colourful and plastic, and the size of the notes increases as the value increases. Also, everything is rounded to the nearest five cents; thus, the smallest change provided is five cents.

Cars drive on the left

Driving in Australia is quite common as public transport isn’t necessarily the best, but it does depend on which city you are in. So in regards to driving, remember to keep left. However, if you are planning on walking and taking the public transport, remember cars drive on the left, so be sure to look right before crossing. Or to be extremely safe, look both ways several times before crossing – which is what you should be doing.

AFL and rugby are better than football

To the rest of the world, football is great, but AFL and rugby are Australia’s preferred sports. If you happen to be in the country at the right time, buy tickets and head down to watch a game, or watch on the TV, over a few bottles of beer, and embrace the favourite Aussie pastimes.

Saints (St Kilda) / Bombers (Essendon) game
Saints (St Kilda) / Bombers (Essendon) game | © Shiny Things / Flickr

Always swim between the flags

This may seem trivial, but remember how Australia is known to have shark-infested waters? Well, if you swim between the flags, you are less likely to come face-to-face with one. These flags are also put into place to protect you from dangerous swells. If you choose to go into the water, be sure to never swim alone.

Show some respect

Now, you may not come across an entire tribe, but many Australians today show great respect towards the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; after all, they are the traditional owners of the land you are living or stepping on. These respects are also paid verbally before certain ceremonies, meetings and events.

Aboriginal Australia Welcome Film – Lirrwi Tourism, Bawaka Homelands, NT
Aboriginal Australia Welcome Film – Lirrwi Tourism, Bawaka Homelands, NT | Courtesy of Tourism Australia © Kristi O'Brien

Borders into Australia can be very strict

Australians are laid-back people, which is true; however, if you try to bring certain things into the country that are prohibited, then border control will stop you. Some things that are forbidden include fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, plants, seeds, feathers, skins, drugs (although if it’s medication, it must be declared by your doctor in writing), weapons, protected wildlife and firearms. So, think before you pack.

Call 000 in an emergency

For the emergency number in Australia, call Triple Zero (000). You will then be directed to either the police, fire or ambulance departments depending on the emergency and the severity. They will guide you through the process and help you via phone where necessary and when they are able to.

Booze is religion, and so is coffee

Standing as ‘one of the world’s major quality wine and beer producing nations’, it’s easy to see why Aussies love their booze. But, no matter what people say, Aussies do not drink Fosters. Rather, there are plenty of locally brewed beers like Victoria Bitter (VB) or XXXX, so try one of them – otherwise, head to the numerous wine valleys across the country for some truly delectable varieties. Not to mention, if you need a coffee to get through the day, Australia knows how to make a good cup; after all, they did invent the Flat White.

Wine
Wine | Courtesy of Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Rentals are listed $ per week not month

The biggest shock of them all is finding a brand-new, five-bedroom house, with a pool, deck, outdoor kitchen (and inside too, of course), overlooking the beach, and seeing that it’s only $750. The harsh reality is, in Europe, it’s easy to read it as per month, but in Australia, this means $750 per week. If you’re still unsure, be sure to ask the agent before agreeing to anything and being way in over your head.

Aussies don’t tip

Although it’s common to tip in places such as America, in Australia, the minimum working wage is a lot higher, meaning tipping isn’t necessary. All service charges are included in the bill, so you will never have to worry about adding extra, but if you choose to tip, that’s based on how much you feel their services should be tipped.