Everyone loves seeing hapless tourists toting exotic fruit cop massive fines – we wouldn’t be up to the sixteenth season of Border Security: Australia’s Front Line if it wasn’t true.
But it’s another story when you’re the hapless tourist, enduring a stern lecture and kissing goodbye to a few hundred dollars, all because you forgot to tell the Customs officials about the puka shell necklace you bought for your niece, or because you didn’t clean the dirt off your hiking boots after conquering the Milford Track.
At times like these, while a rubber-gloved sort-of-policeman goes through your travel-worn personal items, you might find yourself wondering why the Australian government is so strict with airport customs.
Surprisingly, the the answer is that Australians hate foreigners and tourists. Not all of them – we love the ones with two legs. It’s the four-, six- and eight-legged travellers that we’re not comfortable with. The insects, spiders and micro-organisms that might have snuck into your backpack, hidden among the tread on the soles of your shoes, slipped beneath the skin on your banana – Australian customs wants to keep these critters out of the country.
Australia is a massive island that, as the national anthem goes, is girt by sea. Which means for thousands of years, the native plants and animals here had nothing to do with the plants and animals on the other six continents.
So while Australian flora and fauna can be tough and foreboding (pretty much every animal other than the bilby could kill you if it wanted to), the ecosystem itself is only hardy when it’s not exposed to new elements. It’s not just the natural ecosystem that needs protecting either. Apart from mining, the country makes a lot of money from agriculture – cattle, sheep, wheat and sugar – and can’t afford for some exotic animal or disease to throw things into turmoil.
Australian customs officials are tasked with an important job: making sure no unexpected plants or animals get into the country that could upset the fragile balance. While it might be a pain to fill in the forms, wait in the long queues and go through all the inspections, they’re being strict and thorough only to ensure our unique ecosystem is safe.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
And it largely works. Australians avoided the plague, malaria, rabies, lyme disease and a number of other nasties, as the nation’s geographic isolation – and strict border policies – prevented them from ever entering the country.
Of course, we’ve had to learn from a few mistakes. The government itself introduced Hawaiian cane toads to North Queensland in 1935, hoping they’d take care of some beetles that were causing havoc to the crops. They ate the beetles, but also a huge number of native frogs, insects and small animals. They’re now a massive pest and have found their way across the country to the west coast.
It’s not a mistake we want to repeat again. Which is why we’re pretty strict with what gets brought into the country. When you’re entering Australia next time, make sure you declare all the natural items you’re bringing with you. It’s all about protecting our incredible ecosystem, and will make sure you’re not the next hapless tourist copping a fine on Border Security: Australia’s Front Line.
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It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
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I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.