Australia: Know Before You Go!

So you have decided to check off your bucket list and head down to Australia! Good for you, or “good on ya” as they say Down Under. Of course, now you’re like “Crikey, I don’t know a thing about the country”! Stay calm, don’t panic, Aussie’s are notoriously laid back, super friendly and very helpful. However, there are a few things you should know before you go. Here are my top 7 things to know before you go.

1. Flights

Qantas currently flies the old workhorse Boeing 747 direct from California to Melbourne or Sydney. The flight from SFO to Sydney is 14.5 hours. That’s a long time to be stuck in economy next to a screaming baby or smelly seat partner. So, if you can afford Business or Premium economy…do it! Qantas is one of the few airlines that allows you to bid for an upgrade a week before your flight. Bids work for a one class upgrade, so either Economy to Premium Economy, or Premium to Business. BTW the First Class is just the first couple rows of Business and not worth it (until they change the plane they fly). Buy a Premium Economy seat and then go to their website and make a cash, or cash and miles offer if you are a member of their loyalty program. Trust me, it worked for me and made the flight sooooo much better!

Tip: United also flies non stop to Sydney from LA and SFO. However, if you plan on flying Premium Economy don’t bother with United. All you get is a bit of extra legroom. Premium Economy is much better on Qantas.

2. Visa

US citizens require a visa to enter Australia, called an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). Be sure to do this before you go. Just go to the website, apply and pay the fee. The visa is electronically attached to your passport, no need for a paper copy. Apply at this website: make sure you have your passport handy, as the application asks for the number, dates, etc. You will also need a debit/credit card and an email address. The whole process takes minutes and is super easy.

3. Border Security

Australia is pretty strict about what you can bring into the country, especially bio- security. No fresh food, meats, vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts, etc. Smokers are only allowed 25 cigarettes or face paying tax on more…AU $0.80 per stick! Alcohol is limited to 2.25 liters. They have dogs at the arrivals hall in airports and cruise ports and they are trained to sniff out EVERYTHING. Best to be safe and declare anything questionable. Check out this Incoming Passenger Card that every passenger must fill out for an idea on what to declare or not Incoming Passenger Card

4. Pubs and Cafes

Australians love their pubs and cafes, and you will find them everywhere. Be aware that service works a bit differently than in the US though. Just like in the UK, you will need to go to the counter/bar to order and pay for your drinks and food. Many will give you a number on a stand. Pick any table and staff will bring your food out to you when it ‘s ready. Don’t expect a waiter to ask for refills on your drinks, or anything, you will have to go back to the counter for that second or third glass! BTW draught beer basically comes in small 285 ml size called “Middy” or “Pot” and large 425 ml called “Schooner” or “Pint”.  Bottles are either a fat, short bottle called a “stubby” or a “long neck”. Also, French fries are chips. Just so you know the Lingo!

5. Buying Booze

Unlike in the US, grocery and convenience stores do not sell alcohol in Australia. Most will have a Bottle Shop attached or right next door, where you will find beer, wine and spirits. Australian wine is awesome, as is the beer! 

6. Driving

Just like in the UK and many other countries, Australians drive on the left side of the road. Make sure you look in the correct direction before you cross the street, for some it’s a little confusing at first! If you’re brave enough to tackle driving while there…good on ya!

Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere…for those of you who don’t know, and it can get quite sunny and hot in the summer (December, January, February). Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat, you will need it. As for what else to pack, it’s pretty casual everywhere. People in Sydney and Melbourne are a bit more fashionable and dressed up, especially in the CBD (central business district) and some restaurants in the evening. Shorts, jeans, sun dresses, bathing suits, flip flops…that’s all you need!

Now go ahead and plan that trip to Australia! Read What To Do In Melbourne and Top Places to Visit in Hobart, Tasmania to help plan your trip Down Under. Or have you already been? Feel free to send me an email or comment below!

Keep traveling my friends,




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