There are a number of great reasons to visit Australia, and more than half a million Brits make the trip each year. When planning a holiday Down-under, there are a number of important factors for a British citizen to consider, so we’ve pulled them all together in this handy guide.
Accidents and emergencies
The number for emergency services in Australia is 000, while for non-emergencies the local police department or a doctor should be called.
In Australia you need to be 18 years old or over to drink alcohol.
Bushwalking is a great way to see the Australian wilderness, but careful planning is essential. You should always inform somebody of your intended route and contact the local Park Rangers before setting off to get any advice that you can from them.
Here are some general pointers to make travelling with children easier and more enjoyable:
- If travelling outside of school holidays remember to get permission from the head teacher and fill in the relevant forms. Encourage your kids to keep a travel journal so they can take it into school on their return and show that holidays can be a great learning experience.
- Get your children interested in the cultural differences; even small differences, such as currency, can make the trip more exciting and adventurous.
- Limit the use of hand held computer games; they will get more out the holiday if they take part in it, and so will you.
- On-board luggage rules can change, so it’s worth checking what you can and can’t take in terms of children’s food and drink. You’ll need plenty of water for the flight but you should buy it once your airside. Sweets for take-off are also useful.
- Remember to request bassinet seats for babies’ and children’s meals where necessary.
- Take extra underwear for the kids, including spare socks. Remember planes are often chilly on night flights so keep a jumper to hand. Layer clothing and leave enough hand-luggage room to stash it if it’s going to be warm when you arrive. Pack your flip-flops in your checked luggage but make sure there easily accessible so you can change your footwear when you arrive.
- On-board distractions should be noiseless and without lots of bits which may get lost. Also, felt-tips aren’t ideal for younger children because the lids could get lost, which may result in a mess for you and other passengers. Most long-haul airlines have TV screens in the back of the seats which have gaming consoles which may keep children entertained.
- The children’s hand luggage is best stored in their own bag and then put in your bag. Children under eight and bags don’t seem too mix well, and their forgotten bag can become a security risk. The easiest thing to do is count how many adult hands there are and have no more bags than that.
- Check passport requirements – children of a certain age may have their own passports but they expire after only five years, so don’t assume it’s still in-date just because your own passport is.
Australia is known for having more than its fair share of creepy crawlies, but in general you will be lucky to see one. You should be slightly more vigilant than you would be back home, however. It’s always worth checking the inside of your shoes or boots each time you put them on – a quick shake will do. And if walking in the bush, keep to marked tracks for safety.
The Australian dollar is the currency used, and notes are available in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. There are $1 and $2 coins, along with 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. Visa and MasterCard is also widely accepted and, to a lesser extent, American Express can also be used.
Customs: What can’t I take into Australia?
Australia is a beautiful country with a large agricultural industry that needs protecting. This means that certain items can’t be brought into the country. This full list of contraband items may seem extreme at first, but there’s nothing on it that a tourist can’t do without, so the following should all be left at home.
Fruit and vegetables, cut-flowers, honey and plants shouldn’t be brought to Australia, and if you accidentally forget about the apple in your bag you’ll need to dispose of it in the correct bins. Seeds and nuts are also banned, as are animal products, including meat and furs. Some wood carvings can be problematic, as can used sporting equipment which can be contaminated by soil. If you’re taking a course of medicine it’s worth checking whether or not you’ll be able to take it with you before you travel.
Australians drive on the same side of the road as Brits, but some of the best Australian experiences can be had if you take a 4WD vehicle off road. Proper preparation will be required, as will permits – particularly if your route will take you across Aboriginal Land.
Australian Sky will be able to help you plan an off-road driving excursion and give advice on vehicle rental companies and any required permits.
A three-pin plug is used in Australia with 220-240 volt, AC 50Hz. The plug has one straight and two diagonal pins, so a suitable adaptor will be required if bringing anything that requires a mains power connection from Ireland.
A reciprocal healthcare agreement exists between Australia and Britain, meaning that British citizens travelling on a British passport can benefit from certain health services while in Australia; however treatment of pre-existing conditions or those that don’t require immediate attention are exempt.
Australia is a country of fun and adventure, and you’ll feel more relaxed about your trip knowing you’re safely covered, so make sure you arrange suitable holiday insurance before you visit.
If you’re planning on taking part in any extreme sports, such as bungee jumping, paragliding, diving and rafting, then it’s worth double-checking the insurance policy before you make your arrangements.
There are a number of National Public Holidays that are recognised across Australia, and then there are some Public Holidays which are state-specific. On these days banks, schools and many other businesses will be closed, but grocery stores, supermarkets, bars and restaurants usually remain open.
New Year’s Day, Australia Day (last Monday in January), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day (when?), Christmas and Boxing Day are recognised nationwide. Labour Day changes slightly between states while the Queen’s Birthday is acknowledged on the 2nd Monday in June for all states except Western Australia where it’s celebrated later in the year.
Most states also have Public Holidays of their own, such as Canberra Day in ACT or Picnic Day in the Northern Territory.
As a tourists to Australia, you may be entitled to a refund of the 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the 14.5% Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) that they paid on goods bought in Australia. The refund only applies to goods travellers take with them when they leave the country. With restrictions on liquids that can be taken on board, a refund on WET should be made before bags are checked in.
The refund will be paid on total purchases of $300 (tax inclusive) or more, bought from a single store, however the claim can’t be made more than 30 days before departure.
To claim the cash refund, travellers must get a tax invoice from the store where they buy the goods. This needs to be presented with the goods, your passport and an international boarding pass once you have passed through passport control.
Time zones and seasons
There are three time zones in Australia. The Australian Western Standard Time is eight hours ahead of Ireland during the winter, and seven hours ahead of Ireland during the summer.
The Central (ACST) and Eastern (AEST) time zones are a little trickier to work out, as within these zones some areas adjust their clocks for Daylight Saving, while others don’t. As a general rule, in the Irish summer central Australia is eight hours ahead and the East Coast is nine hours ahead of Ireland.
But remember, as Australia is on the other side of the world to Ireland the seasons are opposite – so when it’s the summer in Ireland, it’s the winter in Australia; and when it’s the spring in the Ireland it will be the autumn Down-under, and so on.
Tipping is not the general custom in Australia and service charges are not added to accounts by hotels and restaurants. Porters at airports, taxi drivers and hairdressers do not expect to be tipped although you may do so if you wish. Porters have set charges at railway terminals, but not at hotels. In better-class restaurants, it is usual to tip food and drink waiters up to 10 per cent of the bill for good service. At any time, tipping is your choice.
There aren’t any required vaccinations needed for visiting Australia, however it’s always considered sensible when travelling overseas to make sure your Tetanus/Diphtheria shot is up-to-date – as this will mean you won’t need to find a Tetanus shot in a foreign country if you suffer a nasty cut.
Of course, Australia is a long flight from the Ireland and many tourists choose to break this up with a stopover in Asia, so you’ll need to check any vaccination requirements for these countries if you plan to break up your trip.
British citizens travelling on a British passport can visit Australia as a tourist for up to three months. Before arriving in Australia you’ll need to get an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), as you won’t be permitted entry into the country without one. Australian Sky can help arrange an ETA for you over the phone, with an administrative charge. Your visa will be issued immediately – as the visa is electronic, you won’t get a stamp in your passport but Australian Sky will issue written confirmation by email.
Tourists will also need a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of departure, and a passenger card will need to be completed.
ETA Terms & Conditions
Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is processed at the discretion of the Australian Government from the information provided by the applicant. Australian Sky bears no responsibility for the rejection of any application and strongly advises against purchasing restricted or inflexible tickets prior to confirmation of the ETA. Australian Sky’s service charge is non-refundable regardless of the outcome of the application.
Weather and sun protection
The climate in Australia varies widely, as it’s such a large country. There are tropical regions in the north and large expanses of dessert in the centre. The south-west of the country can be quite wet, but one thing that every visitor to Australia should be vigilant of is the sun.
The sun is very powerful in Australia so care should be taken to cover up. Bring with you a sun-hat, apply plenty of high-factor sunscreen, seek shade during the hotter parts of the day and drink plenty of water.
Weights and measures
In Australia the metric system is used, meaning distances are given in kilometres, weights are in kilograms and grams, and the temperature is recorded in Celsius (centigrade). Liquids, including fuel and drink, are measured in litres.