Oceania is home to a disparate array of independent countries loosely defined by their location in the Pacific ocean. Australia and New Zealand are the largest and most heavily populated and visited countries in this area, with Papua New Guinea following closely behind.
The cosmopolitan cities of Melbourne and Sydney are a world away from the glistening tropical islands and coral reefs in Polynesia and Micronesia, where you can quite literally spend years of your life lazing away and exploring this definition of tropical paradise, and the diverse climate allows for a vast array of activities, from diving and snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and exploring the outback to skiing in the mountains of New Zealand.
It’s hardly surprising that many backpackers end up finishing their gap years in this region, with many simply refusing to go home and choosing to stay on afterward!
Know Before You Go.
Australasia, as the name suggests, is made up primarily of Australia, New Zealand and the cluster of neighbouring islands in the pacific ocean. In general terms these are western countries so there is little to no culture shock for travellers to contend with, unless you count the sheer price of everything! Internal and external flights are common and make it extremely easy to get around, but with the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and the majestically impressive film locations in New Zeaand there is a good reason this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Micronesia is an island paradise with some of the most untouched and pristine islands on the planet. The Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Nauru are relatively easy to get to from Australia, but are expensive!
Polynesia is a little harder to get to than Micronesia, but not by much, and it has a much more extensive tourist infrastructure here. Mostly it caters to luxury package tourists and is extremely expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel independently too/ Bora Bora and Tahiti are some of the most stunning islands in the world and are popular with tourists for a reason, and the mysterious Easter Island can boast to being one of the most far flung tourist destinations on the planet.
When To Go.
In the Polynesian and Micronesian islands, the climate is still tropical and has two seasons, wet and dry. The wet season runs from November until April and can see high rainfall and infrequent tropical storms. The dry season is warm, pleasant and rain is rare. Because the island range across a wide area, slight local variation is very common. Australia and New Zealand sit firmly in the Southern hemisphere, and on an extremely basic level they do have four seasons as the Northern hemisphere does, but the weather is reversed. Britain’s summer is Australia’s winter. But unlike here in the Northern hemisphere, the two extremes are generally more reliable. With hot, sunny weather in their ‘summer’ and rainy, cooler weather in their ‘winter’. The shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn have become anyone’s guess, especially in New Zealand, and floods, cyclones and bushfires are not unheard of either.
Generally costs are high in the region, with the major cities in Australia and some of the more touristy islands of the French society islands such as Bora Bora being amongst the most expensive places in the world. It is possible to backpack on a budget through the region, but unless you have saved up a lot of money beforehand or supplement your income by working as you travel, as many backpackers on a working holiday visa in Australia do, then you may find your options very limited in terms of accommodation, food, and activities. Even basic backpacker accommodation such as shared dorms can set you back £15 – £25 GBP a night. Smaller less touristy islands and parts of New Zealand are less expensive but will still need careful budgeting to backpack through. It is often the huge range of must do activities that blow your budget in these areas.
If visiting the myriad of islands, it is important to research the specific entry and exit necessities for each one, as they can change considerably. Some have exit taxes that may or may not be in place when you visit, others, such as the Cook islands do not require a visa at all, but may require you to have pre booked accommodation before you arrive or you will be turned away. They can’t have any of us scruffy backpackers rocking up and sleeping on the beach after all!
Visas are required for all visitors to Australia, apart from those from New Zealand. The type of visa you get will depend on the length and nature of your stay, but research this before you leave as the list of visa types is mind numbingly extensive. New Zealand doesn’t require a visa at all for visitors from the UK and has a visa waiver system for a long list of other countries. If you are a citizen of a country outside of the UK, Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia, just check with the New Zealand embassy website to see the exact visa details.
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