From the hippest, most cosmopolitan cities in the world to the wildest and remotest reaches of the outback, Australia has it all for the intrepid adventurer and this ultimate travel guide to Australia should be your first poirt of call when planning a trip!
Australia has been the traditional end of the banana pancake trail for generations of backpackers and independent travellers, and there are more reasons why than there are vast open spaces in the outback.
Australia’s cities are the envy of the world. Sydney is the glamorous capital with world class foodie hangouts, amazing beaches and more tourist sites than you can shake a Mick Dundee knife at, and Melbourne is synonymous with laid back hipster cool with arty hangouts and a seriously chilled vibe for such a major city.
For nature lovers Australia is as diverse as it gets, from rainforests in North Queensland to the rocky deserts of Uluru and the Kimberleys, all connected with the vibrant wastelands of the outback and a diverse coastline filled with unique wildlife, travellers can spend years going walkabout in Australia without seeing everything.
There is a reason so many backpackers are drawn to Australia year after year, and the truth is no words can do it justice so you will just have to come and see it for yourself!
Culture And Etiquette.
As a major Western destination travellers can pretty much expect a lot of what they already know and feel comfortable with in Australia on a cultural level, the only difference being a generally much more laid back attitude, a stronger attitude to sports, even though they have managed to get the rules all mixed up when they took them over with them, and probably a bit more swearing too. But don’t worry, as long as you are friendly and polite, and are willing to get your shout in at the pub, you’ll generally be accepted and welcomed as one of the family in Australia.
And never ask an Australian to say ‘Shrimp on the Barbie’. Even the Australian demi God Paul Hogan has never been forgiven for starting that one!
What You Need To Know.
Entry into Australia is actually pretty easy and straightforward, despite the list of visa types being longer than the Great Barrier Reef.
All nationalities except New Zealand, need a visa to enter Australia. There are several different types you can apply for dependent on your needs, and you can find out more about the specifics and apply for which one suits you best at the Department of Home Affairs.
In general terms most travellers, including those from the UK, US, Europe and many other countries will be eligible for the free eVisa, which allows for stays of up to 3 months within a 12 month period.
All other nations that aren’t eligible for that including Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia among others can still get an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA Visa), which is essentially the same as the eVisa just with a different name. (Don’t ask me why!)
And then of course there are a variety of working holiday visas which are extremely popular amongst travellers. Check with the Department of Home Affairs to see which one suits your needs the best.
The standard of healthcare in Australia is very high and there is generally very easy access to most medical facility types, especially in the major cities.
All travellers are strongly recommended to be up to date on their routine vaccinations including MMR, diptheria – pertusis – tetanus and varicella (chicken pox), according to the Centre of Disease Control and the NHS Fit For Travel website, but there are no specific health risks or vaccination recommendations beyond those. Just make sure you are up to date on all your routine boosters.
Australia is is low to no risk of malaria and so antimalarials are not advised.
Crime and Safety.
Despite some high profile stories in the mass media, Australia is in general terms a very safe place to travel through. Just use the same basic common sense precautions as you would anywhere else and the risks of anything happening to you are very low indeed.
Costs and money.
Australia is not a cheap destination, not by a long shot, and many backpackers end up doing part time work behind bars, in hostels or even on fruit farms just to try and extend their budget a little.
You can just about scrape by on about 60 – 80 AUD if you are travelling on an ultra tight budget. This means the cheapest hostels (anywhere between 20 – 40 AUD a night on average although some may be more), cooking all your own food and getting by on local public transport, as well as minimising your activities of course.
If you are going mid range you can look to budget around 200 AUD a day. A basic private room can set you back at least 100 AUD, cheap eats at sandwich shops or takeout places can set you back around $10 – 15 for something basic and you can easily triple that if you sit down in a restaurant, and then the odd taxi and activity will all add up.
From there of course the sky is the limit. I would strongly advise having an idea of the activities you want to do before you get here, budgeting seperately and secifically for them (so you don’t eat into your food budget by taking that once in a lifetime trek) and then adding an extra budget for all the extra stuff you will want to do once you get here!
When to go.
Like most destinations Australia can be visited all year round with advantages and disadvantages to be had whenever you go. December To February is generally considered the high season with local summer holidays, busy attractions and a huge hike in accommodation prices, but plenty of festivals and activities going on. June to August is the low season with cooler and sometimes rainy days down south, lower tourist numbers but cheaper prices!
Places To See.
No visit to Australia would be complete without a visit to this iconic city. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then sail across it, make a quintessential visit to the Sydeny Opera House, go and relax and do some surfing in Bondi beach and then go and party in the worl class bars and restaurants.
Apart from having one of the most awesome place names in Australia, this vast National Park in the Northern Territory also happens to be one of the most biodiverse nature reserves in the country, with wild saltwater crocs, flatback turtles and so many more species. You can even head out and see aboriginal rock paintings at various points. This is truly a national park worth visiting.
This may be Australia’s second city but in my opinion it surpasses Sydney in so many ways. Once you have seen the iconic must see sights of Sydney head to Melbourne for a much more relaxed, laid back city vibe, relax at a riverside cafe or restaurant and enjoy the huge foodie scene, stroll through any one of the multitude of public parks and gardens and enjoy the public art in this ultimate hipster paradise.
The Blue Mountains.
It is hard to believe this stunning mountain range and acres of forested outback is just a short drive from Sydney herself, well, short by Australian standards anyway! Be sure to get a look at the three sisters rock formation from Echo Point, and then take your pick of any of the amazing bushwalking trails.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Located in the middle of the red centre, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of Australia’s most iconic attractions. The authorities have (finally) put a ban on climbing Uluru herself but there are still plenty of sunrise and sunset tours to see the iconic mountain itself, and plenty of tours to explore and learn about the region the local land, the history and the culture of the local Aboriginal tribes native to the area.
The Ningaloo Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef may be more famous but the Ningaloo reef is far less touristy and far less crowded, and as a result is less damaged and far more beautiful with a larger abundance of marine life.
Things To Do.
Take A Road Trip.
The great Australian road trip is a backpacker rite of passage, and with so many awesome routes, from the great ocean road to the Stuart highway, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to grabbing yourself a battered old camper van and heading into the outback!
Visit The Quokka’s!
Rottnest island may not sound the most appealing place to be but this white sand filled tropical paradise is home to some of the cutest and most adorable animals in the world, the Quokka! These loveable, friendly little rodents are well worth visting this amazing place alone and are always up for a quick snapshot. And no, you can’t take one home.
Stargaze In The Outback.
With vast open spaces and zero light pollution there is probably no better place on earth to stargaze than the great Australian outback. You really can see what an insignificant part of the universe we occupy when the majesty of the milky way really opens out over your head. So grab a tent and head out there, you won’t regret it.
If you go to Australia and didn’t surf, did you really go? Surfing is quite frankly mandatory in this part of the world and one of the best places to do it is Byron Bay. Part backpacker hangout, part surf town, Byron Bay’s beaches have been attracting surfers for decades, but there is far more to this laid back paradise than just surfing and watersports, there is a thriving foodie scene in the multitude of cafes and restaurants, hikes and trails galore for those wanting to head inland for a bit and plenty of adventure activities to keep anyone’s heart pumping.