It’s no secret that I love Australia and the year I spent traveling there was one of the best I’ve ever had. Because Australia is so far away from, well, everything, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and many stereotypes surrounding the country, like videos of giant snakes coming out of your drain. Australia is a beautiful country and one that has grown very near to my heart.
If you’re traveling down under there are some things you should know before visiting Australia, taken from someone who lived there for a year.
Top 20 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Australia
1. No, not everything will kill you. You’ll read tons of articles and blog posts and horror stories about all these plants and creatures that will send you to your grave, but the reality is you’re probably going to be completely fine. Especially in the cities, you’re unlikely to face any real danger. However, if you’re venturing to the outback you best brush up on your survival skills.
2. Kangaroos and wallabies are not the same thing, but they’re both super cute and super cuddly-looking. Wallabies tend to be a bit more docile (they’re the smaller ones) and you’re best off not trying to piss off a kangaroo.
3. Koalas are really hard to find. Guys, I’m obsessed with koalas. I love them and I went to Gorge Wildlife Park to hold one more times than I can count. Unfortunately, trying to find them in the wild is going to be really difficult. In my entire year there, I only saw two.
4. If you do want to hold a koala, you must visit Gorge Wildlife Park. There’s a reason I kept going back. It’s a great animal experience and they also make the animals’ welfare a priority over anything else.
5. If you want to do a bit of grocery shopping in Australia, you’re really only stuck with two chains. Woolworths and Coles. Coles tends to be cheaper but Woolworths has a higher end selection, I shall leave the choice up to you.
6. Tipping is not expected in Australia. Although it’s nice and you may find some people doing so in higher end restaurants, it’s certainly ok to not leave a tip and no one will blink an eye.
7. Yes, it is expensive. However, it’s the tourist traps that really try to gouge people. Eat and drink where the locals eat and drink at and stay away from shady people on the street. I feel like I don’t have to say that, but you’d be surprised.
8. Nearly everywhere will accept card and many use pay pass (also known as contactless and also compatible with Apple Pay).
9. If you’re visiting Melbourne, the transport card is called a Myki and you can top those up at 7/11’s which are found throughout the city. The other biggest benefit of this? At 7/11 you can pay with an American Express.
10. Yes, Australians like to use abbreviations and sometimes it can get a little ridiculous, but it’s not nearly as bad as stereotypes would lead you to believe.
11. Australia does get cold. When we lived in Melbourne, I wore a scarf and puffy coat for the entire winter. Snowing in Tasmania is common and it even snows in Queensland in the Bunya Mountains.
12. If you want to see the native penguins, don’t waste your money paying at Phillip Island or any of the other islands that advertise penguins. Instead, go out to St. Kilda Pier in Melbourne. A whole colony lives in the rocks out in the breakwater and it’s completely free because it’s just a natural place. They tend to come back from fishing in the ocean at dusk.
13. Some of the cattle ranches in Australia are bigger than other countries. Anna Creek Station in South Australia is larger than Israel and they need to use helicopters to round up the cattle.
14. There are six states in Australia and each one has a “major” city that you’ve probably heard of. Sydney, NSW, Melbourne, VIC, Hobart, TAS, Adelaide, SA, Brisbane, QLD, and Perth, WA. Believe it or not, the Northern Territory (where Darwin is) is not its own state and neither is ACT with Canberra. However, when you write their address it is Darwin, NT and Canberra, ACT. Confused yet? Me too.
15. You have to pay for internet at the vast majority of hotels in Australia. Certainly not all and not if you have status with certain chains, but it’s a good thing to bear in mind when booking your stay. If you see somewhere that doesn’t have free internet, it’s not uncommon.
16. If you want a small taste of what the outback is like but don’t actually want to go to the outback, than Mildura and Renmark are your best bet. Located in Victoria, you’ll get a pretty good taste of it but much closer to the safer confines of the cities.
17. Drinking out in Australia is expensive, but buying beer from a store is even worse. Luckily, wine is pretty reasonable, but if you’re looking to drink some beer you’re honestly better off just going to a bar or a pub. A six pack from the store will set you back well over $20.
18. You can’t buy alcohol in a grocery store. Should you want to buy alcohol you have to go to specially designated stores for it called bottle shops. Don’t worry though, there are plenty around. Some popular ones are BWS (which are generally located inside a Woolworths), First Choice and Dan Murphy’s.
19. Airfare within Australia is actually very reasonable. If you want to fly Qantas or Virgin Australia you will pay a bit more, but Tiger and JetStar are actively cheap. Especially coming from the US where continental fares are well into the hundreds, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
20. Australia is just as beautiful and awesome as the stereotypes will lead you to believe. Despite everything that may be odd or different about it, this country will seep into your heart just like it did mine and you certainly won’t regret going.