Travel guide to Australia

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Australia is perfect for basking in the sun on some of the world's best beaches, skiing in the mountains, trekking in the desert and mountains, discovering wild animals and plants in 'the bush', and partying on the Gold Coast. The possibilities are endless in the 'land down under'.

Facts

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Local name
Australia
Capital
Canberra (308,000)
Size
7.682.300 sq km
Principal Languages
English
Principal Religion
Christianity is the dominant religion in Australia, comprising about 75 per cent. Apart from that, all major religions are represented in the country, and one can find churches, mosques, temples and synagogues in all major cities.
Inhabitants
19,000,000 (August 2000)
Government
Constitutional Monarchy
Geography
Australia is one the most flat countries of the world. The highest point is 2229 metres above sea level (Mt. Kosciusko), and the lowest point is 15 metres (Lake Eyre). Otherwise, the country primarily consists of vast, flat plains, and the most densely populated areas are in the east, southeast and southwest.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Australia can be visited all year around, but you should remember that as the country is in the southern hemisphere the seasons are the reverse of those in Europe. From November to March it will be warm across the entire country, and as the northern part is tropical it can get blisteringly hot. From April to September the northern part of Australia has clear, warm days and cold nights, and the days in southern part of the country are colder with an occasional drop of rain - but still with lots of sun. From April to September the mountains in the south-eastern part of the country are often blanketed with snow, making it possible to spend Christmas on a sunny beach and then to go skiing in August.

Literature

Lonely Planet Australia

Local conditions

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Currency

Dollar (AUD)

In case of emergency

In case of an emergency, call the following numbers: Police, ambulance and fire department (000)

Tipping

Tipping isn't, generally speaking, expected or given in Australia, but in first-class restaurants it is customary to give the waiter up to ten per cent, if the service is good.

Timezone

When it is 12.00 in England (summer time), it is 20.00 in Australia. When it is 12.00 in England (winter time), it is 21.00 in Australia. Some of the states have summer time and wintertime, but this isn't a general rule for the entire country.

Weight and Measures

The following units of measurement are used in Australia: Length: metre. Weight: kilogram. Temperature: centigrade.

Photography

It is generally allowed to photograph all over the country, but if you want to take photos of individuals, it is better to ask first.

Drinking water

Australia's hygiene standard is generally high, and the tap water is usually safe to drink.

Electricity

The following current is used in Australia: 220-240 volts, AC 50Hz. Australia uses three-legged points.

Behaviour

You should behave as in any other western country. Most Australians are informal and friendly.

Business Hours

Banks are open 9.30-16.00 (Monday to Thursday) and 9.30 to 17.00 (Friday). In some states, banks are also open Saturday morning. Shops are open 9.00 to 17.30 (Monday to Wednesday), 9.00 to 21.00 (Thursday and Friday) and 9.00 to 17.00 (Saturday). Shops in major cities are also often open 10.00 - 16.00. Offices are open 9.00 to 17.00 (Monday to Friday)

Food and drink

Australian food is usually fresh and hygienic. Barbecue is a popular Australian dish, which is of course cooked outdoors, but besides this Australia is known for its many seafood restaurants. There is lots of fresh fruit and if you are that way inclined it is possible to eat kangaroo, buffalo, crocodile or emu. As Australia is a multicultural country you can find almost any kind of restaurant. And though beer is the national drink, you can also taste some very good wines.

Disabled travellers

Conditions for the disabled have improved during recent years, and most hotels, airlines, tourist spots and big transport organisations now have facilities for disabled travellers. It is advisable to check if these facilities are currently available before deciding visit a certain attraction.

Holidays

In case of an emergency, call the following numbers: Police, ambulance and fire department (000) Christmas Day, 25 December. The day after Christmas Day (boxing day), 26 December (except the province of Southern Australia).

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Practically all cities in Australia have one or more camping sites, all the way down to the small towns with only a few inhabitants. The quality may vary a bit, but usually the standard is pretty good. Information on camping sites can be found in all major tourist centres in the country.

Hotels

All the states of Australia have large hotels run by international chains, but if you want a more relaxed and local hotel there are plenty of opportunities to find them. Australian hotels are classified by a five-star system - with five stars being the best.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

Bed & breakfast can be found all over Australia and usually at a very low price.

Hostels

Hostels are found all over the country, with heavier concentrations in areas of dense population. Hostels with the sign YHA live up to international standards for hostels, so if you want to be on the safe side look for this sign. Generally speaking finding a hostel in Australia is quite easy, but poor ones really are bad so beware.

Local transport

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Planes

Domestic routes cover practically the entire country and you can buy both first and second-class tickets. Because of the great distances, flying is often the best solution in Australia. The prices vary, but it is possible to buy an air pass at a decent price.

Bus

Australia has a really good bus system - one of the cheapest transport possibilities. The buses are generally in good condition, with comfortable seats and air-conditioning. The most common option is to buy a bus pass, which allows you to get off and on the buses as you like - but remember that these passes should usually be bought in your home country. Besides the normal buses you can travel with Oz Experience, a combination between a bus pass and a guided tour between Sydney and Cairns. You get to see the outback and some nature reserves, and to get a tour of the wild nightlife as well, plus you wll receive information on what to see in the various cities. You can also get on and off the bus on the Oz Experience.

Trains

There is only one coast-to-coast railroad in Australia - it stretches from Perth in the north to Sydney in the south and lasts for about three days. Most major cities do have train stations, and you can buy both first and second-class tickets. The trains are in good condition, and you can reserve a sleeping car. It is important to reserve a ticket in advance for long distances - you can do this up to six months ahead. You can also buy a train pass, which is valid for four weeks, but you have to buy it before going to Australia.

Taxi

Taxis are available in almost all cities, and are to be found at transport terminals, major hotels and shopping malls. You can also hire one on the street or call for one. There's a minimum starting fee plus a small extra fee if you call for a taxi.

Car rental

All persons over 21 years of age can rent a car in all major cities. For some it is required to have an international license as well as a national license.

Boat or Ferry

With more than 36,000 km of coastline the possibility of going on a boat trip is high, and you can go out to sea as well as go on regular tours. There are regular car ferries between Victoria and Tasmania.

Other Transport

If you travel in a group it can be a good idea to buy a used car. The country has a good road system, and in this way you can set your own pace. Sydney offers ample possibilities for buying and selling used cars.

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