My favourite, and possibly the only joke I know, goes like this.
What’s the difference between yogurt and Australia?
Yogurt has culture..
As funny as I think this joke is and as much as I am itching to escape my homeland, I can see the appeal Australia has for travellers. Where else can you give our national animal, the kangaroo, a scritch under the chin and then eat it on a burger for lunch. I CAN confirm that Australia does have the long white sand beaches, great surfing and we do cook up a great BBQ on occasion. You might even be lucky enough to snag yourself a hot Aussie surfer, although they aren’t as common as you would think (also, a lot of them are major douchebags).
Having lived in Australia for the past five years I thought I could offer the Australia-bound some advice. Here is my list of 7 things you should know before you go to Australia.
1. Do not underestimate how expensive Australia is.
I cannot stress this point enough. Australia is very expensive. Everything from food to accommodation to beer is expensive. Here is a breakdown of a daily backpackers budget in Brisbane, Queensland. Keep in mind that in the bigger cities of Sydney and Melbourne these prices will go up.
$39- Dorm accommodation at a generic backpackers.
$7.50- Lunch at Subway
$5.60- One-way, short trip on public transport.
$33- Access to Loan Pine Koala Sanctuary
$6 –Photo of you holding a Koala
$2- Bag of kangaroo food
$5.60- One-way, short trip back to hostel
$16 – Dinner at the Hostel
$14- Two beers.
Grand total: $128. 70
Here are the prices of some other popular activities:
Climbing the Sydney Harbour bridge in the day time- $235.
Introduction to scuba diving on the Great Barrier reef (1 dive)- $255
Half-day cruise in the Whitsundays- $100
Skydiving with an instructor- $255
2. The food is amazing… especially the breakfasts.
Australia does some amazing breakfasts. If you know the places to go (Try UrbanSpoon) then you can get a delicious, healthy breakfast for usually around $10-$15. My favourite being a breakfast at my neighbourhood joint Pablo. Avocado on toast with grilled Haloumi, harissa tomatoes with a herb sour cream with a side of bacon. A squeeze of lemon over the top and it is freakin tasty.
3. Take everything Australian’s say with a pinch of salt.
Australians are known for being straight talkers. They don’t beat around the bush, they get straight to the point. However, that doesn’t mean that Aussies’s aren’t difficult to understand, or that they don’t take pride in intentionally misleading naïve people. There’s hidden meaning in a lot of Australian sayings and often they are difficult to understand. For instance, “she’ll be right,” is not a premonition about a woman being correct, it means “it will be alright”. Australian’s also tend to give a lot of useless information if asked a question. You may ask “How do I get to this pub?” but the answer you’ll receive will be some vague and indecipherable directions followed by an anecdote about getting pissed, how expensive the drinks are and how the government is ruining everything. Learn to filter out the important information and discard the rest.
Australian’s can also come across quite aggressive as they tend to swear excessively and for no reason. If you tell an Australian something surprising or difficult to believe, you will most likely be met with swearing. They swear when they describe the weather. They swear when they agree with you. They swear when they can’t think of the word they actually want to say. Don’t get offended, get used to it. It’s just the casual culture that Australians have cultivated.
You probably won’t get bitten by one of these guys.
4.You probably won’t be bitten by a shark/spider/snake etc.
From having our national hero barbed by a stingray to this (those poor kangaroos have it rough), Australia definitely has a bad rap when it comes to the dangerous critters that inhabit our country. Despite this, I do not know a single person in my immediate circle who has been bitten by any of these creatures. As long as you’re not rolling around in woodpiles or gallivanting through long grass, you’re probably not going to be bitten by a snake or spider whilst you’re in Australia. Use common sense, check your shoes before you put them on, don’t stick your hand under rocks, and wear a sting-suit if your swimming in areas with jellyfish warnings. If on the very rare chance you do get bitten or stung then call 000 (not 911!). Australian hospitals are some of the best in the world, they are also the most prepared for these kind of emergencies.
5. Australia is not as laid back as you think.
Australia is ubiquitously known for being a laid back and relaxed country. Sometimes the stereotype holds true, other times it will blow up in your face spectacularly. It is important when traveling to Australia that you realise the distinction between a relaxed group of people and the authority which governs it. Sure, most Aussies are relatively easy-going, friendly and have a somewhat twisted sense of humour. They take pride in unparalleled sarcasm and will regularly cause confusion for their own entertainment. Unfortunately, the laws and regulations here are not as relaxed as the people. Australia’s judicial system is so unnecessarily strict and controlling on even the most minute issues. So much so that Australians claim quite unanimously to be living in a nanny state. Even the police are not immune to the effect of the overzealous system. I myself have been subject to this overbearing system many times. As a 16 year old I was questioned by a policeman as to why I was walking around my neighbourhood at 8pm. I had a loaf of bread in my hand from the 7-11 around the corner that I thought adequately explained why I was out at night. I have also been fined for jay walking across a small one way street in Brisbane city. More recently I was fined $110 for not coming to a complete halt at a stop sign on my bicycle. I advised the policeman that I had stopped and looked both ways, but according to him, he did not consider me to have stopped “completely” because I had not taken my feet off the pedals and placed them on the ground. Points were removed from my Drivers License even though me riding my bike has almost nothing to do with my ability to drive a car. These are a few examples of the ridiculous rules that you will find yourself having to adhere to in Australia. The fines here are expensive and can ruin a travelers budget. My advice is to make sure you are always respectful to police, keep your smarts about you and try to think about what you’re doing before you do it. It can be a bit restricting to approach travel this way, but it will keep you out of trouble and free to enjoy this beautiful country without any sour experiences.
6. The cities are boring.
Chris and I live in Brisbane which is situated in South-East Queensland. Brisbane is popular amongst travelers as a stop- over for the Great Barrier Reef up north or the Gold Coast which is an hours drive away. We often wonder why backpackers come to Brisbane as there really is not much to see or do. Brisbane does have some great restaurants and a growing café culture but nothing about Brisbane is unique to Australia. I’m sure you’re not coming all the way to Australia to eat some tasty poached eggs or a perfect piece of cheesecake. Yes, there is a couple of wildlife parks but if you’re coming to Australia to see the wildlife then I highly suggest you do so in the wild… That being said, if you are here for a short stay, then hitting up a wildlife park to cuddle is a koala is a good idea and will provide you with a great picture.
The same argument can be made for the more popular cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Once you have done the obligatory jumping photo in front of the Opera House then really what is there uniquely Australian to do? Now this may seem overly negative but this leads me to my next point.
7. Get out of the cities. Rent a van, take a tour… Just get out!
Australia has some amazing sites but they can be a challenge to experience because of the size of the country. Australia is a huge country. It is not possible to just pop over to Perth from Brisbane unless you want to take a five hour flight. Unless you are rolling in money to spend on airfares, then I suggest picking a general area and then sticking to it. If you are after beaches, coral reefs and surfing then Queensland is where you want to go. Queensland is home to the Great Barrier reef, beautiful Noosa, and the infamous Gold Coast. A quick trip over the border into New South Wales will see you in Byron Bay. Nationally known for it’s chilled out vibe and breathtaking beaches, it’s one hell of a place to get a tan. If you are looking to explore a more natural and wild Australia, then Darwin and the Northern Territory are your best bet.
I truly think that the best parts of Australia are the hardest to get to. My suggestions are Kakadu National Park (Kate of Adventurous Kate just went there!), The Great Ocean Road and the twelve apostles, Heron Island on The Great Barrier Reef, Moreton Island in Brisbane, The Blue Mountains and Byron Bay. If you are coming to Australia for a long visit then maybe think about hiring a camper van and driving down one of the coasts.
What did you think of Australia? Do you find these points hold true or did you discover something different? We would love to hear from you. Please comment or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.