ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

6 Important Things to Know BEFORE you Arrive in Australia

Updated on April 16, 2017

Planning and preparation can make your Australian adventure more fun...

Once you know how you are going to get to Australia, you can turn your mind to planning the rest of your trip. A little planning and foreknowledge can make your trip to Australia go a little smother.

The things you do every day at home without thinking about them can be a little trickier in a foreign country – if you’re not prepared. The time you spend planning upfront before you leave for your trip to Australia will free up your time on vacation for more important things, like climbing the Sydney harbor bridge or snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.

So what should you know about Australia before you arrive? Here’s six helpsul hints tha may make your trip to Australia more about fun.

Beach Somewhere in Australia

Would you rather be enjoying this beach somewhere in Australia or hunting up a power adaptor, cell phone or SIM card?
Would you rather be enjoying this beach somewhere in Australia or hunting up a power adaptor, cell phone or SIM card? | Source

1. Power

Australia’s electrical current is 220-240v, AC 50 Hz.

In the US the electrical current coming out of our wall sockets is 120v, AC 60 Hz. For some electrical items this difference is important! If you plug your US hairdryer into an Australian outlet (even with the adaptor) you will likely fry your hairdryer. Unless its dual voltage, or you are using a converter.

Check any electrical appliances you plan to take with you to Australia, to ensure they operate under a 240 volt power system.

Most computer equipment such as laptops, tablets and cell phone chargers operate under both power systems. Check the power adaptor to be sure. Australia’s power outlets are three pin, but the configuration is different to the US three pin design.

You should purchase an adaptor, or better still, a few before heading to Australia. When buying an adaptor look for one with a flat surface. Finding that most of your plugs can’t be plugged into your adaptor once you arrive and have a flat cell phone battery will be too late.

Better still bring a couple of adaptors or a travel power board. Between iPads, smartphones, laptops and camera’s it’s likely that you will want to charge at least two things at the same time. Word from the wise though, buy these stateside for a couple of dollars, rather than ten dollars plus Down Under!

2. Climate

If you haven’t worked it out already, I’m sure the super discount airfares to Australia in July would give away the game: When its winter in the US (or northern hemisphere) its summer in Australia. And yes, that means in Australia Christmas falls in summer, though restaurants will put on a “Christmas in July” feast during winter to bring patrons out of their homes to enjoy a traditional Christmas feast with all the trimmings.

Australia has roughly the land mass of the United States, but the climate isn’t quite as variable. Snow does fall in the Snowy Mountains and you can ski in Australia, but I wouldn’t head there for the skiing (try New Zealand instead).

For island beach getaways head north to Queensland where the weather is hot in summer and mild during the winter.

One thing to remember though; despite Australia having a reputation of being a land of beaches and sunshine, it does rain here! Don’t forget to pack a travel rain cape, raincoat or umbrella as well as the sunscreen and sunglasses.

3. GST - Goods and Services Tax

Australia carries a 10% goods and services tax on most purchases made in Australia. Unlike, US sales tax which is added at the register, GST is included in the advertised price of items sold in Australia.

As a visitor to Australia, tourists may have their GST refunded for certain purchases. Not all purchases are eligible so you should know before making your purchases which ones you can claim the GST back on, and which ones you can't.

Look for the kiosk at the airport when you depart to have your GST refunded.

4. Cell Phones

Before packing your cell phone, be aware that Australia’s mobile phone network is a GSM network. That means unless your Sprint or Verizon phone has a SIM card it will not work while you are in Australia. If your Sprint or Verizon phone does have a SIM card, don’t forget to call your provider and turn on Global Roaming. You will also want to know which of the Australian carriers your US provider has a reciprocal agreement with (read cheaper rates!).

My Sprint BlackBerry Bold works wonderfully down under, but I use it exclusively to receive email, as the phone plan I’m charges calls back to the States at $1.99 a minute. Ouch! If you are going to use Global Roaming make sure you understand the charges - for phone calls as well as Data roaming!

You should also be aware that if you are going to be in Australia for a long trip, or you plan on making heavy use of your cell phone that there may be cheaper options available such as purchasing a local prepaid phone once you are in Australia, or if you already have an unlocked GSM phone, just the SIM card. Buy the SIM before you go and have your Australian cell phone number before you arrive.

If you have a 3G enabled Apple iPad (AT&T version only!) it may be the cheapest method for you to have internet access while in Australia. (Did you need an excuse to buy an iPad?)

Bring the little tool that opens the SIM slot on your iPad (and your iPad obviously!) and take it to the nearest Australian carrier. Surprisingly prepaid 3G internet access is relatively cheap in Australia.

At the time of writing (March 2012) you can pick up a iPad micro SIM at Telstra including 3 gig of data (expiry 30 days) for AUD $30 (just over US $30).

Update: iPad3 and 4g access in Australia, Europe and UK. SDon't buy a new iPad3 for the 4g access while travelling! Apples lates iPad, at the time of writing is facing issues in Australia and potentially the UK and Europe for its advertising of iPad3 as 4g in those countries. 4g access is limited to the bands that US and Canadian telecoms companies use. Australia's bands are not covered and it appears bands in the UK and Europe may also be excluded. iPad3 is enabled for 3G access in those countries, however. As is the iPad2.

Australian's other carriers, Vodaphone, Optus and Virgin Mobile will also offer ipad micro sims for sale, but if you are going to travel outside of Australia's major cities you should go with Telstra over the other carriers. Telstra's network covers more of regional Australia than the other carriers. Each carrier will have a coverage map available on their website.

5. Driving

Australians drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel of Australian cars is on the right side of the car. Confusion may also be caused by the windscreen wipers and indicator (blinker) signals being reversed on some cars.

Brake pedal and gas pedals is the same as the US configuration.

Though, most rental cars will have an automatic transmission, the occurrence of manual or stick models of automobile is far more prevalent in Australia than in the US (they are also cheaper!). If you are borrowing a car from friends, or acquaintances and can’t drive a stick shift, always remember to ask!

When it comes to filling your car with gas, Australians don’t pre-pay either. You will find no pay at the pump feature. Just fill-up then go inside and pay the attendant. Avoid the snacks and drinks though – they are hideously overpriced…

6. Money

The currency in use in Australia is the Australian dollar. At the time of writing the exchange rate between the Australian dollar and US Dollar was roughly parity. That is, one USD was worth roughly one AUD.

You will need Australian dollars on your travels, which means converting your US dollars to Australian dollars. All the usual options are valid: Travelers Checks, Credit Cards and converting cash, but be careful of the fees involved.

Travelers Checks and converting cash generally have a one off fee and a poor exchange rate. Credit card transactions will give you a better exchange rate, but many credit cards charge a flat percentage on all foreign currency denominated transactions.

A recent transaction on my Bank of America Visa Debit card attracted a 3% foreign transaction charge. There are credit cards out there without foreign transaction fees attached, and given the amount you are likely to spend on vacation in Australia, it may be worth sourcing one!

Another little known way to obtain foreign currency, in this case Australian dollars, is to take your US Bank debit card and use it in an Australian ATM. Most US Banks have a reciprocal agreement with foreign banks that give their customers access to fee free transactions and

depending on the type of account you hold with you US based bank, perhaps no foreign transaction fees. For example: If I use my US Visa Debit Card to purchase goods in an Australian store, I am charged a 3% foreign transaction fee. If I take the same card however, and withdraw cash from a Westpac (Australian bank with partnership with Bank of America) ATM, there is no fee.

Check with your bank prior to departure for Australia whether your account is eligible for this type of transaction. Saving 3% on all your foreign spending can be significant!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)