Australia, The Land Down Under
I was lucky to call this beautiful country home for 6 months, back in 2014. It was my first big trip abroad and it blew me away. Life was different there, life seemed better. The people were happier, the streets of the cities were clean and pretty. My quality of life seemed to have shot through the roof overnight. The iconic sites that can be found throughout the country were surreal to see. Long term travel there tends to be the style of choice for most people. This country has so much to offer, spread out over a huge country, that one week there achieves very little on the grander scheme of seeing this magnificent land. This quick and simple Australia Travel Guide gives you a brief insight into a country that is way bigger and more complex than you can imagine, than I imagined. A country that is almost unanimously loved by all who set foot there.
Currency Converter – $10AUD = €6.30/£5.65/$7.20
Australia is famous for its good weather. People imagine that it gets glorious sunshine all year round. That assumption is not actually too far from the truth. The summer months, December to February, are the hottest with temperatures hitting heights of 29°C. The winter months can get a small bit colder. But apart from early in the morning and late at night, it is never what most people would describe as cold. Rainfall is also usually at a consistent level throughout the year. In reality, there is not a bad time of the year to visit Australia.
You must have a visa to enter Australia. For European citizens, it’s as simple as a free eVisa that allows a stay of up to 3 months. For Americans, Canadians and a select number of Asian citizens, an Electronic Travel Authority Visa is available. Similar to the eVisa, this also allows stays of up to 3 months. There is a slightly different application process and a charge of $20. For all other countries, visas are required and must be applied for at an Australian embassy.
One visa that is popular among 18-30 year olds is the Working Holiday Visa. This allows stays of up to 1 year and enables the visitor to undertake employment during their time in Australia. Again, only citizens of certain nationalities are entitled to this visa. For more information on the Australian Visa Policy, click here
Things to See and Do in Australia
Fraser Island – The largest sand island in the world is a popular trip for nearly every traveler in Australia. Trips to Fraser Island tend to be overnight, with camping on the beach. Then a 4 wheel drive car will help you explore the island. Swimming or even going in the water is prohibited though, as the water can be a bit too choppy and there is the small matter of the sharks that inhabit it.
Sydney – Australia’s largest city and often mistaken for its capital, Sydney is a must-see on any trip down under. The sites are famous worldwide. I mean, who doesn’t want to visit Sydney Harbour and walk around Harbour Bridge, or stand in front of the architectural wonder that is the Opera House. Bondi Beach is nearby, where the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach is a great way to spend a few hours. King’s Cross is infamous for its nightlife and can be the host to a very good night out.
Budget Tip – Climbing Harbour Bridge will set you back close to $300. However, simply walking across the bridge is much more budget friendly, costing you nothing.
Uluru – Deep in the outback, is the giant rock formation known as Uluru. Alice Springs is the closest city to Ayers Rock and the main stop off point for visitors. Unfortunately I never made it here during my time in Australia and it is one of my few regrets. So, try to make the long journey here or you could find yourself looking back wishing you chose differently.
Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest – Cairns is the gateway to Northern Queensland. It’s tropical and small in comparison to other cities in Australia. Don’t rush through the city as there is a lot to do in the surrounding areas. One of these is the Daintree Rain forest, the world’s oldest rain forest. You could easily enjoy a few days here, visiting the waterfalls, lakes, cliffs and wildlife that call the Daintree home. Both Cairns and the Daintree will surely be a highlight of your trip to Oz.
Melbourne – I lived in Brisbane and it wasn’t until near the end of my 6 months in the country, that I visited Melbourne and fell in love with it. If I had my time again, I would have certainly gone there first, and looked to set up base there. It is such a cool city. This ‘European’ city has a very hip feel and more of a cafè culture than the likes of Sydney. Melbourne offers great relaxation to anyone that visits. So take a walk in the public parks, eat the amazing food and just enjoy your time there.
Byron Bay – A coastal town in between Brisbane and Sydney that comes alive in the summer time. When the sun is shining it is just spectacularly beautiful. Take a walk to Cape Byron Light House and admire the view. If you happen to find yourself there between June and November, you might be lucky enough to spot some wonderful humpback wales.
Other Places Not to be Missed
- The Blue Mountains
- Surfing on the Gold Coast
- Whitsunday Islands
- The Great Ocean Road
What To Eat in Australia
Vegemite – This is often compared to the similarly named, English favourite, marmite. Any self respecting Australian will take issue with this claim, stating that that the two are nothing alike and vegemite is superior in every way. Made from yeast extracts, it can taste quite bitter. It is a staple food for most Australians and they love it on toast. I wasn’t a fan of it, but trying it at least once is a must.
Burgers – I know that burgers can be found all over the world and there is nothing Australian about them but over there, they love them. They have even put their own twist on them. Beetroot, pineapple, egg and bacon are commonly found accompanying the beef patty. Burgers are one of the cheapest fast food meals you can get there and Aussies take pride in their burgers and the quality of the beef that is in them.
Kangaroo Meat – Yes, Kangaroos are adorable. I loved getting to see them, pet them and feed them just as much as the next tourist. But, when you see it packaged up on a supermarket shelf, curiosity sets in. Kangaroo meat, whilst not eaten on a daily basis by locals, comes in many forms. (Burgers, steak, sausage and so on). Stick some on the barbecue and, if I am being totally honest, it tastes quite good.
Barbecue – Nothing is more stereotypical of an average Australian’s diet than barbecue. They do love them, but then so do most people. It’s just that they get the weather for them year round. Burgers, sausages, steak, seafood, they tend to go all out. Even in most public spaces there are barbecues that are free to use on the social understanding that everyone cleans them after use. It is a great way to chill out in the evenings, cooking good food and having a beer.
Meat Pies – I think if I had to choose the national dish of Australia then the meat pie would be the winner. The iconic combination of minced meat and gravy stuffed inside pastry can be found almost everywhere throughout the country. Love them or hate them, you have to try them for the true Australian experience.
Tim Tams – They are like the UK sold Penguin Bar, just a thousand times better. For those that are unfamiliar, tim tams are smooth chocolate cream between two crunchy biscuits and then coated with chocolate. To this day I still crave them.
How To Save Money in Australia
Hostels – Honestly, hostels in Australia are not the best. A cheap one averages at $15 a night, and you will not get a lot for your money. Free breakfast is a rarity, even WiFi is not always free. A hostel with a bit more about it could set you back $22 – $25. A budget hotel could cost you close to $100, so hostels are definitely the budget friendly option. Just please don’t expect 5 star accommodation.
Couch surfing – Couch surfing is popular and should be seriously considered on any trip to Australia. Once the location suits you and the host has a good rating online, then you have the best accommodation available to you for free. Please remember to give something back to your host though. They are being friendly enough to let you stay in their house for nothing. Even if all you do is buy a few beers or cook them a dinner, it can go a long way.
Campervans – Intercity buses are expensive, time consuming and not very exciting. Travelling by yourself, this is probably the best option, unfortunately. If not though, there is nothing stopping you driving yourself. If it is a long road trip, buy a camper and sell it at the other end. When time is of the essence, you can rent a camper, or better yet, get them for free. That’s right, rental companies allow people to relocate their campers for them, free of charge. You will be on a time limit and any fuel you use will come out of your own pocket. Apart from that, you can pick it up in one city and do with it what you like, once you have it at the drop off point on time.
Supermarkets – I love to cook when I am at home, but when travelling, it’s the exact opposite. In Australia though, most hostels have kitchens and it would be foolish not to make use of them. While you may not dream of travelling around the world to Sydney or Melbourne to be standing in the hostel kitchen at 6pm cooking pasta, sometimes this is the reality. Eating out is expensive, so get down to the supermarket, get some cheap groceries, go into the busy kitchen at your hostel and get cooking.
Alcohol – Again, another expensive luxury. Hostels might have happy hours and be slightly cheaper than regular bars, but you are still going to spend a pretty penny on a night out. There is a solution – goon. It is what the Aussies call wine in a bag. Four litres for around $10. It is not nice, in fact it is fairly disgusting, but if drinking that saves me $60 or $70 on a night out, then pour me a glass. Just remember Golden Oak, Fruity Lexia. You will be thankful for it.
Writing this Australia Travel Guide a few years after my time there is difficult. It reminds me of a time when travelling the world was fresh, everything was new and amazing. Along the way, you lose something. The eyes become more experienced and things that once seemed insane tend to feel more normal now. It was not all perfect over there either. I had some tough times in search of employment. Sleeping on bus stop benches for two nights in a row after a job fell through wasn’t something that was written in any of the guide books. I wouldn’t change it though. I got to visit and live in Australia. The experience changed me for the better. One day I hope to return, purely as a tourist. Everyone should do all they can to visit Australia once in their lifetime. It really will live up to the hype.