Things to know before you visit Australia

Congrats, you've decided to visit one of our favourite countries in the world! The Land Down Under really does have it all and everyone who visits always leaves with a plan to return.

After living here for over four years, we've put together this list of things that might just surprise you.

 

1. You won't die from spiders and snakes

I've lost count of how many times I've heard people fret about visiting Australia because of the spiders and snakes. It doesn't just stop at those animals either, I remember when I went back to the UK and a friend said "I heard that there's currently an infestation of killer bees in Brisbane and that most people have redbacks all over their house".

We went bushwalking every weekend for years and only saw a snake a handful of times and never saw a spider that could kill you.

This is blatently not true. In the four years we've been living here, I've seen around ten snakes, all of which were while out bushwalking not hanging around in your backyard. There have been no venomous spiders, no sharks, no Portuguese Man 'O Wars, nothing in fact that just appeared and wanted to kill me.

Now this doesn't mean you can go swimming in areas in North Queensland with warning signs for box jelly fish or start digging for funnel web spiders, but you should not let the fear of these creatures put you off coming here.

Read more: All the best things to do and places to visit in Sydney


2. You can get surprisingly close to the safe wildlife

Emphasis on ‘safe’ wildlife - we don’t recommend getting up close to a croc or a snake! However, one of the things that always surprises me is that many Australian animals aren't scared of people.

Kangaroos will happily stare at you for a long time before hopping on, koalas won't move for anyone and migrating humpback whales are more than happy to breach and splash around in front of tourist boats.

The beautiful kangaroos on the beach at Murramarang National Park in New South Wales. You can walk right up to them and they won't move.

Experiences with wildlife here are part of what we love most about this country.

Read more: The best places to see wild kangaroos near Sydney, koalas, wombats, platypus and cassowaries


3. Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world and it isn't getting cheaper

The one thing that will sting you (pardon the pun) is the cost of things here. Unfortunately, Australia is an expensive place and high costs are unavoidable.

However, don't wait for when Australia will get cheaper as it holds the world record for going the longest without having a recession (it's been decades). But, there are ways to make your money go further.

The great thing about Australia is that a lot of the best things to do here are outdoors and can be done for free. There are a lot of things that don't require a tour and it is possible to have all of the best experiences in Daintree, Uluru, the Blue Mountains and Tasmania only having to pay for food, accommodation and your hire car. If you like camping even your accommodation costs will be low or sometimes free.

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

We've written a guide all about the free things to do Sydney and have heaps of tips on travelling here on the cheap. Leave us a comment with any specific questions, we love talking about all things Australia.

Read more: A 3 week itinerary for a dream vacation in Australia


4. Australia is huge

To put this into perspective, Australia has cattle stations bigger than Belgium.

So don't expect to be able to get a short train or bus ride between destinations. It's become a normal part of my working life to take flights for a business trip in the same country. For example, Perth is a five hour flight from Sydney and it's closer to Indonesia than the east coast of Australia. Perth is also the most isolated city in the world and is over 2,000km from the nearest city - Adelaide.

Cottesloe Beach in Perth: the most isolated city in the world.

You can take a nine hour car journey and look at the map and you've only moved half an inch.

We've often got round this on our holidays by choosing a state capital city and exploring within a few hours of it. For instance, if you choose Melbourne within a few hours you can hit The Great Ocean Road, and stunning hiking areas such as the Grampians and Wilson's Prom, which don't have many people visiting and are beautiful.

This leads to our next piece of advice...

Read more: 21 must-see places in Australia


5. Plan your trip well in advance

Although you can leave it to when you turn up, the best trips to Australia require a bit of planning, especially if you want to see a lot in a short space of time.

This is in part due to the seasonality of the country, the distances and the fact that the best things to do require some thought. Contrary to common belief, kangaroos don't just hop down the street, koalas are highly endangered and the Great Barrier Reef is actually quite a distance from everywhere!

  Prices in places such as the Whitsundays can sky rocket during public holidays and if you don't book in advance.

Prices in places such as the Whitsundays can sky rocket during public holidays and if you don't book in advance.

All this requires planning….


6. There are better times than Summer to visit...

Unless you really like high humidity. Summer (December - February) in Australia can be a very sweaty affair. Today it was 32C and ridiculously humid at 8am in Sydney. Last Saturday it got to 47C in the shade (it was 57C in the sun. YES 57C!), so it pays to pick what you want to do and then pick the appropriate time of year.

If you want to spend your days between air conditioning and the sea, then Summer is absolutely for you. However, if you want to see things like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef then you may want to look at visiting at a different time of year. The best time to visit most areas is Spring (Sept - Nov) and Autumn (Feb - May).

  The beautiful Mission Beach in Queensland - an area that becomes horrifically humid and wet during the Australian summer, but beautiful and warm in the winter

The beautiful Mission Beach in Queensland - an area that becomes horrifically humid and wet during the Australian summer, but beautiful and warm in the winter

Furthermore, the winter can be a brilliant time to visit. The temperature in Sydney for example is often between 20-25C, clear sunny skies and the prices are a lot cheaper. Just don't expect to have that Aussie Beach holiday outside of northern Queensland.

Read more: 22 Instagrammable places in Sydney 


7. Wi-fi is pretty slow and not too easy to come by

A surprising stat we learned when arriving to Australia: its ranks as the 50th fastest in the world, and was well behind countries such as Romania and Kenya. The implementation of the NBN (National Broadband Network) has been a subject or much debate and you'll quickly find that if you're lucky enough to get wi-fi that it's incredibly slow.

On the flip side, all mobile providers offer 4G and it’s surprisingly quick. So much so, that a lot of Aussies choose to do everything using their phone data rather than their wifi. This leads us onto:


8. It's worth getting a Telstra sim card

We're not being paid by Telstra to say this, but if you plan on travelling to the remote areas in Australia, you'll want a Telstra simcard. Telstra was originally owned by the government and owns the grid even after they were privatised. There are quite a lot of places such as Kakadu, Kangaroo Island and the Outback where only Telstra operates.

Things to know before you visit Australia: get a Telstra SIM card

It'll cost you more than the other operators, but this way you can still get phone signal. If price is everything then go for Optus. We had Optus sims and it does work well in much of the country but can’t yet match Telstra for coverage.

Read more: An itinerary for an epic week in Cairns


9. Don't expect the best food outside the cities

Yep, Australia's food is still stuck in the 80s in many parts of the country. In places such as the Northern Territory, you choices are primarily several types of pub-food which is essentially "something and chips". 

We adore The Outback, but the food sucks.

It might be camel, it might be beef but invariably it isn’t that tasty However, food in the major cities is generally fantastic and you can eat outstanding seafood. 

But, surprisingly...


10. Australia serves some of the best coffee you'll ever taste

Not what anyone outside of Australia expects! In Asia I'd met some Aussies who kept telling me how great it was, but I didn't believe it could be better than France or Italy until I tried it for myself. Now I'm addicted.

We didn't believe the coffee would be so good until we tried it.

So wherever you visit, scope out the best coffee shop and enjoy this unexpected delight. Try the Aussie fave - the flat white. And yes you can get it in large (UK: what is only serving it in the small size about?).

Read more: Top 10 things to do in The Whitsundays


11. If you were to visit a beach a day it would take over 10 years to see them all

Yep, Australia has a lot of beaches, most of which are incredibly quiet.

Although Bondi may be on the to-do list, you shouldn't waste the chance to drive out of the cities and explore the hundreds of kilometres of coastline where you'll barely see another soul.

Over 10,000 in total, this one has the whitest sand in the world. Fact.


12. A trip to Australia is one of the best you'll ever have

You can hold us to this. It is a dream destination that will not disappoint.

It's best to see it as a continent rather than a country and within the same holiday you can go from stunning paradise beaches to deep red deserts to the oldest living rainforest in the world.

There's something about this country that inspires the soul and virtually everyone who visits plans their return visit, usually before they have even left!

  Kanagara-Boyd has one of the most epic viewpoints we've ever seen

Kanagara-Boyd has one of the most epic viewpoints we've ever seen


The Australia Lonely Planet


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