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Australia
Australia
01.10.13

With its sunny, tropical climate and warm Australian spirit, Queensland beckons you to explore its natural wonders. To fully enjoy the bounty of this state, read our 10 Travel Tips and get versed in Aussie speak, water know-how, what to wear and more.

Visa Required

Besides a passport, you’ll need a visa to enter Australia. Fortunately, the government has made it easy. Americans and Canadians who wish to tour the country can apply online for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which is electronically linked to your passport. The ETA Tourist Visa lets you travel in Australia for up to three months within one year of the issue date. Besides your passport and an email address, you’ll also need a credit card to pay the $20 U.S. service charge.

Brisbane Rental Bikes

Brisbane (the capital of Queensland) has introduced public bike rentals available at kiosks throughout the city. Great bike paths downtown and along the Brisbane River make this a fantastic way to explore. Pick up a bike at a kiosk and return it to any other. Daily ($2 Australian) and weekly ($11) rates—approx. equal to U.S. dollars—are reasonable, but you’ll need to subscribe online in advance. Keep in mind that Brisbane also has a helmet law. You can buy a helmet when you subscribe, bring your own or look for a bike that has one in the basket.

Slanguage

Although they speak English and share many expressions with the British, Aussies (Australians) have their own lingo that keeps things interesting:

  • Arvo = afternoon
  • Biscuit = cookie
  • Brissy = Brisbane (pronounced Bris-bin); also known as Bris Vegas
  • Buggered = very tired, fatigued
  • Bush/scrub = countryside, wooded areas, desert outback
  • Chips = french fries
  • Entrée = appetizer (main course = main)
  • Lift = elevator
  • Mozzie = mosquito
  • Pie = meat pie akin to pot pie; eaten for lunch
  • Road train = big truck pulling multiple trailers
  • Sheila = a woman

Secret Show at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo

Located an hour north of Brisbane near the small town of Maleny (see our Inside Track), the fabulous Australia Zoo embodies the late Crocodile Hunter’s passion for wildlife conservation. It’s a testament to his life’s work and a highly recommended day trip for up-close encounters and learning about Australian wildlife. Get there around 9:30 a.m. and try to see all the shows. The hidden treasure is the tiger show, which is usually not advertised, but takes place around 1 or 2 p.m. Inquire when you arrive

Watch for Wildlife

Many exotic animals call Australia home, some of them deadly. As a general warning, respect the wildlife, don’t feed the animals and keep your distance. As cute as kangaroos are, they have a potent kick—the same goes for cassowaries. If you see aquatic creatures on shore, remember that they may be there to avoid sharks and crocs rather than to seek human contact. In the outback, it’s a good idea to wear covered shoes and watch where you walk. Stop, move slowly and make wide detours to get around wildlife—animals usually only attack if disturbed or threatened. To learn more, read the Queensland Park and Wildlife Service safety tips.

Try a Snag & Some Vegemite

Grilling is hugely popular in Australia. Besides steak, seafood, lamb, veal and snags (sausages), you’ll also find crocodile, emu, ostrich, wallaby and even kangaroo thrown on the barbie (barbeque). Another specialty of the country is Vegemite. The Australian version of peanut butter is used on breakfast toast, crackers, lunch sandwiches and even as flavoring in stews. A highly concentrated yeast extract with vegetable additives, it’s one of the world’s richest sources of Vitamin B. Aussies love Vegemite so much that many of them travel with it in their suitcase.

Casual Clothes & Sunny Climate

Be sure to pack your sunnies (sunglasses), bathers (swimsuits) and thongs (flip flops) for tropical Queensland. Expect warm and sultry weather in the Whitsunday Islands and on the coast. The northern regions and rainforests get hot, humid days, warm nights and tropical downpours between November and April. Temperatures in the desert outback are much more extreme and can reach 120°F (49°C) in the summer and plummet to below freezing on winter nights. It’s a good idea to pack casual shirts, shorts, skirts, pants, a hat and a sweater. Queensland is not a formal place—a smart-casual outfit is standard for restaurants, hotels and clubs. Find all of these items and more at TravelSmith.

On the Road in Oz

Cars travel on the left side of the road in Australia, which may take some time to master. Besides that, it’s fairly easy. Just remember that traffic in the roundabouts has the right of way, and motorways around Brisbane (M1/Gatway, M2/Logan) have tolls. Somewhat deceptive on a map, Australia’s rural roads have very long stretches between towns and service stations. Some may be narrow and unpaved, subject to flooding or lacking cell-phone coverage. Before embarking on a road trip, consult the locals for advice. If you head into the isolated outback, you should be prepared with a suitable vehicle, ample supplies and a plan in case of emergency.

Beach & Water Safety

If you swim, snorkel or surf, you’ll find paradise in Queensland—but be careful. Swim between red-and-yellow flags posted at patrolled beaches where lifeguards are familiar with the tidal currents and hazards. Blue flags mark areas reserved for surfing. Read beach safety signs, follow warnings and stay out of the water at night and when red flags are out. If you run into trouble, call out and raise your arm until a lifeguard arrives. Queensland is home to freshies and saltys (freshwater and saltwater crocodiles), so be “croc wise” and follow the tips from Queensland Park and Wildlife.

Should I Tip?

Tipping isn’t the norm in Australia and isn’t expected in hotels or service industries such as spas and hair salons. Although service bills may include a 10% goods and services tax (GST), you’ll rarely find a mandatory service charge. Tipping 10%—or higher for exemplary service—has become more common in upscale restaurants throughout the country, as well as in metropolitan areas such as Melbourne and Sydney. It’s not obligatory, so use your discretion. In a cab or a bar, you might round up to the nearest dollar, or tell the driver or bartender to keep the change.

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