If you are travelling to Australia alone for the first time, then you must have a lot of questions about the country, culture and everything else in between. I know I did when I first travelled to Australia 18 years ago.
And when I revisited Australia in 2018, I still had so many questions. Even though I consider myself a seasoned traveller, I researched a fair bit before taking my solo trip to Australia because I want to be prepared and ensure everything is in order.
So I’ve compiled all the questions I had before travelling to Australia. Take a look at my list of 17 things to know before travelling to Australia so you can be prepared for your first solo trip to Australia.
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17 Things to Know Before Travelling to Australia
Travelling to Australia is extremely easy. However, there were a few things I wasn’t aware of and wished I knew before going. But I’ve summarized all the questions below.
Here are 17 things you need to know before travelling to Australia.
Travelling to Australia tips: Travel Logistics
1. Do I need to apply for a visa before travelling to Australia?
Most nationalities will have to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), an electronic authorization, before arriving in Australia.
Some nationalities travelling to Australia can apply online. The online process is simple. It involves answering standard questions about yourself and inputting passport information.
The entire application will take a few days to process and costs $20AUD for a standard application.
Other nationalities will have to apply for an ETA through a travel agent, airline or Australian visa office.
Click the Australian Government website to find out if you require an ETA visa.
Things to know before going to Australia: Packing tips
2. Do I need a special adapter for Australia for my electronics?
The standard voltage in Australia is 230V. The power socket is type I. Check here to determine if you need to bring a travel adapter. Type I is mainly used in Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Argentina and China.
If your home country is not the same as Australia, bring a universal travel adapter for your travel so you can make sure all your electronic equipment can be charged.
3. Should I use my mobile phone or get a local prepaid SIM card?
Do not use your home mobile for your travels in Australia. Roaming fees will cost more than your entire trip!
I highly recommend purchasing a Vodaphone prepaid SIM Card at any Vodaphone store and at any airport. It costs $40AUD for 25GB of data, unlimited local calls, 500 minutes for international calls and other bonuses. The whole plan is for 35 days and the data is fast and reliable.
I purchased a prepaid SIM card at the Vodaphone store and they had a promotion for the exact same plan above for only $25AUD.
If you are staying in Australia for a shorter period, there are other plans. Take a look at the Vodaphone website.
Remember to bring your passport when you buy the SIM card.
Travel to Australia tips: Money Matters
4. What is the official currency in Australia?
Australia’s official currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD). It is a good idea to have cash while you are travelling in Australia. Although you will find that most places will accept credit cards.
You can withdraw money from any ATMs linked to PLUS, Cirrus or Maestro networks. But be aware of bank fees.
5. Can I use my credit card in Australia?
Many establishments accept credit cards and cash. But there are a handful of cafes and stores that will only take credit cards. So don’t leave your credit card at home!
For payments under $100AUD, you can tap your credit card without entering your PIN. For purchases over $100AUD, you will have to enter your PIN.
6. Is travel expensive in Australia?
Travelling to Australia is pretty expensive. From accommodation, transportation, eating, going out, shopping and everything in between, you will need a bigger budget than other destinations.
Generally, I would allocate the following daily budget at a bare minimum:
- Accommodation – at least $30AUD for a basic dorm bed and up to $120 for a budget hotel.
- Transportation – local public transportation starts from $3AUD and up, and if you are travelling between cities, maybe up to $100AUD depending on your mode of transportation
- Food – each meal will cost between $10 to $30AUD depending on where you eat
- Entertainment – from museum entrance fee to a night out, budget around $20AUD or more per day
7. Do I need to tip in Australia?
Tipping is not part of Australian culture. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating at a fancy restaurant or a bar; a tip is not expected at all!
However, some restaurants will include an additional service fee for weekends and public holidays. For example, some restaurants charge a 10% surcharge on Saturday and Sunday and a 15% surcharge on public holidays.
8. How do I claim my GST tax refund when leaving Australia?
In Australia, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for most goods and services is 10%.
If you purchase anything over $300AUD, you can get your tax refund at the airport when you leave the country. Even if you have separate receipts, as long as you spent over $300AUD in the same store, you can get a tax refund. And refunds are available for purchases made within 60 days of your departure date.
Make sure to bring all your receipts to the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) office before you check in your luggage. The Australian Border Force officer will check your receipt and your purchases, especially for the items you will check in. For smaller items, they will request you to bring them with you on your carry-on. They will stamp your receipts indicating that they have already checked your receipts.
After you check in and pass immigration, go directly to the tax refund counter with all your receipts. And if you pay your purchases with your credit card, you can get a direct refund back on your credit card.
Travelling to Australia alone: Where to stay
9. What is the best type of accommodation in Australia for solo travellers?
As I mentioned already, accommodation in Australia is expensive compared to other parts of the world. Typically, you will pay about $100AUD for a hotel room, and that is at the lower end of the range. I always check prices on Agoda, a reliable hotel booking website that I’ve been using for years.
If you want to save a bit of money, stay at an Airbnb. The options in Airbnbs in Australia are quite nice. Most places are designed-well and reasonably priced.
And recently Airbnb introduced Airbnb Plus which is a higher-tier of Airbnb, where homes are verified by the company. Generally, the Airbnb Plus homes are newly renovated, have better design and have better finishes and fixtures. And Australia has a lot of Airbnb Plus units.
There are plenty of free campsites around Australia if you decide to take a road trip around Australia.
Things to know about Australia before going: Transportation
10. What is the cheapest way to travel around Australia?
It is one of the most economical ways to travel to Australia and fly within the country. And because Australia is a big country, flying is the best and fastest way to fly to different destinations.
While you book your ticket, make sure you are aware of the extra costs like checked baggage. Some low-cost carriers separate the cost of the airfare and checked baggage, so the actual cost of the airfare appears cheaper. You can save a lot of money by travelling with a 7kg carry-on luggage and no checked luggage.
11. What is train travel like in Australia?
Australia has a train system that connects most cities, including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Alice Springs and Perth. Take a look at the Australian Rail Maps website.
One of the most famous routes is the Indian Pacific, which connects Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. The journey takes three days, but you will see much different scenery.
However, train travel is one of the slower ways to travel in Australia. For example, it takes more than 14 hours to get from Sydney to Brisbane.
But taking the train is great if you are travelling shorter distances and if you enjoy the comforts of the train.
I took an overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney, which took about 11 hours. You can either choose an economy seat, first-class seat or first-class berth. The train has a restaurant onboard just in case you get hungry. I thought the train ride was relaxing and comfortable.
12. What is it like driving in Australia?
Driving in Australia is one of the best ways to see the country. Especially if you are taking a road trip from Melbourne to the Great Ocean Road.
While driving can give you maximum freedom in exploring Australia, it is an expensive transportation option. If you are renting a car or trying van life in Australia, consider car or campervan rental cost, fuel, insurance, parking (in cities) and packing a road trip essentials kit.
As a solo traveller, it may not be the best option as you will not be able to share the cost. But if you meet other trustworthy travellers along the way, it may be an excellent way to see some of the off-beaten-path places in Australia.
With that said, it is easy to rent a car in Australia. First, you will need to be at least 21 years of age and a holder of a valid driver’s license.
If you reside in Canada or the US, you can use your driver’s license. For residents of other countries, you may want to get your international driver’s license before going to Australia.
While you are on the road, remember to drive on the left! I saw many signs on the road that said, “drive on the left in Australia.” Especially around Great Ocean Road, there are more accidents in the area because many overseas tourists drive on the right side in their home country.
And please beware of the speed limit. The most freeway speed limit is 100km/hour. Don’t speed! Not even a little bit! Because there are many traffic cameras along the highway, especially near the Great Ocean Road.
13. Can you travel around Australia by bus?
Greyhound Australia is Australia’s long-distance bus operator. The bus system has many routes that will take you to different parts of the country. The Greyhound bus has comfortable recline seats, USB chargers, and free wifi.
Taking a long-distance bus is the cheapest way to get around Australia, especially if you travel solo.
However, it is not the fastest way. It may be great for short distances between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. And you might also consider taking the bus between Sydney and Byron Bay, which takes about 12 hours and 45 minutes.
If you have a tight budget, the long-distance bus is an excellent option. Also, consider one of the Greyhound travel passes if you take the bus exclusively during your time in Australia.
The easiest way to purchase a ticket is online. Go to Greyhound Australia, and search for your route.
14. How much does public transportation cost in Australia?
Taking public transportation in Australia is extremely easy, especially if you use the local rechargeable smartcard. Each state has its own smartcard for a contactless fare collection system for taking public transportation including buses, trams, trains and more.
You simply tap your card when you start your journey and tap it again when you disembark.
Typically, it is cheaper to use a smartcard than to buy individual paper tickets.
Smartcards can be purchased and topped up at any public transportation kiosks, 7-Eleven, newsagents and other participating retailers.
Here are a few cards you might need while travelling through eastern Australia:
Myki Card for Victoria
Use a Myki Card for any public transportation in Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Public transportation includes trams, buses and trains.
It costs $6AUD to purchase the Myki Card. The card is not refundable.
Each ride costs $4.60AUD and you can ride any public transportation for the next two hours. And if you take multiple trips on the same day, the system will cap it at $9.20AUD as per the daily maximum.
Check the Public Transport Victoria website for information on Myki card and fares.
Opal Card for New South Wales
While you are travelling in Sydney and Byron Bay in New South Wales, using the Opal Card is the cheapest and easiest way to travel on public transportation. Public transportation includes train, bus, ferry, light rail, metro and any NSW TransLink rail services.
There is a minimum value of $10AUD for an adult Opal Card. But there is a daily cap where you will never pay more than $16.80AUD daily. On weekends and holidays, the cap is set at $8.40AUD. The only exception is the Sydney Airport station access fee isn’t included in the daily cap.
Check the NSW Transport website for information about the specific fares for each type of transportation.
Go Card for Queensland
Initially, you have to purchase the card for $10AUD. When you leave Queensland, you can return your Go Card at the ticket counter at the Brisbane Airport Station and get your $10AUD deposit and any remaining value.
Fares are calculated based on zones. Check the Translink website for more info.
Things to know when travelling to Australia: Food Culture
15. What is considered Australian cuisine?
When I first went to Australia, I thought the typical Australian cuisine was meat pies, fish and chips, lamington, vegemite, and marmite. I was right, partially.
Besides the typical Australian food, many different types of cuisine are also part of Australian culture, including Greek, Turkish, Cypress, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and many more.
Similar to Canada and the US, Australia is a melting pot of culture where you can literally find almost any type of food you want. So don’t be surprised to find the best Greek food or Turkish food down under, especially in metropolitan cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Check out my food suggestions in each of these posts.
16. Why is brunch so popular in Australia?
While travelling through the east coast of Australia, I’ve had my fair share of “brekkie” (short for breakfast, as Australians call it).
Standard brekkie and brunch food feature the freshest and healthiest organic ingredients. You will always find a breakfast menu with eggs, avocados, and toast in various forms.
So while you are in Australia, try some of Australia’s typical “brekkie”:
- smash avocado on toast
- eggs on sourdough toast
- different types of eggs benedict
- acai smoothie bowls
- ricotta hotcakes (pancakes)
17. Why is coffee popular in Australia?
If coffee is your choice of beverage, then you will love Australia!
Coffee is a way of life in Australia. You will always find the best independently owned coffee shops around the country. Many coffee shops roast their own coffee beans and their baristas have so much knowledge about coffee.
Try Australians’ favourite caffeinated beverage: flat white. A flat white has a double shot of espresso with milk froth on top. It is typically smaller than a latte and cappuccino.
Melbourne makes the best flat white (in my opinion), but the rest of the country isn’t so bad either. You can find excellent coffee almost anywhere you go.
Are you ready to take a solo trip to Australia?
Phew! That was a lot of questions. I hope I have summarized all the things you need to know before travelling to Australia.
Planning a solo trip to Australia can be exhausting because of all the research you must do. But I’ve done it all for you! I hope you find these travel tips helpful.
And if you want more resources, follow these Australian bloggers and they will tell you everything you need to know!
Thank you for reading my Australia travel tips post
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Australia:
- Melbourne 5 day itinerary
- Great Ocean Road 2-day self-drive itinerary
- How to spend 3 days in Sydney by yourself
- One day in Byron Bay
- Top 10 things to do alone in Gold Coast
- 36 things to do alone in Brisbane
- Searching for fairy pools in Noosa
- 10 days in Australia: best of East Coast Australia
- Australia 4 week itinerary for a solo traveller