What do you think of when you hear Australia? The Sydney Opera House? The Great Barrier Reef? Or the vast Outback where you’ll see kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses minding their own business while you stand there amazed? These are just a few of so many reasons Australia is so alluring to locals, travellers and tourists. It comes as no shock that this amazing country is the top choice for expatriates taking a working gap year.
Although a very popular destination, many people are taken aback by the sheer size of Australia and worry that it is not the cheapest or easiest place to travel around. For these reasons, I thought it was worth looking into and writing a quick guide to show you how to do just that.
- Visas in Australia: What you need to know
- Getting Around Australia
- Where to Go in Australia
- Other Popular Must See Places
- Budget Traveling Around Australia
Visas in Australia: What you need to know
Easily enough, all non-Australian citizens will need a visa to enter Australia. All you have to do is go to their website and pick the one that applies to you the most. The Australian Tourist Visa allows you to travel multiple times to Australia over a year for a maximum of 90 days at a time which is pretty cool. Although, most importantly, this is NOT a working visa so you can’t be involved in any type of paid employment while you are there. They also offer an ETA visa which is really handy. This is an electronic travel authority visa which takes minutes to apply for online and there’s a 24 hour response to your application.
Price (as of 2016): Tourist Visa, $20
Getting Around Australia
Due to Australia’s size, the big stretch of road is one of the biggest worries for travellers who want to get from one place to another. This really isn’t as bad as you would think though. Australia has an extensive transit network of buses, trains, ferries and a light rail which is really efficient and not that expensive. Using Sydney as an example, you can apply for an Opal card which you load up with Australian Dollars to use on all four modes of transport. What’s great about it is that fares are capped at $15 a day, $60 a week and $2.50 on a Sunday, so if you are using your card to travel all the time, any journeys made after reaching the cap are free!
Insider Tip: The Opal card is great for using around the city if that’s where you are staying, however if you want more freedom, a lot of travellers recommend budget car hire in Sydney. As buses only take you from one major city to the other, renting a car is really handy for seeing those places you would of missed. Plus, you can always share the cost between other travellers and even drop the car off at another destination. You know how we travellers love not being tied down to a place!Where to Go in Australia
Where to Go in Australia
Popular Routes and What to See
Australia’s inland capital and know as the “Bush Capital,” Canberra is surrounded by luscious forests, farmlands and nature reserves. With the Lake Burley Griffin dominating the middle of the city, Canberra is heaven to outdoor enthusiasts as sailing, kayaking and hiking are a way of life here. Although a hotspot for nature lovers, this city boasts so much Australian culture and history through its superb monuments and galleries that you’ll see why it’s the capital of the country.
Things to do/see:
- Parliament House
- The Australian War Memorial
- National Gallery of Australia and Questacon
- Seasonal Festivals – the Balloon Fiesta in autumn, Fireside Festival in winter, and Floriade in spring
- Australian Alps or Tidnbinbilla Nature Reserve
Australia’s Harbour City, Sydney is the considered the country’s oldest and most culturally diverse city, offering the best of both city and sea. With it’s long held reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful and liveable cities, it is no surprise that it is the most populous city in the whole of Oceania and remains a popular destination for expats. Although it has a bustling city vibe, countless parks and architectural beauty, the fact is is home to the most recognised building ‘The Sydney Opera House’ is enough of a reason to visit here right?
Things to do/see:
- Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour
- Australian Museum and the Museum of Sydney
- The Rocks – well preserved historic sandstone buildings
- The Skywalk
- Go to Sydney’s Fish Market to try the delicious seafood
As the second most populous city in Australia, Melbourne is a city typically full of tall 19th-century buildings and tree-lined boulevards. Smack right in the middle of the inner city is the strikingly modern Federation Square. Full of plazas, bars and restaurants, and extravagant architecture, this one square is a hub for cultural events and vibrant activity all alongside the Riverfront.
Things to do/see:
- The Melbourne Arts Precinct – the site of the Arts Centre Melbourne and National Gallery of Victoria
- Melbourne Zoo and Melbourne Aquarium
- Queen Victoria Market
- Skydeck 88 viewpoint – an observation deck on the 88th floor with panoramic city views
Other Popular Must See Places
While the aforementioned places above are the most popular, there are also many other cities to enjoy.
- Brisbane is a large and modern city popular for the cultural traveler. Here you’ll find Queensland Museum and Science centre and Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.
- Perth, capital of Western Australia on the southwest coast. This city offers stunning sandy beaches, the riverside Kings Park and the Botanic Garden on Mt. Eliza where you’ll see sweeping views of the city.
- Cairns is home to to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef! Now a top destination for sailing, diving and snorkelling, Cairns also has a pretty cool saltwater swimming lagoon.
- Byron Bay is a bustling coastal town with white sand beaches and beautiful views.
- Gold Coast – a surfers paradise! Also a hotspot for theme parks so a pretty fun-all-round place.
Budget Traveling Around Australia
Cheap hotel accommodation in the cities can be hard to find but hostels are plentiful on the outskirts for really affordable prices. As I mentioned how convenient renting cars are for getting around, many travellers even opt to rent camper vans! That’s your transport and accommodation sorted for $21.24 AUD a day! Another budget friendly option for lodging in Australia is camping. There are loads of free camping sites spread far and wide which are really handy. For food, locals recommend buying from the fish markets or getting some really tasty street food from Chinatown to save some cash. Cheaper eateries can also be found in the suburbs away from the tourist centres as usual so go explore!
Check out these articles on budget traveling:
So there we have it, another convenient little travel guide down. Hopefully now you don’t think Australia is difficult or expensive to travel around and you’ve added it to your travel list! Go ahead and explore my fellow traveler, I’m sure there are some cheeky kangaroos and koalas waiting to be admired.
Do you have any more advice on planning a trip around Australia?
Read on about other exciting activities to do in Australia