Aussie Basics

A basic AussieA basic Aussie

Visas, Customs and Quarantine

  • All travellers to Australia must carry a valid passport or similar travel document and all travellers except holders of Australian and New Zealand passports need a visa to enter Australia (a visa can be obtained from your nearest Australian high commission, embassy or consulate).
  • The Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) which can be issued on the spot by a travel agent replaces the traditional visa and is becoming increasingly available through travel agents.
  • Everyone can bring some goods duty/tax-free into Australia, and adults over 18 can also bring alcohol and cigarettes or tobacco products duty/tax free. The articles must accompany you through Customs and have to be for personal use.
  • There’s no limit on the amount of Australian and/or foreign cash that you can bring into or take out of Australia. However, amounts of more than A$10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) must be declared on arrival and departure.
  • On departure, you can claim a refund of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) that you paid on goods bought in Australia. The refund on goods (not services) costing $A300 or more (on the same receipt), only applies to items carried as hand luggage. Tourist Refund Scheme booths are located in the departure areas of international terminals after passport control, where you must show your passport, international boarding pass, tax invoice from the retailer, and the goods. You’ll get a cash refund, or the amount can be put onto your credit card.

Government and Economy

  • The Commonwealth of Australia is a democracy, but it also recognizes the monarch of Great Britain as sovereign (The Queen of England has the title “Chief of State” and has some ceremonial duties)
  • The Prime Minister of Australia is currently Kevin Rudd.
  • Australia has a strong, modern economy.
  • Currency is the Australian dollar.


  • Most people in Australia have a mobile phone and so communication when you’re travelling is a lot easier. Cheap phones with Pre-Pay accounts can be purchased in many places such as post offices and even some supermarkets.
  • Coverage is extensive however there are plenty of places without cellphone coverage.
  • Most caravan parks have WiFi and you can link to the internet wirelessly with the right software in your laptop. These “hot spots” are also to be found at McDonald’s and other places. It’s best to do any emailing or photo uploading in the main centres as you won’t know where the next place with wireless internet will be.
  • The telephone country code for Australia is 61, and outgoing international access is 00 11.
  • Payphones are red, green, gold or blue. Only local calls can be made from the red ones, but the others have International Direct Dialling. You can buy Telstra phonecards at newsagents, supermarkets and chemists, and there are also credit card phones at airports, city centre locations and many hotels.


  • Your ATM card must carry either the CIRRUS, PLUS or STAR international ATM mark or the Interlink or Maestro POS mark. You should contact your bank at home for information on availability and service charges. ATM cards can be used in Australia at both ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) and at participating retail locations, so long as they‘ve been enabled for international access.
  • The most commonly accepted credit cards are American Express, Bankcard, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates. Use might be restricted in smaller towns and country areas and small retail shops. Changing foreign currency or traveler's checks can be done quickly and efficiently at most banks. You should cash traveler’s checks at banks or larger hotels as it may be difficult elsewhere. Some banks may charge a small fee for cashing traveler’s checks. Banks will cash most traveler’s checks in every currency. Most widely accepted are American Express, Thomas Cook, Barclays, Bank of America, Visa and MasterCard.
  • It’s not essential to tip in Australia – it’s up to you whether you feel the service was exceptional. Tipping would typically be about 10% of the bill.


  • Australians use the metric system and measure things in kilometres, litres and kilograms (unless you’re over 50!)
  • When writing the date, the month comes second, eg 23-11-2009.
  • The decimal point is a dot, not a comma.
  • Temperature is measured in degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit.


  • The official language is English, but Australia has a large percentage of minorities such as Greek, Italian, Chinese, German and so on. Then there are the indigenous Aboriginal dialects.
  • The main international airports are Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, followed by Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and Cairns. Each state has at least one international airport.
  • Australia spans three time zones: Standard East - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania: GMT +10, and GMT +11 October to March (except Queensland which doesn’t observe Daylight Savings); Central – South Australia and Northern Territory: GMT +9.5 and GMT +10.5 October to March (except Northern Territory which doesn’t observe Daylight Savings); West – Western Australia: GMT +8.
  • Electricity: 220/240 volts AC, but most campervans are wired for 12 or 24 volts so you’ll need an adaptor. There’s plenty of sunshine year-round so there’s an increasing use of solar power to charge deep-cycle batteries. 3 pin plugs are used, but sockets are different from those found in many countries and an adaptor will probably be needed for this reason too. 
  • There are very few fifth-wheelers in Australia and most caravans are 20 feet or less. There are few slide-outs although some of the larger campervans do have them.
  • Furnaces aren’t used in campervans in Australia rather the units are warmed with electric heaters, or travelers sit outside by a campfire. The exceptions are the very large class A motorhomes imported from the States.

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