Australia has been my home for my whole life. Of all the countries that I have travelled to I would definitely say that it is one of the most diverse and interesting countries you can find. From the barren desert of the Red Centre, to tropical rainforests, beach islands, cities, forests, wildlife encounters and coastal drives, Australia has everything you could ever ask for. But there are a few things you should probably know before you visit the Land Down Under...
1. Australia is massive. Like, MASSIVE. It is almost as big as USA and heaps bigger than Europe. It's definitely not somewhere that you can see in a couple of weeks, you will definitely need a LOT of time and money to see all the main highlights.
2. The obvious, we do not have kangaroos as pets. They are a wild animal and you should not approach one if you come across them.
3. The best treat you will have is a classic tim tam. To feel like a real Australia, grab yourself a tim tam and a short glass of cold milk. Take a small bite out of opposite corners of the tim tam. Put one of the bitten corners into the glass and suck the milk through the tim tam like it's a straw. It's amazing. Afterwards, your soggy tim tam is the PERFECT treat!
4. There won't be as many wild kangaroos, koalas and wombats as you might think. To be honest, I have only seen these animals in the 'wild' a handful of times. While there are definitely areas that are more likely to offer you wildlife sightings, the only absolute certain way to see them is at a wildlife sanctuary.
6. Australian's drive on the left side of the road. Make sure you feel comfortable with the road rule differences before you take off.
7. Depending on where you're visiting, Australia has drastically different weather patterns, with topical climates up north around Darwin and Tropical North Queensland - who have significantly different wet and dry seasons, and then a drier climate down south. The north east coast is where you will find cyclones and flooding during the wet season, with bush fires and heat waves being more prevalent down south.
8. If you are not sun smart you will get sunburnt. We are not called the sunburnt country for no reason. Due to a giant hole in the ozone layer right over the top of Australia, those UV rays are stronger than ever down under. Make sure you're always wearing sunscreen, even on cloudy days, and I would probably suggest SPF 30+ at a minimum.
9. Australia has more than 10,000 beaches. So with any luck, you might be able to find a quiet one to enjoy all to yourself.
10. We like to shorten our words and kind of have a language all of our own. Be ready to hear a lot of arvo, barbie, brekkie and avo when you're out and about.
11. In some states it's illegal to hold or cuddle a koala. If it's on you're bucket list the only states that will let you are Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. For a full list of everywhere you can have this experience, check out my list of where to hug a koala in Australia.
12. Australian's don't tip! Tipping is not required or expected in our restaurants and cafes. Of course, if you have wonderful service and you have the urge it's always welcome - but you don't have to!
13. Our capital city is Canberra and to be honest, most Australian's aren't sure why. It's a very small city about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney that is pretty much just for political stuff. If it's your first time visiting Australia I would probably give Canberra a miss.
14. Be very careful where you swim. As well as dangerous surf beaches and changing currents creating rips in the ocean, you might also find stinging jellyfish in the ocean or crocodiles in the lakes/rivers. Always check out the surrounding signs before you get into any water.
15. Australian's love their thongs (flip flops or jandles to some of you). I would happily live in mine every single day if Melbourne's winters didn't get so cold!
16. Always swim between the flags at surf beaches, especially if you haven't been to or swam at one before. The changing currents of the ocean are so powerful and within minutes you could be swept out to sea if you're swimming in the wrong place. To understand exactly how dangerous our beaches can be, I would highly recommend checking out Bondi Rescue, a show that follows the daily life of the lifeguards on Bondi Beach and what they deal with patrolling the busiest beach in Australia.
17. Smoking is banned anywhere where there is a roof on top of you. This not only includes restaurants, cafes, etc, but also train stations, walkways that have a roof covering, sports stadiums and many more. Pretty much, if you're not in a wide open space by yourself, don't smoke.
18. The food in Australia is some of the best you will find world wide. Australian's have definitely embraced healthy living with both hands and you will find amazing healthy food around the whole country. The breakfasts in Melbourne especially are something you won't want to miss out on. It's like every cafe is competing for the best avocado toast and they are all outstanding.
19. For some of the most amazing dining experience, the wine regions often offer some mouth watering spreads, especially the Yarra Valley in Victoria and Barossa Valley in South Australia. Definitely order at least one steak dinner while you're out here. You won't be disappointed.
20. Australia's quarantine laws are incredibly strict. To avoid ending up on Boarder Protection programs don't try and bring any food into the country when you come to visit, especially fruits and nuts.
21. About two thirds of Australia is desert. Make sure you research and prepare for road trips to make sure you have enough food, fuel and water to get you between stops if you're crossing the country.
22. Most Australian's live around the main cities and the coastal areas of the country. Much of the outback and the middle of Australia is very deserted. That also means, it can be hard to come across fuel stops and food. If you're planning to road trip to or across the Red Centre, do your research. Ensure your car has a fuel tank big enough to make it between fuel stops. Definitely DO NOT hire the cheapest/smallest car to try and make these drives. You won't make it.
23. There are lots of beaches around Australia where you can drive on the beach. Make sure you try it!
24. You can get by with no cash. Unless you're in very small remote towns, I hardly ever use cash because everywhere accepts card. Makes things very easy.
25. Bushfires are a serious threat in the southern states, specifically Victoria and South Australia are quite badly affected each summer. To try and avoid uncontrollable bushfires, there are often total fire ban days. Which means you can not have a fire or even a little cooker if you're outside. ALWAYS listen to these warnings. Bushfires can get out of control in just a few minutes and be absolutely devastating.
26. Our wifi situation is not great. If you're relying on wifi you won't find it for free in many places, and local connections won't be as fast as you get overseas. We have a running joke that we can't get wifi in the middle of our city, but it's so easy to find in fields in South-East Asia. Make sure you book a hotel with free wifi to at least guarantee yourself some connection.
27. Australia is generally a bit more expensive than other countries, due to our high wages and high cost of living. You will probably be paying a little more for food, drinks and accommodation than you would in other countries.
29. Unless you're coming for a couple of months Australia really is just too big to do in one trip. I have been living here for 25 years and have only just started to scratch the surface! To experience the most that you can and enjoy your trip I would pick a few different places/states you want to visit and see them in a little more depth rather than try and hit every single highlight in one month. You will miss so much doing it that way.
30. You're going to have the BEST time! Australia is such an amazingly diverse, crazy place with so much natural beauty it can be easy to forget it's all one country. Enjoy every minute of your time down under!!