- Best of Oz
- Visitor info
- Working and living
- Did you know
Australia is world famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback". Australia is one of the world's most highly urbanised countries; it is well known for the attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
Most international flights will arrive into Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth.
Australia has a substantial transport system in place, on the roads, rail, and in the air.
Virgin Blue, Jetstar, and recently Tiger Airways provide the budget flights in Australia. Because Australia is so large you will probably have to fly from time to time. It can be cheaper and of course a lot faster. Try to limit the travel on airlines if you have the time as you will miss so much of this incredible country.
Companies such as Greyhound and Firefly cover many locations all over Australia. You can also go on tours with companies such as Oz experience. This is a great way to travel as you really get a feel for the size of the country, and you can meet lots of different people.
The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin), the Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth), The Overlander (Melbourne to Adelaide), are the three main long distance train journeys. You can get Day-Nighter seats or the more expensive cabins. Make sure to use your concession cards such as VIP or Nomads as this will almost half the price. There are restaurants and lounges on these trains, good thing too as the journey between Sydney and Perth for example takes three days. The cities also have their own train systems which are quite good.
The emergency number is 000. If you are using a phone purchased outside Australia use 112.
Australia is a very safe country. Apply common sense and you should be fine.
For more tips on staying safe, visit our security section.
Australian hygiene standards are high. The tap water is safe to drink, unless it's bore water, which is water taken from underground. In South Australia they use this so you should drink rain water or bottled water instead.
Enrol at a medicare office to get a medicare card if you are from the following countries; The UK, Sweden, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands, Malta and Italy. Malta and Italy citizens are only covered for the first 6 months they are in the country whilst the rest are entitled to free necessary treatment for the duration of their stay in Australia. Irish and New Zealanders are also entitled to free treatment but only as a patient of a public hospital. They will not get a medicare card, just bring along your passport to the hospital.
No immunisations are needed for Australia, but of course you may visit other countries on the way out or on the way back. Asian countries can be a particular risk. Depending on where you want to go you make have to vaccinations against the likes of cholera, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever etc. You're looking at anything between €100 and €200 for the lot, depending on where you go.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Be sensible, don't do what every other visitor does and get absolutely scolded on your first day down at Bondi beach. Wear 30+ sunscreen, a hat, light long sleeved shirt and sunglasses at all times, even on cloudy days. Also drink lots of water. Dizziness and extreme tiredness is sure sign of dehydration and heat stroke. If you're thirsty, you're probably already dehydrated.
The beach is where you will spend a lot of your time down under. Whether swimming, surfing, snorkelling, diving or sailing, there is fun to be had. But be aware!! Many people meet their end in the sea in Australia and for a number of reasons.
Always swim between the red and yellow flags. This is the area that the lifeguards have deemed safe to swim, and is the area that they will be patrolling. If you choose to swim outside these flags you're on your own. The main reason they only have a certain area to swim in is because of rips. A rip is a strong current that will drag you out to sea. If caught in a rip it is very important not to swim against it. Concentrate on staying afloat and try to get the attention of someone on shore. The rip will eventually let go of you and you can swim back to shore, if you haven't already been rescued. If you fight it you will tire easier and most certainly drown. You will see that the area they have deemed safe has lots of waves and another area doesn't. Although it may look more inviting to swim, the reason it may not have waves it because that is where the water that crashes up against the shore is heading back out again, in other words, a rip. Australian beaches are notorious for rips, especially the most famous beach, Bondi. The south end of Bondi has a rip known as the Backpackers Express, for obvious reasons. This is one of the nicest areas of the beach but don't be tempted to swim here. Don't be one of the backpackers that's given that rip its' name.
Due to a combination of factors, such as overfishing at sea, increased numbers of fish on the coast due to protected marine parks, warmer water and government protection of certain shark species, there has been an increase of sharks coming near bathers, some fatal, so beware when you are in the water. There are certain things to remember when swimming in Australian waters; don’t go out too deep, don't swim at dusk or dawn when sharks are most active, and don’t swim in areas that are known for shark attacks. There are shark nets in the sea around most popular beaches in Australia and in Sydney for example there has only been one death since 1937, when the shark nets were constructed, before 1937 there was an average of one per year. It's worth noting however that half of the sharks that are caught in the nets are actually caught on the inside, on their way back out. The nets are a few metres from the top so boats and swimmers won't get caught in them, allowing sharks to swim over them. It's mostly surfers that tend to get attacked. Don’t worry too much though as shark attacks are still quite rare.
Beware of stingers such as Irukanji, or worse the box jellyfish, the most toxic animal on the planet, when swimming in the tropical waters of northern Australia. Their sting can be fatal. Stinger season is October to May. Anywhere north of Rockhampton in Queensland or north of Broome in Western Australia is a potential danger area. Carry white vinegar with you to pore on the wounds and wear a stinger suit.
Watch out for saltwater crocodiles in Far North Queensland and the top end in the Northern Territory and WA. These guys can get incredibly big and can kill humans with ease and have been known to do so. Basic rules are don't camp near rivers that crocs frequent as they will come into your tent. Don't swim in rivers or lakes or even in the sea without finding out from the locals about crocs. They may be called saltwater or estuarine crocs but they can be found anywhere water is, especially after the wet season when the floods have allowed them to roam all over.
There is so much fun to be had in Australian waters and despite what I've just listed it is quite safe as long as you pay heed to the warning signs. And remember you are no longer top of the food chain.
Australia is home to the top 11 most deadly snakes in the world. most venomous snake in the world is the inland taipan, but it has never killed anyone, on record anyways, due to its remote location in the outback and the fact that no-one out there is stupid enough to go near it. The chances of even spotting a snake in the wild in Australia are very slim, never mind getting bitten. If you do see one, leave it alone. There are more species of venomous snake in Australia than non venomous so the odds are against you.
When walking in the bush, or in long grass, wear boots, socks and trousers. If bitten, wrap the limb tightly, and attach a splint. Make sure the victim stays still because any movement will send venom through the bloodstream. Try to get a description of the snake without putting yourself in danger as this will help the doctors administer the correct antivenom.
Australia is also home to the most venomous spider in the world, the deadly Funnel-Web spider, which is found in New South Wales. Sydney and the Blue Mountains are home to the most deadly varieties. There is also the Redback spider (black with red stripe), which causes severe pain, but is generally not fatal and the white tip spider (thin black body and white tail), which can cause severe blistering of the skin.
The Biggest Danger
Australia certainly has more than its fair share of dangers, with venomous animals, dangerous seas, forest fires, and more, but the biggest threat to you when you're there as in any country is yourself and your fellow man or woman. Like every country Australia has a certain amount of murders, rapes and other violent crimes. So you must be careful, don't walk anywhere at night, especially women. Don't get too drunk or drugged up as you won't know what's going on. Drink spiking can be a problem here. Don't get into fights, you might think you can take care of yourself but you just don't know who you're messing with. As well as that the bouncers out here tend to be bigger than average, and unafraid to lash out. A huge amount of backpacker deaths can be attributed to drug or alcohol consumption, whether it's through drowning, falling from balconies or getting into unnecessary fights.
For travel tips on packing, camping, flying and much more, visit our travel tips section.
Finding a job
Have your CV or resume made out before you leave home. Have them saved onto a USB, or send a copy to your email address in an attachment along with a sample cover letter. You can make a general one where you have all your experience on, then cut and paste to tailor it to the job you're looking for. Remember to update it as soon as you've had a job in Australia as they look more favourably on an Australian reference than a foreign one.
When arriving in Australia you will be competing with thousands of other backpackers as well as locals for work. The best job/qualifications to have are a trade (although in some cases you will need your own tools and transport), nursing, and accountancy. These jobs are not only great for contract/casual work but also if you are looking for sponsorship. Don't worry though; there are plenty of other jobs around that don't need qualifications.
The most effective way to find a job is to register with lots of agencies, get online ie seek.com.au, the papers ie Sydney morning Herald on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and old fashioned pounding the pavement. A combination of all of the above is recommended.
Travellers Contact Point in the Dymock Building on George Street in Sydney is kind of a one stop shop for travellers. There are jobs posted daily on the message board for members and non-members (it might be worthwhile becoming a member as you will be told about more jobs than a non-member). There is also an orientation class for new arrivals, a job agency, a travel agency specialising in tours around Australia and much more. They also have branches in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Townsville, Alice Springs and Cairns.
At the interview, dress to impress! Just like at home, you will be expected to wear a suit or formal clothes to an interview. They aren't as laid back in the cities as they are in rural Australia unfortunately.
It is important to remember that the time of year you arrive in a certain place will be a factor on whether you can find a job. December - January in Sydney for example would be a bad time as there would be a lot more competition as well as the fact that a lot of the decision makers in businesses might be on holidays.
Click here for more information on visas.
Second Year Visa
Changes to the working holidays in the last couple of years means that you will now be able to work with the same company for six months rather than just three months like before. You can also stay on for an extra year if you complete three months of seasonal work such as fruit picking or station work.
Seasonal work can be defined as harvesting and/or packing of fruit and vegetables, crops, pruning and trimming vines and trees, thinning and trimming flowers and bunches and general maintenance crop work. You don't have to do the three months in one go. You can do a few weeks here and there, it's cumulative. Make sure to keep all your documentation. The most important things to hang onto are the name of the company or farm, the dates you worked here and the ABN (Australian Business Number) of that farm. You will need these when you are applying for your second year visa. Applying online seems to be the only way to do this at the moment, so you will need a credit card, yours or someone you know. The visa is roughly $185, but you will have to have a chest x-ray and a general medical, whick should come to roughly the same price as the visa, so around a total of between $350 and $400. The x-ray and medical are a waste of time and money making scheme (scam) for the government but unfortunately you have no choice. $400 for a second year in oz isn't too bad though. The whole thing should take around 10 days. Apply online at immi.gov.au.
Fruitpicking has long been a favourite of backpackers. You could work your way around Australia following the harvest trail if you wanted to. It's possible to make a lot of money in a short period of time. It's also possible to make very little money as well.
Try the following websites in your search for a fruitpicking job:
harvesthotlineaustralia.com.au, worktrainers.com.au, fruitpicking.com.au, turnbullorchards.com, goharvest.com, jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail.
Also check backpacker magazines such as TNT, BBM, the Word, Aussie Backpacker, etc.
You should consider starting your fruit picking as soon as you can in your first year. It might not be as easy as you think to get work so you may need all the time you can get. Also if you get it out of the way you won't have to worry about it for the rest of your time in Australia. Try to get a job in one of the packing sheds or factories as this is more regular work and you will get paid hourly which is much better than piece work for the most part.
When you've got the job, the next thing is to prepare. Your work gear is all important when harvesting. Have strong work boots, a long-sleeved shirt, a wide brimmed hat, a fly net for your head, shorts/light pants and 30+ sunscreen. Heat can reach 35 degrees Celsius easily so it's important to drink lots of water. Carry at least 2-3 litres of water with you each day.
It may be worth considering buying a campervan or car as many seasonal jobs are in remote areas with no public transport. Having your own transport dramatically increases your chances and options.
Be aware that there may be days or even weeks of sitting around waiting for crops to ripen or due to rain. These days will still count for your visa but it's not much good if you're desperate for money like most backpackers.
If working in Australia you will need a TFN or Tax File Number, a unique number assigned to you by which you will be taxed. If you haven't already organised this with the agency you bought your ticket with that's no problem. You can easily apply for this online at ato.gov.au. You will need a valid passport or other relevant travel document. You must be in Australia at the time of applying. The system will give you a receipt number and the TFN will be automatically sent to the Australian address you provided in around 10 days. If you are moving around, Travellers Contact Point provides a service for mail collection for around $50.
When you start work your employer will ask you to complete a TFN declaration. As a working holiday maker you will be required to pay 29% tax, considerably higher than the normal tax rate of 13%. However you can get some or all of this back at the end of the tax year which is the end of June. If for example you have earned under $6000 in that tax year you will be entitled to all of it back. If you earn over $6000 you will get back the difference of the 29% and the 13% back for everything you earned over $6000, and you should also get all the tax back on the first $6000. You should also be able to claim back work related expenses of up to $300 without receipts. As a visitor you aren't actually entitled to a penny back, the trick is to claim as a tax resident, which legally you are if you've been in Australia for 6 months. Even if you haven't most tax back companies are willing to chance their arm for you. None of this is certain, as the Australian tax system can be quite baffling to the ordinary person but it's roughly correct.
Another thing they are doing over there is something called stacking. The way this works is can purchase an item such as a laptop and the money comes out of your wages before you are taxed, meaning you will have less money to be taxed, saving you $$$$.
When you stop work you must get a group certificate or pay summary from your employer. This is a summary of everything you were paid and all the tax you paid. You will need this when you are reclaiming your tax at the end of the tax year or when you go home. The company you worked for don't have to give you your group certificate until the end of the tax year but they should be able to give you a pay summary. If not, make sure to leave an address with them for them to forward the summary onto. An email address would be even better as you will probably moving around. Take their phone number just in case there are any problems.
While you don't have to have or quote a TFN, you will be taxed at the highest marginal rate of 49% if you don't quote one.
You can also get what's called an ABN, or an Australian Business Number. This is for when you have our own business or you are working for yourself. If you are working in construction especially you will probably be asked to get one of these. Again this is easy to get, just go to abr.gov.au.
If you say you are an Australian resident you will get a number instantly on the screen, and a letter sent out to you as well. If not it may take a couple of weeks and it will be sent out to you. Hold onto any paperwork you get as employers may ask to see this. The way it works is your employer won't tax you. As a sole trader it's up to you to pay your own tax at the end of the tax year. Seeing as you're only in the country for a certain amount of time of course it's possible to go home without paying a penny. Your pay packet will be a lot bigger at the end of the week without 29% going to the tax man. Of course if you try to return to Australia to get sponsored or start a second year, you might have a problem seeing as you owe tax.
Another important task is opening a bank account. Most employers will want to pay you by direct debit straight into your account. Just take your passport and address details into any of the major banks i.e. ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth, etc and they should sort you out.
Your employer will be obliged to make contributions to a superannuation account on your behalf of 9% of your gross salary. You may have to earn a certain amount before they contribute but you should definitely get something. This money can be withdrawn when you leave the country (after 30$ contribution tax) but it's very important to keep the name, account number and contact number of the fund that you were paying into. You may also need proof that you left the country, i.e. your boarding pass or tickets from your flight home. Try and keep the same fund for every job you have. This will make things very easy when you go home. Every company you work for will probably have a different fund, but it's just a matter of filling out a form to change the one you want to use.
There are certain jobs that will require you to take and pass a registered course before you will be allowed to work. For bar work or to work anywhere that serves alcohol, you will have to attend an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course. There are also course for working anywhere that has pokies or gambling machines, which is a lot of places in Australia. The construction industry requires you take a health and safety course before you can work. In New South Wales this is called the Green Card, In Queensland it's called a Blue Card and so on. They are non-transferable, which means you need a different one for each state. This means taking the exact same pointless course again and again at $100 a go. There is talk of this changing however and hopefully you will be able to use the same card in every state, it may even have changed already. If you are caught working in any of these places by inspectors without these qualifications you will receive a hefty fine, as will your employer.
There are also course for barista work, which is the 'art' of making coffee. There is lots of competition for jobs so employers will look favourably upon you if you have attended a course as you will appear interested.
Other courses include Traffic control and forklift license.
Most of Australia’s flora and fauna is unique to Australia.
Australia was the second country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1902.
Australia is the most obese country in the world.
Canberra was selected to be the capital of Australia as Australians could not decide between Sydney and Melbourne.
An Australian designed the Ugg boot by turning sheepskin inside out.
The indigenous people of Australia are the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islanders and have lived in Australia for around 45000 years.
The Great Barrier Reef can be found off the north eastern coast of Australia and is the world’s largest reef system.
Australia is home to a variety of unique animals such as the Kangaroo, Koala, Emu, Platypus, and Cassowary.
The Emu and Kangaroo are on the Australian coat of arms as they supposedly can’t walk backwards.
Australia has one of the largest camel herds on earth.
Australia has hosted the Olympics twice, in Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000).
The Nullarbor Plain has the largest straight stretch of road in the world.
The dingo fence is the longest fence in the world at over 5,600 km.
Australia was originally called New Holland.
The first thing you will need to do before you go or when landing in Oz is find somewhere to stay. Be it long term or short term there is no shortage of places to stay in Australia. There are hostels, motels, hotels, share houses, furnished/ unfurnished flats, caravan parks, etc, depending on what you're looking for.
Being a backpacker you will more than likely stay in a hostel on a number of occasions, especially at first. Australian hostels are of a very high standard, unless you stay in unofficial hostels which can be found anywhere there are a large number of backpackers. However, staying in these types of hostels are a bad idea as they may not meet fire safety standards as well as being unsanitary.
The average price per person per night is usually around $25 - $35, depending on what type of room you want. This does not include key deposit or cutlery/utensils hire which some hostels may require. It's usually a good idea to pay for weeks in one go as you can usually get some money off the price. You might also be able to do some cleaning in the hostel for free rent. Ask at reception. In a typical hostel there are dorms (anything from 3 beds to 16 beds), single rooms, twin rooms, and double rooms. Dorms are usually mixed or sometimes girls only.
The notice board of a hostel is a great place not only for finding jobs, but also for accommodation, cars for sale and offers of lifts, where you would share costs of petrol with someone who owned a car in exchange for a lift up the coast for example.
You may be able to book tours at the hostel; many hostels have tour desks, or at least get recommendations for the cheapest and best tours.
When booking a hostel consider the following: the key deposit, cutlery deposit, 24hr reception, phone and internet access, security, if you're allowed visitors, laundry, does it have a large clean kitchen, is it a party hostel or a quite, chilled out hostel?
Join a chain such as YHA, VIP, or Nomads. This can cut your nightly rates by $2 or more. These cards can save you money in many other ways as well, eg If you were to get the Indian Pacific train from Sydney to Perth you're looking at paying $699 for a full adult fare in a Day-Nighter seat which is the cheapest seat. With a concession card that comes right down to $499. A card that costs you $30 could save you in this instance $200.
If you are staying in one particular place for longer than a few weeks but not long enough to rent out your own flat, moving into a share house with fellow backpackers can be the answer. This can be a good idea if you are looking to save some money as hostels can be quite expensive, and you might just tire of sharing your kitchen with 50 other people.
House sharing can be a great way to meet new people and make lifelong friends. The first place to look for a share house can be hostel notice boards or even notices on lampposts. The best way is to get the newspapers on Wednesdays and Saturdays or backpacker magazines such as British Balls magazine (BBM). The Wednesday edition of the paper would be your best bet as there would be less people looking than on the weekend. You can also get online at www.gumtree.com, or www.domain.com.au.
If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend or a group of friends or whatever the situation is and you want to get your own place that is also possible. Check the above links or again get the papers. Keep in mind that most flats will be unfurnished but there are plenty of furnished flats around. Just remember if it doesn't say 'furnished', it probably isn't. Unfurnished apartments will be cheaper but of course you will have the hassle of getting your own furniture and this just isn't worth it if you're not staying for an extended amount of time. If you are staying and want some cheap stuff go to a St Vincent De Pauls or somewhere similar for cheap furniture.
If you do one of the great Australian road trips and don't fancy staying in a tent on the side of the road Australia has a large number of caravan parks catering for backpackers and holidaying families. A lot of parks in Australia, however, are designed for campervans more than tents meaning there won't be much grass to pitch a tent. You will find somewhere to put it though.
Campgrounds are usually situated outside of towns or cities. As you will probably be travelling around in a car or campervan this shouldn't be a problem. Most of the parks in Australia are very well kept with good facilities such as hot showers, well equipped kitchens and laundry facilities.
A visa requirement seems to be that you must have Aus$5,000 in your bank account.
When planning your trip to Australia, give a thought to the timing of your trip. A few examples would be, you could leave home so that you could have a few weeks in Asia or America for example, and then land in Sydney in time for Christmas and New Years with plenty of money in your pocket. However it can be hard to find a job at this time of the year in Sydney because everybody seems to be there. Also hostels go up in price at Christmas and you will have to book early and book around 7 nights minimum. Alternatively get there early so you have plenty of time to find a job and maybe an apartment if that’s what you want. You could land in Cairns in May (after the wet season), do all the activities there and then head down the East coast. There are so many options but give it some thought before you head off.
It may sound obvious but be sure to buy your own food in supermarkets rather than eating out all the time. This could save you hundreds of dollars a week. The hostels in Australia pretty much all have well equipped kitchens. You may have to put a deposit down ($10) on a set of plates and utensils etc. Make sure to label your bags and if possible put a little lock on the bag as theft of food is rife in hostels. There's nothing worse than doing a week’s worth of shopping and finding the steak you got for dinner has been enjoyed by someone else.
Buying alcohol in off licenses or 'bottle shops' as they're called in Oz works out much cheaper as you can imagine. In a pub you're talking about between $6 and $7.50 for a pint of lager. This will leave a nasty hole in your pocket after one of the massive sessions you're sure to enjoy out there. A case or slab of beer costs under $40 for around 24 or 30 cans or stubbies (bottles). A 4l cask of wine or 'goon' costs around $10 or $12. That’s incredibly cheap and that stuff will definitely get you drunk, if that's what you want of course. So have a few drinks in the hostel or share house with the gang before you go out and save some of that precious cash. Make sure you have a full international driving license before you leave home. Your own national license will generally do, but they seem to prefer an international license. Getting one is simply a matter of sending off for it. You don't have to take a test. Find out from your local roads authority how to go about it. There's a million kilometres of road in Australia and driving yourself is one of the best ways to discover it.
An around the world trip with USIT will cost roughly €2200 for the entire trip including tax, insurance and visa. Make sure you get comprehensive insurance which covers you in an emergency such as getting flown home.
If travelling with a friend, buy one set of toiletries and split them. It sounds obvious but you could save an awful lot of space in you rucksack, and that space is precious.
Another way to save space is buy only one guide book ie lonely planet, even if you are going to lots of countries on your trip. Buy a book for the first country you are visiting, when you are finished with that book; swap it with other backpackers, in a hostels library, or in a bookstore. It must be a fairly new edition for the bookstores to take it though. Or simply buy them as you go.
Use your empty goon bag (casks of wine) to cool your beer or food in your esky (ice box). Just fill it with water, freeze it and throw in the esky. The great thing is they also stay frozen longer than normal bags of ice.
Be careful when booking some boat trips. Make sure you can get your money back in the event of bad weather. If the sea is too rough and they cancel the trip, you could be out of pocket. The same with any tour that involves wild animals, let's say spotting, dolphins, or whales. There is a guarantee to see them, if not will they give you a free tour if you don't spot them.
A great way of moving around Australia on the cheap is by relocating campervans. Companies such as Britz and Apollo offer free relocations, where you bring one of their vehicles to a destination where they need it, ie they may need a van moved from Sydney to Cairns. Sometimes they may even pay your fuel; but you may have to pay a few dollars a day. Keep an eye on their websites and you may get lucky. You have to be fairly flexible. You will only get a certain amount of days to do the trip.
If you own a car, offer lifts on notice boards so you can cut the costs of fuel. If you don't have a car advertise for a lift, there's always someone looking to cut costs.
Try to use buses and trains as much as you can, rather than taxis. It's cheaper in general but also in Sydney and Melbourne in particular taxi drivers are notorious for having drivers who don't know or pretend not to know where they are going and drive you around in circles or take you the long way home. In Sydney at night, they won't even let you in the cab if you're not going the way they want you to go, unless you're prepared to pay way over the odds.
Talk to other backpackers about tours. The best advice can be from your fellow travellers. They may help you avoid getting ripped off on some tour that you were considering doing.