Updated: 26th of February, 2018 – We have been overwhelmed with the level of support for this post from all across the globe. We decided to give this post a “refresh” to ensure that the content remains current and relevant for all those who are looking to know more about Australia.
If you’re considering visiting Australia, you really ought to know quite a few things about Australian culture and Australians in general. Australians are friendly folk, but they do have some odd customs which you should familiarise yourself with.
There are many reasons why you should consider visiting Australia.
Our top five reasons to visit Australia are:
- The Great Barrier Reef
- The world’s most amazing beaches
- Buzzing capital cities with great bars and cafes
- Awe-inspiring waterfalls
- Friendly people – you’ll make friends for life!
So now that you’ve decided that you want to visit Australia, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the ultimate guide to the 21 things you should know before visiting Australia.
1. Australians speak a funny version of English!
When you get off the plane, don’t be surprised if your taxi driver lets you know that he needs to “chuck a u-ey” (make a U-turn) to drive in the direction that you need to go. Australians love to use a lot of Australian slang so you will want to familiarise yourself with some of the basics to avoid awkward conversations with “Aussies”.
Here are our top 10 most common Australian slang words to get a hang of if you want to be speaking like a real “True Blue” Aussie.
- Arvo: afternoon – “Come around this arvo for some drinks.”
- Barbie: barbeque – “We’re having a barbie on Sunday if you’d like to join us.”
- Root: sexual intercourse! – “I haven’t had a root in weeks!”
- Servo: gas/petrol station – “Let’s stop at the servo and fill up the tank.”
- Maccas: McDonalds – “I’m gonna stop by maccas for a cheeseburger.”
- Mozzie: mosquito – “I’m being attacked by mozzies!”
- Bottle-O: bottle shop, liquor store – “I’ll grab some drinks from the bottle-o on the way home.”
- Bogan: an uncivilised person – “She’s an absolute bogan!”
- Whinge: to complain – “He always has something to whinge ”
- Sheila: girl/woman – “She’s a pretty good looking sheila, don’t you think?”
2. Australia is HUGE – like really HUGE
Did you know that Australia is the 6th largest country in the world? Did you know that Australia is also the only country that is also an island AND a continent? Australia has an area of 7,692,024 km².
If you were to exclude Alaska and Hawaii, Australia and the United States of America would be roughly the same size.
It’s important to know this when travelling to Australia because if you intend on travelling all around Australia, you will need to allow lots of time (maybe 3-4 weeks just to travel down the east coast from Cairns to Melbourne).
3. Start saving because Australia is EXPENSIVE
Once you get to Australia, you will fall in love with the people, the culture and the natural beauty. A week later, you will check your bank balance and realise that what you have spent what was supposed to last you 3 weeks in just 1 week. Australia is really expensive!
Deutsche Bank released a study in 2015 that found Australia to be the most expensive country in the world – look away now if you want to avoid heartache.
Here is a list of some common purchases in Australia and how much you can expect to pay:
- Basic meal at lunch – AUD $16 / USD $12
- McDonalds Burger in Combo – AUD $11 / USD $8
- 12 Eggs – AUD $6 / USD $4.80
- 2 Litre Coca Cola – AUD $3.20 / USD $2.50
- Monthly Rent, 1 room in share house – AUD $1200 / USD $1000
- Monthly Rent, 45m2 furnished apartment, normal area – AUD $1826 / USD $14,00
For a comprehensive list of prices in Australia, broken down by city, check out this great resource.
4. Housing rental prices are listed in $ per week, not per month
Australians like to do things a little different to the rest of the world. If you are looking for a rental in Australia, you will no doubt find that prices are listed in $ per week, not $ per month. It can be hard to get your head around at the start but once you’ve got a hang of it, you will be familiar with the pricing system in Australia.
On the topic of housing rentals, if you are looking for either a share house or a rental in Australia, you may want to try some of the following resources:
- Fairly Floss Real Estate (Melbourne) Facebook Page – a FREE Facebook community of over 124,000 people (current as at November 2017), connecting people who have share house accommodation available with those looking (many from overseas). Suitable for short-term rentals and furnished rentals as well.
- Flatemates.com.au – Australia’s largest share housing site, connecting those with accommodation with those looking for accommodation. Suitable for short term, long term, furnished and unfurnished rentals.
- Realestate.com.au – a traditional rental listing site with thousands of rental listings Australia-wide. This is more suitable for longer term rentals through a traditional real estate agency.
5. The hot months are the opposite to most of the world
Visiting during Australian summer is always ideal if you love beaches, sun and long days. Australian summer technically runs during December, January and February. The Australian weather also differs greatly depending on where in Australia you are (remember what we said about Australia being huge?).
Weather in Sydney
Sydney is typically warmer throughout the year than Melbourne (Sydney’s southern cousin and arch-enemy). Also typically has higher rainfall than southern parts of Australia. Average maximum temperatures in Sydney during summer are around 27ºC.
Weather in Melbourne
Melbourne is known for being very cold during winter, because of its geographical location to the south of Australia. However, in summer, it really does warm up with average maximum temperatures of around 26ºC.
Locals Tip – Melbourne is known for having “4 seasons in 1 day”. It can be cold and rainy in the morning, very hot by the early afternoon and then winds and thunderstorms in the evening. This makes it very hard to dress appropriately in Melbourne if you are coming from overseas to visit.
Weather in Brisbane
Brisbane is further north than Sydney and Melbourne and closer to the equator, so the weather is a lot warmer throughout the whole year. Average maximum temperatures year-round always stay over 20ºC. In summer, you can expect average maximum temperatures in Brisbane to hover around 29ºC.
Weather in Perth
Let’s be real here – Perth is HOT! It is no wonder that Perth is known for its beaches. The poor people of Perth need the water at the beaches to cool down! Average maximum temperatures in Perth in summer are around 31ºC.
Weather in North Queensland
One last thing to take note of if you are planning on travelling along the east coast of Australia is the weather in North Queensland. This part of Australia is unlike most of Australia – it has a tropical climate. Summer in North Queensland is much wetter but also warmer than winter, the “wet season”. Winter sees less rain, but also slightly cooler weather. Be prepared for lots of rain in tropical North Queensland if you are planning on visiting this beautiful part of Australia.
6. Fly with Budget Airlines within Australia to save your hard-earned cash
In Australia, there are not many domestic airlines that fly between the Australian cities. Because of this, Australia, unfortunately, has quite high prices for domestic flights. When looking for domestic flights within Australia, you should use a comparison website such as Skyscanner to find the lowest fares.
The following airlines are considered to be full-service (more expensive) Australian airlines:
- Qantas – Australia’s oldest and most well-known airline. Very pricey. If you have the money to do so, fly with Qantas. Otherwise, avoid Qantas and choose a budget airline.
- Virgin Australia – Another full-service airline in Australia. Usually around 10% less than Qantas but still quite expensive.
Budget Airlines (the best choice for saving money)
The following airlines are considered to be budget (less expensive) Australian airlines:
- Jetstar – Jetstar is a budget airline with lots of options for travel within Australia. Additional fees can bump up the price so make sure you read very carefully when booking. Please be aware that Jetstar is owned by Qantas.
- TigerAir – TigerAir is a budget airline, widely considered to be the cheapest in Australia. Just be careful that you don’t get stung with additional fees like extra baggage. Also be aware that TigerAir is owned by Virgin Australia.
7. Road tripping is the best way to explore Australia
Remember how we said that Australia was HUGE? Well, how do you expect to see so much of Australia if you just fly in and out of the capital cities? The answer is, you can’t. As many visitors to Australia quickly learn, some of the most beautiful parts of Australia are out of the capital cities and the best way to explore all these areas is to hire a car. Use a comparison website such as VroomVroomVroom to make sure you get a good rate.
8. These crazy Australians drive on the LEFT side of the road
Sorry to disappoint our American friends (and pretty much most of the world as you’ll see from the map below) but these crazy Australians drive on the left side of the road.
Why is this important to know? Well if you are thinking about renting a car in Australia, you will need to familiarise yourself with driving on the left side of the road.
Some really important tips to know are:
- Hire an automatic-transmission car (not a manual!)
- Stay clear of busy cities where the traffic may be stressful
- Read up on the road rules in the Australian state you are driving
Foreign Driver’s Licence
It’s also important to know that in Australia, if you are on a temporary visa (such as a tourist visa or working holiday visa) and your driver’s licence is not in English, then you must have an official NAATI certified English translation of your driver’s licence or International Drivers Permit (IDP) from your home country.
A super simple site for translating your licence into English according to Australian requirements is Licence Translation.
9. AFL and Rugby League are a Religion
Australians have their own sports and they are really different to what you’d be used to back home. AFL stands for Australian Football League and it’s the most popular sport in Australia. Don’t be confused, this type of “Aussie Rules” football isn’t played with a round ball and ALL players can use their hands – not just goalkeepers. Another strange fact, “footy” is played on an oval, not a rectangular field – how crazy right?
Australia has a strange sporting culture as AFL is actually the dominant sport in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory, but NOT New South Wales, Queensland or Australian Capital Territory.
New South Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory are all far more fond of Rugby League. Rugby League is a lot like the international game of Rugby which is more familiar overseas.
Football, or “Soccer” as commonly referred to in Australia is not the largest sport in the country in terms of popularity for the national league, even though the participation of the sport is the highest in the country.
10. Nightlife differs depending on where you visiting in Australia
Fancy a few drinks by the harbour? Not likely in Melbourne. How about trying to enter a nightclub at 2am on a Sunday morning? It’s not going to happen in the Sydney CBD.
Depending on where you visit in Australia, you will find that there are different types of nightlife.
Melbourne is known for it’s cool little laneway bars and underground nightclub scene, along with the odd warehouse party! Get ready for a big night, expensive drinks and discovering some really amazing venues. Check out a great guide to Melbourne nightlife such as this one.
Unfortunately, in 2014, a totally over the top New South Wales parliament decided to introduce “1.30am lock-outs” from bars, pubs and clubs in the Sydney CBD precinct. The legislation also requires 3am “last drinks”. The aim of this was to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence. The unfortunate side-effect of this has been a total deterioration in the night-life of Sydney. You’re better off to sip on a few cocktails by the harbour then plan for a large night in Sydney.
Byron Bay nightlife
If you’re travelling the east coast of Australia, you’re almost certain to pass through a sleepy coastal town such as Byron Bay. Tourist hotspots such as this are relaxed, with drinks by the beach the norm and tourist bars buzzing every night of the week.
11. Australia has some of the world’s most amazing beaches
You really haven’t experienced a beach until you have visited some of the best beaches in Australia. Australian sand is so good that it is exported all over the world, used in construction and also on other countries beaches!
Best Beaches in Australia
It’s almost impossible to rank the best beaches in Australia, but the good guys at Experience Oz have had a crack and they list the top 5 beaches in Australia as:
- Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island
- Cable Beach, Broome
- Burleigh Heads Beach, Gold Coast
- Main Beach, Noosa QLD
- 75 Mile Beach, Fraser Island
Check out the full list of Australia’s best beaches.
12. Australian money is really colourful (and plastic!)
Do you remember being a kid and playing Monopoly? Remember the tantrums, the laughs, the annoying little brother who just seemed to have a way of beating you every single time?
Well, you can relive it all in Australia because just like Monopoly money, Australian banknotes are all different colours! The colourful money makes it really simple to pay for things as you’re unlikely to confuse the notes with one another.
The bank notes are as follows
- $5 – pink/purple
- $10 – blue
- $20 – red/dark orange
- $50 – mustard yellow/gold
- $100 – green.
It’s also good to know that Australian money is plastic and very hard to destroy. Don’t worry about your Australian money getting a little wet, they’re waterproof!
13. Australians have a very sarcastic sense of humour
Australians are known for having a very sarcastic sense of humour. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but that’s just the way that they are. An example of Australian sarcastic sense of humour would be to say to a friend “you’re not the brightest crayon in the box, are you”. This would be used to take a slight dig at a friend for making a very “silly mistake”.
Aussies are also known for a having a dark or black sense of humour which can make foreigners very uncomfortable. If you come across an Australian using this type of humour, don’t take it personally. Most Aussies are very relaxed people and this is just their way of socialising.
Check out a guide like this one for a better sense of Australian humour and avoid awkward social encounters by understanding Australian humour before you get here.
14. Be prepared to “shout” a round of drinks
In Australia, it is not uncommon to buy drinks for all your friends at a bar or pub. For example, if you are out with 4 other friends, you would typically go to the bar and buy 5 drinks, one for you and one for all your friends. Then, all your friends will take it in turns to “shout” a round of drinks for the group.
Why has this cultural phenomenon transpired? No one really knows. Does it sometimes leave you out of pocket when some friends leave early and don’t buy their round for everyone – yes.
But that’s just the way it is in Australia – it is seen as polite to buy a round of drinks for everyone rather than everyone being responsible for buying their own drinks.
One other thing to note about Australian bars and pubs is that they rarely have “tabs” which are more common in America. You usually just pay for your drinks as you go rather than handing over a credit card and paying for drinks at the end of a night. Take note American friends.
15. There’s a hole in the ozone layer RIGHT above Australia, so “slip, slop slap”
If you remember back to your schooling days, you will remember your teacher telling you about a thing called the “Ozone layer”. Basically, the ozone layer is a gaseous layer in the atmosphere which helps to block out UV rays – the nasty things that cause your skin to get sunburnt.
So being Australia’s luck, they just so happen to have a thinner layer of the ozone layer above Australia which leads to higher levels of UV rays making it to the Australian land.
So why is this all important? Well, the sun is strong in Australia and many people get burnt when exposed to the sun for too long, particularly in summer. So what can you do about this? Well, you “slip, slop, slap” as is said in Australia. So you “slip” on a short (put a shirt on over your body), “slop” on sunscreen to cover your skin, and “slap” on a hat to cover your face from the sun.
Looking after your skin and avoiding sunburn is really important in Australia. Almost two-thirds of Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 years of age – how scary is that! Skin cancer (melanoma) is the third most common cancer in Australia so if you care about your health, you will remember to “slip, slop, slap” when you visit!
16. Australians LOVE “Barbies”
Australians love Barbies? Wait, no, not THOSE types of Barbies (the dolls!) Aussies love a “Barbie” meaning a BBQ. So what does a typical Australian BBQ look like? Typically it includes sausages, which you put in bread and add tomato sauce (don’t call it ketchup!) and maybe mustard and grilled onions depending on your tastes.
17. Australia is multi-cultural so don’t expect everyone to look like “Steve Irwin”
Australia is a very proud migrant country, made up of many different cultures. Did you know that one-third of all Australians were born overseas?
In Australia, of course, there are the indigenous people of Australia who have been in Australia for thousands of years.
Then of course, there are the English settlers who arrived in the 1700s. There have many waves of European settlers in the 1900s including large numbers of Greeks and Italians. More recently, there have been large numbers of people from Asia, including China, India and the Philippines who have migrated to Australia.
Every 5 years, there is a national survey held called the Census. According to the 2016 census, the breakdown of country of birth for Australians was as follows:
- Australia – 66.7%
- England – 3.9%
- New Zealand – 2.2%
- China – 2.2 %
- India – 1.9%
So just remember that Australia is made up of many different cultures, languages and people. Translation services are a large part of the Australian community as it helps to bridge the language barriers between all Australians.
18. Australian’s eat kangaroo, you should try it too
Sorry to all you vegans out there, but Australians eat kangaroos. Yes, that’s right, those cute little creatures you’ve dreamt about since childhood actually end up on the plates of hungry Australians.
Kangaroos are also on Australia’s coat of arms, along with emus, which makes Australia the only country in the world that eats the animals on its coat of arms. Why do Aussies eat kangaroos? Well, in Australia, they’re considered a pest due to overpopulation, particularly in rural areas.
You can buy kangaroo meat as a steak or mince from a supermarket. Depending on the restaurant you go to, you can also buy it cooked. Kangaroo meat is renowned for being very lean which makes it a great choice if you are looking for a high-protein, low-fat choice. It has a slightly gamey flavour and if overcooked can be very tough, so be careful how you cook it.
19. Australian’s don’t tip
That’s right American friends – tipping is not part of the Australian culture. The reason for this is that Australia has a very high minimum wage. Currently, the minimum wage in Australia is AUD $18.29 (USD $14.00) so when you’re out at a restaurant or bar, the staff are already getting paid a higher hourly rate than most parts of the world.
This is why prices in Australia are so high, because the costs for businesses are higher too. So don’t stress about leaving a tip for your waiter or waitress, they’re getting paid quite well already.
20. The wildlife won’t kill you
One of the main things that visitors to Australia worry about is being attacked by a snake or giant spider in their sleep. Yes, Australia does have some of the world’s deadliest animals, however during your Australian adventure, it is unlikely that you will come across any dangerous wildlife.
Just be careful and look out for signs such as those warning you at beaches about jellyfish and if in doubt, take direction from the locals.
21. Melbourne has an awesome coffee culture
Ask a Melburnian what they love about their city and they’ll likely tell you that they love their coffee! Melbourne has developed one of the world’s most impressive café cultures. Melbourne’s culture of glorious coffee shops extends to the suburbs as well. There are cafes around every corner in the inner city and it’s very common to meet friends for a coffee or “brunch” – a meal between breakfast and lunch.
So, if drinking beers at a pub or bar isn’t your thing, that’s okay! Go grab a coffee with some friends and do it like the Aussies do!