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australia travel factsheet

LOCALS

The laidback culture in Australia is a big draw for many visitors to the country, and we recommend all campers embrace the lifestyle to get the most out of touring in Australia.

CURRENCY IN AUSTRALIA

Australia’s currency is Australian Dollars (AUD) and currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. The most commonly accepted credit cards are American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, JCB and their affiliates.

TIME ZONES IN AUSTRALIA

Australia has three time zones:

Eastern Standard Time (EST) for the eastern states - ten hours ahead
Central Standard Time (CST) for the Northern Territory and South Australia – nine and a half hours ahead
Western Standard Time (WST) for Western Australia – eight hours ahead

WEATHER IN AUSTRALIA

Australia’s climate varies across the continent, from hot and tropical in the far north to cool and even snowy in the south. The winter months are generally mild, but offer snow in the southern mountain regions and dry, sunny days in the northern states. Even June in southernmost Australia can be far more pleasant than June in the UK. We recommend that you take suitable clothing for all types of weather – it can be very warm during the daytime and then be very cold at night.

It is advisable to wear layers that you can add to and take off as necessary. It’s important to protect yourself from the Australian sun with a hat, shirt and SPF30+ sunscreen, even on cloudy days. If spending the whole day outdoors, reapply sunscreen regularly. Stay out of the sun during the middle of the day when it is strongest and make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

The seasons in Australia are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere; between December and February is summer for most of the country, and the wet season in the tropical north, while the winter is from June to August.

PASSPORTS & VISAS IN AUSTRALIA

To travel to Australia from the UK you will need a full UK passport. Your passport must be valid until at least 24 hours beyond your return flight to the UK (but preferably longer, in case of any unforeseen delays at departure). Holders of any non-British passport should check with their relevant embassy before departing.

British citizens need a visa to travel to Australia. British citizens can obtain an eVisitor visa direct from the Department of Immigration & Citizenship. There is no visa application charge or service fee for this. An eVisitor visa will allow you to stay in Australia for up to three months on each visit within a 12 month period from the date of grant.

PROHIBITED TRAVEL ITEMS

No sharp objects, including pen knives or nail clippers, scissors or files, must be taken into the plane cabin. All liquids may also be refused in cabin baggage, unless you can prove, with appropriate certification, that they are for essential use (please check your airline’s documentation for its specific policy on this). Such items will be confiscated unless they are in hold baggage.

DRIVING IN AUSTRALIA

There are some rules of the road that are helpful for you to know when planning your touring holiday in Australia, below are a few pointers regarding driving licence requirements, insurance, speed limits and some of the travelling costs that you can expect to incur.

ROAD TRAVEL

Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia and seat belts are compulsory. Speed and distance in Australia are measured in kilometres. Roads within and between the cities and major towns are generally reliable and in good condition, as are the main highways that join the state and territory capital cities. Signs follow standard international symbols.

Road conditions can be difficult in remote areas and the large and less populated areas in the middle of Australia (the Outback). Not all roads are sealed and not all are passable in certain seasons or weather conditions. Your vehicle rental company will make it very clear which roads are not permitted for their rental vehicles.

FUEL

Many petrol stations are open 24 hours a day and credit cards are an accepted method of payment. If long stretches of particularly sparsely populated country lie ahead of you it is advisable to tank up when you have the opportunity, even if you still have half a tank or so of fuel.

SPEED LIMITS

The maximum speed limit in cities and towns is 60km/h and 50km/h in some suburban areas. On country roads and highways, the maximum speed is usually 110km/h although this might be lower for your motorhome. 

ANIMALS

Australia is the land of kangaroos, emus, wombats, feral camels, cattle and horses. Normally they just sit or stand by the roadside, but sometimes wander onto roadways. Kangaroos sometimes leap across roadways directly in front of vehicles. Emus may also run across a road. Off the main highways many roads run adjacent to farms that are unfenced, and stock on the road is common. Drive carefully when you spot these big animals and be ready to use your brakes.

It’s advised to avoid driving at night outside of major towns and cities because kangaroos are more active at night and pose a greater risk.

DRIVING LICENCE

As a visitor, you may drive in Australia on a valid UK driving licence, as long as it covers the class of vehicle you have hired. You must carry your licence when driving, in addition to a valid passport. An international driving permit is not sufficient and must be accompanied by a separate valid driving licence. There is an on-the-spot fine for not having your licence with you.

VEHICLE INSURANCE

On individual, tailor-made holidays, basic public liability coverage is included in your vehicle rental fee, but details may vary between rental companies. A typical arrangement is that you leave an AU$7,500 vehicle security deposit. This is debited from your credit card and held as your excess for damage to your vehicle or the property of a third party.

There are, however, two excess reduction options available, by paying a daily charge. With excess reduction option one, your bond and excess are reduced to AU$2,500. If paying by credit card, an imprint is taken. Excess reduction option two is the most comprehensive available. It enables you to benefit from a reduced vehicle security deposit of AU$250. You will not have to pay any excess for damage to your vehicle or the property of a third party if this damage is not from misuse of the vehicle under the ‘exclusions’ clause.

ALCOHOL WHEN DRIVING

The legal blood alcohol limit is 80mg and drink driving laws are strictly enforced.

HEALTH & SAFETY IN AUSTRALIA

Australia is generally a safe and easy country to explore, however it’s important to be aware of potential environmental hazards, such as bushfires, rough surf and extreme desert heat.

You’ll need to be thoroughly prepared for outback journeys and long bushwalks or hikes, and take sensible precautions in regards to sharks, crocodiles and poisonous animals.

The advice below will help you know what to look out for to help keep you safe while travelling.

HEALTH

Reciprocal medical arrangements exist between Australia and the UK. Under the reciprocal agreement British nationals may have unforeseen emergency medical treatment under the Australian Medicare scheme. We recommend you consult with your doctor prior to travel to check as to whether any vaccinations are needed.

Worldwide Motorhoming Holidays also offer fully comprehensive medical and personal holiday insurance for complete peace of mind while you’re away. Enquire about our insurance

WILDLIFE

Australia has many species of wildlife including kangaroo, koala, wombat and platypus to name but a few. If you are hiking or camping, be considerate and cautious of local wildlife. Take all rubbish with you, and treat any food items with great care to avoid attracting animals to your site. Animals with nearby young or nests will be particularly aggressive when protecting their territory. Research the region and learn how best to deal with the local wildlife you might encounter. Keep a safe and legal distance from any wildlife including marine animals and birds and closely follow any regulations. There are also numerous insects and poisonous animals in Australia so it is important to take sensible precautions.

Poisonous animals – snakes, spiders, marine stingers

  • Marine stingers (jellyfish) are present in tropical waters from November to April and can be lethal. During this time you can only swim within stinger-resistant enclosures, which are set up on the most popular beaches. You will also need to wear protective clothing when swimming, snorkelling or diving on the outer Great Barrier Reef. Always observe warning signs.
  • When bushwalking or hiking, you can avoid snake and spider bites by wearing protective footwear and using your common sense. If bitten, seek immediate medical attention. Deaths from snake bites are extremely rare and there have been few deaths from spider bites since anti venoms were made available in 1981.

Sharks and crocodiles

  • Shark attacks in Australia are very rare. Shark netting on Australian beaches deter sharks, but you can further reduce your risk by always swimming between the flags on patrolled beaches and not swimming at dusk or evening. Avoid swimming alone, a long way offshore, at river mouths or along drop-offs to deeper water.
  • Crocodiles live in rivers and coastal estuaries across northern Australia, often changing habitat via sea. When travelling near crocodile habitats, observe safety signs and don’t swim in rivers, estuaries, tidal rivers, deep pools or mangrove shores. Also seek expert advice about crocodiles before camping, fishing or boating.

WALKING IN THE WILDERNESS

When planning a bushwalk or hike, check the length and difficulty of the walk and consider using a local guide for long or challenging walks. If walking without a guide, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. Wear protective footwear, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent and take wet weather gear, a topographic map and plenty of water. When walking, read maps and signs, stay on the track, behind safety barriers and away from cliff edges. Don’t feed or play with native animals, as you might get scratched or bitten. Plan walking in summer months carefully and avoid challenging hikes when the sun is too intense.

BUSH FIRES

Australians live with the risk of bushfires. The danger period is from late spring to summer and during this time everyone should observe some simple safety precautions. Before setting out on a journey, inform yourself of bushfire risks through TV, radio and newspaper reports. When camping, use designated fireplaces and comply with road warning signs and total fire bans. If you must light a fire, always extinguish it completely with water.

SWIM BETWEEN THE FLAGS

Australia’s beautiful beaches can hold hidden dangers in the form of strong currents called rips. Avoid them by always swimming between the red and yellow flags – they mark the safest place to swim on the beach. Lifesavers wearing red and yellow uniforms generally patrol beaches during the warmer months of October to April, but some of the most popular beaches are patrolled all year round. Never swim alone, at night, under the influence of alcohol or directly after a meal. Always check water depth before diving in and never run and dive into the water from the beach.

TRAVEL SAFETY

As with anywhere in the world, it is good practise to be vigilant about your property, both in terms of your motorhome and personal belongings, take sensible precautions to protect yourself from petty crime. Don’t leave your handbag or luggage unattended. Leave copies of important documents with family and friends in the UK. Carry a photocopy of your passport for ID.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may make specific travel related recommendations for visitors to Australia.

SHOPPING IN AUSTRALIA

You’ll find large department stores, arcades, malls and souvenir shops across Australia.

Trading hours vary across the country but shops in tourist and city areas are generally open until 6pm, with the exception of late night shopping on either Thursdays or Fridays in different states. In Australia you are covered by Australia's consumer protection laws which require businesses to treat you fairly.

TAXES & CUSTOMS IN AUSTRALIA

LOCAL TAXES

Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10 per cent. You may be able to claim a refund of the GST paid on goods bought there if you have spent AUD$300 or more in one store, no more than 30 days before departing Australia. Tourist Refund Scheme facilities are located in the departure area of international terminals.

AUSTRALIA - PROHIBITED ITEMS

Certain animal products, fresh fruit, plant materials or animal pests may not be allowed into the country. Do not attempt to bring meat, animal or any dairy products in to Australia without declaring them to the customs authorities. Banned food products will be confiscated and you could be fined.

For more information visit Australia Customs and Border Service.

BRINGING GOODS INTO THE UK

Alcohol allowances - You can bring in either, but not both, of the following:

  • 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume.
  • 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22 per cent volume.
  • Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in one litre of fortified wine (half your full allowance) you can also bring in half a litre of spirits (half your full allowance). This would make up your full allowance. You can't go over your total alcohol allowance.

In addition you may also bring back both of the following:

  • 16 litres of beer.
  • 4 litres of still wine.

Tobacco allowances - You can bring in one from the following list:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 250g of tobacco

Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes (half your full allowance) you can also bring in 25 cigars (half your full allowance). This would make up your full tobacco allowance. You can't go over your total tobacco allowance. You cannot combine alcohol and tobacco allowances.

Other goods including perfume and souvenirs 

You can bring in other goods worth up to £390 without having to pay tax and/or duty. If you bring in any single item worth more than your allowance, you must pay duty and/or tax on the full item value, not just the value above the allowance. You also cannot group individual allowances together to bring in an item worth more than the limit. If you want to bring back more, you will need to declare this to customs on your way back and pay Customs duty and VAT. For more information, visit www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs.

TIPPING IN AUSTRALIA

Hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill. In up-market restaurants, it is usual to tip waiters up to ten per cent of the bill for good service. However, tipping is always your choice.

It is also standard practice to tip tour guides, so you might like to have some small bills to hand as you leave excursion buses.