We’re breaking through all the bad advice out there to give you a true-blue list of top tips for incoming travellers.
Before undertaking any expedition, it’s always best to do some research. That’s why you’re here, of course. In our own research, we’ve seen and heard plenty of bad advice on travelling around Australia; advice about tipping, taxis, wildlife, drinking, and even the local language. So we think it’s our duty – nay, our obligation – to share proper Australian travel advice and tips from a local’s perspective.
And it’s extremely dispersed. Add to that the fact we’re shy of 25 million in population, and you can understand the magnitude of what I’m saying. Road tripping here is not like road tripping the US or the entire European continent, with cities and towns every few kilometres. We’ve got 7 capital cities sitting on the coast with a vast expanse of near-nothingness in between. Oh, and then there’s the not-so-small island of Tasmania. If you’re gonna road trip in the outback, pack a jerry can or two and plenty of food and water.
We are the coffee capital of the world. Thankfully, the differences in our vast coffee collection aren’t much. Let us explain: Short black = espresso shot. Long black = espresso shot with hot water. A flat white, a latte and a cappuccino are espresso shots with milk, differing in froth size (cap has chocolate powder on top); a macchiato includes a dash of froth, and a piccolo includes a dash of milk. A mocha is best described as a hot chocolate with a shot of coffee. Some cafes will do others, such as affogato (a shot of coffee over a dessert, ie. ice cream), a Vienna (two espresso shots with whipped cream on top) and an Irish coffee (added alcohol). There’s also iced coffees, as well as various flavoured liqueurs to add to your concoction.
We are the hottest, the driest, and the wettest continent on Earth, and it can change quickly depending on where you are. We highly recommend downloading a trustworthy weather app and follow the news so you don’t get caught out. But while weather changes are troublesome, there is something much worse to consider: the sun here is evil. Even on a cloudy day, you can get sunburnt. Make sure to pack sunscreen and an umbrella, especially if you’re visiting the beach.
One doesn’t visit the land down under and skip on the beach (unless you’re allergic to the sun). But, unless you’ve swum at a beach before, you will need to understand some things: First, most of the popular beaches will have lifeguards, who will set up red and yellow flags for you to swim between during certain hours of the day. Swim between them, for your safety. If there are no flags or lifeguards, exercise extreme caution. Also, avoid any blue bubbles on the sand, and only go nude if the beach allows it.
If you’re within a 50km radius of a major city, chances are you won’t run into any of the silhouettes you see before you. You will need to either visit a local zoo or do a bit of country driving/bushwalking if you want to see any of them. You may have also heard that we have a lot of deadly animals, which is true, but you shouldn’t worry yourself about it if you’re in a city or surrounding suburbs. Just make sure to keep your shoes inside. If you do go into the bush or outback, research for specific guidelines to the area you’re visiting. And lastly, don’t feed the seagulls!
The Australian Language
Most of us within the city or suburban areas do not talk like Mike Dundee or Steve Irwin. Our multiculturalism has seen to that. That being said, while we do speak English, most of us do have a manner of abbreviating things. We call McDonald’s, “Maccas”, we call the liquor shop “bottle-o”, and we call flip flops “thongs”. Rarely would we call food “tucker” or a female companion “sheila”. And most of us are confused about the “shrimp on the barbie” thing since we usually call them prawns and we usually don’t barbecue them. Lastly, courtesy remarks are almost mandatory. Always say “thanks” and always say “please” when you ask for something.
Many will tell you that Australians suck at drinking, but that is slightly incorrect. Most of us just don’t know how to pace ourselves. We seem to consider water an anti-masculine thing, and some of us laud the idea of getting drunk. That being said, in some states our drinking is curbed by laws. Main point: you must be over 18 to purchase and drink alcohol. And when it comes to drinking in public, follow the signage. If there is none, you should be able to drink there. Hot tip: don’t drink to get really drunk if you’re in public or at a bar.
Unlike the US and other countries, it’s not unusual to sit in the front seat of a taxi or Uber in Australia. That’s mostly because we’re a friendly, welcoming bunch. You’re always welcome to sit in the backseat if you so wish, we’re just saying it’s not unusual. If you’re in a group of three, always nominate someone to sit in the front seat.
The cost of living in Australia is a little higher than usual, especially in Sydney and Melbourne. If money is a little tight for your holiday, we recommend shopping around for good deals and try cooking your own meals if you can. For nutritious meals [non-fast food], pubs and cafes are your best bet, but you can find inexpensive restaurants if you shop around. Take public transport if you can, or even walk if it’s not that far.
Sticking with money, let’s discuss the etiquette around tipping. The minimum wage for a waiter in Australia is one of the highest in the world, meaning tipping is not mandatory nor necessary. The hourly rate starts at around $20, with most adult waiters earning between $21-25 per hour. In saying that, we don’t say no to tips either. Taking into consideration their average hourly rate, it would be unwise to tip a waiter less than $10 for good service. This changes dramatically when it comes to corporate functions and events. Corporate waiters earn $25+ and will be disappointed at a $10-and-under tip. That’s also because they usually only expect one tip for the entire event or function. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: tip only when you consider the service amazing and always tip $10 or more (depending on the venue). But if there’s a tip jar, throw in whatever shrapnel you want.