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Down Under Travel Tips

« Back to Australia

Carry-on rules for liquids, gels and aerosols 

Containers must be 100ml or less and placed in a clear, close resealable 1L plastic bag. (One per person)
Place all items over 100 ml in your checked baggage

Exemptions: baby formula, breast milk or juice if travelling with a child under two years old, prescription medicine, insulin or other essential non-prescription medicine such as saline solution.

For more information


Customs, Quarantine and Visas


To enter Australia you will need a current passport valid for the duration of your stay and a valid tourist visa issued in your own country before the travel date. 

Tourist visas are generally valid for a stay of 3 or 6 months. Electronic Visa’s (ETA's) can be issued by the airline or by your travel agent or on the Australian Consulates website (for a fee).

To enter New Zealand you will need a current passport valid at least 1 month beyond the period of intended stay in New Zealand.  No visitor visa is required for stays under 3 months.

More information


Road Travel


Australian and New Zealand traffic drives on the left hand side of the road.

Road speed limits differ between states but are generally 100-110kph on the highways and 50-60kph in built-up areas.

Be careful of only a 90kph speed limit for all Motorhomes in New Zealand and speeding in the "passing lane" can still get you caught for speeding (just ask me)

Interstate highways are not of the same standard as USA and European highway systems but nor do they carry the same traffic volumes.

Be careful when driving on country roads at night in cold weather. Cattle and native animals such as kangaroos lie on the bitumen road surface which holds the warmth of the sun. Car lights blind and mesmerize the animals and they may just as easily run into your vehicle as run away from it.

Extra care is needed when sharing the road with road-trains. These are prime movers with multiple trailers of cattle attached and are about 50 meters (170 feet) long. Always give them plenty of room as the buffeting from displaced air as you pass in opposite directions can be quite severe. Allow at least 1 kilometer (3000 feet) of clear road before overtaking a road train.

Dust from passing vehicles on outback roads can obscure your vision. Don't take risks, slow down or stop until it settles. A Canadian License is sufficient to drive in Australia and New Zealand.

More from Road Traffic Authority New South Wales

Language and Religion

There is no official religion in Australia or New Zealand. Churches can be found in most towns for both the Catholic and Church of England faith. Other common religions are Methodist, Presbyterian and Uniting Church. Places of worship for Jewish, Moslem, Buddhist and other religious denominations not common to Australia and New Zealand will only be found in the major towns and cities.

Medical and Pharmaceutical

Visitors will only require specific vaccinations if they have travelled through an area infected with yellow fever. Visitors passing through other countries when entering or leaving Australia or New Zealand should check the vaccination requirements of those countries.

All cities and most towns offer 24 hour medical facilities by way of private practice clinics or government run hospital facilities. They will be listed in the telephone book of the area you are visiting.

Chemists are located in all towns and cities throughout Australia and New Zealand.

More about Australian Medical Sites

Telephone and Communications

In an emergency dial 000 (not 911). This will link you to the ambulance, fire and police services.

Phone cards are a popular way of accessing the public phone system. Cards are available from selected newsagents and stores. Selected public phones also accept credit cards. Public phone call assistance is available by dialing 013. 1800 or 13100 type numbers are normally free calls.


Tips and Gratuities 

Australians working in the tourist, hospitality and transport industries and most jobs they are paid a decent salary.  The mimimum per hour wage iks much higher than Canada and USA. Tipping is not standard practice but is generally considered an appropriate gesture of appreciation when the level of service has exceeded expectations but only really in high-end restaurants..

A tip of around 10% would be considered appropriate in high end restaurants of exceptional service (although many of those include a standard service charge in the final bill so check that first). Generally Tipping is not part of the culture and is not expected at all.


Electrical Appliances 

Australian electricity supply is 220-240 volts. Most electronics stores stock adaptors for 110v appliances as well as adaptors for 220-240v appliances with different plug types.

I would suggest you pick up an adapter plug from London Drugs or a baggage/luggage store (cheaper) before you go. Check if your appliance you are taking with you has an automatic voltage converter built in otherwise you will need to buy a separate voltage converter also stocked at London Drugs amongst other places.

Most appliances like your hairdryers and iphones/cell phones etc only require the small adaptor which costs less than $10 in the luggage/baggage stores:


Internet Cafes / Wi-Fi Access / Cell Phones 

I found recently on my trip to Australia that there were plenty of options to use free Wi-Fi. Most of the cities now have “Guest sign-on” Wi-Fi Hotspot connections all over the cities. I took my Iphone and I could be walking from one block to the next and find I have suddenly found free Wi-Fi called “Internode”. 

Internode run a free, public wireless hotspot network at over 150 locations around Australia.
They provide free wireless (Wi-Fi) hotspots in places including : Adelaide, Darwin, Newcastle and Rockhampton Airports; Cafés like Cibo Espresso, The Bean Bar and Un Caffè Bar; and at other places around the country like: the MCG in Melbourne, Rundle Mall in Adelaide and Caravan Parks on the Yorke Peninsula.
At present most of the hotspots are in South Australia, but they are actively expanding their network in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and other parts of the country.

One of the easiest ways to get free Wi-Fi is to go to McDonald’s all over Australia and some allow it in New Zealand (such as Auckland city McDonald's) but generally in New Zealand they don't. This link shows other locations around Australia & New Zealand for now and there also numerous amounts of internet cafes that charge for internet.

In New Zealand you can normally get onto free Wi-Fi at coffee shop chains such as Esquire's and Gloria Jeans which are all over the country.  Some allow you 1 hour free Wi-Fi after you purchase a coffee and others are unlimited time.  Wellington has a system called cafenet which you will find springs up in many locations.  Once you sign up you can use that for NZD$10 per day and it's really the easiest way in Wellington which is a very unfriendly wi-fi city (but a great place nevertheless)

I had no problems using my Iphone in Australia and New Zealand as it searches for a local network automatically and connects really fast to one. Service providers in Canada such as Rogers are now offering special Travel Text Packages which I used where you would save money on the text messages you send by pre-paying for a bundle of text messages that you think you might be using. They also have Data Travel Plans if you are using your providers internet connection. My Iphone also has a dual voltage converter in it so I simply just took a plug adaptor with me.


Mobile / Cell Phones

Will yours work?

Australia and New Zealand use the 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM bands for mobile phones. Before you arrive Down Under check that your phone will work on these bands. Either look at the instruction booklet that came with your phone, or call the phone supplier. Many mobile phones used in North America are CDMA band phones only, and will not work in Australia or New Zealand.  Still, you can rent or purchase an inexpensive handset and then get the appropriate SIM card.  If your phone is marketed as "GSM", "tri-band" or "quad-band" it's a good bet your phone will work.

Iphone 3 and 4G's work fine, just contact your provider before you leave that you will be in these countries using your phone. 

 If your phone works on these bands, you have two options for making and receiving calls in Australia:

  • Using your existing SIM card - bad idea, very expensive
  • Buying a new SIM card in or before going to Australia/New Zealand - good idea, very inexpensive

If you are using your existing SIM card, the only thing you need to check is if your service operator has enabled "roaming." This will allow you to use the networks in Australia with your SIM card. There are sometimes very high call charges for this service, averaging about $1.50 in and out - plus tax. Check with your service operator before you leave.

If you wish to buy a new SIM card once you get to Australia, your phone must be "unlocked." This service may be performed by your phone manufacturer or a local mobile phone shop. SIM cards can be purchased from service operators like Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile and cost around $20-30. For tourists, by far the best telecom operator is Lebara as they cater to tourists and locals who need to call internationally. In fact, calls to the USA/Canada cost less than $0.05 per minute and all incoming calls are free. Another option is to purchase a SIM card before you leave. The advantage of this is that you are ready to go when you land and don't waste your time looking for a mobile/cell phone store. Plus, you will know your phone number before you leave. Cellular Abroad, an online retailer in Los Angeles, CA sells the Lebara SIM card and also rents and sells handsets. Their site is

Note that in Australia, the person initiating a call involving a mobile phone pays for the airtime. You can identify a mobile phone as the phone number starts with 04. (This means that receiving calls on a mobile phone in Australia are free; but if you call a mobile phone, you pay for the airtime).

Renting or buying a mobile phone 

If you do not have a mobile phone of your own, or want to purchase one when you get there, there are many options. The main service operators have phone and SIM card packs to buy for as little as $59-99. This will get you a basic phone and around $10 in phone credit which you can top up at any time.

You can rent a mobile phone from such providers as Cellular Abroad ,RebelFone, Vodafone Rental and Landwide.  Again, Cellular Abroad is based in the USA> In general, if you do not already have a GSM phone,  it is less expensive to rent a phone for short stays, and purchase a prepaid (or pay-as-you-go) phone for longer stays. The provider should be able assist in making the correct choice.

Other options

If you don't have a mobile phone and don't want to pay too much for calling internationally, pick up an international calling card - you can find these at any newsagents and some supermarkets and stores like 711.  They come in many different denominations and each will have its own rate for different countries. You buy a card, then use an existing phone (usually a payphone) to call a special number listed on the card. You can then dial the number you wish to call and you will be charged at the cheap rate.

Time Zones

Australia is about 14 – 19 hours ahead depending on where you are going. Below is a comparison:
If Vancouver time is 8:00 AM on Tuesday July 1

  • Sydney or Melbourne 1:00 AM Wednesday July 2
  • Perth 11:00 PM Tuesday July 1
  • Adelaide 12:30 AM Wednesday July 2
  • Auckland New Zealand 3:00 AM Wednesday July 2 


Currency and Banking

All major city airports have currency exchange kiosks for changing foreign currency. 

Australian currency consists of 5c 10c 20c 50c $1 $2 as coins. Notes are $5 $10 $20 $50 and $100. 

Banking/Business Hours/ATM Card Use

Banks are generally open 9.00am to 4pm Mon-Thu; 9:00am-5pm Fri. In some states selected banking facilities are available on Saturday morning. General office hours including Post Offices are 9am-5pm; Mon-Fri. Stamps are often available at front desks of hotels and motels and at selected retail outlets. ATM cards can be used in Australia at both ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) and at participating retail locations, so long as they have been enabled for international access. Your ATM card must carry either the CIRRUS, PLUS or STAR international ATM mark or the Interlink or Maestro POS mark on the back of the card. Travelers should contact their bank at home for information on availability and service charges. 

DEBIT CARDS (The best way to go)


Your Canadian Debit Card can be used in auto teller machines if it has either the CIRRUS or PLUS symbols on the back of your card and on the auto teller machine. Most banks in Canada will charge $4 or more each time you take money out in these machines. A Scotiabank debit card is the best way to go as they have a reciprocal agreement with Westpac banks in Australia and so a Scotiabank Card used in a Westpac auto teller machine will incur no fees at all! If Scotiabank card is used in a different Australian bank’s teller machine then there would be fees involved. For other Canadian bank cards please check with your bank about fees. 



The Travel Group and Scotiabank have an exclusive deal for newly signed up Scotiabank accounts!  

See pdf link at bottom of this document

Travelers Cheques are not used as often anymore but can be cashed at all banks and some exchange kiosks but the rates are often not great. Hotel reception rates are not great either.

Using US$ is frowned upon and widely not accepted anywhere. AUD$ is the currency for everything in Australia and the NZD$ in New Zealand.

Credit Cards

The most commonly accepted credit cards are American Express, Bankcard, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and their affiliates. Use may be restricted in smaller towns and country areas and small retail shops .

Credit Cards are widely accepted but are not used quite as frequently as in North America. MasterCard seems to be the most popular card followed by Visa. In some situations it may be frowned upon to use credit. E.G. Most taxi drivers hate credit cards and some will refuse to take you if you are paying by credit especially on a short trip. You should always ask them first before getting in. When paying for purchases you will be asked to press credit or debit and your pin on a hand held machine. Press credit and advise you have no pin and away you go. They will normally check your signature diligently.

Currency Exchange

It is recommended that you carry some Australian and/or New Zealand money when you arrive. The Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange can do that for you and they have the best rates in the Vancouver area from my experience. Their addresses are:

Weather & What to wear

As far as dressing for Australia and New Zealand is concerned, casual wear is generally the go.

If you wanted to, you could go to the opera in jeans, and no one would give you a second look, although this is one of the few activities for which some people like to dress up. Unless it's a really formal occasion, one has no need for a tuxedo or a formal long gown; a jacket and tie are not de rigueur for other occasions but the rule of thumb is usually whether one is comfortable with one's choice of clothing for a particular occasion.

Some dress restrictions

Some clubs — such as returned services league (RSL) clubs or some sporting clubs — may have a dress code for general entry (for instance, no thongs (flip-flops), rubber shoes, jeans or collarless shirts allowed) or for entry to the club's formal dining room (jacket and tie required). Some casino's have this restriction too.

And do dress for the weather, of course. I suggest to take layers of clothing as the weather can be unpredictable. For example in Winter (JUN-SEP), it WILL be cold in Melbourne. It could go down to 0 at night some nights and only reach around 7-10 degrees during the day. Most likely however the days will be between 14 and 18 degrees around mid-late August. In the heat of the summer (JAN-MAR) in cities like Melbourne and Adelaide it can typically reach temperatures over 40 degrees during the day and over 30 at night. Dry heat and not humid though like Northern Australia is.

Sydney weather (as a guide)

If visiting Sydney, here's the average city temperature range:

December: 17.5°C (63°F) - 25°C (77°F)
January: 18.5°C (65°F) - 25.5°C (78°F)
February: 18.5°C (65°F) - 25.5°C (78°F)

March: 17.5°C (63°F) - 24.5°C (76°F)
April: 14.5°C (58°F) - 21.5°C (71°F)
May: 11°C (52°F) - 19°C (66°F)

June: 9°C (48°F) - 16°C (61°F)
July: 8°C (46°F) - 15.5°C (60°F)
August: 9°C (48°F) - 17.5°C (63°F)

September: 10.5°C (51°F) - 19.5°C (67°F)
October: 13.5°C (56°F) - 21.5°C (71°F)
November: 15.5°C (60°F) - 23.5°C (74°F

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