This is a comprehensive list of tips that I wish I knew before heading to Australia. I learned most of these things the hard way, so you won't have to!
It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to travel to the land down under. I recently graduated from university and was working away at a pointless job wondering what was next. - In fact, I’m still wondering what’s next, but that’s another story. One of my best friends decided that she was going to work in Australia for a few months and wanted to do some travelling afterwards. She asked if I was interested in booking a flight and meeting up with her, and I just couldn’t say no. We booked my flight a few days later.
At the time, I had done zero, zip, no research at all about Australia. I knew that pretty much everything could potentially kill me, I knew that there were kangaroos everywhere, there was a giant desert - this counted as one of those things that could kill me - and I knew it was hot.
After reading about it online, and learning a few things, I started to get really excited! Getting there was a whole other story, the things I read online had misled me, and set me up for some real surprises. So let me tell you some things that I didn’t know about Australia, and things I wish I would have known prior to going, and during the planning process.
1. Australia is BIG. Similar in size to continental USA. So when you plan to go there, make sure that you pick a few key places to travel to - and obviously places that are geographically close to one another - unless you have an unlimited amount of time and money to spend getting around.
Everything seems closer when you are planning your trip. To get from one place to another
will take a lot of time, I can't emphasize that enough. Even driving through the provinces is tough work.
TIP: make sure that you utilize google maps distance calculators to estimate how long it will take you to get from one place to the next.
2. Australia is expensive. Especially when speaking of inland travelling. Getting around is no walk in the park. Like I said, it’s BIG. Driving from one place to another is efficient, but it still takes time, and when it takes time to drive somewhere, it also takes fuel, and fuel ain’t cheap. Busses take time to get from point A to Point B, and can be quite costly. As well, inland flights are quite expensive too! If you're trying to save some cash on this adventure, I'm going to again, restate my previous point, pick places that are close to one another.
The reason why Australia is so expensive to get around is because, for the size of the place, Australia has a very small population. A vast majority of tourist attractions and big cities are along the coastline of the country, and there is a big ol’ desert smack down in the middle.
Another expensive thing about Australia is the food. You'll be hard-pressed to find a good meal for a few dollars, like you can in most European and Asian countries. Be prepared to pay a good $30 CAD for a hearty meal at a restaurant. Fast food is similarly priced to Canadian fast food, so don't bank on living off of the stuff.
TIP: If your intentions are to keep a whole foods, plant based diet, then the grocery store will be your best bet. Buy some fresh bananas and bread with peanut butter for breakfast, some oatmeal perhaps, and canned beans with pre-made rice for quick dinners. Don't forget a can opener! These are some of the cheapest, most nutritious options available.
3. I’m sure you could have guessed this, but Australia is HOT. We went during the months of November and December, which is late spring/early summer down there, and there were plenty of days that had me complaining about the heat. Be prepared to postpone a hike, or outdoor adventure if the heat is too much - especially if you are travelling in the northern areas.
TIP: Make sure that you pack an adequate supply of sunscreen!
4. Australia is really really far away, and you will get pretty jet-lagged if you are leaving from North America. For me the flight was a total of 24 hours, including a layover in Vancouver. A flight that long had me so restless and cramped up by the end that I almost convinced myself to just stay there forever (sorry mom).
I cannot express to you how grateful I was to have taken a longer time exploring. If you plan to go, please make sure that you try to spend at least 3 weeks there. The first 5 days of my journey I was up at 3:00am unable to continue sleeping. I forced my friend to get up and explore with me in the middle of the night, with hopes that I could stay up just a little bit later, and sleep in just a little longer the following night.
TIP: If you are worried about jet lag, then pack some melatonin, and take it as directed. Melatonin is a natural supplement that will help kick-start a laggy sleep cycle. You might also want to bring some lavender essential oil, and chamomile tea, these both will help to bring on a sense of calm and relaxation.
5. Don't be worried about what to eat. The food is just your typical standard American diet type stuff. You can find lot’s of fast food chains, coffee shops, and chain restaurants while you’re there. You’ll be able to find tons of fresh produce stands along the road, so take advantage. Beets are everywhere! So if you like beets, you're in luck!
Also, I did see kangaroo on the menu once. I have been reassured that only the tourists eat kangaroo anyways - it’s not something that the locals have for family dinners.
6. There are a lot of things in Australia that can kill you. You might not even know about some of them unless you do some research. - Ugh okay maybe you won't find out about them until you jump into the ocean for a swim and the locals start looking at you like you have 3 arms. Then finally someone tells you that there is a tiny jellyfish in the water that can bring on a heart attack with a single sting... I wasn’t really expecting that - I later found out that they are called Irukandji jellyfish and that they are dispersed all across the northern coast, so be on the lookout for warning signs and nets at local beaches.
7. Bring a sweater. I know I sound like the typical 90's kids' mother right now, but I'm serious. The temperature can drop substantially overnight, leading to really cold mornings. So although you might not think to bring anything besides shorts and tees, I'm telling you that you might thank me later when you pack that hoodie.
8. Make sure you gas up every chance you get! This point applies to those of you who have made the choice to road-trip around the country. You will be driving through barren land a lot more then you think you will be. There are a lot of deserted highways with no cities or towns for hundreds of kilometers. Nothing will make you argue with your mate more than the threat of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, without cell service.
It is 100% worth it to travel to Australia if you have the time and money. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I really hope that one day I’ll be able to return, and explore more of it, but for now I’ll just have to reminisce about all the time that I spent there. A girl can dream right?
Are you looking to travel to Australia without breaking the bank? Click here to see how I travelled around Australia on the cheap!