AREA CODES Each state has a different area code: 02 for New South Wales and the ACT; 07 for Queensland; 03 for Victoria and Tasmania; and 08 for South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. You must dial the appropriate code if calling outside the state you are in; however, you also need to use the code if you are calling outside the city you are in. For example if you are in Sydney, where the code is 02 and you want to call another New South Wales town, you still dial 02 before the number. See “Staying Connected,” p. 71.
BUSINESS HOURS Banks are open Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 4pm, Friday 9:30am to 5 pm. General business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Shopping hours are usually 8:30am to 5:30pm weekdays and 9am to 4pm or 5pm on Saturday. Many shops close on Sunday, although major department stores and shops in tourist precincts are open 7 days.
DRINKING LAWS Hours vary from pub to pub, but most are open daily from around 10am or noon to 10pm or midnight. The minimum drinking age is 18. Random breath tests to catch drunk drivers are common, and drunk-driving laws are strictly enforced. Getting caught drunk behind the wheel will mean a court appearance, not just a fine. The maximum permitted blood-alcohol level is.05%. Alcohol is sold in liquor stores, in the “bottle shops” attached to every pub, and in some states in supermarkets.
DRIVING RULES See “Getting There & Getting Around,” p. 43.
ELECTRICITY The current is 240 volts AC, 50 hertz. Sockets take two or three flat, not rounded, prongs. Bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable—or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests. North Americans and Europeans will need to buy a converter before they leave home. (Don’t wait until you get to Australia, because Australian stores are likely to stock only converters for Aussie appliances to fit American and European outlets.) Some large hotels have 110V outlets for electric shavers (or dual voltage), and some will lend converters, but don’t count on it in smaller, less expensive hotels, motels, or B&Bs. Power does not start automatically when you plug in an appliance; you need to flick the switch beside the socket to the “on” position. EMBASSIES & CONSULATES Most diplomatic posts are in Canberra: British High Commission, Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra, ACT 2601 (& 02/6270 6666); Embassy of Ireland, 20 Arkana St., Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (& 02/6273 3022); High Commission of Canada, Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (& 02/6270 4000); New Zealand High Commission, Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra, ACT 2601 (& 02/6270 4211); and the United States Embassy, 21 Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (& 02/6214 5600). Embassies or consulates with posts in state capitals are listed in
“Fast Facts,” in the relevant state chapters of this book.
EMERGENCIES Dial & 000 anywhere in Australia for police, ambulance, or the fire department. This is a free call from public and private telephones and needs no coins. The TTY emergency number is & 106.
GASOLINE (PETROL) Gasoline (petrol) prices tend to fluctuate, but at press time were around A$1.40 a liter (or US$4.75 per U. S. gallon) for unleaded petrol in Sydney, and A$1.55 a liter (or US$5.25 per U. S. gallon) or more in the Outback. One U. S. gallon equals 3.78 liters or.85 imperial gallons. Most rental £ cars take unleaded gas, and motor homes^ run on diesel, which at press time was
^ averaging around the same price as
^ unleaded gas. Taxes are already included in
the printed price. Fill-up locations are known as petrol or service stations. HOLIDAYS Major public holidays— < where almost everything shuts down—are
New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (Dec 26). If December 26 falls on a weekend, the following Monday is a holiday. On Anzac Day (Apr 25), a war veterans’ commemorative day, most shops and all government departments are closed, but some tourist attractions reopen at around 1pm. Australia Day is a national public holiday on January 26.
In addition to the period from late December to the end of January, when Aussies take their summer vacations, the 4 days at Easter (from Good Friday to Easter Monday) and all school holidays are very busy, so book ahead. The school year in Australia is broken into four semesters, with
2- week holidays around Easter, the last week of June and the first week of July (or first 2 weeks of July), and the last week of September and the first week of October. Some states break at slightly different dates. There’s a 6-week summer (Christmas)
vacation from mid-December to the end of January.
Other major state public holidays are: Labour Day (second Mon in Mar, WA and VIC; first Mon in May, QLD; first Mon in Oct, NSW and SA); Eight Hours Day (first Mon in Mar, TAS); Canberra Day (third Mon in Mar, ACT); May Day (first Mon in May, NT); Adelaide Cup (third Mon in May, SA); Foundation Day (first Mon in June, WA); Queen’s Birthday (Mon in late Sept/early Oct, WA; second Mon in June, all except WA); Royal National Show Day (second or third Wed in Aug, QLD); and Melbourne Cup Day (first Tues in Nov, in Melbourne only). For more information on holidays, see “Australia Calendar of Events,” on p. 38.
INSURANCE Medical Insurance For
travel overseas, most U. S. health plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) do not provide coverage, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.
As a safety net, you may want to buy travel medical insurance, particularly if you’re traveling to a remote or high-risk area where emergency evacuation might be necessary. If you require additional medical insurance, try MEDEX Assistance (& 410/453-6300; www. medex assist. com) or Travel Assistance International (& 800/821-2828; www. travel assistance. com; for general information on services, call the company’s Worldwide Assistance Services, Inc., at & 800/ 777-8710).
Canadians should check with their provincial health-plan offices or call
Health Canada (& 866/225-0709; www.
hc-sc. gc. ca) to find out the extent of their coverage and what documentation and receipts they must take home in case they are treated overseas.
Travelers from the U. K. should carry their European Health Insurance Card
(EHIC), which replaced the E111 form as proof of entitlement to free or reduced – cost medical treatment abroad (& 0845/ 606 2030; www. ehic. org. uk). Note, however, that the EHIC only covers “necessary medical treatment,” and for repatriation costs, lost money, baggage, or cancellation, travel insurance from a reputable company (such as www. travelinsuranceweb. com) should always be sought.
Travel Insurance The cost of travel insurance varies widely, depending on the destination, the cost and length of your trip, your age and health, and the type of trip you’re taking, but expect to pay between 5% and 8% of the vacation itself. You can get estimates from various providers through InsureMyTrip. com. Enter your trip cost and dates, your age, and other information for prices from more than a dozen companies.
U. K. citizens and their families who make more than one trip abroad per year may find an annual travel insurance policy works out cheaper. Check www. money supermarket. com, which compares prices across a wide range of providers for single – and multitrip policies.
Most big travel agencies offer their own insurance and will probably try to sell you their package when you book a holiday. Think before you sign. Britain’s Consumers’ Association recommends that you insist on seeing the policy and reading the fine print before buying travel insurance. The Association of British Insurers (& 020/7600-3333; www. abi. org. uk) gives advice by phone and publishes “Holiday Insurance,” a free guide to policy provisions and prices. You might also shop around for better deals: Try Columbus Direct (& 0870/033-9988; www. columbus direct. net).
Trip-Cancellation Insurance Trip-can – cellation insurance will help retrieve your money if you have to back out of a trip or depart early, or if your travel supplier goes bankrupt. Trip cancellation traditionally covers such events as sickness, natural disasters, and Department of State advisories. The latest news in trip-cancellation insurance is the availability of expanded hurricane coverage and “any-reason” cancellation coverage—which costs more but covers cancellations made for any reason. You won’t get back 100% of your prepaid trip cost, but you’ll be refunded a substantial portion. TravelSafe (& 888/ 885-7233; www. travelsafe. com) offers both types of coverage. Expedia also offers any-reason cancellation coverage for its air-hotel packages. For details, contact one of the following recommended insurers: Access America (& 866/807-3982; www. accessamerica. com); Travel Guard International (& 800/826-4919; www. travel guard. com); Travel Insured International (& 800/243-3174; www. travelinsured. com); and Travelex Insurance Services (& 888/457-4602; www. travelexinsurance. com).
INTERNET ACCESS Internet access is available just about everywhere, including some of the smallest Outback towns, which generally have at least one cybercafe, coin-operated machines, or both. Coin-op terminals are also available at larger airports. Major tourist towns such as Darwin and Cairns sometimes have entire streets full of cybercafes. See the “Fast Facts” sections of each city and state chapter in this book, as well as “Staying Connected” on p. 71.
LEGAL AID If you find yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law while visiting Australia, the first thing you should do is contact your country’s embassy or nearest consulate in Australia. See contact details for Canberra diplomatic posts under “Embassies & Consulates” above. Embassies or consulates with posts in state capitals are listed in “Fast Facts,” in the relevant state chapters of this book. The U. S. Embassy considers an “emergency” to be
either your arrest or the loss of your passport. If arrested in Australia, you will have to go through the Australian legal process for being charged, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, and for any appeals process. However, U. S. consular officers (and those of other countries) provide a wide variety of services to their citizens arrested abroad and their families. These may include providing a list of local attorneys to help you get legal representation, providing information about judicial procedures, and notifying your family and/ or friends, if you wish. However, they cannot demand your release, represent you at your trial, give you legal advice, or pay your fees or fines.
MAIL A postcard costs A$1.30 to send anywhere in the world. A card will take up to 6 working days to reach the U. S. NEWSPAPERS & MAGAZINES The national daily newspaper is the Austra – lian, which publishes an expanded edition with a color magazine on Saturday. Most capital cities have their own daily papers, either tabloid or broadsheet, and sometimes both. There is an Australian edition of Time.
PASSPORTS See www. fro mmers. com/ planning for information on how to obtain a passport.
POLICE Dial & 000 anywhere in Australia. This is a free call from public and private telephones and requires no coins. SMOKING Smoking in most public areas, such as museums, cinemas, and theaters, is restricted or banned. Smoking in restaurants may be limited—Western Australia and New South Wales ban it altogether, and in many other states, restaurants have smoking and nonsmoking sections. Pubs and clubs, for a long time the last bastion for smokers, now have total bans across the country. Australian aircraft on all routes are completely nonsmoking, as are all airport buildings.
TAXES Australia applies a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on most products and services. Your international airline tickets to Australia are not taxed, nor are domestic airline tickets for travel within Australia if you bought them outside Australia. If you buy Australian airline tickets once you arrive in Australia, you will pay GST on them.
Through the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), Australians and international visitors can claim a refund of the GST (and of a 14.5% wine tax called the Wine Equalisation Tax, or WET) paid on a purchase of more than A$300 from a single outlet, within the last 30 days before you leave. More than one item may be included in that A$300. For example, you can claim the GST you paid on 10 T-shirts, each worth A$30, as long as they were bought from a single store. Do this as you leave by presenting your receipt or “tax invoice” to the Australian Customs Service’s TRS booths, in the International Terminal departure areas at most airports. If you buy several things on different days from one store that together add up to A$300 or more, you must ask the store to total all purchases on one tax invoice (or receipt)— now there’s a nice piece of bureaucracy to remember Australia by! Pack the items in your carry-on baggage, because you must show them to Customs. You can use the goods before you leave Australia and still claim the refund, but you cannot claim a refund on things you have consumed (film you use, say, or food). You cannot claim a refund on alcohol other than wine. Allow an extra 15 minutes to stand in line at the airport and get your refund.
You can also claim a refund if you leave Australia as a cruise passenger from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour in Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, or Fremantle (Perth). If your cruise departs from elsewhere in Australia, or if you are flying out from an airport other than Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide,
Cairns, Perth, Darwin, or the Gold Coast, telephone the Australian Customs Service (& 1300/363 263 in Australia, or 02/6275 6666) to see if you can still claim the refund.
Items bought in duty-free stores will not be charged GST. Nor will items you export—such as an Aboriginal painting that you buy in a gallery in Alice Springs and have shipped straight to your home outside Australia.
Basic groceries are not GST-taxed, but restaurant meals are.
Other taxes include a departure tax of A$38 for every passenger 12 years and over, included in the price of your airline ticket when you buy it in your home country; landing and departure taxes at some airports, also included in the price of your ticket; and a “reef tax,” officially dubbed the Environmental Management Charge, of A$5 for every person over the age of 4 every time he or she enters the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. (This charge goes toward park upkeep.)
Most airlines and an increasing number of tour operators, such as cruise companies and long distance trains also impose a “fuel surcharge” to help them combat rising fuel costs. This is usually added to the price of your ticket.
TIME Australian Eastern Standard Time (EST, sometimes also written as AEST) covers Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania. Central Standard Time (CST) is used in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Western Standard Time (WST) is the standard in Western Australia. When it’s noon in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, it’s 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10am in Western Australia. All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia observe daylight saving time, usually from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in
April. However, not all states switch over to daylight saving on the same day or in the same week. The east coast of Australia is GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) plus 10 hours. When it is noon on the east coast, it is 2am in London that morning, and 6pm in Los Angeles and 9 pm in New York the previous night. These times are based on standard time, so allow for daylight saving in the Australian summer, or in the country you are calling. New Zealand is 2 hours ahead of the east coast of Australia, except during daylight saving, when it is 3 hours ahead of Queensland.
TIPPING Tipping is not expected in Australia. It is usual to tip around 5% or round up to the nearest A$10 for a substantial meal in a family restaurant. Some passengers round up to the nearest dollar in a cab, but it’s okay to insist on every bit of change back. Tipping bellboys and porters is sometimes done, but no one tips bar staff, barbers, or hairdressers.
TOILETS Public toilets are easy to find—and free—in most Australian cities and towns. If you are driving, most towns have “restrooms” on the main street (although the cleanliness may vary wildly). In some remote areas, toilets are “composting,” meaning there is no flush, just a drop into a pit beneath you.
VISITOR INFORMATION Tourism
Australia is the best source of information on traveling Down Under. Its website, www. australia. com, has more than 10,000 pages of listings of tour operators, hotels, car-rental companies, special travel outfitters, holidays, maps, distance charts, suggested itineraries, and much more. The site provides information tailored to travelers from your country of origin, including packages and deals. Tourism Australia certifies “Aussie specialist” travel agents throughout North America, and you can search online by zip code or state to find one near you. By signing up for the free e-newsletter, you will receive updates on
732 hot deals, events, and the like on a regular basis. You can also order brochures online. Tourism Australia operates a website only, no telephone lines. Other good sources are the websites of Australia’s state tourism marketing offices. They are:
• Australian Capital Tourism: www. visitcanberra. com. au.
• Northern Territory Tourist Commission: www. travelnt. com.
• South Australian Tourism Commission: www. southaustralia. com.
• Tourism Queensland: www. queens landholidays. com. au.
• Tourism Tasmania: www. discover tasmania. com.
• Tourism Victoria: www. visitvictoria. com.
• Western Australian Tourism Commission: www. westernaustralia. com.
WATER Water is fine to drink everywhere. In the Outback, the taps may carry warm brackish water from underground, called “bore water,” for showers and laundry, while drinking water is collected in rainwater tanks.