At the risk of stating the obvious, Australia is enormous.
It is the 6th largest country by landmass in the world and the distances between its highlights are expansive. It also has 3 different time zones, Western Australian Standard Time, Central Australian Standard Time, and Eastern Australian Standard Time. If you think you can “do Australia in 14 days,” you may find yourself needing a vacation from your vacation when you return home!
If you are planning an Australia self-drive holiday, the best way to make the most out of your time is to plan it around a particular region or even state, and spend more time enjoying the destinations you’re visiting rather than spending your days driving. If you are hoping to visit different corners of the country, taking a domestic flight is really the only way to go about it. Another very popular way to experience the country’s highlights is to join a guided tour. These escorted experiences have a mix of domestic flights and coach legs that explore the different regions. They sometimes include travel between Australia and New Zealand, allowing you to explore the contrasts of both countries all in one holiday.
If you’ve ever watched Border Patrol or programs like it, you’ll know that Australia is very strict when it comes to bringing things into the country. To make your life easier on arrival at the airport, remember a few key things:
The standard electrical sockets in Australia is 230V/50Hz. Before you plug anything in, verify that your appliance can take that voltage, you’ll need to use a voltage adaptor. They also use a Type 1 electrical plug, so make sure you have a proper plug for your appliances, chargers etc. You can purchase these before leaving home from your local hardware store, outdoor outfitter or department store, but in case you forget, you can almost always find these at airport shops.
When to visit
Given its sheer size, when planning a holiday in Australia, the best time of year to visit isn’t the same across all regions. Depending on what you’re hoping to see and do, and where exactly in the country you intend on spending your time, there are different times of year that suit certain regions better.
If you’re interested in visiting the outback, like the Red Centre, or spending some time at the Top End, you are best to head there during the winter or spring months which also happens to be the dry season (this falls between May-October). Not only can you avoid tropical storms, but you also have cooler (still warm), less humid weather, making it much more comfortable for activities like hiking around Uluru and exploring Alice Springs and Kings Canyon. The wet season falls between November and April in the Tropical North and semi-tropical state of Queensland. During this time conditions are particularly hot and humid with monsoonal rains.
If you’re wanting to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef, you should know that between November and April is stinger season, coinciding with the wet season in the Tropical North, meaning you’ll need to wear full wetsuits. If Cairns and the Whitsundays are on your list, visiting in winter is actually a fantastic option, with perfect water temperatures and low humidity, not to mention the winter whale migration of humpbacks.
Tasmania, on the other hand, enjoys a much more temperate climate. Not only does it experience the 4 seasons, but it is the coldest state in Australia. For that reason, you may want to visit Tassie in January or February for longer days, warm weather, and a wide range of activities you can enjoy.
Victoria and New South Wales also enjoy temperate climates. Their peak travel seasons are the summer months, between December and March. For slightly better rates and less crowded destinations, consider travelling in the spring or autumn. The added benefit of travelling in spring is that flowers are in bloom and wildlife are often having babies, making for some adorable encounters. This is a fantastic time to enjoy coastal drives, such as the Great Ocean Road!
Tipping is not expected
Visitors to Australia, particularly from North America, are often surprised to learn that Australia does not have a tipping culture. Restaurant and hospitality staff are paid living wages and as such, are not expected to make up their income in tips. When you go to a bar, restaurant or cafe, the price you see is the price you pay. That being said, if you feel that you have been given great service, tips are appreciated and not seen as offensive, as they can be in some other cultures.
Losing a day
Australia is located far, far away from just about everywhere else, and as a result, you tend to lose a bit of time travelling there. Travelling from North America, you will generally land “2 days later”. Typically, flights depart the western coast of North America in the evening, meaning you’ll arrive two days later in the morning, local time, on the east coast of Australia. Now, that may sound like you’ll suffer horrendous jetlag, but in fact, many of our clients say they do not find that is the case. As long as you sleep a little bit on the flight, arriving first thing in the morning allows you to get on with the day and get a good night’s sleep on that first night. From personal experience, going back home is a bit more noticeable, and for that reason, when planning your Australia holiday, we always recommend having a few days to recover at home before returning to work.
From Asia, depending on what time you leave your origin, you generally arrive the same day (unless catching a red-eye). This flight is only 9 hours, and as a result, people often use it as a stopover destination en route to Australia to break up the trip.
Travelling from Europe is quite the journey, and it is highly recommended that you stop in Singapore or Hong Kong to make the journey more enjoyable. There is a direct flight from London to Perth that takes about 18 hours of flying time but you probably would only want to fly premium economy or business class on this leg! Adding one or more stopovers en route is a fantastic way of enriching your travel experience, getting a taste of other destinations along the way, and breaking the trip into more manageable segments. Some great stopover destinations include Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore, Vancouver and French Polynesia.
The good news is, no matter where home is on these long-haul journeys, when your holiday comes to an end and you return home, you often gain a day, giving you a bit of extra time to recover before getting back to reality.
Unless you are travelling on an Australian or New Zealand passport, you will need a visa to enter Australia. Best to find out exactly what type of visa you will need well in advance of heading to the airport. For more information on visa types, take a look at our Visa Type FAQ.
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Written by: Liz Wilson