The land down unda’, a massive country/continent that offers a little bit of something for everyone from pristine white sand beaches to bustling modern metropolises and everything you could possibly imagine in between, except for in between of Australia itself which is literal nothingness when you get away from the coastlines!
Well over a year ago before setting off to Study Abroad in Australia I knew that Australia had the potential to become something of a second home to me, it had just about everything I looked for in a host country and I can proudly confirm that after having lived there for 5 months. These 5 months were nowhere near enough for me however as I came to learn, it’s a big country with so much to offer and I had only scratched the surface! Which is why I actually recently purchased a Working Holiday Visa to work and travel Australia this time for up to a year, yay visas!
But if you find that the land of kangaroos and koalas is beckoning to you for a first time visit, there are a few things you should know to keep you safe from becoming another statistic of the “everything in Australia wants to kill you” stereotype, how to budget a little more efficiently, and how to understand the strange Aussie culture that I fell in love with! So please take a look at the following list of 40 things I’ve compiled to make the most of your trip to Oz, you might just learn a thing or two!
40 things to know before traveling to Australia
- Prepare to shorten almost every single word in the English language. Thought it was Breakfast and nothing else? Wrong, the answer is Brekkie. This goes for such personal favorites as servo (service station), avo (avocado), arvo (afternoon), Macca’s (McDonalds), Ute (Australian pickup truck), and so on and so forth either way it’s just a fun “language” for Americans and other foreigners like myself!
2. It’s illegal to drink alcohol in public places like parks, beaches, boardwalks, etc. Though a lot of people do it anyway, the fines can be hefty!
3. Something like 2/3 of the entire country is desert, and around 90% of the population lives in close proximity to the ocean. If you look on a population map you’ll notice that the vast majority live from Adelaide up to Cairns along the coast (with a fair amount in Darwin and Perth). You try living out in the Outback, once you’ve been here you’ll understand why!
4. Australia has a rainforest just north of Cairns called the Daintree, it’s magnificently beautiful and there are a multitude of waterfalls and swimming holes scattered all around to check out, you could get lost for weeks here and enjoy every minute! Also keep on the look out for Cassowary’s, these are an extremely rare blue ostrich-like bird that look like the weird love child between an emu a turkey and a peacock just for shits and giggles.
There are rumored to be around 1,500 left in the world most of which are in this rainforest, so please keep your distance and for the love of all that is holy do not run them over with your rental car. We found out that these big blue birds love darting out in front of cars and walking on the road, so they’re kind of asking for it, so slow down in the Daintree and relax the driving! Here’s a link incase you want to check out some of the unique wildlife and fauna of the Daintree: https://www.daintreerainforest.com/daintree/guides/225/
5. You will love or hate vegemite, I hated it, sorry Australians reading this still love you guys just not your vegemite (yes I tried it in like 10 different ways, still nothing).
6. Sydney and Melbourne are expensive, imagine how much you want to budget for these places and then multiply that because especially in the central areas everything costs an arm and a leg. I’ll be developing blog posts on FREE things to do in these cities eventually to help you budget!
7. Eat all the Tim Tams, thank me later (unless you have Type 2 diabetes, please don’t eat the Tim Tams then).
8. There’s a chain of islands off the coast of Airlie Beach that host some of the most pristine white sand beaches in the world. The most famous being Whitehaven Beach, where the water is so blue and the sand is so white you’ll swear you’re in the middle of a dream and probably have to ask somebody to pinch you. They have a strict rule when visiting to make sure that nobody takes any of the sand from the beach with them so as to preserve it, do as they so and don’t be a dick, it’s a natural wonder of the world and should remain as such! (Side note: the boat parties are pretty damn fun out here as well….just saying)
9. The spiders here are deadly, always keep your wits about you especially with the funnel-webs and red back spiders. A fair amount of the most deadly spiders (and snakes) in the world all live here, so yes a good portion of Australian wildlife wants to kill you. What you really have to watch out for though is just a drunk local at the bar with a Bintang jumper and a bit too much Goon in his system named Liam.
10. Aussies LOVE AFL, it’s Australian rules football which is just a strange mix of American football, rugby, soccer and god knows what all mixed together into a high action sport that’s entirely too much fun to watch and play even if you have no idea what the rules are (i.e. me). All I know is it involves a lot of violence, kicking, hitting and most of the fans are passionate, rowdy and drunk which is a recipe for a damn good sporting event in my book! Go to the MCG in Melbourne, it’s the most well known sports stadium in Australia and for good reason, the environment is top notch and we got a pair of AFL tickets front row for $20, go figure!
11. Stay off your phone while you drive, it’s illegal here so atleast do your best to hide it around la Policia.
12. Don’t even think about saying anything bad about Steve Irwin, the man is a national treasure (love that man).
13. Australians love wearing thongs and will often bring them for every scenario. To my non-Australian readers no not the underwear, thongs are their “flip-flops”. Doesn’t matter the activity or appropriateness of said activity, there will be thongs worn regardless.
14. There is not tipping in Australia, I repeat, NO TIPPING. The wages are high enough all around that there is no need to tip your server or bartender (I believe around $18 aud/hr is the minimum wage), that’s just common practice here.
15. Australians really don’t actually like Fosters beer, neither do we in the US, seriously who is buying it then?!
16. Australia is home to the oldest living civilization on planet Earth known as the Aboriginals, whom have inhabited this country for well over 40,000 years!
17. If you’re on a backpackers or student’s budget, prepare to drink your body weight in Goon. If you fancy nights out or anything of those sorts but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to drink at the bars, pre’s with Goon are the way to go typically. Goon is simply cheap boxed wine that tastes like alcoholic fruit punch and hits you with the strongest hangovers in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s just science people.
18. The sun here is STRONG, seriously any time spent outside here to a fair skinned person could be dangerous. The O-zone is the weakest on Earth here (not to mention a large hole in the layer) and the temperatures are typically on the level of extremely hot in the summers. Opt for some sunscreen wherever you go, the stronger the UV protection the better, don’t mess with the sun down under.
19. The Great Barrier Reef is slowly dying for a multitude of environmental reasons, it’s horrific but still an amazing place to scuba dive. The northern end is not nearly as touched from the coral bleaching as the southern end, SCUBA diving off the coast of Cairns is still something I highly recommend to anyone who has ever dreamed of diving here, it’s still a sight to behold!
20. Kangaroos are actually viewed as a pest here. Odd to my non-Australian friends I know, but they are a pest to the farming and agriculture community and are often hit by drivers on the roads. They are also eaten in large abundance, as is their other national animal the Emu, weird eh?!
21. Koalas are elusive to find and can make some really strange noises when you do, I think it’s impossible to describe the horrible mating call noises that these guys unleash so I’ll have to leave that up to the imagination, but it is just straight up weird. If you do find a koala in the wild it’ll probably be sleeping up in a tree somewhere, they spend most of their lives sleeping and will only walk on the ground to go find another tree to sleep on, lazy little guys.
22. The use of the word mate is a little confusing at first, seeing as there are about twenty uses for it, but it’s too much fun once you figure it out! Everyone is mate, you’ve got my mate, your mate, his mate, her mate, old mate, etc. etc. I once got into a lengthy conversation with about 20 Australians in the bathroom of a pub discussing all the uses of the word mate….so there’s quite a few.
23. Australia offers one of the few places in the world to cage dive with Great White Sharks and be almost guaranteed a sighting or two at the Neptune Islands in South Australia. It’s painfully costly (shocker in Australia), though in my personal opinion it’s worth every penny. Seeing these 4-5 meter long giants cruise around you in a steel metal death trap is something that should be on any thrill seekers list!
24. The use of the c-word, which probably shouldn’t be said for all my non-Australian friends is largely accepted here (the one that’s a step up from calling somebody a bitch in the States). Much like the word “mate” they utilize the c-word in all kinds of different circumstances, and that’s just part of the culture, if you get offended by that you’ll probably just have to learn to grow a sense of humor I guess, weird!
25. If an Australian calls you a “legend” then you’re doing something right!
26. The Great Ocean Road is a highlight that is not to be missed, you can rent a car in Adelaide or Melbourne and take it from end to end. Just plan for lots of stops along the way as there are far too many amazing places to stop to mention on here. A stop that’s not to be missed on this road atleast I will mention would be the Twelve Apostles, a cluster of rock formations on a picturesque coastline, straight out of a postcard. Plan to spend your sunrise or sunset here, it’s magical!
27. Some Australians speak with such a thick accent, typically they call these “Bogans”, that you will have absolutely no idea what language they’re speaking. You question if what they’re saying is still English, which is about a 50/50 chance for the most part.
28. Huntsman Spiders are like pets here, and I still find it to be most puzzling thing within this culture. Huntsman spiders are the massive brown ones that are known to be the second largest spider on the planet, they’re grotesque and move quickly. However, they are harmless to humans and are actually very afraid of humans, these buggers (I thank you) are known to eat the other spiders and insects around your building so they’re seen as a positive. To me I’d much rather have a couple of house flies than a fucking foot long spider scurrying across my bedroom wall, but I guess my opinion is unpopular there, go figure.
29. Everything in Australia can and will kill you if it’s given the chance, ha just kidding, almost everything in Australia can and will kill you if given the chance, feel better?!
30. Seriously though ^ most animals, insects, and sea creatures are deadly and or poisonous around here. They have all adapted via evolution throughout thousands of years to protect themselves. I still say that the drunk local with the Bintang jumper is the most threatening though.
31. There’s a hippy colony just outside of Byron Bay on the East Coast known as Nimbin. Here you can experience what a true hippy town offers, complete with baked goods (you know what I’m talking about), tie dye everywhere, lack of showers being utilized, and a whole lot of dreadlocks. In all seriousness it’s a fun place to check out for a day, it’s basically one main street that connects everything so just wander up and down said street and experience it for yourself!
32. Emu’s are total dicks
33. I’m an avid outdoorsman so take this with a grain of salt, but my favorite parts of Sydney were not within the city itself, but the National Parks outside of it. To the west you have the Blue Mountains (1 hour by train from central Sydney), and to the south Royal National Park and the famous Figure 8 Pools (another hour train ride south).
34. Byron Bay is a damn good place to catch some waves no matter your skill level, they have surfing areas for everyone!
35. Australians are extremely sarcastic, and it’s fantastic for a guy like me who can’t seem to turn his sarcasm off, but not every foreigner catches on!
36. Just for good measure, again, don’t speak ill of Steve Irwin, they will hurt you.
37. There are known to be more than 10,000 beaches, eventually the odds are good that you’ll find one that fits your needs!
38. Australians drive on the left side of the road, please do not forget this my fellow foreigners.
39. It takes a LONG time to get anywhere no matter if you’re flying, driving, biking, crawling, etc. Australia is a BIG country, it’s about the same size as the continental US. They like to measure things in days as a distance instead of Kilometers, like that’s a half day drive, two day drive, etc and it’s kind of my favorite.
40. Be careful bushwalking on any hikes through vegetation, there are poisonous snakes everywhere and you probably don’t want to be another one of those statistics. I know I know what a positive thing to end on am I right?! But seriously if you’re pondering a visit to the Land Down Unda’, do yourself a favor and go! It’s a magnificent country with ridiculously friendly people, an interesting culture, almost every activity you could think of, unique wildlife, and the list goes on and on, you won’t regret it!
*** Thanks for reading everyone! Please remember to leave me a comment with anything for remarks or questions I’ll be happy to respond, this goes double if you’re Australian I’d love to hear what I got correct as well as incorrect about your country! Of course as usual please Like and Share on social media, you’ll win a cash prize (you actually won’t I’m sorry)!