First thing’s first, I’m the realest.
Kidding. Just a reference to Iggy Azalea’s, (who happens to be from Australia) “Fancy”. Thanks to her, I can no longer say, “First thing’s first” without rapping the entire first verse of that song in my head. (or out loud if I’ve had a few drinks). But anyway, we’re getting off topic.
If you’re planning on visiting Australia, here are a few things you need to know.
(Keep in mind – I only visited Sydney, Melbourne, and Cairns but I found that these things pretty much applied to all three cities, more or less).
Now, first thing’s first – GET A VISA!
- Visa – and no, I’m not talking about the credit card. You will need a Visa to enter the country. If you’re visiting from the United States for three months or less, you can visit Australia as many times as you want within a 12-month period using this link (https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ETAS3/etas). It costs 20 AUD and it’s electronic – meaning that the visa will be automatically linked to your passport almost immediately.
- Tax – is included in whatever price you see marked on an item. What you see is what you get.
- Tip – is not customary. I guess Aussies just get paid better than Americans do. But of course, any tip would be appreciated. This is a helpful article if you can’t decide whether or not you should tip. (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g255055-s606/Australia:Tipping.And.Etiquette.html)
- Credit cards – Americans are a little bit behind. We mainly still use cards that require a signature, whereas Australians use the tap to pay method. If you have a tap to pay card, that might be the best one to bring. Some of my friends tried using signature cards and it didn’t work in some places.
- Banks – find out which banks in Australia are partners with your bank in the States. You might be able to avoid the transaction fee. Westpac is partners with Bank of America so I got to avoid the ATM fee.
- Weather – don’t forget! The seasons are reversed! But the weather is very different in each region so plan accordingly. February might be beach weather for Sydney, but it’ll be wet season (and box jellyfish season) further north – like in Cairns. (http://www.australia.com/en/facts/weather.html)
- Supermarkets – if at all possible, try to go to a supermarket that’s a little further away from the city center. If you go to the city center, most of the essentials will be sold out (i.e. water, sunblock). You’ll also find that the American brands you’re used to are called something different here.
- Tourists – it’s time to address the elephant in the room. There are a lot of Asian tourists (specifically from Chinese-speaking countries). And I mean A LOT. I happened to go during Chinese New Year, so I thought that they were there to celebrate the holiday. But my friend asked an employee at Woolworth’s (a supermarket chain) and he said that it was pretty much all year round. The reason why I mention this is to let you know that they can be loud and pushy. (it’s semi-okay for me to say this because I’m Chinese, and at times, I can be loud and pushy myself). But even this was OD for me. And yes, I realize that this makes me sound a tad racist towards my own people, but if you’re an Asian American (like I am), then I think you know what I’m talking about.
- Restaurants – it’s a little different in Australia. In the U.S., you might be used to a full service restaurant from beginning to end. But in Australia, someone can take your order, and then you go to the register and pay. Or you order and pay at the register, and someone will then bring you your food.
- Mail – if you want to send a postcard back to the states, it’s expensive. One stamp will cost you $2.75!
- Uggs – you’ll see a lot of stores selling ‘Uggs’ and at 50% off, you won’t believe your eyes! But don’t be fooled. Ugg boots simply mean sheepskin boots. What you are probably looking for are the Ugg Australia boots (which by the way aren’t even really from Australia; they’re headquartered in California). But FYI – the ‘authentic’ Ugg Australia brand isn’t cheaper there. It costs about the same as in the United States.