Australia can be a pretty confusing place if you don’t understand the lingo or the law. We hope this post will help international visitors navigate around what you can and can’t do, and what you shouldn’t do. If you have any questions that you would like to have answered, send them through and we’ll put an answer together as soon as we can.
Update your vocabulary with some words of vague origin that are used by Aussies during general speech. Of course, you may have to get used to the accent and that our laid-back attitude seeps into the way we talk. A simple sentence can come out sounding like a series of grunts and slurs or a really long word, so the two options you have if you don’t have any clue what was just said to you is to either smile, nod and leave, or keep saying “you’re gonna have to say that again in English because I don’t understand you” until a conversation ensues.
Check out our Aussie slang post here.
The most valuable resource you can purchase is a Camps Australia book. Not only is it a great road directory of Australia, but it also marks off petrol stations, landmarks and places where you can stay overnight.
Some of the places are barren rest areas in the middle of no-where, others are sheltered camp spots with picnic facilities and toilets. Some are in homesteads and remote stations, others are in caravan parks. The book will tell you whether you need to pay a fee to enter or camp, and it also provides a contact number, just in case you want to call ahead and find out what the fee will be for the night.
We purchased one of these brilliant books in Mount Gambier and it has paid for itself over and over again. We’ve gone through the thing and highlighted all the free camps for quick reference, but there have been a few paid places that we’ve stayed at, purely because they only charge $5 per person for the night.
Get your copy here http://www.campsaustraliawide.com/
Fresh produce prices vary from state to state but you will generally find that the cheapest supermarkets are the major ones (Coles or Woolworths). Some towns only have IGAs but it’s still worth going in and having a look for some deals.
Almost every supermarket you enter will have a clearance section, where you can get stuff like moisturiser and sunscreen, old holiday stock and packet mix foodstuffs super cheap. The dairy and bakery sections will also have reduced stock like a whole loaf of bread for $1.50 or a 500g tub of yoghurt for $3, while discounted meat is usually marked off with a special clearance sticker. These reduced products are often very close to their “use-by” date, so make sure you have enough time to eat everything you buy before it gets gross.
With the fluctuations of petrol prices, it pays to do some research. More often than not, prices will be lower in larger towns along the coast than smaller towns. For diesel, the average price is around $1.50 a litre in the cities. We saw the price get up to about $2 a litre on the Nullarbor in South Australia and over $2.35 in the Kimberley.
Lots of supermarkets have discount programs with petrol stations. Coles is connected to Shell, Woolworths is connected to Caltex, and in smaller towns, the independent grocery stores may be connected with the local petrol station. To get a discount voucher for your petrol, you’ll need to spend around $30 on groceries and your voucher will be a barcode at the bottom of the docket. Give this to the console operator at the petrol station to get around 4 cents off per litre.
It is not a secret that Australia is covered with animals that will peck, bite, sting and eat you. Here is a very brief guide to those animals, but we suggest you do some further research if you are seriously concerned about meeting one of these critters.
There are two kinds of crocodiles in Australia along the northern coast. Freshwater crocodiles grow to about 1-2 metres in length and tend to just want to chill out. It doesn’t matter how relaxed they look, leave them alone because they still have a mouth full of sharp teeth.
Saltwater crocodiles are found in rivers, estuaries and on beaches and can grow well beyond 2 metres in length. These guys are aggressive and love eating humans. A general rule to remember is – if there’s barramundi, there’s crocs, but there are usually signs near water that tell you if crocs are about. Don’t eat or clean fish near the water’s edge and camp well away from rivers, estuaries and pools. You don’t want to end up like one of those wildebeest in those documentaries that get dragged and twisted into the water.
If you want to get close enough to a spider to touch it, then you’re nuts. Just leave ALL OF THEM alone! White tails are scavenger spiders that can cause your flesh to rot from the bacteria on their fangs, while funnel webs are seriously venomous and can chase a human just to bite them! WATCH OUT AND STAY AWAY!
Some are not a threat to humans while others will not hesitate to inject you with a lethal dose of venom if you make them feel threatened. To avoid any confusion, respect and stay away from all snakes.
These introduced bastards are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. An adult cane toad is chunky, about 10-15cm in length with a bony head, poisonous glands behind the ears, dry, bumpy skin of grey, yellow or olive brown and a pale belly. At the moment, they are found in Northern Territory and Queensland and we don’t want them spreading anywhere else. Check your car and luggage for stowaways.
Jellyfish are an issue, especially the Box Jellyfish, which is one of the most lethal animals in the world. They are usually found along the coast and have long stingers that administer painful venom. You can put vinegar on the affected area and remove the tentacles with a towel, but seek medical attention immediately!
Other marine animals include the Blue-Ringed Octopus, a pretty little thing that is actually the most toxic sea creature in the world. It has a powerful nerve toxin in its salivary glands that can paralyse you in 10 minutes and kill you in 30 minutes. Stonefish are masters of camouflage and are gagging for you to step on them so they can give you a nasty sting. Stories stay that the pain is so excruciating that the only thing that will stop the pain is amputation…
The other obvious marine animal to look out for is the shark. Just watch JAWS before you arrive in Australia and you’ll get your education.
Each state has their own laws about fishing. Some require you to purchase a fishing license while others allow fishing in the ocean but not in rivers and estuaries. Perhaps you’re allowed to catch this fish but not that fish, or you might be allowed to catch a 13cm blue swimmer crab in South Australia but a 12.7cm crab in Western Australia.
Make sure you check the laws at information centres before you end up with a fine. You can get free stickers that give you the acceptable lengths of each fish that you can catch in the state, and there are identification booklets available to let you know what’s good to eat and what’s poisonous. Just Google ‘fishing licence Australia’ to get you started…
Quarantine & Exclusion Zones
Quarantine zones are mainly about stuff that you can and can’t bring in and out of the country, but did you know that there are exclusion zones within Australia? If you’re planning on doing a road trip, make sure you’re aware of these zones. The last thing you want is to be fully stocked with fruits and vegetables, honey and nuts, and drive past a sign that tells you that you need to put all of that into the bin before going any further.
A big checkpoint is Border Village on the Nullarbor. We were aware of the restrictions and made sure that we had no fresh fruits of vegetables, nuts or honey. When we got to the check point, a guy with a clipboard searched our vehicle and found adzuki beans in our grains box. They were confiscated and we were allowed to proceed.
The reason for quarantine zones is so that pests like the notorious fruit fly or other little bugs, weeds or diseases don’t get brought into uninfected areas and wreak havoc. Read up on interstate quarantine here: http://www.quarantinedomestic.gov.au/index.php
Australia’s aridity leaves it susceptible to bush fires that either spring up naturally due to the intense heat, accidentally from a discarded cigarette butt or campfires, or intentionally by an arsonist.
Bush fires are serious business and can move really fast, burning everything in its path. If you hear about a bushfire in the area, talk to locals, listen to the news and make sure you’re not driving to your doom.
There are many aboriginal communities throughout Australia – some are open and welcome visitors, while some are closed and prefer to be left alone. It’s important to be respectful and make contact with the community via the appropriate channels before you go to visit. You may be required to explain why you want to visit and how long you want to stay.
Working while you travel is a great way to fund your adventure, and there are a couple of things that you might want to consider. The first thing you’re gonna have to do is get a tax file number. If you don’t, you could get taxed at a really high amount, thus leading to less money in your pocket. Get a TFN at www.ato.gov.au.
If you’re visiting Australia, you’ll also need a Working Visa that you can get from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Go to www.immi.gov.au for information and advice.
Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you can check out farm and harvesting jobs, or office and hospitality jobs. If you want to pour beers in a pub, you’ll probably need a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate (RSA), and if you have any particular qualification, you can search for relevant jobs on www.seek.com.au.
Renting/Buying a car
Buying a car in Australia isn’t as easy as going to the milkbar and buying an ice cream. You need to have a valid license and get a roadworthy certificate, car registration and possibly car insurance.
As with some of the other things mentioned already, licensing, registration and roadworthiness differs from state to state. If you can get a car with registration, then you’re winning, but you need to make sure that the registration is renewed once it runs out, which is usually once a year. Suss out all the details with the Department of Transport for the state that you plan to visit.
If you’re considering renting a car, there are plenty of options for you. There are companies which offer cars, campervans, mobile homes, and even 4WDs. Consider the places and things you want to see, and choose your vehicle accordingly.