What should international tourists know before visiting Australia?

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People love visiting Oz. In fact, Tourism Australia reported that over 7 million international visitors arrived on our sunny shores in the year ending July 2015, which is 6.2 per cent more than the same time last year!

It’s no surprise, considering how stunning the country is. If you’re not taking a road trip holiday through Perth and the west coast, you could be soaking in the sights of the Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road or our largest city, Sydney.

However, Australia has certain rules, regulations and advice that tourists should follow on their trip for their own comfort and safety. So what should you know?

Money

The national currency here is the Australian Dollar, which works in much the same way as other international dollars (e.g. 100 cents equals a single dollar). Obviously where you come from will dictate the currency exchange, but in general it is often weaker than a British pound, American dollar or Euro, and stronger than the NZ dollar, Japanese yen and many other denominations.

The government also charges Goods and Service Tax (10 per cent), but as a tourist you might be able to claim some of it back. In fact, Tourism Australia says that if you spend more than AU$300 in one store, you could request a tax refund before your departure. Terms and conditions will apply, so check out the Tourism Refund Scheme online for more info.

Haggling and tipping

The vast majority of goods sold in Australia are at a fixed price, and most of the time you won’t be able to haggle for them. Of course, there are exceptions. You might be able to get a good deal at a local market, or if you are purchasing in bulk from a single store, but that will depend on the person you are talking to – there’s no hard and fast rule.

The same goes for tipping. According to Tara Moriarty of the United Voice hospo union, speaking to Good Food Magazine, tipping is not compulsory here – you should leave one only if you feel the service was worth it.

Many locals and visitors alike use 10 per cent as what you might consider the rule of thumb, but it’s up to you if you want to tip more, less or not at all. Waiters receive a fixed hourly wage, so you aren’t putting them out of pocket like you might be in, say, the US.

Driving

If you’re planning an awesome road trip holiday in Australia, you’re going to need to drive. As a temporary visitor to the country, you will be allowed to use your regular licence, provided you only touch the class of vehicle you are licenced for.

If you don’t hold a qualification in English, you may be required to apply for an International Driving Permit. Research your destination to see its specific rules on this matter, as they differ from state to state.

Oh, and make sure you drive on the left side of the road!

Before you go hiking

Australia is home to over 500 gorgeous national parks and countless more walking trails through rainforests, bushland and the Outback desert. Though things rarely go wrong, every so often accidents can happen, so it pays to be prepared.

Make sure you take plenty of food and drinking water with you if you go for a nature walk, to keep both energised and hydrated. Temperatures can often soar above 30 degrees C during the day, meaning you’ll need all the nutrients you can get. In addition, good navigational equipment and a first aid kit are also highly recommended.

Some organisations, such as the NSW Police Force, will lend you a Personal Locator Beacon free of charge, and you can also register your treks online through services such as Trip Intentions for that extra peace of mind.