Insight Australia

Australia - Useful Travel Information


When is the best time to visit Australia? Climate considerations and nature’s calendar

Australia’s geographical and climatic diversity make any time a good time to visit.

Our home is renowned for its year-round big blue skies and brilliant sunshine, visitors should however be aware that the Australian seasons are reverse of the Northern Hemisphere:

Summer (December/January/February)

Autumn (March, April, May)

Winter (June, July, August)

Spring (September, October, November)

That said, Australia can generally be divided into two climatic zones:

  • the tropical North (Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree, the Northern Territory Top End and Kakadu, and Western Australia’s Kimberley region)
  • and the temperate South (Sydney and New South Wales, Melbourne and Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania).

The tropical north has two distinct seasons. The ‘green’ season (November to April) can be very hot and humid with monsoonal rainfalls usually heaviest in the late afternoons from January through to March. Whilst some areas may be subject to flooding in extreme conditions, this is a spectacular time to see the region’s rainforests and waterfalls in full force. The ‘dry’ season (May to October) is characterised by clear blue skies and warm sunny days.

Australia’s southern states largely enjoy a temperate, Mediterranean-style, climate. Warm summers and cool winters can usually be enjoyed without extremes. The further south you travel, the more distinct the four seasons become, with the country’s most southern reaches and highlands experiencing frosts and winter snow falls (June to September).

Every month and every season also has it’s own nature and wildlife highlights; from swimming with whale sharks (April to July), witnessing the Western Australian wildflowers in bloom (August to October), watching turtles nesting (December to February) or enjoying a summer calendar full of colourful events (from the Melbourne Cup horse race in November, the Sydney to Hobart Boxing Day yacht race, New Year’s eve fireworks and the Australian Open Tennis in January, to name only a few).

What to pack for a holiday in Australia?

In keeping with Australia’s climate and laidback lifestyle, smart casual light weight clothing will take you almost anywhere. Layering is key with mostly warm days and cooler nights throughout the year and across the country. Warmer clothing is recommended for visiting Australia’s southern states between May and September.

From our experience, most visitors should plan to bring the following:

  • Comfortable walking shoes (the best way to get to know any destination is to explore by foot!)
  • Sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen as well as a long sleeve light weight shirt for added sun protection (the sun is particularly intense in Australia!)
  • Swimming costume and flip flops / beach shoes (you are rarely far from the beach or an inviting swimming pool)
  • A jacket, cardigan or light weight sweater (even the Red Centre can become quite cool once the sun goes down)
  • Lightweight long sleeve shirt and trousers for sun protection when travelling in the outback. (It is also worth bearing in mind that white may not be the best colour with the inevitable dust from the signature red earth of the Australian outback).
  • A light rain or spray jacket and / or a small umbrella (just in case!)
  • A good camera (and plenty of memory space! as you are sure to find photo opportunities at every turn).
  • A power adaptor for your camera, phone and other appliances. (The electricity current in Australia is 220-240 volts, AC50Hz. The Australian ‘type 1’ 3-pin power outlet is different to those used in across Europe, North America and in the UK, so you will need an adaptor if visiting from overseas).
  • Credit Cards are widely accepted for payment at most venues across the country (Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred, American Express is not as widely accepted and may attract a surcharge. Diners Club and Travellers Cheques are not widely accepted).

Other items you may wish to consider packing include:

  • A valid driver’s licence (and an official English translation if it is not originally issued in English language) if you are planning on driving or hiring a car. You must carry your valid driver’s licence with you at all times when driving in Australia.
  • Dive Certificate (and log book) if you have one and are planning to dive.
  • Insect repellent (especially if travelling in the tropics) and plenty of sunscreen.
  • A small pair of binoculars for wildlife spotting

Australian visas, custom controls, health and safety considerations

All international visitors (except Australian and NZ passport holders) require a visa for entry into Australia. Visas must be applied for before arriving in Australia.

Visit for further details.

To help protect Australia’s unique environment, certain food, plants, animal products, weapons and drugs are subject to strict custom controls or prohibition. Visitors are advised to refer to the Australian Border Force website for further details:

Unless you are arriving into Australia within 6 days of having visited a yellow fever affected country there are currently no particular immunisations or vaccinations required for entry into Australia. Regulations and medical advice can however change at short notice and visitors are advised to check current advice from their local doctor and the Australian Department of Health ( before leaving home.

All visitors are also advised to take out adequate travel insurance before departure.

We recommend visitors carry insect repellent, particularly when travelling in the tropics, and always wear sunscreen / sun protection when travelling outdoors in Australia.

Visitors should always observe safety signs and warnings regarding swimming restrictions and should swim between the red and yellow flags on patrolled surf beaches. Caution should be exercised when entering tropical waters (Northern Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory), particularly during the Australian marine stinger season (late October – early May) when swimmers are advised to swim within the designated stinger-resistant netted areas or wear a full lycra body suit or wetsuit when swimming in unprotected waters (these suits are usually provided by, or are available for hire from, local tour operators).

Money, currency and Australian payment methods

Payments in Australia are all in Australian Dollars.

Credit cards and electronic payment are widely accepted for purchases at most venues across the country (Visa and Mastercard are generally preferred, American Express is not as widely accepted and may attract a surcharge. Diners Club is not widely accepted).

Travellers Cheques are not widely accepted.

Australian banks offer the same range of services typical in other western nations, and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, although facilities may be limited in remote towns and the outback.

Fees may be charged on electronic transactions, particularly if withdrawing from an international account, so we recommend visitors check with their local bank for details before travelling.

Australian prices are generally fixed (haggling is not customary in Australia) and are quoted inclusive of the General Sales Tax (Australian GST is currently set at 10%).

International visitors may be able to claim a refund for the GST paid on goods purchased for more than AUD$300 in a single transaction and made no more than 60 days before departing Australia. Refunds can be claimed with proof of purchase receipt at the airport when departing Australia.

Hotels and restaurants do not generally add service charges to your bill and tipping is at your discretion. Some restaurants may apply a Sunday or Public Holiday dining surcharge, and whilst Australian hospitality workers do not rely on tips for their wages and visitors should not feel obliged to tip, guides and waiters do appreciate your recognition of exceptional service.

Communications in Australia: phone and wifi

The prefix for calling overseas from within Australia is 0011

The prefix for Australia from overseas is +61

To contact Australian emergency services (Fire, Ambulance or Police), call 000

Your tour leader will also be provided with Insight Australia’s 24/7 contact number for emergency support.

Mobile phone coverage is generally good around Australia’s major population centres, however some remote outback locations and islands may not have mobile coverage

Most hotels, major airports / train stations, many fast food chains and most public libraries provide WiFi.

Australian Electricity and Power Adaptors

Australia operates on 220-240 volts AC 50Hz electrical current.

Overseas visitors will need a ‘type 1’ power adaptor for international appliances and chargers. Some sensitive appliances may also require a voltage converter.

Australian Time Zones and Time Differences

Australia is divided into three separate time zones, broadly these are:

Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania & the Australian Capital Territory. AEST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 10 hours (UTC +10).

Australian Central Standard Time (ACST) covers the state of South Australia, the town of Broken Hill in western New South Wales and the Northern Territory. ACST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 9½ hours (UTC +9½).

Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) covers Western Australia. AWST is equal to Coordinated Universal Time plus 8 hours (UTC +8).

Some states also observe daylight savings (summer time) between October and April. Visitors should check for the applicable local time differences.

Cruise ship passengers are advised to pay particular attention to shore times and ship times as these may vary.

Eating and Drinking: Australian food and wine, water and must-try eats

Food hygiene standards and water quality are very high and it is generally safe to eat anywhere and drink the tap water (unless specifically advised otherwise) without concern. In the interests of the environment, and staying hydrated, we recommend carrying a refillable water bottle (ask us about providing your group with Insight Australia’s refillable water bottles).

Most special dietary requirements can be catered for in Australia. Your advice in advance regarding any unusual dietary requirements or allergies is always much appreciated, particularly if visiting remote regions.

The legal drinking age for alcohol and tobacco smoking is 18 years. Official photo identification (passport or similar) may be required at the time of purchase for proof of age. It is illegal to smoke in enclosed public areas, and smoking regulations in outdoor areas vary from state to state. It is therefore safest to assume that smoking is only permitted in clearly designated outdoor areas.

Restaurants that indicate they are “BYO” allow you to ‘bring your own’ bottle of wine to drink at the restaurant (for a small opening or per glass used fee).

In addition to Australia’s award-winning wines and crisp craft beers, ocean-fresh seafoods, tasty cheeses, tropical fruits and delicious local produce from the land and sea, don’t be shy to try some of the iconic flavours for which Australia is famous:

  • A thin spread of vegemite on hot buttered toast for breakfast and Tim Tam biscuits as a treat.
  • Pavlova, lamingtons and ANZAC Biscuits should help satisfy a craving for something sweet.
  • Marron is a local crayfish delicacy from Western Australia), and don’t be put off by the names of Moreton Bay and Balmain ‘bugs’, both are also shellfish delicacies (slipper lobsters) from Australia’s east coast.
  • A ‘burger with the works’ comes with beetroot, pineapple and an egg; whilst the Australian pub-favourite of chicken parmigiana (‘parma’) is a chicken schnitzel topped with Italian-inspired tomato sauce and cheese!
  • If presented with the opportunity, visitors should also try kangaroo, emu, barramundi or crocodile and indigenous Australians’ favourite bush tucker treats, the witchetty grub!

Australian culture and common travel etiquette

  • Australians will most commonly address each other (and you) by first names. This is seen as friendly and informal rather than rude or presumptuous.
  • Australians have a direct and egalitarian communication style, often using sarcasm as humour. However, some Australians may not feel comfortable talking about politics, religion, race or income, these topics are best avoided unless invited.
  • Whilst English is the official language, many Australians speak a local version of it (‘strayan) and have a tendency to shorten words. For example ‘cozzie’ is short for swimming costume (which may also be referred to as togs or bathers), ‘arvo’ is short for afternoon and vegetarians may be referred to as ‘vegos’. Also, be warned that, in Australia, a ‘thong’ goes on your foot, not under a dress: it is the Australian term for flip-flops, slippers or jandals.
  • Australians drive on the left hand-side of the road and the same conventions apply to Australian streets, bike paths, stairs and escalators; keep left where possible.
  • Don’t litter. It’s illegal in Australia to leave rubbish or cigarette butts outside, and rubbish dropped on the street eventually ends up in our waterways, causing pollution and poisoning native fish, birds and animals. At Insight Australia we are supporters of Take 3 for the Sea to help keep Australia beautiful.
  • When drinking at a bar with a group of Australians it is usual to take ‘turns’ in buying a round of drinks (this practice is known as a ‘shout’).

Indigenous Australia Culture and Etiquette

  • We highly recommend reading up on Australia’s fascinating Aboriginal culture before you arrive and suggest taking an indigenous-guided tour at least once during your stay in Australia.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are referred to as Indigenous Australians or by their clan’s name (eg: Kuku Yalanji people from the Daintree or the Anangu people from Uluru) rather than ‘Aborigines’ (which has, often offensive, connotations from Australia’s colonial past).
  • Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, and respect their decision.
  • Only men play the didgeridoo. We encourage visiting women to respect this tradition.
  • It is not uncommon for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to avoid eye contact as a gesture of respect, so don’t be offended if they don’t look you in the eye.
  • Listen to their issues, learn their traditional techniques but resist the urge to offer your solutions (however well intentioned).
  • Buy local, and for a fair price. Authentic Aboriginal artworks can make a beautiful memento of your Australian travels.