Australia Trip Planning
General Travel Information
Australia is a country and continent surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Its major cities — Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide — are coastal. Its capital, Canberra, is inland. The country is known for its Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef, a vast interior desert wilderness called the Outback, and unique animal species.
Australia is the sixth-largest country by land area. It is comparable in size to the 48 contiguous United States. Australia is bordered to the west by the Indian Ocean, and to the east by the South Pacific Ocean. The Tasman Sea lies to the southeast, separating it from New Zealand, while the Coral Sea lies to the northeast. Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Indonesia are Australia’s northern neighbors, separated from Australia by the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea.
Approximately half of all international travelers arrive first in Australia in Sydney (SYD), the largest city. After Sydney, significant numbers of travelers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services into Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand, Oceania, or Southeast Asia.
To Sydney it is a 3 hour flight from New Zealand, a 7–11h flight from countries in Asia, a 14 hour flight from the west of the United States and Canada, a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg, a 13–16h flight from South America, and up to a 24h+ flight from western-Europe.
Try not to over pack. Most hotels offer laundry service. Proper golf attire is required (t-shirts, collarless shirts, un-cuffed golf shorts are not allowed on the courses or in the clubhouses). Casual wear for the evening. Suggest packing a few warm jackets & long sleeve shirts. Rain jacket and waterproof shoes recommended as well (hopefully not needed!).
We highly recommend traveling with a light carry golf bag in a canvas style carrying case. Large golf bags and hard carrying cases can cause problems when traveling since it takes up a lot of vehicle space.
Australia can have up to five different time zones during the daylight savings period, and three at other times.
Australia is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +8 to +10 Standard time depending on territory). During daylight saving months (first Sunday in October until first Sunday in April), the clock is moved forward one hour (GMT +8 to +11 depending on territory, Daylight time).
New South Wales, Victoria & Queensland Territories are fifteen (15) hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time during their daylight saving months.
When it is 12 midnight in Victoria (Melbourne), it is:
- 9 am in New York, Montreal, Atlanta, and Miami
- 8 am in Chicago, Dallas, and Winnipeg
- 6 am in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Vancouver
The time conversion websites are most useful!
To call home to the US direct, dial 001 followed by the area code and phone number. If you decide to call from your hotel room, always check the cost as an additional service charge is generally added by the hotel. These charges can be expensive! You can have your mobile phone activated by your service provider to use it either for text messages only or text and call.
Customs operates on the red (declare) & green (nothing to declare) channel system. For more detailed information, we suggest visiting www.customs.gov on the Internet. USA citizens do require a Visitor Visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for entry to Australia (other nationals will need to check to see if there country has a visa wavier agreement). For Americans, a passport is also required for identification that is valid for at least three months longer than their intended stay.. Visitors from other countries will also require a passport valid for at least three months longer than their intended stay.
Australia’s national currency is the Australian dollar which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations.
Their colorful notes depict famous Australians both past and present. Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and most city centres.
Banking hours are usually 9.30am to 4.00pm Monday to Thursday and until 5.00pm on Friday. Some branches can be found open on Saturday mornings. Australia’s four largest banks are: National Bank of Australia, Australia New Zealand (ANZ) Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation. Smaller banks include: ING Direct, AMP Banking and HSBC Australia.
The easiest way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine) with an international network such as Cirrus (MasterCard) or PLUS (Visa). Australian ATMs use a four-digit code, so check with your bank and make sure you change yours before you leave home if you do not have a four-digit pin.
Goods & Services Tax
Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10 per cent. You may be able to claim a refund of the GST paid on goods bought here if you have spent AUD$300 or more in one store, no more than 30 days before departing Australia. Tourist Refund GST facilities are located in the departure area of international terminals. For more detailed information see Australian government information on Tourist Refund GST.
Hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill, and tipping is always your choice. In upmarket restaurants, it is common to tip waiters 10 per cent of the bill for good service.
Golf Club Information
Visitors are welcome in the clubhouses in Australia. After golf smart casual attire is suggested.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Many clubs throughout Australia will not allow golf shoes (spiked or spike less) in the clubhouse. We advise bringing a pair of street shoes with you to each golf course.
Carts & Caddies
Riding carts and caddies (where available) can be requested in advance by The Golf Travel Group. Cart fees can be included as part of your tour package and in some cases inclusive of the green fee. Caddie fees are paid direct on the day of play in local currency.
Please make sure that all members of your party carry a valid handicap card from their home club, however, handicap cards are not mandatory for play.
Australia’s climate varies greatly throughout the eight states and territories; there are four seasons across most of the country and a wet and dry season in the tropical north. Australia’s seasons are at opposite times to those in the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.
In tropical north Australia, the dry season from May to October has clear blue skies and sunny days. It’s the time to experience Darwin’s vibrant outdoor markets, movies and festivals. December to March is the wet season, which is hot and humid with daily rainstorms. See waterfalls thunder through Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks or fly over Katherine Gorge when its water levels are highest.
Spring in Australia, from September to November is the time to watch for whales and wildflowers as you explore the wineries of Western Australia’s Margaret River region. For example, Sydney and Melbourne will have day time highs that average about 72 F (20 C) with an average low of about 52 F (11 C).
Summer in Australia, from December to February, is a great time to get outdoors. Swim Sydney’s beaches or hike Tasmania’s Overland Track. For example, Sydney and Melbourne will have day time highs that average about 79 F (25 C) with an average low of about 65 F (18 C).
March to May heralds Australia’s autumn, a season of fiery foliage in Canberra and the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne. For example, Sydney and Melbourne will have day time highs that average about 70 F (24 C) with an average low of about 48 F (9 C).
Australia’s winter, from June to August, offers snow skiing in the Australian Alps. Alternatively, take a winter sun vacation. Snorkel in the temperate Great Barrier Reef or 4WD through South Australia’s Simpson Desert. For example, Sydney and Melbourne will have day time highs that average about 62 F (16 C) with an average low of about 45 F (8 C).
Territories & States
Major Cities, Territories & States
Mainland Australia is the worlds’ largest island but also the smallest continent. The country is divided into six states and two territories. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane & Canberra are five of the major cities that visitors are familiar with.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) bounds the national capital of Canberra and is the centre of government. The Australian Capital Territory is located approximately 290 kilometres (180 miles) south of Sydney, and is home to a number of important national institutions, including Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery of Australia.
At the top end of Australia lies the Northern Territory (NT). Darwin, on the northern coast, is the capital, and Alice Springs is the principal inland town. Alice Springs is the physical heart of Australia, almost exactly at the nation’s geographical centre. The Northern Territory is home to the famous Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and Kakadu National Park.
New South Wales
New South Wales (NSW) is Australia’s oldest and most populous state. New South Wales was originally settled as a penal colony on the shores of Port Jackson where the bustling capital city of Sydney now stands. Sydney is the nation’s largest city and is renowned for its idyllic beaches, great walks and world-class dining. New South Wales is also home to popular attractions including the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley wine region.
Queensland (QLD) is Australia’s second-largest state (in size) and is home to the world famous Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most extensive subtropical rainforest and the beautiful Queensland Islands — including the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. Brisbane is the state’s capital; it enjoys more winter sunshine and warmth than most Australian cities and is perfect for outdoor activities and water sports.
South Australia (SA) sits in the southern central part of the country, and covers some of the most arid parts of the continent. The state’s capital is Adelaide and is a great base for exploring the Barossa wineries, the Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island. South Australia has a thriving arts scene and is known as the ‘Festival State’, with more than 500 events and festivals taking place there each year.
Tasmania (TAS) is separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait and is the smallest state in Australia. The capital, Hobart, was founded in 1804 as a penal colony, and is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney. One-fifth of Tasmania is covered by national parks and wilderness — abundant in driving routes and walking trails — and it is one of the world’s most mountainous islands.
Victoria (VIC) is the smallest of the mainland states in size but is home to the country’s second most populated city, Melbourne. Often referred to as the nation’s cultural capital, Melbourne is famed for its graffiti laneways, fashion-forward boutiques and booming café scene. Victorians’ enthusiasm for sport is also legendary and this is where Australian Rules football began. The only thing more sacred than the footy is Melbournians love of coffee, and here you’ll find some of Australia’s best flat whites, cappuccinos and piccolo lattes.
Western Australia (WA) is Australia’s largest state and is a place of true contrasts: from desert in the east to 13,000 kilometres of pristine coastline on the west. The state’s capital is Perth; the fourth most populous city in Australia and famed for its uncrowded beaches, parklands and fresh seafood. Off the coast of Esperance, in the state’s south, is Middle Island, which is home to the extraordinary pink-coloured Lake Hillier.
Australia also administers Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (or Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island and the Australian Antarctic Territory (covering 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent) as external territories.
Other Items To Know
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Australia has a vast network of well-maintained roads and some of the most beautiful road trips in the world. Follow Victoria’s Great Ocean Road as it hugs our spectacular southeast coastline or experience Australia’s Red Centre in an epic drive across the desert. You’ll find car rental companies at major airports and central city locations; so hire a car, 4WD, caravan or motorbike and hit the highway.
In Australia they drive on the left hand side of the road and their vehicles seat the driver on the right. Always drive on the left hand side of the road in Australia. If you’re used to driving on the right hand side of the road, this can be a challenge at first to remember especially when pulling out into traffic. Remember — if you are driving, you will be seated in the middle of the road — your front seat passenger will be the on edge of the road. Speed limits and road signs will be well posted.
Flying is the best way to cover Australia’s large distances in a short time. Australia’s domestic airlines — including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tiger Airways and Rex — serve all state capital cities and many regional cities. Competition between domestic airlines means that some great value fares are available, especially if you book in advance.
There are also spectacular rail journeys such as The Ghan and Indian Pacific, which sweep across the continent, offering comfort and a sense of nostalgic romance. The Indian Pacific travels between Sydney and Perth, stopping at Broken Hill, Adelaide and Kalgoorlie; the legendary Ghan travels between Adelaide and Darwin, taking in Australia’s Red Centre and the tropical Top End.
Australia Is On The Metric
Australia follows the international metric system. Temperature, distance, velocity and weights are in metric units. 1km is equal to .6 mile. 80 km/hour is equal to 50 mph. 28 degrees C is equal to 80 degrees F.
Australia’s official language is English. However, Australia is a multicultural nation with a significant migrant population, so it’s common to hear a diverse range of languages in Australia’s cities and towns.
Passport, Visa & Drivers’ License
A valid U.S., Canadian or other national passport is required (valid for 3 months past your intended stay). For USA citizens, a Visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is required. To drive a car, a valid driver’s license is sufficient.
You do not need a visa to visit Australia if you are:
- New Zealand or Australian citizen or resident
- A citizen and passport holder of a country which has a visa waiver agreement with Australia (you can stay up to three months). Please check with your national country to see if they have a visa waiver agreement.
If you don’t meet the above, then you’ll need a visitor visa, which allows you to holiday in Australia for up to nine months. Please check with your state department regarding Visa requirements.
Credit Cards & ATMs
Most credit cards are widely accepted and are useful for buying gas, shopping, dining out, etc. The most widely used are Visa and MasterCard. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are open 24-hours daily. At ATMs displaying the Cirrus, Plus or Interac international banking network symbols, visitors can withdraw Australian funds using their own personal automated banking cards or credit cards. The visitors’ bank sets the exchange rate.
Traveller’s cheques are not as widely accepted in Australia as in many other countries. If you do purchase them, it is best to buy them in Australian dollars as smaller shops, restaurants, and other businesses are unlikely to know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency such as US dollars or British pounds.
In addition, be sure to advise your bank and credit card company that you are traveling and will be using your credit card for purchases in Australia.
Golf Handicap Card
Please make sure that all members of your party carry a valid handicap card from their home club, however, it is not mandatory to play the courses.
In Australia, electricity is at 220 or 240 volts; therefore, an adaptor is necessary for most electrical appliances. The plugs in Australia have two flat metal pins, forming an inverted ‘V’ shape, and occasionally a third pin in the centre. Some hotels have sockets for electric razors at 110 volts. The best place to purchase such an adaptor is before your flight at the international airport duty free shop, as they are not generally stocked in local stores.
Vacation Travel Insurance
There are varieties of travel insurance that cover everything from health and accident costs, to lost baggage and trip cancellation. They can be obtained with one blanket policy, or they may overlap with coverage you already have. It is best to consult your insurance agent to determine what coverage is best for you.