1. Local Currency
Australia’s currency is the Australian dollar (AUD), made up of 100 cents.
There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
Although the smallest coin in circulation is 5c, prices are often still marked in single cents and then rounded to the nearest 5c when you come to pay.
Cash amounts equal to or in excess of the equivalent of AUD$10,000 (in any currency) must be declared on arrival or departure.
Australia’s official language is English although, because it is such a multi-cultural country, it’s not unusual to walk down a city street and hear people speaking Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Vietnamese or Arabic as their first language.
Any person from abroad who thinks that Australian is simply a weird-sounding variant of English is in for a surprise.
The colloquial language may mean you’ll be lost in a strange maze of Australian words.
The meaning of some words in Australia is completely different from that in other English-speaking countries, some commonly used words have been shortened almost beyond recognition while others are derived from Aboriginal languages, or from the slang used by early convict settlers.
3. Time Zones
Australia has 3 time zones:
Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) - GMT +10 includes New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland;
Australian Central Time (ACT) - GMT +9.5 includes South Australia and The Northern Territory;
Australian Western Standard Time (AWST) - GMT +8 for Western Australia.
Daylight Saving, where the clocks get put forward by an hour, starts on the last Sunday in October (for Tasmania, it’s the first Sunday) and ends the last Sunday in March, but this doesn’t apply in Queensland because Queensland farmers reckon the extra hour of daylight will upset the cows.
All domestic electricity in Australia is 220-240V, 50Hz and the plugs are different to many other places in the world so you may need adaptors if you’re going to bring your own appliances.
5. Shopping hours
Hours vary a little from state to state but most shops and businesses open about 9am and close at 5pm Monday to Friday, with Saturday hours usually from 9am to either noon or 5pm.
Sunday trading is becoming increasingly common but is currently limited to major cities, urban areas and tourist towns.
In most towns there are usually one or two late shopping nights a week, normally Thursday and/or Friday, when doors stay open until about 9pm.
Australia is well and truly a card-carrying society.
Banks are found all over Australia, and many provide 24-hour automated teller machines (ATMs).
Most ATMs accept cards issued by other banks and are linked to international networks. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) is a convenient service that many Australian businesses have embraced.
6. Food and Drink
Typically, a restaurant meal in Australia is a relaxed affair.
You’ll probably order within 15 minutes, and see the first course in 20 minutes and the main about half an hour later.
Solo diners will find that cafés and noodle bars are welcoming, and good fine dining restaurants often treat you like you own the place.
In major cities the variety of quick eats is great; gourmet sandwich bars and delis, globally inspired takeaways, bakeries, and sushi or salad bars and if you’re at a rugby league or Aussie Rules football match, a meat pie is compulsory fare (not bad either).
All sorts of takeaway menus will be put into your mail box, everything from Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian, to roast chicken, fish and chips, and pizza.
Supermarkets are everywhere, as are 24-hour convenience stores (mostly in the major cities).
Australia’s fresh food markets offer wonderful fresh produce, and a visit to the Sydney Fish Market or Melbourne’s Queen Victoria market should not be missed.
7. Some local Regulations
Smoking is banned in most eateries, and most states and territories are bringing in non-smoking sections in bars, clubs and pubs, too, so it’s getting quite unlikely that you’ll be able to smoke inside, it’s best to never plan on it.
Push bike riders are required to wear helmets in all states and territories, as are white front lights and red rear lights for riding at night.
Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road and all cars are right-hand drive.
The general speed limit in built-up areas is 60km/h, but this has been reduced to 50km/h (and in some cases 40km/h) on residential streets in most states, keep an eye out for signs.
Near schools, the limit is 40km/h in the morning and afternoon.
On the open highway it’s usually 100km/h or 110km/h. and getting caught over the speed limit can result in a hefty fine.