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What You Need to Know Before Traveling to Australia

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

How to enjoy in-the-know, safe + stress-free travels in the land down under.

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Australia is one of our all time favorite destinations, especially as Eric was born in Brisbane. The stunning beaches, adventure-filled hiking trails, epic surf, rich foods and cheeky locals make it a wonderland for those who like to explore both the wonders of Mother Nature and the vibrant cultures of foreign cities. However, just like any country, there are aspects of Australia that might be confounding to tourists. To help you navigate it like a pro, here’s a heads up about the key idiosyncrasies of Aussie life.

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1. There’s terminology you need to know.

Black sign with petrol, the Australian term for gasoline

While you can definitely get by with basic English in Australia, there are a few words that might throw you off. For example...

Cookies are Biscuits.

Candy is lollies.

Gas is petrol.

Trash or garbage is rubbish.

2. The conversion is (currently) super favorable for American travelers.

Before you scoff at Australian prices (which are higher than many Americans are used to) know that when a charge shows up on your credit card it will be much less than you expect. For example, a $180 charge in AUD is about $120 in USD (at least in 2019.)

3. You can't use US dollars.

Australian money spread out on white surface

While Mexico and many Central American countries will accept USD, Australian vendors expect AUD. However, you can use credit cards, just make sure to put travel alerts on them before you depart.

4. Don’t lose your coins.

When you’re handed a fistful of change, don’t dismiss it, as Australia has $1 and $2 coins (they’re the small gold ones.)

5. Drive on the left side of the road.

Australian sign reminding people to drive on left side of road

You probably already know this, but we included it to ensure travelers understand how initially tricky this can be if you’re from a country that drives on the right side. If possible, spend a few days becoming comfortable with this change before doing heavy duty driving. In addition, drinking and driving is even more dangerous when you’re not used to driving on the left side, as the inebriated brain will easily shift to its go-to of driving on the right side of the road.

6. No left hand turn on a red light.

When you’re making a left hand turn in Australia it feels as though you should be able to turn on a red light, just like you often can in the United States when you’re making a right turn on red. But don’t, because it’s illegal.

7. It’s easy to get a speeding ticket, or popped for driving under the influence.

Cars driving on a highway by the ocean and mountains under a blue sky with white clouds

Beyond the classic method of on-the-road police handing out tickets, there are also cameras that will clock you for going too fast or too slow (we learned this the expensive way), so honor the speed limit even when there aren’t police around. In addition, vans that act as checkpoints for under-the-influence drivers are common, especially on weekend or holiday evenings. And they don't just breathalyze, they do a cotton swab test to check for drugs.

8. Their speed limits are slower than many areas in the United States.

You’ll likely be a driving a bit slower than you’re used to, but as we mentioned above, they take speeding seriously so slow it down and enjoy the scenery.

9. They use roundabouts instead of stop lights.

Roundabout in Australia

Know that when you come to a roundabout yield to the cars coming from your right.

10. Be aware of toll road fees.

Many cities in Australia have toll roads, so if you’re renting a vehicle, ask the agency about their toll road protocol, as some automatically charge you, and others expect you to take care of it on your own through this government website. Fees are rarely more than $5 for the day.

11. Almost all outlets have a switch.

Cell phone and laptop charger on a brown leather briefcase