So you’re going to Australia? I know of more than a few wise people who are following my advice and heading really, really far south. Good on ya, as they’ll say in Australia. Rather than just hording my favorite tips for family and friends, I’ll share ’em with all of you.
1. Airline tickets – Australia’s a huge country, and it’s also very empty in the center. If you want to visit a few cities (and you should), think about something like the Qantas Aussie AirPass. I couldn’t find anything similar from Air New Zealand or V Australia – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – call either airline and ask if they have something to compete with Qantas for multi-city visits.
2. Eating in the air – Don’t bring food. None of the Australia or New Zealand-based airlines will starve you. In fact, they’ll try to stuff you full of food, fresh fruit and free beer and wine. You’ll even get breakfast. Also, being a big island, Australia is determined to keep foreign stuff away. Even your snacks can pose a threat to the Australian ecosystem, apparently. So away put your trail mix – you will not need it.
3. Clean your outdoor gear – I showed up with dirt from my local trails on my hiking boots. This was met with extreme disapproval by the Ozzy customs agents. Again, it’s an ecosystem thing. So arrive with clean gear.
4. This isn’t the usual coffee – Australia has a pretty distinct coffee culture. Rarely will you get to put cream in your own coffee. And that coffee is usually made espresso-style. I can’t even remember drinking drip coffee there. The good news is that the average Australian barista is well-trained and on par with the upper echelon of American baristas. That’s the way they roll.
5. Tomato sauce and capsicum – That’s ketchup and green pepper to you, yank! Brush up on some of the lingo, if possible.
6. Bond with Aussies in an instant – Want to strike up a conversation with just about any Aussie? Ask for a few tips on understanding cricket. The entire country seems to be sharply divided on Ozzy rules football (aka footy or AFL), Rugby Union and Rugby League. But they all share the love for cricket. Just acting mildly interested is a perfect ice breaker, and you’ll have a new friend in an instant.
7. Relax – Don’t let anything bother you. Missing luggage? Remain calm. Train late? Cool your jets. Things have a way of working out down there, especially if you maintain your composure and sense of humor.
8. Don’t be afraid to drive – I know it’s not the way you’re used to driving. But you should give it a go. Once you stop turning on the windshield wipers when you want to turn on the turn signals, that means you’re making progress. For the first few hours, though, if you feel right at home, you’re doing something wrong.
9. Don’t go to the Australian Venom Zoo before you go camping. Unless you like staying awake at night and quivering in fear.
10. Tipping is kind of rare there. I felt weird about this, but it’s true.
11. You won’t be here every week – It’s a long flight, and a big block of time. Make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to creep outside your budget a bit to do something truly cool that you can’t do anywhere else. But make it worthwhile, like some sort of crazy tour or experience. My main indulgence was a sweet didgeridoo. It was a pain in the butt to lug it around and it nearly caused coronaries for the baggage people in Los Angeles, but it was too cool not to bring home.
There! You’re well on your way to a great Australian vacation. I’ll see you soon … with your kangaroo scrotum keychain, a boomerang and a pound of Highland Pearls coffee beans!
If there’s anything you’re wondering that I haven’t mentioned here, feel free to ask. I’ll answer in a follow-up post. That goes for anywhere … not just Australia.