These days, just about everyone’s Facebook or Instagram feed is filled with posts about a friend or relative’s recent vacation abroad. Thanks to an increasingly competitive airline industry and the “yolo” hashtag, satisfying your wanderlust has never been as easy (or fashionable).
Unlike other Western countries that require 15 or 18-hour flights with layovers in between (Hello, England, my love), direct flights to Australia are at a relatively more comfortable 8.5 hours. The country is also blessed with so many natural wonders, breathtaking architecture, and some of the best seafood you can eat. Little wonder that this continent-country became a sought-after destination for many Filipino travelers in no time.
In honor of Discovering Australia month (and in service to you, dear reader), here are a handful of things to bear in mind to make your vacation to Down Under a lot more fun and effortless than it’s already bound to be:
1. Australia is HUGE and oh-so-beautifully-diverse.
Forget about trying to see it all within one week. The land of kangaroos and koalas might look small on the map, but bear in mind that Australia is also a continent. It would take you at least six months to see the country in its entirety.
If you want to see more of the country, opt for local flights over road trips. The latter take much longer and you end up having to pass through a lot of uninteresting towns along the way for days if you plan on driving along the vastly-populated East Coast. Taking a plane from Brisbane to Perth, on the other hand, only lasts 5.5 hours and you have more time to explore places that are actually worth exploring.
Deciding on where to go depends on what you’re looking for. Sydney and Melbourne are certainly active and vibrant while the smaller cities of Hobart and Darwin are more laid-back, not to mention cold.
So, worry not if you don’t end up seeing all the sights on one trip. All the more reason to come back, eh?
2. Aussies speak a different kind of English.
We Filipinos pride ourselves on our fairly excellent grasp of the English language, but we’re mostly acquainted with the American version of such. Australian English still abides by the same grammatical rules and does use mostly the same words, but they have their own vernacular that takes getting used to.
For example, “chips” refers to what we know as French fries rather than their crispy, paper-thin cousins (if you want potato chips, ask for “crisps”). If you need to refuel, ask where you can get “petrol” rather than “gas,” and if you need ointment for that sunburn you got while bushwalking (that means hiking, by the way) in the glorious Australian outdoors, look for the “chemist” and not the “pharmacy.” The bustling city center is referred to as the CBD or the Central Business District, so remember that when you need to ask for directions.
Much like us Filipinos, Aussies also love shortening words. So, “brekky” means “breakfast,” “arvo” is short for “afternoon,” and “Barbie” refers not to your daughter’s favorite toy but to a “barbecue.”
Lastly, if you make new friends and end up going to a sporting event with your new “mates,” don’t ask them who they are rooting for. “Rooting” here means “having sex,” oops!
3. The weather is topsy-turvy Down Under.
Because of its unique position on the globe, there aren’t really any white Christmases in Australia. The summer season here runs from December to March, and it can get really hot. In some of the drier parts of the country, bushfires are a daily occurrence, but it can also rain a lot elsewhere. The whole of Brisbane got flooded during the summer of 2010, for instance.
If you are looking for snow, you may want to visit some parts of the country from June onwards. About three Australian states cater to travelers who are keen on snow activities like snowboarding and skiing: New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
Generally, though, the best time to visit Australia is on April/May or October/November. Then, it would be warm and sunny, but the breeze is pleasantly cool and there’s a lot less rain.
4. You might get a little Internet withdrawal.
Sure, they have free wi-fi in most cafés and hostels, but they can be unbearably slow.
If you really, really need to go online, libraries and good ol’ Mickey D’s (McDonald’s) are your best bet for free and usable wi-fi. And if it’s an absolute must for you to have a reliable connection the whole time you’re in Australia, have your service provider unlock your mobile phone before leaving the Philippines so you can use a Telstra Pay As You Go sim card upon arriving. This option will set you back by around AUD30-50 a month, however.
Otherwise, just go offline. There will be plenty of time for you to upload all your photos when you get home anyway, and a splendid Australian sunset on the beach is best viewed with your own eyes rather than through your phone’s 5-megapixel camera lens.
5. Tipping is not mandatory here.
Thanks to the relatively generous minimum wage of AUD16.87 per hour, Australian service industry workers don’t rely on tips to make a living. So, unlike in the US, you won’t need to leave a tip for hotel staff, hairdressers, or waiters. If you leave a few coins on your table, the staff might end up running after you to return the “spare change” you left behind.
Of course, if you were on the receiving end of some truly impressive service, you can still leave a tip. Just hand it over directly to the waiter or bartender with a discreet “handshake” and a “Cheers, mate.”
6. Rice isn’t the most readily available carb. Are you the type of person who doesn’t think a meal is complete unless you’re eating it with rice? If so, you may want to adjust your standards a bit since rice meals aren’t common in Australia. Here, an entrée of steak or prawns is often accompanied by potatoes or a side salad while some eateries do away with fancy plates entirely and serve massive burgers instead.
Of course, if you really can’t take the rice deprivation, you could just head to the nearest Filipino store or restaurant. Chinese restaurants are also ideal as a last resort.
7. Saying “G’day” or “G’day, mate” is best left to the locals.
It can sound patronizing when it’s coming from a visitor or a foreigner, so a simple “Hello, how are you?” will suffice when you are meeting someone for the first time.
Also, feel free to address someone by their first time even when meeting them for the first time. The majority of Aussies are warm, sincere, and largely informal, so they prefer to do away with formal titles.
8. In crossing the street, look to the right and then to the left rather than the other way around.
This is one of those reminders that could literally save your life one day.
Australians drive on the left hand side of the road, so you need to look to the right for oncoming vehicles rather than the other way around (like we do here). Fail to remember, and at the very least, you’ll get shocked by the sight of a car or a truck careening in your direction.