Australia is the sixth largest country in the world – more or less the same size as mainland USA. However, this vast land has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with only three people per square kilometre. Although known for its modern, cosmopolitan cities, Australia enshrines vast swathes of undeveloped wilderness, making it a good travel destination for those wanting a taste of both urban chic and striking landscapes devoid of people.
Australia is politically divided into six states and two territories, each one offering a different experience for the traveller. There is the drama of the remote ‘Outback’, the colourful spectacle of the Great Barrier Reef and its coral islands, the excitement of the big, efficient cities, the sun and surf at some of the best beaches in the world, and the tropical rainforests of Western Australia. The list is endless in this diverse land of adventure, which boasts about 2,000 national parks and 14 World Heritage-listed areas, along with more than 7,000 beaches.
Australia is a land of character too, with its melting pot of cultures. For more than 50,000 years the Aboriginal people lived and thrived in the continent’s unique environment. It is believed the Aboriginals are one of the world’s oldest surviving civilisations, and recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in keeping the Aboriginal culture alive and flourishing in Australia.
This vast continent at the bottom of the world was the last landmass to be discovered by European explorers. Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770 and sparked off waves of emigration to Australia, which for some time served as a penal colony. It was not until 1860 that two explorers – Robert Burke and William Wills – became the first Europeans to cross Australia from south to north. The country remains a magnet for modern explorers and adventurers and has a great deal to offer tourists and holidaymakers.
GMT +10 (GMT +11, Oct – Apr)
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin flat blade plugs are used but are different to those in most other countries, so an adapter is normally required.
English is the official language of Australia.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by travellers over one year of age arriving within six days of having stayed overnight or longer in an infected country. No other special immunizations or medications are required for most trips to Australia; however, insect repellents are strongly advised because of the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses. Another health risk is sunburn, and visitors are advised to take precautions. Medical services are excellent, but can be expensive so travellers should ensure that they have adequate insurance. Australia has a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom providing for free hospital emergency medical treatment; proof of UK residence is required.
There are no mandatory gratuities or restaurant service charges in Australia, and tips are not generally expected, although it is becoming more common in expensive restaurants in the bigger cities to leave some money for good service. Australians are ultimately divided over tipping and there are no reliable rules to apply.
The crime rate in Australia is low; however, travellers should be aware that tourists could be targeted by petty criminals. Be vigilant about personal possessions and travel documents, particularly in popular tourist destinations such as along the Gold Coast. Tropical cyclones normally occur between November and April in some parts of Australia, particularly in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. There is a serious risk of bush fires in summer (November to March), especially in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and ACT. Also during the summer months, the shallow coastal waters of northern Australia and Queensland become infested with marine stingers, commonly known as box jellyfish, whose sting is highly dangerous and can be deadly. Visitors should pay attention to signs on beaches and follow the instructions of local lifeguards to avoid injury.
Generally an informal attitude, in dress and behaviour, prevails in most social and business situations. Sport, particularly rugby and cricket, is almost a religion in Australia.
Those doing business in Australia are sure to find that the friendly yet professional corporate atmosphere of the country will provide them with an exciting opportunity to develop their careers. The business culture of Australia is a bit of a hybrid breed, incorporating the trappings of British formality and conservatism, the egalitarian ethos of Scandinavian countries, and the dynamic, innovative approach to business that is generally thought of as American in origin – rounded out, of course, with typical Australian warmth and humour. The approach to management in Australia is consultative, pragmatic, and strictly non-hierarchical. Those in positions of relative power are accorded respect by virtue of their personal qualities, not simply because they happen to be the boss.
Business etiquette in Australia further reflects this egalitarian ethos. Use titles initially, though you will almost certainly be told to dispense with them – at which point, you should refer to your colleagues by their first names. Maintain eye contact when speaking to your associates, as this is regarded as a sign of forthrightness and trustworthiness – qualities which Australian businesspeople tend to favour over showiness, self-aggrandisement or empty promises. Business meetings in Australia should be scheduled about a week in advance, and then confirmed a few days before they are due to take place.
Be punctual, as lateness can be seen as a symptom of flakiness or indifference. Business meetings in Australia do not generally proceed from a set agenda. Rather, they are viewed as open forums, in which ideas are to be debated and discussed. In fact, over-preparing for a meeting can make you seem pushy – as though you wish to bully others into adopting your opinions on the issue at hand. The dress code for business in Australia remains surprisingly traditional: dark suits and ties are the norm for men; for women, business suits, worn either with pants or a skirt. As a general rule, avoid loud jewellery and accessories as to Australian eyes they might make you seem arrogant. The official language of business in Australia is English, and business hours are generally from 8.30am (or 9am) to 5pm (or 5.30pm), Monday to Friday.
The international dialling code for Australia is +61. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be quite high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Travellers to Australia over 18 years do not have to pay customs duty on 2.25 litres of alcohol; and 50 cigarettes or 50g of cigars or tobacco products (note that all tobacco products in your baggage are included in this category, regardless of where they were purchased). Gifts are included in the A$900 duty-free allowance. Fresh produce and animal/plant products are prohibited.
Australia has a hot and sunny climate, with most of the country receiving more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. In summer (December to March) the average temperature is 84°F (29°C). The hottest region is the northern two-thirds of the continent, which experiences humid and wet conditions in summer. Further south summer is warm with occasional hot spells and mild nights. Winter (June to August) averages 56°F (13°C) for the country as a whole, with warm days and mild nights in the northern areas, becoming cool and showery in the south (although there are still plenty of sunny days).
Australia is a vast landmass and the climate does vary from region to region so travellers are advised to research the weather in the region they are visiting, but generally the country has very pleasant weather year-round.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS FOR SOUTH AFRICANS
South African nationals must have a passport valid for the duration of stay. A visa is required.
A valid passport and a visa or ETA is required for travel to Australia. An ETA is an electronically issued and verified visa, not visible in a passport. ETAs are issued to passengers travelling for touristic or business purposes. Tourist ETAs are usually valid for three months. ETAs are obtainable online at: www.eta.immi.gov.au or through most travel agents. It is highly recommended that passports are valid six months after departure from a holiday destination.
The unit of currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD), which is divided into 100 cents. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are freely available throughout the country. Banks and bureaux de change exchange most foreign currencies. Banking hours are generally 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Friday, but some banks offer extended hours and some are open on Saturday mornings.