You’re off to Australia – an exciting country, full of opportunities for adventure.  You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve looked at the maps, now it time to know what you really need to know before you go.

Australia is big – very big

Distances that appear small on a map can be much larger in reality.  The south-west tip of Western Australia to the north-east tip of Queensland is approximately the same distance as Morocco to Lithuania.  It’s a 10 hour drive between Sydney and Melbourne and a three day drive between Sydney and Perth.  Distances aren’t a problem, but they do require preparation.


The weather is diverse

Australia has camels and penguins.  They don’t live together (which could be fun), they live thousands of kilometres apart.  Australia has deserts, tropical rainforests and cool maritime climates so you’d better be prepared with appropriate clothing.  The south of Australia, especially Victoria and Tasmania can get cold, even during summer, so a jacket is always a good idea.

The sun is hot – very hot

In Europe the sun is yellow, in Japan it is red and in Australia it is white.  The sun in Australia is different and warrants particular care.  In the middle of summer, you will be burnt within 15 minutes without sunscreen.  In fact, children cannot play at school without a hat.  And redheads have been know to have burst into flames.

Bring sunglasses, a hat and long shirts.  Don’t sunbath unless you want to turn red.  Go to the beach early or late in the day to avoid the worst UV.

So drink water!

If you’re outside in the summer heat, it is recommended that you drink a litre of water every hour.  Beer and coffee don’t really count!  The rule of thumb: if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.  Water, anyone?

Dangerous animals

Yes, Australia is famous for dangerous animals.  And yes, you’ll be safe.

Avoid snakes by staying away from long grass and sand dunes.

Don’t swim in unknown Billabongs in the Northern Territory.

Keep your finger out of dark spaces to avoid spiders… actually, this is a good rule in general.

We’re city folk

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world. Despite our reputation for crocodile catching in the Outback, we’re more likely to be grabbing a cappuccino and catching a movie.  You can have most of Australia to yourself, which can be a very good thing if you are properly prepared.

Quarantine and customs are strict

Australia’s isolation has stopped a large range of plants, insects and diseases from arriving.  And Australian customs are keen to keep it that way.  If you bring untreated wood, seeds or fresh food from overseas, you must declare them.  If customs suspects that they could introduce something unwanted into Australia they will take them and incinerate them.

If you’ve been on a farm or rural area in a tropical country and have mud on your shoes, you might have to wash them at the airport.

Taking fruit from one state to another is also not allowed.  The country is so big that animals and insects are isolated to certain areas.

Planning your trip to Australia but more than a little freaked out by all the stories of deadly Australian spiders who are hanging out at the airport for a tasty tourist to sink their teeth into? Rest assured, our spiders are neither super aggressive nor have they caused a fatality in 40 years.

Since 1979, the last known fatality from a spider bite in Australia, antivenom has been introduced for Australia’s two deadly spiders. These two which you should watch out for are the Red Back Spider and the Funnel Web spider.

Red Back Spider  

These guys are located Australia wide and characterized by their black (sometimes brown) bodies and signature red dot/stripe on their back. They are small, roughly 1-4cm and super common, in fact I’m pretty sure there is one in the door frame of our office right now. Only the female species are capable of causing harm so make sure you do the washing up and put the toilet seat down:)

Funnel Web Spider

Funnel webs are only located in Southeast Australia and only the Sydney Funnel Web is a killer. These spiders are a little harder to spot and could be mixed up with many other varieties of spiders. They are black, perhaps slightly bigger than a red black (1-5cm) and ugly as sin. Like the Red Backs, only the females are dangerous.


How to be spider aware

Here are a few steps that are second nature to any Aussie when enjoying the great outdoors:


  1. Spiders like dark, enclosed spaces. If your shoes (or for that matter any clothing) has been left outside overnight or for an extended period of time, you will want to follow these steps. Tap them by their heel on the ground to dislodge any creepy crawlys, followed by pressing down on the top of the shoe. Repeat the tapping on ground for extra peace of mind.
  2. Sheds, pot plants, outside toilets, outside furniture, logs (with loose bark), firewood are where you will most likely encounter a spider. Remember our spiders are not aggressive unless they are disturbed, so don’t be sticking your finger or your toe into these spaces. If you are sitting on an outside chair or lounge just have a quick look under the seat and cushions before you relax.
  3. If you are camping, make sure you keep your tent zipped up.
  4. If walking in wooded areas, wear enclosed shoes.


If for some unfortunate reason you are bitten and you think it was from one of the above two spiders you will want to get to a hospital or a nursing station(if you are in a remote place) pretty quick so that they can monitor you and administer antivenom if needed. Applying an ice pack or cold compression can lessen the pain for a red back bite, however if you are bitten by a funnel web you will need to firmly bandage the entire effected limb.


If you were asked to describe an average Australian, what would they look like?

Perhaps like Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson or Heath Ledger?  Or maybe like Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett or Kylie Minogue?

When you arrive in Australia, you’ll find that it’s something very different indeed.

For a start, 33% percent (6,163,667) of Australians were born overseas, nearly one in five (18 per cent) having arrived since the start of 2012.

And 49% of Australians were born overseas or their parents were.  Half of all Australians started as something else!

Whilst England and New Zealand are still the biggest source of new Australians, China and India has contributed 8.3% and 7.4% of the population, respectively.  So while Smith, Jones and Williams are still the most common names in the country, the seventh most-common name is Nguyen, owing to the country’s large Vietnamese community.

In 2016, more than 20% of households spoke over 300 separately languages spoken in Australian homes. More than one-fifth (21 per cent) of Australians spoke a language other than English at home.

Meanwhile, the number of people identifying as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin is on the rise, increasing from 2.5 per cent of the Australian population in 2011 to 2.8 per cent (or almost 650,000 people) in 2016.

What does this mean for travellers?

For a start, people-watching is wonderful with almost every imaginable face to be found.

You can find delicious, authentic food from all over the world everywhere you go.  Chinese and Chilean, Thai and Turkish, German and Greek, Mexican – you name it!  You’ll also find a lot of fusion food, where Australians make an untraditional change to food they know and love.

You’ll also find many of the niche activities and sports from all around the world.  If you’re Irish and want to hurl, there will be a club; if you are Brazilian and want to ginga in capoeira, you can; and if you’re German and want to celebrate Oktoberfest, well you’ll have lots of people willing to join you.