Planning A Trip to Australia: A How-To Guide

I’ve been asked many a time to compile a checklist of things to do before a trip to Australia, so I thought it was about time I gave the people what they want! As you may or may not know, I love Australia, I spent 18 months of my life travelling there, and I miss it every single day. It was the happiest 18 months of my life.

So it’s no surprise that I think anyone’s plans to travel to Australia, whether on a short trip or for an extended working holiday of up to two years, to be a fantastic life choice. With beaches, desert, rainforest, quirky towns, charismatic cities, amazing mountains and some of the most spectacular wildlife known to man, there’s nowhere quite like Australia.

And of course, there’s a fantastic social scene – everyone travelling Australia is looking to make friends, and it’s very easy to meet locals. It’s also home to the oldest culture on earth; learning about Aboriginal history was one of my favourite things to do in Australia.

I could waffle on about my love for this country forever, but I’ll get to the checklist first – and maybe waffle a bit after 😉

Checklist for visiting Australia

Decide what kind of trip you want

Australia is a huge country, and most people’s trips there range from two weeks to two years. I’ll get onto working holiday visas in a moment – but if you can only spare a few weeks then it’s worth knowing that you still need a ETA (electronic travel authorization). If that’s you, click here to get your ETA for Australia now.

The ETA is valid for up to 3 months, and you can’t work with it. This means your time will be purely travel.

Now, like I said Australia is a big place – and it’s also an expensive place. This is why many people who have a little more time on their hands opt for something different – the Working Holiday Visa.

Available for many nationalities for citizens aged 18-30 (some stretch to age 35), the Working Holiday Visa lets travellers spend up to one year working and travelling in the country. You can work in any field, but you can’t have the same job for more than 6 months.

Some travellers opt to extend their working holiday visa for another year by completing 88 days of farm work. This makes the maximum time of your Australia trip two years.

Book flights

Once you’ve decided on the visa you need, it’s time to book those flights! You guys know I’m a land travel gal, but there’s a bit of an issue with this when travelling to Australia – if you didn’t know, it’s totally surrounded by sea.

You could hitch a ride on a cargo ship, but I’d say 99.99%+ people decide on the easier option and hop on a flight to Australia.

If you’re travelling from Europe, airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines all fly to Australia via their hubs. You could also use a Chinese airline (I’ve flown with a few of them and they have all been good experiences) and layover there.

From the US and Canada, you could also look at changing planes in China or elsewhere in East Asia. There are also some direct flights from the west coast.

There are some direct flights from locations in South America and Africa, but these can be very expensive so sometimes people prefer to change in Asia or North America.

Of course, if you’re travelling from Asia, you can just jump on a direct flight to Australia!

Sort your visa

How long do you want to spend in Australia? This will tell you what kind of Aussie visa you need.

If you’re from a qualifying country, you are 18-30 years old and you meet their other requirements, you could apply for a working holiday visa. These last initially for a year, but can be extended if you do three months of farm work. It costs $440 AUD to apply.

If you fall outside of these criteria, and want to visit Australia for three months or less and don’t want to work you can apply for a 3 month tourist visa. This visa is free.

It is also possible to apply for a 6 month or one year tourist visa, but the application process is more stringent and complex as you will need to prove that you have no intention of working in the country.

Save some money!

Not going to lie, Australia isn’t all that cheap. That being said, there are plenty of ways to save money while travelling around Australia – but do be prepared to spend more money here than in Asia, for example.

If you’re going to Australia on a working holiday visa, you may be asked for proof of having $5000 AUD. If you’re visiting on a tourist visa, I’d recommend budgeting around $3000 AUD per month. This is for backpacking at budget prices – if you like the finer things in life, definitely save more money.

You can check out my post the cost of travelling in Australia for more information.

Think about your itinerary

This largely depends on how long you have to travel Australia, but do start thinking about your itinerary. Do you want to stick to the backpacker hotspots of the east coast, where you can enjoy gorgeous beaches, interesting towns and cities, and the rainforest? Or would you like to head more off the beaten track and enjoy the west coast, where you’ll need your own vehicle, but will be able to see dramatic scenery without many other tourists at all? Or what about the rugged outback of Australia? Or the island that many people skip – Tasmania?

There are so many places in Australia. Many travellers automatically head to the east coast, where the major cities and attractions are, but I would recommend reading around a little and seeing what else the country has to offer.

You can check out my itineraries for various places in Australia for more information!

Pack right

What should I pack for Australia? I hear you cry. Drop bear spray? A hat with corks? Something to ease the inevitable goon hangover?

You don’t really need all of that – but you should remember a high-quality camera, clothes for all climates, hiking boots and plenty of suncream.

For a full packing list, check out my guide to what to pack for Australia and for some funnier items, check out my heading to Australia gift guide.

Get your Aussie Dollars

Most exchange offices in the UK, North America, and Asia will be able to change local currency to Aussie dollars. Make sure that you have some cash before you go, so you’re sorted straight from the airport.

Brush up on the lingo

Girl Walking Down Melbourne Laneways
There are even free things to do in Melbourne!

Something fun to do on the plane over to Oz is to practice speaking Australian. Yes, they do speak English – but a very unique kind of English, which you’ll quickly notice as soon as you’re with a group of 2 or more Australians.

For example:

Bottle Shop = bottleo
Prescription = scripto
Any male’s name = the name + o
Girl = sheila
Tracksuit bottoms = t-dacks
That man = old mate (can refer to men of any age)
Cigarette = durry
Alcohol = piss
An affectionate way to describe a friend = they’re a bit of a c**t (I’m serious, but I was never able to let go of my Britishness and actually use this term).

Listen to Down Under by Men At Work at least once.

This video is basically Australia. It brings back SO many memories for me… And I don’t doubt that you’ll find plenty of ‘Australia songs’ too 🙂

 Have a great trip!