If you plan to travel through Australia, there is a lot to consider. Whether for a few weeks, months or a year, preparation is necessary! Which ways of transport are right for you? What are typical mistakes to avoid? Australia is a huge country and it is important to know where you are going and how to get there, whether you are on a road trip, without a car, in hostels or hotels. In this article, we give you a lot of practical information and tips for traveling in Australia.
Table of Contents
Travelling to Australia in 2024
To enter Australia, you need a valid passport and a valid visa.
As of 2023 and for 2024, international borders are open with standard pre-pandemic entry requirements. Before going through customs on arrival, you will need to complete an Incoming Passenger Card. It is a document providing information about your identity, the goods you are bringing to Australia (you must declare certain foods, if you are bringing more than $10,000 into the country, etc.).
Visas to travel to Australia
There are many visa options for travelling to Australia:
If you wish to stay in the country for less than 3 months, then a tourist visa will allow you to travel freely in the country.
- eVisitor (Subclass 651):
- For European Union passport holders.
- Free of charge.
- Allows visits up to 3 months at a time within a 12-month period.
- Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (Subclass 601):
- For certain countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan, and others.
- Small application fee ($20).
- Permits multiple entries for up to 3 months at a time over a 12-month period.
- Visitor Visa (Subclass 600):
- For those not eligible for the eVisitor or ETA.
- Application fee varies.
- Stay periods are generally up to 3, 6, or 12 months.
However, the tourist visa does not give you the right to work in Australia. You can however do voluntary work.
Working Holiday Visas
If you want to stay longer in Australia, the Working Holiday Visa will be the best option to explore the country.
- Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417):
- For people aged 18-35 (30 for some nationalities).
- Allows work and travel in Australia for up to a year.
- Eligible countries include the UK, Canada, Germany, France, and several others.
- Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462):
- Similar to the 417 but for different countries, including the USA, China, Spain, and more.
- Also for ages 18-30 or 35, depending on nationality.
- Work and travel for up to a year.
The application costs $635 (until July 2024) and is done on the Australian immigration website.
Processing Time varies depending on the visa type. It’s advisable to apply well in advance of your planned travel date.
How much time do you need for an Australian trip?
Given the size of the country and the great distances that separate the cities, it is not recommended to travel to Australia unless you have at least two full weeks to travel.
Here is an overview of what is possible with a few examples:
Three week trip
Three weeks travel is good if you want to see a little of the country. You can, for example, travel the east or west coast. Take a 3-week road trip on the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, North Queensland. You can also choose between 3 different locations. You can also get around by plane. Flying is the best way to cover Australia’s large distances if you are there for a short time. For example, a week to explore Sydney and its region, 1 week for Cairns and its surroundings and 5 days to explore Uluru and the Red Center of the country. Did you know that it takes about 2 days to visit the main cities (sightseeing and city tour) and about 5 days to discover a region?
If you’re planning a trip of 3 weeks, it’s best to apply for a tourist visa.
Three months trip
If you have the opportunity to stay 3 months in Australia, you will be able to discover a good part of the country. Indeed, if you drive around the country, in 3 months you can visit half of Australia. For example, you can do the East Coast and the Center of the country or the West Coast, cut through the center to reach the south of the country. If you plan to take the plane to reach the major cities, you will be able to see the whole of the country. However, this will certainly require an extensive budget.
One year trip (or longer)
If you want to travel to Australia for 12 months or more, you will probably need to work to finance your trip. So the Working Holiday Visa seems to be the best option. For a one-year trip, you will have the opportunity to tour Australia while working for a few weeks or months. You can go around along the coast or explore a coast, cut inland to reach the south of the country and then reach the other coast.
Seasons & Climate in Australia
The weather in Australia
The Australian climate is that of the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed compared to the northern hemisphere!
Australia is a huge country with different climates depending on the region. Northern Australia (Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland) has a tropical climate. This part of the country has two seasons (dry and wet). The south of the country (Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Southwest Australia) has a more temperate climate. In the middle of the country, there is a dry climate.
Travel with the seasons
If you want to visit the south of the country, spring and summer is the best time. The north and the center are recommended in autumn and winter.
If you travel with a vehicle through Australia, inform yourself about some points. Although this journey is an adventure for most, the wrong direction can have consequences right from the start. For example, you are in a region where the harvest season is over, rainy or winter.
Here are some points to consider:
- Seasons and climate in Australia
- Bad weather
- Specific fauna: for example, the passage of whales
- Harvest times
- Special events: for example festivals
- Visit of relatives/friends
- Return airport
Read also : The best time to visit Australia
Best places to visit in Australia
If you go to Australia for several months, you will probably have the chance to tour this huge country! But very often we have to make difficult choices of destinations. Here is our list of the best spots in Australia:
Whitsunday Islands: This archipelago of 74 islands is an ideal spot for snorkelling, diving, a scenic flight or cruising.
Fraser Island: The world’s largest sand island, located in Queensland. Fraser Island has a rich variety of landscapes, with lakes, sand dunes and rainforests. The island also has a rich wildlife including dingoes.
Great Barrier Reef: Known around the world, it is the ideal place to discover the beautiful ocean floor. Cairns is the main gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Jervis Bay: Located south of Sydney, this bay is one of Australia’s most popular beach destinations. It’s no wonder when you see the beauty of its beaches. White sand and crystal clear waters meet in this little piece of paradise.
Read also : Best Spots East Coast Australia
Kalbarri National Park: located 500km north of Perth, it’s a must-see. This national park covers 186,000 hectares with rock formations over 400 million years old in the north-east and cliffs created by wind and waves, overlooking the ocean in the south.
Shark Bay & Ningaloo Reef: a “small” barrier reef on the west coast that offers many water sports activities. This area is also famous for the passage of whale sharks, which you can swim with!
Karijini NP: Located in the Hamersley Range it is the second largest park in Western Australia. The park is located more than 1000 km north of Perth. Between waterfalls, canyons, chasms, natural pools, red earth and mountains, this oasis in the desert offers an incredible experience.
Centre and North
Uluru & Kata Tjuta: The country’s most iconic national park, you can watch the sun set over Uluru and the Olgas, or walk around the rock or through the Valley of the Winds for unforgettable memories.
Kakadu & Litchfield NP: A must-see National Park in the Northern Territory, Kakadu is a natural gem with a variety of wildlife, breathtaking scenery and magnificent Aboriginal rock paintings. Litchfield offers superb waterfalls and natural pools and will be ideal for cooling off.
Great Ocean Road: Considered as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the winding Great Ocean Road stretches from Torquay to Warrnambool, occupying the southwestern part of the state of Victoria.
Tasmania: Tasmania is the smallest state in Australia but is nonetheless an essential destination! The national parks which occupy 21% of the territory, will delight all lovers of nature and wide open spaces.
Kangaroo Island: Located in South Australia, off the coast of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is a must-see destination. The island offers a diverse landscape with impressive cliffs, beautiful beaches, white sand dunes and stunning rock formations
Road Tripping in Australia
Australia is the land of road trips! With its large areas, its (often free) camping areas and its favorable climate, Australia is ideal for traveling in a van or pitching a tent during your stay. Taking a road trip around Australia will be a unique opportunity to discover the country while living a unique experience!
Some itinerary suggestions can be found here: Itineraries Australia
Road Trip Budget
The road trip budget in Australia depends on different factors. In fact, it depends in particular on the number of kilometers driven. If you travel long, you will spend days driving 400 km, others without moving. If you are on your road trip for a few days or weeks, you will probably cover more kilometers in a short time.
According to the number of people traveling and to the allocation of expenses as well as the carried out tourist activities (diving, parachuting …) the budget has to be adapted.
Generally, you can expect around 1500 AUD per month (food, gas, camping, excursion).
Australia Budget for Work & Travel
Wondering how much it actually costs to go to Australia? We have detailed all the expenses to be expected in this article
Read also : Road Trip Budget
The Van Life
You will not have any trouble finding sleeping places (except in big cities). Camping is indeed part of the Australian culture, which offers countless campsites, rest areas, etc.. There are specialised guides listing all camp spots for free or that are cheap in the country (Camps Australia Wide) or mobile apps (Wikicamps).
If you are not traveling in a vehicle equipped with shower and toilet, you can stop in caravan parks or campsites for showering, doing your laundry, etc. You also have the option of baby wipes or showers on the beach if you really want to cut your budget.
Life on a road trip will bring you huge freedom but you will have less comfort 🙂
Read also : Road Trip in Australia: Tips for Everyday Life
Travel in Australia with a vehicle
Renting a campervan in Australia
Renting a vehicle can be a good way to discover different parts of Australia. Those who live in cities often use this medium to travel a few days / weeks. Leasing can be a fairly large budget, especially in high season. If you’re renting a car beyond 4-5 months, we recommend the purchase of a vehicle. That said if you book well in advance and for a long period of time, it is also possible to get great rates! And even if that costs just as much as buying a car, renting will give you more comfort:
- You won’t have to spend time finding the right vehicle
- You’ll avoid all the paperwork / fees, and you will undoubtedly need insurance & support!
There are many camper van rental companies across Australia. At a minimum, it takes an average of $50 p/day for the rental of a conventional van. But the rates vary between companies, model type, season, length of stay, and availability of vehicles.
Find more information in this article about Campervan rentals
Buying a vehicle in Australia
Buying a vehicle (car, 4WD, van) is an important choice because it will completely change your travel experience in Australia. Whether it’s to discover the landscapes or to just seek future employment, having your own vehicle gives you more freedom and possibilities.
In terms of budget, its usually recommended to buy your own vehicle if you are planning to travel more than 3 months. But depending on your plans and expected comfort, you might also compare with renting a vehicle (see above).
But before buying a vehicle, you will need to consider which option is most suitable for your plans and budget. You’ll also have to spend a bit of time researching the different registration systems in Australia. Indeed, each Australian states have different policies, so it’s really important to understand how they work. In most states for example, you will need to get an inspection in the registered state in order to sell your vehicle. This could become an issue if you are planning to sell your vehicle in a different state. Western Australia is probably the most popular state to register a vehicle as it’s more flexible and cheaper. They don’t require an inspection every year or before selling your vehicle. However it also means that these vehicles are not regularly checked and as a result, means more risks of potential breakdowns, repairs… The most common way to find a vehicle is to go online, using Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace / groups.
Driving in Australia
Speed limits in Australia vary from state to state, but note that the maximum speed limit in the city is generally 50 km/h. Around schools, the speed limit will be 40km/h or less for some. Most of the time and on major roads, the maximum speed limit is 110 km/h. Some parts of the Stuart Highway (NT) have a speed limit of 130 km/h.
The main roads are sealed. Although dirt roads are fairly common, it is possible to drive around the country only on sealed roads. Even in the north of the country and through Uluru (the centre), you will find tarmac roads in perfect condition. However, you should always check the condition of the roads and tracks. Especially in the national parks and especially during the rainy season!
The price of petrol is quite high in Australia. Prices can vary greatly depending on the region you are in. While petrol is affordable in major cities such as Sydney, the price can almost double in the bush and remote areas. Be aware that, like everywhere else in the world, fuel prices have increased in Australia. We advise you to download the Fuel Map application to find out the prices of the stations around you.
Highways are almost all free. Although Toll Roads are located around the major cities Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. There are no tolls, so you cannot pay on the road. There are two ways to pay to use these roads: pay in advance (recommended), or pay within two days of your journey (more expensive). Payment is made on the internet by card.
For those who don’t want to buy their own vehicle or who can’t afford to rent, don’t panic! Public transport is widespread in Australia and generally affordable.
Download the Australia Backpackers Guide to get more tips about:
- A presentation of different types of vehicles
- Their advantages and disadvantages
- Where to find ads
- All our advice to check a vehicle
- The Registration explained for each state
- Various insurance offers and assistance
- How to sell your vehicle
- What to do in case of an accident?
How to travel around Australia without your own vehicle
For those who do not want to buy their own car or do not have the means to rent, do not panic! Public transport is widespread in Australia and generally affordable.
Major cities like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Cairns are very well supported in terms of flights. Given the great distances that separates the major cities – it is the most suitable way to get from one point to another. Flights are generally quite affordable, but yet often remain outside the budget for a backpacker. The major airlines are Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Blue. Booking flights during weekdays can often save money.
Sydney – Alice Springs: around $450
Cairns – Sydney: from $200
Sydney – Perth: from $300
Sydney – Melbourne: from $80.
More information: www.airlineandairportlinks.com
It is quite possible to travel by bus in Australia. Coaches are well organised and comfortable. The journeys are often long from one city to another (eg. Sydney – Melbourne: 12h) but fairly affordable (from $65). The two major bus companies are Greyhound and Firefly. Coaches are often air-conditioned, have a toilet, wifi, reclining seats and may show films during the journey.
Both Greyhound and Firefly companies also offer ‘hop on hop off ‘ tickets. For example, if you buy this type of Pass that links Sydney to Cairns, you can make as many stops as you like between these two cities for several days, or even visit for several weeks.
Rates for this kind of pass, for example (Greyhound):
Sydney – Cairns: $417
Melbourne – Cairns: $526
Adelaide – Alice Springs: $244
Darwin – Adelaide: $488
Several long distance railway lines criss-cross Australia and connect the main points of interest on the coast and the center of the country with a connection between Adelaide and Darwin. The trains have economic class and first class. In economics classes, you will have reclining seats, and on longer trips, cabins are also available. Travelling by train is more expensive than by bus. Some lines carry specific names, such as The Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs), The Queenslander (Brisbane to Cairns) or The Overlander (Adelaide to Melbourne).
There are mainly five railway companies in Australia: CountryLink, Great Southern Railway, Queensland Rail, Transwa and V / Line.
Prices start from:
Sydney – Perth: from $559
Melbourne – Adelaide: $79
Adelaide – Alice Springs: from $279
Alice Springs – Darwin: from $279
Adelaide – Darwin: from $549
More information: Rail Consult Australia
Widespread in Australia, carpooling is a very economical way to travel while sharing your experience with other travellers.
You can also check out many Facebook Groups for carpooling such as “Australians Backpackers” where many travellers are often offering seats in their car. Gumtree is also another great way to find a lift online.
More Info: Ridesharing Australia
Hitchhiking in Australia, while not as common as in some other countries, can be an adventurous way to travel, especially for those on a tight budget. The vast landscapes and long distances between towns and cities make it a unique experience. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks and legal aspects. In some Australian states, hitchhiking is illegal, particularly on highways or near traffic lights. Safety is a major concern, so it’s crucial to plan your route carefully, let someone know your plans, and always have a backup plan for accommodation and transport. While many hitchhikers have had positive experiences and encountered friendly locals willing to share a ride, it’s essential to stay vigilant, trust your instincts, and prioritize your safety at all times. Remember, hitchhiking is an unpredictable mode of travel and may not always be reliable, especially in remote areas of Australia. It is also not recommended if you travel alone.
Tours and excursions in Australia
Excursions and activities
Most of the attractions in Australia are accessible via road. For example, you can visit the vast majority of national parks on paved roads or reach the Red Center of the country via the Stuart Highway with a vehicle. Nevertheless, some spots need a travel agency to get there. Here is a shortlist of the most important places for a trip to Australia:
Whitsunday Islands: This archipelago of 74 islands is an ideal place for snorkeling, diving, flying, cruising etc.
Fraser Island: The largest sand island in the world is in the state of Queensland. Fraser Island is rich in varied landscapes with lakes, sand dunes and tropical forests.
Great Barrier Reef: Known throughout the world, it is the ideal place to discover the beautiful seabed. Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Exmouth & Ningaloo Reef: “small” coral reef “on the west coast, Ningaloo offers many water sports. This site is also famous for the passage of whale sharks that you can swim with!
Uluru & Kata Tjuta: The mythical interior of the country, you can admire the sunset on Uluru or the Olgas or you wander around the rock or in the Valley of the Winds.
Kakadu & Litchfield: Unavoidable National Parks of the Northern Territory. Kakadu is a natural gem with a variety of wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and particularly beautiful Aboriginal rock art. Litchfield offers beautiful waterfalls and natural pools and is ideal for cooling off.
There are many tour operators who offer tours or activities in the main tourist areas of the country. However, these offers are generally expensive, as they include fares, hotels, excursions and agency services, etc. You should know that it is quite possible to organise your stay yourself. In fact, you can use a search engine to find a plane ticket to Australia. If you want to rent a car, it is best to compare different offers to get the best rates based on availability. Once there, you can reach most of the country’s attractions via paved roads. For excursions and tours by boat or plane you will find travel agencies on site.
How Can I Ensure My Travel in Australia is Environmentally Sustainable?
To travel sustainably in Australia:
- Choose Eco-Friendly Tours: Opt for tours that have a strong environmental policy and contribute to conservation efforts.
- Use Public Transport: Utilize buses, trains, and shared transport options to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Respect Wildlife and Natural Habitats: Follow guidelines when visiting national parks and natural areas to minimize impact on wildlife.
- Reduce Plastic Use: Carry reusable water bottles, bags, and containers.
- Support Local: Buy from local markets and small businesses to support the local economy and reduce the environmental impact of long-distance food and goods transport.
Updated on 20/11/2023