The day after I finally quit my job, I hopped on a plane to Sydney.
Australia had been one of my favourite places and had given me one of the best memories ever since my first visit when I was 9, even though all that I could remember was the Sydney Opera House, the rainforest in Cairns, the stargazing, the hot air balloon, the koala bear I touched, whose fur wasn’t too soft, the aggressive pregnant kangaroo I fed, the breathtaking fireflies and the giant french fries. I knew that I had gotten under the water and witnessed the Great Barrier Reef (and tried catching a Nemo there,) I remembered getting on a helicopter, but the details had faded away. After all these years and with the vague memories, I was so excited and looking forward to the trip.
Australia did not disappoint me, she welcomed me with perfect spring weather, delicious food and a lot of warm smiles. Before getting into those, I have to confess that I did not do much planning beforehand, because all I wanted was relax and have a fun time visiting my sister, who’s studying there right now. However, if you are planning to visit Australia, and are usually a well planned tourist, the following tips may be helpful to you.
- Get the Visa
Unless you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you will need a visa to enter Australia. You can either get one at your nearest Australian Consulate; I got mine online. More information here.
- Ask the flight attendant for a ginger ale or ginger beer
I mean, you can’t be on a plane to Australia and be asking for some apple juice, right?
- Get the SIM card and your phone settled before you leave the airport
Okay this seems obvious, but no, because I made a huge mistake on it. My sister got me a SIM card at Coles, which gave me 10Gb of data (forgot about text and minute limits, but who really cares when you have data?) and was way cheaper than getting it in the provider store. But I needed to go to that provider to get a code to activate it and it might take up to 24 hours to work. Long story short, the card did not work. That was 2 days after I landed. Being so desperate and frustrated, I went into another provider which was more expensive and would only give 500mb (unlimited texting and calls, tho) for the same credits.
Moral of the story: don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
- Look up the zoos
There are a lot of zoos in Australia. We went to the Taronga Zoo which was the city zoo in Sydney and it was a lot of fun. There were peacocks walking around and lizards chilling to greet you, and the emus would just go straight to your face for a selfie or a kiss. However, if you’re looking to feed a kangaroo or cuddle a koala bear, this might not be the best place to visit. You can get real close to a kangaroo, but you don’t get to feed it; you can get real close to a koala bear (with an extra charge,) but you don’t get to touch it. It is illegal to touch a koala bear in New South Wales. Unless you’re the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, otherwise you will have to visit Queensland, South Australia or West Australia for a real koala encounter.
- Pictures with the Opera House
Who goes to Sydney without visiting the Opera House? However, if you’re just looking for a nice picture with it (and the BridgeClimb), go to the northern shore of Sydney Harbour, where the Luna Park is. There is a lot less crowded, you get the same beautiful view and is way easier to capture the BridgeClimb and the Opera House together in one picture.
- No tipping necessary
Of course you can always be generous, but tipping is not necessary in Australia. There is a 10 per cent Goods & Service Tax (GST) when you shop and dine. However, unlike in the UK, this is not a service charge that goes toward the staff. So if you had a really nice hospitality, feel free to tip the server ~10 per cent of the bill.
- Shopping Thursday
A lot of malls in Sydney open seven days a week, but they typically close at around 6p.m., except on Thursdays. There’s a thing called “shopping Thursday,” which malls open until 9p.m. So if you want to go for a crazy shop, you know the days to go.
On a side note, you may be able to claim a refund on the GST if you spend AUD300 or more in one shop, no more than 30 days before departing Australia. You can check out the process here.
- Travel long distance on Sundays
If you’re traveling around NSW, get an opal card to hop on any public transportation. It offers you travel discounts, and only needs AUD2.5 to go anywhere on the entire Sunday.
- Drink up
Just a kind reminder that the drinking age is 18 in Australia.:) Wish I could be excited about it, but I have way passed this age…:(
- Relax and have a lot of fun
Australia is so multi-culture, you will see people from around the world and hear diverse accents. It is very slow paced and a great place to recharge your batteries. Just look…