| Part 1: Introduction
This was my first trip to Australia. Here are some random impressions:
- Not impressed about the local infrastructure in
Australia: the Gold Coast airport has no A/C despite the heat and no
rail link to Brisbane; the Brisbane train station has only one-way
escalators and no A/C; broken baggage belt at the Brisbane airport;
aging infrastucture at the Sydney airport.
- Given the distances and the available public
transportation, it seems that the best way to explore Australia
is to rent a car.
- Food is not bad, since there are lots of
immigrants from various countries.
- Not much to see in Brisbane.
- Was surprised to find cool weather in Sydney and
Melbourne, since latitude-wise they correspond to northern Africa and
it was the hot season.
- Lots of tourists in Sydney, fewer in Melbourne.
- Lots of Asian people in Sydney.
Australia is way more expensive than SE Asian countries. A good
class hotel room goes for AUD 130-150, meals can be had for less than
AUD 20. Taxis are quite pricey, but less expensive over longer
distances. Cheap flights are available through the low cost carriers
Jetstar and Virgin Blue, although also Quantas is not much more
expensive. As a daily budget (not including flights) one could
calculate AUD 200.
There are food courts in the major shopping malls in all cities I
visited. I wasn't too impressed by the food in Brisbane, but the
situation improved in Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne, but
especially Sydney there are lots of Japanese restaurants everywhere.
Either many Japanese immigrants or lots of demand for Japanese food
in Australia. Most bakeries are not good - found only a handful
decent cakes and pastries.
I stayed in middle
class hotel rooms at rates ranging between AUD 130 and 150. Booked
these hotels through the
quickbeds.com portal at Flight Centre agencies. The rooms were all of
good standard with A/C, attached bathroom, nicely furnished and
comfortable. Wasn't too impressed by the B&B in Brisbane
/ Exchange rate (January 2009)
1 Euro = AUD 2.0 - 1.87
the Universal Currency
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. You won't need traveller cheques.
phones and prepaid cards
Unpleasant surprise with the prepaid GSM card of Vodafone. It
required activation and the kiosk where I bought it would not activate
it. I had to activate it myself at the Gold Coast airport, spending
AUD 8 on Internet access charges in the process.
The activation asked for an Australian address
which I did not have, so I had to ask some locals for a dummy address
to enter. Then, despite the activation, I still could not make phone
calls. To top it all, the hotline of Vodafone was closed the day I
bought the card (Jan 1st, the hotline of Vodafone closes on public
The people in the kiosk where I bought the telephone card
were clueless and gave wrong advice. When I tried to return the card
they refused to refund me.
My advice would be to stay away from
Vodafone Australia and when you buy a prepaid GSM card ask if the place
where you buy the card will activate it for you.
Plenty of Internet cafes everywhere, especially in Sydney. I chose
hotels which offered Internet access in the room. This was available
for a fee ranging from AUD 10 to 25/day.
Very hot and dry in Brisbane, but also cloudy for part of the
day. Incredibly cold on my first day in Sydney, then it became hotter
and in the interior it was very hot (temperatures well above 30°C).
Much more fresh in Melbourne, even too cold to walk around with shorts
and a T-shirt (temperatures well below 20°C).
Except for half an
hour in the Sherbrooke forest near Belgrave no rain.
None required for Australia. But you must answer some questions about
your health when you enter Australia.
VISA / Entry
Surprisingly, despite having a German passport, I had to apply for an
electronic visa. Got an "e-visitor" within 24 hours of applying for it.
No issues here.
- The botanical gardens in Sydney - very nice and I was
greeted by a
flock of wild sulphur crested cockatoos, who were not afraid of humans.
Things to avoid
- The Vodafone GSM card, mainly because activating it
is so messy and they have no customer support at all on public holidays
and perhaps also not on weekends.
- The city of Brisbane - not much to see.
- The Gold Coast airport (where you arrive if you use
Airasia) if you need to go to Brisbane,
because getting to Brisbane takes such a long time with public
The city centres of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne
are compact enough to be explored by foot. No need to use public
transportation. Taxis are an option when the distances are not too big.
Flights within Australia are inexpensive, if you use the low-cost
airlines. Although I didn't try it, renting a car is probably the best
way to explore the non-urban areas of Australia.