IMPORTANT QUESTIONS Do I need a visa?
Unless you’re an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you’ll need a visa or Electronic Ticket Authority (ETA) to enter the country. NZ passport holders can apply for a visa upon arrival. For more detailed info regarding what type of visa you require, go to border.gov.au, or you can pay the Australian High Commission a visit at 25 Napier Road. How long will it take me to get there? Between 4 and 7.5 hours. The time difference from Singapore ranges from zero hours (Perth) to two or three hours (Sydney, depending on daylight savings periods). What’s the money situation? The Australian dollar (AUD) is the national currency of Australia. Foreign currency and travellers’ cheques can be changed at most banks or licenced money changers. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are readily available. When’s the best time to visit? Australia has four seasons, but the climate can vary greatly due to the size of the continent – check your destination before you go. The north generally has warm to hot weather year round, while southern states experience cooler winters. Remember, too, that the seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere, so Christmas is in the summertime. What’s the lingo? English. Still, you may find yourself failing to understand a conversation or two thanks to the heavy use of Australian slang (or “Strine”). Here are some phrases that you might hear now and then, especially away from the cities. Fair dinkum: The real thing Having a Barry: Not going well Flat out like a lizard drinking: Busy at work Bludger: Lazy person Woop Woop / the back of Bourke: A long way away (like Singapore’s word “ ulu ”)
CULTURAL THINGS While you’re there, please don’t…
LAST BUT NOT LEAST Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals? With five million immigrants from 160 countries, Australia has a rich cultural diversity, which generally means its people are friendly and relaxed around visitors. In fact, communication can be quite direct: first names are often used immediately, even for strangers, and there’s a tendency to get straight to the point. (Or to put it in Strine: there’s no beating around the bush!) What’s a must-try dish? A meat pie. You don’t always get a good one, but when you do it’s a memorable thing. Be sure to add lashings of “dead horse” (tomato sauce). What should I buy as a souvenir? Food-wise, it’s hard to go past a jar of Vegemite or a packet of Tim Tams – and a couple of bottles of Australia’s world-class wine, of course. Other than that, a didgeridoo or boomerang, or a clothing product made of leather or sheep’s wool. • … touch any of the native flora or fauna without knowing what it is first! Australia justifiably has a reputation for creepy-crawlies and other nasties. Case in point: 20 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world are found there. • …attempt to swim in rough conditions at any of the country’s beaches. Drownings are common – sadly, particularly among foreigners who fail to spot rips and sweeps. Before you go, read … • The Secret River , Kate Grenville – absorbing historical novel about an early 19th-century Englishman transported to Australia for theft. • Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe – an attempt to reexamine colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia; read the book (2014), but also take a look at the equally instructive debate about its merits (which still rages in 2022). Before you go, watch … • The Castle – filmed on a minuscule budget, this comedy of a family trying to prevent their home frombeing demolished is loved (and heavily quoted) by locals. • Mad Max – for an eye-opening view of a dystopian Australian future. They said it • “If I was whisked away…I think I could put up with anything, except not seeing the Australian landscape. It would be torture to have it cut off.” – Arthur Boyd, Australian painter • “Let no-one say the past is dead; the past is all about us and within.” – Oodgeroo of the tribe Noonuccal • “You don’t really understand what makes the Australian nation tick unless you understand the great affection Australians have for sport.” – Former Prime Minister John Howard
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