5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Going to Australia

My first trip to Australia happened in the middle of a Melbourne winter. North Americans get slammed with the trope of sunny Australia: Throw a shrimp on the barbie! Wear sunscreen! Spiders will kill you! So naturally, I packed four swimsuits, a pair of tights, a pair of jeans and sundresses.

So. many. sundresses.

It was never warmer than eight degrees.

This time we went for spring/summer and were there for three months. We drove from Cairns to Melbourne and had an awesome time.

There were definitely things that threw me for a loop, like…

1. Not everything in Australia will kill you.

That’s not to say hazards aren’t there. However, there are easy ways to prevent getting hurt. Our sailing tour wouldn’t let us in the water without a wetsuit for marine stingers. Beaches have very clear signs when there could be jellyfish or crocodiles. This is incredibly frustrating when it’s gorgeous and all you want to do is swim, but it’s also good to know that you won’t immediately die when you set foot in the country.

I think our tour guide in the Daintree said it best:

“Go into a pub in a small country town and find the oldest guy there. Listen to him talk. He’s survived. You’re good.”

This non-poisonous guy was in the Daintree Rainforest. It was one of three spiders I saw in so many months. 

2. The internet can be really, really bad.

Living in North America and spending most of my travel time in Europe, I’ve taken wifi for granted. Hostels in Australia tend to only have wifi in the common rooms and for some reason, my phone and laptop wouldn’t connect to it. “Premium” wifi costs $5/night, and it wasn’t very… well, premium. I never thought of myself as the type of person who would freak out about not having wifi and on nights 1-4, I wasn’t. Night thirty? I’ve found out some things about myself.

That’s not to say good wifi doesn’t exist, but don’t go into places expecting it. We saw a working, busy Blockbuster in far north Queensland. Think about that.

3. Tasty Cheese = Cheddar

This “tasty” cheese is all over the place. It was making me slightly, erm, uncomfortable. When I asked Adam, he informed me that in his thirty-two years of being Australian and seeing this ambiguous modifier, he had never thought to ask more. I did the research. It’s cheddar. And yes, it is tasty.

We went on board the Solway Lass and explored the Whitsunday Islands.

4. It’s good to always have cash.

It’s not abnormal to have a 1-2% surcharge for using cards. I thought this would lessen in cities and hotels, but it didn’t. Cash is definitely king in Australia.

5. Australians have issues with shoes.

Apparently “no shirt, no shoes, no service” hasn’t reached Australia yet. I saw people get on a bus with no shoes. People ordered coffees, people in malls. Pavement gets really hot there, and are flip flops (or thongs as they call them) really aren’t that much of a departure from shoes, so… why? I thought about going shoeless for a day just to see what all the fuss is about, but I couldn’t. It felt so very wrong.

Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island at night

So, what have we learned?

Australia is great, and you won’t die of animals there. Honestly, my biggest recommendation would be to budget for books/art supplies/other offline entertainment and for however much your bank charges for taking out cash.

And eat tasty cheese. They’re right- it’s tasty.



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