Besides the fact that Australia is very far from Sweden, has reversed seasons and drives on the left, there are more things that are different than you might think. I have therefore collected all my best tips and lessons learned from all our trips to Australia in a handy little list. Some tips are almost vital, others rather kooky. High and low. Regardless, these tips will make your trip to Australia much easier.
Eggs and beets on the burger
Nowhere in the world have I encountered such a fondness for eggs and pickled beetroot as in Australia. Don't be surprised if you are served a steak with an egg on it, or a hamburger with egg and beetroot. It's surprisingly good, so don't digest the flavor combination until you've tried going "Aussie style" at least once.
The customs are rock hard
Have you seen the TV show "Border Police" from Australia? If you haven't, I recommend you watch an episode before you pack your bags. In Australia you have (apart from the expected rules around drugs, medicines and alcohol) rock hard rules regarding the importation of food, live plants and animal/wood products. Although I am always very careful when packing, on the flight over I realized that I had brought wooden pencils and shoes with wooden heels. It's not a crisis though, as long as you remember to go through the red at customs, so they can look over your things and decide if they're OK or not. The only comment I got on my wooden slippers from the customs officer was “Nice shoes". So don't be afraid of customs - be aware and don't bring anything that you can buy on the spot. We tend to leave leftover candy on the plane, so we can truly say we're not bringing anything edible at all. And if you are unsure - always go on red!
In Australia there is no culture around tipping, but if you get absolutely fantastic service at a restaurant, you can of course leave a penny extra. But don't be surprised if the staff is surprised.
Shake your shoes
In Australia there are plenty of animals that crawl and crawl. To ensure that a spider or similar has not crawled into their shoes, always make sure to shake out the shoes before putting your foot in. A good habit that I find myself still doing here at home in Sweden.
The internet is usually very bad
One thing you quickly learn in Australia is that the internet is not at all as developed as here at home. Too often it's super tough or non-existent. The same goes for mobile data. Don't see it as a problem, but as an opportunity to tear your eyes away from the screen.
Summer is not the best time to go here
Unless you've only intended to lie on the beach, summer is the worst time to go here. Summer in Australia means heat over 40 degrees, forest fires and peak season for jellyfish and crocodiles. If you can manage your visit, the Australian spring and autumn are at their best in the southern parts of the country, while the Australian winter is peak season for Queensland and the Northern Territories. Western Australia is at its best in spring, winter and autumn.
The sun in Australia is not to be trifled with. The ozone layer is thin and skin cancer cases are many. It is best to use a hat or cap and clothing that covers exposed areas such as shoulders and arms. I usually wear sunscreen with maximum protection for children to make sure I don't burn. Remember that a tan only lasts a week, you will never get rid of sun damage.
Tim Tam is the favorite candy
If you hear someone talking about Tim Tam, it's not a person, but Australia's most popular candy. A bit like a biscuit chocolate, but which comes in a variety of varieties. Often available in affordable bulk packs.
Call 000 if you need urgent help
Do you need to get in emergency contact with the police, ambulance or fire brigade? In Australia you call 000.
Fly nets can be a good idea
In the outback, swarms of flies can be a real plague. We had never experienced it until this summer in Western Australia, but the scourge is found in more parts of the outback. Don't despair if you don't have a fly net - in areas where you need fly nets for your face, these are usually available everywhere.
Coffee is serious!
In Australia, people take their coffee very seriously and there are many coffee bars with Italian coffee brands. Unlike the US, Australia has really well made and good coffee with a lot of flavor. Just as we Swedes want it. Order a "flatwhite” if you want to feel like a real Aussie. Then you get an espresso with steamed milk (but without a lot of foam). A tastier version of a caffe latte if you ask me.
Ghosts that cry in the night
If you're woken up at night in Queensland by a sad cry that sounds like a little ghost, you've probably been woken by a Bush Stone Curlew – an incredibly friendly little nocturnal bird with big eyes and long slender legs that would rather run than fly. We have had several evenings when we were out and about being chased by curious curlews. Is probably my absolute favorite bird.
Alcohol is usually bought in "system companies"
In Australia, the alcohol laws are different in the different states and in some states, for example, beer is allowed to be sold in grocery stores. However, alcohol is usually bought in bottle shops - so-called bottle-o. Bottle shops are often located next to large grocery stores, often come with a drive-in (!) and are open every day of the week with generous opening hours. The biggest retail chains are BWS and Dan Murphy's.
Crocodiles are not to be trifled with
There's a reason most Aussies we've spoken to in Queensland only swim in the pool, no matter the time of year. Australia's saltwater crocodiles are giant ancient monsters that not only thrive in rivers, but can also swim out to sea. At almost every watercourse in the northern parts of Australia you will find yellow signs warning of crocodiles. Take these signs seriously. Crocodiles are cold-blooded animals, which means they are most active during the hottest months of the year, which are September to April. Always swim in marked areas, don't swim in the dark and don't walk right by the beach. A crocodile can lie and lurk right at the edge of the beach without being seen and the attacks come at lightning speed.
Aussies shorten words
Aussies abbreviate all words that can be abbreviated. Often beyond recognition.
Macca's = McDonald's
Tinny = Beer in an aluminum can
Barbie = BBQ
Cuppa = Cup of tea
Coppa = Police
Avo = Avocado
Brekky = Breakfast
Bruce / Sheila = A completely ordinary Aussie man/woman, like our "Svensson"
Dunny = Toilet
Mozzie = Mosquito
Servo = Petrol station
Barramundi is a fish
A good word to know is Barramundi. Barramundi (also called bar) is a large sea bass that can be up to 2 meters (!) long and weigh 60 kg. Barramundi is not only a popular sport fish, but also a very common food fish for burgers or the grill. So if you find a barra burger, you know what it is.
If someone asks if you want Vegemite on your breakfast sandwich, immediately say no. I can usually learn to like most things with a little practice, but Vegemite (or Marmite) is a nuisance. A yeast-flavored dark brown and salty cream made from residual products from beer production. Sounds good, right?
Jellyfish lurk in the sea
Australia's most dangerous animals are neither sharks, snakes nor crocodiles. It's jellyfish - so called stingers or jelly fish. North of Bundaberg on the east coast and north of Exmouth on the west coast, during the summer you can come across cube jellyfish and irukaji, which every year cause deaths. On many beaches there are nets that protect against cube jellyfish, but irukanji is only 1 centimeter in size and easily slips through even fine-mesh nets. Therefore, when swimming in the sea, make sure you wear one stinger suit – a thin suit that protects against the jellyfish's poison.
It is often a long way to the next town
Australia is almost as big as the entire United States, but only 23 million people live in this gigantic area. The vast majority live along the coast, but even here you can sometimes drive a whole day without seeing anything but sugar cane. Make sure you have the car well stocked with water (a big can!) and snacks before you head out on your adventure. Mobile phone coverage is usually as bad as the number of houses.
Kangaroo, crocodile and emu are eaten everywhere
Australians love to grill and it is common that in restaurants you can choose between kangaroo, emu and crocodile. But what should you choose? Kangaroo is a red meat that likes to be eaten fried to medium and tastes a bit like a tastier steak. Krokodil is a white meat that feels a bit like a slightly tougher chicken with a fishy taste. Emu is a red meat that is very fat-free and is also best eaten fried to medium.
You can always wear flip-flops
Don't be surprised if you see an Aussie in a down jacket and flip-flops in the "winter". Flip-flops are also called being studied or thongs and these can be worn all year round. In Melbourne we saw a vending machine in the winter that only sold two things – woolly hats and flip-flops. I'm just saying.
Big things are a thing
In Australia, people are very proud of their local specialties and they like to show them off by making large statues. If it's a mango, a crawfish or a bottle of rum – they should be big! There are even maps and websites to help you find your way to all these great things. Searching for the big statues can be quite a tricky, but very fun, holiday activity!
Don't be surprised if you see a dromedary
Dromedaries? In Australia? When they started building railways in Australia, they imported camels and dromedaries to transport things in the outback. The dromedaries thrived and today over 1 million wild dromedaries live in the outback. Actually, you shouldn't encounter dromedaries while driving along the east coast, but as they roam freely over large distances, they can pop up everywhere. We saw two dromedaries grazing just off the Bruce Highway between Cairns and Brisbane.
Eucalyptus is very useful
Eucalyptus is not one kind of tree, but it is a family of 900 different trees. Eucalyptus trees grow throughout Australia and can grow over 100 meters tall. Walking in a eucalyptus forest is probably the sensory impression I associate most with Australia. It scents just as wonderful as you can imagine.
Eucalyptus trees are full of eucalyptus oil which makes them highly flammable – one of the causes of the explosive bushfires in Australia. The oil is toxic to us humans, but is a well-proven ingredient that can be used in everything from mosquito repellent to cold medicine, stain remover, detergent and antiseptic products. Buy a bottle home with you!
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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.