Australian Natural Adventures
Wildlife, Nature & Soft Adventure Tours
Custom Australia, New Zealand & Pacific tours and travel
Australia & New Zealand General Travel Information
New Zealand is generally cooler and wetter than Australia in winter, and milder in summer. Northern Australia – Cairns and Darwin – are hot and wet in summer, and warm and mostly dry in winter. Elevated areas such as the Atherton Tablelands can have chilly winter nights. Southern Australia is drier and hotter in summer, and cooler and wetter in winter. The seasons are: Spring - September to November; Summer - December to February; Autumn – March to May; Winter – June to August. It virtually never snows below about 3000’ on the Australian mainland, and even above that it is an uncommon event until you reach about 5000’. Sub-freezing weather is unusual in most of coastal Australia, although not unusual in winter inland - although a winter’s day will be hot at Ayers Rock, it may be below freezing at night. Snow in winter is more likely anywhere on the South Island of New Zealand, although still not as regular as in most of the US. There's more specific city temperature and rainfall information on our site here. The website www.weatherunderground.com gives 5-day forecasts for most cities.
Australia’s east coast is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, and 18 hours ahead of PST. South Australia and the Northern Territory are 30 minutes (yep!) behind the Aussie east coast, and Western Australia is 2 hours behind the Aussie east coast. Daylight Savings is in place from about the last week of October until the end of March. Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory do not observe DST. What this means, combined with the various time zones and daylight saving in the US, is that it’s almost impossible to decide over here what time it is in Australia, and vice versa. Generally, you can be sure that if it’s a good time for you to call in either direction, you’ll probably be waking someone up. A very helpful web page www.whitepages.com.au/worldtime/callwiz lets you enter your own state and the place you wish to call. It will then give you what number prefixes to use to call, and the local time.
If you are traveling to different states, especially in the Austral summer, buy a cheap analog watch that you can easily set to the local Australian time, and keep your own watch on home time. New Zealand is two hours ahead of Australia’s east coast, and observes daylight saving.
Australia and New Zealand use a decimal dollar based system. In both countries bills are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Smaller amounts are coins – 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2. Only local currency is accepted. There are no cents any more – the smallest coin is a 5-cent piece. However, goods are still priced to the cent. When paying or receiving change round up or down to the nearest 5 cents. Although this seems unusual, it means less coins to carry, and amounts even out over time. Even so, the coins you acquire will soon weigh you down. Although credit card acceptance is the same as here, many places will not accept them for payments less than $10 and sometimes $20. You should also advise your credit card company(s) that you are traveling abroad, otherwise the sudden change in spending patterns could trigger a card alert and charge denial. Most places take Visa and Mastercard, many take American Express and Diners, but none take Discover. Most debit cards which utilize Plus systems (there’ll be a logo on the back of the card) can be used at foreign ATMs, with the usual charge. Most credit card companies are charging a minimum 2% fee for international credit card transactions; but given the bulk exchange rate they utilize, this is still usually cheaper that purchasing local currency. However, you may wish to check and use a fee-free card, especially if you intend to make expensive purchases. We always purchase a small amount of cash at the airport for taxis, snacks etc; the sometimes slightly higher rate there is inconsequential for amounts under $100, and you may need some cash straight away. Use an ATM if there’s one.
Please be aware that exchange rates fluctuate continuously. You should also be aware that the exchange rate posted in the papers and on the web is the bulk bank rate, and not a retail conversion rate. You can expect to pay up to about two cents more per dollar for cash exchanges, plus conversion fees. Our experience has been that it is cheaper to exchange in the destination country rather than here at home. Check our Useful Websites page or click this for a currency converter.
The price you see on goods is the total price, and includes all taxes. Haggling is as foreign down there as here. If you purchase single items in Australia for $AUD300 or more you can get a refund of the GST (goods and services tax). You will need to show the Tourist Refund Scheme Booth at the airport the Tax Invoice from the store and the physical products purchased.
Tipping is not a way of life in Australia or New Zealand. Generally hairdressers, taxis, hotel staff and other service providers are not tipped, nor are wait staff unless you wish to reward a particular service. In areas where US visitors are common some expectation of tipping has become common; in these areas you may wish to tip wait staff in finer restaurants – no more than 10% is necessary and less is OK. Taxi drivers who assist with your luggage may also be tipped a small amount. Unlike the US, all service workers in Australia/NZ are paid a real wage, and don’t rely on tips for the bulk of their income. Many Americans tip their guide, although many other travelers do not. If the guide went out of his or her way to help, a tip is probably warranted; if they just did their job, maybe not. It’s up to you.
Tourist Refund Scheme. If you make purchases at one store in excess of $AUD300 you can claim the VAT paid - 10% -back at the airport when you depart. There are booths after you enter the international departure lounges for this purpose. You'll need your tax invoice from the retailer, and the goods must be carried on board by you. For some infathomable bureaucratic reason, it doesn't apply if you check the item. Fill in a form at the booth - there are different way you can have the money paid back to you, including a credit to your credit card if you used one.
Australia and New Zealand are metric countries, and most people under 40 have no experience with non-metric measurements. All signs are metric, including speed limits, and ignorance/visitor status will not avoid a ticket. To convert, use the following approximations:
Add 2 to the US size, so an 8 in the US is a 10 in Australia and New Zealand.
Try ‘em on!
Check our Useful Websites page for a complete measurement converter.