Australia Travel Tips: 19 Things You Need to Know

Australia is not a place for the fainthearted. The fact is that this continent is inhabited by the most dangerous animals in the world. Water and land on the Green Continent are simply teeming with the diversity of its far from harmless occupants. Most Australians are accustomed to living next door to venomous snakes, spiders, crocodiles and other deadly creatures.

With some offbeat destinations in Australia, it seems like a world of its own. Australia has different things than what I was used to from knowing from unique wildlife in Kakadu National Park, a pink lake to having the longest fence in the world. While traveling Australia, there are a lot of things you will encounter that would scream of world class luxury, and remind you of 5-star accommodation in Sydney, or dining in Melbourne.

Australia is a country with white sand as well as blue mountains, where its cities can be separated by up to 4000 km. From Perth in Western Australia to Sydney, there are 45 roads! Visit the main cities of Australia and get carried away by its environment, in Melbourne, Byron Bay or Sydney. It definitely reminded me of such while traveling in Australia.

Things You Need to Travel to Australia

Whether your itinerary involves swimming, diving, surfing or cruising the Aussie waters, so make sure take note of the following tips.

1. Fast food giants have varying names

While traveling Australia, you would see an eatery that has a logo similar to Burger King, but with a different name of Hungry Jack’s. Don't be scared. It is really Burger King, then why do they have a different name.

Another eatery has been using the name, 'Burger King' in Australia, and when the owner of the Burger King you know in the United States and other parts of Europe decided to expand to Australia, it was found that the name was taken. It's not only Burger King that has another name, McDonald's comes bearing a different name, though the reason is different from the former.

In Australia, residents preferred calling the eatery Macca's instead of McDonald's. The company decided to change the signage of some of its eateries to Macca's. If you are in Australia, and you opt for those cans that are labeled as lemonade, you will be left with lemon-lime soda that will remind you of Sprite, and not lemonade. To get lemonade in Australia, opt for Lemon Crush.

A typical Aussie breakfast could involve toast with some sort of spread, popular spreads include the infamous Vegemite, Nutella, peanut butter, honey, strawberry or raspberry jam. Some also top their toast with mashed avocado or sliced ‘tasty’ cheddar cheese. Other popular breakfast choices are eggs and bacon, eggs benedict, waffles with maple syrup and ice cream, or pancakes with lemon juice and sugar, or butter and golden syrup, or maple syrup, or the Canadian-inspired combination of bacon and maple syrup. Croissants with ham and cheese also go down well.

Popular items at most cafes and lunch shops are meat pies, pasties and sausage rolls, to be eaten with the hands and optional tomato sauce that comes in a single serve squeeze pack.[1] No cutlery is required or expected to eat either of these items, unless you’re seated in a cafe that has tablecloths and table service.

At your local pub, club or unthemed restaurant typically you’ll have a grill menu of beef steaks, typically porterhouse (sirloin), eye fillet (fillet), scotch fillet (boneless ribeye), rump steak and sometimes t-bone, cooked to your liking (medium rare is best). Steaks are always served with either chips and salad or chips and veg (you can also ask for ‘chips and chips’), and a sauce of your choice (typically mushroom, Diane, pepper, red wine jus, or garlic butter).

There is also usually a menu item known as “reef and beef” or “surf and turf” which will include some combination of prawns, fish fillet, mussels, scallops or other seafood alongside your steak, chips and salad. Many menus will have at least a prawn cocktail, ‘fish and chips’ (battered flake, whiting, blue grenadier or similar, thick cut chips, tartare sauce and a slice of lemon, maybe a side salad. No mushy peas.) and lemon pepper squid/calamari.

In Australia you can get a Chicken Parmigiana (called a parma or parmi depending on what part of Australia you’re from) with chips and salad, often in a deal called a “pot and parma” (with a lot of beer). Pasta dishes are typically Italian inspired, while rice dishes include everything from paella to curries to nasi goreng and (westernised) Chinese dishes.

Main stream take away food, as in the kind that isn’t meant to be a cuisine from somewhere else, includes roast chicken and chips, fish and chips, pizzas, souvlakis, doner kebabs, and HSPs, as well as your standard run of chain stores including McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King), Red Rooster, KFC.

On the other hand, a HSP has deep-fried, thick-cut chips, chicken salt, grated cheese, lamb or chicken kebab meat (or both), topped with garlic, chilli or barbecue sauce (or all three), in a styrofoam box with a plastic fork and a can of soft drink. Fairy bread – buttered refined white bread covered in sprinkles or hundreds and thousands – is also a popular party food.

To eat a Tim Tam correctly, nibble off two of the corners (opposite to one another), put one of the nibbled corners in your hot drink and suck the drink through the biscuit until it gets to the top. Work quickly, then shove the whole thing in your mouth before it disintegrates.

2. Wifi doesn't come cheap

In a lot of countries, their hotels come with complimentary WiFi, but that's not the case in Australia. To access the WiFi, you are expected to pay AUD 25 for every night. This seems expensive and may leave you making use of your data plans.

3. You see Utes everywhere

You are probably wondering what Ute is. Well, that was how I felt when I heard the word until I saw them myself. Ute is a car built to look like a pickup truck. It is not common in where I come from but know for sure that if you step your feet in Australia, you will see them a lot.

The same way Kangaroos and Koalas are synonymous with Australia; the same thing can be said of ugg boots. These boots have been traced to the 1920s when they used to be worn by shearers inhabiting the areas that made up rural Australia. Surfers fell in love with them in the 1970s.

4. Never ever stand close to holes you see in the ground

Never put your fingers close to them. There is a very high chance, especially in Sydney and eastern Australia it will be home to a Funnel-Web Spider. These beasties have a bite powerful enough to pierce soft shoes and even fingernails. The bite is said to feel like getting a nail hammered into you and the venom is very potent. Always check inside boots, watering cans, or clothing that's been left outside before using them.

While Funnel Web Spiders and all the other critters that roam Australia can be scary, actual encounters with them are quite rare and unlikely to yield a bite if you keep a cool head about it. Don't let these fascinating creatures scare you from visiting this beautiful country.

5. Hand held Meat Pie

Obviously, pies themselves are not Australian, but this particular hand-held type is considered to be unique for Australia and New Zealand. Like a lot of pies they had minced meat and gravy in them. People usually eat these with tomato sauce in the middle. Millions of these are consumed every year. In fact 270 million!

And whilst not unique, the way they are made and consumed has lead them to be the unofficial Aussie national dish. There should be amounts of gristle to help hold it all together with the last gristle piece in your mouth acting as a sort of pie flavoured chewing gum for a lasting experience.

Best eaten in cold winter days at the footy (AFL) or Rugby, or when you discover the fridge is bare and you find one of these bad boys in the bottom of the freezer. Also a favourite of Tradies (Tradesmen) at morning tea or lunch who may attempt to put the tomato sauce on resembling a map of ‘straya’ (or a ‘map of tassie’ for the young apprentices), and will preface tucking into one by looking at it lovingly and say bloody ripper.

See burning roof of mouth. Also beware of ‘pie split’. This is when the pie splits or falls apart. The meat oozes out onto your hand and burns like hell, resulting in furious licking to both relieve the pain and to avoid spilling onto your clothes. Particularly deadly when combined with mouth burn.

Can be avoided by an experienced handler who will inspect the crust for weak spots and cradle accordingly, along with careful selection to ensure the pastry is sufficiently robust. Warning: DO NOT microwave, it will only end in tears.

6. Chicken Parmigiana

This dish is a staple of pubs across most of Australia. Walk up to the barman/lady and ask for a Parma and a VB or the cheapest beer in the area. If you say ‘parmy’ or ‘parmo’ you are clearly not from around these parts. Craft beer is acceptable if you live in the hipster suburbs of Melbourne. There are even websites and Facebook groups dedicated to rate the Parma in your local area.

Although it originated in Italy and then America, nowhere in the world do as many pubs stock it and in fact probably survive off it. For pubs where there is a high blue collar working population that the flouro vest to Parma ordering ratio is as high as 80% (steak and chips comes in a distant second). Australia added ham to the recipe to one up those yanks.

Many pubs have parmas of the world night. Mexican Parma with chilli. Canadian Parma with bacon and maple syrup? Italian Parma, with meatballs. Hawaiian with PINEAPPLE! But All of those are like kissing your sister. Sure she’s a girl but it’s just plain wrong.

Best eaten when you’re hungry. Get a Chernobyl version of one of these and you won’t have to eat for days. These are so tasty and easy to make that any pub that can’t serve up a decent one shouldn’t be allowed to operate. The only thing to avoid is the perfectly heart shaped thin pieces that some places and supermarkets pass off.

Don't bother making them. Sure you might be able to make it better than some pubs, but you’re only going to go to the pub 2 nights later, umm and ahh about what to order and next thing you’re experiencing ‘Parma regret’ by having 2 in 3 days and fretting over the fact you’ll be back at the pub in another 2 days going for a third in a week, and possibly growing another finger.

Bonus tip. If you find one made with Panko breadcrumbs you’re on a winner. They are the schnitz.

7. Vegemite

No one can deny this black tarry goodness as being invented in Australia (yeah yeah, hold fire Pommies, read on). But then what about the first time you smoked, had coffee, alcohol?. In most cases they were pretty ordinary. But then you persist and the rewards (or not) are evident. Lightly cooked hot toast. Immediately put a healthy (or not so healthy) amount of butter.

Wait about 20 seconds for the butter to mostly melt and lightly dab all over bits of vegemite. Consume immediately. Just the right amount is heaven. The only other acceptable way to have vegemite is in a Salada or Vita Weat biscuit ‘sandwich’. A dab of butter, vegemite and squeeze two biscuits together until the vegemite comes through the holes like a bunch of little worms.

Whilst they taste just ok, the source of mild amusement makes the experience enjoyable. Don’t be fooled and let any Poms make you think that marmite is anything other than like most things with the mother country. They might have brought us over in convict ships and taught us how to play cricket/bathe, but despite being quarter of the population we are better at it.

The recipe is the same. But every now and then the dude in the internal marketing must get invited to the Ad agencies Xmas party and they convince him after a few lines of Columbian marching powder he should do iVegemite, or cheesy vegemite. NO! All you need to do is update the ‘happy little vegemite’ song with some influencer using auto tune and run an ad with the kids snapping their vegemite toast and putting it up on instaspam. #begemite

Best eaten anytime before or after drinking. Stock up on the vitamin B to reduce and relieve hangovers.

8. Dim Sims

As usual in Australia, someone comes over from another country, brings their cuisine, ‘Australianizes’ it, and gains fame and fortune. The humble Dim Sim is one of those. So some Chinese dude came up with a dumpling/wonton cross on steroids and now they are sold at every single fish and chip shop in the country.

Go to your local fish and chip shop, order pieces of flake, potato cakes (scallops for northern states), minimum of chips, and fried/steamed dim sims. In THIS ORDER. The Dim Sims should come last because the customary response will be, do you want Soy Sauce. Now any decent Fish and chip chef will only ask this question if you have ordered steamed dimmies as no one in their right mind would have soy sauce with fried dim sims. Although there are exceptions.

Alternatively if you went to see bands in pubs in the 80’s they had to serve a ‘meal’ if they were also serving alcohol. This involved a raffle ticket as part of your door entry which you took up to the meal counter and exchanged for 2 fried Dim Sims so they could fulfill their compliance obligations because they wouldn’t want a bunch of pissed teenagers with empty stomachs.

But the girls wouldn’t touch them because it made their breath smell like baby vomit, so the boys would quite often end up eating them mixed with beers. So here we have boys with a gut full of dimmies and beer, and girls with empty stomachs and West Coast coolers (leg openers). What could go wrong!?

Needless to say, by the time the band finished and everyone spilled out into the car park to watch the obligatory punch on between Dazza and Bazza (or Shazza and Kazza if Kazza was rooting Shazza’s boyfriend Dazza) and get into their Sandman’s (Aussie Panel Van which usually had a sticker on the back stating, If the vans a rockin’ don’t bother knockin’ or Don’t laugh your daughter could be inside), you had to dodge the spew so your Addidas Rome’s didn't get covered in recycled cabbage.

The South Melbourne market dimmy is legendary. A long time ago another dude at the South Melbourne market in Victoria decided to supersize them. They’re bigger and badder. 2 of these is a meal and made correctly they are great. But beware, made badly and its an all night appointment with the porcelain bus and a plastic bucket because it will be coming out like a fire hydrant at both ends.

If you completely lose your mind and decide to go to the supermarket and actually buy these abominations, make sure you cook them properly. Best eaten after consuming large quantities of alcohol. They do have excellent soaking qualities.

9. Chiko Roll

The Chiko Roll has a disputed history. So disputed in fact there was a parliamentary debate about the origins. Seriously. Forget about debating global warming or recessions, here in Australia we want our politicians to know where our Chiko Rolls come from, goddammit! But the most likely origins come from Bendigo, Victoria.

Now ‘Benders’ is known for 2 things. A bit of gold mining, and one of the only places in Australia where you can be a Grandmother at the age of 30. Don’t believe me? Just take a walk down the benders mall on a weekday. It’s like a child care centre within a child care centre. Also it’s one if the most unlikely places in the world to have an Ice Skating rink.

Like the Dimmie, some dude thought How can we make a spring roll into a meal that can handle the robust manliness of a good Aussie blokes vice like hands? And bang! The Chiko was born. Like the pie and the dimmie you don’t make them. Get em at the footy, or local fish and ship shop. At one stage 40 million of these supersized spring rolls were sold a year.

The popularity can also be attributed with the 70s obsession with innuendo and phallic symbols. But along with the 70s they’ve gone out of fashion a bit and now it sits around 15 million. And apparently they taste better whilst wearing next to nothing in front of a fan and straddling a Harley.

Preferably get them pretty fresh. Nothing worse than a shrivelled up Chiko that’s been sitting in the Bain-Marie for 6 hours (just ask the ‘chiko chick’ above). But really you only need to bite both ends off and chuck the rest away. Best eaten like just about any ‘Australian’ food after alcohol or when your desperate for a quick bite that’s not quite a meal but will hit the spot.

10. Fairy Bread

A favourite of children’s parties for the last 90 years. These simple little triangles of joy have brought a level of delight to children that is only rivalled when one of their friends farts or gets hit in the nuts. The origins of fairy bread go back to Tasmania. ‘Tassie’ is a small island state south of the mainland with great wilderness, trout, great local produce, and dubious family ties.

But Australians being lazy thought: Well I can bake cupcakes, put icing on them and carefully sprinkle 100s of 1000s on them, or for a 20th of the time I can get some cheap bread and sprinkle the bastards with no regard. Pretty simple equation really. And the kids like them better. Now get your science hat on because it’s complicated.

Get a slice of white bread, spread copious amounts of butter and then sprinkle over hundreds and thousands. Cut them into TRIANGLES. Some people have suggested dipping them in the 100s of 1000s but really there is no bigger joy than seeing the 100s and 1000s spilling on the table, on to the floor and pretty much covering the whole house by the time the little blighters have finished, is there?

Plus if they are imbedded into the butter they get soggy. Now vegemite lovers may dispute the use of white bread only but this is a not negotiable with fairy bread. If you go to a friends party for their kid and they are serving fairy bread with rye or pumpernickel then it’s time to get a new friend.

As per bread variations, If anyone attempts to cut them into squares or get trendy with fingers or brioche versions or the like then ditch them like a goldfish that can’t swim. Best eaten at a kids party. In fact it is the only time you would eat them. They have the nutritional value of a handful of plutonium. Oh and don’t refer to cocktail franks as ‘Little boys’.

11. Anzac biscuits

The origins for these are debated. One claim is that the wives of soldiers during World War 1 baked and sent them to their husbands because the ingredients do not spoil easily. Another is that they were made and eaten by Australians to raise money for the war. Regardless of how these came to be, these are very popular and can be found commonly in bakeries.

12. Pavlova

This delicious meringue cake has torn between Australia and New Zealand, constantly battling for claim over it. Both countries claim to have invented it, and to me it’s reasonable to assume that we share the cake. Pavlova is commonly eaten on Christmas, made with meringues, whipped cream and fruits such as cranberries and strawberries.

13. Barramundi

Obviously, the fish itself isn’t Australian, but the name and serving style is. Its name translates to ‘large-scaled river fish’ in one of the Aboriginal languages, and can be found grilled in some restaurants. This isn’t as common as the other foods in this list, but it still belongs here.

14. Avoiding the kangaroo that roams at night

Be on the lookout for kangaroos and if you see one slow down. If one jumps in front of your car hit the brakes as hard as you can, and then run over it if you have to, don’t swerve. With the kangaroos it is good to avoid driving at dawn or dusk which many tourists would not know.

Kangaroo are crepuscular meaning that they are mostly active at dusk, dawn and night. At night time they are attracted to light. It is common for Kangaroos to jump at incoming vehicle only to freeze (or blinded) by the light. If you are planning to drive at night time in the Outback, drive slowly and extreme caution.

There is an item called the Kangaroo Whistle that emits high frequency noise used to repel Kangaroo. Avoid driving at night all together and take the gas station tip and rest at the motel.

15. Take warm clothing

It snows in several areas of the country every year, sometimes disrupting traffic and isolating communities. Even in areas that are deemed Sub Tropical, many homes run heating during the Winter. Melbourne in particular can be very chilly for months on end.

Somewhat true, but although the interior of Australia is desert - due to the lack of inland mountains that create rain such as in the Americas - large areas are green and forested.

16. Gravel roads

When changing from a sealed road onto a gravel road SLOW DOWN. On a gravel road imagine that the road is wet and slippery. Or imagine that there are eggs taped to your pedals. Don’t make any sudden moves or steering changes. It is a very delicate thing. Feel the movement of the car with your bum. Stay on the main track and avoid the edges.

If you are on a narrow road and a road train approaches pull off the road as far as you can and stop. Ditto any large vehicle. You don’t have any rights against a 160 ton, 55 metre long centipede doing 100 kph that is throwing up a kilometre of bulldust behind it. If you get stuck behind one stay back and be patient. When it is safe to pass he will pull over a bit and signal you to pass. If you stay too close you will lose a windscreen for sure.

There are only a few places between Adelaide and Perth where you will see the coast line. You may have to settle for a crappy motel in Cocklebiddy and maybe Ceduna. You won't want to stay here long! Eat, sleep and go. Ceduna has better facilities.

Fill up your fuel tank when leaving the city as fuel can be very expensive in the desert. Stay on the main road and follow your GPS. You don't want to break down or deviate from your route, there is no cellular network and no radio stations. You are on your own!

Do not attempt to take any kind of fruit or vegetables across the border. The old lady with the clipboard will shake her head and look over her glasses at you. WA does not want our fruit flies. It is a long and boring trip with very little tourist attractions, cafes, hotels and sightseeing opportunities. More expensive than flying, but you'll have your car in Perth.

Like anywhere else, if it's midnight and you're going to pull over for a nap, do it in well lighten areas where there are other travelers, certainly not in the car park outside one of the various pubs. Even the far, dark back corners of the roadhouse car parks can be dodgy so if you kip in the car at a roadhouse, don't do it right up the back away from the CCTV, alone in the dark.

17. Watch out for the cattle and wildlife

The sheer magnitude of the distances and the openness of the horizon train your eyes to see long (LONG) distances so when a Big Red Roo, Camel or Mally bull suddenly pops up ten feet in front of your car and you’re going 110, you often don't even see it - So used are you to scanning kilometers ahead.

Honestly, if you’re not homegrown and born to it, you’re better off just traveling during daylight hours because the realistic chances of you hitting something at night or especially dawn and dusk is up around 70% and most of the things you’re likely to hit will at the very least push your front end and radiator into your engine block.

Wildlife can be a problem at dawn and dusk. Generally people unfamiliar with driving are recommended to avoid driving in rural areas at this time of day. Hitting a wombat is like hitting a boulder. Hitting a wallaby is like hitting a deer and hitting a big red kangaroo is like hitting a moose. Then you can add in wild roaming cattle and camels.

The roads are long and can be very boring. Apart from moments here and there like the Great Ocean Road you generally won't find the scenery you are driving through all that engaging. There are hours of nothing but cane fields in Queensland for example and your brain can just switch off.

There are signs everywhere advising tired drivers to pull over and take a break. The road trains are huge, aggressive and need to be treated with respect.

If you are going ‘coast to coast’ by a northern route, then why bother to add an extra 600-odd km by going to Darwin when you can just keep heading west through Katherine. Going to Darwin is just a side trip if your goal is to get to Perth. In any case, travel from Cairns to Perth, involves travelling west until you hit the coast in Western Australia and then heading south to Perth.

You can do a trip with the same end-points by turning south at Katherine and following the Stuart Highway to Port Augusta in South Australia, turning west(ish) from there and travelling to Perth via the Nullarbor, with quite a few options depending on how close to the coast you want to travel. The same comments apply in relation to including Adelaide in the trip as for including Darwin. Going there involves back-tracking that is not necessary if your goal is just to get from one end-point to the other.

18. A sea breeze? Sounds great doesn't it?

If you are going to the beaches of Western Australia, go early. Really early. Before breakfast. This is not because it will get hot later, although it will, but because sometime around lunchtime and often as early as 11am, the sea breeze, sometimes known as The Fremantle Doctor by older people, will come in.

A sea breeze? Sounds great doesn't it? And if you live away from the coast it is a welcome relief. But not at the beach. For sea breeze read howling gale that will blow your towel away, cover you in hot sand, and generally be pretty unpleasant. So a typical conversation will go like this: Wanna go to the beach? no mate, breeze is already in. Shall we go to the beach tomorrow? Yep, meet you at 7.

19. Anything is christened Macquarie

This is a kind of inside joke by Australians. If you call anything Macquarie, you are a bit right, even when you don't know its name. In Australia, a lot of places have Macquarie attached to it, from Harbor, Street, River, Lighthouse, Hospital, Bank, Lake and lots more. Why is this so?

New South Wales had a governor, Major General Lachlan Macquarie, who spent his time, crafting out infrastructure that turned Australia to what it is today. You can see a giant stone chair that has the Macquarie name attached to it. This was where the Wife of the Major General would sit and stare at ships as they entered the harbor.
Kalyan Panja