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General Info about Canberra, Australia

Currency
The currency used is the Australian dollar (AUD) which is made up of 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 and the coins in use are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2.

Language
The language spoken in Canberra is English.

Climate
Canberra’s climate varies dramatically from summer to winter. Summers tend to be hot and dry with temperatures often reaching highs of 30 degrees Celsius accompanied by continuous sunshine. Winters are cold and frosty and temperatures don’t usually reach any higher than 10 degrees Celsius. In fact, they often drop to below freezing point. Spring and autumn are quite mild and the plant life in the city provides wonderful displays of colour during both seasons.

Time Zone
Canberra is ten hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Electricity
Electricity in Australia is 220-240V.

Tax
Last year a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in Australia and this applies to most products and services. Under the Tourist Refund Scheme, however, visitors can claim a tax refund on any purchases which cost over AU$300, were bought in the same shop and which were purchased within the last month of your stay in the country. To avail of this service you need to hand in your receipt at customs and your refund will be paid there and then.

Visa Requirements
All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several different types of visa depending on the reason for visiting, but most holiday visitors will need a standard tourist visa. To apply for a visa you’ll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. There’s a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and you’ll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, Holland, Malta, South Korea and Japan may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can’t work for the same employer for more than 3 months.

Tourist Office
The main tourist office is located about two kilometres north of the city centre on Northbourne Avenue in Dickinson and it opens between 9.00am and 5.00pm from Monday to Friday, and 8.30am and 5.00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Bus No. 380 travels to and from the city centre on a regular basis but if you’re looking for something a little more convenient go to the tourist information booth on the ground floor of the Canberra Centre on Bunda Street. This opens between 9.00am and 5.30pm from Monday to Thursday and on Saturdays, between 9.00am and 7.30pm on Fridays and 10.00am and 4.00pm on Sundays. The only disadvantage with the latter has is the fact that you can’t actually book tours or transport but you can receive information on both.

Post Office
Canberra Post Office is located at 53-57 Alinga Street and it’s open from Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5.30pm. You can also purchase stamps in most newsagents.

Opening Hours
Shops in Canberra are generally open from 8.30am until 5.00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9.00am until 4.00pm or 5.00pm on Saturdays. Now most major department stores and those aimed directly at tourists also open on Sundays and have later opening hours at least one evening during the week – usually Thursday or Friday. Office hours are normally from 8.30am until 5.00pm from Monday to Friday.

Currency Exchange
Changing both foreign currency or traveller’s cheques is not problem in the city and can be carried out in any one of Adelaide’s number of banks. Normal opening hours are between 9.30am and 4.00pm from Monday to Thursday and they open until 5.00pm on Fridays. You will also find foreign exchange bureaus at the airport and scattered throughout the city centre. These usually have more extensive opening hours but their commission is higher and the rates they offer are usually not as impressive.

All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can also use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks including Cirrus and Plus.

Telephones
The country code for Australia is 61 and the area code for Canberra is 02. Dial this number first if calling from outside New South Wales and omit the 0 if calling from overseas. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for an unlimited amount of time. You can make local calls from Telstra payphone booths and also from the gold and blue phones found in many shops and hotels. Long-distance calls can be made from almost any public phone. Many public phones accept Telstra Phonecards which come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations and are available from retail outlets which display the Phonecard logo. Otherwise you can use coins of 10 cents and upwards. Long-distance calls are charged according to distance and rates vary depending on what time you call. The lowest rates are currently at weekends and after 8pm during the week.

Tipping
In Australia tipping is not compulsory as it is in America and some parts of Europe. It is considered as a ‘thank you’ for good service rather than an obligation. If you decide to tip the amount should be in accordance with how good you felt the service was. Ten percent of the bill is considered reasonable.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Australia they occur on January 1st, January 26th,Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th, June 12th, December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

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