General Info about Melbourne, Australia

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 youll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. Theres a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and youll 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 cant work for the same employer for more than 3 months.

Australia's currency is the Australian dollar ($). This is divided into 100 cents (c).

English is the first language spoken in Melbourne.

The main drawback to Melbourne's weather is its unpredictability. The winters are mild and the heatwaves in the summer are normally limited to a few days at most. Cool, rainy weather can arrive in any season and spring and autumn days can be extremely hot. In fact Autumn can often be the best time of year. The days are long and warm and the Easter holiday period is often the busiest for tourism. Winters can changable and temperatures range from 6 to 13 degrees celsius. The major peculiarity of the weather is that it can change dramatically in a short space of time.

Medical Care
Residents of Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Malta and Italy are entitled to free or subsidised health care under Medicare due to reciprocal agreements. Residents of the Republic of Ireland aren't entitled to a Medicare card but can present their passport at public hospitals and get free 'necessary' treatment.

Time Zone
Melbourne is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Opening Hours
General opening hours in Sydney are from 9am-6pm, with late night shopping on Thursdays. Office hours range from 8am-6pm with an hour lunch break sometime between 12am-2pm.

Tourist Offices
There are three city council information booths in Melbourne city. They have an abundance of free information, maps and monthly calendars of events. The Bourke St Mall and Flinders St station booths are open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm (Friday until 7pm), Saturday from 10am to 4pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Queen Victoria Market Booth is open on weekdays from 11am to 5pm and on weekends from 10am to 4pm. Tourism Victoria (tel.13 2842) has an information office in the town hall on Swanston Walk, but its mainly a booking office for tours and accommodation. Its open daily from 9am to 6pm (5pm on weekends).

Since July 1, 2000 a new tax called the GST (Goods and Services Tax) with a rate of 10% has been placed on most goods consumed, or 'enjoyed' in Australia.

Currency Exchange
It is no problem to change foreign currency and traveller's cheques as banks are plentiful. Normal banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4pm and Friday from 9.30 am to 5pm. You’ll also find foreign-exchange booths at Melbourne airport and in the city centre. These have more convenient opening hours than banks but generally their rates arent as good. Most hotels will change currency or travellers but the rates are usually quite poor. The one down side with changing currency in banks is that they charge $5 to $7 per transaction.

Credit cards and bank cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash, once they show the Cirrus symbol and credit card logos.

Voltage in Australia is 220-240V.

The area code for Melbourne is 03. Dial this number first if calling from outside Victoria 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 demoninations 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.

Post Office
The postal service in Australia is relatively efficient. Generally, post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. If you wish to purchase stamps you can buy them from most newsagents as well as the post office. All post offices will hold mail, keeping it for one month before returning it to the sender, although for a small fee you can arrange to have mail forwarded to you.

In Australia tipping isn’t a must as 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 would be considered reasonable.

Public Holidays
January 1st, January 27th (Australia Day), March 10th (Labour Day), Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th (Anzac Day), June 9th (Queen's Birthday), 4th November (Melbourne Cup – may vary), December 25th and December 26th are Melbourne’s public holidays.

It is worth noting what the public holidays are before travelling to Melbourne as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.

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