All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those travelling from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several 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$33 fee for a three-month stay and you'll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Holiday visas entitle tourists to stay in Australia for three months.
Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Malta, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can't work for the same employer for more than 3 months. Working visas are valid for a year from the date of issue and are valid for a year from the date of entry.
Australia's currency is the Australian dollar ($). This is divided into 100 cents (c).
English is the first language spoken in Sydney.
Sydney enjoys a warm climate with temperatures ranging above 20 degrees celcius for over half of the year. The hottest months are December-February with the winter going from June-August. The average rainfall per annum is 1210mm.
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.
Sydney is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 15 ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
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.
There are numerous information centres located throughout Sydney. In addition you can phone the City Information Line (02 9265 9007) which is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. Other information centres can be found at the following locations:
Bondi Visitors Information Centre Bondi Beachside Inn, corner of Campbell Parade and Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach (9130 5311) Open 24 hours.
Darling Harbour Visitor Centre Palm Grove, between Cockle Bay and Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour (9286 0111) Open 10am-6pm daily.
Manly Visitors Information Bureau
South Steyne, Manly (9977 1088) Open 10am-4pm daily.
NSW Travel Centre
Arrivals Hall, Gate D, International Terminal, Sydney International Airport (9667 6050)
Open 5.30am-11.30pm daily.
Sydney Harbour Information Centre
Cadman's Cottage, 110 George Street, The Rocks (9247 8861). Open 9am-5pm daily.
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.
It is no problem to change foreign currency and travellers cheques as banks are plentiful. Normal banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4pm and Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. You'll also find foreign-exchange booths at Sydney airport and in the city centre. These have more convenient opening hours than banks but generally their rates aren't as good. Most hotels will change currency or travellers cheques 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.
Voltage in Australia is 220-240V.
The country code for Australia is 61 and the area code for Sydney is 02. Dial this number first if calling from outside New South Wales and drop the 0 if calling from overseas. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for unlimited 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. Buy pre-paid phone cards which make overseas calls very cheap. 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.
The postal service in Australia is relatively efficient. Generally, post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm. All post offices will hold mail, keeping it for one month before returning it to the sender. For a small fee you can arrange to have mail forwarded to you. If you wish to purchase stamps you can buy them from most newsagents if the post office is closed.
In Australia tipping isn't a must 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 would be considered reasonable.
January 1st, January 27th (Australia Day), Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th (Anzac Day), June 9th (Queen's Birthday) , December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area you are heading to as certain towns and cities have their own public holidays. It is worth noting what the public holidays are before travelling to Sydney as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.