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General Info about Australia

Visas
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.

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

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 9.30am 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 traveller’s 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.

Telephone
The country code for Australia is 61. 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.

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.

Tipping
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
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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