Australia is a safe country with a good and free health system, a good and free education system, and a larrikin approach to authority. Australia is also a nanny state, so we hope that these 27 Do’s and Don’ts when Visiting Australia, will help you enjoy the land down under.
1. DON’T Tip
We don’t tip in Australia. We offer our staff a fair minimum wage, so they don’t rely on tips, unlike other countries like the US. In saying that, should you want to leave a tip for great service or an excellent meal, that is a personal choice. You might like to read our guide to tipping around the world.
2. DON’T get o.f.f.e.n.d.e.d when we s.w.e.a.r
Australians s.w.e.a.r… a lot. We don’t see the word ‘b.l.o.o.d.y’ as s.w.e.a.r.i.n.g. Bugger and crap are also just normal day-to-day words for us. So are other words that you can probably guess. These are not unusual words for many Australians. We had a friend over from the States who said “s.*.*.t” and then “pardon my French.” We all thought it quaint, strange actually and totally odd. I mean he only said s.*.*.t”. Our past Prime Ministers have often dropped the ‘f’ b.o.m.b in public and international situations.
3. DO Understand Australian Road Rules
We drive on the left in Australia.
There are a lot of road rules and regulations in Australia that are very strictly enforced, probably more so than most other countries, and definitely more so than in the USA where going 10 miles per hour over the limit seems to be the norm. If you go one kilometre over the speed limit and get caught in Australia, you will be booked and lose points from your licence.
There are fixed cameras and hidden ones everywhere. Their job is to raise revenue while keeping us all safe. There are signs everywhere indicating speed limits, but they change quickly so stay alert.
We have a demerit system in operation. Everyone starts off with zero points, and if you infringe any rule or regulation, you will gain points. Once you hit 13, that is it. No licence and a lot more unpleasant things are coming your way. This is not something you want to achieve. On long weekends or holiday periods, there are double demerit points which mean that if you are caught speeding then instead of getting 2 merit points, you will then get 4.
Generally, we walk on the left of the footpath and if you ride an escalator, stand on the left side, leaving the right side for people to walk past you.
4. DO observe the green man at pedestrian crossings.
Don’t cross the street, unless the man is green. You can be booked (fined) if you don’t
5. DON’T Drink and Drive
The blood a.l.c.o.h.o.l limit is 0.05% throughout Australia, with zero limits for learners and drivers with provisional licences (“P” plates). Don’t even think of driving if you have been drinking. Police often set up random a.l.c.o.h.o.l and d.r.u.g testing, which we call ‘booze buses’. People regardless of whether you have been drinking or not will inevitably be pulled over at some stage. You will be asked to show your licence (which you must carry at all times) and either be asked to count to 5 into a machine or blow into it to assess how much a.l.c.o.h.o.l and/or d.r.u.g.s you might have taken.
You must always wear your seatbelt or else you will be pulled over. This can cost you 5 points. You cannot use your mobile phone (cell phone) while driving. Yes, we see people doing it but if the police catch you, then you will lose 3 points. See how fast your points can add up. Talk on the phone while not wearing a seat belt on a long weekend and you are done without even having had a drink. Having your licence suspended in one state or territory will transfer to all states and territories in Australia.
6. DO be aware that Australia is a BIG country.
Australia is a big country. Australia is the planet’s sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. At 7 692 024 km2. You cannot just drive from Sydney to Cairns for example in a day. It, in fact, takes 27 hours and is 2,413.4 km in distance. Sydney to Melbourne takes 10 hours. Many people make this mistake of thinking that everything is easily reachable; it isn’t necessarily.
7. DO order a Beer in Australia.
This may be counter intuitive to what I have said above, but if you are not driving then why wouldn’t you order a beer in Australia. Ordering a beer differs in each of Australia’s 6 states and 2 territories, so this guide to ordering beer in Australia will help you not be laughed at. And we will laugh at you, because Australians are very good at taking the piss out of ourselves and others, in the nicest way possible. (Did you see what I did in that last sentence?) The weather is hot and sunny mostly, and a beer is refreshing, as is are wines.
8. DO Drink Coffee
Australia has brilliant coffee, undoubtedly because we have a large multicultural population. Italians, Greeks, Lebanese and more have all informed our palates on damn good coffee. Australian’s are inveterate coffee snobs. Starbucks never took off in Australia, because we value GOOD coffee. We know our baristas well, and we know and insist in great coffee from independent coffee shops. We happily admit that we love coffee, and are coffee snobs.
9. DO go out for an Australian Breakfast.
Australian’s three favourite words are ‘all day breakfast’. The climate is impressive, and breakfast has become an art form. Australian breakfasts range from smashed avo, with fetta, and basil on sourdough, to acai bowls, ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter, and the good old bacon and eggs, we love eating outside in the sun with a cup of coffee.
10. DO try Vegemite
It is made from yeast, and beer is made from yeast. I think there is something in that for all of us. The key is the ratio of vegemite to butter. More butter and a light smear of vegemite on toast is unbeatable.
11. DO carry ID
If you are young, you will need some form of identification to get into clubs, pubs, etc. 18 years is the minimum age to legally drink in Australia.
12. DO Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide
The sun can be harsh in Australia, and the Cancer Council has an ongoing campaign to keep people protected.
Slip on a shirt, Slop on the 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a hat, Seek shade or shelter, Slide on some sunnies (sunglasses). — “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide”
13. DO wear thongs
Called flip-flops in the US, jandals in NZ, and plakkies in South Africa, in Australia we call them thongs. Don’t wear them to a restaurant or a club.
14. DON’T worry about Australia’s d.e.a.d.l.y animals.
Too many times we hear people say that they don’t want to come to Australia because of Australia’s d.e.a.d.l.y animals, our spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks, bees, etc. But the thing is, you are highly unlikely to encounter any. Snakes are as scared of you, as I am of them. Snakes are deaf, sort of. They have a sensory system that allows them to feel vibrations, so if you are bushwalking, walk heavily, and they will move. With sharks, swim between the flags on patrolled beaches, which I will discuss later in this post. You will be protected.
15. DON’T pat a Koala
Australia has some of the unique animals in the world, and many visitors want to pat a koala. But, they can’t because, in the interest of animal welfare, there is a NSW government regulation, where holding Koalas is not permitted, and I think most people understand this.
16. DON’T smoke
No one likes a smoker in Australia. If you are coming from Europe, you will be in for a shock. There are so many rules and regulations regarding smoking. You cannot smoke with 3 metres of entrances or exits of any cafe or restaurant. You cannot smoke in your own car if you have children in it. Quite a few beaches are smoke-free as are some entire suburbs. There are even regulations on plain cigarette packaging to deter smokers, and graphically horrendous images on cigarette packs to encourage people to quit.
17. DON’T ever throw a cigarette butt
Just don’t throw a cigarette butt out of a car window, or anywhere actually. Many of Australia’s bushfires are caused by this.
18. DO Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
Everyone must swim between the flags at patrolled beaches. Actually, this is not a rule or a regulation. One that should be, but it isn’t. However, it is strongly recommended. This means when you see the red and yellow flags, you must swim here because the lifeguards have ascertained that this is the safest area on that day, at that beach.
You will see that the flags change position on the beaches not just daily but throughout the day, as Australia has some of the most unpredictable rips. A rip is a current that likes to take you to places that you might not want to go to. They can take you a long way away pretty quickly, and you could find yourself in Jaws territory or even worse. In the last two months, two men have d.r.o.w.n.e.d at the beach where we live in North Wollongong, after going into the unpatrolled beach.
19. DON’T ride a bike without a helmet
You cannot ride a bike without a helmet. You will be fined on the spot if you do. Adult cyclists are also required to carry photo identification.
20. DO learn how to use the term ‘mate.’
· Men use mate, women NEVER do
· Men should NEVER EVER say mate to a woman, or you are likely to get slapped down or hated forever after.
· Men can shake hands with an old friend and say, “How are you going mate, long time no see” or whatever. “How are you mate”? All good and totally accepted and expected.
· They can use mate if pulled over by the police; “mate I wasn’t over the limit” really.
· “No worries mate” is a very common usage for lots of situations. Generally, if someone apologizes for something and you are not peeved about it, you say this.
· Using ‘mate’ is highly convenient for men if they forget a man’s name.
· If they forget a woman’s name they are screwed.
21. DO understand we shorten a lot of words in Australia.
For some reason, we shorten a lot of words in Australia. Australians are Aussies. G’day is good day. If you are invited for a cuppa, that is a cup of tea. MacDonalds is Macca’s. Footy is football; bowlo is the bowling club, the servo is the gas station, the Bottlo or Bottle-o is a liquor shop. A coppa is a policeman; Cabbie is a taxi driver, Avo is avocado.
22. DON’T Litter
We have a slogan, ‘Don’t be a tosser”, and we mean it. Just don’t toss your garbage on the ground. It’s illegal to litter in Australia, and you could be fined. In many states, you can report people if you see them tossing rubbish out their car window. Put your rubbish in the many bins around, or, hold onto it until you find one.
23. DO be courteous using Public transport.
If you’re jumping on a bus, train or tram, you’ll need to wait for the passengers to get off before you get on. Buses have courtesy seats at the front reserved for the elderly, pregnant and disabled so if the bus is near empty you can sit there but if anyone in need gets on, you should give up your seat for them.
24. DON’T jump the queue
It is wrong to jump the queue, and Aussies take a very dim view of this. This is on public transport, at the shopping centre, at a pub, or anywhere. While we don’t actually stand in a straight line sort of queue, you need to take in who was there first and wait your turn.
25. DON’T climb Uluru
While it is currently not illegal to climb Uluru (Ayres Rock), it is disrespectful to the traditional Aboriginal custodians of this spiritual site. The Anangu ask as visitors to their land that you respect their wishes, culture, and law by not climbing Uluru. Effective 26 October 2019, marking the 34th anniversary of the Uluru hand-back, the climb will be closed. Enough said — don’t climb Uluru.
26. DON’T spread your germs
It is disrespectful, in any country, to cough and/or sneeze on or near other people. If you don’t have tissues on hand cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not your hand. If you cough into your hand then hold onto the railing of public transport, the germs will spread…very quickly. DON’T EVER spit in public. That’s just gross.
27. DO Watch out for drop bears
Drop bears are a predatory koala who drop from the trees and love terrorising foreign visitors. If you are out in the bush, this might help. “There are some suggested folk remedies that are said to act as a repellent to Drop Bears; these include having forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears”. Australia Museum