That’s right! Just when you thought I had totally mined my trip to Australia, I pop up with another post.
A number of friends have asked me if, on reflection, I would have done anything differently. The answer is no. Though it would have been great to go for longer. However, I do have a few handy hints to pass on if anyone is thinking of doing a similar trip.
1. Do your homework beforehand
a) I firmly believe that planning and preparation is the key to getting the most out of your trip. It’s fun too – or at least I think it is!
b) Ensure that you have adequate travel and medical cover for the entire trip. You won’t want to make use of it, but if you have to, you don’t want any nasty surprises.
c) It almost goes without saying, shop around for the best deals on everything.
2. Car hire
a) Don’t hire a GPS, head straight to the branch of Harvey Norman nearest to the airport, (find out its address and print out the directions before you fly) and buy one for a fraction of the hire charges. Alternatively, consult the Australian RAC site.
b) If you’re planning on driving into the Outback – and you really should – hire a car with good suspension, a 4×4 rather than a saloon car. You’ll thank me for it.
c) Main roads in the major towns have tolls. Opt to pay the actual toll charges and an admin charge, rather than a set daily fee, it’ll be cheaper.
d) Familiarise yourself with Australian parking regulations. Fines, and I speak from experience, are expensive. As are those for speeding!
3. Public transport
a) Internal flights are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.
b) Train, tram and bus services are great, particularly in the major cities.
c) Many major cities have public bike hire schemes.
d) Make use of 24 hour tickets from hop on hop off buses to travel around. To get your money’s worth, buy your ticket at mid-day on day one and use it until mid-day on day two.
e) There are some great trips you can do across country either by rail or by sea. Investigate and book these before you fly.
a) Australia has a lively restaurant scene. Book any highly rated restaurants before you travel.
b) Once you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask locals for their recommendations of what to do, what to see and where to go.
c) Do go and watch some of the available superb sporting action. It’s not expensive.
d) Looking for a great coffee, see where the cyclists have stopped.
e) In smaller towns, many of the cafes only open until 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. So you may need to scout out beforehand somewhere for dinner.
f) Do try the pies and other baked goods from the many local, privately-owned bakeries. My beloved will testify that they’re delicious. Greggs would have no chance in Australia.
g) The national dish appears to be fish and chips, preferably eaten at a seashore shack where the fish was landed that morning.
4. Outside of the major towns, accommodation is largely provided by motels
Many are indistinguishable one from the other so look for those that have good ratings from other travellers similar to yourselves. Book in advance, don’t travel on spec or you might be disappointed.
5. Don’t try to see and do too much
It’s tempting, it’s a big country.
6. Never, ever go out without sun protection or a hat
You know it makes sense.