VOLUNTEER TRAVEL TIPS
Travel Tips in Australia
Following are some tips for making your volunteer travels in Australia a little easier and less stressful.
Australia is a western country. Our society is modelled on the English/American system of strictly enforced road rules. To the letter! We are not as laid back as we appear when it comes to behaviour on our roads. The authorities enforce every rule and law, with very little lee-way. As they say … it’s all about the money.
Driving on our roads
When driving for any distance or any reason on any roads in Australia, no matter how remote or isolated, you must have a current drivers licence. Check whether your drivers licence is valid in Australia, or if you require an international permit before you come.
Alcohol consumption is strictly enforced. The legal limit for a fully licenced driver is .05. Anything over that and you’ll be taken to the police station immediately and forced to have additional tests. Your licence will be physically taken from you immediately and you won’t be able to drive on any roads until you appear in court … usually several months later. This also applies to recreational drugs.
Australian roads are subject to constant Random Breath/Drug Test stops. They can pop up anywhere, or you can be forced to submit to a drug test when pulled over for any infringement … like failing to use your indicators to make a turn etc.
So the best advice is definitely don’t drive when you’ve been drinking or taking drugs. It’ll totally ruin your experience here. Remember, there is no leniency.
Speed is Australia’s other big no no. Every road is sign posted with a speed limit. Usually every few kilometres you will see a speed limit sign. If you are caught speeding more than 3-5km/hr over the limit you will be stopped or recorded on a camera and issued a speeding fine. These usually start at $150+ and rise.
Speed limits vary, from inside towns 50km/hr – 60km/hr, then 80km/hr and top speed is 100km/hr unless you’re on a designated freeway that is signposted at 110km/hr. Schools are usually 40km/hr.
The police use many devices for catching speeding motorists. Hidden speed cameras are all over the freeways in cities, as well as normal city streets. You’ll also see cars parked on the side of the road, that have a speed camera attached to the front of them. These cars appear anywhere at anytime. Then there is also the police cars, that have a speed camera attached to them. When you drive past them, they can record your speed and will stop you if you’re over the limit.
So, do not speed. Even on a 100km long stretch of straight road out in the country, with no other visible traffic. The cost of the fine is not worth it.
Road work speed limits must also be obeyed strictly. It’s a big deal if you’re travelling at 50km/hr through a 40km/hr road work. Same with school crossings, our speed limit is usually 40km/hr.
Bus & Train
Buses and trains operate mainly in the major capital cities. All the cities have an elaborate train and bus network, and Melbourne being the only city with a full Tram network. Public transport in the inner cities is great, but be prepared to do some walking if you’re out in the suburbs.
As for smaller regional towns and cities, they are connected to the major capital cities usually by a regional train network or bus lines. Within the regional town itself, it will only be a bus network and you’ll have to get the local bus timetables to be able to utilise them.
Be aware, our cities are not like European cities. Our cities are spread out. It can take 2-3 hours to cross from one side to the other. For example, Melbourne is over 50km from east to west.
Australian cities are all connected via their internal airlines. We have Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin and a few smaller airlines. Air travel within Australia is not cheap. It’s common knowledge here that it is cheaper to fly to Bali, Indonesia, than it is to go between Melbourne and Brisbane.
Do not expect to get cheap flights between major cities or even flights to the smaller regional towns. It’s a lot cheaper to take the extra time and travel by road or rail.
A 3 hour flight from Melbourne to Brisbane can cost anywhere between $100 – $350, depending how early you book and what the peak season is.
If you’re wanting a flight to a smaller regional city, you usually have to fly to the capital city of that State, then take a smaller regional airline to the smaller city. Again, just check online before you come if you know you’re going to have to rely on airline flights to get around.
Getting around ...
There are lots of ways to move around Australia.
You can hire a bicycle, but be prepared to have to cycle very long distances, even in the large cities. Inner city living is fine, but other than that, you’ll want to be fit.
A great way to travel around the entire country. Helmets must be worn and your international driving permit must specify that you are permitted to ride a motorcycle. In Australia, a car and motorbike licence are two different licenses.
This is a great was to see the country. Big or small, campervans are available at good rates in all major capital cities. Don’t wait till you’re out in the country or small towns to hire one. They’re usually only available in the capital cities. Wicked Campers are popular small vans.
Same as the campervans, it’s best to do your dealing and hiring in the major capital cities or at the airport. Have your license organised prior to arriving.
Standing on the side of the road, with your thumb/hand out, requesting a ride from a stranger. If you’re a guy, it’s usually pretty safe to do such things. It’s a great way to make new friends and find out the local stories. However, if you’re a girl, just use your common sense. I say no more because of the politically correctness that is required these days.
Australia has some of the most strict gun laws on the planet. You wouldn’t think so, considering the size of the land mass and the low population (22 million). But, politically speaking, they’ve taken our guns away many years ago in response to the one and only mass shooting we had, in Tasmania. So, you don’t really have to fear being held at gun point in Australia, because not many people have guns. Gun related deaths haven’t decreased much since the enforced removal of guns, and we average around 200 deaths per year, caused by accidents and deliberate actions. They’re mostly used in suicide cases, with accidents and murder averaging 50 incidents per year.