Australia’s national currency is Australian dollars (AUD), which comes in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent and one and two dollar denominations.
Freycinet Experience Walk, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania © Tourism Australia
If you’re planning a trip to Australia, here are our practical tips and some helpful information to know before you arrive.
Currency and shopping in Australia
Currency exchange is available at banks, hotels and international airports. Australian banks offer the same range of services typical in other western nations, and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread, although facilities may be limited in remote towns and the outback. EFTPOS (our electronic payment system) is widely available in most Australian shops, restaurants and hotels, allowing you to pay for purchases with your credit or debit card. Fees may be charged on transactions, particularly if withdrawing from an international account, so it is advised you check with your bank before travelling.
Australia’s four largest banks are: NAB (National Australia Bank), ANZ (Australia New Zealand Bank), Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation. There are many smaller banks too, including ING Direct, AMP Banking and HSBC Australia. Banking hours are usually 9.30am-4pm Monday to Thursday and until 5pm on Friday, but it’s best to check with each branch directly. Some branches open on Saturday mornings until 1pm.
Credit cards such as American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa, UnionPay and JCB are accepted in Australia. VISA or MasterCard can be used everywhere credit cards are accepted. American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarkets, department store chains and tourist destinations. A good tip is to carry multiple credit cards and a little cash. Merchants may impose credit card surcharges in some places.
Traveller's cheques are not widely accepted in Australia. If you do purchase traveller’s cheques, it is best to buy them in Australian dollars as smaller shops, restaurants and other businesses are unlikely to know what the exchange rate is if you present a cheque in a different currency such as US dollars or British pounds.
Australia has a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10 per cent. You may be able to claim a refund for the GST paid on goods if you have spent AUD$300 or more with a single business, no more than 60 days before departing Australia. Tourist Refund Scheme facilities are located in the departure area of international terminals.
It is not customary to bargain or haggle in Australia.
Hotels and restaurants do not add service charges to your bill, and tipping is always your choice. In upmarket restaurants, it is common to tip waiters 10 per cent of the bill for good service.
Safety in Australia
The emergency number for police, ambulance and fire brigade is 000.
Australia’s popular beaches are usually patrolled by lifeguards from October to April. Red and yellow flags mark the safest areas for swimming and it is always recommended to swim within these monitored areas.
There are also many lakes, waterholes and rivers that are popular swimming spots in Australia. Pay attention to signs at the entrance that will advise if swimming is safe, or check with the local government website before visiting.
For information about marine stingers and crocodile safety in Far North Queensland, visit the Queensland Government website.
The sun is extremely strong in Australia, so it’s important to protect your skin during the day. This is especially true while travelling, as you’ll generally be spending lots of time in our beautiful great outdoors. It is recommended that you use SPF 50+ sunscreen, and wear a hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves where possible to protect your skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays. For more information and handy tips, visit the SunSmart website.
The tap water is generally safe to drink throughout Australia. Travelling with a reusable water bottle is recommended so you can refill it throughout the day and stay hydrated. There are public taps and bubblers (drinking fountains) available throughout major cities, and most cafés, restaurants or hotels will be happy to fill your bottle at your request. If the tap water is not safe to drink (this is typically only the case in rural areas), there will be a sign above the tap advising so.
Services in Australia
The international dialing code for Australia is 61. Each region also has an area code, including Central East (New South Wales, Australia Capital Territory) with area code 02; South East (Victoria, Tasmania) with area code 03; Mobile telephones (Australia-wide) with area code 04; North East (Queensland) with area code 07; and Central and West (Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory) with area code 08. When calling from outside Australia, leave out the leading ‘0’ from the area code or mobile phone number. The outgoing IDD (international direct dialing) code from within Australia is 0011.
Mobile phone network coverage is available across Australia, however coverage may be limited in some remote areas. Internet access and free WiFi is widely available at internet cafés, accommodation and libraries.
Post offices are usually open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, with some city post offices open on Saturday morning. Travellers can arrange to collect mail at post offices throughout Australia.
If you have a disability and are planning to travel throughout Australia, there are many services to meet your needs. Thorough preparation is essential for a successful trip, so you should speak to your travel agent about your specific requirements. More information on accessible tourism in Australia is available on the Smart Traveller website.
General information about travelling in Australia
Australia’s official language is English. However, Australia is a multicultural nation with a significant migrant population, so it's common to hear a diverse range of languages in Australia's cities and towns.
The legal drinking age in all states and territories of Australia is 18 years old. You will need to provide proof of age, either with a driver's licence or passport.
You may need an adapter in order to plug your appliances into the power sockets in Australia: the adapter required for Australia is Type 1 Australia plug. The plugs in Australia have two flat metal pins, forming an inverted ‘V’ shape, and occasionally a third pin in the centre. The electrical current in Australia is 220-240 volts, AC 50Hz.