When you're backpacking around Australia anything can happen and you'll need travel insurance to protect yourself in case of an emergency. No matter how much time you spend in Australia (or anywhere else abroad), travel insurance is a major priority when you're planning your trip.
It's important to learn a little bit about travel safety in Australia for you and the people you are travelling with. In this article we discuss travel safety ideas for backpackers in Australia and outline some helpful hints & tips for staying safe on holiday.
There are some really good visas available for backpacking in Australia. They vary in price and each visa has a set of criteria to meet before a visa is granted. The working holiday visa is very popular because you can travel and work in Australia for 12 months. In this article we share which visas are available, how to apply and how to extend the working holiday visa for an extra year.
A little bit of research about Australia's geography can go a long way when planning your trip. The weather patterns in Australia can make all the difference to your plans! The monsoon (wet season) for example, can make travel dangerous in the summer months up in northern Australia. In this section you can learn about the weather patterns, states and major cities of Australia.
When you go backpacking around Australia, it's important to have somebody you can trust at home to help you out when you need to get things done. This will be your appointed person and they will be helping you manage your trip when you're in Australia. Learn how to keep everything in order while your backpacking around Australia.
When you're backpacking around Australia on a budget the hostels are an ideal place to stay. Hostels cater for backpackers who are looking for a temporary base whilst exploring the awesomeness of Australia. Learn about hostel life in Australia and some great tips on where to stay.
Primarily the Medicare system (similar to N.H.S in the U.K) is for Australian citizens, but if you're from a country which participates in the reciprocal health care agreement you may be eligible to join Medicare and gain 'immediate access' to the services they provide. If you're eligble, this is well worth the effort and can be of considerable value if you're backpacking in Australia for longer periods.
If you're packing for a backpacking trip around Australia check out our packing guide for lots of ideas and tips on what to pack for your trip. Preparation is the key, so we have written a backpackers packing guide checklist to help you get started.
The following packing checklist contains the most important things you will need to pack (or arrange) for backpacking in Australia. It might be a good idea to bookmark this page because there are links to a lots of really useful information about each item which explains everything in greater detail. That said, let's look at the backpacking checklist...
1) A Valid Passport
To backpack anywhere in the world you need a passport. It is advised by the Australian government that your passport is valid for at least 1 year after the leaving date of your trip.
For example, if you're going to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa for 1 year, your passport should be valid for 1 year after that visa has expired. It's a good idea because if you wanted to apply for a Working Holiday Visa Extension to have another year in Australia you will have a valid passport for this period as well.
Some people might also be visiting other countries after Australia and will need a vaild passport for that as well. So in a nut shell, your passport should be valid for as long as possible! There is lots more information on passports/visa documents in the Travel Documents for Backpacking Around Australia section.
2) A Visa for Australia
You will obviously need a visa to backpack around Australia. Depending which country you're from a visa might be a stamp or sticker in your passport, but usually these days visas are electronic and don't necessarily need to be 'packed'. However it's a mandatory requirement for visiting Australia and that is why it's included in our packing checklist.
You can learn more about which visas are available and how to apply in the Visas for Backpacking around Australia section.
3) Get your Appointed Person Established
When you go backpacking in Australia you will need someone at home to help you out at various stages along the way. Your appointed person will be receiving your mail at home for you, helping you transfer money, sending out copies of documents (travel insurance documents, passport scans, qualifications etc...) incase they get lost or stolen and helping you get money/accommodation if something goes wrong etc... They will also keep you upto date with things going on at home and tell you if you need to do anything to keep things running smoothly.
Make sure you have AT LEAST one person you can depend on day or night if you really need them. Make sure you read Essentials for Backpacking Australia - Appointed Person - Help from home for lots of help choosing your A.P and seeing what kind of role they will have in your trip.
4) An Australian Bank Account
For anyone backpacking around Australia an Australian bank account is an absolute essential. You will need it for everything! Transferring money to Australia, booking accommodation, getting your wages paid into, purchasing vehicle insurance, buying shopping and all the usual day-to-day necessities etc...
There are several ways to get an account setup, you can arrange it before you go and tranfer your money ahead of time so when you arrive it's all in place waiting for you (recommended). You can also open a bank account when you arrive and make the transfer when you're physically there.
If you open your account when you get there, remember to have enough money to see you through at least 2 weeks while you get your money transfered. This includes 2 weeks accommodation, food and transport money for that period. For more help with Australian bank accounts (getting the best bank account for your needs and which banks are available in Australia) See our Australian Bank Accounts Explained - Backpackers Guide article.
5) Prepare your Contingency Funds
Anything can happen when you're backpacking in Australia and it's important to be prepared for an emergency if you run into trouble. A contingecy fund is money you have purposely put aside incase you're faced with financial difficulty while you're backpacking.
For example if your bank cards are lost or stolen and you need accommodation or supplies (food, money for transport, replacement documents etc...) you will have access to funds when you need it. Your contingency funds can be used by either you or your appointed person to help you in emergency situations by booking accommdation for you, buying shopping online and having it delivered to you, transferring money by Western Union transfer etc... Make sure you read Contingency Funds - Savings when you need them - Backpacking Australia to learn how to protect yourself in emergency situations.
6) A Valid Driving License
One of the best things for backpackers in Australia is the ability to explore Australia in a car/campervan. It's fantasic having your own transport! You can team up with other backpackers, split the costs of travel, get more work opportunities and have lots of great road trips together.
If you're from a country that doesn't use English as a native language you may need to get an international driving license (I.D.P) for Australia. For more information about taking your driving license to Australia see the Driving documents for backpacking around Australia section. If you're driving in Australia, definately take some time to read our brilliant Backpackers Guide to Driving in Australia.
7) A Tax File Number
If you're going to be working in Australia you will need to get a Tax File Number (T.F.N). A tax file number is a unique reference which is given to people working in Australia by the Australian government. It can sometimes be a bit tricky for backpackers to get a T.F.N because the government requires a permanent Australian address to send it to. The problem is, a temporary address (i.e, a hostel) is not considered to be a secure address to receive your new details.
But don't worry, help is available! There are companies in Australia that for a small fee will get your tax file number delivered to their address and will email it to you when you arrive. To learn more about the tax file number and how to get it setup read our Australian Tax File Number Explained - Backpacker's Guide article.
8) Travel Insurance for Backpacking
Travel insurance is an important step in preparing for your trip. You don't have to buy travel insurance but if anything gets lost or stolen, flights get curtailed or you get injuired on your trip, your holiday will be ruined. The worst case is being faced with a huge medical bill or having to purchase new flights which can be a big problem.
Travel insurance is reasonably priced these days and it's easy to get good annual cover. For help deciding on a policy and lots of other hints & tips see the Backpacker's Travel Insurance Guide for backpacking Australia article.
9) Mobile phone & International SIM Cards
A mobile phone is a necessity for backpacking in Australia and there are several options available depending on your situation.
You can either buy a phone with a 12 month contract when you get to Australia (good for people on a working holiday visa) or you can take an unblocked 'world phone' and get a SIM card to go in it (good if you are travelling to other countries as well as Australia).
We have written a brilliant article about both options which goes into great detail about using mobile phones in Australia and how to make cheap calls with various SIM cards. We also cover 'world phone' compatibility (if you want to take your phone with you) and which networks operate in Australia. Check out the Using Mobile Phones & Australian SIM cards while Backpacking around Australia article for lots more.
10) Medicare for Backpackers
Medicare is Australia's health care system. A lot of countries have a reciprical healthcare agreement with Australia which means that going to the doctor and purchasing medicines can be relatively inexpensive (a similar system to the U.K's N.H.S for example).
First thing to do is see if your country has a reciprical healthcare agreement, read the Australian Medicare Service for Backpackers article to find out. If the answer is yes, you can get a Medicare card when you arrive. This can be very useful if you want to see a doctor or need to get regular perscribed drugs as you would at home.
The medicare card is something you can only get when you're in Australia, but it's in the list because it can be quite valuable to eligible backpackers.
11) Accommodation & Transport on Arrival
It's a VERY good idea to have some accommodation booked for when you arrive in Australia, for most people it will be a hostel in one of the major cities. Booking a hostel for at least 1 week is sensible because when you arrive you might be jet lagged and need to sleep or at least rest for a few days without having to deal with finding a place to stay.
Also, if you have things to sort out like transferring money or teaming up with other backpackers which takes longer than you expected you will be covered.
So 1 week minimum to allow time to adjust and get used to your environment (2 weeks is better) paid in advance so you can be sure you will have a place to stay without hassle. Transport from the airport to the hostel is also important so make sure you're able to get there easily and book that in advance as well.
Also when planning your trip, try to make your flight arrive in Australia during the day time. If something goes wrong you have a much better chance of sorting things out then at night. Also some hostels are only staffed during the day and if you get in too late you might not be able to find a staff member to get you checked in. We have written extensively about hostels and transport, read the Hostels in Australia - Hostel Life of the Backpacker article and the SHUTTLE BUSES section of the Bus Services in Australia - Backpackers Guide for some helpful guides.
12) Budgeting for your trip
To get a good idea of how much things will cost and how to budget wisely for your trip, read The Backpacker's Budget for Australia - Cost Of living In Australia article. It contains a wealth of useful ideas for budgeting including the cost of day-to-day living in Australia, how to calculate the costs of transport and recreational activites you will be doing.
13) Packing the essentials
Here is a list of the more common items backpackers usually include with their backpacks. Remember to keep it as light as possible, think very carefully about the usefulness of every item you pack and make sure you leave as much space as you can for the other things you will collect on the way.
Money belt - To safely transport your valuables, passport, cash, cards, etc... (see Concealable Mony Belt at the end of the Carrying Cash section). Remember to split up your funds to ensure that you always have access to money in an emergency (see section Contingency Funds - Savings when you need them - Backpacking Australia – PART 1).
Clothes - A weeks worth of clothes (try to steer clear of whites) with a lightweight jacket and a pair of shoes. You shouldn't need much more then that although it's up to you. If you're a city slicker or professional you may 'need' more things.
A towel - A towel which is not to large but still serves it's purpose. Some people use the trek towels which are highly absorbent and dry out quickly. They come in a variety of sizes, so if you buy one of these towels be sure to take it out of the packaging and confirm that it's going to be big enough before you buy.
Personal Organiser - Light weight folder and small set of stationery (including a small calculator and a marker pen) will be useful for organising yourself and referring to your trip notes (see section Personal Organiser).
Small torch - A small tourch with a bright LED in it can be useful in many situations. When not in use turn the end battery around the opposite way to prevent the torch from running down. The little maglite torches are fairly good and have a spare bulb behind the battery spring.
Electrical items - Camera, USB flash drive, mobile phone or any other bits (remember your chargers). You may wish to include a universal plug adapter (see section Information about Australian Plugs, Adaptors and Voltage) or alternativly you can buy one when you get there.
Sleeping bag - If you're hiking, road tripping or camping out you will need one, but if you're staying in hostels the entire time bedding and sheets are usually provided. If you decide to go camping after you havr arrived you can always buy one in Australia anyway. A 3-4 season rated sleeping bag is the best choice because it will carry you through the cold and if it gets to hot you can always open it out into more of a sheet type arrangement.
Other bags - Zip locks bags, a kitchen bag and small wash kit are worth packing (read part 2 for more information). A 'day bag' is a good idea, something you can store in your main backpack that you can use to carry small bits around with you during the day (camera, mobile phone, lunch, bottle of water etc...). A canvas bag would be ideal, something with some compartments on the inside and fastenings on the front (Indiana Jones style, you get the idea).
Sun screen and other bits - HIGH FACTOR (50+) sun screen is generally a good idea, best kept in an accessable place ready for when you need it. Remeber to include your sun glasses or some sort of eye protection (like a hat or cap).
Medikit - A little medical box with plasters, pain killers, etc... remembering to include any medication you need on a regular basis. If you're travelling to other countries you may wish to consider an (in date) sterilized syringe pack (for use by professionals in lesser developed countries in an emergency).
14) Read, Learn & Be prepared!!!
Lastly, be sure to read part 2 of this article (Backpackers Packing Guide/Checklist for backpacking around Australia) for lots more brilliant hints & tips about packing for backpacking around Australia.
Also, try to read as many of the other OzUltra articles as you can because there are priceless gems in all our articles which will be of tremendous value to any aspiring backpacker heading for the awesomeness of Australia. Good luck to everyone and get ready, because you're going to have the adventure of a lifetime!!!
For anybody who would like to share their journey and experiences with the people at home a 'blog' is the perfect medium. The savvy traveller will use the blog like their own personal newspaper.
If you're on a Working Holiday Visa or are travelling for extended periods the largest part of your holiday funds will be paid into your Australian bank account. Learn how to transfer money to Australia.
When you go to Australia you're bound to take your camera with you. With it you will be showing friends and family back home all the great things you have seen. Learn how to keep your travel snaps safe.
The Medicare system is for Australian citizens but if you're from a country which participates in the health care agreement you may well be eligible to join Medicare.
Read Part 2 of the packing guide and get lots of hints/tips about what to pack before you go to Australia. Learn what to take and compare ideas with the backpacker checklist.
There are lots of ferries dotted around Australia. There are river boats/ferries and CityCats. Some take vehicles across small river crossing points and others which cross from Melbourne to Tasmania.
A mobile phone is a necessity for anybody spending time in Australia. Even if you're only staying for a short period it's still highly advisable to get an Australian SIM card and compatible mobile phone.
Whatever plans you have made for backpacking in Australia you will need to take some cash with you. The amount you take will depend on what you have managed to do in the planning phase (i.e, prebooked accommodation, shuttle, opened an Australian bank account, etc...). Learn how much cash you will need to take to Australia to see you through the first 2 weeks.