NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Canberra
Population: 20 million
Area: 2,970,000 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 61
Electricity: 240V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Australia Dollars = $0.99 US Calculate Other Amounts
Australia requires an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for citizens of the United States. To get one, go to www.eta.immi.gov.au.
GOOD TO KNOW
Modern Australian cuisine has eschewed the flavors of its cultural motherland—Britain—in favor of Asian and Californian ideals. Specialties from the sea include Sydney rock oysters, barramundi, tiger prawns, and yabbies (small freshwater lobsters). A landlubber's choices are no less impressive with lamb and beef options augmented by native wildlife like kangaroo and emu. Recent years have seen an explosion in popularity of Wagyu, the name for the several breeds of Japanese cattle that produces beef cuts with intense intramuscular fat. This delicious meat is available throughout Australia at exorbitant prices, but is still far cheaper than Kobe beef in Japan. As long as you don't ask for it to be cooked more than medium rare, it's worth it.
The most popular items to buy in Australia are boomerangs, Aboriginal bark paintings, and other "Australiana." Fine Australian wines are a bargain; for a special treat, try a bottle of "spurgles," an intriguing sparkling Shiraz the Aussies love, but rarely export. Most of the world's opals come from Southern Australia, and like any precious material, these beautiful stones, ranging from milky white to flame-tinged black, are cheapest at the source.
Tipping is not very common in Australia, nor is a service charge added to the bill in restaurants. In top restaurants a 10 percent tip is typical, but optional elsewhere.
Did You Know?
The emu and the kangaroo cannot walk backward, which is allegedly why they appear on the Australian coat-of-arms.
January: 1, New Year's Day; 26, Australia Day
April: 25, ANZAC Day
June: First Monday after June 8, Queen's Birthday
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; Day after Easter, Easter Monday