Ask anyone and they'll tell you that it's not hard to live the good life in Australia. It's easy to eat well, with just about any cuisine in the world being available and fresh produce on offer year-round. And it's easy to shop to your heart's content, in small country markets to big city shopping strips. Best of all, it's all doable on a student budget.
Australia is one of the most dynamic places in the world to eat, thanks to international culinary influences and a dining public willing to give anything new a go. Anything another country does, Australia does too. Vietnamese, Indian, Fijian, Italian – no matter where it's from, there are expats and locals keen to cook and eat the cuisine. Due to the country’s huge size, the climate varies a great deal from north to south. This means that at any time of the year there's an enormous variety of produce on offer, including Australia’s justifiably famous seafood.
Food tourism and food festivals are blossoming. Melbourne, for instance, has its own month-long food-and-wine festival in March. There are harvest festivals in wine regions, and various communities hold annual events, such as Clare Valley's (South Australia) Gourmet Weekend.
Christmas in Australia, in mid-summer, is less likely to involve a traditional European baked dinner, and more likely to be replaced by a ‘barbie’ (barbecue), full of seafood and quality steak. Various ethnic groups have their own celebrations. The Indian community brings out delicious sweets during Diwali; the Chinese annual Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) involves sumptuous banquets; and Australia’s Islamic community marks the end of Ramadan with the festival of Eid al-Fitr.
Typically, a restaurant meal in Australia is a relaxed affair. Any table that you've booked is yours for the night, unless you're told otherwise. A competitively priced place to eat is a club or pub that offers a 'counter meal'. Here you order at the kitchen, take a number and wait until it's called. You then pick up the meal yourself, saving the restaurant money on staff and you on your total bill.
A great feature of the restaurant scene, which also makes eating out less expensive, is 'BYO' (Bring Your Own). If a restaurant says it's BYO, you're allowed to bring your own alcohol. If the place also sells alcohol, the BYO is usually limited to bottled wine only (no beer, no casks) and a corkage charge is often added to your bill.
See the individual state/city guides on this website for recommendations of some of the best places to eat and drink in Australia's capital cities.
Postal services in Australia are provided by Australia Post. Deliveries of letters and small parcels are made once daily from Monday to Friday. Larger parcels must be collected from your nearest post office with a collection card which is usually left in your letter box. The postal service is reliable and efficient.
Most post offices are open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Mondays to Fridays. They have a variety of Australia Post items for sale such as stationery, post bags (for posting large or fragile items) and stamps. Australia Post also offers receiving services for the payment of electricity, telephone and some other bills. Stamps may also be purchased at some newsagents.
Read more about Australian postal services at www.australiapost.com.au
Australia has a modern telephone system. Public telephones are available at post offices, shopping centres and are often situated on street corners. Public pay phones accept a variety of Australian coins. Credit phones are also found at international and domestic airports, central city locations and hotels and take most major credit cards, such as American Express, Visa and MasterCard.
To make international telephone calls from Australia, dial 0011 followed by the country code, the area code (if required) and the telephone number. To call Australia from overseas, dial 61 followed by the area code and telephone number. To make calls from one location to another within Australia, dial the area code (if required) followed by the telephone number.
Read more about telephone, internet and mobile phone services in Australia at www.dbcde.gov.au
Mobile phones are very popular in Australia. Mobile phone services are available in urban areas, most regional areas and along a number of national and regional highways.
Mobile phones can be purchased from a number of retailers. Major carriers in Australia include Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and 3. International students wishing to have mobile access will be required to sign a contract to go onto a plan (where you receive a bill for your usage each month) or buy a pre-paid SIM card.
Most pre-paid SIM card packages are sold with a mobile phone. With a pre-paid SIM card, you are given a mobile number and you can make calls as long as there is stored value on your card. Be aware that pre-paid SIM cards have an expiry date on its stored value. You will need to recharge your card, within a specified period, by topping up your card’s stored value. However, once the SIM card has expired, you will have to purchase a new SIM card.
It is recommended international students opt for the pre-paid option to avoid getting locked into lengthy contracts and expensive telephone bills. Before you sign up to a mobile phone plan ensure you read over the details carefully or have someone else look over it to ensure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities under the contract.
In 2008, 55.7 per cent of Australia’s population was using the internet. Its popularity and role in Australian workplaces and households continues to grow by the day. Australians are now shopping, working, learning, banking and meeting new people online.
Students attending educational institutions in Australia should have access to the internet on campus. You may also be able to access the internet at local community libraries for free or at an internet café for a small fee. Some cafes and public places also provide free wireless access for patrons.
If you are renting a property and have a landline telephone installed you will be able to arrange to have internet access in your own home. Major internet services providers (ISPs) in Australia include Telstra, Optus, 3, Dodo and Vodafone. Internet plans are similar to mobile phone plans in that you will be required to sign a contract. Again be sure to read the contract carefully to ensure you are aware of your rights and responsibilities. Prepaid and wireless packages are also available for purchase from major ISPs and can be a cheaper and less restrictive way of accessing the internet.
It is important to ensure your personal safety while using the internet. Be sure not to give out any personal information to strangers or enter banking or financial information on unsecure or unfamiliar websites. For more information about online safety visit www.staysmartonline.gov.au
Australians like to shop, as evidenced by the huge variety of local- and international-brand shops, and the crowds that gather at every clearance sale. Big cities can satisfy most consumer appetites with everything from high-fashion boutiques to second-hand emporiums, while many smaller places tend towards speciality retail, be it home-grown produce, antiques or arts and crafts. Many Australian cities have really interesting shopping (and eating) strips in different neighbourhoods, especially in the inner suburbs. Be sure to check out places like Brunswick St, Fitzroy (Melbourne), Oxford St, Paddington (Sydney), Ann & Brunswick Sts intersection, Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) and Oxford St, Leederville (Perth).
Markets are a great place to shop, especially for a bargain, and most cities have at least one permanent bazaar, such as Hobart's Salamanca Market. Melbourne and Sydney have a couple – try the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne or the Paddington Market in Sydney. Alternative markets on the New South Wales north coast, such as the one at Nimbin, are also worth a visit.
An Aboriginal artwork or artefact can be an excellent souvenir of Australia. By buying authentic items you are supporting Aboriginal culture and helping to ensure that traditional and contemporary expertise and designs continue to be of economic and cultural benefit for Aboriginal individuals and their communities. The best way to buy artefacts is either directly from the communities that have art-and-craft centres or from galleries and outlets that are owned, operated or supported by Aboriginal communities. Other great ideas for souvenirs include the seeds of native plants – try growing kangaroo paw back home (check your country’s quarantine rules). You could also consider a bottle of fine Australian wine, honey or delicious macadamia nuts.
Modern Australian fashion collections that are in demand include Collette Dinnigan, Ty & Melita, Morrissey, Sass & Bide, Tsubi and Akira Isogawa. For a rustic look, try wrapping yourself in a waterproof Driza-Bone coat, an Akubra hat, moleskin pants and Blundstone boots; RM Williams is a well-known bush-clothing brand. Surf-wear labels such as Rip Curl, Quiksilver, Mambo and Billabong also make good buys.
Like many countries, Australia celebrates certain days each year that are of national significance. Australia may recognise the day with a public holiday which may include special events.
Most states and territories observe public holidays on the same date. Some have days that only their state or territory celebrates. In larger cities, shops, restaurants and public transport generally continue to operate on public holidays. In smaller towns, most shops and restaurants close.
National public holidays in Australia are:
Australia Day, 26 January, is the day Australia celebrates its nationhood. The day is a public holiday that marks the founding of the first settlement by European people.
Anzac Day is on 25 April, the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915 during World War I. This day is for remembering those who fought and who lost their lives to war. This holiday is marked by ceremonies and military parades. You’ll find many towns have an ANZAC Day parade and ceremony culminating in the laying of memorial wreaths at a monument or war memorial.
The Queen’s Birthday holiday celebrates the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, who is not only Queen of the United Kingdom but also Queen of Australia. The Queen’s Birthday is a public holiday celebrated on a Monday (usually in June). Having the Queen’s Birthday on a Monday results in a three-day, long weekend.
Boxing Day is celebrated on 26 January, the day after Christmas Day. The day is traditionally known for giving money and other gifts to those who were needy.
New Years Day
January 1 sees festivals, celebrations and parties held all over the country to welcome in the New Year.
Labor Day is celebrated on different dates throughout Australia. As elsewhere in the world, Labor Day originated as a means of giving ‘working people’ a day off and recognising the roots of trade unionist movements and workers’ rights.
Religious public holidays are celebrated on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Christmas is celebrated in Australia on 25 December. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is 'the son of God', the Messiah sent from Heaven to save the world.
On Christmas Day family and friends gather to exchange gifts and enjoy special Christmas food. Australians are just as likely to eat freshly caught seafood outdoors at a barbeque, as to have a traditional roast dinner around a dining table.
Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his death by crucifixion. It is the most significant event of the Christian calendar.
In addition to its religious significance, Easter in Australia is enjoyed as a four-day holiday weekend starting on Good Friday and ending on Easter Monday.
Individual states and territories also celebrate their own public holidays. For a full list of public holidays visit www.australia.gov.au