Australia travel guide
Australia is a land of savage beauty, big adventure and even bigger horizons. There are good reasons why the country finds itself touted as one of the ultimate travel getaways; it has personality in spades, landscapes to die for and more than its fair share of sunshine. And if beaches, rainforest and outback aren’t your thing, then its major cities are outstanding destinations in their own right.
In many ways the country breeds extremes. The fiery atmosphere of an Aussie Rules match in Melbourne and the champagne glitz of Sydney Harbour belong to another planet entirely when compared to the quiet expanse of the Red Centre or the surf-bashed coastlines of the west.
Likewise, 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture sometimes seem an unnatural bedfellow for the famed “no worries mate” BBQ-lifestyle of modern times. When taken as a whole, however, the sum of Australia’s contrasts make it a destination that is as fascinating as it is diverse.
Knowing where to go is arguably the toughest part. There are well-travelled paths, with Sydney and the east coast being a perennially popular choice. When you’re faced with a country of this magnitude, however, potential itineraries are numberless. The Great Barrier Reef? Uluru? The Great Ocean Road? Kakadu? Hobart? The Kimberley? When the tourist board controversially coined the slogan “So where the bloody hell are you?” it raised a fair point.
There are iconic Aussie clichés by the barrel-load (from cork hats to barbecues, koalas to crocodiles, and cricketers to bush tucker) but the real beauty of the place lies in the stuff you’re not expecting; the dusty open road that unfurls to reveal verdant hills; the cold beer at an outback pub that turns into an evening-long session; the stroll to the beach that throws up a street market, open-air concert and implausibly beautiful sunset.
A trip Down Under has long been synonymous with escape, exploration and adventure – an image that's unlikely to change anytime soon.
7,692,024 sq km (2,969,907 sq miles).
24,127,200 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016).
3.1 per sq km.
HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Governor-General David Hurley since 2019.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese since 2022.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Australia set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Australia’s High Commission in the UK.
You do not need a pre-departure COVID-19 test to enter or transit Australia regardless of your COVID-19 vaccination status. See the Australian government’s website for advice on COVID-19 and travelling.
COVID-19 quarantine requirements
Each state and territory determines its own quarantine rules. You should check requirements for specific states and territories.
Passport validity requirements
For entry into Australia, your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. If you’re transiting another country on your way to or from Australia, check the entry requirements for that country. Many countries will only allow entry if you have at least 6 months validity remaining on your passport.
British citizens can usually get the following types of electronic visitor visa:
- eVisitor visa. There is no visa application charge or service fee
- Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) via the iOS App or Android App. There is no visa application charge, but a service fee of A$20 may apply
Information on all other types of visa is available from the Department of Home Affairs.
Working holiday visa
Thousands of Britons travel to Australia each year on a working holiday visa and the vast majority have no issues. Working conditions, accommodation and medical facilities are generally of a good standard.
You can find information about your rights as an employee in Australia and how to report any concerns about unfair or unlawful treatment on the Fair Work Ombudsman website, or by calling 131 394.
If you’re a British national living in Australia with Australian citizenship, or a dual national, it is best to leave and enter Australia on your Australian passport. You could face difficulties and delays if you do not. See Australian government advice for dual nationals.
Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Australia guide.
Quarantine of goods
Australia has strict quarantine rules to keep out pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal or human health.
You must fill out an Incoming Passenger Card and either:
- declare any risk goods including food, animal products and plant material (including wooden articles)
- dispose of any risk goods in the bins at the airport or sea port
All luggage is x-rayed on arrival. Any items of concern are further inspected, treated and if necessary confiscated and destroyed. You can be heavily fined for breaches of quarantine regulations.
You can find more information on the Department of Agriculture website.
You will also be asked to declare whether you have ‘visited a rural area, or been in contact with, or near, farm animals outside Australia in the past 30 days’.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Australia
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Australia.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should be vigilant, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Recent terrorist attacks in Australia include:
in 2018, a person was killed and several were injured in a terrorist incident in Melbourne
in 2017, a person was shot dead and another taken hostage in Melbourne
Protecting your belongings
Take precautions to protect yourself from petty crime, including:
- not leaving your bag or luggage unattended
- keeping luggage out of sight in cars
- keeping valuables and passport in a hotel safe
- leaving copies of important documents with family and friends in the UK
- carrying a photocopy of your passport for ID
- being particularly careful at night in busy tourist areas
There are many different types of scams targeting people in or travelling to Australia, including dating and romance scams, websites offering fake services, or building repair scams. You can check current scams or report any concerns you have about a scam on the Scamwatch website.
Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.
Laws and cultural differences
You can reduce the risk of losing your passport by carrying a proof of age card, this could be a driving licence or a student ID. This is accepted ID for many services like opening a bank account or entering licensed premises.
Smoking and e-cigarette bans
Laws on e-cigarettes differ between states. Liquid nicotine is classed as a poison and banned from sale nationwide, however some states allow importation for personal use and use of e-cigarettes without nicotine. Get local advice on any restrictions.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
The Australian authorities will take action against anyone who imports or is found to be trafficking illegal drugs. Prosecution can lead to a lengthy jail sentence and deportation.
Same-sex marriages are legally recognised. Australia is generally open minded about homosexuality, but there are isolated incidents of homophobic crime. Visit Gay Australia is a useful travel planning resource alongside LGBT+ information from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Different tax rules and rates apply to residents and non-residents. Working holidaymakers are usually regarded as non-resident for tax purposes. This means they do not qualify for any tax-free personal allowance on earnings. Get guidance from the Australian Taxation Office website.
The mobile phone network generally works well in cities and large towns but coverage elsewhere can be very limited or non-existent. If you’re travelling to remote areas, check with your phone provider about coverage. You can use your UK mobile phone in Australia if global roaming has been activated, but making and receiving calls can be expensive. Many visitors prefer to buy an Australian SIM card on arrival.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
Rip currents are the main surf hazard for all beach users. They can occur at any beach, and can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea.
Take precautions and follow the local guidance on swim safety and the guidance on beach safety from Surf Life Saving Australia.
Rivers and pools can be subject to sudden flash flooding as a result of heavy rain elsewhere in the area. There have been cases of British nationals being injured by diving into water that was too shallow. Make sure there is sufficient depth of water before diving, and always follow warning signs.
Snorkelling accidents can occur and have sometimes been fatal.
You need by law to complete a medical declaration for resort diving or snorkelling. For your own health and safety, you must be truthful about any medical conditions you have.
If you are planning to drive in Australia, see information on driving abroad.
If you’re hiring a car immediately on arrival be cautious about driving. You might be jetlagged and tired from your flight. Take regular rest breaks at the many rest stops on the roads.
Australia is known for having larger distances between towns and amenities, make sure you have enough water before travelling and tell someone about your plans.
Check road conditions before beginning your journey. Stay with your vehicle if it breaks down. Avoid travelling in extreme heat. Sudden storms and strong winds can make driving difficult. Take particular care when driving on unsealed roads, 4WD tracks and desert or beach roads. Northern Territory Police have in the past warned tourists to stay off unsealed tracks in remote areas of Central Australia following reports of stranded motorists.
Licences and permits
You can drive in Australia using your UK driving licence as long as:
- you remain a temporary overseas visitor
- your UK licence is valid
- you have not been disqualified from driving anywhere
- your licence is not suspended or cancelled, or your visiting driving privileges withdrawn
If you intend to stay in Australia and you hold a permanent visa, you can drive using your UK licence for a maximum of 3 months. To continue driving, you must get a local licence within this 3-month period.
You must carry your driving licence and passport when driving. Make sure you have sufficient insurance, including if you borrow a car from a friend or relative. Hire car insurance often does not cover driving on unsealed roads. Check your policy before you set off.
Driving laws and regulations differ in each state and territory. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. The penalties can be severe. You must wear a seat belt at all times.
Driving in the outback
Prepare thoroughly if driving in remote outback areas, which can present unexpected hazards. Ensure you have a roadworthy vehicle fitted with GPS and 2 spare tyres. Take good maps and extra food, water and fuel. Plan your route carefully and get local advice before you set out. Leave your route details and expected time of return with the local tourist authorities, police, your hotel or hostel, or friends and relatives, and let them know when you’ve arrived safely.
Driving on K’gari (Fraser Island)
Following a number of serious accidents, all vehicles on K’gari (Fraser Island) must keep to a maximum speed of 80km per hour on beaches and 30km per hour in towns. 4WD vehicles must have no more than 8 occupants (including the driver) and you must store all luggage inside the vehicle.
Avoid driving at night and be aware of beach hazards like ditches created by the surf. K’gari is remote and emergency services can take many hours to reach an accident. Carry a well-stocked first-aid kit and personal medication as there is no pharmacy on the island. For more information on keeping safe in K’gari please see the Queensland Government’s parks and forests website.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
In an emergency dial 000.
Be aware of the risk of bushfires, especially at the height of the Australian summer (November to February). Bushfires can start and change direction with little or no notice.
Australia regularly battles devastating bushfires across a number of regions during the summer season. Previous fires resulted in the loss of lives and property with many residents advised to evacuate their homes.
If you’re in or near an affected area, follow the advice of local authorities:
- Australian Capital Territory Fire and Rescue
- New South Wales Rural Fire Service and ‘Fires Near Me’ app
- Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service
- Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
- South Australian Country Fire Service
- Tasmania Fire Service
- Victoria’s Country Fire Authority
- Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services
Smoke from bush fires can cause poor air quality, which can provoke respiratory conditions. Smoke can accumulate many kilometres from a fire, including in urban areas and major cities. Most state and territory governments provide information on the monitoring of air quality and advice if you’re unable to avoid being in a smoke affected area:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Significant weather events can happen suddenly. Spillways, flood plains and drains can quickly become submerged.
Stay at home or leave now orders may be issued by local authorities. Always follow the advice of local authorities.
More information can be found on the relevant state and territory websites:
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
While rare in Australia, earthquakes can happen. Follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services in the event of a natural disaster.
Dust storms occur regularly in Australia, usually only in outback areas. Follow the advice of local authorities.
Tropical cyclones occur in some parts of Australia, mainly Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. The cyclone season normally runs from November to April.
Monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website. See advice on what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.
The terrain and intense heat can have a severe impact on your capabilities. Take plenty of water and a means of rigging up shelter from the sun. Further advice on bush safety for each State or Territory can be found on the New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania government websites. If you’re bush walking or exploring national parks it can take hours to get help in an emergency.
Australia has a number of dangerous animal species. There are crocodiles, jellyfish and sharks, as well as venomous insects, spiders and snakes in many parts of the country.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Dial 000 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Australia guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in Australia
While you are in Australia, you can access essential and urgent medical care through the UK-Australia Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement. Find out more about healthcare for UK citizens in Australia.
Essential and urgent hospital treatment is free. There is a charge to visit GPs and receive prescriptions. Some costs can be recovered through Medicare, Australia’s universal health insurance scheme. You can enrol with Medicare through Services Australia.
If you’re not covered by reciprocal healthcare arrangements between Australia and the UK, costs of treatment can be high.
The standard of healthcare in Australia is very good. UK residents are entitled to limited subsidised health services from Medicare for medically necessary treatment while visiting Australia. These provisions do not apply to non-visitors, for example those studying in Australia. Other exclusions under the reciprocal agreement include pharmaceuticals (unless you’re in hospital), use of ambulance services and medical evacuations, which are very expensive.
FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Australia.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in Australia
Telephone: 000 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors, and translators and interpreters in Australia
- dealing with a death in Australia
- being arrested in Australia
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
You can also contact FCDO online.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.