Blog / Travel
Travel insurance, visas, driving licence and much more. Australia.
Australia’s vastly diverse landscapes, cosmopolitan cities, and often charming rural towns make the island continent an attractive tourist destination. Numerous daily direct flights to the bigger Australian cities, and English language, makes it easy for Singaporean visitors too.
Australia is a land of contrasts. It is home to tropical rainforests, and to ski resorts, to sprawling cities and sandy deserts. From the biggest coral reef system on the planet (the Great Barrier Reef), to the world’s largest monolith (Uluru, formerly Ayer’s Rock), Australia is not short of big things.
The important thing to remember when travelling is the big distances this entails.
If you want to drive from Cairns on the mainland near the Barrier Reef to Uluru, you’ll need 29 hours to complete the 2,600km journey. Sydney to Perth is a 3,700km trek.
The best plan when visiting Australia is to choose a city and nearby attractions, rather than aiming to ‘do’ the country in a single trip.
Australia is a relatively safe destination for tourists, though the usual care should be taken with regards to protecting valuables. Stories of deadly Australian fauna abound, but tourists are unlikely to encounter any in the urban environment (though Sydney does have a collection of dangerous spiders found nowhere else in the world). See more under Health & Safety.
Australia’s road system is relatively good, but visitors from Singapore should be aware of the distances involved and different traffic conditions.
Singaporeans travelling to Australia. What you need to know.
Do Singaporeans need a visa for Australia?
Singaporeans are required to obtain a visa before travelling to Australia. Some visas can be applied for online, while others need to be applied for at the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) in Singapore.
Is my Singapore driving licence ok for Australia?
Countries that recognize the Singapore driving licence include Australia, so you do not require an International Driving Permit to drive in Australia. For more details about the IDP.
Singaporeans renting a car in Australia
To rent a car in Australia you must have a valid driver’s license issued in your country of residence (Singapore) and carry it with you when driving in Australia. If the licence is not written in English, an International Driving Permit or an English translation must also be carried with the licence.
Tourist Refund Scheme
This enables you to claim a refund, subject to certain conditions, of the goods and services tax (GST) and wine equalisation tax (WET) that you pay on goods you buy in Australia.
What can’t you take into Australia?
Australia has strict laws when it comes to carrying in food. Don’t take in fresh fruit or homecooked food including cakes. Other food you will need to declare include honey, seeds, meats, traditional medicine or herbs and wooden articles.
You must declare honestly as false or misleading declaration is a serious offence in Australia.
Travel insurance for Australia
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. That means you are covered the moment you buy your travel insurance should anything happen before your trip begins. Most comprehensive travel insurance policies will cover you when you cancel due to the following:
- You, your family or travel companion becomes seriously ill.
- A sudden riot, strike or a civil commotion breaks out in either Singapore or the country you’re travelling to.
- An epidemic breaks out at the country you’re travelling to and the World Health Organisation (WHO) issues a warning after you buy your policy. SARS and Zika would be prime examples.
- All flights are grounded and the runway, or airspace, is shut down. For instance, the volcanic ash clouds saga a few years ago that shut down air travel in Singapore and around the world.
But you would only be covered for these events if you bought the policy beforehand. If you buy your policy once news of such events like epidemics, riots and bad weather is in the public domain, then you won’t be covered.
Quick travel notes
Etiquette & Customs: Australians are generally fairly laid-back and don’t take offence easily. Australia receives around 9 million visitor arrivals a year, and 28% of Australians were born overseas, so ‘foreigners’ are not a novelty.
Transportation: You can get around Australia by plane, train, bus, taxi, private car, and even tram in some cities. Melbourne’s tram network is the largest in the world. Read on to learn more about getting around in Australia.
Temperature & Weather: Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, so experiences summer from December to February and winter from June to August. Because Australia is so vast, the northern parts experience tropical climates – including cyclones – while some southern areas can feel like they’re part of Antarctica. Arid deserts do not necessarily mean high temperatures – while regions in the north west have recorded 48-degree summertime heat, July minimums in deserts can drop below zero. Check what the weather’s doing in your destination before you travel.
Health & safety
Check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ travel advisory for Australia here.
Bushfires are not uncommon in Australia, and can spread at great speed. Monitor the local media and keep well clear.
At the beach swim between the lifesaving flags, as strong currents and rough surf can see swimmers get into trouble quickly. If the flags are crossed or absent it is advisable not to swim at all. Be aware that occasionally shark sightings can see beaches closed for swimmers.
Australia’s endemic native fauna is one of the country’s main attractions. Be aware that wild animals are unpredictable and should not be approached or fed. Kangaroos are cute, but have a potentially fatal kick – tourists have been attacked by kangaroos at popular tourist spots in New South Wales.
Australia is home to an inordinate number of potentially deadly venomous animals, including snakes, spiders, fish, octopuses, and jellyfish. Even the cute platypus has a venomous sting. Fortunately, most tourists will not see these animals outside of zoos. If you do see them in the wild keep your distance. If bitten or stung seek medical help.
Follow signs in the tropics to avoid swimming with potentially deadly jellyfish or saltwater crocodiles.
Tap water is safe to drink, though in some cities Singaporeans complain of a chlorinated taste.
The Australian healthcare system is very good but not cheap – ensure your travel insurance covers you.
Australian cities (particularly city centres) are reasonably well-served by public transport. Check online or with hotels to discover how to navigate the various systems – they’re administered differently in each state.
Taxis are not as plentiful as in Singapore, nor as cheap. You may need a local taxi number to book one. Uber also works quite well.
The fastest way between Australian cities is by air. There are two domestic low-cost airlines and two full-service options, plus regional offerings to smaller towns.
Trains are another option, but the slow choice – though some, such as The Ghan and Indian Pacific, offer the ability to travel through the outback in luxury.
Interstate and regional travel can be done by bus in more safety than most countries in the region, though longer distances are best done by air.
Australia’s road network is generally very good, though four lane roads are relatively rare. On country roads expect to have to overtake sometimes very long trucks – ensure it is safe to do so before pulling out.
Fuel stops can be rare on country roads, so plan accordingly. Of the almost 1m km road network, more than half (mostly country roads) is unpaved so exercise due care.
Remote areas may not have mobile phone coverage and are best avoided unless travelling with experienced guides.
Police have a very low tolerance for speeding and fines are stiff.
Each state has slightly different rules – it pays to familiarise yourself with them before driving.
Note, it is strictly illegal, in all Australian states, if the driver or passenger does not wear a seatbelt. In Western Australia, for example, not wearing a seatbelt will result in a penalty of the minimum of AUD 550.00 as a passenger. Drivers are responsible for their passengers, and will also be penalised just as much if any passenger is unrestrained.
Etiquette for travellers
Australians are fairly laid back in general, though there are some things to note:
- Australians like to think of themselves as egalitarian, so bragging about your wealth, or vulgar displays of wealth, are likely to be met with derision.
- Singaporeans may find service staff too familiar, but service standards are high. Issuing orders to service staff will be seen as rude – ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will get you a long way.
- Tipping is generally only done in restaurants – 10% of the bill is the customary amount.
Australia is an enormous country with an equally enormous array of experiences on offer, and a justifiably popular destination for Singaporean travellers. First world infrastructure and standards make it a relatively expensive experience, particularly if things go wrong – ensure your travel insurance is adequate for your needs.
See & explore
Sydney is the biggest city, and home to some of the country’s most iconic tourist sights: the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Bondi Beach. Sydney’s other beaches are attractions in their own rights.
Further inland, Canberra is Australia’s capital and administrative centre, and home to a number of national museums and galleries.
Brisbane is one of Australia’s more laid-back capitals, but still has its charms, including its unique sub-tropical architecture. Head south to the Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise for boisterous beach activities, or the Sunshine Coast for a more relaxed and upmarket beachside experience.
Cairns and Port Douglas are the jumping-off points for Great Barrier Reef activities, and many of the smaller towns further south do the same while also serving the local rural communities.
Melbourne likes to see itself as Australia’s cultural capital, and prides itself on its array of culinary offerings. Melbournians take coffee very, very seriously too. Victoria is Australia’s second smallest state, though it is still larger than England. Some attractions – such as the Yarra Valley wine-growing region are an easy day trip from the city. Others will need more time.
Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, but offers plenty for tourists, particularly nature or wine lovers. Hobart, the capital, is gaining a reputation for its dining scene, and is home to the privately-owned Museum of Old and New Art, a destination in its own right.
Adelaide has a charming small-town feel compared to the Australia’s bigger cities, is close to a number of iconic wine-growing regions, and is only 200km from the Flinders Ranges, for a taste of Australia’s outback without too much hardship.
Perth is a favourite destination for Singaporeans because of its relative proximity. From heritage sights in Freemantle, to wildlife on Rottnest Island, Perth has plenty to offer, as well as being the jumping off point for Margaret River and the picturesque south coast.
Darwin is the Northern Territory’s biggest town, and an interesting melting pot of cultures. Alice Springs sits at the heart of the country and is where you’ll need to get to if visiting Uluru. Even if you’re in Darwin you may want to fly there – it’s a 1,500km journey.
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