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The Spectacular Australia - FAQ

With so much that we'll be seeing and doing in Australia, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about where to start preparing for your Spectacular Australia tour. We are here to help. Below, you'll find some useful information, you'll need for getting ready for your Australian adventure.

TIME 

Australia uses three Australian Eastern Standard Time, Australian Central Standard Time and Australian Western Time. Melbourne, Cairns and Sydney are within the Australian Eastern Standard Time zone zone which is UTC/GMT+10 and it is 14 hours ahead of New York's Eastern Standard Time zone, so when it's noon in New York, it's 2:00AM in Sydney. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is half an hour behind Australian Eastern Standard Time.

New York

Sydney

PACKING  

Even though we'll be visiting Australia in late summer, the weather here can be very changeable, especially that we'll be visiting several climatic zones. Even in summer, you will need to pack warm and weatherproof clothing, including a rain jacket and comfortable, rain-proof walking shoes. It may be chilly (around 60 degrees F) or even rainy in Melbourne, hot (about 90 degrees F) and dry in the Australian Outback (Uluru), hot (about 90 degrees F) and humid in Cairns (Great Barrier Reef) and we hope for the perfect weather (75 degrees F) in Sydney, so please bring appropriate clothing. Very few places have formal dress codes in Australia. Some people do dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants and bars, but this is optional. Make sure you leave some space in your bag for the wonderful gifts you can buy in Australia.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS  

A valid passport is required for all entering visitors, and it must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your departure date from Australia. All visitors (except citizens of New Zealand) must obtain an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority), an electronic visa prior to arriving. The visa itself is free, although there is a service charge for getting it via Internet. It allows for unlimited visits to Australia, up to 3 months each, within one year period. To apply online, go to www.eta.immi.gov.au, or you can apply at Australian embassies, high commissions and consulates around the world.

ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE INFORMATION  
This tour starts in Melbourne (airport code MEL) and ends in Sydney (airport code SYD).

You should make your flight arrangements using the "open-jaw" or "multiple-city" search, to arrive in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 before 3:00PM. Because one day is lost flying over the International Date Line, you'll probably depart North America on Monday, March 30, 2020. If you are combining this tour with the South Island and North Island Tour of New Zealand, Sights and Soul Travels will make arrangements for and cover the cost of your flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, Australia. If you are prone to jet lag and travel fatigue, we recommend arriving a day early.

This tour ends after breakfast, on Saturday, April 11, 2020 in Sydney, and you can schedule your return flight at any time. We will make arrangements for individual airport transfers in accordance with your departure time. If you need help with your flights to Australia, please feel free to give us a call.

JET LAG 

To avoid jet lag (common when crossing more than five time zones), drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids and eat light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep and so on) as soon as possible.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT AND ROOMATES  

To avoid paying the single supplement, we offer guaranteed roommate matching, and we will try to match you with a roommate of similar age. Otherwise, there are some single rooms available on this tour, but they tend to fill up first. Please keep in mind that all shared rooms are non-smoking.

THE TRAVEL GROUP  

The Australia tour group is limited to the maximum of 16 women + the tour director. The minimum group size is 8 women + the tour director. The travelers will be taken care of by the tour director. In addition, we will enjoy the services of excellent local guides and bus drivers in each location in Australia.

HEALTH  

No vaccinations are required to enter Australia. If you are currently taking any prescription medicines for recognized medical conditions, it is wise to bring the dosage you'll require with you. Keep all drugs in original bottles and bring a cover letter from your doctor to show airport security staff if required. Australian pharmacists may only fill prescriptions written by Australian doctors, so carry enough medication with you for your trip. Most large cities have 24-hour clinics and hospitals. The hygiene standards are high in Australia, hospitals are modern, and doctors and dentists are well qualified. Snake and spider bites may not be as common as some stories suggest, but it pays to be wary. Also, be aware of the marine life, including jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles. Australians have the world's highest rate of skin cancer because of the country's intense sunlight. You should limit your exposure to the sun, especially during the first few days of your trip. The UV rays reflected off walls, water, and the ground and they can burn even when not in direct sunlight. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high protection factor (SPF 30 or higher). Wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers the back of your neck, ears, and face and a long-sleeved shirt. Don't even think about traveling without sunglasses, or you'll spend your entire vacation squinting against Australia's "diamond light."

WATER  

Australia's tap water is pollution-free and safe to drink, and bottled water is readily available, as well.

TOILETS  

There are western style "public conveniences" strategically located in all cities and many towns. You'll also find well signposted public toilets on the street in most towns and cities. They can also be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Please keed in mind that some public toilets may require payment, so you should always have some coins in the local currency with you to pay for them. 

SAFETY  

Australia is generally a very safe destination. Still, exercise the same care that you would in any major city and follow the same precautions against petty theft and potential identity theft as they would at home or in any other country. The downtown areas of Australia's major cities are now well covered by closed-circuit cameras, which are monitored by police. This has significantly helped to reduce crime. It is still advisable to exercise caution, especially on the weekends, when social drinking sometimes gets out of hand. When it comes to traveling in the countryside, you should always be as cautious as you would be anywhere else.

WOMEN TRAVELERS  

Australia is generally a safe place for women travellers, although the usual sensible precautions apply. Australian men are generally respectful towards women, and sexual harassment is rare, though some macho Aussie males still slip, particularly when they've been drinking. Always take care in social environments, and if you are a single female traveling alone, don't drink too much, or you'll be easy prey. Some pubs in Sydney and other big cities post warnings about drugged or 'spiked' drinks: probably not cause for paranoia, but play it safe if someone offers you a drink in a bar.

ACTIVITY LEVEL  

During the Spectacular Australia Tour, we will travel by bus and by plane. To be able to enjoy the tour and participate in scheduled activities, you will need to be able to walk, at a leisurely pace, up to 5 miles throughout the day. You will need to be able to stand unassisted for up to 30 minutes, you will need to be able to climb stairs, get in and out of vehicles, including boats and cable cars, without assistance and manage your own luggage without assistance. Overall, this trip is not strenuous although, with 3 domestic flights within the 11 days, it is busy. You must be prepared for some full days and early starts.

WEATHER  

Australia is a large country, a continent, and it covers many climate zones. Since the trip falls in the late summer, expect dry, sunny days, usually with very strong sun. In March, the average temperatures in Melbourne are in the mid 60s (F), in Uluru around 90 degrees (F), in Cairns around 80 degrees (F), and in Sydney in the mid 70s (F).

CELL PHONE/INTERNET  

Australia's cities have Internet access available in internet cafes, hotel lobbies and in some public places. Internet access in rural areas may be available, but it varies widely. Cellular phone coverage is generally very good in Australia's cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. All hotels where we’ll be staying have WiFi Internet available for their guests.

ELECTRICITY 
ELECTRICITY

The Australian current is 240 volts AC, 50 hertz. Sockets take two or three flat, not rounded, prongs. To use appliances without a dual voltage converter, you will need a converter. Don’t wait until you get to Australia, because local stores will only stock converters for Australian appliances to fit foreign outlets. Power does not start automatically when you plug in an appliance; you need to flick the switch beside the socket to the “on” position.     

LANGUAGE  

Australia’s official language is English. However, being a multicultural nation with a significant migrant population, the country also enjoys a tremendous diversity of languages and cultures.

MONEY 

The Australian dollar is divided into A100¢. Coins are A5¢, A10¢, A20¢, and A50¢ pieces (silver) and A$1 and A$2 pieces (gold). Prices often end in a variant of A1¢ and A2¢ (for example, A78¢ or A$2.71), a relic from the days before 1-cent and 2-cent pieces were phased out. Prices are rounded to the nearest A5¢. Bank notes come in denominations of A$5, A$10, A$20, A$50, and A$100. The easiest and best way to get cash away from home is from an ATM (automated teller machine), sometimes referred to as a "cash machine" or a "cashpoint." Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Australian ATMs use a four-digit code, so check with your bank and make sure you change yours before you leave. Always carry a little cash, because many merchants will not take cards for purchases under A$15.

TAXES 

Australia applies a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on most products and services. Items bought in duty-free stores will not be charged GST. Nor will items you export, such as an Aboriginal painting that you buy in a gallery and have shipped straight to your home outside Australia. Basic groceries are not GST-taxed, but restaurant meals are. Through the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS), international visitors can claim a refund of the GST (and of a 14 1/2% wine tax called the Wine Equalisation Tax, or WET) paid on a purchase of more than A$300 from a single outlet, within the last 60 days before you leave. More than one item may be included in that A$300. You can do this as you leave by presenting your receipt or “tax invoice” to the Australian Customs Service’s TRS booths, in the International Terminal departure areas at most airports. Items must be taken as carry-on baggage, because you must show them to Customs. You cannot claim a refund on alcohol other than wine. Claims at airports are available up to 30 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure.

TIPPING  

All tour related tipping (restaurants, guides, drivers, porterage) is included in the cost of the tour. Tipping is not expected in Australia, but it is always appreciated. When dining on your own, it is usual to tip around 10% or round up to the nearest A$10 for a restaurant meal.

SHOPPING  

You’ll find large department stores, arcades, malls, gift and souvenir shops across Australia. The hours vary across the country but shops in tourist and city areas are generally open until 6pm, with the exception of late night shopping on either Thursdays or Fridays in different states. In Australia you are covered by Australia's consumer protection laws which require businesses to treat you fairly. The uniquely Australian gifts and souvenirs evoke the ancient mystery of Aboriginal culture with an Aboriginal artwork or artefact, such as the famous dot paintings. The popular souvenirs include jewellery made from opals, Australian pearls, the rare pink diamonds found only in Kimberley. Australia's fashion designers take pride in their outback inspired clothing, and you may like to bring home a pair of soft sheepskin boots or UGG boots. Other items that we've enjoyed are Australian wines, Bondi Wash cosmetics, TimTam chocolate biscuits, and tea from T2.

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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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