Rough Guide To Australia
Planning your next journey to the land down under.
Traveling can seem like a daunting task; there’s so much to organize and never enough time to do it. In fact, what holds most back from taking some kind of journey is the planning process, but you shouldn’t let any of that stop you. To make life a little easier, and to show you how simple it really is, here’s a rough guide to planning your dream trip to Australia.
1. Saving up. First off, you’re gonna have to get some money together-beg, borrow, or best of all, get a job. Open a bank account and start putting all the extra money you can spare away-soon you’ll see that money rising. For a comfortable stay you’ll need about 3,000 Australian dollars, which should cover the cost of flight, food, and accomodations.
2. Getting ticketed. Shop around to get the best kind of deal on the flight: round-trip from the biggest international airport near you to Sydney. From Europe, the cheapest airline is going to be Gueruda, but it ain’t the best airline for reasons which will become obvious when you get to the airport. Americans might want to try Quantas (never had a crash, yet, knock on wood), which is generally considered the best way to make the twenty- to 30-hour flight. If you fly just after Christmas you’ll get a better deal. Passport and travel visa are also a must to enter Australia, so talk to your travel agent about it. For a small fee they’ll sort it out for you, or you can head down to the Australian embassy yourself if you’re feeling lucky. Remember that Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, so their summer is almost everyone else’s winter, and vice versa. Same with spring and fall, too. That info can be helpful in the next phase.
3. Packing. Try to pack light: a couple pairs of pants, T-shirts, a sweatshirt, boxers, a couple pair of shorts, a pair of boardshorts, a waterproof jacket, socks, your toiletries bag, a Walkman with plenty of tapes or CDs, the books you’ve never gotten around to reading, and some shark-story repellant (a.k.a. earplugs). Mike Ballard told me to get one of those bags with wheels on them (you know, the ones the pilots use); they’ll save you a lot of stress in between stops. Before you set off for the airport, always check to make sure you remembered your money, passport, and tickets.
4. Finding accommodations. Once you arrive in Sydney, head straight for Bondi Beach (dead east of downtown); you can get a yellow and green bus from the airport that will drop you right on the beach. Accommodations are plentiful in Bondi, if you want to go budget, backpacking hostels are for you. The hostels, which are basically dorms with bunk beds, are all over Sydney and go for between fifteen and twenty dollars* per night. Those with a little more money to spend might want to opt for a hotel, which usually start at 50 bucks a night. The least expensive and usually most beneficial way to stay is to make friends and get them to put you up. This last plan depends entirely upon you and your social skills. Or lack thereof.
5. Exploring Sydney. Once you have some sort of base, you can start to get around. Buy a 24-dollar bus/train ticket from one of the many news-agent shops. These tickets are valid for one week and will save you some cash. The bus is about the easiest way to get around-they’re on time, run all night, and allow you to check out the city as it goes by. Most skaters take buses in and hook up at various spots-Pit being the most obvious spot, but you’d do well to stay away from this one if you want to further your skateboarding abilities. Just cruise and see what happens.
6. Canberra. A trip down to Canberra (Australia’s capital city) is a must. You can get there by bus, or you might want to rent a car if you can get enough heads together who are down to travel. There’s tons of stuff to skate and see, and you could do it all in just a few days. The locals are way mellow and super helpful, and motels are cheap. Look att some of the spots in the articles and hit them up.
7. The Gold Coast. In Australia’s northeasternmost state, Queensland, is the Gold Coast, and it’s also well worth checking out. The climate changes drastically as you travel further and further north, eventually becoming tropical. You can fly or take a bus to the Gold Coast; flying is cheap if you can book it well in advance. I’ve found the best place to book travel plans through in Australia is Star Travel. Trailfinders, another decent travel agency, have an office in the middle of Sydney, and they also offer good deals. The Gold Coast is best known for its skateparks, and you’ll see why when you’re up there-the environment is much less urban, so street spots are fewer, though Brisbane does have some good spots. Make sure you go to Byron Bay on the way up or back; it’s nice to spend a couple days dodging hippies and soaking up the sun.
8. Melbourne. A few-hundred miles south of Sydney you’ll find Melbourne-Australia’s other skate scene and a definite must for traveling skateboarders. Located in the southernmost part of Victoria, Melbourne’s climate is closer to that of New York and the American Northeast-very hot summers, very cold winters. At times the city feels European, and the downtown area is skateboard heaven; there’s even a makeshift skatepark set up in the middle of the urban jungle, as well as famous spots like the sunken library and the Prarahn ramp. Melbourne’s only drawback is that it’s expensive to stay downtown, but like in Sydney, the buses and trains are right on and they run into the wee hours of the morning, so you can always suss a ride.
9. Perth. Located roughly 2,000 miles due west of Sydney is Perth, Western Australia, which is considered the most isolated city in the world. The downtown itself is small, but with a population of approximately one-million, there’s plenty to see and skate. Flying to Perth is a bit expensive (in the 400-dollar* range), but it sure as hell beats the three-day bus ride through no-mans’ land. Perth is a great place to visit if you’re on an extended holiday, have some extra money, and want to see it all.
10. When the funds run short. If the money runs out sooner than you’d thought, stay out of the bars and off those damn slot machines, and buy yourself a decent tent. Go to the New South Wales’ Blue Mountains on a day trip.
Most important of all is to start saving your money now, so the dream can become a reality. I did it for six months on a shoestring budget before I worked for TWS, and I know you can do it, too. So get it together now, before it’s too late.
*All dollars mentioned are Australian. One Australian dollar is currently worth about 66 American cents, which means the Australian dollar is weak, signaling a good time for American and European travelers to get the most for their money.