Survival Guide

This guides contains information that may be of use as you prepare to travel to Queensland, Australia.


  1. US State Department Travel Advisory: Australia
  2. Brisbane Tourist Guide
  3. Profile of Queensland
  4. Australia in Brief
  5. Guide to Australia
  6. Australia: CIA World Facts and Figures
  7. The Australian Region: CIA World Facts and Figures
  8. Vital Statistics
  9. Time Difference
  10. Currency
  11. Passports
  12. Visas
  13. Weather
  14. Equipment and Clothing To Bring
  15. Medical
  16. Telephones
  17. Electrical Devices
  18. Plane Travel
  19. Local Transportation
  20. Banking and ATMs
  21. Current Exchange Rates
  22. Departure Tax
  23. Books and Films
  24. University of Queensland Things to Do and See
  25. University of Queensland St. Lucia Campus Map
  26. WWW Interface to the University of Queensland Libraries
  27. Destination Australia (The Lonely Planet Tourist Guide)
  28. Destination Queensland (The Lonely Planet Tourist Guide)
  29. Destination Brisbane (The Lonely Planet Tourist Guide)

Vital Statistics

Time Difference

Australia has a number of different time zones. Eastern Standard Time (EST) is observed in Queensland. Geneva, New York is 14 or 15 hours behind, depending on whether Eastern Daylight Time or (US) Eastern Standard Time is in effect. Much of Australia observes its own daylight savings time, but the state of Queensland does not. Current time in Brisbane, Queensland.


Australian currency is decimal based, with the Australian dollar as the basic unit. Notes come in $100, $50, $20, $10, and $5 denominations. Coins are minted in $2, $1, 50, 20, 10, and 5 denominations. There are no pennies even though items are priced to the penny in stores and markets. The total is rounded to the nearest 5. The $1 and $2 coins are quit convenient. The terms "nickel" or "dime" are not used, and of course, there are no "quarters".


Passports applications can be obtained at any County Clerk's Office. In Geneva, the closest County Clerk's Office is:
1 DiPronia Drive
Waterloo (Seneca County)
Once you have obtained a passport, be sure to make two photocopies of it. Leave one copy in a safe place at home and take the other copy with you but store it separately from your actual passport. In case you lose your passport, the copies will make replacing it much simpler. There is a US Consulate in Brisbane. Finally, to minimize the chances of theft or loss, you should not carry your passport with you on a daily basis while in Australia.


A visa is required for all visitors to Australia. Students enrolled in our program are able to enter Australia on visitor's visa which costs $5 (as opposed to a more costly student visa). Visas can be obtained from the Australian Consulate in New York. The Study Abroad Office can handle obtaining the visas for all students in the program.


March is considered to be the end of the Brisbane summer. The days are beautifully warm, dry, and clear, but will turn a bit cooler by the end of April. You can expect April/May maximum temperatures to be in the 23--26C (73--79F) range. As autumn advances, the minimum temperatures may reach 13C (55F), not a real worry when you are coming from Geneva, New York! The Current Weather Forecasts For Brisbane, Queensland. Temperature conversion: Fahrenheit = 1.8*Celsius + 32. (A rough conversion for the temperature ranges in Queensland: Fahrenheit = 2*Celsius + 27.)

Equipment and Clothing To Bring


Standards of medical care are quite high in Australia. The country has adopted a system of socialized medicine with universal coverage. In the event of illness, call a doctor (visit his/her "surgery"), go to a local clinic, or go to a public hospital. International visitors are not covered by levied Australian health insurance and must pay for services/hospitalization at the time of service.


A local phone call (in 1994) at a public pay phone was 40 with no time limit on the call. Even local calls from a "home" phone incur a charge of about 25 or so. All other calls beyond the local dialing area are timed and are more expensive depending on the distance. It is possible to purchase "phone cards" that provide the caller with a fixed amount of "credit". The card may be used Charges are automatically deducted from the credit as the card is used

Electrical Devices

Australian power is 240v, 50Hz. The connection for appliances is a flat 3-pin plug (different from those used in the US). Unless you have equipment that can handle 240v, do not bring it. Plug adapters can be bought for about AU$10, but voltage converters to change 240v to US 110v are much more expensive. For example, buy a hair dryer there ($AU15-20) rather than buy a converter and adapter.

Plane Travel

I thought the flight over was not too bad. I think you will be over the Pacific at night time. If you can sleep for several hours, you will not be jet lagged at all because you arrive here in the morning. Try not to party too much on the plane. Stick together and watch out for each other. You will want to pack a few simple toiletries in your carry on bag --- toothbrush and the like. A backpack as a carry on bag worked out well.

Local Transportation

The Brisbane City Council provides services for travelling about the city: bus or ferry. The bus system in Brisbane is extensive and economical when weekly or monthly tickets are purchased. Since many busses travel along parts of the same route, it is important to know the particular route number(s) that will take you to your destination. You must hail the bus; they do not automatically stop, even if people are waiting.

The city is divided into 5 zones (concentric rings). The fare is determined by the number of zones you travel through. This may well be confusing initially, but soon begins to make sense. Bus schedules are available at the information kiosk in the Queen Street Mall in downtown Brisbane, in the Brisbane City Hall building, and at many local libraries.

In 1994, a bus pass providing unlimited 2 zone travel for a month is AU$52.00, but must be purchased by calendar month. (A bus pass for April and May will total about US $75.) A budget of $120 should be more than adequate for the entire stay including the few days in March and June. Since my family has not rented a car, we have been using the bus system to do all of our travel around town. My kids go to school on a city bus and I take a bus to the University. It takes a bit of getting used to, but is quite manageable once you figure out the routes. Monthly passes may not be purchased on a bus. However, they are widely available at many convenience stores ("newsagents"). Exact change is not required when paying for a single fare on board the bus.

The current Transportation Schedule to the University is provided on the U of Q WWW Server.

Cars: I have checked into car rentals; basically impossible if you are not 21. If you are 21, Hertz will rent a car to you. Make sure to have an International Drivers's License.

Taxis: Meter operated taxicabs are found in all major cities and towns. This is can be a reasonably inexpensive and convenient option when travelling in groups of 3 or so. Tipping is optional.

Train: Tickets for Queensland Rail services may be purchased at train stations.

Banking and ATMs

Among the larger banks in Australia are the ANZ, Commonwealth and National Bank of Australia. All have branches on the University of Queensland campus. Banking Hours are similar to those in the US: 9:30--4:00 Monday to Thursday; 9:30--5:00 on Friday. Most banks have automatic teller machines. See the information below.

While traveller's checks are a safe way to carry funds, many students found it difficult to cash them. Some banks required a passport and then charged a substantial fee to exchange them to Australian dollars. If it is possible to obtain traveller's checks denominated in Australian dollars, then do so.

You may wish to see if your local bank in the US can provide you with Australian currency before you leave. This may make your first few days in Australia less hectic.

By far, the easiest, safest, and potentially cheapest method of obtain Australian currency is by using an ATM card or a debit card. A more expensive alternative is using the cash advance feature on credit card. The differences are explained briefly below.

  1. If your bank card shows the Cirrus symbol (or if you know that it has the Cirrus encoding), then you can use this card at any of the ATM machines of the ANZ and the Commonwealth banks. This gives you direct access to the funds in your checking account. There are usually no fees or minimal fees for accessing your own funds this way. If you have a bank card that shows the Plus symbol (or if you know that it has the Plus encoding), then you can use this card at any of the ATM machines of the ANZ bank. Again, any transfer fees to access your own funds are minimal. Make sure you keep track of any funds withdrawn this way, taking into account the exchange rate; otherwise you may overdraw your checking account.
  2. If you have a bank card that is actually a debit card and it shows a MasterCard or Visa logo, you can use it at most ATM machines of most banks to access funds from your bank account. Again, any transfer fees involved are minimal. (Debit cards are not credit cards; the amount of a "charge" is immediately deducted from your checking account. Debit cards are less common than credit cards.) Again, keep track of any funds withdrawn this way, taking into account the exchange rate; otherwise you may overdraw your checking account.
  3. If you have a credit card, (MasterCard or Visa), then you can use it in most ATM machines to get a cash advance. Note that there can be substantial fees involved to do this! Usually there is a transaction fee plus interest charges that will appear on your next credit card statement. You are essentially taking out a small loan. This differs from the transactions in 1 or 2 where you are simply accessing your existing checking account funds. This is the least preferred method of getting money. Typically, it less expensive for you to use your credit card to actually make the purchases you require than it is to get "cash advances".
  4. Any card showing the MasterCard or Visa logo can be used inside almost any bank at a teller to get cash. It will be either a debit transaction (see 2) or a cash advance transaction (see 3) depending on whether you are using a debit or a credit card. Note: an ordinary US bank card (showing no Visa or MasterCard logo) cannot be used to get cash from a bank teller, even if it has the Cirrus or Plus encoding.

Departure Tax

When leaving Australia, an AU $27 departure tax is levied on all persons aged 12 and over. I believe this tax must be prepaid with airline tickets.

Books and Films

Here's a list of readings and films that have been suggested by various people as ways to learn more about Australia's history and culture.

Other Information about the HWS Queensland Term

Author: Kevin Mitchell (
Last Update: 29 May 1996.