Travel Questions Answered – Australia

Do I need a Visa?

Australia requires a visa of visitors. A visitor’s visa can be applied for via the following link:

This is an electronic visa that will be attached to your passport, requiring no additional paperwork. The site is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you should apply for your visa at least 2 weeks before your planned departure date to ensure your trip will not be delayed if there are any delays in obtaining your visa. In most cases, the approval will be instantaneous. Before clicking on the link, have your passport and credit card handy. The Visa costs AUS$20 that must be paid at time of application.

The ETA visa is allowed for travelers from the countries of Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and the USA.

Please bear in mind that if you are traveling to Australia from Europe, there is a different system you must use, which you can access from the above link.

Citizens from all other countries must go to their local Australian Embassy to apply for a visa, and should allow sufficient time for their application to be processed.

This is a short-term visitor’s visa. It is good for 12 months, and allows the traveler to visit as many times as needed during that period for up to 3 months.

Will I need a voltage converter?

Australia has a 220 volt electrical system and a socket type AS-3112. The sockets are three prong and the prongs turn inward. There are no outlets like this in the USA, so before you go, you should purchase a plug adapter for around $20 at any large hardware or electronics store. It is best to get one that will work in multiple countries, so you can use it on future vacations elsewhere. If you are traveling with small appliances that are not compatible with a 220/240 volt system, you will also need a voltage converter. These cost a little more, but there are all-in-one products out there. Most phones and small appliances sold in the USA are compatible with both a 120 and a 220 system. If you are in doubt, look at the imprint on the back or bottom of the device. The voltage compatibility will usually be listed. If in doubt, bring a converter. Plugging an appliance that is not compatible with a 220 volt system will ruin the appliance and possible burn out the outlet, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

What is the weather like?

Australian weather can be very fickle. It is said that one can experience all four seasons in one day in Melbourne – and it is best to be prepared for these wild weather fluctuations! The farther north you go, the more tropical the weather. It is also important to remember their seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere, so if you are traveling in July, you should pack for cool winter temperatures. In the south of the country, the temperatures can reach 0 degrees farhenheit at night during winter months, with daytime temperatures hovering in the 40′s and 50′s. The weather is often drizzly or overcast during this time of year. In summer months, the temperatures can get well over 100 degrees. The air is rather dry in the south, and very humid and sticky in the north. The country has swung from a severe, 15-year long drought to an over-abundance of rain in the past 2 years. This has not fared well for Queensland, which has seen significant flooding. Be sure to check local weather conditions for the area you wish to visit prior to departing for your trip. Arriving to find your hotel is closed due to flooding would certainly put a damper on your vacation! You can check the current weather along with forecasts for regions throughout Australia using the link below:
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Aborigines and Emus

During a recent trip to Australia, I asked my friend and tour guide to take me to the internationally renowned Bells Beach, where the annual Rip Curl surfing competition takes place. I had made a promise before I left the United States that I would dip my toes in the water, even though I was going during their winter months (I don’t know why I make these promises: I blame jet lag, even when I make them before I leave home) and Bells Beach was on my must-see list.

As we drove out of Geelong on Torquay Road, a sign caught my eye for the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre. I asked my friend, a lifelong resident of Geelong, if he had ever been there. “No, but I’ve passed it at least a thousand times”. Bells Beach would wait. We hooked a u-turn and pulled into the parking lot.

The day was overcast with light drizzle, but we were dry as we walked along covered wooden walkways between the gift shop and the art gallery. In the brutal heat and sunshine of the Australian summer, the cover would be a welcome reprieve. The walkways were wide, and while a visitor using a walker might need to take extra care, they would be easily navigable in a wheelchair or scooter. As we meandered, we noted that many of the rocks along the path were painted with colorful dotted images of animals, and the entire place had the feel of having been born there rather than built.

Inside the gallery, our eyes were met with a visual smorgasbord. Original dot paintings adorned the walls and large works of art stole the scene in the middle of the room. Aboriginal art is richly storied and its mysterious origins are reflected in the thousands of dots, hued in all of nature’s color pallette, that form the shapes of the animals and plants that have significance in Aboriginal culture. Despite the light pouring in from transom windows high on the walls, the space had a muted, reverent atmosphere.

Since it was winter, and we had made an impromptu stop, we were sad to learn we wouldn’t be enjoying any educational programs that day, but we took it in stride and walked back out into the drizzly morning to admire the silent and empty storytelling circle. The pole rising from the center of the circle commanded our attention from the moment we walked outside. Covered in an intricately drawn dot painting, the pole was a beacon to the cultural heritage of the aboriginal people. We quietly walked past the circle to the trailhead to the natural gardens.

We weren’t even aware the gardens were there. We happened to see the entrance to the trail as we were looking around the grounds, and we were so glad we spotted it! While the trail is not paved, and would, therefore, be very difficult for anyone with a walker, it would be manageable in a wheelchair (a power chair or scooter would be better than a manual, unless you have someone to give you a push). If you can borrow or rent a scooter before you visit, you’ll get more out of the experience. The gardens are spectacular, with each tree, bush, and flower carefully marked with an information plaque with the plant’s name and origin.

We were the only ones at the center at that time, so our journey through the gardens was very peaceful, the silence interrupted only by our own footfalls and the constant twitter and flutter of birds. As we rounded a bend and stopped to admire an impressive gum tree, I felt eyes boring into the back of my head. Spinning around I came face to beak with an emu! He was, fortunately, behind a fence, and given the fact that he was as tall as I was and weighed at least as much as I did, I was grateful for that thin wall of wire that separated us. He was joined by a second emu, who I decided was the lookout bird – the one who scoped out the prospects for poking and possibly pickpocketing – because he had a shifty gleam in his eyes. They followed us through the garden, running along their side of the fence, occasionally fighting one another for first position. We eventually worked our way to a pretty little glen with an island in the middle, surrounded by a burbling brook. Two arched bridges connected the trail to the island, which was, upon closer inspection, a practice mound for learning to throw boomerangs. We sat on a bench here, listening to the brook gurgle and chatter as it slowly wound around the island before continuing on toward bigger waters. After awhile, we crossed the second arched bridge to go back to the trail and on to our final stop at the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre – the gift shop.

I now have a hand-painted, hand-carved boomerang in my possession. I don’t have a clue how to throw it, so I suppose I’ll have to go back to the Narana Centre to learn how. I could return in summer, when the weather will be warm, but it would be a very different experience: Crowded and noisy and clamorous. This place holds the stories of a thousand years of cultural heritage, and I prefer to appreciate them in deferential silence, punctuated by the occasional stink eye from a suspicious emu.

About this Blog

ImageAfter taking a trip to Colorado, and finding myself unable to enjoy a Sunday brunch with my family because the restaurant was not wheelchair accessible, I realized that my experience could not be an isolated incident. As a woman who was born with insatiable wanderlust, I considered this to be a challenge, a challenge I was happy to accept.  I have since made it my life’s endeavor to explore the world around me and bring those adventures back to you, so you can plan your own adventure, with the confidence that the locations listed on this blog are not only accessible, but worthwhile.


From Australia to Ireland, Colorado to New York, and everywhere in between, your journey begins here.