Issue Number 23, 16 March 2001
Editors: Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber
In this issue...
New National Museum of Australia opened 11 March
Parliament House is definitely worth a visit, too
Looking for info about Australian cities? Food, events, accommodation, etc.
Do you need an international driver's license?
Do you need a bank account?
Consider a credit union instead of a bank
Do you need a mail-forwarding service?
Tipping for service isn't done here
What to bring and what to buy after you arrive
Aboriginal traditional stories online
Just how big is Australia, anyway?
Are you an expatriate?
Scheduled publishing delay
Say G'day calling card
eKit travel vault
Located in Canberra on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the National Museum of Australia is devoted to telling great stories about Australia and Australians, using state-of-the- art technology and hands-on interactive exhibits. The artifacts cover history and society since white settlement in 1788, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, and the interaction of people with the environment.
It sounds like a great place to visit (especially on a cold Canberra winter day). We're looking forward to a visit the next time we're down that way. For more information, go to:
While you're in Canberra, be sure to go to the new Parliament House and take the tour. Inside and out, it's a fascinating place where all the materials used in the construction have a story behind them, and the design and layout does too. I lived in Canberra when this place was being built, and I admit to considerable skepticism at the time, but when it was done and I took the tour, I was most impressed.
Many Australians think Canberra is a boring place, and I'm sure it was, many years ago, but there's lots of stuff that I find interesting in the city and the surrounding area. The Canberra Tourism site has a lot of useful information, including opening hours for various sights.
We're not covering the cities much in this newsletter, or on our website, but if you want to look up information about them, here are two places to start:
- Sidewalk (a ninemsn site)
- (2003: this side is no longer there.)
- City Search
I found this more difficult (and slower) to use, but it covers a wide range of topics and has some different items listed.
Every city has many websites about it. Some are aimed more at people who live there; others are aimed more at tourists; some are quirky personal sites. Some are special purpose (train timetables, for example) while others cover a broad spectrum.
Australian capital cities are:
Adelaide (South Australia)
Canberra (the national capital)
Darwin (Northern Territory)
Perth (Western Australia)
Sydney (New South Wales)
Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - a small area surrounded by southeastern New South Wales.
If you're going to rent or buy a car in Australia, you'll need a valid driver's license. If you have a driver's license from your home country, with your photograph on it, you probably won't need anything else. In some cases you may need to carry a translation of your license if it isn't in English. You probably do not need a so-called international driver's license - they went out of fashion years ago.
If you're coming to Australia for a relatively short stay (a few weeks or a month or two), you probably won't need or want to open a bank account here. But if you're coming for a longer stay (several months or more), while you won't necessarily need a bank account, you might want to have one. And if you're here on a working visa, you may need a bank account because some employers deposit wages directly into an account rather than paying by cash or cheque.
You may be able to open a bank account before you arrive in Australia, if your home bank has a branch here or has some reciprocal arrangements with a bank here. Check with your home bank about this possibility. If you can open the account before arrival, then you can have funds sent electronically from your home bank to the bank here.
Here are the web sites for some of the major Australian banks:
ANZ Bank http://www.anz.com.au/
Commonwealth Bank http://www.commbank.com.au/
National Australia Bank http://www.national.com.au/
St George http://www.stgeorge.com.au/
If you decide to get a bank account, do consider opening an account at a credit union rather than a bank. Credit unions have all the same services as banks (savings and chequing accounts, credit/debit cards, term deposits, cash management accounts, loans, and so on), but often have lower fees or none on some transactions. Debit and credit cards issued by credit unions will work in the ATMs and in EFTPOS terminals the same as those issued by banks.
Some credit unions have limited membership, for example to employees of one large company; but many have expanded their coverage to include almost everyone who applies.
For more about credit unions, including a long list of them with links to their websites, see the Credit Union Network:
Short-term visitors can ask for mail to be sent to them in care of a local post office. This method relies on you telling your correspondents where to send the mail, and on them sending it in time to get to the post office before you do. Most people don't appreciate how long it can take a letter to reach you in Australia (up to 10 days). (Most people use e-mail instead, these days.)
If you're here for an extended stay, or even if you live in Australia, and you're travelling around a lot (like we do), you may find you need a mail-forwarding service for those things you get on paper and can't easily get along without. Landbase Australia is the place that many campervan and motorhome people use. Their website should answer all your questions. We haven't tried them yet, but we're planning to use their services when we set off on a long trip.
USAmericans in particular need to be reminded NOT to tip for ordinary service in restaurants, taxis, hotels, and other places, except possibly in the most expensive ones. Yes, do round up your bill to the nearest convenient dollar (or 5) if you want to, and do reward exceptional service if you want to. But don't automatically add some percentage to the bill, because it isn't expected and the general public doesn't want the no-tipping custom to change. Wages for serving staff are generally higher (though by no means huge) than in the USA, and those staff are not expected to top up their pay with tips.
You'll be able to buy almost anything you need in the way of personal supplies (toothpaste, shampoo, sun-block, deodorant, feminine hygiene supplies, vitamin tablets, insect repellent, and so on) in Australia, so if you're coming for a lengthy trip, you certainly don't need to bring everything with you. However, if you have a favourite brand - and especially if you have religious requirements or allergies to some products - do consider bringing what you need, because you might not be able to find the same brand here, and even if you do, the formula might be a bit different if it's made locally.
Some things you should bring with you are any over-the-counter medicines that are not available here except by prescription. How do you know what those are? That's a tricky one. I'm sure there's a website that will tell you, but I don't know what it is. You could ask on the rec.travel.australia+nz newsgroup, where someone's sure to know (and at least ten other people who don't know will speculate). You'll also want to bring any prescription medicines you need.
You can rent almost any sports gear you require, though you may prefer to bring some items. For example, if you're an experienced scuba diver, you'll probably prefer to use your own dive mask and regulator, but you probably wouldn't want to bother bringing heavy, bulky items like weight belts or scuba tanks - hire them here. If you are inexperienced and don't have your own gear anyway, don't rush out and buy things before you come - just plan to hire or buy it all here.
Similarly, if you're planning to do some camping, you might want to bring your own sleeping bag, lightweight tent, and other items; but you can hire just about anything you need, or buy it and resell it to someone else just before you leave.
How about film? Whether it costs more or less here will vary. We've found that if you buy film at tourist spots, it's likely to be expensive, but many chemists and other shops have the same film at a far lower cost. What we pay at our local Kodak shop is a lot less than what we pay at "discount" stores in the USA, and the processing is cheaper here too.
So to summarise: don't bring stuff with you just because you think you can't get it here, or because you think it will cost more. You probably can get it here and it may cost less - especially if the exchange rate is in your favour. Whether you want to spend your time finding what you want at an acceptable price is a different matter.
Stories of the Dreaming is a website that focusses on the stories and storytelling traditions of Australia's indigenous peoples, created by the Australian Museum in affiliation with Australia's Cultural Network. Learn why these stories are so significant to indigenous people and how they have been passed on through generations. Sample the different dreamtime stories as text, audio, or video.
You've probably heard that Australia is about the same size as the USA (minus Alaska). Here's a picture that superimposes an outline of Australia on the continent of North America:
Now if we could just find one that shows Australia compared to Europe... if you know of one, please tell us where to find it.
Expatexchange is an online community for English-speaking expatriates, future transferees, repatriates and HR/relocation managers. Although it has a heavy emphasis on American expats, it's intended for anyone moving to a country not their own, or returning to their own country after an extended stay abroad. The site has over 140 country and topic networks that can be accessed for free, as well as links to commercial services to assist with all aspects of a move and settling in to one's new country.
In addition to their public site, they do consulting work with corporations and other organisations with populations of expatriates.
If you would like to join, go to http://www.expatexchange.com and click the Join icon above their logo. On the Registration page, please put "Jean Hollis Weber" in the Referred By field so I will get credit for referring you.
The next issue of this newsletter will appear in June 2001. We will be travelling in the USA and the UK from late March until mid-May and won't be picking up our email very often or doing much computer work - quite a change for us!
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© Copyright 2001 Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber. All rights reserved.
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