Australia

(Click HERE to skip to the links)

 

The continent of Australia is a wonderful place to visit, whether you’re there to party or not. It’s got a hell of a beach culture near the coast, and since something like 85% of the population lives within an hour of the coast, you’ll probably find yourself surrounded by that vibe much of the time. The country has six states and two territories and the major cities include Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Wollongong, to name a few. While one can easily find places to party in the cities, there are also a few smaller communities that have an excellent party culture. Among these are The Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Arlie Beach, and Cairns, among others.

I love going to Australia for the laid-back nature of the general populace. My schedule when I’m in Australia is, by design, very low impact. I adopt the coolest pattern that any human being could hope for. I usually stay at the house of one of my best friends, James, so the environment is usually conducive towards a good time. I wake up and the crack of noon and make breakfast/lunch. Then, I head for the beach and spend the afternoon lounging in the sun or playing in the surf. Then, I head back and make dinner and the drinking starts. Then, I round up some friends and we head out for another night on the town. Finally, we make our way home at around one or two, not falling into bed until some time around four. It’s great! Can't ask for a better way to spend your time. And, the people there are great. For the most part everyone’s friendly. Plus, its way easier to hook up here than it is back home. The people are so much easier to talk to. I can’t even count the number of girls that I’ve made out with while out at the bar while in Australia. Half of the time, I don’t even have to make the move.

With the exception of New Zealanders, all foreigners entering Australia are required to have visas to enter the country. Certain countries (the US, the UK, and members of the EU, to name a few) are eligible to obtain an Electronic Travel Authority instead of the traditional paper visa. An ETA is valid for a year and allows tourists or business travelers to stay in the country for up to three months on one visit. They can be obtained through a travel agent, online through the Australian government, or at the last minute at the airport prior to departure. As an American, I didn’t find Australia to be an overly expensive place. I understand that if you come from Canada, Western Europe, or Japan, you’ll also find this to be the case. However, to residents of many other countries, Australia can be a relatively expensive place. For the most part, Australia is a relatively safe place, too. My biggest worry was getting hit by a car. Australians drive on the left side, so it took a while for me to get used to looking right-left-right instead of left-right-left. Some areas in the bigger cities can be dangerous after dark, but for the most part there’s a good police presence and there really aren’t any areas that should be absolutely avoided. Common sense should keep you safe. Hell, even hitchhiking is legal as long as you don’t obstruct traffic while you’re doing it. Considering the huge distances between cities, hitchhiking is a relatively common way of getting from one place to another. The biggest danger in Australia is probably from the wildlife, though casualties as a result of the native fauna are not all that common. Precautions should be taken, though, as Australia has many of the deadliest animals in the world. Crocodiles and sharks are relatively common. In addition, Australia has many varieties of poisonous spiders and something like six of the ten most venomous snakes in the world are native to the country. Not to be forgotten, the jelly fish, especially the box jellyfish, are common in Australian waters, especially during stinger season, which runs from late October to early May.

Over the course of my trips to Australia, I’ve come to accept drinking as a major part of the Australian culture. In fact, I didn’t start drinking until I was 26, and what got me started was my first trip to Australia. The drinking age in Australia is 18, so it’s not uncommon to be in a bar or club where the crowd is considerably younger than one might find at a bar or club in the United States or some other country where the drinking age is 21. In fact, you might want to be careful who you hit on. In the US, when an underage person sneaks into the bar, at least a majority of the time they’re still adults. However, when the drinking age is 18, it’s not uncommon to see fifteen or sixteen year old kids who have snuck into the bar. So be warned about hooking up. The age of consent in most Australian states is 16. The two exceptions to this rule are Tasmania and South Australia, which recognize 17 as the age of consent. Oh, and Queensland also has an oddity in that, while its age of consent is 16, the age of consent for anal sex is 18. So, watch yourself when flirting with the younger crowd. You might find yourself ending up with one the underage kids who might’ve snuck into the bar.

Another thing about boozing is that I find the alcohol prices to be pretty expensive, especially when you purchase it in the bottle shop. There are no such things as the 1.75L home-wreckers that you can buy in the United States. Well, at least not that I found. The biggest sized bottles you can find for spirits is usually 700mL. The prices in the pubs are somewhat steep (more so as you get closer to the cities), but this hasn’t always been the case. You can still find the cheap places if you look hard enough. The general rule is the same as anywhere else in the world: the more popular the place the more expensive the drinks. The selection seems to be somewhat limited as well. I was unable to find some of my favorite types of booze. For instance, no such thing as Crown Royal. Also, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum has only recently made its way over there and might not be able to be found everywhere. You might have to look if you want to find that. Another thing I noticed is that the tequila selection is limited. I only ever remember being able to find Jose Cuervo, which is pretty shitty tequila. Guess I’m spoiled by my tequila selection because I live relatively close to Mexico. There is one interesting form of alcohol available in the bottle shops that I’d never seen before. You can buy cans and sometimes bottles of pre-mixed spirits. Some examples include Wild Turkey and Coke, Jack and Coke, and Bacardi and Coke, among others. If you’re a wine fan, Australia does have a hell of a wine selection. The southern parts of the county have a great climate for wine production, so you’ll have no trouble finding wine to whet your palate with. Also, some restaurants that are not licensed to sell alcohol allow customers to bring in their own alcohol, but that’s usually limited to wine and sometimes beer. These BYO restaurants will often have what’s usually called a corkage fee. By definition, it’s the price you pay to have them open the bottle for you, but in reality it’s the fee associated with the right to bring in your own booze. Fees can range from a few dollars to something like $15 and may even be calculated by a head count. BYO isn’t usually allowed at a place that is licensed to sell its own alcohol.

If you’re traveling to Australia, you can somewhat overcome the limited selection by bringing your own favorites from home through Customs. You must declare what you bring in and up to a certain point what you bring is duty free. For alcohol, each person age 18 or older can bring in up to 2.25 liters of alcohol and up to 250 cigarettes (or 250 grams of cigars or tobacco products). If you exceed any these limits, they won’t be taken from you, but you will have to pay a duty and tax on the entire importation within that group of items. You must declare the goods and provide proof of purchase so that the amount of your duty and tax can be calculated. I recommend that you don’t try and hide what you’ve got. You risk large fines if you get caught. Oh, and speaking of cigarettes, whatever you do, don’t throw a lit cigarette butt out of your car window. The country often finds itself in drought conditions, which raise the fire condition levels. Since lit cigarettes can start forest fires, violators can find themselves facing jail terms. When total fire bans are in effect, cigarettes are usually included in the ban in non-urban areas.

If you’re gonna drink and drive, you’d better be careful. Australian law is pretty serious about drunk driving. At 0.05%, the legal limit is somewhat low compared to the United States. In addition, it is not uncommon to run into random breath-testing checkpoints on some of the busier roads in the country. I’ve hit them a couple of times and I don’t even drive that often. Supposedly, every police car in Australia is capable of conducting in-field breath tests and they have vans (referred to by Aussies as “booze buses”) that can be set up to test large numbers of drivers. Checkpoints are also more prevalent on holidays, especially those traditionally associated with drinking. In addition to alcohol testing, police in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are empowered to randomly test drivers for drug use, which is treated about as seriously as operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. If you decide to walk instead of drive, you’re likely to be okay… especially if you’re with a group. Unless you’re creating a total nuisance, you’re likely to be left alone. Go too far, and you can find yourself sobering up in the drunk tank or even facing charges of public drunkenness. Don’t be drinking on your walk home, though. Consumption of alcohol is banned in most public places, like parks and footpaths. Don’t remember drinking at the beach to be a big deal though. Might want to leave the glass at home, though.

The drug culture in Australia is somewhat liberal as well. It’s relatively easy to find what you’re looking for. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be approached by strangers in the street or at the pub looking to see if you’re holding or buying. Happens to me on a regular basis. In relation to marijuana, most laws are somewhat lax, especially in comparison to those of the United States. The laws are usually left of to the legislation of the individual states. Queensland is the harshest, but what would you expect out of a state that won’t let you have anal sex until the age of 18?! Just kidding. It’s a criminal offense to possess any amount of marijuana or paraphernalia and you face court and can receive jail time if convicted. In both New South Wales and Tasmania, use of marijuana is illegal, but usually only attracts fines. The most liberal of the Australian states is South Australia, where possession of small quantities has been decriminalized, but still can attract small fines (similar to those of parking tickets). In the Australian Capital Territory possession of up to two plants (25 grams) is not a criminal offense but carries a $100 fine, while in Western Australia two plants are considered private use and fines are only levied if this amount is exceeded. So, if you wanna smoke pot, your best bet is to head to Perth. Well, in the eyes of the law, anyway. You’ll be able to find what you want anywhere if you’re willing to look.

The downside of the liberal drug culture is that there is a bit more drug abuse than I’m used to. I was indoctrinated to this by my buddy James who told me about the blue lights in the bathrooms on the night I met him. I was standing at the train station waiting for the train and he pointed at the bathroom and asked me if we had blue lights in the bathrooms in the States as well. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, so I asked him what was with the blue lights. Apparently, they put blue lights in the bathrooms here so that when junkies go in the bathrooms, they can't see the veins that they use to shoot up in. Apparently, the blue light makes them invisible. Not only that, needle disposal units are pretty common in the bathrooms as well. I guess the heroine problem is pretty big. From what I understand, it’s the most common hard drug in Australia due to the proximity to the opium production in Asia. Smuggling and importation of drugs is taken quite seriously, so watch yourself if you decide to carry. The jail terms are lengthy (up to the point of life in prison) and authorities in Australia are known to cooperate with other countries in their own war on drugs, especially those where known pipelines exist and even in cases where those countries carry death penalties for trafficking. In general, penalties are usually harsher for hard drugs offenses than they are for marijuana offenses. You can expect jail terms if caught buying, selling, or possessing and don’t expect any leniency for being a tourist. Oh, and I don’t recommend that you offer any bribes. For the most part, Australian police aren’t of the shady variety. The laws against bribing an officer are readily enforced.

If you’re looking to get lucky on your vacation, Australia is a relatively good destination as far as STDs are concerned. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to come up with current world STD rates. The newest data I could find was 2003 for HIV rates and 1999 for the so called “curable STDs”, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. While these rates may not be the most current, they can be used to compare Australia with the rest of the world. By this rationale, Australia has some of the lowest STD rates in the entire world. With regards to HIV, the rate of infection among Australians in 2003 was approximately one-tenth of one percent, or 0.10%. That means that approximately one person in 1000 are HIV positive. Compare those numbers to the UK (0.20%), the US (0.60%), France (0.40%), and The Netherlands (0.20%), to name a few, it would stand to reason that if Australia had some of the lowest world HIV rates in 2003, they would still have some of the lowest rates today. Likewise in relation to the curable STDs. As of 1999, Australia’s rate of curable STDs, which stood at 2.7%, was comparable to much of the rest of the world. The rates in North America were 1.9%, while those in Europe stood at 2.0% for Western Europe and 2.9% for Central and Eastern Europe. These rates are much better than those in the worst places in the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa at 11.9%, Latin America and the Caribbean at 7.1%, and Southeast Asia at 5%.

In general, the Australian attitude towards sex is very liberal. As I said before, hooking up seems to me to be relatively common and much easier than what I am used to. Not easy, but easier. But, I’ve got to tell you, the rumor about the 2-to-1 female-to-male ratio is simply not true. It was… 60 years ago. Australian males were killed at an alarming rate in WWII, so back in that time the 2-to-1 ratio was true. For some reason, though, this “statistic” has persisted and people think it’s still true. It’s just not the case. There is a slight female majority, but it’s right around 1%. In general, there are just about as many men in Australia as women, so don’t believe the rumors. Topless beaches and even topless people on non-topless beaches are relatively common. There are even a few beaches that I’ve come across that are full-nude. The only one I can remember off of the top of my head is the one in Port Macquarie. The name escapes me, but Port Macquarie is a small community, so you’ll have no problem finding it if you’re looking for it. Just ask around or head to the beach and do some walking. I stumbled across it, so will you. The beach itself is beautiful and the few times I’ve been there, the beach has been almost entirely deserted. So, if privacy is your thing, I doubt you’ll have trouble finding it. In addition, prostitution laws in Australia are somewhat lax, at least in relation to all forms of prostitution except street prostitution. Prostitution within Australia is governed by state laws, which vary considerably. Street prostitution laws are the strictest, as it’s illegal to street walk or solicit a street walker in all states of Australia except New South Wales where it is only prohibited near churches, schools, hospitals and similar places. Brothels and massage parlors are by and large legal entities, and are regulated by the individual states and by local council planning laws. Generally speaking, regulation of prostitution leads to a safer “product” (so to speak!!).

The laws on pornography are kind of weird in Australia. In each of the six states of Australia, it is not legal to sell or rent X-rated material, but it is not illegal to possess them. In the two territories of Australia, it is legal to sell or rent such material. Furthermore, the Australian constitution does not allow the states to regulate interstate commerce, thus people often purchase pornographic material and transport or ship it across state lines. Thus, pornography is not that difficult to obtain. It has become more difficult in recent years to obtain material featuring fetishes. In addition, laws have become more strict pertaining to material that features actors who appear to be minors. Obviously, child pornography is not legal.

I’m not much of a gambler, so my information on it will be somewhat limited. From what I’ve gathered in my time in Australia, gambling is regulated by the individual states and is HEAVILY taxed. If gambling is your thing, though, you’ll have no trouble finding it. It’s EVERYWHERE. For a list of casinos, see the “Useful Information” section at the end of this write up. Poker machines are very common and could be found in a vast majority of the pubs I’ve ever been in. In addition, it’s pretty easy to find a place to bet on horse-and dog-racing. Horse racing is very big in Australia; especially the Melbourne Cup, which is an absolute extravaganza that shouldn’t be missed. It’s called “the race that stops a nation” and is held annually on the first Tuesday in November. Horse-racing tracks are very common and off-track betting can be done just about anywhere. Look for signs that say TAB or ask around for the local TAB location to bet on horse-racing. Tracks are also very common, if you want to attend the races in person. If Poker is your game, you can find it at any of the casinos listed above, but I’ve yet to notice a poker culture similar to the one that has sprung up in the United States. If you wanna play, though, you’ll be hard-pressed to find yourself far away from one of Australia’s casinos. Furthermore, finding an informal game shouldn’t be hard, either. You’ll just have to ask around.

There is another interesting form of gambling that, as far as I know, is limited to Australia. If you get the chance to check out a game called Two-up, don’t miss it. It’s interesting and entertaining. The problem is, for the most part, it’s illegal. However, on April 25 of every year, Two-up is legal. April 25 is ANZAC Day and is quite the site to behold. The history of Two-up in relation to ANZAC Day is that soldiers in the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps used to play Two-up to pass time during World War I. Since ANZAC Day is a remembrance day of the time when the ANZACs were slaughtered at Gallipoli, one of the traditions is for the pub patrons to play Two-up. The traditional rules state that a person called the “spinner” places a bet and puts two coins onto a paddle called a “kip”. Using the kip, the spinner tosses the two coins into the air. If the coins are both heads, the spinner wins. If they’re both tails, the spinner loses. If one coin is heads and one is tails, which is known as “odds”, the spinner throws again. Side bets are placed on the action by others watching the process. In practice, though, I haven’t really noticed the Two-up games following these rules. In most cases I’ve seen, the spinner does not place a bet, but is rather a neutral coin-tosser. All bets come in form of side bets where one person holds a bill in the air of any denomination and states their call (i.e. “Fifty dollars on heads”). If anyone challenges, they break out a bill of equal denomination and take the bill from the original bettor and hold both in the air until the toss is complete. Winner takes all. In addition, I’ve only seen Two-up played with three coins, where majority rules. In this case, there is never an even number of heads and tails, so odds is never achieved. As stated before, Two-up is legal on ANZAC day; however I’ve heard that it is sometimes legal on two other days of the year: Victory in the Pacific Day (August 15), and after noon on Remembrance Day (November 11). Whether this is true or not, I cannot attest. However, Two-up is interesting to behold. Even if gambling is not your thing, I urge you to check it out.

Since Australia is a popular tourist destination, it won’t be uncommon for you to not only run into tourists yourself but to come across locals who are familiar or even annoyed with the presence of outsiders. Don’t take it personally. It’s the whole “One Bad Apple” analogy. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a portion of the traveling population that is of the arrogant persuasion who pisses off everyone that they come into contact with. If this isn’t you, don’t worry about it. If you’re cool, Australians will like you. If you’re not, they won’t. One thing that might help is to take note of Australian dialog. For instance, everyone’s heard of Australians being referred to as “Aussies”. The thing is, Australians down pronounce it phonetically. They pronounce it “Ozzy”… you know, like the singer. It would’ve been nice if said buddy James had told me this on my first trip instead of letting me go on sounding like an asshole until the third time I’d been to the continent. Thanks, asshole!! Also, the letter “r” seems to come and go. “Melbourne” is pronounced “Melbun”. “Cairns” is pronounced “Cans”. Also, “Brisbane” is pronounced “Brisbun”.

There are a few more things that you should know before you go out in Australia. First off, tipping is not standard practice in Australia the way it is in the United States. It’s becoming more popular, but for the most part Australian workers do not have to depend on tips as a part of their income. I kinda like that. Also, if you ever come across a place that’s offering a game called Toss The Boss, you should jump all over that. It used to be pretty common, but I’ve noticed that it seems to be dwindling down. In Toss, you order the drinks you want (as many as you want, usually) and then engage in a toss of either two coins or two dice with H’s and T’s (heads and tails). If you end up with two heads, the entire round is free. If you get two tails, you pay full price. Or, maybe vice versa. I can’t remember. If you end up with one of each, you pay half price. Sounds a lot like Two-up, huh?! Either way, though, you’re no worse off than if you ordered a regular round. So, jump on it, if you get the chance.

There are also a few drinking-related Australia phrases you might want to know. First off, Aussies use the word “pissed” instead of “drunk”, often time in conjunction with the phrase “off your tits”. That’s one of my favorites. If someone tells you that you were off your tits, you were the drunk person at the party. Way to go, dipshit!! Oh, and if someone calls you a “soft cock”, that means that you either can’t handle your liquor or you’re too much of a pansy to drink any more. I’ve got a couple more that I’ve heard that you might get a kick out of. First off, I asked a friend if she had ever heard the phrase "Whiskey Dick". She said she had, but that it was called "Brewer's Droop" over there. I got quite the kick out of that one. Here's another: you know when someone's got a hot mom, you call her a "MILF"? Well, over there, you call them "RM", which is short for "Rootable Mum”. To “root” means to fornicate with, in case you couldn’t figure that one out. Use some of these phrases and you’ll fit right in. Well, all except for that dumbass accent that you’ve got. One time, I was the only American in a great big group of Aussies. At one point, one of them said, “Am I stoned or do I hear an accent?” I’m a quick one, though, so I shot back with, “What the fuck are you talking about?! You hear a whole room full of ‘em!!” So, try as you like… you’ll never fully fit in!!

Speaking of never fully fitting in, if you’re an American reading this there’s one more thing you should know. If you get called a “seppo”, you fucked up and someone doesn’t like you. See, in Australia, the locals do a lot of what’s called “rhyming slang”. They take the word they want to use and replace it with a word or phrase that rhymes with it. For example, a “pocket” can be called a “sky rocket”. In addition, they do a lot of abbreviation. Like saying “arvo” instead of “afternoon” or “barbie” instead of “barbecue”. Sometimes, they combine the two, as in the case of “seppo”. The word “seppo” is an insult aimed towards Americans. See, Australians call Americans “Yanks”. Well, what rhymes with Yank? How about “tank”? Okay. Good! What’s the worst kind of a tank? Um… a septic tank! Brilliant!! So, now… how do we shorten “septic tank”? How about “seppo”?! Fucking top-notch!! Anyway, it’s a fuckin’ stupid insult… one that it’s hard as an American to even get mad about. But, that’s what it means. The person thinks you’re a dickhead!! Congratulations.

One final thing to note about the country of Australia is that the country is not without racial tension. The population as a whole is predominantly of white European descent due to the “White Australia” political policy that restricted non-white immigration into the country for the first three quarters of the 20th century. As a result, nearly 90% of the population of Australia is of European descent. Since the abolishment of this policy and, in my opinion, especially due to the influx of international students, the Australian population seems to be somewhat of a diverse society and for the most part I haven’t seen racism to be a problem. However, there has been a little bit of racial tension that is worth noting. In December or 2005, race riots broke out in the beach community of Cronulla, which is a suburb of Sydney. Supposedly, groups of middle easterners – predominantly Lebanese – had been targeted by native white Australians for allegedly harassing other beach-goers. Among these allegations were that for years the Lebanese would order bikini-clad women to cover up and were harassing other beach-goers through petty intimidation and things like spitting in food. So, the Aussies got mad and the locals had a mass migration to the beach to exact revenge. A couple of days of disturbance ensued, some of it quite violent. Needless to say, though, there is a tension that exists between native white Australians and the Lebanese (a.k.a. Wogs). In addition to this racial tension, there is also tension between Australian Aboriginals and anyone not Aboriginal. Australian Aboriginals are not unlike the Native Americans in that they occupied the land long before white European settlers moved in on the continent. As such, there is much resentment between the Aboriginals and other racial groups… especially the whites. I had a friend who experienced this firsthand. My friend Mike was in a small community a few hours south of Sydney called Shell Harbour with a few friends out celebrating a birthday. He and two other guys left the pub to go get something to eat at the kebab stand. Before getting to the stand, he and his two friends were jumped by a large group of Aborigines and my friend got the worst of it all. He ended up with a broken orbital, a broken cheek bone, and a few broken teeth, among other things. He had to cut his trip short to go home and get his face fixed. While at the police station, he was told that the area was a hotbed for rival Aboriginal gangs. One of these gangs had decided to start targeting small groups of whites and apparently violence on these whites by the members of the Aboriginal gangs was not uncommon. I, myself, have never experienced any racial bigotry, for better or for worse, but it should be noted that it does exist.

One final thing and you’re on your way. When you make a purchase in Australia, the price you see is the price you pay. There is no additional sales tax to pay. A GST is already added into the price. However, as a tourist, you may be entitled to refunds of the GST on more expensive items or multiple items purchased at the same time if you’re buying them to take them out of the country. It’s called the Tourist Refund Scheme. If you spend more than $300 in one place at one time, you can obtain a refund from the TRS desk in the airport’s departure lounge. The items need to be purchased less than 30 days before departure and you must take them with you, so if you can show the receipt and the item(s) at the desk, you’re eligible for the refund. The amount of the refund is nearly 10%, so it’s definitely something worth looking into. Don’t forget to leave yourself a little extra time at the airport when you leave if you’re going to take advantage of this. An extra half-hour should suffice.

Anyway, have fun in Australia. I’m jealous, you asshole!! That’s about all I’ve got for you. You’re ready to take on the Land Down Under.. It’s a great country and I'm sure you'll have a blast. I’m going to include a list of party festivals and destinations below. If you’re looking for something to do, that’ll help you out. Have fun in the Oz. I doubt you’ll get bored. If you plan to get into trouble, know your embassy number. Here’s a website that’ll help you:

Embassy World

One tip: make sure you know your consulate number before you go to jail!!

Click HERE To See The Table Of Useful Information On Australia.

Which State Do You Wanna Go To?

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Queensland
Victoria

(Sorry... that's all I've got so far.)

Where Do You Wanna Go From Here?

ANZAC Day
Schoolies Week
Shooting Pool In Australia
Toss The Boss

(Sorry... that's all I've got so far.)