Issue Number 22, 4 February 2001
Editors: Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber
In this issue...
Cash, credit card, or travelers cheques?
Do you need a tax file number?
Public swimming pools
Parking your car
Overnight parking a campervan or motorhome
Leaving luggage at Central Station, Sydney
Finding fuel at night
Finding LPG (Autogas)
More maps online
Melbourne public transport information
International phone card: Say G'Day
eKit travel vault
Most accommodation, restaurants, shops, tourist venues, large supermarkets, and taxis will accept credit cards, but you'll need cash for small purchases and some local services like buses and trains (you may need to buy a ticket from a machine that accepts cash only).
You can buy Australian dollars overseas and bring them with you, but if you bring in A$10,000 or more you'll need to declare it at customs. Of course, carrying large amounts of cash is not recommended, for personal security reasons.
If you plan to bring travelers cheques, it's best to get them in Australian dollars. Most places will accept them (unless you have too large a denomination relative to the size of your purchase), but a few won't. You can cash travelers cheques in banks. Some banks might charge a fee; most won't.
If you bring travelers cheques in other currencies, you'll have to go to a bank or other place that handles foreign currency (not always available in smaller places) and pay a conversion fee.
Credit/debit cards - Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere, Amex and Diners in most places, but many others are not accepted except perhaps in more expensive resorts and hotels.
You can also use a credit or debit card in ATMs (automated teller machines) or EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) outlets, if the card is associated with Maestro/Cirrus or Plus.
Check with your home bank to find out what charges they impose for using credit or debit cards overseas. And be sure to tell your bank that you're going overseas, or they might cut off your card when you using it. Your bank might decide to check whether your card has been stolen, by phoning you at home to make sure the charges are valid. Of course you won't be there to verify them! We've heard several horror stories about this practice, and Eric's bank phoned him last week to check on some purchases he made from companies in the UK using his card.
If you have a work visa (including working holiday) you will need a tax file number. You can apply for that when you get to Australia. Either go to a tax office or get a form from any post office and send it in. You'll need the usual multiple forms of identification: passport, credit card, and so on.
More info (not much!) is given here: http://www.ato.gov.au/content.asp?doc=/content/Individuals/tfn_info.htm
If you prefer to swim in a pool rather than the ocean, or are travelling away from the coast, you'll be glad to know that public swimming pools are common, and not just in large urban areas; many small towns have quite large, well-maintained pools. Pool water may be fresh or salt; if it matters to you, check before you go in. Entry fees are usually low and entitle you to stay all day. You can usually get a re-entry pass if you want to leave for awhile and return later the same day.
Some towns have free pools, and coastal towns often have a (saltwater) swimming enclosure at the beach.
If you've decided to rent or buy a car, you may find parking in built-up areas to be a problem. Small towns rarely charge for parking, but they may enforce time limits in the shopping areas.
In cities, you'll probably have to pay for parking (sometimes quite a lot), either on the street or in a parking garage. If you're parking on the street, you may see meters by each parking space, or you may need to look for a ticket dispenser that serves all the spaces in the nearby area. Some self-serve parking lots have similar ticket dispensers.
In parking garages, often you can get 2 or 3 hours free if you buy something from a local merchant and get a parking voucher from them. Be sure to ask; this isn't always advertised. Many parking garages associated with shopping malls (usually in the suburbs, rather than the inner city) allow 2 or 3 hours free before charging, without any proof of purchase; read the notices at the entrance gates to be sure.
Most undercover parking areas have too low a ceiling for motorhomes and many campervans.
On residential streets, parking is usually free but limited to 1 or 2 hours except for local residents, who have permit stickers on their cars. Some areas do not allow parking overnight on the street, even for residents.
Most built-up areas do not allow larger trucks, motorhomes or campervans to park overnight on the street, and most do not allow camping in parks or other public areas. "Camping" is defined more or less rigidly in different localities, but in general, if you're sleeping in the vehicle, you're considered to be camping.
Away from built-up areas, especially in the outback, all is different. Unless a sign prohibits camping, you can stop where you want, though it's best to avoid trespassing on private property. Many, but not all, roadside rest areas along major roads allow overnight -- but not extended -- stops. If you're counting on stopping in these areas, it's a good idea to get one of the books or pamphlets that lists them, the facilities available, and whether overnight stops are permitted.
There is a baggage check at the Country train end of Sydney's Central railway station where you can check a bag for a while. They charge $1 or $2 per bag to do this, but it is safe and you don't have to lug it around if you have a few hours between trains or buses, or before going to the airport.
If you need to drive long distances at night, and need to find fuel, look for truck stops on the main highways. Most of them are open all night. Ordinary service stations (for cars), especially in towns and cities, are far less likely to be open.
You can get petrol or diesel at truck stops (and usually food and a hot shower), and probably ask any truckers for advice on the next open station further down the road.
Away from the main highways, roadhouses are a major source of fuel. If they are not open, you can often get someone to come out, but they will charge you extra for this.
Hertz (and possibly other companies) now rent cars that use dual fuel (LPG and petrol). LPG is liquid petroleum gas (propane). Known as Autogas in Australia, LPG is widely available, practically in every town. However, if your vehicle can use LPG only, you need to get a card from an LPG service station about its distribution. With a dual fuel car, you just use petrol if you can't find LPG.
Try Ausway's online maps for Melbourne and Sydney: http://www.ozemail.com.au/~man7/sydney/maps.htm
Meltrip is an unofficial site containing links to most public transport timetables in Melbourne.
It doesn't have much tourist-specific info, but if you're visiting someone in Melbourne and would like to find out what public transport services are available, it should be useful.
The official public transport portal is difficult to use unless you already know what you're doing; this may be fine for locals looking up timetables, but isn't all that useful for visitors. http://www.victrip.com.au/
Say G'day(tm) is a new pre-paid calling card which allows you to call overseas for as low as 9 cents per minute to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, USA, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Japan.
This new calling card can be used from virtually any touchtone phone in Australia by dialling the telephone access number. You don't insert it into a payphone like some other cards. The back of the card has all the instructions you need to use it.
The Say G'day cards feature unique Australian designs, with the launch series displaying quirky Aussie icons suitable as souvenirs or Australian gifts. More information and examples.
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© Copyright 2001 Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber. All rights reserved.
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