Australia itinerary help (not city/region specific)

Old Apr 7, 2016, 8:19 pm
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Post Australia itinerary help (not city/region specific)

First time in Australia, got some questions after doing research

(managed to get a $680 flight from new york city RT)

Dates: ("winter" off-season) June 25-July 10
  1. Lodging - I see a lot of posts below me complaining about hotel rates. Is Airbnb not a thing here?

    I see $40-$70/night available on airbnb, private rooms or entire places in Sydney
  2. Baggage storage - I might hotel/city hop.

    I see that there's a decent ($77/month 1m cubed) option available in central sydney, useful to store my big check-in luggage. Any comments/alternatives?
    http://www.sydneystoragelockers.com.au/
  3. Sydney - Planning to stay maybe 7 days here?
  4. Other cities - I'm thinking
    6/25(Fri)-6/27(Mon) Sydney
    6/27(Mon)-6/30(Thur) Brisbane or Cairns
    6/31(Fri)-7/4(Mon) Melbourne
    $239 for SYD->BNE->MEL->SYD on Virgin Aus, both weekends in cities

  5. ATM (debit access) - I see that a lot of ATMs in sydney participate in the PLUS network.

    Am I correct? I see some stuff about EFTPOS card - should bring enough cash in case my debit/credit cards don't work right?

Last edited by paperwastage; Apr 7, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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Old Apr 7, 2016, 11:23 pm
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I have been once from the states for 14 days. Spent half in Sydney and half in Melbourne. It is well worth it to visit Melbourne. Both cities were very enjoyable. We had no problems getting cash from ATMs with our US bank cards. Things we enjoyed - Melbourne: river area in the city, Queen Victoria market, day trip Ocean road to see the Twelve Apostles. Sydney: Harbor, Toronga Zoo (fabulous), Sydney Harbour Circular Quay, whale watching boat trip. Enjoy!
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Old Apr 8, 2016, 9:23 pm
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I just finished a month in Australia. 4 days in Syd; one night in Adelaide; one night in Cairns and a last night in Syd before flying home.

My interests do NOT lie in the cities...

The other 22 days I was in out of the way places. But none of these are AirBnBs. It was not a budget trip either- renting cars; almost all 4x4s, is not cheap.

What do you want to SEE or DO when you are there?

I did one ATM access that cost me ~US$10 for a AUD200 withdrawal; thereafter I had a funded Australian EFTPOS card that I used for payments and the rare times I needed cash. Many told me I was nuts, but it was great. Your US ATM cards will work, just be expensive. Also, in Oz if you use a credit card, most merchants also add 1.5 to 3% to the bill. Unequivocally I would NOT bring cash.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 2:03 am
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Aussie here. I've stayed at quite a few airbnb places around Sydney without a problem.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 2:29 am
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I'm flying in to Sydney for 18 days in late September/early October. Plan to rent a car most of the time.

Am I crazy to think of driving up the coast to Cairns? Or fly/train to Brisbane and drive to Cairns? (I know it's 2500+ km.) I'd be interested in opinions on nice places to stop and look around on the drive.

I definitely want to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, would appreciate advice about the best locations and/or dive operators. I'll probably stick to easy dives, 60feet/20 meters, maybe 2-3 days of that.

Otherwise, I enjoy outdoor activities and want to see the native fauna.

Exec_Plat, will US debit cards work with the eftpos system there, or is it something completely Aussie? It's hard to figure out from some basic web searches.

Thanks for opinions, everyone.

Doc
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 3:36 am
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Originally Posted by Exec_Plat
I did one ATM access that cost me ~US$10 for a AUD200 withdrawal;
Are you sure that's not your home bank charging you for a foreign transaction? I've never paid an ATM charge in Australia, and I was there as recently as May of last year (and will be back May of this year). If Australian banks are charging U.S. residents ATM fees now, it's something new to me. I have a U.S. bank that does not charge any fees for foreign transactions.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:10 am
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage
Am I crazy to think of driving up the coast to Cairns? Or fly/train to Brisbane and drive to Cairns? (I know it's 2500+ km.) I'd be interested in opinions on nice places to stop and look around on the drive.

I definitely want to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef
Let me toss out a few things to get you started.

I've done Sydney-Cairns twice by bus in my backpacking days and would not do it again. If I had to start all over I'd begin at Byron Bay and head north from there to save some of the road time. I know there is an airport there but don't know how available rental cars would be for one way rentals being that the city itself has only 9,000 residents. Brisbane, 100 miles to the north, might be the better option for car rentals. If you have AA miles an award within Australia is 10,000 miles one way and could be an option for a higher priced airport if you want to try and get to Byron Bay.

Heading north from Byron Bay you have Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise which might be worth a lunch stop unless you like a small-scale Miami Beach. I've gone down as day trips by rail from Brisbane before and will be there again for OzFest next month. There is an airport in that area (OOL).

North of Brisbane is the Sunshine Coast, one of my favorite parts of Australia (Noosa, Mooloolooba, Maroochydore- have spent a lot of time around those parts). I saw my first koala in the wild in the national park at Noosa. Brisbane to Cairns is about 1,000 miles. Lots of water activities but don't think that area is known for diving.

Heading further north you have Airlie Beach. I've gone out on boat trips from there, so that could be one venue you want to check for diving (not a diver myself). It's the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. Further north of there would be Townsville/Magnetic Island, Cairns and Port Douglas, and there's no shortage of dive operators in Cairns.
http://www.tourismwhitsundays.com.au...ch/what-to-do/

There is a koala sanctuary north of Brisbane.
http://www.koala.net/

Is this your first Australia trip? Think about a sidetrip out to Alice Springs where you could book a 2-3 day tour to Ayers Rock/Uluru. I have quite a few photos of that area on my website below (OzFest was there in 2014, my third time out there). Hotels at Ayers Rock itself are pricey, but a tour from Alice could include camping along the way at quite a savings and you'll never see stars like you can see them from out there without city lights. If you want to see the red soil outback that Australia is known for, taking a 4WD down dirt tracks, a sidetrip out there will get you the exposure and you won't forget it.
https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Australia

Another area to consider is the Blue Mountains at Katoomba which can be done by train from Sydney. I've hiked trails up there, so if you're starting in Sydney with an early morning arrival, might want to consider the train right up there, to make the best use of your time, and then come back to Sydney.

Enough for now.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:24 am
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Thanks, Tom, for the tips. I'm really just starting planning, so it's good to get some ideas from someone who's done it before!
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:40 am
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Originally Posted by paperwastage

I see $40-$70/night available on airbnb, private rooms or entire places in Sydney
Let me start with budget accommodations. I spent over 20 years staying in hostels when traveling, and there is no shortage of them in Australia. Some of the YHA hostels have single rooms at reasonable prices (I've stayed at them in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane off the top of my head), or if you're looking for rock bottom you can share a dorm room. Although the YHA hostels are regulated and well run, some of the private hostels can be classed as party hostels so it's important to read reviews to see what you're getting. Look at sites such as hostelworld.com and hostels.com and read the reviews for the private ones. Hostels tend to be on public transit routes with some in Sydney right around the central railway station.

Accor hotels (Ibis, Mercure, Novotel) frequently have sales when rates will drop 25-33%, but I think you've missed the most recent sale and there may not be one before your travel dates. Subscribe to their mailing list.

Don't do 7 nights in Sydney. That's really overkill. 3-4 nights will easily get you to the highlights and you'll be ready to move on. You might consider a sidetrip up to the Blue Mountains, either by rail or with a tour operator (I've always just got the train to Katoomba and walked to the visitor's center at Three Sisters).

If you're going down to Melbourne, think about a tour along the Great Ocean Road. You could end up in Adelaide and move on from there, or do a shorter tour just returning to Melbourne. You could also do a day trip out to wine country (Barossa Valley) from Adelaide or Melbourne (Yarra Valley). Consider the fairy penguins at Phillip Island south of Melbourne as another day trip (they come in at sunset).
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 4:43 am
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage
Thanks, Tom, for the tips. I'm really just starting planning, so it's good to get some ideas from someone who's done it before!
I think I'm up to around 17-18 trips over. I started around 1995 when I'd go over for a month at a time each trip. Now I'm happy with two weeks each trip. One of my favorite trips was north of Perth on a 3 day backpacker tour all the way to Exmouth where we stayed in converted military barracks. Probably a little out of the way for your trip, but an area to keep in mind once you become addicted and want to go back each year.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 7:46 am
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage

Am I crazy to think of driving up the coast to Cairns? Or fly/train to Brisbane and drive to Cairns? (I know it's 2500+ km.) I'd be interested in opinions on nice places to stop and look around on the drive.
If it was me, I'd drive to the Sunshine Coast from Sydney, visit Fraser Island, then fly the rest of the way up to Cairns. The drive is slow, although it's an A road it's single carriageway north of Brisbane.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 8:18 am
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage

Am I crazy to think of driving up the coast to Cairns? Or fly/train to Brisbane and drive to Cairns? (I know it's 2500+ km.) I'd be interested in opinions on nice places to stop and look around on the drive.

I definitely want to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, would appreciate advice about the best locations and/or dive operators. I'll probably stick to easy dives, 60feet/20 meters, maybe 2-3 days of that.

Otherwise, I enjoy outdoor activities and want to see the native fauna.

Exec_Plat, will US debit cards work with the eftpos system there, or is it something completely Aussie? It's hard to figure out from some basic web searches.

Thanks for opinions, everyone.

Doc
1. 20 years ago there was an airline pilots strike and we had to get from Townsville to Sydney to get home. It took three days of non stop driving. I would not do it again.

2. Again, this is very old advice, but I assume it's still valid. The better diving is on liveaboards. We went twice with Mike Ball and it was very good. The coral is bleaching (NYTimes article today). If you are an avid diver, I'd go to Green, Heron or Lizard Island to be able to dive sites that aren't reachable from the mainland. I'd search Undercurrent or Scubaboard for recent information. I was in Cairns in February and there were plenty of dive operations running from there. But, I would definitely consider getting farther off shore. Unless you are AOW, you will be limited to a depth of 60-70 feet.

3. We went to Silky Oaks http://www.silkyoakslodge.com.au again years ago and loved it. We also went to Darwin to see Kakadu (it's about 100 miles from Darwin.)

4.In Feb my Charles Schwab debit/ATM card worked fine.

For OP IMHO, 7 days in Sydney is way too much.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by manneca
4.In Feb my Charles Schwab debit/ATM card worked fine.
Did you pay any local ATM fees at Australian banks? Isn't Schwab one of those cards that does not charge their own fees for using a foreign ATM?
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 12:03 pm
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage
I definitely want to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, would appreciate advice about the best locations and/or dive operators. I'll probably stick to easy dives, 60feet/20 meters, maybe 2-3 days of that.
I'd also recommend the Mike Ball liveaboard. Mike Ball runs itineraries that cover both the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. This one is the best of the bunch. Food is good, accommodations are satisfactory, and the diving is excellent. The low-level return flight from Lizard Island to Cairns saves time and offers a nice view of the Great Barrier Reef. Highly recommended.
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Old Apr 10, 2016, 12:18 pm
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Originally Posted by tom911
Did you pay any local ATM fees at Australian banks? Isn't Schwab one of those cards that does not charge their own fees for using a foreign ATM?
I did and they were refunded. I had a $9 rebate for three withdrawals from ANZ bank, including one in PNG. (I had 3 in the Solomons and the rebate was $25!)
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