Before You Go: Australia/Fiji Need-to-Knows

I have been preparing for my Aussie excursion for months. Not only had I developed a close relationship with Marvin at Qantas airlines, but I’d read up on the latest attractions, e-mailed locals for tips, and practiced my Aussie slang. I had diligently watched Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee II, and Finding Nemo. I had reread Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan and only used Aussie hair products for the past month. I had some roo in my do and was ready to schlep the 8,000 miles Down Under.

Or so I thought…

I kept hitting snags in the final days of preparation. And while I was hoping that the bank debacle would be the last of it, there was no such luck.

It started when one of my readers e-mailed me her anecdotal story about how she didn’t realize she needed a visa to travel to Australia before she got there. I found the story very entertaining and sympathized for her situation, but was pretty confident it didn’t apply to me. I haven’t needed a visa to go anywhere I’ve traveled thus far and Australia would have been the last place I suspected. But then I realized that even though she had come to OZ from Beijing, she was an American citizen.

Hoping this was some sort of practical joke, I started Googling. To my dismay, I did in fact need to apply for a visa. I sent a mental thank-you to this reader. Then I panicked.

As it would turn out, applying for a visa wasn’t as strenuous of a process as I had imagined, but it was something I hadn’t considered. I applied online, paid the fee, and received my e-mail confirmation shortly afterward. And even though I skated through this obstacle, I made a mental note to never again assume I would get access into a country with only my American passport in hand.

Then came the outlet adapter issue. I am well aware that I need adapters for each country I travel to with my American electronics. I purchased an Australian friendly adapter and called it a day. But when I read the instruction booklet, I realized I also needed a transformer. Apparently American electronics run on 110-120 volts of electricity. Most of the rest of the world runs on 220-240 volts.

Seriously, who knows this kind of stuff?

Without a transformer to convert the power to a lower voltage, I risk blowing up my cell phone and iPod every time I plug them into an international outlet. This also explained why my phone acted so funky when I was traveling through Europe. I raced out to pick up a transformer.

But then came another moment of panic. I use AT&T and have the World Traveler’s plan so I can call or text friends and family back home with little or no cost to me. When I called AT&T International Care to inform them I would be going to Australia and Fiji, the representative told me they do not support data packages in Fiji. Therefore, if I was planning on texting or calling anyone from my device while in Suva City, I would be paying a pretty penny. So it goes, I guess.

There wasn’t much that I could do about this situation except start devising alternative methods of interaction. So far I’m looking into smoke signals and carrier pigeons.

I think what I’ve realized is that regardless of how prepared I feel I am for my next nomadic adventure, there are always going to be challenges to overcome and lessons I need to learn. Each challenge is a chance to improve the next journey. And in all reality, I’m happy to be the guinea pig so you can learn from my mistakes. Learn on, my fellow vagabonds! This one I’m calling…

Before You Go: Australia/Fiji Need-to-Knows

1. If you are not from Australia or New Zealand, you will need to apply for a visa before landing in OZ. Depending on what country you are from and what kind of visa you are applying for will depend on how difficult it is to obtain one. You can apply for a visa on the internet and in most cases have one approved the same day. To apply for your visa to Australia click here.

2. Make sure you not only have an appropriate adapter for your electronics but also have a voltage transformer if necessary. This applies only to travelers using electronics that run off of 110-120 volts. If you are from the US you will need one. If you’re unsure or need help determining what transformer or adapter to get, click here.

3. Check with your phone provider to see if they offer data packages for your destination. AT&T’s messaging and data packages are not applicable once you reach Fiji. If you’d rather just not deal with your provider at all, plan on picking up an international phone once you land. Or you can resolve to use internet cafes instead. Or, if you’re really brave, you can go without all forms of communication and truly enjoy the moment. As impossible as this may seem, people have done it before. πŸ˜‰

I hope you can learn from my oversights!

And here’s hoping for smooth sailing here on out. Only a few more hours before I get on that A380… I mean, what else could go wrong? Or is that question better left unasked?

See you on the other side! Happy Adventuring!

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115 thoughts on “Before You Go: Australia/Fiji Need-to-Knows

  1. I want to know about the Australian culture. How is the life style over their! are the local people friendly to the tourist? Heard that Australians are pretty professional and serious kinda people!

    • Hey there! My apologies for never getting back to you. For some reason I’m just seeing this now.

      So far I’ve met nothing but amazingly friendly and helpful Australian locals. The people from the West coast tend to be a little rougher around the edges but will warm up if you’re amicable. The East coasters are friendly from the get go. Since I’ve been staying in hostels and in popular backpacker hangouts, I tend to run across the more free spirited and easy going type of people. I can say for sure they’re serious about their fun!

  2. Here is another book tip (also good for after travel reading): In a Sunsburnt Country, by Bill Bryson. (He wrote books about several countries and he is one of my favourite authors.) Very funny!!! πŸ™‚

  3. Can’t believe with all your globe trotting you’ve just encountered these little conundrums! Lucky! I first discovered the small problem of voltages when my beloved hair straighteners from the UK wouldn’t turn on in Canada (better than blowing up I suppose!) I’ve always worked wherever I’ve gone so I’ve always had to get a visa – such a pain so I’m glad yours was a painless process. As far as communication goes, I’m sure you’re already on the Skype train? Hope you’re loving the Land Down Under so far!

    • Yeah, I guess I have been lucky so far in my travels. Every trip is a learning experience!!

      And yes, I am learning the wonders of Skype. Thank you so much! Down Under is awesome. =)

  4. ahahaha was the visa me? or do you have a lot of readers who fly from Tokyo via Beijing to Australia πŸ˜‰

    I totally killed my sonicare in England, but most electronics now days have transformers built in. Just check the tiny print on the plug. πŸ™‚

  5. hello hilary! it was nice meeting you in yoga class at the YHA in sydney (such a perfect place for AM yoga)! hope you had a good trip to carins. thanks for the insight into the office/desk job thing – I do think the 9-5/house/kid thing is emphasized a bit too much. anyways, good luck with the travelling and take care! i’ll be adding your blog to my rss feed :o)

    -lynn from FL

    • Hi Lynn!

      I agree! What a fun place do yoga! I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you again before I left, but I’m so glad I could provide some insight. I know you’ll find the right thing for you.

      Whereabouts are you now? I hope you’ll stay in touch!

      • yeah, thanks! back home in orlando now looking for a new 9-5 but might end up going back to boston or trying a new city all together. who knows, I may be tempted to hit the road again sometime soon – australia was great! safe travels!

  6. These are exactly the kind of things I foresee happening with underplanned travel. The GF is one of those happy-go-lucky “let’s not book any shelter we’ll deal with it later” types. I am very patiently not.

    • Haha! Yeah, I’d like to say that I’m a free spirit and easy going, but I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. It also depends on where I’m going, how familiar it is and if I am traveling with someone. I’m glad you guys can find a happy medium!

      Do you have any underplanned travel tales for me?

  7. I’m sorry you ran into those snags! Wish I would’ve known you were going to Oz, I could have helped you avoid the panic πŸ™‚ For 2 years I’ve been planning to move there. I’m going to finally check the country out in August. Let me know how you like it.

    • Hi Kristine!

      WOW, that’s amazing! I had no idea. =) That would have been nice. Next time I’ll be sure to ask. We really need to stay in touch more!

      And I will be sure to do so. Talk soon!

  8. I can only comment by saying : “Just ENJOY Oz!” it’s an amazing country, you’ll be taken breathless form one adventure to another one and people are just… Great! So much for spending time there though, as I understood you were only staying 2 weeks, but take the most of it. and… yes… transformers and adaptaters are a common lot when you travel to and from the US… you guys just made it sooooo complicated on some easy stuff! πŸ˜› just kidding! ENJOY!

    • Thank you so so much! I’ve been loving Australia! And I know. Between that and the different measuring system I’m a little lost, but that’s okay. It’s all a learning experience!

    • Haha! I try my best not to… sometimes I feel like I have to go through certain things though, in order to learn and continue to better align myself. Next time I’ll be more prepared! And thank you so much!

      How are you doing?

      • That is so very true. Obstacles are character building I hear.

        Oh you know, the usual…birth mother finding you on Facebook after giving you up for adoption 29 years ago. Boring stuff, really. Hah!

          • I’m doing surprisingly well considering I never thought I would if this day ever came. There is a lot of stuff going on – emotions and family politics – but I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing with it all.

            How is OZ?

            • Oh man… what an exciting and tumultuous time for you! I know you will be grow and learn so much about yourself through this experience.

              Oz is good; been having my share of highs and lows. Lots of learning experiences! Hoping I can continue to get the most out of this experience. Sorry for being vague, but there’s too much to explain in a comment.

              Please keep me updated on how things go with your mother!

  9. Hilary…just got back from Paris and your recommendations were fabulous! Powered up the laptop to see that you are headed to Australia…one of my favorite places!!! This is where my husband and I honeymooned. We started in Sydney, went up the coast through the wine country for a couple of days, spent a night in Surfer’s Paradise and landed finally in Brisbane (but then we had to go back to Sydney for two more days…just loved it too much). I am going to dig up some good suggestions for you from my notes, but I know 3 things that you MUST do in Sydney: See an opera if you can and eat dinner beforehand at Guillaume at Bennelong; Absolutely go to Doyles on the beach at Watson’s Bay for a lunch of fish and chips (go on a clear day where you can climb the hill behind the restaurant for the most magnificent view of the harbour and all the sailboats); lastly…you should do the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb (we didn’t do it, but I wish we had). I’ll send more suggestions from some of my other notes. So jealous…have an Aussie time! – Amanda

    • Hi Amanda!

      Oh I am so happy to hear that my suggestions and recommendations worked out! Do you have any favorite memories from your trip to Paris? What did you love? What did you hate?

      Thank you so so much for the recommendations for Sydney! I wish I would have read this sooner. I am no longer in Sydney, but I too loved it so much. I have a feeling I will be back sooner rather than later and can’t wait to do the things I didn’t get a chance to previously.

      Can’t wait to share all my adventures with you and hear about yours!!

      • Glad to hear you are having a fabulous time! What did I love about Paris…everything. What did I hate about Paris…nothing! Seriously, there is no shortage of things to do in Paris, the food was amazing, and the people were great. The only complaint I ever had was when the wind caught my umbrella just so and broke it. My husband and I definitely want to go back again.

    • Haha, it is kind of funny how comedic our lives can be, isn’t it?

      I’m glad you liked the cartoon. =) I hope to share more learning experiences with you on this next adventure!

      Hope you’re well!

  10. It’s on the bucket list. Thanks for the tips. No, I wouldn’t have thought about the transformer, either.

    Hope you have a great trip! I look forward to your post-adventure blog. πŸ™‚

  11. If you do a lot of international traveling, you can solve your phone problem by buying a non-carrier specific phone that uses a SIM card. American phones not only don’t use SIM cards, but almost all of them operate on a different frequency than the rest of the world. Most non-American phones use SIM cards and you can then simply buy and insert a new SIM card into the phone each country. Most SIM cards already come with some credit on them, but you can easily buy top-up credit anywhere. This is a great way to make your calls cheaply when traveling. I have a very simple phone that I use for traveling and I have whole ton of SIM cards, one for each country I go to. I’ve got a Lebara SIM for the UK, a Proximus SIM for Belgium, a Play SIM for Poland, a Crazy John’s SIM for Australia and so on. The only place my little travel phone does not work is in America. :-p And since I don’t spend much time in America anymore, I just keep a prepaid American phone so that I have one when I go back over there.

    And as for the visa, you should always check before you go. You might not need to have one, but not every country has a reciprocal agreement with the US and not every country will grant you a visa within 48 hours of asking for one. And even if you don’t need one, each country has different rules on the length of your stay and the conditions of your stay. You should be checking about visa requirements before you even think of putting money towards the trip.

    A transformer is also a good idea, but not always necessary. You can always buy phone chargers locally. And I’ve been running my laptop in numerous foreign countries for the past four years, using only a plug adapter and not a transformer. The only time it gives me fits is if I have to plug it directly into a wall socket. As long as I plug it into a surge protector, it’s fine. The only thing you absolutely should not attempt to use are devices that generate heat, like hair dryers and curling irons. It’s never happened to me, but I have known people who tried to do that and started serious electrical fires. If you travel internationally a lot, there are certain things you should just buy overseas and keep them with you for your travels. I have a curling iron from the UK that I have been using overseas for years now. Saves a lot of hassle!

    Anyway, I hope you enjoy Australia! You don’t say where you intend to visit, but I’m sure wherever you go, it will be lovely and you’ll have a great time. πŸ™‚

    • Wow, thank you so much for the great advice! All good things that i can learn and apply for next time =)

      I’ll be going to Syndey, Cairns and Brisbane on my Australian leg before heading to Fiji. I’m looking forward to sharing more adventures with you (and hopefully gaining some of your sage advice)!

      • All three cities I’ve never been to! I look forward to your posts about your visits there.

        Another note on the phone: you don’t have to get a crappy basic phone. You can get pretty nice smart phones that are pay as you go. In Australia, some of the best deals for pay as you go phones would be at Crazy John’s. You can then swap the SIM card in Fiji (it will change your phone number) with whichever company there offers good pay as you go deals. But you are not limited to just calling and texting. You can get good data plans with pay as you go, too. Especially helpful if you will be relying on the phone for GPS and such. And with Android, you just sync it up to your Google account and it will automatically download all your apps to your new phone. I think that would be a really good option for you, considering the kind of travel you want to do.

        • You are such a lifesaver! Thank you so much for the great tipes! I really appreciate all of your help and support.

          Can’t wait to share more adventures with you and hopefully be able to bring some insight of my own to the places I’m going!

  12. Travel agents rarely tell you about visas for some odd reason. My friend went through hell and back because she didnt realize she needed one to get to Dubai. Wound up canceling that leg of her trip when she was checking in at the airport unfortunately :(. Safe travels and see you soon!

    Deedee

  13. Shoot me an email if your wondering where to go and what to see. Ive travelled the backyard many of times and could offer some insight. My email will be in your comments page dashboard.. If you’ve got an itinerary planned I can possibly help out with cheaper alternatives not found on the net.

    Safe travels mate.

  14. I love love LOVE your blog!!!! By the time you see this you’ll be in Australia but I lived in NZ for 3 years and visited Aus many a time! You are going to have so much fun.. I really look forward to hearing about your travels and swapping stories!

    • Thank you so much! I am so happy to hear you enjoye it! And wow, what an experience! What brought you to NZ?

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I hope it’s a great trip and I look forward to sharing adventures with you! Please stay in touch! =)

  15. The pigeon cartoon is too funny. Well, have a great Australian adventure…it already has been while preparing for it. As an Indian, I always need to visa to travel anywhere, unless it a few countries that have visa on arrival…so already used to that. As for the phones….I will try the pigeon carriers next time. I just hope that they are multi lingual!

  16. Good thing you found out about the visa before going! I tend to assume I won’t need a visa unless I’m staying more than a month somewhere, but that’s not always true…so it is totally a good practice to check up on that before booking flights!

  17. I’m glad you found out about the transformer… One of the girls I went to Australia with refused to acknowledge it’s importance and her blow drier started sparking and scorched her hair. Grossest smell ever.

    Best piece of advice I got before I went? Sydney does not follow American “pedestrians have the right of way” rules. It’s Frogger, and you will get squished. Run across quickly.

  18. I really enjoy reading your blog and hearing about your adventures (hope to get myself to the USA someday as a grown up) and I’m glad to hear you have avoided potential electronic disaster! I found the A380 to be pretty cold, colder than a regular plane so hope you have something warm. Well I hope you have a blast here in Oz and some warmish clothes as it’s getting cool here now πŸ™‚

    • Oops, looks like you may have sent this twice, but I’m happy to respond =).

      Thanks again for the great tips and your encouragement! I look forward to sharing my adventures with you!

      Take care!

  19. I really enjoy your blog (want to get over to the USA someday as a grown up) and i’m glad to hear you have averted potential electronic disaster! I don’t know if you have been on an A380 yet but they are soooo cold, hope you have something warm for the plane. Well I hope you have a blast here in Oz and some warmish clothes too as it’s starting to get a little cool, Have fun πŸ™‚

    • Hi ithere! Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so thankful for your advice and will be sure to bring a sweater.

      I hope you’ll stay in touch! Let me know if/when you decide to make it Stateside =).

      Happy Adventuring!

  20. Loved Australia! I studied abroad there a year ago.
    PS You don’t actually need a transformer. On your chargers where all the text is, if it says 100V-240V under INPUT then the transformer is already built to handle the difference in the voltages.

  21. I loved the pigeon cartoon and I am so excited for you! We just watched a special on the airplane you will be flying on … Awesome! I can’t wait to hear all about it! Brad says just turn your phone off in Fiji so you won’t have to worry about getting texts πŸ˜‰ Have an amazing trip!!!!

  22. I am Australian… born and bred. Been living here for my entire 46 years. My American born husband… LOVES… Australia. We wouldn’t live anywhere else. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. And if you are looking for great things to see when you get here, check out my photography (if you haven’t already). It’s a beautiful country. Best place on Earth IMHO. Have a great trip πŸ™‚

    • Hi Tracie!

      Thank you so much! I have been enjoying the beautiful scenery! I will be sure to check it out when I can! My internet is a little inconsistent, but I’ll try to do it soon. And I greatly appreciate your help and support. I may be e-mailing you =).

      Please keep in touch!

  23. Whew! Close call there with the visa. What sorts bothers me is why they don’t tell you that you need the visa the second you buy your plane ticket, that would make logical sense, would it not? Oh well, I’m sure the mental thanks were much appreciated. Have a fantastic trip! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Hailey! Yes, that would make sense… maybe we could create a consulting company for air travel to provide such a service =).

      Thank you so much! I can’t wait to share more adventures with you!

  24. I’m jealous of the fact that you’ll be riding in an A380. Being an airline nerd, I can’t wait for my chance to ride on that baby. Have a good trip!

    • Haha, it took some planning to make sure I could, but I will be sure to share with you the experience! I hope you get to ride on it soon!

      And thanks for the well wishes! I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

  25. That is awesome that you got all your problems out of the way before you left! All that is left is to have an amazing time, share your adventures and remember to look the other way first when crossing the street! Can’t wait to hear more and see some pics! It has been a couple of years since I was back in Oz – getting homesick!

    • Wow, thank you so much! I am so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog!

      And thanks so much for sharing. I hope I can continue to provide some insight for the students!

      What kinds of adventures do you have?

      • My adventures have taken me to Japan when I was 16 for 3 weeks, South Africa for five and a half months right before turning 21, and most recently leading a group of students, our college president, and her husband on a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania as the GA for International Programs. We are currently in the middle of determining what our focus should be for the next school year – with so many options and choices out there, it can be a rather difficult decision! But I also know that once I am done with this position, that I would love to continue to travel around the world personally and professionally.

        • It certainly sounds like you have had a fulfilling and adventurous life! I can’t wait to hear more about your previous experiences or where your future travels will take you!

          I hope you will stay in touch! And let me know if you ever make it out to Vegas.

  26. Pingback: A Fellow Blogger (and Traveler) Shout-out… « WilliamPennUniversityStudyAbroad

  27. I love love love Australia. I lived in Sydney when I was 20. Sigh.

    I learned about the transformers last month when I was in Bali and got a nice little shock everytime I touched my ipod. Nice.

    I always travel sans-phone, but then I’m not ever gone (yet) for as long as you are… I hit up the internet cafes. But sometimes I’d like to post a picture to Facebook or something, so maybe I’ll have to go that route in the future.

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Can’t wait to read about your adventures!

    • Wow, how fun! What were you doing in Sydney?

      And how funny about Bali! I couldn’t figure out why I was getting shocked in Austria. Now it makes sense. =)

      Thanks so much for the well-wishes! Looking forward to sharing my adventures with you!

      • I studied abroad for a semester in college. Holy fun! The best decision I ever made! I didn’t really go to class much… but got lots of “life” experiences!

        Aussie boys are cute. Really, really cute. They are very distracting!

        Looking forward to reading about your adventures!!

        • Wow! That must have been exciting! What were you studying?

          And I agree; there seems to be an overabundance of good looks and well-mannered men running abouts here. I’m certainly not complaining πŸ˜‰

          Thank you for your support! Looking forward to sharing!

          • I was studying “Aussie culture” – drinking lots of beer! Just kidding. I took classes in communications & women’s studies (which I got my BA in here in the States) and a great class in Aboriginal studies at Macquarie University outside of Sydney.
            Make sure you spend some time in the Blue Mountains. They’re unlike anything else on earth, and Byron Bay, north of Sydney on the coast, is probably one of my favorite places!

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