Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Australia & the Pacific
Reload this Page >

Australia/NZ: From the Beginning (Looking for Advice for First Trip)

Australia/NZ: From the Beginning (Looking for Advice for First Trip)

Old Aug 6th, 2009, 09:27 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 149
Australia/NZ: From the Beginning (Looking for Advice for First Trip)

I have decided to finally include a new continent in my travel adventures and have settled on Australia and/or NZ. I'm just beginning my research, so I'd like to open up for suggestions from seasoned Down Under travellers.

Looking for thoughts concerning:

1. Best times to travel (for optimal weather while still avoiding major crowds -- think shoulder seasons)?

2. Best cities/places to see/experience? (With lodging recommendations.)

3. Preferences regarding renting a car vs. tours?

4. Travel within Australia/NZ? (Rail vs. Fly vs. Drive)

5. Personal safety?

6. Dress style? (More casual than Europe?)

7. Other cultural notations, recommendations?

8. Best trans-Pacific routes/airlines? (Travelling out of West Coast, USA - Seattle and don't think I could take a straight West Coast to Australia route. Would like a brief stop in Fiji or Hawaii...)

My initial travel thoughts are Sydney, somewhere to access the Great Barrier Reef, and possibly Alice Springs (Ayers Rock) -- though I'm not sure whether it's worth the "hassle" to get out there. There's also areas down south where you can see the penguins... Not sure on NZ yet...

Any advice is much appreciated!
Narnya is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 03:13 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 3,343
1. Best times to travel (for optimal weather while still avoiding major crowds -- think shoulder seasons)?

That is a difficult question to answer. It all depends on where you will be going. It may be nice in one area and blazing hot in another...or very cold.

2. Best cities/places to see/experience? (With lodging recommendations.)
The "big three" are Sydney, Rock (Uluru) and Reef (Great Barrier Reef, including Cairns/Port Douglas/Daintree/Cape Tribluation).

So...#1 and #2 are directly related. Moderate temps in Sydney may correlate with high heat in the Red Centre (including flies at Uluru), torrential rain in the Top End, or cold temps in the Melbourne area. I would urge you to decide where you want to go first and then decide when you will visit each area, and in what order. Does this make sense?

3. Preferences regarding renting a car vs. tours?
That is a matter of your personal preference.

4. Travel within Australia/NZ? (Rail vs. Fly vs. Drive)
Probably fly and/or bus (coach) if an organized local tour.

5. Personal safety?
Generally, not a problem, however you should take normal precautions as any wise and experienced traveler would.

6. Dress style? (More casual than Europe?)
Generally, quite casual.

7. Other cultural notations, recommendations?
Probably a good idea to do some preliminary reading first.

8. Best trans-Pacific routes/airlines? (Travelling out of West Coast, USA - Seattle

My own very biased recommendation would be in favor of Qantas! Highly professional and proficient staff.
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 06:09 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
1. Best times to travel (for optimal weather while still avoiding major crowds -- think shoulder seasons)?

Shoulder seasons in NZ are April-May, October-November. April is supposedly the SI's most settled month. We loved the weather in April, but I'd suggest avoiding the long Easter weekend at all costs. A good time to visit is after Easter, no crowds, lower rates, generally still good weather.

You'll want to avoid school holidays in OZ and NZ. Note each OZ state has different school holidays, as does each island in NZ.


2. Best cities/places to see/experience? (With lodging recommendations.)

Too vague. OZ is huge. Tons of options in both OZ ands NZ.


3. Preferences regarding renting a car vs. tours?

My personal preference is to rent a car. In big cities, public transport is the way to go. I'm not a fan of tours, but that's just me.


4. Travel within Australia/NZ? (Rail vs. Fly vs. Drive)

You'll want to fly between cities in OZ if you're covering a large area and have limited time. Rail is an option if you've got loads of time. Driving has it's own set of issues, really depends on where you plan to visit. NZ is best seen by car and is easy to do self-drive.

5. Personal safety?

NZ is incredibly safe, OZ similar to the US.

6. Dress style? (More casual than Europe?)

Very casual. We've been known to spend an entire vacation in hiking pants and jeans.

8. Best trans-Pacific routes/airlines? (Travelling out of West Coast, USA - Seattle

Which ever airline you can upgrade to business class on! Air New Zealand would be my choice, but I'm jaded, as they're partners with UA, where I'm a Premier Exec member.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 06:10 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
Hey Orlando, what's the secret for using bold type on Fodors?
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 07:14 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,283
Hi Narnya!

1 & 2 - whatever time works best for you, depending on where you're visitng...could be cool one place and hot in another! Best cities, visitin places...just depends on what you like to do - give us more info on your personal preferences and we can steer you in the right direction.

3. Renting a car vs. tours -- again, depends on where you are. Some places a tour is recommended, other places a good map is all you need!

6. Dress style. Much like Seattle (or in my case, Northern California) - we "layer" and are casual.

Hope this is helpful!

Melodie
Certified Aussie & Kiwi Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 07:26 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 3,343
"Hey Orlando, what's the secret for using bold type on Fodors?"

Mel, the secret is here: http://tinyurl.com/klbgva
Orlando_Vic is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 10:30 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
Thanks for that Orlando
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 11:08 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
Narnya, I do suggest investing in a good guidebook, which will provide a wealth of useful information in an ordered format that this forum and other web sources aren't equipped to deliver. It will help you refine your plans and allow you to focus on specific questions we can help you with.

"NZ is incredibly safe, OZ similar to the US."

Melnq8, I really think that any difference between NZ and Australia in this respect is mostly due to the fact that in NZ one tends to spend one's time more in rural areas and small towns. As for Australia being similar to the US - I don't want to be over-sensitive here, and certainly in my travels in America I've seldom felt concern, but it has to be said that in many large US cities there are sizable neighbourhoods that present more personal threat than you'll encounter in any but a few small parts of Australian cities (these are also present in Auckland). I'll go with Orlando's advice, just exercise normal common sense.

3. Preferences regarding renting a car vs. tours?

You'll be aware that we drive on the left. If you're comfortable with that, no problem. You should also be aware that Aust and NZ don't have the equivalent of America's extensive system of interstate highways, so allow for longer drive times.

6. Dress style? (More casual than Europe?)

Think California, or even more casual. Restaurants requiring "jacket and tie" are virtually unheard of and even at the opera you won't feel lonely in smart casual. Some patrons even do dumb casual.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Aug 7th, 2009, 01:17 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
I figured someone would jump on me for that Neil, and while I've personally not felt threatened in OZ, the Perth news leads me to believe that I live in the Wild, Wild West. The drink related violence here is shocking, and innocent parties are often involved.

Fear not Narnya, you'll be fine, just be aware of your surroundings as you would at home.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 7th, 2009, 01:57 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 19
We recently spent 3 weeks in Oz. We opted to limit the scope of our travels to a relatively small area, and were still unable to see all that we wanted.

We spent a few days in Melbourne, and most of it to the east and north of the city. We visited a lot of wineries, took some hikes, corssed mountains, visited museums and galleries in large and small towns. We ate meatpies from bakeries, climbed rocks, and visited with locals. We also got to see some lovely parks that were incredible and off-the-beaten path.

The advantage to this approach is that we really felt we got to see "the country", and not just the roadside.

Also, our best advice for driving in Oz/NZ/UK was what a friend said to DH just before we left the beach in Sorrento. "Don't forget to keep KC in the ditch" (referencing that I was to be kept on the outside of the road.) That short phrase was (literally) lifesaving, As Jimbob turned some corners I would rapidly repeat "Keep me in the ditch-keep me in the ditch--keepmeintheditch". Worked like a charm.

kcd
kcdc is offline  
Old Aug 7th, 2009, 04:05 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
Didn't mean to jump on you Melnq8, just had trouble equating the dodgy bits here to the South Bronx! (Not that I've ever ventured into the Bronx, so I should take my own advice and refrain from talking about stuff outsde my experience.)

Leaving aside the media's propensity to sensationalise I agree that boozy fights are now more common among young people around certain bars late at night, but from what I see around here the participants are more a danger to each other than to a passing tourist.

Personally I've become an advocate of reverting to reasonable closing hours for pubs and clubs - preferably no later than midnight.

kcdc, your approach to Australia sounds like our last trip to the US and Canada. After 5 weeks and 5000 miles on the road we too felt we'd seen much more of the real America.

Regarding the left-right issue, the only time I put the frighteners on my good wife was when I emerged from a car park onto the Pacific Coast Highway and out of habit looked right for the oncoming traffic that was of course bearing down on me from the left. That showed me the value of an alert passenger/navigator. Try to avoid making the converse mistake here.

PS: something worth remembering is that in Australia you don't get to turn through a red light unless a sign specifically advises that you can (i.e. "Left turn on red after stopping permitted"). In the US the default position seemed to be the opposite - i.e. a right turn at a red light is OK unless the sign prohibits it. (A more sensible rule IMO.)
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Aug 7th, 2009, 05:10 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
On the subject of driving on the left, can someone explain the rules for U turns? I'm never quite sure when I can make one here.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 8th, 2009, 11:28 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 12,210
Regulations vary from state to state regarding U turns at lights: In NSW, you can't, Qld you can, unless it says otherwise. Away from lights, it's usually ok unless there's a "No U Turn" sign. Or double closed lines. Clear? Thought so - clear as mud. That's inter-State government orneriness for you ... they won't even agree a standard set of road rules throughout Australia.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Old Aug 8th, 2009, 11:39 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 462
A visit to the Road Traffic Authority would be a good idea and get a copy of the road rules for the State in which you live.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
Old Aug 9th, 2009, 05:57 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
In the ACT I see the occasional "No U-Turns Permitted" sign, which I take to imply that they're OK at intersections not sporting such a sign. And the rule that you don't cross a double line is universal, I think.

"That's inter-State government orneriness for you ... they won't even agree a standard set of road rules throughout Australia."

Yes - another reason, if one were needed, to abolish state governments.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Old Aug 9th, 2009, 06:28 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
I took a few driving lessons when I first got here to increase my comfort level with left side driving. My instructor told me in WA it's illegal to make U turns at controlled intersections, which makes perfect sense. That led to me believe U turns are okay everywhere else unless marked otherwise. I see a lot of bizarre driving here and I question U turns in general as they often seem unsafe.

And for what it's worth, I'm not clear on the U turn rules in my US home state either. I think they're generally prohibited. I'll definitely look up the rules for both.

Apologies to Narnya for hijacking his/her post.
Melnq8 is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2009, 12:12 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 462
Melnq8 - perhaps you should read through this article which is on the " emigrating to NZ" website. This may just correct some of your ideas about crime in NZ: This was cut and pasted
Crime
New Zealand has its fair share of serious crime and according to 1990 statistics, the murder rate, per every 100,000 people in New Zealand, was double that of England and Wales.

It has a few ‘no go’ areas after dark in the main cities, with a certain amount of trouble with gangs. Although until comparatively recently people left their doors unlocked, all that has changed and burglary is certainly on the increase. In fact there were 61,000 cases of burglary reported in 2003.

Trust is still alive here. I have written out a cheque, and been given cash change despite that fact that there are no cheque guarantee cards. You just write your name and address on the back of the cheque and show ID - remember those days? No doubt it will only be a matter of time before it is phased out.

There is no glass partition between you and the bank teller, although a recent spate of bank robberies might well change all that.


When looking at property to rent I have been told where the key is hidden and have shown ourselves around. When renting a holiday cottage for the weekend the Estate Agent told me where the key was hidden and where to leave the money.

I am sure those days are numbered however, as different crimes make people tighten up on security. I am astounded to see women leave their handbags unattended whilst shopping in the supermarket, the trusting nature of many is refreshing, but I feel, slightly naive.

Our daughter had her netball stolen when she left it unattended to have a quick go on the park swing and I have lost count of the boys who have had their bicycles taken.

Domestic violence is high and much work needs to be done in that area. Both the ‘macho man’ image and the high consumption of alcohol play their part and need to be addressed. The film “Once Were Warriors” is a sad testimonial of what life is still like today for a lot of women in the community.

The recent introduction of the Domestic Violence Act goes some way towards protecting people from intimidation and covers not just spouses, but neighbours as well.

New Zealand has a reputation for being a safe country which unfortunately lulls many into a false sense of security.

Tourists believing the crime rate to be low and leaving cars unlocked or baggage unattended, have in recent years had a rude awakening. Asian tourists, who make up a large percentage of visitors, are increasingly being targeted particularly as they often have expensive cameras and equipment. It would be disastrous for New Zealand to lose this tourist dollar and steps are slowly being taken to prevent the few spoiling it for everyone. Hitch-hiking is not to be recommended, as a number of backpackers have been victims of foul play.

The abuse of drugs and alcohol has resulted in the high incidence of burglaries and theft. In 2003 there were 134,000 cases of theft. (remember there is only a population of 4 million)
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2009, 12:34 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 462
Unfortunately the Australian stats I saw were in " numbers per 100,000" and which included the less violent cases whereupon the USA stats were also rated on numbers per 100,000 but only rated the more violent and harder crimes, even so the National average in the USA was twice that of Australia inspite of them not including petty cases. So Melnq8 I don't think your conclusions are really quite accurate in both your remarks about Australia and NZ.
We don't mind you having an opinion but please be accurate when you do OR look up the stats first. If Perth is more crime ridden then say so but do not include the whole of Australia in your remarks.
ivenotbeeneverywhere is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2009, 12:48 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853
Vehicles driving on 'the other side of the road' to what you've been used to also means tourists should take special care when stepping off a footpath/ sidewalk.
farrermog is offline  
Old Aug 12th, 2009, 01:00 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,853
From a visitor's perspective I stand my original statements.

I believe the OP asked about "personal safety". I doubt he/she is concerned about netball theft and domestic violence while on holiday.

As far as "tourists believing the crime rate to be low and leaving cars unlocked or baggage unattended", and homeowners leaving their doors unlocked, well, that's just plain stupidity on their part.

I assume that the OP is intelligent enough to take normal precautions, in which case their 'personal safety' should be of no concern (unless they're bungy jumping!).
Melnq8 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:03 AM.