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Trip Report Australia in 28 days (Sept 17- Oct 18, 2012)

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Our goal was to see as much as enjoyable of Australia specific attractions in 28 days without driving and while avoiding hot weather. We didn’t want to sleep in a different bed every night and be on the road most of the time. Based on some interaction with a travel agent we decided on Sydney (7 days), Melbourne (6 days including a 1 day tour to the Great Ocean Rd.), Adelaide (4 days including a 2 day/1 night tour on Kangaroo Island) and Perth (8 days including a 5 day tour to the North of Perth).

The comments below represent our findings based on our expectations and taste (which might be different than yours). All experiences have been wonderful except the 5 day ATT Kings tour which was a major mistake.

What did we enjoy the most?
- Sydney as a city with very picturesque location, beautiful houses on the bays, very good, easy to figure out and very reasonably priced weekly public transportation. The Zoo, while quite expensive, was worth the money. If you are an international visitor, for $3 additional/person they offer a guide for 1 hour that shows/explains Australia specific animals. It was very useful. The Hay Market is a good place to buy inexpensive coasters with aboriginal design as easy to transport presents. Public transportation with a weekly pass is extremely reasonable.
- Melbourne for indoor and outdoor art and for the architecture of their buildings (new and old); very good market. The airport bus does the job although the staff was quite rude and careless.
- Adelaide for their incredible Central Market and best selection and pricing of aboriginal art. A taxi from the airport is less expensive, more comfortable and faster than the Skylink Airport Shuttle for a min of two people.
- Perth for Kings Park with its wild flowers, birds and views and Fremantle
The disappointing experience with the AAT Kings tour is described at:

Obviously we spent time with many other attractions based on travel guides and recommendations from this forum.


We are usually looking for the equivalent of a US/3 AAA star QUIET, clean hotel/apartment with a comfortable bed and up-to-date bathroom. All places in Australia offer a small fridge, an electric hot water heater, instant coffee, tea, sugar and coffee mugs, spoons, etc. which is very helpful.
1. Sydney; studio in Kirribili. Found on Flipkey. Mark Kellsall, the agent for the studio was very helpful. The studio was very light and had a nice view encompassing the bay. Transportation was easy (10 minutes to ferry, 20 minutes to train). Two supermarkets are within 15-20 min walking distance. The laundry room can be easily accessed. The $5/day Internet access was not cheap or very fast but was still helpful for us. The studio is equipped with the standard basics and tourist info was in the apartment. A few things for improvement for the owner: the bathroom could use an upgrade; the shades should be easily accessible; AC is required for the summer (we didn’t need it as it was cool and the fan did a good job); empty some additional shelves and maybe another closet. The cost was OK for the location but the $132 cleaning fee was excessive. Mark facilitated extended rental of the pocket Wi-Fi that allowed us to have for $5/day Internet access at most other accommodations where there was no (or very expensive) Internet access.
2. Melbourne: studio in St. Kilda through
. The 3 very hard working ladies that rent apartments in St. Kilda have been extremely flexible and went beyond and above the call of duty on quite a few occasions. It was a real pleasure to work with them. The location was good: near the beach, with 3 trams nearby (5-10 minutes away), although it took at least 20-30 minutes to get to many tourist attractions. The studio was quiet with a patio and was equipped with the standard basics. The AC worked well when needed. Access to the laundry room was helpful. While advertised, Internet was not available. The cost was OK for the location. In addition to the full payment (studio and cleaning) prior to arrival, a $500 security deposit is also expected 3 weeks prior to occupancy. Reliable transportation to the airport is very expensive. A few things for improvement for the owner: more towels, some minor fixes in the bathroom, hooks for the patio doors, some heating in the bathroom.
3. Adelaide: Adabco Hotel. Deserves 4 stars and it is an excellent find for the money. The $129/night included a great breakfast. Comfortable room, great AC (windows do not open); quiet room, clean up-to-date bathroom. Description on their site is accurate. Very friendly, helpful staff. The hotel was close to buses, some free. They saved our luggage while we were on a 2 day tour. Highly recommended.
4. Kangaroo Island- Wanderer’s Rest B&B in American In (part of the two day tour deal). Best accommodation during our trip. Very friendly and accommodating owners. Excellent dinner and breakfast.
5. Perth: Comfort Hotel Perth City. While it offered the basics, I would only give it 2.5 stars. It could use an upgrade. They seem to run with only 1 person at the reception, some not very accessible or welcoming (they are working behind a window which is behind the reception desk). One exception was Kia who was very friendly and helpful. They require payment at check-in and a bond. They give you an old fashioned big key for the room with the room number and hotel name on it and tell you that there is a $200 charge for it if you lose it and recommend that you leave it with them. Getting to the laundry room is almost impossible (one person at a time with no sign-up or wait list option that requires that one spends the day in the hotel hoping to somehow “catch” the washing machine)… No free Internet terminal, very expensive WiFI. They however included a very good breakfast and saved our luggage while we were on a 5 day tour. The Red CAT bus is very close, which is very helpful (the hotel is about 20 minutes walking distance from the center/railroad station).
5. As part of the 4 night/5 day AAT Kings tour we stayed at the Kalbary Edge Resort in Kalbarri, 2 nights at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, 1 night at the All Seasons Geraldton Motel. They were OK.

The tours:
- 1 day tour to the Great Ocean Road. Reserved through Viator, run by Go West Tours. Reasonably priced, good experience, good driver. Driver and guide is one and the same, should be quite taxing. Some very nice sites that reminded us of the California or Oregon coast, one great location for koalas and parrots. The seats in the van are different and not equally comfortable. It was helpful to have a pickup place at a close hotel in St. Kilda. Go West was very accommodating as I had to change the date for the tour twice. Recommended.
- 2 day tour on Kangaroo Island with Exceptional Kangaroo Island Tours. Very expensive (by our standards) but we got what we paid for except for missed comments on Day 1 (the microphone didn’t work too well). Very well prepared, knowledgeable staff, small group, excellent air conditioning, great lunches, great places to stop. Suggestions for improvement: have one staff drive and the other do the animal spotting and talking; check microphones before the tour; provide a marked map and plan for the day. Highly recommended.
- 5 day tour w. ATT Kings. Not recommended. See

A few general comments:
- Australia is very expensive for American tourists at this time and we found it hard to save money even when having breakfast in the room, buying food at supermarkets, taking sandwiches that we prepared for lunch, etc. The Australian dollar was very strong compared to the US $....
- Probably regardless when you go, if you want to see multiple places you will encounter different climates. Be prepared.
- Many places do not take credit cards under $15 and some charge extra for using a card.
- When taking out cash the fee at the ATM was consistent within a city but different from city to city, usually $2 to $4 per transaction (plan to minimize the number of transactions.)
- Do not plan to drive in large cities and ponder over driving in general (huge distances, driving on the left, passing auto trains, etc.).
- Make sure you carefully read and comply with all custom and airline regulation (luggage limitations). Jetstar validated that we are in full compliance.
- Jetstar is a lower cost airline and has extremely efficient staff but was late a few times. Luckily we didn’t have any connections to make. They do not provide anything for free on the plane.
- If you take tours, investigate, ask questions, read reviews. None of them is cheap and they can be a potential painful waste of money and precious time.
- Assuming that my experience is representative and relevant, if you use a travel agent check if they work with wholesalers. If so, expect much higher prices (if you book though them) than you could find yourself, more limited and more expensive options for travel insurance, etc. In the past, working with a wholesaler saved money, which appears no longer to be the case in today’s world. I used limited advice (for a fee) from a travel agent supposedly specialized in Australia. She was of some help (she recommended the AAT Kings tour which was a waste for us and the Exceptional Kangaroo tour, which she reserved and we enjoyed). However, she was also the person who recommended that very costly and very bad 5 day AAT Tour… For everything else I ended up making all my reservations. This saved almost $2,000.
- Tips are usually not expected. As a result, taxi drivers do not usually help with the luggage and in many places the service is not stellar...
- In parks you are invited to step on the grass
- In some places (e.g. exits from garages through sidewalks) there have signs stating that cars have priority over people on the sidewalk. Watch out.
- Perth is a city which is growing faster than its infrastructure can accommodate. As a result many people who move there cannot find proper accommodations and move into hotels for longer term stays (that’s less expensive than renting). This explains why hotel prices are higher than equal quality accommodations in other parts of the country.
- If you buy smaller aboriginal paintings and can fit them in your luggage, have them stretched on a frame when/where you buy them. They know how to do this work much better and for less than in the Sates.

Overall we had a great trip and enjoyed everything other than the AAT tour to Monkey Mia. Thanks to everyone on this forum who helped with suggestions and advice as we were planning for this trip.

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