Australia is the world’s largest inhabited island and its smallest continent. It extends 3700 km from north to south, and 4000 km from east to west, with a total area of 7.7 million square kilometres (about 200 times the size of Holland!).
Australia has three time zones. Depending on the state, and whether it is standard time or daylight saving time, Australia is 8 – 10 hours ahead of Universal Standard Time (Greenwich). For example, if you wake up at 7 am in London, your friends in Australia will already be finishing their school day or relaxing at home in the afternoon (3 pm to 5 pm, depending on season and/or region).
HSA’s home city is sunny, subtropical Brisbane. North from here lies the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs through the middle of the country from east to west. In fact, almost half of Australia’s land mass (46%) lies in the tropics, with hot and humid summers and dry winters. South of Brisbane, the climate becomes temperate; the winters tend to be wet and the summers are dry.
The island state of Tasmania has a climate similar to England’s – quite cold in winter, but moderated by the surrounding ocean. The southern coastal cities of Melbourne and Adelaide are at latitudes similar to, say, Athens. They usually have a few very hot days in summer, when a north wind blows from the central desert: those who can head straight for the beach!
The scope is truly amazing, from idyllic tropical settings to alpine regions with excellent winter ski resorts (June to September). Whatever your climate preference, we can always help you choose an ideal school location.
Australia has approximately 22 million inhabitants, most of whom live on or near the country’s immense coastline. The population is predominantly urban, with 88% living in cities.
Anyone who has travelled in Australia will tell you that the people are very open and friendly towards strangers. Thanks to Australians’ warm-hearted and open interest in people, and their relaxed and uncomplicated nature, our students always settle in very easily.
Due to the ideal climate and easy access to nature, Australians spend as much time outdoors as possible. Their enthusiasm for sports activities such as surfing, fishing, golf, bush-walking and almost any type of outdoors sports is endless. And of course they absolutely love their barbecues in the parks or on the beach.
Prices depend on season, departure point, and the duration of your stay. For example, a return ticket to Australia from a major European city may cost as little as 1000 Euros. The flying time from the Northern Hemisphere can be around 22 hours, plus refuelling stops (e.g. Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, Tokyo). Generally, maximum travel time is between 25 to 30 hours. You may also need an internal flight to get to your final destination here in Australia.
Customs and Quarantine
Being an island, Australia is free from many of the agricultural pests and diseases that afflict other countries. The Government is very serious about preserving this privileged situation. Customs officers are vigilant about anything risky that you might be carrying (or have simply had contact with before arriving), and they will ask you a number of questions you might not hear in other countries!
Before your plane lands, you will be given a special customs declaration to complete and sign. The declaration says that you are not bringing any banned articles into the country. Be prepared to confirm this again to customs upon arrival. On the way from the arrivals hall to passport control, there are bins to dispose of any fruit and food items that you may have with you. Important: All items brought into the country, especially shoes, must be clean and free of dirt and soil.
Plant, animal and soil material are obvious concerns, but even wooden souvenirs or a simple straw hat can be an issue. To be safe, always let customs know what you have and let them decide. All airports have sniffer dogs trained to detect food items (and drug sniffer dogs too of course). Maximum punishments apply for attempting to smuggle banned articles into the country.
Information regarding quarantine laws and the import of food items can be found online at www.agriculture.gov.au.
Duty, Alcohol and Cigarettes
Adults may import declarable goods at a value of $900 AUD. A maximum 4-week supply of prescription medication is admissible. A medical certificate is required in case of larger quantities. The minimum age for drinking and smoking in Australia is 18 years of age. Anyone younger who gets caught will face a hefty penalty. International students, regardless of their age, cannot drink alcohol in Australia.
The Australian power supply is 240 volts / 50 Hz. It suits most portable devices designed for 220V / 60Hz (Europe). However, Australian power plugs and sockets have their own shape, so you will need an adapter – there are universal ones sold at every airport or in most electrical shops. Warning: 110V devices (US) are not compatible with the Australian power supply: always check your appliance specifications first.
The currency Down Under is the Australian Dollar (AUD, AU$ or A$). Credit cards are a common method of payment. Traveller’s cheques are readily cashed at airports, banks and hotels. However, it is recommended to have them issued in AUD. You can withdraw cash with credit cards from almost all automatic teller machines/cash machines (ATMs).
For extended stays, it is advisable to open a bank account, which will make payments and transfers easier and less expensive (less fees). Bank accounts in Australia are often free-of-charge for students. You just need sufficient identification documents such as a passport and credit card, drivers licence, national identity card or similar.
For exchange rates between AUD and your home currency, ask your bank or check the universal currency converter.
Australia is ahead of Universal Standard Time (UST), also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) by 8 – 10 hours or more, depending on season (daylight saving) and location (Sydney, Perth).
For scheduling phone calls or Skype chats, you can easily check time differences between Australia and home by using web services such as the World Clock at TimeandDate
Most Australian families have a fixed line telephone in their homes. You will be given access to use this phone for local calls and should discuss this with your host family. For international calls from the home phone we advise you to buy a discount phone card, which can be purchased in newsagents and other places in Australia. Depending on the country you call, it can be as cheap as 1 Dollar per hour.
It is ok to bring your own mobile phone with you, as long as it accepts an Australian Sim Card. Alternatively you could buy a mobile phone after arrival in Australia, either on a plan or pre-paid.
Most of our international students use internet based communications from their mobile phones or from their computer. Of course, there are always free-calls and chat from mobile to mobile through various downloadable apps, which you probably know about and use with your friends already. So giving your parents a smart-phone lesson could be a good investment before you leave!
Making International Calls
For international calls from Australia, dial 0011- Country Code – Number. Some useful country codes are provided below.
All host families must ensure that international students living with them have access to a computer and the Internet. If you own a laptop or a tablet feel free to bring it with you. Most households these days have WLAN. Skype is also a good option for chatting with your parents, siblings and friends.