In an attempt to keep things positive for the most part, I've decided to clear my mind of all things farm related for a few hours, and give being at least vaguely helpful a go. I feel that I've spent enough time in Australia now, to be able to offer some tips to anybody planning to come to, or already in Australia. Obviously a few of the tips aren't necessarily limited to the land down under, but seeing as that's where I am, that's what I shall name my post.
1. Don't Pack Too Much!
First and foremost - packing. I can almost guarantee that you're going to bring too much stuff. I was warned about it before I moved here, I thought I listened, but I obviously didn't listen hard enough. Decide what you think you're going to need, half it and you'll still end up bringing far too much. As I boarded my flight, I had a flash of panic, 'What if I've not brought enough?' Fast forward some months and I'd estimate that a good 65% of my clothes sat there at the bottom of my bag, untouched from the day they were put there, to the day I had to use Send My Bag to send them home. Do yourself a massive favour, and don't overpack!
2. Opt for A Travel Extension Lead
Travel adaptors are good. They're also easy to lose, and if there's only one plug socket in the hostel, and someone is hogging it, you're screwed. (Well, not screwed, but it's pretty annoying if you need to charge your phone/camera/laptop/toothrbush.) If you own an Extension Lead Adaptor, you can plug in more than one device at once, and everyone is happy. Either that or you can at least get your phone cable to reach to your bed. This one has two USB ports built into it, and I can honestly say, it's been a godsend. (And also the envy of many a hostel roommate!) It's not actually too badly priced, considering that good quality individual adaptors can be quite pricey, and usually have to be replaced if you lose them all the time. (Or maybe it's just me that loses them!)
3. Grab Yourself A Decent Powerbank For Charging On The Go
While we're on the subject of power, I'd highly recommend getting yourself a decent powerbank. Anybody who owns a smartphone, has probably at some point been caught in a situation where they've needed their phone, but the battery has died on them. A decent powerbank is small enough to slip in your bag, and be on hand to charge your devices at the touch of a button! I use this one, and it usually gets me about 6 or 7 charges on my iPhone 6. (Or more if I charge my phone on Airplane Mode!) You can charge pretty much any device that has a USB charging cable, and it has two USB docks, so you can charge two things at once with it. Also very handy if you want to leave anything on charge in the hostel, overnight but don't want to leave your devices out in the middle of the room. (Extra especially useful to take to festivals too!)
4. Save Money On Cashpoint/Card Fees
Here in Australia, it costs $2 to use a cashpoint, every single time you use a cashpoint that isn't one that's owned by your bank. It's not much, but it's also equal to two large Frozen Cokes from McDonald's, and that's not something to be happy about. (Plus, it all adds up.) You can combat these costs, either by opening an Australian bank account and transferring your money here, then only using your bank's cashpoints, (I'm with Commonwealth) or by downloading the Revolut App and grabbing yourself a Revolut Card. (Highly recommended, 10/10.) In an earlier attempt to be helpful, I wrote a more detailed post on both Transferwise and Revolut, which can be found here!
If you would like a free Transferwise transfer, then click here!
5. Grab Yourself An Aldi Mobile SIM
Depending on how long you're going to be in Australia, it might be worth grabbing yourself an Australian SIM card. The two major networks here are Optus and Telstra, and you can pick up SIM cards for both of those companies practically anywhere. It's common knowledge here that Telstra has the best network coverage, so if you're planning on heading out of the cities, then most people tend to opt for a Telstra SIM. What's not as commonly known, is that Aldi Mobile runs on the Telstra lines, and is a fair bit cheaper than Telstra (mainly when it comes down to data deals and international calls!) The most expensive pay as you go package that you can buy with Aldi is $45, and that gets you; unlimited standard national calls, unlimited standard national sms and mms, 7GB data + 1GB weekend data, 300 minutes to international numbers - but packages do start from $15 if you're not going to need all of that!
6. Join The 'Australia Backpackers' Groups on Facebook
There has been many a time since moving here, that I've had a burning question and even after hours searching online, I've had absolutely no luck in finding the answer. More often than not, I'll be skimming through Facebook the next day, and the answer to the question will be sat there, staring me in the face on one of the 'Australia Backpackers' Groups. Turns out that other backpackers are the best people to ask for advice on general travel/backpacking questions, and there are thousands of them, all pretty on hand to help. Australia Backpackers has the most members, (so there are more people to answer your questions, and more posts to browse through) but Australian Independent Backpackers has the most helpful admins in the world, who obviously monitor the group daily and completely go out of their way to help where they can. (They also share daily job offers and useful posts from all over Australia!) It's worth joining both, as at least one of them will usually have the answer to your question!
7. Sign Up To Medicare As Soon As You Arrive In Australia
In the UK, we're extremely lucky to (currently) have access to free healthcare. It would be a crying shame if we were to lose that privilege, (though that's something I'm not going to go into here.) In Australia, healthcare costs money. A lot of money. Lucky for us Brits, we have a reciprocal agreement with Australia, which allows us free or subsidised treatment, providing we have a Medicare Card. As soon as you arrive to Australia, get yourself to the nearest Medicare Service Centre and sign up for your free card. That way, if you should need medical attention or treatment, it won't cost you an arm and a leg in cash, on top of an actual arm and leg. You can speed up the application process by downloading a Medicare Application Form here and taking it with you to the service centre.
8. Volunteer For Food And Accomodation
There are plenty of positions available in Australia (and all over the world) which allow you to volunteer for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation. Most of the time, the experience that these opportunities offer, are (in my opinion) completely priceless. I spotted a placement in the Australia Backpackers group only yesterday, which was offering free food and accommodation in exchange for helping nurse orphaned baby joeys back into the wild. There are plenty of other positions which involve working on surf camps, looking after animals, working with horses, building lodges and more - and they're a great way to travel Australia without spending much money at all! I previously touched upon Workaway in a previous blog post, and there are plenty of things on there which I've added to my bucket list, but there are a number of other sites which allow you to find hosts as well. Check out WWOOF Australia, HelpX and Volunteers Base. As mentioned before - the Australia Backpackers Facebook pages often have positions pop up too, so plenty to choose from!
9. Learn A Language With Tandem
Tandem actually has nothing to do with Australia, other than the fact I discovered it while I was here, and started using it here. I've added it into this list because it's really good, and I feel that can justify it's addition on the basis that you'll meet lots of non English speaking people during your time here, and it's nice to learn and practice another language. (Also, it's a good time killer on long bus/train journeys or evenings in the hostel.) Tandem is an app which allows you to set the languages you can speak, the languages you would like to learn and the subjects you would like to talk about. It then gives you access to the 'community' where you can search through other users profiles and either 'text' or video call users to converse in your chosen language. Apps like Duolingo are really good for the basics of a language, but Tandem is amazing if you want to practice your conversational skills. Most people who want to practice their English are more than happy to talk to you in English and let you reply in whichever language you've chosen to learn.
10. Make You've Downloaded The WikiCamps App
It costs about $8, but it's a a hugely worthwhile investment if you're coming to or already in Australia. WikiCamps is a crowdsourced database of campsites, caravan parks, backpacker hostels and more. The fact that it's updated by users means that it's always kept up to date with the latest information. We used WikiCamps when we did our Great Ocean Road trip, and it was so helpful that I'm still going on about it. The app comes with filters, so not only can you search for all the closest campsites whilst you're out on an adventure, but you can also set the filters to only show the sites which are free, have toilets, showers, phone signal - even shade! All the sites come with a user rating and user comments too, so you can suss out your planned destination before you arrive!
11. Don't Forget To Send Your Friends And Family A Postcard
While you're away, I think it's nice to every now and then send a postcard to someone at home. Touchnote has been one of my favourite apps for a few years - it allows you to use any photo to create your own postcard or greetings card. Simply pick a photo, add a message and the address and click send! You top up the app with credits (which are cheaper if you buy them in bulk) and the cards are printed in the UK, so are usually at the address within a couple of days (assuming you're posting the card to the UK too!) It's a shame that by using the app, you lose the personal aspect of a postcard that comes with handwriting one out yourself, but the fact that you can personalise the front of the card with photos of yourself (and also the fact you can send cards from the comfort of your bed) more than makes up for that!
Hopefully at least one of these tips will help out at least one person! More than happy to answer any questions that anybody might have if not!
P.s. A small bonus tip, is to start your farm work as soon as you arrive in Australia if possible - not only will you get it out of the way and the rest of your time here should technically then be stress free, but you'll not be pressed for time to fit in your 88 days, and you can spend time looking for a nice placement that won't rip you off!