I am often asked about how someone travelling to Australia should prepare themselves. Each trip is unique and no list works for everyone, but in this article I will share a packing list to help you plan your big trip, as well as a checklist explaining in what order you need to make each preparation before your date of departure is taking place.
To start with: remind yourself that it’s not the moon you’re going to – almost everything you can buy at home can also be bought on-site in Australia. Do not pack a lot of heavy things you can buy once you have arrived. Believe it or not, but you can buy both shampoo, shower soap and clothes in Australia.
These are your “absolutely must” documents and you carry them in your hand baggage or in your inner pocket starting from leaving your home until you reach Australia. If your baggage is lost at the airport, you still have these things.
- Passport and the right type of visa for your trip (visitor and tourist visa, student visa or maybe Working holiday visa). Make sure to have at least 6 months of validity in your passport beyond the date you plan to return home.
- Tickets or a printed confirmation on your flight.
- Printed booking confirmation on your accommodation (hostel/hotel).
- Printed booking confirmation of any other items you have booked, such as rental car, bus, domestic flights.
- Directions and address to find booked accommodation in Australia. The name, address and telephone number of your accommodation, as well as any booking confirmation. Also bring necessary information on how to transport yourself from the airport to the accommodation (for example directions to the airport bus, or are you planning to take a taxi?) I usually print a page from the accommodation’s neighbourhood from Google Maps to be able to find the place once I get there.
- Copies of all your important documents, scanned and emailed to your own email address.
- At least two different debit cards for ATM withdrawals and card payments. At least one of the cards must be Visa or Mastercard. Preferably a credit card with a few thousand Australian dollars available so you quickly can get hold of money in an emergency. Also, make sure that all your bank cards are valid.
- Driver’s license plus an international driver’s license or a valid translation of it.
- Insurance details for your travel insurance, including emergency number in case of an accident.
- Australian cash (I usually get this at an ATM at the airport once I have landed).
- Any security authenticator and security codes for your online banking solution.
Depending on your personal situation, there may be additional important documents to include:
- Admission documents for your education (if you are going to study).
- Information about allergy and important medications you take.
Less important documents
Here are some other less important documents worth mentioning to make things easier once in Australia, but which you technically could do without.
- Addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of people/organizations that matter to you. Postal addresses for postcards you want to send.
- Info on how to block your debit and credit cards.
- Different discount cards for youths and students (if you are eligible for these discounts), such as hostel discount cards (VIP, YHA and Nomads) or the IYTC (International Youth Travel Card, also known as the “GO25 Card”) and ISIC (International Student Identity Card). If you apply for these cards once you are in Australia, it may be a good idea to have some newly taken passport photos of yourself.
- Any cancellation insurance for your ticket.
Electronics and gadgets
On my travels between Australia and Europe, I always carry too much stuff. Here are some gadgets that are worth taking with you:
- Power outlet adapter (to suit your electronic equipment). If you can’t find one in your home country, you can easily buy these in most supermarkets in Australia.
- Battery charger for your various gadgets. (Power outlet adapter you can buy in Australia.)
- Mobile phone (not unlocked so you can use it with a local SIM card) plus its charger. If you can afford, invest in a smartphone that you could also use as a 3G modem. Don’t forget to bring the PUK and PIN codes for your phone.
- Any Media Player or tablet plus USB cable, a good pair of noise cancelling headphones and an adapter for the airplane seat. To use your own headphones on the aircraft, you often need to have an adapter for the headphone jack.
- Digital camera with battery and memory card, card reader or cable for image transfer. For those interested in photography bringing a system camera obviously need to pack a package of lenses as well.
- Laptop with a small external hard drive (USB-powered) for backups of photos. A 4G modem to your computer, if you have one (then you can buy a wireless internet card when you arrive).
- A couple of high storage capacity USB sticks for backups and for juggling files when you are at an Internet café (if applicable).
Hygiene and miscellaneous
- Keep in mind that you can buy most hygiene products in Australia, so do not pack a bunch of heavy items in your toiletry bag unless necessarily.
- Bring any prescriptions you need in order to buy prescription medication.
- Medicines you must have while on the trip. If it is “exotic stuff” (which is controlled), bring a medical certificate in English for the medicine.
- Glasses and/or lenses and any prescriptions from your optician so you can buy new glasses/lenses in Australia. Lens liquid is available in Australia.
- Earplugs for the trip.
- Sunglasses if you have any favourites back home, otherwise you can buy new ones in Australia.
- Multitools such as a Leatherman or a Swiss Army knife, but do NOT pack this in the hand baggage.
- Notepad or travel diary with ballpoint pen.
- Travel guide with maps, such as Lonely Planet if you prefer traditional paperback guidebooks. Alternatively, download an e-book to your laptop or smartphone.
- Padlock or any other solution to protect your luggage, for when staying in a hostel or if you are paranoid (like me). I myself own a Pack Safe that has a cut-proof material with a padlock that locks my backpack.
- Some reading material for the trip, such as a paperback and a newspaper.
- “Networking (or business) cards” with your contact details to easily keep in touch with people you meet on the trip. Printing your own card with your email address, Facebook details and mobile phone number is a convenient way to share your contact information with people you meet and not something that is just for businesspeople.
- Small English dictionary if you feel a bit unsure about the language. Perhaps as an app on your smartphone?
- Small flashlight.
- Assault alarm.
- A clothesline if you yourself will be doing the washing in a hostel.
- Small bag that you can use as handbag or day-bag.
- Duvet covers, travel sheets or a thin sleeping bag that you can use when staying at a hostel where sheets are not included.
- Small bottle of Alcogel (this, however, you cannot take with you as hand luggage on the flight).
- Small alarm clock (if your mobile phone doesn’t have an alarm function).
- A sarong is good to pack, it can be used for a lot of things and barely takes up any space; As a towel, skirt/kilt, sun protection, bag to carry things in.
- A power board with four outlets from your home country. Buy a single Australian adapter and suddenly you have four power outlets in your Australian home suitable for your electronical equipment from back home.
- A small travel pharmacy if you need anything special from home (just make sure they are legal to bring in), otherwise you can buy things like headache tablets, band aids, antibiotic ointments, bandages etc. at the chemist once you are in Australia.
Things to prepare at home and online before leaving
Before you travel it is a good idea to make sure that any online services you plan to use are working accordingly.
- Create a Skype account (or similar) so you can call home and receive calls through a Skype online number.
- Create an e-mail address, I prefer Google’s Gmail.
- Create an account on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and/or other accounts if you like to keep in touch with people all over the world via social media.
- Make sure you keep track of the time difference between different countries. The website Time & Date (com) is an excellent resource for this, where you for example will find what the time is in Sydney right now.
- Contact your local post service to arrange a change of address so someone else can take care of your post while you are away. Especially, make sure that no bills that need to be paid will arrive when you are away, or make sure someone will take care of this for you.
- Cancel or freeze any subscriptions that you won’t be using while traveling.
- Rent out your apartment (if applicable) with the property owner’s consent and don’t forget to clean it out properly before your trip.
Some tips for anyone who want to use their home country’s bank account on the trip:
- Some banks have their bank cards blocked for cash withdrawals and purchases abroad. You may need to contact your bank’s customer service to make sure that you can use your bank card in Australia before you travel.
- Make sure that you have at least one card with a Visa or Mastercard function. These are in general accepted all over the whole world.
- Some banks have expensive fees for cash-withdrawals abroad and a bad exchange rate for ATM withdrawals. Get a debit card with a bank that does not charge you when withdrawing money in ATMs abroad. Also, check if they have a currency surcharge and what the bank’s annual fee is before deciding whose services to use.
- Bring two debit or credit cards with you. If one of them breaks or gets demagnetized, you can still pay and withdraw money with the other.
- Bring one credit card so you can manage to pay large amounts for emergency expenses. It feels safe to have a credit card, knowing that you can pay a few thousand dollars (Australian) in an emergency, without having to log in to your internet bank and be forced to wait 3 days for the money to transfer between the different accounts.
- Make sure that the card’s period of validity covers your trip dates, so it does not need to be replaced during the trip. If necessary, you can ask your bank for a new bank card before your long journey.
Power of Attorney for someone to represent you back home
If an accident or problem occurs that you cannot resolve from a distance, it may be useful if your family or close friend has signed a power of attorney to represent your interests back home, such as managing the money in your account or concluding a contract in your name.
I myself have given my parents the power as a general attorney to monitor my interests in Sweden as they see fit while I am abroad. Instead, you could establish a limited power of attorney that gives someone the right to represent you only in certain matters. Often you can get a template for one from your bank, but you can also write your own. If you search on Google for terms such as “General power of Attorney template” you will get several hits on the matter. Some examples for when it may be useful to have given someone the power of attorney to represent you while you are abroad are:
- Rental and property deals, for example, on your behalf to sell an apartment or sign a lease agreement.
- Bank transactions, for example if you need to apply for a new debit card while you’re on the other side of the globe.
- To start or end different types of consumer contracts (subscriptions etc.) on your behalf.