Final Thoughts on Australia

Interesting things about Australia

When we first arrived in Australia we expected it to be a lot like America and for the most part it was.   Here were some of the interesting things that stuck out to us as we traveled through Australia.

Size/Population:  We heard a lot of people boasting at how large Australia is.  I wasn’t exactly sure how big it was until I saw an over lay of Australia on top of the US.   Sure enough Australia really is huge and is very roughly the same size as the US.  What I didn’t realize is how few people actually live in Australia.  In all of Australia there are only 23 million people total.  Given the size of the country, that’s a pretty low population.   Of those 23 million, over 8 million live in Sydney and Melbourne (combined) and over 80% live on the east coast.     Yes, there are more Kangaroos than people in Australia.

Aus-US-ComparisonBest in the Southern Hemisphere:  We commonly heard people say that Australia had many records for biggest or best in the southern hemisphere.   What they fail to tell you is that only 10% of the world population lives in the Southern Hemisphere so their records aren’t quite as awesome as they seem 🙂

Gold Rush:  Melbourne was extremely wealthy in the mid to late 1800’s from a gold rush.   The gold rush there was a significant contributor to the wealth of the city and you can still see the effects today.  The gold rush there was so big it even drew some people away from the California gold rush.

Air conditioning:  One thing that caught us off guard was the lack of air conditioning.  In bigger cities it was the norm but in some of the smaller cities it was not in use or not available.  The temps were extremely hot so AC was a must in our opinion but there wasn’t any!   We assumed that it would be similar to America where you have AC everywhere but that wasn’t the case.

Beer/Liquor Cost:  Holy crap was alcohol expensive in Australia!  Nearly everywhere you went the cost for a pint was above $5 and usually a few bucks higher.   Even going to the liquor store and buying it as cheap as possible you’d pay $1.5 to $2 for a single beer.

Condiments:  I covered this in a post but worth covering again.  The condiments cost extra in Australia but it turned out to be worth it.  You get a lot more options and they also have sweet chili sauce.

Politics:  In Australia, nearly everyone we talked to knew what was going on in politics in America.  We had a number of people ask us about Trump and whether or not we thought he would get in.  They were also well versed in politics from all over the world as well.   The news channels in Australia do a good job of covering what’s happening all over the world, not just what’s happening locally.

A living wage: The minimum wage in Australia is $17.29/hour.  Australia promotes “a living wage” for their citizens and the people there seem to have strong feelings in support of this minimum wage.  This is an issue that comes up frequently in the United States.  Regardless of where you fall on the issue, I can tell you that the effects from a $17/hour minimum wage can easily be felt.

Since we are traveling and have nowhere to cook we eat out nearly every meal.   We saw the impact of a higher minimum wage in the following ways:

  • Food was generally more expensive all across Australia.  In America I feel like you can pick cheaper places and find a lot of options.  In Australia you had to really dig to find a good deal.
  • There are very few fast food places.  Big chains like domino’s and subway were around, but there were a lot less of them.  When you decided to go out to eat it was almost never going to be fast food and it was going to be somewhere that charges more money.
  • Even when you went to a non-fast food type place and you were spending more money, you had to do a lot more of the work yourself.  A lot of places had a hybrid system where you would walk in and place your order, and then someone would bring the food out to you.  This wasn’t the fast casual dining like Chipotle, it’s a normal place with expensive food but you need to place the order and then wait for it to be delivered for a while.   There’s nothing wrong with that setup, but you’re paying sit down food prices at a place where you place your own order and after it’s dropped off that’s the end of the service there.

Tipping:  In Australia the tip is included in the price.  That partially offsets the higher cost of beer/food.   At first, I really liked the system because there was no question how much you were paying.  That said, the service in Australia absolutely takes a big hit.   When you sit down you basically get 2 contacts with your waiter/waitress and that’s it.  They are going to come over and take your drink order, then grab your food order, and that’s it.  They won’t be back over to check and see how things are going or offer anything else.  Why would they?  They don’t make anymore money so their job is done.   This was frustrating when you needed something or wanted to order a second drink.   The service just wasn’t nearly as good in Australia as it was in the United States.   Personally I prefer tipping!

Budget:  We knew going into Australia (and New Zealand) that we would be way over budget.   We focused on our budget really hard at the beginning of Australia and I think it paid off.  We ended Australia with a $197/day spend on a $175/day budget.  Definitely over our budget but we came in lower than what I would have expected given how expensive Australia is!

Greyhound Buses:  Unlike the United States, Grey Hound buses are a good way to get around Australia if you have the time but want to save some $$$.   Taking Grey Hounds saved us a lot of money.  We ended up taking 3 over night Grey Hound buses.   Taking the overnights ended up reducing how many nights accommodation we had to pay for which was a huge help!

Favorite Places:  Everyone we meet traveling says, “It was just a big city but nothing special”.  Ashley and I must be weird because we like the big cities.   We both enjoyed Sydney the most and Melbourne the second most.  There were so many funny little cities to see up and down the coast but it really depends on what you are looking for.

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