Travel Information - S

The vast majority of Australians are good people, but, as in many large cities, some are bad, some are drug addicts and some will rip you off. It is a much safer country than most, with good police who operate under strict guidelines and are reasonably polite and quite friendly. Violent crime is rare, but car theft, bag snatching and muggings do happen. Take the normal precautions you would in any large city. Stay out of parks and dark streets at night, carry only enough money for what you need to buy at the time, and, if you have several - take just one credit card at a time.

If you have a car, do not leave valuables or parcels and bags which may appear to be valuable in view. Put them in the boot (trunk) or cover them with something. Always lock the vehicle. If you are in a car park, never leave your parking ticket in the car - take it with you.

Consumer protection laws are strict and enforced, so a shop which advertises a ring as 18 carat gold with a .25 carat diamond is in big trouble if it sells you a fake. If you are silly enough to buy it from a stranger in a bar, bad luck. Hotel security is very good, but hotels try to balance control with freedom for their guests. Make sure you security lock is fitted whenever you are in the room.

Sailing is akin to religion in Australia and visitors can easily hire boats (with or without skippers) or find yachts looking for able crew members. One of the best spots in the world for sailing tropical blue waters through unspoiled islands is the Whitsundays.

Australia has several species of dangerous sharks. Though they rarely approach swimmers, lifesavers patrolling beaches keep a watch and sound a warning if a shark is sighted. Come ashore immediately.

Though there have been rare attacks on board riders and divers near rocky headlands enclosing beaches, no swimmer has been attacked on a Sydney beach for more than 30 years.

It must be stressed that shark attacks are very rare, but they have occurred. Many experts believe it is more dangerous to swim in estuaries than the ocean as sharks in harbour waters are likely to be old, sick or injured and will take 'easy' prey. So be warned, swim in an enclosure. The last fatal attack in Sydney - in the late 1960s - happened in a metre (three feet) of water!

Shopping in Australia equals anywhere in the world whether it be for international designer brands, jewellery and so on in boutique shops, in large department stores or in the many and varied markets. Duty Free shopping is also very good and the current exchange rate makes for extremely good value.

List the world's ten most deadly snakes and you'll discover all of them are found in Australia! Having said that, very few people are bitten let alone killed. Snakes will not attack people unless they are attacked first, which can mean inadvertently stepping on one. For this to happen you would have to be out in the bush, in which case common sense should be applied. Firstly, prevent this happening by wearing sensible shoes and long trousers and never purposely disturb a snake. If you come across one, it will usually try to get out of your way, so let it do so. In the rare event of a bite, do not wash the bite area. If there is some venom on the skin this can help doctors find out which snake caused the bite, so that they can give some anti-venom to help fight the effect of the snake poison. Apply a tight bandage (not a tourniquet!), immobilise the limb, try to be calm and seek medical attention.

Australia is a 'politically correct' society and smoking is actively discouraged though governments, state and federal, collect huge taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products.

Smoking is prohibited on all international and domestic airline flights, inside all Australian airports, on all buses, trains, ferries and other forms of public transport, and tourist coaches. It is not allowed in any cinema, theatre, gallery, government or private office building, except in restaurants or cafes which have a smoking section (outdoors).

Smoking is now completely banned inside in all buildings including restaurants and clubs/bars. Smoking is not allowed in department stores and shops. Many rental car companies take the ashtrays out of their vehicles to discourage smoking, which is also prohibited in taxis.

Most hotels offer non-smoking rooms or floors of rooms. Otherwise you may smoke in your room, but not in lifts. You may smoke outdoors, but littering (rarely policed) is an offence. Strangely though, cigar bars have become quite popular in some cities. It is illegal to buy any tobacco product if you are under 18 years old. There are big fines for both the shopkeeper and the customer. Adults buying cigarettes for minors can also be fined.

South Australia
South Australia is sometimes considered the centre of arts in Australia with its unique blend of innovation, cultural activities and arts festivals. Also world famous for its food and wine regions - the Barossa and Clare Valleys - and nearby Kangaroo Island.

Yes, Australia has dangerous and potentially deadly spiders (funnelwebs, redbacks, whitetailed spider) but spider bites are extremely rare. If it does occur treat the bite as the above snakebite and seek medical attention.

Sun Protection
Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer caused by the sun in the world, largely because most of its people come from Anglo-Saxon stock with fair hair and fair skin. The Australian Cancer Council has an on-going awareness campaign to encourage locals to wear hats, cover themselves and use sunscreen.

Many baby boomers born in the 1950s are now called 'wrinklies' because they spent their youth getting a sun tan at every opportunity.

Visitors from the northern part of the US, Canada, Britain and Europe with pale skin should be particularly careful. Without protection, you will start to burn after 15 or 20 minutes. Sunglasses are a necessity, especially on the water and while driving. It is a fact that the sun is "stronger" in Australia, and this is due to depletion of the ozone layer over our part of the globe. Weather reports on television and in newspapers include an Ultra Violet radiation forecast. Very high protection level sunscreens are available in supermarkets, chemist shops and surf shops. A romantic trip to soak up the sun is no fun if you are too sore to touch each other.

Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast (an hour or so north of Brisbane) is a great place for sophisticated relaxation. The name says it all - lots of sunshine, lots of coast as well as a wonderful, lush hinterland. Two of the best-known holiday spots for families and couples are Mooloolaba and Noosa which have great beaches, resorts, serviced apartments, restaurants and cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are also many non-natural attractions as well like the Australia Zoo, the Ginger Factory, the Big Pineapple and Underwater World.

Sydney is an amazing city - relaxed but busy - a sparkling gem, centred around a beautiful harbour with its Bridge and Opera House. The harbour and surf beaches are varied and clean with golden sands, the nightlife vibrant, the shopping exceptional and the people friendly. Some cities are merely a gateway to what lies beyond - Sydney is a gateway to itself as well. Sydney is a glorious, feisty sunshine harbour city, exploding with life and laughter, and to paraphrase Mr Alan Greenspan, possessing huge amounts of "excessive irrational exuberance".