Welcome to The Grape Vine's second anniversary issue!
I've just come back from a wonderful trip to Australia! The country is beautiful, and worth a visit for young and old!
This anniversary issue, we're going to look at travel tips for before you leave for Australia- for first time visitors to the country.
To begin with- did you know that Australia has 13 different time zones?! Amazing, isn't it?!
Here are a few points that I can think of that would be useful.
1. Do you need a Visa for Australia? The E-visa System
Indian Nationals will need a visa for Australia, so keep enough time to apply for one. Enough time here would mean approximately 2-3 weeks. This is more time than you would need but it's best to err on the side of more time rather than less.
Australians have an E-visa system, which means that you will not have a visa stamped in your passport. You will however have a visa grant notice that will be sent to you in your email. This still means that you have to carry your passport with you.
To apply for the e-visa from India, simply go to the nearest Australian VFS office. In Delhi, you would have to go to the Shivaji Stadium metro station office for VFS Australia. Keep at least 2 hours for submitting your documents. Carry photocopies of everything from your passport itself to all valid and current visas in your passports. The VFS officer will sign on the photocopies and verify the same. You WILL NOT submit your passport here, or indeed any where for the Australian visa. However, you will need to carry it with you and show it to the VFS officer for verification purposes. Make sure you carry all relevant documents with you. Going through the process a second time can be tedious. You do not need an appointment for the Australian visa at VFS. However, you will need to take a token number from the counter when you arrive there.
On arrival in Australia, the immigration officer will look up your visa details on his/her computer system. However, just as a precaution you should carry a print out of your visa confirmation letter, etc. It is strange when nothing is stamped in your passport when entering or leaving the country by the Australian Authorities. Your passport will still be stamped by the Indian authorities when you enter or leave India.
2. The most popular route
The most popular route to Australia is via Singapore or through Hong Kong, Thailand, etc. There is a direct flight by Air India to a few destinations in Australia but these will be more expensive. Please note that if you are changing flights within Australia to your final destination, you will have to collect your luggage in the city you clear immigration and re check in your luggage for a domestic flight.
Australia has extremely strict quarantine laws. No food items of any kind are permitted in. Not even an apple you might be carrying in case you fall hungry. If you have something with you, please leave it on the flight or face a huge fine. A gentleman on my flight was carrying a crate of mangoes in hand luggage and he was cautioned by the airline staff that if he left the flight with it, he could face plenty of trouble. So he ate some of the mangoes and distributed the rest of the mangoes among the airline crew. The flight crew were delighted! The man whose mangoes they were ..wasn't so much.
Check the Australian government's website for further information on leathers, feathers, medication etc that are not allowed in
Although most major cards will work in Australian Airports, and you will be able to withdraw cash once you get there, I would still advise carrying some Australian currency from your home city, just as a precaution. The travel time to Australia (which can be anything depending on which coast of Australia is your destination) will leave you exhausted, and you really don't want to have to deal with ATMs or ques once you arrive. So have enough cash on you for taxi fare, a meal and for any other major expenses you may foresee.
Next issue of the Grape vine: What to see once in Australia