Canberra Life and Travel Tips
(Canberra, Australian Capital Territory - ACT, Australia)
The Canberra region is full of exciting attractions, lakeside parks, bushland areas and green hills. The result of an international competition to design Australia's capital city in the early 1900s, construction of Canberra began in 1913 and much of the city is laid out in an orderly, gridwork structure, making it easy to find your way around.
Serving as the country's seat of government, the city is where you will find both the High Court of Australia and Parliament House, as well as a number of government buildings and important memorials. Also located in Canberra is the Australian National University (ANU), with its campus of 13,000+ students residing on the western side of the city and injecting a noticeable youthful energy into this area.
Lying on the south-eastern side of the city is the Royal Military College at Duntroon, which resides at the base of Mount Pleasant and nearby the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Tourism and Tourist Information
Located within the Inner North district and on Northbourne Avenue, in between the neighbourhoods of Braddon and Dickson, the city's modern Visitors' Centre serves as the principal tourist information centre and comes with its very own car park.
Canberra Visitors' Centre
Address: Northbourne Avenue, Dickson, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 2602, Australia
Tel: +61 (0)2 6205 0044
Open hours: Monday to Friday - 09:00 to 17:30, Saturday and Sunday - 09:00 to 16:00
When travelling in Canberra city, as with large cities anywhere in the world, make an effort to avoid looking like a tourist. Although crime levels are never very high, always be careful with hand baggage, handbags and money, particularly when in crowded places.
Places of Worship
The large and spreading city of Canberra contains many different religions and the majority of locals are at least nominally Christian in their belief, although this percentage has reduced over the last few years. Catholic churches in Canberra are quite popular and St. Christopher's Cathedral on Franklin Street functions as the head of the city's Roman Catholic faith. Other important places of worship in the city include the All Saints Church on Bonney Street, the Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Phillip Avenue and the Sacred Heart Church on Casey Crescent.
Pharmacies and Chemists
Most pharmacies and chemists in central Canberra open from 08:00 to 20:00 and are run by qualified professionals, able to dispense prescribed medication and medicines, and offer basic medical advice. Visitors to Australia can bring three months' worth of prescription medication, although it is always a good idea to also carry a doctor's certificate with you, to avoid any possible problems at customs.
English is the main language around the Australian Capital Territory and throughout Australia, although numerous other nationalities live in the multicultural city of Canberra. Although some Australian 'Aussie' accents can be strong, with regional dialects and local phrases, locals are usually very easy to understand.
All visitors to Canberra and other areas of Australia need a visa. Application forms are available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and also travel agents, where you can either apply in person or by post. Many travel agents and airlines now grant on-the-spot Australian visas for up to three months.
New Zealand is the only country not requiring these travel visas, although visiting New Zealanders do receive a 'special category' visa when arriving at the airport.
There are extremely strict rules allowing visitors from other countries to work in Canberra and these restrictions are issued by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA). Visitors to Australia aged between 18 to 30 from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Malta may be eligible for a Working Holiday Visa, lasting up to 12 months.
Most services in Canberra do not expect tips, although many hotel porters, waiters and taxi drivers generally accept small tips. Restaurants throughout the Australian Capital Territory expect a tip of around 10%, to the nearest Australian dollar, for courteous service and good food. As a rule, no other public service workers in the city receive tips of any kind.
Taxes and Refunds
The city applies a 10% goods and services tax (GST) to the majority of items purchased in the city, although fresh foods are usually exempt. When you purchase goods in the Australian Capital Territory with a total value of more than AUD 300 from one supplier, you are able to claim a full refund of the tax within 28 days. Cheque refunds can be obtained at Canberra Airport from designated booths.
Smoking in Canberra is no longer permitted in public buildings, cafés, restaurants, outdoor areas, sporting arenas and also on the city's buses and trains. It is therefore advisable not to smoke in enclosed spaces unless people nearby are also smoking.