We made you meet this wonderful couple — Parinita and Aakash — in an earlier blog post where they spoke about ‘Buddymoon’ to Europe This time the travel lovers went for a holiday Down Under. Parinita Samanta shares with us some very useful tips to plan a trip to Australia.
BSD: Tell us about how you planned this trip and where all did you go in Australia
One thing that we have become accustomed to now is planning the entire trip ourselves — right from booking the tickets and the visa to day excursions.
One of the two primary reasons being it provides tremendous financial gains in terms of limiting expenses for the trip. Second, you get a sense of belonging to the place once you start your trip. It is very important to explore the place virtually before stepping out in the unknown territory and planning the entire thing by your own does exactly that.
Division of labour is how we initiate the process. For instance, my husband handled the visa part by submitting our applications online through the Department of Home Affairs, while I was on the look-out for the best deal we could get for booking the tickets. Once our travel arrangements are sorted, we divide the cities amongst ourselves and start shortlisting must visit places. I handled Sydney, while Aakash managed Melbourne. Brisbane and Gold Coast were done in coordination with a lot of help from our friends, which eased the entire process a lot. Post this, Aakash ensured finding the cheapest possible prices for the activities we mutually put our hands on. In this case, Book Me turned out to be an amazing platform and helped us in saving as much as 50 per cent in certain bookings.
Our places of visit were Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Gold Coast.
BSD: Which all hotel(s) did you stay in? Would you recommend it?
We started our trip by landing in Melbourne and spending about four nights there at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne. The hotel was located bang in the central business district of the city and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. The top floors of the hotel provide an excellent view of the city’s skyline.
The grandeur of the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Rod Laver Arena impresses a non-sports lover like me, you can easily imagine the level of impact it must have had on a sports fanatic like Aakash.
The public transport is easily accessible and free right of entry to the tram network to visit certain areas works like a charm. We proceeded to Sydney and resided at Hyatt Regency Sydney, right opposite to Darling Harbour. In terms of approachability, the place served us quite well by being at a walking distance from the Josh Street, King Street, and the Circular Quay among other popular areas.
We spent our last leg of the trip in Brisbane and Gold coast for 6 nights. We were visiting our friends in Brisbane and stayed at their place only for the entire duration. We used to drive down or take public transport for our visits to the city of Gold Coast, which was about 60 minutes from our place of stay.
BSD: Which are the must visit/must do/must see places according to you?
Starting with Melbourne, we started off with a day tour to the Phillips Island. The trip included visits to Maru Koala National Park and Cape Woolamai beach. While the experience at the national park was about average, the beach was a wonderful place to be at.
We ended our day by being at a stone’s throw distance from those 30 cm long Penguins, which was an exhilarating experience and definitely, not the one to miss.
Exploring the city of Melbourne would be incomplete without getting clicked in the graffiti -laden streets of the city like Hosier lane. Crowns Casino, which happens to be the largest casino complex in the southern hemisphere is an intoxicating experience.
The favourite part of this leg, rather the entire tour was the Great Ocean Road trip. We opted for a self-driven rented car as against a group tour. This was a leisure trip and we wanted to move at our own pace, hence, we rented a car from auto-Europe for about 37 hours, which happened to be the cheapest source of car rentals across various platforms. We spent about Rs 11,000 (fuel and navigation included) for the automatic car (Nissan Pulsar) with the cruise control, which turned out to be a very comfortable option for the smoothest roads we have ever driven on.
Driving on the left hand side of the road, similar to driving conditions in India calmed our nerves a little, before embarking on our first self-driven road trip in a foreign country ever. Also, as opposed to popular belief, you are not required to get an international license for driving on Australian roads. All you need is an Indian-government issued driving license with a RFID chip and you are good to go.
The Pacific Ocean forms a very integral part of the Australian eastern coast. Hence, the coastal walk by the ocean from the Bondi beach to the Coogee beach was an unavoidable part of our stay in Sydney. The 6km walk along the pristine ocean did not make us a tad bit tired, rather the journey was extremely pleasing and the end euphoric.
The debate between Blue mountains versus the hunter valley kept raging on, until the point we booked the Blue mountains tour. We could not cover both due to time constraints and really feel it depends on individual choices if you are to pick one. Although, visiting the gigantic structure of the mountains, particularly the three sisters’ formation and the deepness of the valley didn’t have us doubting our decision. The scenic world (specifically that steep railway ride at the site) and the quaint little village of Leura on our way to the mountains are indispensable inclusions of the day tour.
The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge deserve an obvious mention here, and the inclusion is self-explanatory. The bridge climb deserves a special mention as it is unlike other activities that we have been a part of and looked fun from the distant reach. However, one has to be a mindful of the little hole that it is likely to burn in your pockets, given the steepness of the cost of the activity.
Surfers Paradise and the Broad beach go at the top of the obvious places to visit in Gold Coast, so does the Warner Bros. Movie world which had the most thrilling roller coasters we have ever been on in our lives. The most of those were the DC Hypercoaster, the Superman Escape roller coaster and the Arkham Asylum. The Quacker Duck tour was a pleasant experience and something different than the usual things you do on a city tour.
Brisbane, to our surprise, felt more of a magical place maybe because of subdued expectations and excellent hosts that we had in our friends, Sandy Batra and Ankita Sareen Batra. Noosa heads, also termed as the relaxation capital of Australia and the sunshine coast were gem of places and felt like untouched beauties even after being thronged by hundreds of visitors.
Mount Tambourine was nothing less than heaven, if you savour wine. Even if you don’t, you are sure to be left enchanted by the weather, the serenity, and the exquisiteness of the place.
BSD: No holiday is complete without good food. Which are the good budget restaurants in Australia you recommend
There were numerous places we had good food at. Some of those noteworthy places were
- Jashn restaurant, Lorne on the Great Ocean road trip
- Guzman Y Gomez, multiple locations
- Various food outlets at Eat Street Northshore, Brisbane. The area is set up every Friday and Saturday in the city.
- Flora (Indian food), Flinders street, Melbourne
- Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, multiple locations
BSD: Share some shopping tips. What are the good things to buy from Australia
The country as a whole is a little on the expensive side when it comes to shopping. There are quite a few deals to crack though for those with a keen eye. Some places to mention:
- Small shops offering silver jewellery at the Surfers paradise
- High-end perfumes at bargain prices, Central shopping area near the King George Square Station, Brisbane
- Forever New since it is an Australian brand
- We also got good deals for buying Skechers from Brisbane in particular. If you are a fan, look no more.
- Although, there isn’t much difference in pricing of popular brands such as H&M, there is sometimes a flash sale for items that are available in a single size. We got our hands on a pair of slippers for about Rs 200 from H&M. Do try your luck
BSD:Packing tips: What all should people remember to carry with them during the weather you went in
Melbourne happens to be the coldest of the lot and requires you to layer up. Phillips island in particular, is a place where the wind speed increases as the sun sets and gets chilly beyond expectations. Sydney is a little warmer than Melbourne, although, still a little on the chilly side during the night. A single layer of clothing is the maximum you need when you are doing the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee or exploring the Blue Mountains.
Brisbane and Gold Coast in Queensland, the Sunshine state, are the places where temperature picks up and you feel like baring yourself in front of the sun and getting on that tan on the body.
Australians are very particular about certain things. You shouldn’t be carrying any medicines without any prescriptions. Further, there are restrictions on carrying certain types of food into the country. Grains, for instance, are not allowed. We carried some noodles to go along with some cuppa soups and wafers.
BSD: Thanks for all the information. Just to wrap it up, can you tell our readers what’s the best way to plan Australia trip from India (how many days, booking tips, itinerary tips etc)
Keeping the size in mind, anything less than 2 weeks wouldn’t do any justice to the kind of landscape the country offers. Even after spending 2 weeks, we still feel we had so much to explore like the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, or the Aurora Australis in Tasmania. Further, you would want to justify the amount you are spending on the tickets and the visa alone (about Rs 120,000) and not spend about Rs 17,000 a day on average by spending only a week in the country.
All the portals offer roughly the same prices for the tickets. The key is to look for a tie up between a particular bank and a portal, which can provide you with cash back as high as Rs 15000, depending on the ticket prices. For instance, we got cashback of Rs 10,000 by paying through a HSBC credit card on a Sunday.
I tried Book My Forex a couple of times and have stuck with them ever since. They offer you the best rates, more so with respect to multi-currency prepaid travels cards and the doorstep delivery only adds to the experience.
If time and the resources permit, try and add another leg to your schedule by visiting Cairns and exploring the reef area before it eventually becomes extinct.