Australian prices are roughly equivalent to countries in North America, Western Europe or Japan.
A basic takeaway meal - a burger, fancy sandwich, or couple of slices of pizza would cost $5-10, a Big Mac costs $4.50, and you can usually grab a pie for around $3, or a sausage roll for $2.50. A takeaway pizza from Pizza Hut big enough to feed two costs around $10.
A cafe meal costs around $10-$15, and a main course in a restaurant goes from around $15 upwards.
A middy/pot (285ml) of house beer will cost you around $4, and a glass of house wine around $6 in a low end pub. To take away, a case of 24 cans of beer will cost around $35, or a bottle of wine around $8
Dorm accommodation in a capital city is around $40, but can run as low as $20 in Cairns or cheaper backpacker centres. A basic motel in the country or in the capital city suburbs would cost around $100 for a double. Formule 1/Motel 6 style hotels (which are not common) can be around $60-$70 for a double. City Centre hotel accommodation in capital cities can be obtained for around $150 upwards for a double.
Car hire will cost around $65 a day. Public transport day passes from $10-$20 per day depending on the city. Fuel is cheaper than Europe, but more expensive than the United States.
An airfare between neighbouring eastern capitals is around $100 each way, or around $350 to cross the country assuming that you are flexible with dates and book in advance. A train trip on the state run trains will usually cost slightly less. A bus trip, a little less again. A train trip on the private trains will be the most expensive way to travel.
There is usually no admission charge to beaches or city parks. Some popular National Parks charge between $10-$20 per day (per car, or per person depending on the state) while more out of the way National Parks are free. Art Galleries and some attractions are free. Museums generally charge around $10 per admission. Theme parks charge around $70 per person.
Australian currency is known as the dollar, and the currency symbol is $. There are 100 cents in every dollar. The dollar is called 'the Australian dollar' usually written as 'AUD' or A$ when it is necessary to distinguish it from other currencies.
The dollar is not pegged to any other currency, and is highly traded on world foreign exchange markets, particularly by currency speculators. Its exchange value to other currencies can be quite volatile, and 1-2% changes in a day are a reasonably regular occurrences.
No other currency is commonly accepted for transactions in Australia. Some businesses in international terminals of some airports may accept some other currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Euros, and possibly NZ dollars).
The coin denominations are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2. The note denominations are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Australian notes are produced in plastic polymer rather than paper.
If the total of a transaction is not a multiple of 5 cents the amount will be rounded to the nearest five cents if you are paying in cash. The exact amount will be charged if paying by card.
Money changers in Australia operate in a free market, and charge a range of flat commissions, percentage fees, undisclosed fees built into the exchange rate, and a combination of all three. Generally the best bet is to avoid airports and tourist centres when changing money, and use banks in major centres. Expect fees to vary considerably between institutions. Always get a quote before changing money.
Cash dispensing Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in almost every Australian town. Australian ATMs are deregulated and may impose a surcharge over what is charged by your bank or card issuer. The fees can vary between institutions and between locations, but are usually around $2. The ATM will display the charges and you will have the option to stop the transaction before you are charged. Check with your bank as to what additional fees they apply to withdrawals in Australia.
Dedicated currency exchange outlets are widely available in major cities, and banks can also exchange most non-restricted currencies. These exchange outlets - especially the ones at the airport - can charge 10% over the best exchange that can be obtained from shopping around. Australian banks usually offer an exchange rate around 2.5% from the current exchange midpoint. A flat commission of $5-8 can be charged on top. Some outlets advertise commission free exchange, usually accompanied by a worse rate of exchange. Don't assume every bank will offer the same exchange. A simple calculation will let you know what offers the best deal for amount you wish to exchange. There are vouchers for commission free exchange at American Express available in the tourist brochure at Sydney Airport.
There is also no need to arrive in Australia with cash if you have a Cirrus, Maestro, MasterCard or Visa card: international airport terminals will have multiple teller machines that can dispense Australian currency with just the fees imposed by your bank plus the ATM fee.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Australia. Almost all large vendors such as supermarkets accept cards, as do many, but not all, small stores. Australian debit cards can also be used via a system known as EFTPOS. Any card showing the Cirrus or Maestro logos can be used at any terminal displaying those logos.
VISA or MasterCard are the most commonly accepted and are both accepted everywhere credit cards are accepted, but credit card surcharges (typically 1.5%) are legal and common, including hotels, car rental agencies and discount retailers. (Check the small print when booking online.) American Express and Diners Club are accepted at major supermarket and department store chains and many tourist destinations, but are much less common than the big two and typically incure hefty fees in the 4% range. JCB is only accepted at very limited tourist destinations. Discover is never accepted.
Bargaining is uncommon in Australian stores, though vendors are usually willing to meet or beat a quote or advertised price from a competing retailer. It's also worth asking for a "best price" for high-value goods or purchases involving several items. For example, it would not be unusual to get 10% of an item of jewelry that was not already reduced in price. The person you are dealing with may have limited authority to sell items at anything other than the marked price.
Tipping is never compulsory and is usually not expected in Australia. Staff are seen to be paid an appropriate wage and will certainly not chase you down for a tip. It is acceptable to pay the amount stated on the bill. When Australians do tip, it will often be in the form of leaving the change from a cash payment (usually as a convenience so the change does not hang around loose on someone's person - not as a gratuity), rather than a fixed percentage.
In a suburban or country restaurant where table service is offered, they will certainly take a tip of 5%-10% should you decide to leave one, but it is almost always not expected, and locals usually do not leave any. In a cafe or more informal restaurant, even with table service, and even in tourist centres, leaving a tip is unusual. Sometimes there is a coin jar by the cashier labelled 'Tips', but more often than not, diners do not leave one.
Tipping is also not expected in taxis, and drivers will typically return your change to the last 5 cents, unless you indicate that they should round the fare to the nearest dollar (it is not unusual for passengers to instruct the driver to round up to the next whole dollar).
Australia's base trading hours are M-F 9AM-5PM. Shops usually have a single night of late night trading, staying open until 9PM on Thursdays (Fridays in Canberra, Brisbane CBD, and Adelaide CBD). Opening hours beyond these base hours vary by the type of store, by location, and by state.
Major supermarket chains in main centres are generally open at least until 9pm. Smaller convenience stores like 7/11 are open 24 hours in major centres. Fast Food restaurant chains such as McDonald's are commonly open 24 hours or at least very late. The exception is Western Australia, which legally limits opening hours for major supermarkets to 6PM.
Fuel/Service stations are open 24 hours in major centres, but often close at 6pm and on Sundays in country towns.
Australia's weekend is on Saturday and Sunday of each week. Retail trading is now almost universal in larger cities on weekends, although with slightly reduced hours. Again, Western Australia is an exception with restrictions on large stores opening on Sundays. In smaller country towns shops are closed on Sundays and often also on Saturday afternoons.
Tourist-oriented towns and shops may stay open longer hours. Tourist areas within cities, such as Darling Harbour in Sydney has longer trading hours every night.
Australian banks are open M-F 9AM-4PM only, often closing at 5PM on Fridays. Cash is available through Automatic Teller Machines 24 hours, and currency exchange outlets have extended hours and are open on weekends.
Australia has a sales tax known as the Goods and Services Tax or GST that applies all goods and services except unprocessed foods, education and medical services. GST is always included in the price of any item you purchase rather than added at the time of payment.
Receipts (tax invoices) will contain the GST amount, which is one eleventh of the total value of taxable supplies.
Sales tax refunds
If you buy items over $300 at one place at one time you can obtain a refund of the GST if you take the items out of Australia within 30 days. Pack the items in hand luggage, and present the item(s) and the receipt at the TRS, after immigration and security when leaving Australia. Also allow an extra 15 minutes before departure. The refund payment can be made by either cheque, credit to an Australian bank account, or payment to a credit card. There is no refund available for services.