What You Need to Know...
1. If you can travel First Class, DO IT! It was about a 15 hour flight from LA to Sydney, on top of the flight from your city to LA. I was so fortunate that my sister upgraded us to First Class with credit card miles. The catch is that it was only for the trip there - we flew Coach for the trip back to the states. Since this is not your typical flight across a few states, the First Class seats made all the difference. First Class offered room to stretch your legs, pampering from flight staff, and the ability to sleep comfortably. It also offers BOSE headphones, lots of little extras like toothbrush and socks, but those were not as important to me as the huge difference in comfort.
2. Learn public transport. In my home city, I've never ridden a bus or a train. However, that was how we got around the entire time we were in Australia, other than a cab ride from the airport to the hotel. (If you are going to take a cab from or to the airport, make sure you negotiate the price ahead of time.) Australians have made it really easy with the Opal Card. You can load it at most stations and stops through an automated machine and just swipe when getting on or off a bus, train, or even a ferry. There's an app, as well as lots of boards with information listed at the stations and stops.
3. If you smoke, now is the time to quit. While it's incredibly unhealthy and I'm sure you know all the negative aspects of smoking, maybe the most detrimental is to your wallet in Australia. A pack of cigarettes will run you between $25-$35 and will come with a very unpleasant photo on the package. Black lungs, a dying baby, missing or cancerous mouths - not exactly what you want to see when you are lighting up.
4. Ice is hard to come by. When you order a drink (water, soft drink, etc.), it rarely comes with ice. Even when you ask for "ice water," it often comes without the ice. Funnily enough, I drank a lot of Icees AKA frozen Cokes from Hungry Jack's (Australian version of Burger King) because I needed something COLD and it had ice in it!
5. Tipping and eating at restaurants is different than what Americans are used to. I had read before we left the states that Australians don't tip at restaurants, typically. It seemed like a really foreign idea to me that I had a hard time wrapping my mind around, especially since it's so important in the states to tip servers and bartenders, as that's how they make their living. One morning at breakfast, we had a server greet us and bring us our water, but then another server came to take our order. Then, yet another person brought us our food. While it would seem like stepping on toes back home in the states, servers in Australia are paid a living wage and do not rely predominantly on tips, as they do in the U.S. If you receive outstanding service, of course you are still welcome to tip! But do not feel pressured by the 15-25% standard from the U.S. Also, keep in mind that no tipping and paying livable wages means they make it up somewhere - and you will see it in the prices. Restaurant prices, for the most part, are quite a bit pricier than in the states. Keep that in mind when planning your budget and travel arrangements.
6. In an emergency, you call 000. It works just like 911 in the U.S. but is important to note in case of emergency.
Stay tuned for more about visiting Australia!