Don’t get lost
GPS’s or SatNavs are becoming very popular as a means of finding your way around when you are driving. They retail from about $200.00. If you have already bought a GPS in South Africa, you can download all the Australia maps for about $100.00. A map book or “Street Directory” costs under $30.00. These are invaluable for getting to know the suburbs and layout of your city, even if you have a GPS. The two most popular ones are Gregorys and UBD, both produced by Universal publishers. “Whereis” and “Google maps” are web based route planners. They are useful when planning a trip to check the distance and how long it will take.
Protect yourself from the sun
Australia has a very high rate of skin cancer. Even with all the warnings a lot of people expose themselves to too much sun in the middle of the day. Primary schools have a “no hat no play” policy for all students. The Cancer Council has a wide range of products to help prevent damage from the sun. You will see a lot of kids wearing rash vests (rashies) on the beach and at swimming pools.
If you bring an older TV from SA it might not work. Although Australia also uses the analogue PAL system, the audio signal is a different frequency so you will get a picture but no sound. TV channels in Australia are also broadcast in a digital signal. (Analogue is to be phased out by the end of 2013). To receive this signal you can buy a digital set top box for about $80, and as long as your TV has an audio and video RCA input you can connect it up. The picture is superior because it is digital: no ghosting or fuzziness. You need a decent aerial on the roof, but most houses and apartments already have one. Most new LCD or Plasma TVs in Australia come with a built in digital tuner but check this if you decide to buy one.
Your normal FM/AM radio that you bring with will work perfectly. As of August 2009, Digital radio has been launched in the major cities. This means that if you have a digital radio, even the AM stations such as ABC Sydney can be received in digital format, so the quality is much better. They are still expensive, (prices start around $150.00) but prices should start coming down in the short term.
Filling up with petrol
There are no petrol pump attendants in most metropolitan areas, it’s all self-serve. Some smaller towns still have pump attendants. It is a bit daunting at first, but take someone who is experienced the first time you go to fill up. Once you have filled up, remember the number of the pump, go inside to the counter and pay. You can pay with cash or card. There is no price standardisation on petrol. The price fluctuates throughout the week, and in Sydney it is generally cheaper on Tuesdays and early Wednesday mornings. The service stations ( “servo’s”) also have shops similar to those in South Africa where you can buy basic foodstuffs, necessities (like chocolate) and the newspapers. The large supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths also own about 80% of the petrol stations around Sydney. They have fuel discount offers to encourage you to shop at their grocery stores then buy petrol at their outlets. If you spend more than $30.00 at the Supermarket at any one time, you get a discount voucher which entitles you to a 4c per litre discount when you pay for your petrol. On Tuesdays all around Sydney you will see cars queuing right into the street at Woolworths and Coles/Shell petrol stations, and the independents are almost empty. Don’t get sucked into this mindset. Even if you have a large car like a Ford Falcon or Holden Commodore with a 70 L tank, and even if you were filling up from empty, you would only save 70 x 4c =$2.80. If you fill up twice a month like me, you would only save $5.60 a month! If you drive a large 4×4 with a 100 L tank, you would save $4.00 if you filled up from empty. With a small car and a 45 L tank you would only save $1.80. In my opinion it’s not worth the hassle to queue, I prefer to go to an outlet that is not as busy and pay a bit more.
Depending on the level of restrictions, you may or may not be allowed to water your garden with a hand held hose and a trigger type nozzle. In Sydney at the time of writing, level 3 restrictions are in force so hand-held hoses can be used for gardens on specific days before 10 am and after 4pm. Buckets can be used at any time. You can be fined if you are caught watering out of permitted hours. Again, depending on the water restrictions in your area you may be allowed to wash your car with a hose, as long has it has a trigger type nozzle. There are commercial car wash bays where you can wash your car yourself, or the automated kind that is common in South Africa.
Doing your Washing
If you come from a city like Johannesburg where the air is relatively dry, you may find humidity a problem even in Sydney. (Brisbane is much worse, more like Durban). A clothes drying rack and a tumble drier are essential. Products such as “Damp Rid” to be very useful to put in cupboards to absorb any excess moisture and prevent musty smells.
Furniture and appliances
Try to bring all your own furniture, (as long as it is free of wood borers and other pests) but don’t worry too much about small appliances such as toasters, steam irons and kettles. They are relatively cheap because of the strong Australian Dollar, and because many of the appliances are made in China. Appliances made in Italy or Germany cost a bit more. Washing machines, fridges and tumble driers cost a little more but are still good value. The voltage in Australia is the same as in South Africa, but the plugs are different. Bring a few multiplugs with you from SA, then replace the South African style plug on the end of the cable with an Australian one. This way, you can plug your old appliances into the multiplug without having to change all of your plugs at once. When you are more settled in you can start changing the plugs on individual appliances.
This is a great concept that is observed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory and has been synchronised across these states. Western Australia began a three year trial of daylight saving in December 2006 but in a recent referendum, people of WA (mainly the rural population) voted overwhelmingly against it becoming permanent. Queensland and the Northern Territory do not observe daylight saving. Daylight saving starts on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April. The clocks are advanced one hour in October then put back one hour in April. It takes a bit of getting used to at first, but the benefit is that in summer it only gets dark around 8.00 pm, so people can go to the beach after work, play outdoor sport, work in the garden and so on.
Most councils have very good public libraries with many resources. Once you register you can access your account online and reserve or renew books. Many libraries have a type of “post box” outside so that you can return books after hours. Most libraries have computers with internet access and some are now “WiFi” enabled so you can bring your own laptop if it has a built in wireless device.
Many of the main arterial roads in the major cities have tolls. Most toll roads have done away with manned toll booths: they only have an automatic toll system. It is a very good idea to get an E tag. The device sticks to the inside of your windscreen and is linked to your registration number. You can apply online and the device will be posted to you (Oh…did I mention how reliable and secure Australia Post is?). When you first apply for one, you pay a deposit and an initial “top up”. When the balance drops to a certain value it is topped up from your nominated credit card or current account. In other words when you drive past a toll sensor, your tag beeps and the value of the toll is debited from your account automatically. You get a pdf statement emailed monthly to you.
Very first world!