13 Australians share the 15 mistakes they see tourists make the most when visiting the land down under
Insider spoke to 13 Australians about the mistakes tourists frequently make when visiting.
Some said that visitors overlook Australia's outback.
Others said you should skip eating kangaroo meat if you see it on the menu.
Last summer, I adventured through Australia for 10 days. As I explored everywhere from the Great Barrier Reef to the Sydney Opera House, my conversations with Australians highlighted the mistakes tourists like me often make.
Whether it was on a plane, train, boat, or gondola, I struck up conversations with Australians everywhere I went while exploring the country for 10 days last July.
In Innisfail, Australia, some locals offered restaurant recommendations, while others told me about the quintessential snacks I should grab at an Australian grocery store.
In other places, we chatted about everything from our country's differences to overrated tourist attractions, and locals also shared the common mistakes they see visitors making in the land down under.
Some mistakes — like not renting a car or tipping an Uber driver — I already made. Others were mistakes I'm glad I was able to avoid.
Here's a closer a look at the 15 common mistakes Australians shared.
Don't make the mistake of not chatting with locals. "We're laid-back people," one Australian said.
Everyone I spoke to agreed that the biggest mistake tourists can make is not striking up conversations with locals.
Multiple Australians said the people who live in the land down under are kind, welcoming, and chill. And, they are usually happy to offer you recommendations and advice for your trip.
"We're typically pretty laid back, and you can't really offend us," Alex Gibson, who was traveling from Melbourne, Australia, to Cairns, Australia, with her family of three, told Insider.
So don't hesitate to say hello to the people sitting next to you on a bus or at a bar and strike up a conversation.
Two Australians said that some visitors fail to learn about Australia's rich indigenous culture.
Indigo Rampson from Wentworth Falls, Australia, told Insider he had just one piece of advice for travelers. It was to learn more about Australia's Indigenous cultures and histories when visiting.
Australia is home to two Indigenous populations, the Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian Aboriginal peoples. Together, they make up 50,000 years of heritage, according to Evolve Communities. And their heritage, culture, and history shape a lot of Australia today.
"The Sydney Opera House and the Eye are what's advertised about the country, but there's a lot of really rich and interesting Indigenous culture here," Rampson said.
So go explore the Sydney Opera House, but also make time to learn about Australia's Indigenous culture, she said. For example, tourists can head to Uluru, a sandstone formation in the center of Australia that is sacred to some of Australia's Aboriginal people. According to ITV, it's a resting place for ancient spirits of the region. Or, head to a museum that dives into the beliefs and lifestyles of some of the country's oldest populations.
David Goebel, who works at Doongal Aboriginal Art and Artefacts in Cairns, Australia, encourages travelers to search for authentic experiences instead of touristy ones. He said one of the easiest ways to appreciate and learn about Australia's Indigenous culture is to have conversations with Aboriginal Australians.
"How do you go out and meet Aboriginal people? It's how you meet any Australian. Go to a pub," Goebel said.
One Australian said that skipping a visit to an Australian pub is a big mistake.
Brittanie Stacpoole told Insider that visitors should make sure to stop at a pub before leaving the country.
"Pubs are a big thing here," Stacpoole, who is from Etty Bay, Australia, said.
She explained that pubs are meeting places for many Australians. It's where local news is discussed, laughs are had, and new friends are made. For visitors, Stacpoole said pubs are the ideal place to spark conversations with locals and taste some of the country's quintessential meals like fish 'n chips and chicken parmesan.
And the Australian National University agrees. The university states that pubs "are a key part of Australia's cultural identity and have been central to many great yarns and tall tales in Australian folklore."
Some visitors arrive thinking they'll be able to explore the entire country in one vacation.
Australia is the world's sixth-largest country and only slightly smaller than the US. Just as you can't see all of America in a single trip, it's also unfeasible to see all of Australia.
"People don't realize how bloody big the country is," John McGee, who is originally from Ireland and has lived in Australia for 52 years, said. "You need to take into consideration how far everything is."
He said he's seen tourists arrive assuming that they'll be able to see the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House, and Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens on a two-week vacation. But those destinations are hundreds of miles apart from one another and would be extremely tough — if not impossible — to fit in a single trip.
Mia Santos, from Newcastle, agreed. "Don't try to do all cities in Australia. Just spend time in one state," she told Insider.
Unless you have months to explore Australia, the Aussies Insider spoke with agreed that you should pick one or two places for your vacation.
They also suggested that travelers plan a trip around their interests, which could be anything from a tropical getaway on the Great Barrier Reef to a metropolitan city escape in Sydney.
If you're traveling all the way to Australia, don't just visit major cities. Go see the outback.
Some Australians said that tourists often make the mistake of sticking solely to major cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
By if you only visit Australia's cities, you're missing out on a huge part of Australia — the bush, Jack Thomas told Insider.
"Go regional. Go out to the bush or to any small town," Thomas, who is from Brisbane, Australia, said.
He added that some of the more remote areas of Australia help visitors get a sense of the region's culture, traditions, and norms.
So rent a car and head inland to the country's 2-million-square-mile region, he said.
Some tourists don't budget accordingly if they visit Sydney, one person said.
Sydney is ranked Australia's top-visited destination with more than 33 million visitors to the city's state in 2019, according to Australia's online visa website. And it's popular for a reason: The city is filled with delicious food, trendy neighborhoods, and popular tourist attractions.
But its appeal often comes with a hefty price tag for tourists.
In a 2014 TravelMag survey of the most expensive destinations in Australia, Sydney ranked second for the average cost of lodging, which at the time was about $90 dollars a night. Bryon Bay, another town in Australia, placed first.
Richard Preen, who is from the UK and has lived in Australia for 18 years, said travelers often don't budget enough for Sydney's sometimes steep prices.
"Sydney is the most expensive city you'll visit in Australia," Preen said.
Climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, for instance, starts at $180 USD per person, according to its website, and tickets to the city's zoo start at $30, the Taronga Zoo Sydney website states.
So if Sydney is on your itinerary, Preen suggests saving up a little more money so you can splurge on all the activities and foods the city has to offer.
You won't find koalas, kangaroos, and crocodiles everywhere in Australia.
Paul Donlon from Newcastle, Australia, said tourists sometimes expect to see Australia's famous animals in the country's large cities.
"People think crocodiles are everywhere. They're not. They're in the estuaries and rivers and such," Donlon told Insider.
He added that the same applies to other native animals like kangaroos and koalas. Chances are, you won't run into kangaroos or koalas in Australia's major cities. If you want to see the country's native animals, you'll have to travel to national parks, which tend to be farther inland since many of Australia's larger cities are on the coast.
You don't need to be afraid of wildlife, but you do need to be aware of risks posed by them.
As a driver, Donlon said he's spoken with dozens of visitors who are terrified of Australia's wildlife.
"Some travelers are so paranoid of bugs and our wildlife. Especially spiders and snakes," he said. "There's definitely a fear factor. I've had to pacify so many people."
And while Donlon said you should be aware of your surroundings when visiting any country, visitors don't need to be terrified throughout their entire vacation.
Instead, Donlon suggests staying calm and not interacting with any wildlife you encounter.
Santos agreed and stressed that visitors shouldn't feed any wildlife when visiting.
If you don't understand Australian lingo, don't be afraid to ask for clarification.
While English is Australia's national language, some Aussie slang words and phrases can stump English-speaking travelers, the Gibson family said.
"That's the hardest part — learning our lingo," Alex Gibson said.
During a trip to Australia, you might hear the term "bushwalking," which means hiking or walking. You might order a "toastie," which is also known as a grilled cheese.
And while you may be more familiar with french fries, you might see "hot chips" written on the menu. What's more, you'll dip your hot chips in tomato sauce, a condiment similar to ketchup.
Additionally, Donlon said that it's not just the words Aussies use but how they form sentences that can also trip up tourists.
"People here shorten everything when they talk," Donlon said.
Donlon said he's spoken with tourists who pretend to understand what he's saying. But he added that he wished they'd ask for clarification instead of acting as if they understand.
Like the Gibson family said, Aussies are laid back and will be happy to teach you their favorite slang words.
Multiple Australians agreed that exploring the country by car is best, so don't make the mistake of only taking guided tours and public transportation.
While Australia's major cities have accessible public transportation, transportation options can be limited when you leave the city, locals said.
While travelers can still see these more remote areas by tour bus, Thomas recommends renting a car instead. By being behind the wheel, travelers can explore off-the-beaten-path activities and have a flexible schedule that allows them to explore Australia's hidden gems.
If you decide to rent a car, RV, or van and drive in the outback, Preen recommends only driving during sunlight hours.
During dusk, dawn, and night, large animals like kangaroos can jump out, which leaves you at a greater risk of hitting an animal, Preen said.
"They're like deer. They just stand there, and they swerve with you," Preen said. "So don't drive at night."
You can't swim everywhere in Australia. Stick to designated areas and keep an eye out for rip currents.
Stacpoole said she's heard stories of tourists venturing into bodies of water that weren't safe for swimmers. Some beaches in Australia have dangerous waters and others are home to crocodiles, venomous blue-ringed octopuses, venomous stonefish, and sharks, according to Australian Geographic.
So Stacpoole always reminds travelers to swim in designated areas. Often, a designated swimmable area will have a sign indicating just that, and many Australian beaches are monitored by lifeguards, according to Tourism Australia.
Stacpoole said swimmers should also be prepared for rip currents. These are powerful channels of water that can carry swimmers out to sea.
"One important thing when it comes to swimming is if you ever get caught in a rip, don't swim head on to the beach. Swim at an angle or parallel to the shore," Stacpoole said.
If you swim directly toward the shore, you might lose energy, which puts you at a greater risk of drowning. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most rip currents are less than 80 feet wide, so if you swim parallel to the shore, you'll be able to swim out of the current.
Don't only eat familiar foods. Instead, make sure to sample local foods like meat pies and Vegemite.
Multiple Australians said it's a mistake if visitors don't try classic Australian foods when traveling to the land down under.
Since many of the country's major cities are on the coast, seafood is a must, Sally Smith, who lives in Innisfail, Australia, told Insider. Smith said that barramundi is a popular fish visitors should try, and at the very least, travelers should pick up an order of fish 'n chips, which is an easy, grab-and-go meal.
You'll also miss out if you don't try Vegemite in Australia, Stacpoole said, referring to the yeast spread that is typically slathered on bread and served for breakfast.
Eating kangaroo, crocodile, and emu isn't as common as some tourists think.
Some tourists arrive in Australia thinking that Australians eat crocodiles, kangaroos, and emus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But most Australians agreed that it's a common misconception about Australia. In fact, a handful of Australians Insider spoke with had never tasted kangaroo.
Instead, they said that the restaurants serving crocodile, kangaroo, and emu meat are typically catering to tourists.
Some Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians do eat kangaroo, but Goebel said the meat tends to be tough and gamey.
Goebel recommends avoiding kangaroo because of its taste and texture, but if you are determined to try it, he suggests eating it in a meat pie, where flavors and juices from the pie's ingredients can better mask the toughness of the kangaroo meat.
Don't make the mistake of leaving a tip.
A few Aussies mentioned that you don't need to tip when visiting Australia.
Instead, restaurant workers receive a liveable wage, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, so tipping isn't expected. Santos said the same applies to other jobs like cab drivers, bartenders, and hotel staff.
For example, Santos said it's not expected to tip your Uber driver after completing your ride.
If you receive exceptional service, she said you could leave a tip, but it's not the norm or required.
Don't get fixated on having a specific Australian experience. Instead, talk to locals and be open to adapting your plans based on their recommendations.
Terry Edwards from Innisfail said visitors sometimes come to Australia expecting to see kangaroos everywhere and run into crocodile hunters at restaurants.
But Edwards said he hopes visitors arrive with an open mindset and a willingness to explore.
"Don't be fixated on certain Australian things," Edwards said. "Try new experiences."
While crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge is a popular activity, some of the most exciting parts of the country are places you've never heard of, he said.
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