Quick Guide to Australia: Travel advisory for South Africans amid bushfire disaster

(Photo: Warm morning light on high-rise towers in Melbourne CBD above Princes bridge across Yarra river, iStock)
(Photo: Warm morning light on high-rise towers in Melbourne CBD above Princes bridge across Yarra river, iStock)

BUSHFIRE TRAVEL ADVISORY: The Australian state of New South Wales is currently experiencing a state of emergency as the country is struggling to cope with raging bushfires amidst a drought since September 2019.

Many communities in this region have been devastated and will take some time to recover. Flights in Melbourne have also been affected by heavy smoke on 15 January 2020, disrupting fifty flights and causing delays.

However, Flight Centre Travel Group South Africa is urging travellers not to cancel their travel arrangements, stating that despite the US travel advisory "most destinations remain safe and open to visitors," says FCTG's general manager of product and marketing Sue Garrett.

Odette Falling, Travel Check CEO, advised that the Online Travel Agent (OTA) was “not seeing a decline in flights to Australia and bookings have been consistent from South Africa”.

“For concerned clients we make sure that our travel agents check whether the area that they are travelling to has been affected and then we amend their travel plans accordingly. We are handing it on a case by case basis at the moment and supporting customers as much as we can by staying informed.” 

READ MORE: Sydney Opera house lights up with images of Australia's fire heroes while tourism takes massive hit 

Here's what you need to know if you're planning a trip:

  • The states affected by the fire are New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. 
  • Besides the Melbourne Airport, all other international airports are operating as usual with no impact on flights - but stay updated on potential delays when flying. Some roads and major highways have also been closed in affected regions.
  • If you are visiting affected areas, keep your travel insurance easily on-hand in case of emergencies. Also check what you are covered for.
  • Check Tourism Australia's website for updates on affected areas, as well as safety tips for bushfires. 
  • Be prepared for travel delays just in case.

"The best thing travellers can do to support the country is to be informed, get on-the-ground advice and continue to visit. Tourism will play an even more important role in rebuilding the affected areas and supporting these communities," says Garrett.  

Our neighbours in the global south truly do live in a exhilarating, wild and beautiful land. From the red sands of the outback reminiscent of Mars to the multi-chromatic reefs along the coast, it is a story of contrast and extremes. 

These wild areas are offset by incredibly modern, cosmopolitan and well-developed cities where as much as 89% of the population resides. With that many people staying in the cities it is no surprise that cities from Perth to Sydney offer up some of the most fantastic experiences in this post-convict, post-gold-rush modern country. 

The wild areas of the country also offer the intrepid traveller plenty of unique experiences and encounters to enjoy. Due to its geographical isolation, many species here evolved to be unique and indigenous to the continent. From kangaroos to wombats and wallabies, dingoes and beyond - there are plenty of great experiences to be had in one of the cities or out of it. 

Just make sure to check your attitude at the door of that Melbourne rooftop speakeasy and empty your boots of spiders in the Outback and everything should be good mate.  

6 Guide essentials + Things you should know:

  • 1. Visa requirement – Visa required for South African passport holders. Find info here.  
  • 2. Currency - Australian Dollar
  • 3. Key Airport hub - Sydney Airport
  • 4. Peak Season - The summer months from December to February
  • 5. Language - English is the national language
  • 6. Time-zone - Australia has three main time zones: Australian Eastern, Central and Western Standard Time. Sydney is on AEST, which is GMT/UCT plus 10 hours.

How to avoid being a digi-bandit: Man booted back home for offensive phone videos after landing in Australia

Top Cities:

  • Sydney
  • Melbourne
  • Brisbane
  • Adelaide
  • Perth

SEE: 6 Memorable things to do in Sydney

Top Sights:

  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • The Great Ocean Road
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
  • Sydney Harbour
  • Bondi Beach

SEE: Australia offers cash for Great Barrier Reef rescue ideas

What to do:

  • Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Take a swim at one of Sydney's beaches
  • See, snorkel, dive or fly over the Great Barrier Reef
  • Visit the Daintree Rainforest

PICS: These lakes are tickled pink Down Under

What to eat:

  • Tasmanian scallops
  • Bush tucker
  • Kangaroo fillets
  • Vegemite
  • Lamingtons

WATCH: The Top 5 Best Wine Regions In Australia

Destination drawcard:

Kangaroos, Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef. All itinerary-firsts when heading to Australia. But there is so much more to land down under.

  • Rich history
  • Modern development and cosmopolitan cities
  • Landscapes
  • Culture highlight
  • Outdoor lifestyle
  • Animals and plants

Find Your Escape by searching and comparing flight prices here. You can also sign-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe here. Or download the News24 App here, to receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile. 

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