Cairns is located on the north eastern coast of the state of Queensland, on the east of Australia.

Australia is a nation continent, the sixth largest nation in land mass after Russia, Canada, China, the United States of America and Brazil. The population, however, is relatively small at only about 21 million in 2007.

Australia is commonly described as the driest inhabited continent on the planet. The interior areas have one of the lowest rainfalls in the world and about three-quarters of the land has been designated as arid or semi-arid; which explains the relatively low population.

The populated areas, mainly located in the coastal regions, are well-watered and support a substantial agricultural industry.

The highest point on the mainland is Mount Kosciuszko at only 2228m.

Australia is divided into six states and two territories – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The nation is governed by a federal government based on the Westminster System in the capital of Canberra.

Originally a British colony, Australia has been an independent Commonwealth country since Federation in 1901, with Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II also the Queen of Australia.

It is usually the sheer size of Australia that confuses people. It may only take three hours or so to fly from Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, to Cairns in tropical north Queensland, next to the Great Barrier Reef, but by road, it can take about four days of nonstop driving.

While visitors might be able to pack in a taste of

Country’s full name: Commonwealth of Australia
Land Area: 7,682,300 sq km or 2,966,136 sq miles
Time Zones: GMT/UTC +10 (Eastern Standard Time); GMT/UTC +9.5 (Central Time); GMT/UTC +8 (Western Time)
Time Zones: Daylight saving ends on the last Sunday in March. There is no daylight saving in Queensland.
Language: In the Cairns region, Japanese is commonly spoken in the tourism industry and some shop signs are written in Japanese.
Language: “Aussie slang” is commonly used and abbreviations can cause confusion among visitors. There are books of commonly-used Australian words available in many book stores in the Cairns region.
Religions: Cairns is home to a number o Tibetan Buddhist temples as well as a large number of Christian places of worship.
Electricity: 220-240V 50Hz

Country Dialing Code: 61
Mobile phones: Australia operates most Global Roaming carriers with both digital and the new G3 phones available.
Internet: Australia supports Wifi and Bluetooth systems.
Internet: In isolated rural areas, internet is supported via satellite technology as are satellite phones.

Smoking: Most venues will have a designated smoking area but patrons are not able to drink or eat in these designated smoking areas.
Smoking: Hotels will have dedicated smoking areas but many other venues are banning smoking all together.

Flying: Containers of 100ml (3.5fl oz) are permitted and must be sealed in a clear plastic bag of 100cm. Domestic flights are not affected by these regulations.
Driving: If you have a valid driver’s licence in English from your own country you can drive throughout Australia.
Driving: However, an International Driver’s Licence doesn’t mean you can automatically drive in Australia.
Driving: Driving terms are different in Australian English – a trunk is a boot; gas is petrol and a windshield is a windscreen.
Driving: When driving slowly stay in the left most lane if there is more than one lane.
Driving: When on a highway stay in the left lane; unless overtaking or turning right.

Driving: Only beep a horn when warning a driver or cyclist.

Driving: Don’t drink or take drugs and drive. Australia has very strict laws and very low limits of acceptable alcohol intake for drivers.

Driving: Important signs to pay attention to include: No Standing – no stopping in the area indicated except to let off / pick up a passenger; No Stopping – unless for a medical emergency; No Parking – passenger unloading but no stopping of vehicle; Bus Zone or Taxi Zone – private vehicles can not travel / park in this lane.
Driving: Roundabouts are everywhere in Australia and especially in the Cairns region. There are huge four lane roundabouts on the drive north from Cairns to Port Douglas and smaller ones in throughout the city.
Driving: If you stay in the right lane of a two-lane roundabout you MUST go right. If you have made a mistake, continue around until you come to the left turn and take it. DO NOT TRY TO CUT LEFT TO ESCAPE THE ROUNDABOUT.

Australia in a week – Sydney and Melbourne, the Outback, the beaches and the Great Barrier Reef for example – it takes weeks and months to truly see what the country has to offer.

Increasingly visitors are travelling to Australia for 12-month working holidays and the number of people who’ve come for a month and are now Australian citizens is enormous.

Members of the Commonwealth, the European Nation and some other nations can visit Australia on working visas for up to two years as long as they are under 30 years old. There are some changing requirements, like the visit including three months of fruit picking, but it’s a great way to experience Australia. This has made the country a haven for backpackers.

When to visit Australia

Just about any time of the year is good to visit Australia. For some people, summer, from December to February, can be unbearably hot but it’s great for enjoying the famous Australian beaches.

In tropical north Queensland, the Cairns region, summer becomes the “wet season” with humid weather and monsoonal rain, “stingers” (box jellyfish) in the ocean and sometimes powerful storms called cyclones.

Winter in the Cairns region – from June to August - is considered the best time to visit with crystal clear skies, cool breezes and perfect scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Down south, winter offers good skiing in New South Wales, Victoria and sometimes in Tasmania. The autumn and spring, both north and south, are relatively mild and also a good time to visit.

Capital City: Canberra
Population of Australia: About 20 million
Time Zones: Daylight saving starts on the last Sunday in October; in Tasmania it starts on the first Sunday.
Language: English is the official language but as a multicultural nation, many other languages are spoken.
Language: Mandarin Chinese is also an increasingly spoken language in the Cairns region.
Religions: There is no state religion in Australia but the majority of the population is Christian of some denomination, the largest being Roman Catholic. Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in Australia.
Currency: Australian Dollar (AU$)

Electric Plugs: The Australian-style plug has two flat angled blades and one vertical grounding blade
Queensland Dialing Code: 7
Mobile phones: Cheap SIM cards are available without having to sign a contract with a carrier.

Internet: Broadband is not available everywhere, most broadband is via ADSL services, not cable.
Smoking: Since July 1, 2007, smoking has been prohibited in all government offices (including schools and day care centres), all bars, nightclubs, restaurants, shops, shopping centres, casinos and hotel lobbies.
Smoking: Smoking is also banned within 6m of building doorways.

Flying: Since March 31, 2007, all passengers flying to and from Australia on international flights are permitted to carry only small quantities of liquids, gels or aerosols in the cabin or carry-on luggage.
Driving: Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Driving: If your driver’s licence is not in English you may need to get a translation or an International Driver’s Licence
Driving: Most backpackers will get an Australian Driver’s Licence if they are going to be staying more than a couple of weeks.
Driving: Indicators instead of signals; and they’re usually located on the opposite side of the steering wheel.
Driving: Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Driving: When entering an intersection always giveway to the right, unless they have a stop sign against them. At a T intersection the driver on the straight has the right-of-way.
Driving: Speed limits in built up areas range from 40km/hr outside schools to 60km/hr in through streets. Watch for speed limit signs.
Driving: Seatbelts must be worn by all drivers and passengers including children. Babies must travel in special ‘capsules’ and children under 6 years must travel in child car seats.
Driving: Parking in the major Australian cities can be very difficult; it’s best to use designated carparks. Cairns has some free parking around the Esplanade and the city centre but the majority is paid parking and Parking Inspectors are vigilant.

Driving: In a two-lane roundabout keep to the left lane if you’re turning left or going straight ahead – use your left indicator as you come out of the roundabout even if you are going straight ahead.
Driving: For more information on Driving Rules and Regulations in Queensland, go to the Queensland Transport website.