Here is all you need to know to plan a holiday in Australia.
Our tickets were booked months before our holiday. This way you know the money you earn and save leading up to your holiday is for spending and other incidentals that come up along the way.
We scouted all the airlines. Qatar Airways would probably have been the cheapest overall but because we wanted to stop over in Dubai for a few days we opted to pay about R1000 more and fly Emirates instead.
OK this is the most important thing. Without it you can’t enter Australia. I was initially very confused about how to go about applying for the visa but once I found the site where I could you apply online it was pretty easy.
What you need to do is visit this site. There you will be given a checklist of the documents you need to take along with you to the application centre in Green Point. After you book an appointment online. The offices only operate between 08:30 and 15:30 and the appointments are about half an hour long. You go to give in your forms and documents, pay the costs and have your biometric information recorded.
I took along these documents: bank statements; payslips; certified copies of passport, including copies of all stamped pages in passports; a letter of invitation from my family who we’re staying with while in Melbourne. If you aren’t staying with family you need to provide them with a hotel booking. Basically they need to know where you’re planning on staying while in the country.
When we got to the application centre we were asked for the application form. I was a bit confused because there was no direct link to any forms on the site. There was a moment of panic when I thought I’d have to make another appointment but they had plenty of forms there so if you don’t find one online you can fill it out there.
The cost of the visa is R1600 and the site tells you have to bring cash only but when we got there we discovered they have an EFT machine. There is a R1100 rand service fee in addition to the visa cost so the total was R2700 per visa. It’s quite steep but then we discovered the visa is valid for three years and not just a single visit – so we can visit any time from now until 2019 for a maximum stay of three months per visit.
You wait between 2 and 4 weeks to hear back from them so make sure you apply well in advance. You don’t have to go back to the office because it’s an electronic visa. You just get and email notification and it’s automatically linked to your passport.
On Christmas day, mom and I started our (very long) journey to Australia. We left on Christmas day and arrived in Melbourne on December 27. Madness.
We travelled via Emirates so stopped over in Dubai for a short (hahaha) 8 or so hour layover. The plane ride from Cape Town to Dubai was mostly fine, except for the tall man behind me constantly kneeing my seat resulting in my having a sore back at the end of the flight. Not sure why Long Legs didn’t choose the aisle seat so he could stretch out without hurting fellow passengers, but people are weird.
In Dubai, all we had to do was clean up, change clothes and wait and wait and wait until our flight to Melbourne, which we then discovered would stop in Singapore first. This turned out to be a huge blessing because the passenger next to us turned out to be a rude human, who picked her nose a lot.
She pretended to sleep when I wanted to go to the loo. I kept saying “excuse me” but she kept her eyes shut. Two minutes later the food cart came around and she dropped her tray and was suddenly awake. I was stuck with a pee while we ate. We were so relieved to discover she was getting off in Singapore.
The food on the flights was mostly OK. Here is some of what we ate.
When we reboarded the plane after it was refueled we found rows of empty seats and for the first time since Christmas Eve, we got some sleep.
And then finally after 35 hours of travelling we got to Melbourne.
If you’ve watched Border Patrol you know Australia’s airports are really strict and we were fully prepared for an eventual search through the bags. We filled out our forms declaring that we having nothing on us that isn’t allowed, and at the same time I was also open about the fact that we had sweets and chocolates from South Africa. The officials didn’t seem bothered by this.
At the end of the queue mom told one of the officials she had her insulin in her hand bag. She was waved through. Guess what? That door led to the outside of the airport where we met our family. No Border Patrol experience. It’s all good though. We would have made for the most boring episode ever.
Up next: a post about my first week in Melbourne.