Language: English

Climate: Most of Australia receives more than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year. The north is hot and tropical, while the south is sub-tropical and temperate. Most rainfall is around the coast, and much of the centre is arid and semi-arid. The daytime maximum temperatures in Darwin rarely drop below 30°C (86°F), even in winter, while night temperatures in winter usually hover around 15-20°C (59-68°F). Temperatures in some southern regions can drop below freezing in winter and the Snowy Mountains in the southeast experience metres of winter snow. Parts of Tasmania have a temperature range very similar to England.

Time zone: Australia covers 3 time zones: Australian Eastern Standard Time; Australian Central Standard Time; Australian Western Standard Time

International phone code: +61

Currency: Australian dollar, AUD$ (there is no penny in Australia)

Capital: Canberra is the purpose-built capital city, although Sydney (the country’s oldest and largest city) is the de facto financial and cultural capital on the east coast. Perth claims a similar distinction on the west coast. Transportation: Australia is highly dependent on road transport with a well maintained system of roads and highways connecting all the major cities. Car rental is available through Avis, Hertz, and Budget, but expect one-way fees from smaller regional outlets. Due to the great distances between cities and tourist destinations, air travel is well-patronized. The major airlines are Quantas (and their discount subsidiary Jetstar) and Virgin Australia. For the best deals, go directly to their websites. There is a surprising lack of high-speed, inter-city rail service.

Gay Australia:

A strong majority supports legalising same-sex marriage, however a Defence of Marriage-style law is in effect preventing such recognition for the present. Nonetheless, Australia strives to offer official 'de facto relationship' recognition to gay couples that is equal to that offered to straight couples – a special Interdependency visa exists as a gay counterpart to the traditional marriage-based migration route.

Attitudes to homosexuality are similar to those found in the urban United States. While it's not uncommon to find a person who opposes gay rights, such people are in the minority. Violence against gay people is also at a level similar to the United States. While inner Sydney is one of the most gay-friendly places in the world, caution is advisable in rural areas, as well as in Queensland and the Northern Territory, the most conservative areas of the nation. Sydney is Australia's gay capital, hosting one of the world's most famous gay Pride parades – the Sydney Mardi Gras. Less known is the Alice Is Wonderland Festival - a popular gay and lesbian Pride festival around central Alice Springs in late April/early May.