Thinking of a trip Down Under? Find out what you really need to know.
If you arrive in Sydney any time in September this year, you'll be in good company. The world's attention will be focused squarely on the Olympic City, which is expecting around 120,000 visitors for the Olympic Games on 15 September - 1 October. The pace will not slow down much in October, with the Paralympics also running in Sydney on 18 - 29 October. All in all, this is shaping up as a very big year for Australia.
Mad about sport
So, should you travel to Australia during the Olympic period? Is it worth visiting Sydney when thousands of others will be trying to do just the same thing? The answer, in brief, is yes! Australians are mad about sport - 6.5 million of them are registered as playing organized sports, whether it be football, netball, golf or surfing. Australians also love a party. The Olympic Games is the ultimate combination of sport and celebration, which makes it perfectly suited to the Australian environment. Sydney is a magical place on any day of the week, but it will be especially exciting during the Olympics. The Sydney Organizing Committee for the Games has committed lots of time and money to ensuring that public transport to and from the Olympic venues, and around Sydney in general, will be running smoothly. And for those whose tastes extend to cultural highlights, the Olympic Arts Festival, entitled "Harbour of Life", will provide a rich range of non-sporting attractions. And then there are the beaches, cafes, restaurants, museums and parkland in and around Sydney... the list goes on, but the best way to find out more is to visit the Sydney Olympics website (www.sydney.olympic.org), which also includes plenty of information on Sydney. Inquiries about the purchase of tickets for Olympic Games events should be directed to your local National Olympic Committee.
If you can't make it to Sydney for the Games, you can join the 3.5 billion people watching it on television each day, and you can start planning your visit for a quieter period. Australia is worth visiting any time, summer or winter, for a week or six months. There's much to experience, because Australia is a big country. Very, very big. The continent stretches across three time zones, 4,000 km from east to west (in comparison, Poland measures just 689 km from east to west). And with a population of only 19 million, you can find all the peace and solitude your heart desires, on an empty beach or hiking the mountain ranges. The diversity of the natural environment is truly startling. From the 2,228m of Mt Kosciuszko to desert plains, tropical rainforest, vineyards and the 2,000 km of the Great Barrier Reef. Just don't try to do it all at once!
What you should try is the food and our world-famous wine, which rely on fresh ingredients and culinary influences from all around the world. One of Australia's biggest strengths is its ethnic diversity - apart from providing delicious international cuisine, this makes Australia a very tolerant and multicultural place. An estimated 23% of Australia's population was born overseas: 6% in the UK and Ireland; nearly 7% in continental Europe; and 5% in Asia. In the last fifty years, around 5.6 million people have migrated to Australia from more than 150 countries. In addition to tourists and business visitors, Australia welcomes a large and growing number of students, who come to study at universities, colleges and private institutions - taking everything from English language courses to MBAs.
The mechanics of getting to Australia are quite simple. You need a valid passport and an Australian visa, issued by the Australian Embassy in Warsaw. All the information you need on obtaining a visa, including on required documentation and visa fees, can be found on the Embassy's web site (www.australia.pl), or by phoning the Embassy on (022) 521 3444. General information on Australia can be found at www.aussie.net.au. If you're searching for specific information, the Australian search engine www.goeureka.com.au is a good place to start.