Visiting us in Sydney – what to pack and not to pack

I’m writing this for my mum, who is visiting in April, from the UK, but I thought it could be useful for other international visitors.

Things you MUST bring with you

Your passport. (I know it’s obvious but I thought I’d put it in.)

Your driving licence photocard. They use driving licences as forms of ID over here and it helps when you don’t want to carry your passport around. You can also use a UK driving licence to hire a car over here or drive our one.

An eVisa. This will not be a stamp or piece of paper in your passport, but will come up electronically when immigration check your passport. You can find the details here.  Because my mum is from the UK it will cost nothing, and the processing time is estimated to be one day. Phew! We haven’t left it too late. (But please, mum, don’t forget to do it soon.)

Travel insurance. You don’t really need health insurance because the UK has a reciprocal agreement with Australia (to cover emergency treatment, at least) but it would be good to have insurance to cover your travel, general luggage and any special items (e.g. camera). We used to get some pretty cheap worldwide travel insurance but the companies we used may not even still be in business. I would recommend finding a friend who subscribes to Which? magazine (or even taking out a trial 3 month subscription) and finding out the best insurer for your age, destination and length of trip.

A swimming costume, or two. We live in the Northern Beaches and we have a pool in our backyard. It would be a shame if you did not go in the water at least once! I tried buying a swimming costume when we first moved here and I was shocked by how expensive they are. So it’s probably best to bring one with you – or two, so you can hang one up to dry while you dip in the pool again!


Sandals. These are expensive, especially if you wear Birkenstock style. Don’t bother trying to buy them over here. Just bring ones that are worn-in and comfortable.

Running shoes, if you plan to do parkrun. These are also expensive over here.

A lightweight raincoat. Camping/trekking gear also seems expensive to me. (Can you see a pattern emerging?) A proper raincoat will make you feel very sweaty. All you really need is one of those thin ones that pack into a bag and you can probably buy for not very much from Milletts or Tescos.

Any medications you need. It’s just far easier to bring what you need than to go to the doctors and try to persuade them to prescribe you the same thing as you have back in the UK. It might be worth going to the GP in the UK and getting a letter listing all the prescription medications you are on. You don’t necessarily need a letter for everything but it would probably help. And don’t forget to declare it when you arrive. More details here.

Your camera. I think it’s better to bring it than to feel upset about missed photo opportunities. You can insure it against theft or breakages – see above.

Things you need but could either bring with you or buy while here

Swimming goggles. I haven’t really compared prices but if you have some that fit, they are not going to take up much space in your luggage.

Sun cream or other sun protection. If you have a brand you prefer, or if you know you are allergic to certain ingredients, bring some from home. Remember not to put it in your hand luggage as liquids have to be under 100 ml.

If you don’t care what sun cream you want, you can share our huge family bottles we buy from Coles.

A mobile phone. I suggest it’s probably best to bring your own phone and then put a pre-paid SIM card in to use while here. But I suppose you could buy a cheap Nokia instead and give it to one of my kids when you go!

Thongs (flip-flops) It’s great to be able to just slip on something to wander around in that doesn’t make your feet really sweaty. You can get really cheap thongs from loads of shops, even the supermarket. If thongs are too flat for you, then I guess Crocs or that style of shoes are the next best thing.

Clothes: shorts, t-shirts, long-sleeved blouse for covering up on sunny days, long skirt for hairy days, thin trousers. You can buy any of them over here, of course, but clothes seem to be far better priced over in the UK than here in Australia. I wouldn’t recommend going on any shopping sprees.

Things you need but definitely should buy over here

A SIM card (see above). It’s just not worth paying ‘roaming’ charges when you could get a great pre-paid deal and pay only 25c per text to other countries. That’s cheaper than a postage stamp!

A wide-brimmed hat. I suppose you could squash one into your luggage but you can buy them in any tourist shop or in the Cancer Council.

Things you MUST NOT bring

A winter coat. Even if you know you are visiting in the ‘autumn’ you just don’t need a warm coat. Sydney-siders will complain about the weather and you will think it feels like a pleasant summer’s day in the UK. It rains, and it can be windy near the ocean, but all you need is a lightweight raincoat, a light jacket or cardigan, and possibly a scarf. It does not get cold – not by UK standards.

Any fleece hoodies, sweatshirts etc. You will just be too hot in them.

Boots of any kind. You won’t wear them and you will regret carrying them to and from the airport.

Food from the UK, unless it is packaged, unopened and not seen to be a threat. But in this case you will still have to declare it and have it checked by an officer. Australian quarantine is very strict. Please see the information here.

Towels, and plastic toys for the kids This is for mum only – I have towels over here for you so you don’t have to pack any. And our kids have too many toys in any case. Books will be more appreciated. 😉

Did I forget anything? I’d love to have feedback on my list from people who travel fairly frequently to Australia from the UK or other similar Northern Hemisphere countries.


About scimumsam

An ex scientist living in Australia, currently tutoring maths and science and homeschooling my own children. I blog about science and maths education on, and homeschooling (infrequently) on lookingslantwise.
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One Response to Visiting us in Sydney – what to pack and not to pack

  1. Steve says:

    We did the free visa application last year and will do it again in April.
    You have to set up an Immi account first and then apply for your visa from that account. For our family of four we had one immi account in my name, I then applied for my visa and the rest of the family through the one account.
    I have never used any system like it before and it took longer to set up the immi account than to get the visa approval. Visas were granted in about 90 mins with “no worries mate” !
    Steve Hall

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