Everything you need to know about visiting Canberra

Everything you need to know about visiting Canberra

Canberra 101

From its location and history, to its population and public holidays, here’s your go-to guide for everything you need to know about Canberra, the national capital of Australia and home of the Australian story.

Canberra for beginners

Where is Canberra?

Canberra is the capital city of Australia. It is situated inland between the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, within the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which is surrounded by New South Wales (NSW).

It is picturesquely, and conveniently nestled alongside Australia's highest alpine mountains and the South East Coast of New South Wales, which means it’s the perfect place to base yourself while exploring the broader region.

Why should I visit Canberra?

Not only is Canberra the national capital city and the administrative centre of the Australian government, it is the home of the Australian story.

Canberra is a place that belongs to all Australians; a diverse, innovative and modern city that houses the stories of Australia.

A visit to Canberra gives both overseas and Australian visitors an opportunity to understand the journey of Australia, and to reflect on where the nation is headed. 

What can I expect in Canberra?

One good thing after another. Whether it’s the world class national attractions or the bustling events calendar, Canberra has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. 

 

Couple this with a thriving food and wine scene and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors (we’re called the bush capital for a reason), you’ll see that Canberra is a city full of surprises.

What’s even better is that everything you’re after is just moments away in this compact and well-connected capital city.

Population and language

Canberra is home to about 390,000 residents (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics), with English as the predominant language.

Interpreter services are available for ACT Government services including hospitals and government shopfronts. Call 131 450 for details.

Canberra weather and climate

The national capital’s four distinctive seasons bring their own beauty and charm, making Canberra a rare treat among Australian cities providing a kaleidoscope of colour throughout the year.

Fun fact: Canberra is the only major city where you can easily see snow in winter, and each season brings new delights.

Travelling to Canberra

Whether it’s by car, rail, coach or plan, there are plenty of ways to get to Canberra.

Money talks

Australian Currency

The Australian dollar (A$) is a decimal currency with units in dollars and cents (100 cents to the dollar). Currency conversions can also be made at most banks, Canberra Airport and some hotels in Canberra. For the latest exchange rates, consult your bank or foreign exchange provider.  You can also cash travellers’ cheques at airports, banks or major hotels.

Banking hours

Monday to Thursday:

9.30am to 4.00pm

Friday:

9.30am to 5.00pm

   

Most branches have 24-hour automatic teller machines. ATMs are also located in many petrol stations, some convenience stores, shopping centres and licensed clubs. Some banks may charge you an international transaction fee.

Retail stores, restaurants, petrol stations and hotels generally accept cash, credit cards, EFTPOS payment and PayWave transactions. The most common credit cards include Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, American Express and affiliates. Consult your bank before travel to ensure your card is suitable for use in Australia.

Personal cheques are not generally accepted for retail transactions in Australia.

Tipping

While appreciated, tipping is not expected in Australia. If you receive excellent service, particularly in a restaurant or for a taxi fare, a tip is welcome.

Canberra retail shopping hours

Monday to Thursday:

9.00am to 5.30pm

Friday:

9.00am to 9.00pm

Saturday:

9.00am to 5.00pm

Sunday:

10.00am to 4.00pm

   

Note: Hours vary at smaller shopping centres and in the nearby city of Queanbeyan.

Useful utilities

Canberra’s water

Canberra's water comes from snowmelt and rain falling in pristine wilderness in nearby Namadgi National Park. It is treated to national drinking water standards and is safe to drink from taps and basins. Canberra's rivers and lakes are regularly monitored and assessed for water quality.

Voltage

The Australian domestic standard voltage is AC 240 volts, 50 Hertz cycle. The standard electrical plug is a three-prong type. Suitable adapters are available from travel goods stores, airports and some electrical retail stores.

Stay connected

Phones and mobiles

Canberra’s telephone area code is 02 if calling from within Australia or +61 2 from overseas.

The cost of a local call from a public pay phone is 50 cents. Public phones accept coins and pre paid telephone cards, which are available at newsagents, convenience stores and Australia Post Offices. Public phones are located at shopping centres, malls and at Post Offices. You can locate the nearest payphone with the Telstra Payphone Register by searching under ‘Canberra’. International calls can also be made from pay phones. Charges vary depending on the time of day and country you are calling.

Canberra has mobile phone coverage for 3G and 4G plus smart phones and tablets. If you’re visiting from overseas, consult your local service provider before leaving home about international roaming charges and access or SIM card options. SIM cards can be purchased at the Canberra Airport. 

Key telephone numbers while in Canberra include:

  • Canberra and Region Visitors Centre (CRVC): 1300 554 114
  • Language Interpreter Services (24 hours per day): 131 450
  • Emergency Police, Fire Brigade, Ambulance (24 hours per day): 000

Wi-Fi and Internet access

Free Wi-Fi is available at the Canberra Airport International terminal, the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre (CRVC) as well as many Canberra hotels and motels. It is also available across the city centre and surrounding precincts as part of one of Australia's largest rollouts of free Wi-Fi called CBRfree, which provides users with access to 250 megabytes per day. For details, visit Digital Canberra.  

Free internet access is also available at ACT Government Libraries (NB: bookings are essential to use the computers).

Key dates

Public Holidays - 2019

New Years Day:

1 January

Australia Day:*

28 January

Canberra Day:*

11 March

Good Friday:

19 April

Easter Saturday:

20 April

Easter Sunday:

21 April

Easter Monday:

22 April

Anzac Day

25 April

Reconciliation Day

27 May

Queen’s Birthday:

10 June

Labour Day:

7 October

Christmas Day:

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

ACT Public School terms – 2019

Term 1:

4 February to 12 April

Term 2:

29 April to 5 July

Term 3:

22 July to 27 September

Term 4:

14 October to 16 December

View NSW Public School holidays.