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?
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 462,000 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 plane, there are plenty of ways to get to Canberra.
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.
Monday to Thursday:
9.30am to 4.00pm
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.
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
9.00am to 9.00pm
9.00am to 5.00pm
10.00am to 4.00pm
Note: Hours vary at smaller shopping centres and in the nearby city of Queanbeyan.
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.
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.
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 4G and 5G (in roll out stage) for 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 1 gigabytes 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).