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Travel Tips

Visas


Please check your visa requirements for your country. The easiest way to do this is to use the Australian Government Visa Finder function: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder/visit . While most visas are free or relatively cheap ($20) with short (2 days) processing times, visas for some countries can take two weeks and cost $140. Please check far ahead of time.

The following information is correct at the time it went up on the website, but we strongly encourage you to check the visa requirements at the link above.

For travellers from the USA, South Korea or Taiwan, you will need to get an “Electronic Travel Authority” to enter Australia. Details are available on this website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Australia.html. The ETA visa costs $20, must be applied for in the US and takes a few days to process.

Visitors from many other countries, particularly those in the EU, can travel to Australia using the eVisitor visa (https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/evisitor-651). The eVisitor is free, but must be applied for in your home country. The visa also takes a few days to process.

US Air/Time Travel


If you are coming from the USA, keep in mind that you will be magically travelling through time. If you fly direct from Sydney to LA, you will get off the plane many hours before you got on board. Flying the other way, you will find that you will probably skip an entire day. This is due to the international date line being in the middle of the Pacific. We are just pointing this out as it can confuse people the first time they fly across the Pacific.

How do I fly domestically?


Australian airlines are very well regulated. You don’t have to worry about safety. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority can, and has, grounded entire airlines on the faintest sniff of an engineering fault. The decision of who to fly with is largely based on how much money you have versus how comfortable you might like to be… and to some extent what loopholes you want to look out for.

If you fly with Virgin or Qantas, you are pretty safe. These are the two premium carriers. If you make a mistake or muck something up (e.g. too much baggage, running late) they will generally be lenient and try to accommodate your stupidity when they can. If their flights are cancelled, there is a very high likelihood they will get you on the next flight (even if that is on paying for you to fly on the others airline, which has actually happened to me twice) or pay for you to stay in a hotel overnight to catch the morning flight (this has happened to me once). Of course, you pay for this luxury in your ticket price.

On the other hand, flights with Jetstar (owned by Qantas) are cheaper and flights with Tiger (owned by Virgin) are much cheaper. You will have to pay for your meals and you will have to keep an eagle eye on how much baggage you have paid for. Tiger even routinely weighs your cabin luggage and will charge you if you go over. The inconvenience of this can usually be significantly balanced out by the fact that the flights can be at less than half the price of the premium airlines. With Tiger sometimes you can find $10 flights, so it may very well be worth the investigation.

If you are flying to “regional” areas (such as Dubbo near the telescopes), you generally don’t have much of a choice. Qantas, Virgin and a company called Regional Express service these routes. You typically only have one option and you need to take that one. On the bright side, regional flights do tend to be fully catered.

 “I’m in Australia, I want to see the Australian telescopes!”


For your planning, for those wanting to tour around the major telescope facilities in outback New South Wales (the state directly north of Victoria where Melbourne is) we are planning to organise a three-day driving tour (roughly 3-4 hours drive per day) through Siding Spring Observatory, Parkes Radio Telescope and Mt Stromlo (you can include Narrabri (ATCA) at your own convenience). The other major astronomy site of interest in Australia that will host the SKA (the Murchison Radio Astronomy Observatory) is 2400 miles drive away on the other side of the continent and actually impossible to get to without great prior planning or permit. Some parts of Australia are REMOTE…. Great for minimal radio interference!

In terms of the (potentially hot) weather, the best dates for this tour would be between 30th of November to the 3rd of December… just prior to the Melbourne conferences. This will likely conflict with Northern Hemisphere teaching periods. The other option, more conducive also to people considering a summer Christmas in Australia, will be on the other side of the conference roughly from the 14th to the 17th of December. In reality, we will probably offer both, but to what degree (self-drive, chartered busses or fully catered tour) or cost we will consider in the first half of the year after soliciting feedback from potential attendees. We are not a touring company but it obviously makes sense for us to centralise organisation of attendees who might be considering such a tour.

NOTE: The major Australian Telescopes are not near Melbourne (Mt Stromlo is 7 hours non-stop driving away, Siding Spring Observatory (SSO) is 11 hours). The easiest way to get near there is to fly from Melbourne to Sydney then either

1) Hire a car from Sydney and spend a couple of days driving to SSO (exploring the Blue Mountains then stopping over at Jenolan Caves and doing a cave tour in the morning before pressing on would be a suggested route),

2) Hire a car from Sydney and drive to SSO on a single day (6 hours driving) or

3) Fly from Sydney to Dubbo then hire a car then drive 2 hours to Siding Spring Observatory.

The considerations in choosing between the three options would be… flights from Melbourne to Sydney can be exceptionally cheap (not much more than $50 one way on one of the budget airlines) whereas flights from Sydney to Dubbo are not ($170 one way). If you have a group (and the time), then splitting costs and hiring a car from Sydney may likely ending up being much more cost effective (and scenic).

You are free to visit the telescopes on your own timeframe using your own means, however on these official trips, we can PROBABLY organise some special tours and events at each of the facilities that are generally not accessible to the normal public… so if you are interested in coming along, considering your trip to include those broad dates is recommended, although nothing is set in stone yet.

Accommodation


Melbourne is a CBD (Central Business District) centralised city. By that we mean that: if you are in the CBD it is relatively easy to get most places by public transport, whereas if you are not, it can be a case of travelling to the CBD first before going where you need to go. There are many transit routes that travel radially out of the city in all compass directions. Even if you are travelling by car, there are interesting things in all compass directions from the CBD anyway. RTSRE itself and the Visualisation Conference are both in the CBD and the majority of the social events are intended for this area. The two events planned to be outside of the CBD are most easily accessed by starting from the CBD. Therefore, we recommend staying around the CBD area.

There are far too many accommodation choices in the CBD to even begin to summarise them. Hotels and accommodation options are very well regulated in Australia and, basically, you get what you pay for. We are happy to help you out directly with your choice via email if it is a little overwhelming, if you want the finest luxury suite you can find or if you want to save every last $. You can actually save quite a lot of money if you have a larger group and want to hire a house 5-10 minutes train ride from the CBD. If you want advice just email us here.

On the map presented here, we suggest a general border within which to find accommodation. Within this region you will be swamped with public transit options, much of it free as the trams in the city area are free to travel on. At worst, the cost would be a few dollars a day. The big F represents Flinders Street station, which is where most public transit within Melbourne comes and goes from. The S represents Southern Cross station, this is where most public transit to and from regional (non-metropolitan) Victoria as well as the Airport comes and goes from.

Within this general red border, we break the city into three regions. North of the blue line, the city is largely medium-density single houses and post-industrial gentrified areas. Particularly on the Eastern side of the region near Brunswick Street and Smith Street you will find a wealth of restaurants, craft beer, craft wine bars, small art galleries and people eating smashed avocado on toast. It is probably around this region you might like to look for inner city Airbnb options.

The next region is south of the Green line, which largely follows the Yarra River. This area is called “Southbank”. It is essentially the arts centre of the city, which is quite extensive as well as being close to the, also extensive, Royal Botanic Gardens. The reason that this is a suggested region is that it would be the quietest of the three regions but still in easy walking (and tram) distance of all the action in the CBD.

The middle region is the CBD itself. There are an infinite amount of accommodation options, alleyways, bars, restaurants, street art and… just about anything you can think of… and then you will find a secret alleyway with much more. It is where most of the social events for the conference will be held. It is also the easiest region to travel to those co-located events that are outside of the city centre. Staying somewhere within a comfortable walk to Flinders Street Station will serve you well if you are staying in this region. The only drawback is it is the very centre of the city so can be quite busy… but that can also be an attraction!

 

Accommodation for larger groups

For those who are travelling in a group of 4 or more, it could be very cost-effective to find a house with multiple bedrooms outside of the CBD. Most of the inner city suburbs, particularly to the North or East of the CBD are very good options. Particularly Richmond, West Richmond, North Richmond, Collingwood,  North Melbourne, Clifton Hill and Westgarth are good options if you find a place within easy walk of the train station. Fitzroy, Fitzroy North and Carlton North are good locations that have good tram line access to the CBD.

Childcare during the RTSRE Conference


RTSRE will provide childcare for infants and pre-schoolers as well as older children with prior notice from attending parents and guardians. Please contact Michael directly to organise this: mfitzasp@gmail.com

“I’ve come all this way! Where else should I go?”


Australia is the size of the United States roughly, so there isn’t a straightforward answer. Here are ten suggestions in no particular order that you might like to consider.

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Background image credit: Saeed Salimpour