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Sydney fast facts

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Region : New South Wales
Country : Australia
Continent : Australasia
National Status : Federal Nation
National Population : 18,838,000 (2000 estimate, Source: United Nations Population Division, 1996)
City Population : 3,665,000 (2000 estimate, Source: United Nations Population Division, 1996)
National Capital : Canberra
Local Time : 10 hours from GMT
(15 hours from Eastern Standard Time.)
(18 hours from Pacific Standard Time.)
Official Language : English
Currency : Australian Dollar (AUD)
Religion : 75% Christian, Aboriginal beliefs, Jewish minority.

American Express For all travel-related inquiries regarding any American Express Service, including reporting a lost card, call tel. 1800/230-100. To report lost or stolen traveler's checks, call tel. 1800/251-902. The main AMEX office is at 92 Pitt St., near Martin Place (tel. 02/9239 0666). It's open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday from 9am to noon. If you've lost your traveler's checks, then you need to head to the office at 175 Liverpool St. (tel. 02/9271 1111). It's a locked security building so you'll need to call ahead first.

Baby-Sitters Dial an Angel (tel. 02/9416 7511 or 02/9362 4225) offers a well-regarded baby-sitting service.

Business Hours General office and banking hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Many banks, especially in the city center, are also open from around 9.30am to 12:30pm on Saturdays. Shopping hours are usually 8:30am to 5:30pm daily (9am to 5pm on Saturdays), and most stores stay open until 9pm on Thursdays. Most city-center stores are open from around 10am to 4pm on Sundays.

Camera Repair The Camera Service Centre, 1st Floor, 203 Castlereagh St. (tel. 02/9264 7091), is a tiny place up a flight of stairs not far from the Town Hall CityRail station. It repairs all kinds of cameras on the spot, or within a couple of days if parts are needed.

Currency Exchange Most major bank branches offer currency exchange services. Small foreign currency exchange offices are clustered at the airport and around Circular Quay and Kings Cross. Thomas Cook can be found at the airport; at 175 Pitt St. (tel. 02/9231 2877), open Monday to Friday from 6:45am to 5:15pm and Saturday from 10am to 2pm; in the Kingsgate Shopping Center, Kings Cross (tel. 02/9356 2211), open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm; and on the lower ground floor of the Queen Victoria Building (tel. 02/9264 1133), open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm (until 9pm Friday), Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Dentist A well-respected dentist office in the city is City Dental Practice, Level 2, 229 Macquarie St. (near Martin Place) (tel. 02/9221 3300). For dental problems after hours, call Dental Emergency Information (tel. 02/9369 7050).

Doctor The Park Medical Centre, Shop 4, 27 Park St. (tel. 02/9264 4488), in the city center near Town Hall, is 8 open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm; consultations cost $A35 (U.S. $24.50) for 15 minutes. Note: If you plan to take a dive course while in Australia, get your medical exam done here. It costs A$45/U.S.$31.50, which is about the cheapest in Australia). The Kings Cross Travelers' Clinic, Suite 1, 13 Springfield Ave., Kings Cross, just off Darlinghurst Road (tel. 1300/369 359 in Australia or tel. 02/9358 3066), is a great place for travel medicines and emergency contraception pills among other things. Hotel visits in the Kings Cross area cost A$60 to $80 (U.S.$42 to $56); consultations cost A$35 (U.S.$24.50). The Travelers' Medical Vaccination Centre, Level 7, 428 George St., in the city center (tel. 02/9221 7133), stocks and administers all travel-related vaccinations and medications.

Electricity The current is 240 volts AC, 50 Hertz. Sockets take two or three flat, not rounded, prongs. North Americans and Europeans will need to buy a converter before they leave home (don't wait until you get to Australia, because Australian stores only sell converters for Aussie appliances to fit American and European outlets). Some hotels have 110V outlets for electric shavers or dual-voltage, and some will lend converters, but don't count on it. Power does not start automatically when you plug in an appliance; you need to flick the switch located beside the socket to the "on" position.

Embassies/Consulates All foreign embassies are based in Canberra: British High Commission, Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6270 6666); High Commission of Canada, Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6273 3844); New Zealand High Commission, Commonwealth Avenue, Canberra ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6270 4211); and the United States Embassy, 21 Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6214 5600). You'll find the following consulates in Sydney: United Kingdom, Level 16, Gateway Building, 1 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay (tel. 02/9247 7521); New Zealand, 1 Alfred St., Circular Quay (tel. 02/9247 1344); United States, 19-29 Martin Place (tel. 02/9373 9200); and Canada, Level 5, 111 Harrington St., The Rocks (tel. 02/9364 3000).

Emergencies Dial tel. 000 to call police, the fire service, or an ambulance. Call the Emergency Prescription Service (tel. 02/9235 0333) for emergency drug prescriptions, and the NRMA for car breakdowns (tel. 13 11 11).

Etiquette Australia's laid-back disposition means it's first names from the start, handshakes all round, and no standing on ceremony, mate. Always return a "shout" (round) at the pub, and don't butt in if there's a queue (line). Avoid using a mobile telephone in a restaurant if you can and turn it off in the theater.

Eyeglass Repair Perfect Vision, Shop C22A, in the Centerpoint Tower, 100 Market St. (tel. 02/9221 1010), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm (until 9pm Thursday) and Saturday from 9am to 5pm.

Hospitals Make your way to Sydney Hospital, on Macquarie Street, at the top end of Martin Place (tel. 02/9382 7111 for emergencies). St. Vincents Hospital is on Victoria and Burton streets in Darlinghurst (near Kings Cross) (tel. 02/9339 1111).

Hotlines Contact the Poisons Information Center at tel. 13 11 26; the Gay and Lesbian Counseling Line (4pm to midnight) at tel. 02/9207 2800; the Rape Crisis Center at tel. 02/9819 6565; and the Crisis Center at tel. 02/9358 6577.

Internet Access Global Gossip, at 770 George St., near Central Station (tel. 02/9212 1466), and 111 Darlinghurst Rd., Kings Cross (tel. 02/9326 9777), offers Internet, e-mail, and computer access for A$2 (U.S.$1.40) for 10 minutes or A$10 (U.S.$7) per hour. It's open daily from 8am to midnight. Elsewhere in the city, the Surfnet Café (tel. 02/9976 0808), next to the public library in Manly, is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 9pm and Sunday from 9am to 7pm; the Internet Café, Level 3, Hotel Sweeney, 236 Clarence St. (tel. 02/9261 5666), is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 9pm and Saturday from noon to 6pm; and the Well Connected Café, 35 Glebe Point Rd., Glebe (tel. 02/9566 2655), is open Monday through Thursday from 10am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from noon to 10pm.

Liquor Laws Pub (bar) hours vary from pub to pub, but most are open Monday through Saturday from around 10am to 10pm or midnight. The minimum drinking age is 18. Random breath tests to catch drunk drivers are common, and drink-driving laws are strictly enforced. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 0.05. Alcohol is only sold in liquor stores, or "bottle shops" attached to a pub, and rarely in supermarkets.

Lost Property There is no general lost property bureau in Sydney. Contact the nearest police station if you think you've lost something. For items lost on trains, contact the Lost Property Office, 494 Pitt St., near Central Railway Station (tel. 02/9379 3000). The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. For items left behind on planes or lost at the airport, go to the Federal Airport Corporation's administration office on the top floor of the international terminal at Sydney International Airport (tel. 02/9667 9583). For stuff left behind on buses or ferries, call tel. 02/9245 5777. Each taxi company has its own lost property office.

Luggage Storage You can leave your bags at the International Terminal at the airport. A locker here costs A$4 (U.S.$2.80) per day, or you can put them in the storage room for A$6 (U.S.$4.20) per day per piece. The storage room is open from 4:30am to the last flight of the day. Call tel. 02/9667 9848 for information. Otherwise, leave luggage at the cloakroom at Central Station, near the front of the main building off George Street (tel. 02/9219 4395). Storage at the rail station costs A$1.50 (U.S.$1.05) per article until 10:30pm the following evening and A$4.50 (U.S.$3.15) per article every day thereafter. Travelers Contact Point, 7th floor, 428 George St. (tel. 02/9221 8744), stores luggage for A$10 (U.S.$7) per piece per month.

Newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald is considered one of the world's best newspapers and is available throughout metropolitan Sydney. The equally prestigious Australian is available nationwide. The metropolitan Telegraph Mirror is a more casual read. The International Herald Tribune, USA Today, the British Guardian Weekly and other U.K. newspapers can be found at Circular Quay newspaper stands and most newsagents.

Pharmacies Most suburbs have pharmacies that are open late. For after-hours referral, contact the Emergency Prescription Service (tel. 02/9235 0333).

Police In an emergency dial tel. 000. Make nonemergency police inquiries through the Sydney Police Centre (tel. 02/9281 0000).

Post Office Australia's single postal service, Australia Post (tel. 13 13 17 in Australia) has a post office in every suburb. Every state capital has a central General Post Office (GPO) offering a complete range of services. Sydney's GPO is at 130 Pitt St. (tel. 13 13 17 in Australia). It's open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday from 8am to noon. Letters can be sent c/o Poste Restante, GPO, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia (tel. 02/9244 3733), and collected at 310 George St., on the 3rd floor of the Hunter Connection shopping center.It's open Monday to Friday from 8:15am to 5:30pm. For directions to the post office nearest you, call tel. 1800/043 300. Some newsagents sell stamps. A postcard costs A95˘ (U.S.67˘) to the United States or Canada, A$1 to the United Kingdom, and A70˘ to New Zealand. American Express cardholders can have mail sent to any American Express office in Australia for collection.

Rest Rooms These can be found in the Queen Victoria Building (second floor), most department stores, at Central Station and Circular Quay, near the escalators by the Sydney Aquarium, at Darling Harbour, and in the Harbourside Festival Marketplace in Darling Harbour.

Safety Sydney is an extremely safe city overall, but as anywhere else, it's good to keep your wits about you and your wallethidden. If you wear a moneybelt, keep it underneath your shirt. Be wary in Kings Cross and Redfern at all hours, and around the cinema strip on George Street near Town Hall station in the evening-it's a hangout for local gangs. Other places of concern are the back lanes of Darlinghurst and along the Bondi restaurant strip when the drunks spill out after midnight. Several people have reported thieves operating at the airport on odd occasions. If traveling by train at night, travel in the carriages next to the guard's van, marked with a blue light on the outside.

Taxes Beginning July 1, 2000, Australia will have a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on most goods sold in Australia. By law, the tax has to be included in the advertised price of the product. A 10% state government "Bed Tax" was introduced for all hotels in New South Wales, except backpacker accommodations, in September 1998; this tax will be abolished as soon as the GST takes effect.

Telephone To call Australia from North America: Dial the international access code tel. 011; then Australia's country code (tel. 61); then the area code (02 for Sydney and all of New South Wales); then the local number. The area codes found throughout this book all begin with "0"; you drop the "0" if you're calling from outside Australia, but you need to dial it along with the area code if you're calling long distance within Australia. For example, to ring the Sydney Opera House (tel. 02/9250 7111) from the United States, dial 011-61-2-9250-7111.

To call Australia from the United Kingdom: Dial the international access code tel. 00, and then follow the instructions above.

To make an international call from Australia: Dial the international access code tel. 0011 (note it has two zeros, not one like the international access code from North America); then the country code, then the area code, and finally the local number. Dial 0012 instead of 0011, and the operator will ring back within minutes of the call to tell you what the call will cost. To find out a country code, call tel. 1222 or look in the back of the Australian White Pages. Common country codes are USA and Canada, 1; United Kingdom, 44; New Zealand, 64; and South Africa, 27.

To make an international credit card or collect call from Australia, dial one of the following access codes to your country:

United States: ATT Direct tel. 1800/881 011, Sprint tel. 1800/881 877, MCI tel. 1800/881 100, Worldcom tel. 1800/881 212, or Bell Atlantic tel. 1800/881 152;

United Kingdom: BT tel. 1800/881 441 or Mercury tel. 1800/881 417;

New Zealand: tel. 1800/881 640.

To use a calling card from some pay phones, you will need to deposit 40˘ to put the call through, but this is usually refunded when you hang up.

Global Gossip, at 770 George St., near Central Station (tel. 02/9212 1466), and 111 Darlinghurst Rd., Kings Cross (tel. 02/9326 9777), offers cheap international telephone calls.

Australia's Toll-Free Numbers: Australian phone numbers starting with 1800 are toll-free; numbers starting with 13 or 1300 are charged at the local fee of 25˘ from anywhere in Australia. These numbers can only be dialed within Australia. Numbers beginning with 1900 (or 1901, 1902, etc) are pay-for-service lines (like 900 numbers in the United States); expect to be charged as much as A$5 (U.S.$3.50) a minute

Local Calls: Local calls in Australia are untimed and cost a flat A40˘ from a public telephone, or A25˘ from a private phone in a home or office.

Newsagents and some tourist information booths sell Smart Phonecards (which you swipe in the pay-phone) and PhoneAway cards (which you use by dialing access codes printed on the card) containing a prepaid allotment of call time; not all public telephones take these cards yet.

Cellular or "mobile" telephones are hugely popular in Australia and are available for daily rental in major cities.

Operator Assistance: To reach the operator for help making a call, dial tel. 1234. To make a collect or "reverse charges" call, dial the operator at tel. 12550.

To find out a telephone number, call Directory Assistance at tel. 1223 for numbers within Australia, or tel. 1225 for overseas numbers.

Time Australia crosses three time zones. When it is noon in New South Wales, the A.C.T., Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, it is 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory and 10am in Western Australia. All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia observe daylight savings time from around the last Sunday in October (the first Sunday in October in Tasmania's case) to around the first Sunday in March. To confuse things, not all states switch over to daylight savings on the same day or even in the same week.

The east coast of Australia is GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) plus 10 hours. When it is noon (Eastern Standard Time or EST) on the east coast, it is 2am in London that morning, and 6pm in Los Angeles and 9pm in New York the previous night. These times are based on standard time, so allow for daylight savings in the Australian summer, or in the country you are calling. New Zealand is two hours ahead of the east coast of Australia.

For the exact local time in Australia, call tel. 1194, or tel. 1222 for the exact local time overseas. For national and international time zones, ring tel. 1900/937 106.

Travelers Assistance Travelers Contact Point, at Level 7, 428 George St. (tel. 02/9221 8744; fax 02/9221 3746), offers an in-house employment agency for working holidays, an Australia-wide mail forwarding service, Internet access, and short-term mobile phones.

Useful Telephone Numbers For news, dial tel. 1199; for the time, tel. 1194; for Sydney entertainment, tel. 11 688; for phone directory/assistance, tel. 013 (local numbers), tel. 0175 (interstate numbers) or tel. 0103 (international numbers); and for Travelers Aid Society, tel. 02/9211 2469.





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