I am traveling to Australia January 2014 and was wondering if anyone can help me with a company to use? I read BUNAC is the way to go. I have also read about Ultimate Oz, which I don't really understand. Do they do group accommodations also? Or just a tour once you get there? Any advise is greatly appreciated! Also, is anyone else planning to go???
None of them: You're going on an amazing trip which will almost certainly change your outlook on life in at least a few ways. A trip which'll build your confidence on being able to handle most anything life throws your way. Why start off with unnecessary handholding, given that the country you're going to is set up with absolutely amazing backpacker infrastructure, and that the things these companies "help" you with are very easy to do yourself in the first place?
For me, doing the necessary research (reading a lonely planet was all that was necessary; or you could also just search these forums), and then going out to get a tax file number and open a bank account on my own, were the first few steps that helped me build up the confidence to hop on random busses and trains and go everywhere. Learning how easy it was to get to talking with fellow travellers in hostel's lounges on my own, booking some activities on my own - it's all so easy, and yet it helps so much to see this for yourself when you've never done it before.
Everyone's style is different and comfort zones certainly vary wildly between different people, but honestly Shelby there's no need to hire a tour operator unless that group experience is specifically what you're after.
Remember that you're going to a country that speaks (almost, haha) the very same language, watches mostly the same movies, listens to mostly the same music, eats mostly the same food, wears mostly the same clothes, etc.
Remember too that Australia has a superb support network for foreign tourists including budget backpackers.
In other words Australia is not an exotic or intimidating or difficult destination in the slightest, it's a super easy place to travel and just different enough to be really cool and fun.
Bottom line: No matter which route you choose eelax and have a gas.
In the 'olden' days, to travel from the US, you actually had to go through an organization like BUNAC or InterExchange, but this requirement has been lifted for a while now. You should be aware you need to apply for the Work and Holiday Visa (sublass 462), not the Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417). The info about the visa can all be found here. The application can be started here.
Like Sander and CheersT say, it's pretty easy to research/do it all alone. The more outgoing type of person you are, the easier you are going to find it to make contact with others once in Oz, just like at home I guess
Everyone is different, and I actually went on the Ultimate Oz tour.
Wouldn't have changed it, glad I did.
Yes you are right it's easy to set up everything but from what I have heard from people that never done what I have done initially and I told them what I got out of the experience and still do then they are actually surprised.
The guys in the Ultimate Oz office, either Karin and Danny and the others (many are travellers that stop around for a few months) are absolutly awesome. It is a travel agency and they know OZ so they will give you the help, support and advice. They have also set up Ultimate Thailand.
Before I even left the UK i had an idea whom was on my orientation tour as they introduced us and that made it slightly more re-assuring. Sunday arrival and I was whisked off from the Airport to Wake Up hostel which is a great hostel which is a mixed of party and non party. Because i had already made friends with a couple of people on the FB pages by Monday morning many of us had become friends for the start of the tour.
On Monday good old dave with Karin met us all in the foyer of wake up and we went out on a tour of Sydney I already knew it anyway so it wasn't a major deal (family live there). Monday night was spent getting to know each other in the Bar with pizza.
Throughout all that week we had various events and things on. They set up our tax file details and everthing else for us, i got mobile sim packs (always go for optus if possible they are really good. Also gave me instructions on how to set up Medi bank health cover what I wuold need. I have a mailing addres and access to job list (though it's better to use seek.com.au ).
Also got bank card and details.
Rest of the week was set up doing all sorts including two nights away in Port Stephens. You get to meet Josie whom is a roo. She is so freindly!
There was plenty of other stuff to do!
It's a great way of meeting people and yuo will have to see if you would like it.
Thanks for that first hand account. Sounds like it's a great service for nervous first timers.