Getting Here and Around


[This section is largely US-focused, as most GNSI members are from the US; please refer to your own country’s requirements and fees if you are traveling from elsewhere on the globe.]

Where/how do I get a US passport?

The travel website for the United States State department overview covers everything: After taking a quick look at the requirements in points 1-4, begin with point 5, the Passport Wizard, which will help guide you through the process. How long will it take to get my passport? It takes 6-8 weeks, including 2 weeks to gather documentation. You will need certified copies of citizenship evidence, photo ID and an up-to-date photo of correct size as per examples are given. Read the information carefully to prevent delay. You need to appear in person if applying for the first time. The website will tell you the closest locations based on your zip code. Renewals can be mailed in. You can choose to have the process expedited, but it costs more.


$145 for application and execution fees, paid separately. You will need a passport book for full international travel. (The passport card is for neighbouring countries to the US only—e.g. Canada, Bermuda). Expediting costs an extra $60 to have your papers processed more quickly.

Do I need a visa to travel to Australia?  

If staying for less than 90 days, you can acquire an electronic travel authority (ETA) by applying online. Visit this website for more information and to apply:

The application button is to the bottom right of the photo. Make sure you have a valid passport before you start the process. The ETA costs AU$20. A lot of useful information can be found at the United States State Department website.

How much will it cost to travel to Australia from the US?

Costs can vary greatly depending on the days you choose to travel, the airline, even the time of day. The sooner you book, the cheaper it will be; prices will rise as your preferred departure date draws closer. Travel agents are useful as they often have the best deals and expertise to ensure enough time is allowed between connecting flights to change terminals. Many don’t charge for this service as they get a kickback from the airlines. It’s worth a visit to see what they can offer.

How long does it take to get to Australia?

Approximately 12-14 hours from Los Angeles direct to Brisbane. Approximately 22 hours from NYC/Washington D.C. to Brisbane via Los Angeles or Sydney with a 2-4 hr. layover. It is not recommended to have connecting flights with less than 2 hours unless going through the same terminal and airline to ensure smooth handing over of luggage. Check how close the domestic terminal is from the international terminal. These are good questions to ask a travel agent. Comfort and health on the long flight Some airlines supply an eye mask and earplugs, but it’s best to make sure of these essentials for such a long flight. Noise-cancelling headphones are great as the noise can be quite wearying. 

Make sure you get up and move around when possible. Rotate your ankles and move your legs even in your seat as often as you can. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a danger on long flights. If you have asymmetrical swelling in your legs after a long flight, see a doctor straight away.

Do I need vaccinations?

Australia is a low-risk destination as we have strict quarantine laws and, being the largest island continent, our watery borders help prevent diseases from easily entering. However, every country has its small outbreaks of whooping cough, measles, influenza etc. So it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about how complete and up-to-date your standard vaccinations are (measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis/whooping cough, varicella/chickenpox, polio, pneumococcal etc). Some, like tetanus, may require renewal. Influenza/flu shot is recommended a month before departure.

Although infection is rare, if planning to spend a lot of time outdoors in more remote and in the tropical regions of far northern areas of Australia, it is recommended to wear good quality insect repellent against mosquitoes which can carry several viruses such as Ross River virus and dengue fever. Cover up your bare skin as much as possible. Although considered one of our warmer cities, Brisbane is not considered the far north. There are few, if any, mosquitoes around in a Brisbane winter. The average temperature in July is between 59°F and 68°F.


Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road. Remember that the driver’s door is always closest 
to the middle of the road. Brisbane has pretty good public transport. It operates on a Go-card, a prepaid card that you use to tap on and off when entering or leaving buses, trains and ferries. All these forms of transport are integrated and you have an hour to transfer between rides to continue on the one fare. A ride on the fast CityCat ferry is a tourist must. Trains are operated by the state government while buses and ferries are operated by the Brisbane City Council and some private bus companies. Fares and timetables are coordinated through TransLink.

Busways are dedicated roads for buses only and there is one that runs between University of Queensland and the city, also connecting to other conference venues, Queensland Museum, and Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove Campus. There are stations on these busways similar to those on a train line.

Transport from Brisbane Airport

A taxi fare from Brisbane Airport to Women’s College, UQ St Lucia will cost between AUD$54-75. Your US Uber app will operate in Brisbane and Uber-X will cost about AUD$38 (at time of writing US$27) for the same journey. (Uber is not as cheap as in the USA). You can use free wi-fi at the airport to call an Uber but it’s recommended you purchase a SIM card (if you require one) before leaving the airport. See phone section on page 5.) It is possible to get the Air-train to Roma Street Station (in the Central Business District) and then transfer to a number 66 bus to the University of Queensland (UQ) Lakes Station at a cost of AUD$21.75. It is a 10 min. walk from the Lakes Station to the Women’s College.

How far is the Great Barrier Reef from Brisbane?

By train it is 1681 kilometres to the northern reef but the southern reef is about 500 kms away. You can travel by car, bus and train but the fastest way is to fly there. The reef is extensive and there are many different mainland towns and cities where you can book a boat trip out to the reef for the day or you can stay on an island, such as Hamilton Island. Trains are an option for the southern reef but airfares are very competitive and save time. If you prefer trains the website is: You can fly from Brisbane to either Cairns, Proserpine (to catch a transfer bus) or Hamilton Island. It is a 2.5-hour flight to Cairns. The costs range between AUD$160 - $310 each way.

Domestic flights around Australia

Virgin is approximately in the midrange. Jetstar, owned by Qantas, is the cheapest but may be less reliable. Tiger is cheap and owned by Virgin. Qantas is the most expensive and the most reliable. If you can afford to, go with Virgin or Qantas, they are the most reliable. Geoff has had good experiences with Tiger but any airline may experience delays. Australian airlines generally have very good safety records. Your baggage allowances will be smaller than on international flights. Some airlines are ruthless about extra charges and weighing cabin baggage. Paying for baggage when you book is the cheapest option.