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I borrowed the Lonely Planet Guide to Australia from a friend before embarking on my trip. I could not put it down, reading about all the places I was going to visit, and a lot were added to my list of places I wanted to visit from reading this book.
It starts off with useful facts for the visitor which includes everything from when to go, suggested itineraries on your time frame and available budget, the 40 most recommended things to do/see, the culture and climate of the country to what you should do about getting a visa, airlines you should book with, how to open a bank account in Australia or get to your funds while you are there, domestic airlines you might wish to use in Oz to get around, where to find internet cafes and where you can find British Embassies in case you lose your passport!
Then each chapter is dedicated to a different state in Oz and everything is in order so it's easy to find anything you want, and if you are travelling in the opposite direction to that described in thebook well it's still easy then too! For each place, it gives things to do, places to eat, places to go and a very honest opinion on whether it is worth it! For example, if a hostel is dark and gloomy and not good facilities/service wise it will let you know!
It also includes prices, opening hours, phone numbers to call to book beds/tours in advance, companies that do organised tours in that area and at the beginning of each chapter a list of "Must do" things for that state. It really is indispensable to any backpacker or traveller for that matter as it also includes hotels and more expensive accommodation etc.
When reading this guide I recommend taking note of what it says but not wanting to do 'everything!" Read what it has to say and prioritise on things/tours you want to do.
There are many editions of this book and obviously the latest one is the most up to date but the one I used was from 2000 and I came out here in 2004. It is still helpful so if you can get an old version cheap don't worry too much that nothing in the book will still be true. The places will pretty much be the same, most of the tour operators will still be up and running (and if they've been going 5 years then you know they must at least be okay!), just add a bit on to the prices and you'll be okay!
The only thing I would say about this book to be wary of is it is quite big and heavy to be lugging around in your backpack, not necessarily a 'disadvantage' cos it'as packed with useful information but if you aren't going round all of Oz, maybe downsize a little to the "East Coast Lonely Planet" covering Cairns to Sydney or "Western Australia" or "Queensland" etc. which pretty much are the same as the full Oz version in terms of content and quality, just tell you about places you aren't going to visit anyway!