Taking a trip to Brisbane? We chat to Aussie Media Manager Finbar Brown about all things to do down under in this Australian city.
What’s one thing everyone ought to know about Brisbane?
Sydneysiders and Melburnians used to mock Brissie for being a “big country town” rather than a cosmopolitan city, but these days they’re more likely to look upon the place with envy. “Brisvegas” has done a lot of catching up in the cultural and culinary stakes over the past 20 or so years, to the point where it’s the rival in many ways of its two bigger brothers down south. And the weather is way better.
How often do you travel to this city, and who do you fly with?
I currently split my time between Brisbane and Singapore. I either fly Scoot to the Gold Coast (an hour’s drive from Brisbane), or Emirates or Etihad direct to Brisbane. Qantas and Singapore Airlines are other options.
How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
Only Aussies and Kiwis are exempt from visas. Citizens of most (not all) other countries can apply online at immi.gov.au.
Fastest way into and around the city?
A cab from Brisbane Airport to the city centre costs around S$70 for the 20-minute trip. There are cheaper train, bus and shuttle options.
When are the good and bad times to visit?
Any time of year is pleasant. The heat and humidity in summer (December to February) will make anyone from Singapore feel right at home. Winters are never freezing but the nights can get cold; it’s still a good time to come though, because the skies are often crystal clear.
Which hotels do you recommend?
If business services aren’t your main priority when it comes to accommodation, I suggest staying in a new boutique hotel rather than one of the older international chains. NEXT is right in the middle of the CBD, with a nice rooftop pool and bar. Tryp has an arty focus, and Gambaro Hotel opened last year to acclaim (and it’s right next to a football stadium).
What’s the dress code for meetings?
It might be hot in summer but a traditional professional dress code still applies: a dark suit and tie for banker and lawyer types, with creative industries tending to favour a slightly more casual approach.
Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Communication tends to be direct and lacking in formality. Expect a firm handshake when meeting someone for the first time, and to be on first-name terms from the get-go. A lot of Australians are fond of “colourful” language, and the fact that you’ve only just met won’t necessarily preclude them from using it. For purposes of conversation, it’s good to know a few sporting results and a dash of local politics. (If you don’t know these, you soon will…)
If you’re taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Il Centro (try the sand-crab lasagne), E’cco Bistro and Aria are outstanding options in the middle of the business district.
Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
There are countless bars in Brisbane – this town definitely enjoys a bevvie or two. Rather than choosing a bar, I suggest choosing an area, and then finding a venue that suits your mood. The CBD is probably the least interesting place for drinks, although The Eagle Street Pier has some nice riverside spots for kicking things off straight after work. West End has a higher hipster quotient, Fortitude Valley (“The Valley”) is the place to go for live music, and suburbs such as Paddington and Newstead have some hidden gems.
Any unsafe areas to avoid?
The Valley is a bit dodgy late at night, but Brisbane is generally one of those places where you’re likely only to get into trouble if you go looking for it.
Best local street food or dish?
Mobile food trucks have become popular in Brissie: track down their current locations on Facebook and try Bella BBQ for burgers and beers, King of the Wings for chicken appendages, or Oi Taco for, yeah, tacos.
If you’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Brisbane is less renowned for its sights than its friendly, outdoorsy vibe. If you’ve got some time you could travel an hour or so to a nearby surf break (e.g., Kirra, D-Bah and Burleigh on the Gold Coast, or slightly further south to Byron Bay). Or go to see a game of live sport in Brisbane: cricket or Aussie Rules Football at The Gabba, or rugby league, rugby union or soccer at Suncorp Stadium. Mt Coot-tha, 15 minutes west of the city, has some great bush trails to explore on foot or bike.
Gifts to take home for family and friends?
If you shop at one of the tacky souvenir stalls in the Queen Street Mall or at the airport, you’ll likely come away with a money purse made from a kangaroo’s scrotum – always good for a laugh (though not for the kangaroo). Other options: an Akubra hat or a few bottles of Aussie wine.
At the end of a trip, how long do you really need to get to the airport and get checked in?
Like at all Australian airports, there’s plenty of paperwork and checks and balances to get through at Brisbane Airport, so give yourself a couple of hours there.