WWDC Frequently Asked Questions

Please note that we no longer run a WWDC Scholarship program. This page remains purely for historical purposes.

Where is WWDC?

WWDC 2012 will be held at the Moscone Convention Centre in San Francisco, California, in the United States. San Francisco is the major city in northern California and the gateway to Silicon Valley. The dates are 11-15 June 2012.

How do I get to the USA?

Most Australian and New Zealand delegates enter the US through San Francisco or Los Angeles. Five major airlines operate from Australia/New Zealand to the west coast of the USA.

For the more adventurous, competitive fares can sometimes be found for travel to the USA via Asia including Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

Tip: We prefer direct flights to San Francisco if possible, it takes the stress out of changing flights and having to go through LAX which can be a nightmare (trust us, it is).

From other Australian and New Zealand points of origin, your travel agent will almost certainly book you through Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland. Any way go you, it’s a very long overnight flight. Qantas list SYD/LAX as 13 hours 30 minutes; MEL/LAX is 13:45 and AKL/LAX is 11:50.

Wear comfortable loose fitting clothes, bring something to read, flex your leg and feet muscles from time to time (helps you avoid DVT), drink plenty of fluids but not alcohol! Earplugs are invaluable for getting to sleep and noise-canceling headphones are great for watching the movies and listening to music if you can get hold of some (an iPod/iPad is a good investment!). A good book also helps pass the time.

How do I get to my hotel from the Airport?

If you fly into San Francisco Airport, the cheapest way to get to a hotel in downtown San Francisco is by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport). The BART train stops on the upper level of the International terminal. (Note that the northern station goes to San Francisco, the southern one only to goes to Millbrae). When travelling from the airport on BART, aim to get off at the Montgomery St BART Station, which is right in the middle of the hotels that service the convention centre and nearest to the Courtyard Marriott.

BART tickets are purchased from ticket machines at the BART station. These tickets are stored-value cards, and you can recharge them at the same machines, paying with cash or a credit card.  Be sure to take your ticket when you pass the turnstile as you will need it again to exit at your destination.  The cost from the airport to the city is about USD$9, so be sure to charge your card with at least this amount.

Another option is a door-to-door shuttle van. These are available from outside the terminal building (look for signs for door-to-door shuttles – these are different to the “hotel shuttles” which are operated by airport hotels, not downtown hotels). These vans are shared by about 8 to 10 people and they drop each person off at whatever hotel they’re going to. They have agents on the sidewalk at the terminal who take care of grouping people up – you don’t have to be a group. The fare is about $15 and the driver will expect a tip. If you’re rolling in money, taxis are readily available, but expect the fare to be about $40. Transfer costs are not claimable from the AUC.

The Courtyard Marriott is an easy walk to the Convention Centre, or to the local public transport system which takes you to the Convention Centre. Rain is unusual but you should be prepared for it as it can be quite heavy and there is no shelter over the footpaths.

When should I travel?

The conference starts on a Mondy and it usually kicks off with a keynote. You need to be early to get a good seat. There’s a 7 hour time difference from Sydney to San Francisco, and that difference along with an overnight flight is enough to knock most people about. You must book your flights such that you arrive in San Francisco on the Saturday before WWDC (or earlier).

The conference usually winds up by 3pm on a Friday. It is possible to make a late night departure that night from San Francisco. If you’re heading straight back to Australia/New Zealand, there will be much less strain if you leave the US on Saturday. It will probably be a night flight which gets you back home sometime on Monday.

What passports and visas do I need?

You will need a passport with at least six months validity. Check with your travel agent, but Australian and New Zealand passport holders (and those of a number of other countries) can enter the USA under a visa waiver program and do not usually need a visa issued in advance for a visit of less than 90 days.

Since January 2009 visitors to the USA who wish to use the visa waiver program must complete an ESTA application on-line at least 72 hours before the travel. There is a small fee to cover the processing of this application.

If you are flying on a passport that does require a visa then leave about 6 weeks to arrange this through your nearest US consulate. Make sure your passport and visa are valid for at least 6 months after your expected date of return otherwise you may be denied entry.

Scholarship winners who require a visa must confirm receipt of their visa with the AUC at least two weeks prior to the conference, or their scholarship will be withdrawn.

What about security since the terrorist attacks on 11th September 2001?

Security on airlines is very tight and all US airports and carriers have new rules regarding access to terminals, aircraft and other secure areas. Expect more security screening than is usual for local domestic travel, and expect longer delays for security screening. At LAX in particular, there are sometimes long queues at the screening point.

Make sure you have the correct paperwork (tickets, passport, visa, etc) with you before you arrive at the airport. Travelers should allow at least 3 hours for international check-in and be prepared to have all luggage (carry-on and checked) hand searched by security staff. You may even be asked to undergo a physical body search and have your shoes and clothing examined.

Remember some basic rules when traveling:

  1. Arrive early (at least 3 hours for international and 2 hours for domestic flights).
  2. Be prepared to have your luggage and clothes searched.
  3. Be patient and friendly, remember that the increased security is for your benefit.
  4. Don’t even think about making jokes with the security people. They have no sense of humour and your journey will end.


Don’t even think about leaving home without travel insurance. It’s a very bad idea to visit the United States without travel insurance, particularly to cover medical and ambulance costs. Delegates supported by the AUC (particularly University staff) may well be covered by blanket travel insurance policies held by their Universities – but don’t make an assumption about that! Check whether the University has you covered and if not, arrange your own insurance. Your travel agent can assist you with this.

Students MUST have travel insurance which has been sighted by their local AUCDF coordinator before they travel.

How do people dress at WWDC?

It’s casual. You’ll see a few suits, but hardly any. You’ll see a lot more jeans and t-shirts. On a typical day, a jacket, sweater or windsheater would be uncomfortable outside, but bring something like that for evenings. Delegates from most parts of Australia and New Zealand will find that the weather is a little warmer in San Francisco at that time of the year.

How do I stay in touch with home?

At WWDC, there will be a Wi-Fi network for you to use. For e-mail, it’s best if your e-mail system allows access via the web – in the style of Gmail and the like. If you bring a MacBook or iPhone, make sure you have wireless as Apple provide free wireless Internet access in the convention centre. The Courtyard Marriott also has free WiFi guest can use.

For phoning home, avoid charging calls from the hotel “to the room”. Hotels charge outrageous mark-ups and service charges on international calls. Instead, take something like an Optus Calling Card or a Telstra Telecard. These can also be used from public phones.

If you have a tri-band or quad-band GSM mobile, it will work in the USA, so long as your carrier has roaming agreements with USA carriers. If you have a dual-band or non-GSM phone, you’re out of luck (but check with your carrier because sometimes things change). Using an Australian or New Zealand mobile for calls in the USA is expensive, but SMS is useful and not much more expensive than at home.

What’s the Conference like?

In the main, the conference itself is an intensive technical workshop for software and hardware developers for the Macintosh. It is not about using the Mac; it is about developing application software and peripherals. Expect to work hard and take plenty of notes. The technical sessions quickly get down to source-code level.

Outside the conference proper, you’ll meet thousands of people from all over the world who know a lot about developing for Macintosh. They come from Universities, government departments, major corporations, start-ups, etc. They are all there and there’s plenty of time to meet and talk in the breaks. On at least some evenings, there will probably be extra sessions, demonstrations or hospitality events.

Can I Smoke and Drink?

In California (and on United Airlines), you’re not allowed to drink alcohol until the age of 21. They do check. “We Card” means you need some kind of photographic identification which shows that you are 21 or older. Smoking tobacco products in public indoor spaces is forbidden just about every where, nearly all hotels forbid smoking in all guest rooms. Also all flights are non-smoking. If you smoke, try to give up!

Should I Drive?

Driving is not necessary for attending the conference, or even for spending a day looking around San Francisco. If you do want to get around the area a bit before or after the conference, a rental car can be very useful. An Australian/New Zealand drivers licence is fine, and you’ll need a major credit card. Some car rental companies won’t rent to drivers under 25 years of age.

You may want to make arrangements in advance; if you are considering driving then get a good map and study it before you go. “Insurance included” means different things in renting a car in different parts of the world and between rental companies. Read the fine print carefully and if you’re still unsure, get the agent to explain. You need cover against damage or theft to the vehicle, and you need cover against damage to third-party property and third-party injury. Americans do seem to like lawsuits.

How much spending money will I need?

It all depends. There’s no getting away from the fact that the US is an expensive place these days even with the strong Australian dollar. And San Francisco is one of the more expensive places in the US.

Your incidental costs depend on how you spend your time, especially your free time. For the duration of the conference itself, breakfast, lunch, soft drinks, coffee and snacks are all provided. It’s in the evenings, and the days before and after the conference proper, that you might spend some real money.

As a very rough rule of thumb, expect the price in dollars for food, drinks and other incidentals to be about what it is in Sydney or Melbourne. Upmarket, and especially where alcohol is concerned, expect the $US price there to be more than the $AUD price. Remember that on top of most prices there will be a 9.25% sales tax and that a tip of 10-15% is expected in most restaurants and bars. Tips aren’t expected at fast-food outlets. If you’re on a tight budget, you could make it on $US15-$US20 per day, eating at the conference and having pizza or burgers with soft drinks for dinner.

Take $US Traveler Cheques, they are almost as good as cash and your hotel will gladly exchange them for real cash if your are staying there. Most major stores (including Fry’s) will take Travelers Cheques with appropriate photo ID (usually a Passport).

Do I need a Credit Card?

It is a very good idea to have come sort of credit card (VISA, Master Card or Amex) when traveling in the US. While all retail shops accept cash and travelers cheques, most hotels require a credit card when you check-in for surety purposes. If you do not have a credit card you will have some difficulty when checking out of your hotel.

If you want to pay by someone else’s credit card who will not be at the conference you need to have a copy of their credit card (front and rear) with a letter of authority signed by the credit card holder (same signature as on the card) authorising the charges on the credit card up to a certain amount of money. It is also a very good idea to have their contact details on the letter of authorisation so that the hotel can check with the card holder if required. When using a credit card, especially for larger purchases, you may be asked for photo identification – a passport is best.

What is the Shopping like?

Books and magazines usually cost a bit less than in Australia, and computer stuff costs about the same. Keep your head on at computer shops and at the Convention Centre – remember to add 9.25% California state sales tax to the sticker price and to allow for the exchange rate. If you’re thinking of making any big purchases, check out local prices before you go, and be wary of PAL/NTSC formats for videos and DVDs (Australia & New Zealand uses the PAL system and region 4 DVDs) and power supply issues for any electrical appliance (Australia & New Zealand requires a 240V AC power supply).

Some of the more popular stores to visit include Frys (geek and technology heaven), the Gap (trendy clothes store), the Apple retail stores or just visit the huge malls which have hundreds of shops and have almost everything you could ever want. Don’t forget mail-order but make sure the company will deliver to your hotel before you leave!

Check with your bank, but most shops and restaurants accept Mastercard, Visa and Amex cards. ATMs will give you access to your Mastercard and Visa credit accounts, but usually not to cheque or savings accounts. They often charge a fee for withdrawing cash.

What if I get ill and can’t attend?

The best idea is to urgently contact the AUC and let us know. Apple will not refund any WWDC e-tickets purchased and most airlines and hotels require at least 72 hours notice of any cancellation, and even then you may have to pay a penalty.

What can I do on a spare day?

There’s plenty to see and do. Check with your hotel concierge but one suggestion is to see San Francisco for the day. Make sure you go to the Metreon building in the downtown area although its mostly empty these days. The San Francisco Apple store is just across the street from the Ferrari store and well worth a visit. Fishermans Wharf is very touristy but worth a visit via the Cable Cars. If you want to visit Alactraz Island (the ex-maximum security prison) you will need to book ahead. You can also walk over the Golden Gate Bridge on a good day.