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The big move to Australia: something that a lot of people seem to do, but no one really tells you how to do. Well, my friends, I am here to fill that void for you. Before I came here I googled tons of things, made a checklist, checked requirements, talked to millions of people, and kindof felt like I was feeling around in the dark trying to figure out the right way to go about relocating myself down under. Maybe I should rephrase that – the right way to go about moving to Australia… In the most painless and easy way possible, using the best resources to find a place to live and get a job, and to find the place that I would fit in best. And now I will share everything I have learned and wish I knew before, with you! Find out what moving to and living in Australia is really like, whether you move for one year, two years, or completely emigrate!
When a rainbow forms over an already breathtaking view. Just to blow your mind to a million more pieces. 12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria – Photo: Me 🙂
1. Apply For Your Visa to Move to Australia
Step number one to move to Australia: Visa!! Of course, what kind of visa you get depends on what you want to do when you move to Australia. If you are like most travelers (and me!) and getting your Working Holiday Visa, the process will be similar for all countries that are able to attain this visa. Check the requirements here: (https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/417) Some countries can do farm work to extend this visa and some can’t, but the initial process will be the same.
Then, make an ‘immi’ account here:
Fill out all your passport and residency details, upload all relevant documents, submit it… and then you wait! Make sure you are out of the country when you apply for your visa, because you must have the visa before you enter.
- Read more about everything you need to know for your working holiday visa!
Nothin’ more Aussie than painting a boomerang in the Outback. Coober Pedy, South Australia – Photo 🙂
2. Decide Where in Australia You Want To Move
Australia is a MASSIVE country. Like, huge. I traveled around it for a month before settling in, and I was constantly amazed by how far apart things were. This is mostly because this ginormous country is full of a whole lot of nothin’ in between its big cities, and especially in the outback. To put things in perspective, Australia has just over 1/3 the population of England… yes England, that tiny little island! Don’t get me wrong, there is so incredibly much to see- zillions of National Parks to check out, great cities, and world class scenery.
So, all in all, it will be tough to decide where in Australia to move. Sydney is massive, and has dozens of suburbs to choose from within it alone – you can get big city vibes, beachy towns, trendy neighborhoods, and much more. Melbourne is a bit trendier and more cultural but smaller, with lots of cool festivals and ‘doofs’ in Victoria. Perth is beautiful but the most remote city in the world. Cairns is a cute city with a completely tropical climate, and the Great Barrier Reef! There are tons of places in Queensland that are scenic- generally, you can look, but you can’t touch because of crocs, stingrays, and jellies! Adelaide is smaller but beautiful, with lots of WINE!
Byron Bay is a tiny town with great hippie vibes and surf. From what I have heard, there isn’t too much to see in Canberra (it’s the capital, but I feel like only Aussies actually know that! :P) Then you have another big city in Brisbane, more beach culture and partying on the Gold Coast…. the list goes on and on. Smaller towns dot the whole coastline if you are looking for something a bit more off the map. But now I am starting to ramble. Feel free to contact me directly to see if I can help you pick out a place that is perfect for you, or maybe check out this Ultimate Aussie Guide! Or, travel around when you arrive to find the place that you feel most at home. Many people rent a camper van and drive around Australia to explore it properly.
The iconic Bondi Pools! Bondi Beach, Sydney, New South Wales Photo: Me 🙂
3. Get Your Australian Visa
From what I have heard, this will take anything from 30 minutes to a few weeks. If you fill out all your paperwork correctly, everything should go smoothly. Mine took 3-4 weeks (which is actually surprisingly long… maybe it’s because I was using my British passport as a US resident) but came through nonetheless with a ‘Visa Grant Notification!” The visa comes through as an email, not in the mail or anything. Receiving this made me all giddy and excited – it’s a crazy feeling to actually get confirmation of your upcoming expat adventure. The waiting game is tough, but I haven’t heard of a single person being denied. Just make sure you apply early enough that you get the visa before you enter the country!
Once you have received your Visa Grant in your email, there is nothing more you have to do to move to Australia. You will have a year to enter the country from when you receive the visa grant, and will have a year in Australia from the day you enter. Your visa will be attached to your passport, so when you enter Australia they will scan your passport and your visa info will come up. Save your visa grant email so that you can forward the info to employers later on down the road.
A sea plane ride over the largest sand island in the world and an old shipwreck? Yes Please! 75 Mile Beach, Fraser Island, Queensland – Photo 🙂
4. Plan, Save, and Network Before the Big Move to Australia!
Now you have your visa and might know where you’re going (unless you want to travel first!). So now – time to plan! here are some main things to have in order before your Aussie adventure:
- Flights – Australia is basically one huge glorified island. That means there is literally no possible way of driving there from any other country (weird, huh?) So this leads me to assume you will be flying there. Decide when you are going to go, set up alerts to buy cheap tickets, or secure your flight there in some way- step 1! I always use Skyscanner to compare cheap fares from over 30 providers. Scroll to find the blue search bar on the right side of this page and try it out for yourself!
- Money – Australia is unfortunately quite expensive, so you’ll have to make sure you have saved up enough money to sustain yourself out there until you get a job/place. I think the government recommends to have a few thousand AUD in your account at least. You will find hostels to be anywhere from about $30AUD per night – give or take about $10-$15 depending on location and niceness of hostel. Meals are expensive too – you’re looking at upwards or $20 AUD for a standard meal, or even lunch. Grocery shopping is a great idea, but sometimes the food here is way too tempting! If you look you can definitely find $10 meals, but drinks will probably be about the same price when you move to Australia too. Ouch.
- Network – If you have friends in Australia, tell them you’re coming! Network with others you may know, or friends of friends who are there, and see if they have any specific advice for a moe to Australia. Maybe you can crash on a friends’ couch for a few days when you arrive, or maybe someone knows of a good hostel in the area. This is a great idea also to make sure you have a support system when you arrive. If you have no one specific – no sweat at all. That’s all part of the adventure! See if you can preliminarily find any meet up groups or expat networks, if that is something you would be interested in. Internations is great, and there are tons of “X nationality in Sydney” type groups in different cities. A little bit of browsing won’t hurt – see what you can find!
- Preliminary Job/Flat Hunt – If you have time, it’s not a bad idea to start checking out some possible places to work and stay before you move to Australia. I would find myself constantly surfing job and flat sites before I left, just because I was way too excited! It’s possible to find these things from afar, but definitely easier when you arrive if you don’t mind staying in a backpackers for a bit.
- Accommodation – make sure you have somewhere to stay BEFORE you find a flat/apartment. Sort out to stay with friends, find a good backpackers or hotel in your city, etc. I always use Hostelworld to check out and book hostels that work best for me.
Bottomless champagne while watching the sunset over Uluru/Ayres Rock, one of the most iconic landmarks not only in Australia but the world! Uluru, Northern Territory – Photo
5. Pack for Your Big Move to Australia!
Now it’s really getting real! It’s hard to give packing advice because what you bring depends heavily on what time of year it is, where you are going, and how long you plan on staying. Just remember, if you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite down under! It’s quite hard to get used to… What do you mean it’s blazing hot in January and cold in July?! Does the toilet flush the other direction as well? That’s one myth I have yet to bust.
Anyway, if you’re going north, its much more tropical than the south. Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and most other cities in Oz’s southern half definitely do have seasons, so prepare for cold in the winter (June, July, August) months. And by cold, I generally mean mid-teens Celsius and below – I am aware that may not mean cold for all of you, but I’m from California so give me a break (and commend me for being able to finally speak in celsius! 😛 )
Other than clothes, some essentials (with Aussie lingo thrown in so you can start learning)
- Mozzie Spray (mosquito spray) I recommend OFF!
- Sunnies (sunglasses)
- Boardies/togs/cozzie/swimmers/bathers (all words for bathing suit. no joke)
- Sunscreen – the sun actually is stronger in Australia – no ozone layer. They even have special sunscreen for Australia.
- Hats – again, the sun is very strong down here. I’m not kidding when I say I think this hat is basically mandatory for all Aussie females AND males to own (am I right or am I right?!).
- Walking shoes
- Camera (I got a DSLR before my trip and was glad I did.. I have this one)
- Jacket (you actually will need it)
- Your favorite stuffed animal?!
- Other basic travel stuff. You get the gist.
- Other random ideas:
- I traveled for a while before arriving in Australia, and (partially because I am awful at throwing things away) I collected little bits of memories along the way – room keys, ticket stubs, boarding passes, postcards. When I finally got my own room and settled into Manly Beach, I made a little collage of all these things to put on my wall. I also bring a California flag everywhere I travel, it’s just one of those strange things I don’t leave without just in case a spontaneous festival happens or so I can have something simple to decorate my room. Tapestries or sarongs work wonderfully too! So if you are into that type of thing, don’t want to spend money on decorations, and want your room to feel a bit more homey as you settle in – bring a few things!
- Home Supplies – If you think it will save you money and wouldn’t clog your bag, it might be an idea to bring some home supplies with you. Not like plates and cups – I mean towels, hooks for the wall, push pins, etc. Maybe even some laundry strips/detergent to get you going. It might not even hurt to bring some bedding if you plan on settling right in – this just means you’ll have to make sure the room you get comes with a specific size of bed, or buy one. All this would save you a fair amount of money on home stuff – the prices add up!
Found a little friend while snorkeling! Great Barrier Reed, Cairns, Queensland – Photo
6. MOVE TO AUSTRALIA.
YAY! It’s ACTUALLY time! Make sure you have all your essentials with you, whatever you have chosen them to be.
Things to be Prepared for upon arrival:
- Strange, plastic, colorful money – no, that is not a candy wrapper. That is Australian money. It’s waterproof.
- Sexy Accents. Everywhere. – It starts the minute you get off the plane and hear the automated messages bellowing through the airport. And they never stop!
- Kangaroos – the first one I saw in Australia was dead on the side of the road 10 minutes into arriving. It was a great welcome.
- Iced coffee that has ice cream in it – I got here, ordered an iced coffee thinking it would just be coffee and ice as the name suggests, and got a massive creamy thing with a huge dollop of ice cream. This was not what I wanted. I don’t know where they find ‘iced cream’ within “iced’ and ‘coffee’ but there you go. Now you know.
- Bottle Shops – These confused me so much when I first arrived. Not only do you have to go to specific stores to buy alcohol (like, you can’t get it in the supermarket or 7/11) but they have DRIVE-THRU BOTTLE SHOPS. So you can drive up, tell the guy what kind of beer you want, and pay without even getting out of your car. Damn, Australia really has it right.
- Aussie slang – It sometimes doesn’t even seem like these people are speaking English. Take any word, take off the last 2/3 of the letters, and add -ies, -z, or -o. to the end. For real. Anyone whose name is Caroline? Caz. Jarrad or Mariana? Jaz and Maz. A pair of Converse? Connies. A mosquito? A mozzie. Feeling Devastated? You’re Devo. Bottle Shops? Bottle-0. Service Station? Servo. I think you get the gist.
- Animals/birds that make really weird sounds – I swear there’s a monkey that lives outside my window whenever I’m sleeping. Because there’s no WAY that sound is coming from a bird… I think.
A waterfall through a rock into a cave – Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park, South Queensland –Photo
7. Explore – Be a Tourist for a Bit
Now that you have finally arrived in your new home country, it’s time to enjoy yourself a bit and explore your new city (Once the jet lag is over of course!). Before getting too caught up in flat and job hunts, take some time to enjoy yourself and get the feel of the place. Visit the landmarks, check out the beaches and views, try the food, walk through the city. Take it all in – you will soon be a local!
Somewhere along the highway that connects the top and bottom of Australia – Stuart Highway, South Australia or Northern Territory, not quite sure 😛 Photo: @kimmconn 🙂
8. Get a Phone Plan // Important Australian Broadband Info
Hands down the most shocking thing to me about my move to Australia was the sheer incompetence of the wifi/broadband. I came from traveling damn third world countries where I could find wifi pretty much anytime I needed it. Then, when I arrived in Australia, a first world country at the forefront of the modern world, they tried to make me pay $10 for three hours of shitty wifi.
Excuse me, what?!?!?!?
I unwillingly got used to this as I did a monthlong tour around Australia, from Melbourne to Adelaide to Alice Springs and Uluru to Cairns and down the East Coast to Sydney. I paid $30 for 24 hours of wifi at a nicer hotel one time when I had an important Skype call, and it hardly even worked anyways. $10 was normal for a day of wifi in smaller destinations, although in bigger cities you could usually find a cafe. BUT STILL, come awwwwn Australia, get it together plz.
So, pretty much, prepare yourselves for this sad country of sub-par internet anywhere besides cities. They’re trying to roll out what they are calling something like a ‘national broadband’ at the moment, set to be finished in 2020. I also heard that, when this broadband is finished, it will be 17 years out of date. Just let that one sink in, will ya?
Cell Phone Plans and Service
Let me tell you a joke. “A silly American backpacker walked into a phone store in Australia, and asked for a plan with unlimited data.”
LOLOLOLOL. Unlimited data. In Australia, that is not. a. thing. And the guy honestly looked at me like I was a bit mentally unstable. I mean hey, it’s all I’ve ever known at home, really. Those American family plans have got it all. And I didn’t know I had it all until I tried to get a plan after my move to Australia. But anyway, I digress.
In Australia you must get Telstra or Optus. Everything else is basically not worth it or goes through the Telstra or Optus towers anyways, like Vodaphone I think.
Plans come with a certain amount of GB’s per month. You’ll be looking at maybe $30 per month for not that many gigs, and if you are a social media whore like myself you’ll be looking at about $60 per month.
Telstra is well known for being the only network you can actually get everywhere. You’ll get Optus service in cities, but as you travel out of them you can watch your bars slowly deteriorate until it’s SOS only or nothing at all. Telstra is the only service you’ll get out in the middle of the bush or outback, or in remote places really. So if you’re traveling a lot, Telstra might be a good investment.
But, each company does have their benefits. Optus, at my time of living in Sydney, had a deal where you paid $2 per day and got 500 megabytes of data each day. It doesn’t roll over, but if you add that up to a 30-day month that’s 15 gigs for 60 bucks, pay as you go. And because I was living in the city and didn’t need to go anywhere remote, Optus was just fine. I loved this plan!
However, when I did my farm work and asked about cell service, I was warned that Telstra was the only company that would reach us in this remote location. So, I went into a store and sweet talked the guy in there (not really ha but he was able to get me a good deal) to get 14 gigs a month for a wee discount for I think $60 or $70AUD a month. So go into your local store and see what is best for you!!
This is Wave Rock, in the country of WA. Only Telstra reached out here, for sure. (Read more about my farm work experience living in a tiny town of ten people here and about Wave Rock here!)
9. Find a Place to Live
Steps 9 and 10 are interchangeable or can occur at the same time. It depends if you want to find a job in Australia depending on where you live, or if you want to find a place to live depending on where you get a job, if you know what I mean. Personally, I knew where I wanted to live – Manly Beach. I found a job there first and found a flat later, actually after couchsurfing with friends and staying in the backpackers for a few weeks waiting for the right option to pop up.
Finding a place to live depends on a few things: whether you are looking for a place alone (to find a spare room in another flatshare, or to find likeminded flatmates to find a place with) with others (find a whole flat to rent), and the length of time to rent.
Another option that many people use when they move to Australia is renting and living in a camper van. A lot of travelers use camper van’s to explore the country, but they shouldn’t be left out when considering a place to live. The best place to look is this page on Gumtree, where there are literally hundreds of camper vans on sale, both new and lovingly used by other travelers.
Some of the best resources to find a flat, flatmates, or help moving:
- Gumtree – good for everything really! Gumtree is like Australia’s Craigslist but a little less sketchy. 😛 People use gumtree to advertise spare rooms to rent, to advertise entire flats/houses, to post individual advertisements looking for flatshares/flatmates, and more. You can respond to ads through the website as well. When I arrived in Sydney I posted my own advertisement looking for a spare room and received lots of messages.
- Flatmates.com.au – Great website to find spare rooms to rent or to find flatmates. You can make a profile and pay more or better memberships. This is probably one of the more popular and reliable sites to use.
- flatmatefinders.com.au – Another service to find a house/flat share or flatmates when you move to Australia. Also pretty useful.
- Facebook Groups – Many cities have Facebook groups where people advertise their flats or rooms for rent. These are really helpful and great to be able to communicate directly with people. Some in Sydney are: Northern Beaches Property to Rent, Inner Sydney Housemates, and Rooms Available/needed – Sydney. Search on Facebook and ask to join any of these groups, and I know there are similar ones for other cities too.
- Santa Fe Wridgways – If you are actually relocating to Australia as an expat, or permanently, it would be wise to consider hiring some global removalists to make that process as smooth as possible. When you have to deal with moving your actual life abroad, you might need a lil help from someone who knows what they’re doing. I was lucky I was just traveling, but if I had moved permanently I would have needed some assistance!
- rent.com.au – Wonderful resource for finding entire flats to rent. Usually involving leases for longer term rents.
- realestate.com.au – Another great site to find properties for rent, to buy, to sell, or to share as well. They have great options on here, and lot of properties to look through for people looking alone or in groups. This would most likely be longer term options.
- Airbnb – Good for shorter stays or somewhere to stay while you look for a place. If you are looking with other people, it might be a good idea to get an airbnb together and split the price. Some may also rent longer term.
- Stayz – This is another site good for shorter term stays – from 2 nights to maybe a few months depending on the location and who is renting it. Will be more expensive though as it is mostly vacation rental, so only really useful if you are looking for a place to split price with others. If you will only be here a few months, it’s a great option to get a vacation rental for a longer term.
- Homeaway.com – same description as Stayz above – holiday rentals that could be good for longer term if you want, but more expensive.
- Network – How did I finally find my place, you may ask? Well, after 2 days at my new job, I ran into all my managers at the bar after having a few too many… Slightly awkward, sure, but I got to talking to one of them about how I was living in the hostel, and he gave me his friend’s number who was renting a room. I moved in 4 days later!
Other notes – when you move to australia, rent is generally a weekly price. Depending on your budget and location, rent prices can range a lot! I would say a general rule of thumb would be to look for private rooms in the $230-$285 AUD range. Prices can soar much, much higher than this for nicer rooms/locations, but it is definitely possible to find a private room for this price. Or cheaper in less popular areas! I have seen a lot of share houses in popular areas in Sydney (Manly, Bondi, Central City) that cram tons of backpackers into one house, sharing rooms with 2-3 people for $170-$200/wk. It depends on your budget and your need for personal space! I pay $250/wk for a great location and room, which is a really fair price, but it took me a while to find it!
One of the most beautiful and iconic beaches in the world! Whitehaven beach, Whitsundays, Queensland – Photo
10. Get a Job When you Move to Australia
Now there are millions of ways to go about finding a job in Australia when/before/after you move to Australia, and a lot of differences depending on what kind of job you are looking for. Australia’s economy thrives off of travelers, and most places are very familiar with people here on their working holiday visas, which limit you to 6 months in any specific workplace.
If you aren’t sure what kind of work you want, here are some ideas of working holiday jobs:
- Hostels – many hostels will offer a work-for-rent type deal if you will be traveling.
- Hotels – A great option if you want to live somewhere more remote
- Hospitality – Loads of travelers opt for hospo (more aussie slang for ya) jobs when they get here. Cafe’s, bars, restaurants, hotels – you name it, there will be jobs in it who will likely hire travelers.
- Tour Guides – There are so many tours around different parts of Australia because tourism is a massively booming industry in this country!
- Fruit Picking/Manual Labor – this is something Australia is known for! Most people with eligible passports do these fruit picking jobs to extend their visas to two years, and others do it to make some extra money. I haven’t had to deal with a farm working job yet, but when I do (and plan to this year( I will be sure to write a post! There are a lot of manual labor jobs for men (laying cement, moving furniture, digging pools, felling trees, etc.) that pay cash also.
- Corporate – Many travelers would rather work a ‘real’ job when here, which would give them a much better chance of being ‘sponsored’ to stay here on a working visa, which a lot of people want. There are lots of job sites to check out which I will list below.
Before you start: Make sure your CV (curriculum vitae – what they use in most countries besides the US) is up to date, focusing on the type of job you are looking into getting. Print a few out!
Getting the actual job:
- It is always a great idea to march right into places, ask to see the manager, and hand your CV to them in person. If you are looking for a hospitality job I would recommend this! Scope out some places you would like to work and do this, so the manager can meet you in person and see what you’re like. Better chances this way!
- Network – meet people, ask friends, put yourself out there. Maybe your friend knows a manager of a place in the area or a friend of a friend knows someone hiring. This will help get your foot in the door of anything!
- Gumtree Again – Gumtree is great for everything when you move to Australia. I would say it’s honestly one of the top websites people use to get jobs. Its very unofficial in that anyone can post anything on gumtree, but as long as you’re careful it can be a great resource. Search in your area, toggle the +/- kilometer to choose how far of a radius to search in, and type a keyword for the type of job you are looking for.
- Indeed– A great job site
- Seek – Australia’s largest job site with a lot of categories to find what you are looking for
- Career One – Also another great site with good search options
- GOOGLE – research your specific job needs in your area!
Wages in Australia
The wages are much higher here in Australia, and it’s awesome. But, these higher wages come at the expense of tips. I wouldn’t say no one tips here, but you would be lucky to get an extra $10-$20 bucks off of waiting a table. It would be standard to make about $20 an hour, and it is also standard to make a higher wage on Sundays in hospitality. Sweet, right?
Cash in Hand Jobs
Australia is pretty well known for having traveler jobs pay cash in hand, under the table. You can find jobs at little cafe’s, juiceries, smaller bars, promotional jobs, and a lot of labor jobs through hostels or other job sites that will pay cash. This is of course not technically legal, and if you have your visa you shouldn’t have to be doing cash in hand jobs, but it is pretty prevalent here.
Tax & Forms: Do’s and Dont’s
TAX – on a visa, you should be paying about 11% tax. In Australia, you will get a percentage of your paycheck taken out each time for your superannuation, which is basically an Aussie retirement fund. However, since you are on a visa, you will get all of this back when you leave! So that is definitely something to look forward to.
TAX FORMS: DO NOT check the non-resident box. Even if you are on a visa, you can legally be a resident for tax purposes. The technicalities get pretty unclear here in that you are supposed to be a resident if working a job up to 6 months and non-resident if you are traveling around and working less time in each place, but it honestly doesn’t really matter – on your tax form, check that you are a resident for tax purposes. Otherwise, they will tax the sh** out of you and leave you with only like 66% of your paycheck. (You can get all of it back eventually, but I don’t think it’s worth it!)
Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland – Photo)
11. Enjoy Your Move to Australia!
Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy this beautiful country. Have tons of adventures, explore your new home, work hard, make friends, experience the scenery, visit some national parks, go to some festivals (they have amazing transformational festivals in Australia, to which I wrote an entire post!), enjoy the good weather (most of the time) and relish in the beautiful Aussie accents 😉
12. Getting your Tax Back when you Move to Australia
One more thing. Depending on where you end up living in Aus, there are lots of little backpacker places that you can go in and have someone help you get your taxes back. It’s pretty good really, you pay a flat fee and they do all the work for you. The fee might be a tiny bit steep (maybe $100-150 for everything) but they just take it out of your tax refund so you don’t pay money up front and you still get loads back. It’s like, pay pay $100 and get over $800-thousands (depending on how long and how much you worked), or don’t get any back at all. The answer is clear.
Because I was doing my farm work during tax time, I applied for my refund online with taxback.com. I heard mixed reviews about this site and was honestly a bit sketched out at first, but they were incredibly fast, professional, and effective. I just filled out a form online, had a quick phone call with one of their representatives, sent in some payment forms from my previous employers (that were easily searchable in my email among my payslips) and that was that. Two weeks later they asked for my bank details and within days the money was back in my account, just in time for Christmas!
It’s important to note that you can’t get your taxes back if you have been in the country less than 6 months, because in that circumstance you are classified as a ‘non-resident’ and should have been paying more taxes. So if you move to Australia and apply to get your taxes back and they find out that you have been there less than 6 months and had claimed ‘resident’ on your tax forms, you would actually owe money. And no one wants that. So pretty much just stay over 6 months… why wouldn’t you, anyway?! Stick it out!
And there you have it – everything I wish I had known before my move to Australia before I came here. Hope this has helped!
Remember, book your hostels in advance on Hostelworld!
PIN IT if it has helped you!!