101+ Things We Wish Had Known Before Moving To Australia
Moving to Australia? We spent two years in Australia and learned a great deal about the country.
There are so many things we wish we had known before moving to Australia.
So rather than let you have to learn everything we had to learn we have conveniently put all of our knowledge into this article.
We cover all you need to know about migrating to Australia. It doesn’t matter if you are moving from Australia from Canada or even moving to Australia from the UK or Ireland.
Think of this as a big moving to Australia checklist.
In fact for some of you reading it might be too much information to take in. We have created a free PDF guide to this article.
Download this moving to Australia checklist sent straight to your inbox by clicking here.
- Australia is expensive. Seriously everything is super expensive, and you will be lucky to pay for a pint less than $10 unless you are outside of one of the big cities. Often your income reflects the high cost of everything, so it all becomes quite relative.
- Moving to Australia is not cheap – bring as much $€’s as you can as it can be hard to find a job. Find accommodation before arrival. We used Airbnb for our first couple of weeks in Australia. If you are new to Airbnb use this link to get $50+ off your first stay with Airbnb.
- Australia is BIG..Really BIG! Seriously this country is enormous, and you won’t realise it until you get here and decide to go on a road trip.
- No need for organising a sim card, tax file number or Oz bank account before you leave. Many visa companies will want you to pay extra, and it costs almost nothing once you get here. Applying for a visa yourself is usually quite straightforward.
- You can start working without tax file number and get it done meanwhile (it takes up to three weeks).
- Be prepared to pay tax on your income. On a working holiday visa, the tax rate is different to Australian residents. The current tax rate is at 15% until you earn $37 000. Australian resident taxpayers get the first $18 200 tax-free and then they pay 19% until the $37 000.
Looking to transfer money to your new Australian account? Don’t make the mistake we did, avoid paying crazy fees and any of the following money transfer companies(these would be ones we are familiar with CurrencyFair, HiFx, OFX(previously Ozforex) or Transferwise. We regularly use CurrencyFair, and they are the one of the best. For more info read our Money Transfer Guide Here.
- Inform your bank of your travel plans before you leave. You don’t want them to cancel your credit cards while you’re on holiday. Nothing worse than having to ring them and clarify a “few” transactions, plus with the time difference it can be even more frustrating.
- Make sure to invest in health/travel/holiday insurance before you get here, otherwise, you may pay a fortune in case of any emergencies. The easiest way is to ask your travel agent or go online through a company like World Nomads or GoInsurance
- Book accommodation before you arrive through Airbnb or Booking.com, we always use them, and they are the best. For hostels check HostelWorld.com. Or ideally, crash at a friend/family’s place.
- Wi-Fi costs extra in most places/hostels you will go to, some cities like Perth or Melbourne have hotspots in the CBD. Otherwise, you may have to use your private mobile data.
- If you frequently use a lot of data check Optus $2 a day for 500 MB’s a day, calls and texts.
- Recommended from James in the comments: $40 a month prepaid BOOST (which is Telstra, so reception is good) gets you unlimited calls, texts to Aussie mobiles and home numbers and unlimited data. I reckon it’s a pretty decent deal if you’ve already got your own phone. They have a $20 option which is 100 minutes, and 2GB of data I think… with bonus 500mg extra for use each weekend. It saved me getting into stupid, ridiculous plan costs which usually are two-year contracts. Never get a plan. Prepaid all the way.
- Recommended from Taylor in the comments: Amaysim is a great deal! Runs on Optus towers, though. $45 bucks I think for 8gbs and 300 international minutes, plus unlimited talk and text!
If you are travelling to the Outback and need a phone, only Telstra works, other sim cards will be useless.
- Planning a road trip? There is also NO radio reception so stock up on CD’s or load USB with favourites if you ever plan a road trip.
- If you’re heading out to the bush, then keep an eye on fire warning signs and listen to the radio for any warnings of fires.
Best to book your flights with a company that has 30+ kg luggage allowance (Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, etc.). Trust us, even though you may think now that you are fine, these extra kgs will become lifesaver once you start packing. Makes moving to Australia all that bit easier.
- At the same time don’t pack too much! You will end up with more than you need. Trust us we’ve been through it, and we were still overweight at the airport (poor yoga mat had to stay in Oz). A good option is Santa Fe Wridgways. If you are actually relocating to Australia as an expat, or permanently, it would be wise to consider hiring some global or interstate removalists to make that process as smooth as possible. When you have to deal with moving your actual life abroad, you might need a little help from someone who knows what they’re doing. I was lucky I was just travelling, but if I had moved permanently I would have needed some assistance!
- Heading home and got too much stuff? Use companies like SendMyBag(5% off with that link) if you don’t want to leave stuff behind. They are super reliable and got competitive prices. Moving to Australia and need a container? Seven Seas Worldwide are great! This link also gives you 10-$25 off with Irish Around Oz
- If you are arriving on 417 visa (working holiday), you are only allowed to work for six months with one employer, and unless you get sponsored, it may be hard to get a decent job.
- We found the best city to get a good job was Melbourne– based on our experience, and we were almost everywhere. Bigger city= more opportunities for you.
- Looking for hospitality work? You need Responsible Service of Alcohol Cert. We did ours online in WA, but Victoria and Sydney require you to do a 1-day course, so make sure to check requirements for the state you are going to. We did ours with Online RSA; you can book everything through them.
- If one city doesn’t work for you – move, don’t spend time and your money in a place where you can’t find a job. Don’t be afraid to purchase a ticket and go; you can always come back.
Farm work/Regional work? Haha, this is our favourite topic, and although we had the best/worst time of our life there- it had to be done. Try and do yours as soon as you can, don’t wait until your last three months. We know people who were lacking three days and had to go home. Read this regional guide post to learn more.
- Best to do your Regional Work (if you are on 417 visa) on consecutive days, three months as opposed to 88 days if you split up the work.
- Driving in Australia on your driver licence or converting to an Australian driving license? Check Gov website for all the necessary info as each state has different rules.
- Superannuation is your pension account, and if you’re on WHV, you are going to get most back once you leave the country. Make sure to keep track if you do have more than one Super account and claim it all back when you leave. More info you can find following this link to ATO website or here.
- You can quickly calculate your Tax refund via ATO Calculator or use TaxBack.com’s calculator.
- Renting your own house/apartment isn’t as easy as it might be in your home country. Be prepared to feel like on a job interview with 50 other people, and it will probably be unfurnished.
- If you are travelling a lot, consider sharing accommodation or short term apartment rentals with companies like corporate keys.
Cars are extremely expensive(at least compared to Ireland/UK) in Australia so be prepared to pay top dollar for a car that’s not worth the money.
- If you are looking for good, cheap car with a small engine, you may have to look for weeks. We learned that all cheap cars go as soon as they listed online, so you may want to check internet 7 am every morning and go straight to the dealership before it’s gone.
- Just to give you an idea we paid $1000 for this in WA. Which wasn’t bad.
Want to go on a road trip? We did several of them and one in a Campervan. Our tip is to go with Coseats for relocation and get six berth Camper for $1 a day! These guys did it and looked fun.
- Backpacking around Australia can be easier by sharing a ride. Just put your details in and find a ride through sharing your trip, you can meet great people and travel for free around the country if you are tired of public transport.
- Going East Coast of Australia can be way more fun with Backpackr app, where you can find people doing the same as you- get tips and meet up or travel together. We met the founder in Cairns, nice guy.
Planning to travel East Coast of Australia? Read our How To Travel East Coast in 10 Easy Steps guide.
- Looking to go on a Perth to Melbourne road trip? Check this Ultimate Perh to Melbourne Roadtrip guide.
- Within a few weeks of moving to Australia, you will realise that sport is God to all Aussies and that you will be forced to follow football, cricket or soccer even if you aren’t a sports fanatic. If you are moving to Australia check out Santa Fe Wridgways
- Perth has ‘skinny’ and ‘not so skinny’ beaches, they are obviously not advertised like that, but you can clearly see that Cottesloe Beach is the body perfect place and Scarborough not so much ;-)
- Sunday sessions or Sunday seesch will become part of your vocabulary, and you will enjoy Sunday drinks as much as we do.
- Brekkie, Barbie, Footie, yes you’ll love the lifestyle and everything that comes with it. Beach, BBQ, Sunday sessions – they are now part of our everyday life.
‘No worries’ – this one you will say at least 10-15 times a day even if something did annoy you.
- There is plenty of drive-through coffee shops, bottle store(bottle-o’s) and so on – ah, why they don’t have them in my home country?
- Suncream should and will become your best friend. You should apply it every day no matter what’s the weather like as the UV index may be still high. You can check the ratings here.
- Melbourne weather is different to the rest of the country. It can be 26+ in Cairns, Perth or Sydney but in Melbourne, it is like Irish weather with four seasons in one day- so be prepared :-)
- Flies in the summer are extremely annoying, especially in Perth. We’ve been on Rottnest Island in December, and they were sticking to face and going into your eyes – No way of avoiding them.
- Moving to Australia and smoke? Be prepared to pay $16-23 a box. Hardly anyone smokes here and, to be honest, most places aren’t smoke friendly(Notably more so in Melbourne/Sydney).
Coffee – to all the caffeine addicts – we haven’t found better coffee anywhere else in the world. France is close, but nothing like Aussie coffee. Long blacks, flat whites or chai latte takes your pick.
- The coffee profession is taken very seriously here, and if you are a barista, you got it all.
- Menu Log is a great way to find cheap takeaway deals.
- Weekends are all about outdoors and having Barbie by the beach unless you are in winter in Melbourne.. brrr.
- Snakes and spiders – we’ve seen them all but only in the countryside and in the outback.
- After few months, no size spider will matter to you.
- But you will learn to shake your towel before using it after a shower and check your shoes before wearing them.
- Those friendly kangaroos you might have seen on every travel brochure? They are considered as a pest here. Kangaroo meat tastes a bit like steak and can be bought in most Coles + Woolworths.
Sharks? Sharks!! You will hear a lot of shark stories, especially in WA. Just don’t go in past ankle height and you will be okay haha.
- Living in Scarborough, Perth, WA for three months taught us that shark alarms 2-3 times daily are standard.
- During summer, the outdoor will become one big 40+ degrees sauna, and we loved every day! Well as long as our aircon worked lol
- Surfing is big down under if you don’t surf, play soccer, cricket, etc. you’ll lack subjects to conversations- everyone talks about sports!
- Planning on getting a tan in the summer in Perth? Good luck lasting five mins in 40 degrees.
- Not all of your friends will approve your decision of moving to Australia and eventually some friendships will end.
- Real friendships stay forever :-)
- It will be hard to keep in touch due to time difference 7-8 hours behind in Europe and entire day in the US -how bad is that?!
Power plugs? Here is how they look like in case you were wondering.
- Goon will become your best friend if you are backpacker on a budget (boxed wine), and you will learn to have pre drinks before you head out.
- Tipping isn’t very popular in Australia; the Australians don’t tend to tip in Bali either.
- Download happy hour app – it was our best friend on a Friday afternoon.
- In Melbourne get TramTracker app to get around the city easily.
- Broadband/Wifi is not as fast as in Europe so be prepared for slow ass downloads.
- Flip-flops are called thongs, and no one uses the first wording.
Casinos and Pokies are hugely popular here, and everyone gambles being in Crown Casino or local country pub. Random fact, there are more pokies in Australia than anywhere else in the world(inc Vegas!)
- Going to any of the Crown Casino’s is a must at least once and feel like a star on a red carpet :-) But be prepared to spend more than you want.
- If you have a car, you don’t legally need to purchase car insurance as your Rego covers third party person. You can find more info here.
- Many backpackers having no car insurance, Update from a reader Sue(Thanks!) – the rego only covers the registration, of course, and Third Party Person. It does not cover Third Party Damage. Therefore, if you are in an ‘at fault’ accident and the driver or passengers of the other vehicle are injured they will be covered by the insurance included in the rego. However, the car you have just run into will not be covered…..and if it is a massive, expensive, new Toyota Landcruiser you’ve just crashed into – well, you will have to pay for the damages!
- If you do want to get fully comprehensive insurance, which is not a bad idea, if your car is over $1000.
- It can be cheaper just to rent a car for a month or two. We used DriveAway for all bookings around the world, and they are excellent with honest and efficient customer service.
The drinking + driving limit in Australia is 0.05%, Booze buses are very intimidating! Don’t ever drink and drive.
- Speeding? In a school zone at 42 Km/h expect a $200 fine. Speeding is just not a good idea in Australia(or anywhere). Everyone sticks to the rules here.
- Each state has a slightly different time zone.
- Western Australia has no daylight savings– apparently, cows/farmers weren’t happy
- ‘’Hard Rubbish Day’’ is when Australians leave out unwanted items like appliances and furniture outside their homes for people to take so you might just pick up some free stuff this way. Check your local city council website for details on the date.
Drop bears don’t exist, even though you going to be told about the existence of vicious koalas wanting to attack you, don’t be fooled.
- Many Australians never left their state, not mentioning going overseas, but after few weeks spent in Oz, we see why.
- Dress up and go to a Melbourne Cup. If you are in Melbourne when its on, its an epic event. A must if you are moving to Australia
- Vegemite and Tim Tams are worshipped here. Mmmm Tim Tams.
- Australia does get snow!(We didn’t know either), and you can go on a ski holiday in NSW or Victoria.
20 of 25 deadliest snakes are in Australia – we saw only one in 2 years.
- If you are planning a party or quiet few drinks, regardless never buy six pack of beer– a case of beer always works out cheaper. For example 6 for $20 or 24 for $42.
- Beers are typically sold in bottles(as opposed to Cans in Europe) and have less than European 500 mil standard.
- Going out and ordering 2 pints? Get a jug of beer and save yourself few $$$
- Ordering a pint and getting something that doesn’t look anything like it? It’s a schooner (glass size), and some places just don’t do pints.
- Moving to Australia and planning to travel like a real backpacker? Greyhound buses are best and cheapest to go for. They have great deals that can take you around the country. Check their website here.
- Australia has incredible beaches, and you can read our Top 10 Beaches Down Under.
- Before you get on a plane, make sure to write details of your accommodation on paper as your sim card most likely won’t work.
Take as much $$$ as you can but don’t keep them all in the wallet. Try to open your bank account the following day and transfer money via CurrencyFair. We also used Commonwealth Bank for our two years and can’t complain! You can set one up before you move to Australia, but it takes one day to set it up when you get here.
- You may be asked to prove your funds at borders, and it is advisable to carry AU$5000 to support yourself first when you here. Don’t forget that moving to Australia is expensive(unfortunately).
- If you are on 417 visa and planning on staying in the country, you must complete regional work (also called farm work).
- There are certain postcodes where you can do farm work, and many different rules apply. For all info check Australia’s Complete Regional Work Guide For Second Year Visa (417).
- To find second-year visa job visit Australian Gov website.
- Info on how to get sponsored and how to get on 457 visa are here.
- From Joanna in the comments – Magpies are crazy in swooping season! Here is how to keep safe in Australian magpie swooping season. Magpie Alert is also a useful resource.
- Before you arrive, plan well where you are first going to go and stay and apply for jobs in advance.
- Sign yourself up for as many Australian Facebook groups as possible, you never know, they might help you find your dream job, accommodation and friends for life. We have just created a moving to Australia Facebook group, join here
Enjoy every second of your Australian experience. Travel a lot and don’t regret your decisions and see as much as you can.
- It doesn’t matter how old you are; you will need some form of ID for clubs and the occasional pub. It is worth getting a proof of age card rather than taking out your passport.
- Not sure what food to bring into Australia? Read this lonely planet post here
- Planning on doing farm work? Read our farm work Australia nightmare story.
- Get ready for a lot of bushfires in the summer.
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The above 101..ish things you need to know before moving to Australia will hopefully give you a bit of insight into what to expect.
Remember to enjoy your time here and try not to compare it to your home country.
So please leave a comment with what you wish you had known before you made the move.
We also will be updating this article based on your feedback and comments.
Enjoy the time and safe travels and enjoy moving to Australia. Share/link to this article if you found it useful.
Share/link to this article if you found it useful, we really appreciate it.
Steve and Sabina
P.S Join our new moving to Australia Facebook group here
P.P.S We have also just recently moved to Vancouver, read our guide on moving to Vancouver here.