Moving to Australia: 15 Things You Need to Know Before You Arrive

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Moving to Australia?

I’ve written at length before about the reasons I love living in Australia and the reasons I hate living in Australia.

As an Australian citizen, I’m lucky enough to be from one of the best countries in the world.

I had access to free medical care when I needed surgery after breaking my arm in Indonesia.

My university degree (and the one I am currently working on) were both subsidized by Australia’s HELP scheme.

When I’ve been unemployed for any length of time, the government has been there to help out.

Australia certainly isn’t perfect (as my post about hating living there indicates), but it’s easy to understand why so many people want to relocate there.

With that in mind, I thought I’d highlight a few key things to know before moving to Australia.

sydney opera house cityscape
Image courtesy of Michael McDonagh

15 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Australia

It would take a longer article than I am prepared to write to fully cover every aspect and nuance you’ll need to know ahead of moving to Australia, but I’ve highlighted just fifteen of the things I think most prudent when planning a move to the land downunder.

Mobile Phone Plans

There’s no finessing this: Australian internet is the drizzling shits.

Outside of major cities where the NBN (National Broadband Network) has rolled out, you’ll be paying top dollar for an unremarkable connection with limited downloads.

Free WiFi is a luxury you’ll find in startling rarity, so it pays to have a good phone plan.

Both Optus and Telstra offer decent coverage. While Telstra has the largest footprint and the best 4G network, I’ve always been partial to Optus for their cheaper plans.

Their $2 days include unlimited calls and text + 500mb of data per day. That’s one of the best deals you’re likely to find in Australia.

Wear Sunscreen

The stereotype of the bronzed Australian isn’t exactly accurate. Chances are they’ll be more of an angry scarlet.

The Australian sun is intense and you’re going to have a bad time if you aren’t prepared for that.

Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat if you don’t want to be dealing with some nasty burns.

Sport is a Religion

Australians love their sport.

Whether it’s AFL, rugby, rugby league, cricket, football (soccer), netball, or something a little more obscure, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an Aussie who doesn’t play or at least watch a sport religiously.

Bars and pubs across the country show the various national competitions on Friday and Saturday nights, and entire cities come to a standstill for State of Origin or a particularly juicy AFL fixture.

Pick a sport and pick a club. Your small talk game will thank you.

Learn to Speak Australian

English is the lingua franca in Australia, but Australian English is a distinctly different version of the language than UK or US English.

Thankfully for you, I’ve put together an exhaustive guide on How to Speak Australian to get you started!

As an international student, you should have passed an exam proving your English language proficiency, but it might not be enough to create a compelling application essay. Of course, even native English speakers sometimes need help with admissions and thereโ€™s no shame in seeking help from the outside. It is a great idea to find essay writing services like EssayPro that help with essay writing to make sure your English sounds persuasive enough to Australian admission officers.

uluru ayers rock australia
Image courtesy of PAk DocK

Know Your Australian Holidays

Australia is sometimes known as “The Land of the Long Weekend”, and there are certainly plenty of holidays on which you can BBQ, relax on the beach, or head out to the footy.

The major western holidays (Christmas, Easter, and New Year’s) are all celebrated, as are distinctly Australian holidays such as ANZAC Day and Australia Day.

Victorians even get a day off of work for a horse race!

Learn more about Australian holidays.

We Drive on the Left

Otherwise known as the right side of the road.

If you’re coming from the UK, this won’t seem so strange.

twelve apostles great ocean road australia
Image courtesy of PAk DocK

Those Dangerous Animals

You’ve all heard those stories about how Australia has 20 of the top 25 most venomous snakes in the world.

There are sharks and crocodiles.

The funnel web spider is the most dangerous spider in the world.

Hell, we even have octopuses, jellyfish, and platypuses that will try to poison you.

Despite all of this, Australia is a remarkably safe country. Deaths from snakebites are exceedingly rare, and nobody has died from a spider bite since the 60s.

With most of the dangerous animals out in the ocean or out in the desert, you’re perfectly safe as long as you’re in the city.

byron bay lighthouse
Image courtesy of Bernard Spragg

Use Gumtree

Australia’s equivalent to Craigslist, Gumtree is an online personals site which can be used to find apartments, look for work, buy/swap/sell things, and much more.

While eBay is still king when it comes to online buying and selling, Gumtree covers a lot of what Craigslist would in the US.

Kangaroos are the Worst But Taste the Best

They may seem cute, but kangaroos are a hazard when you’re driving.

At dawn and dusk, these bouncing marsupials fling themselves into traffic with reckless abandon. Their size and weight can do serious damage to cars.

My brother had two broken wrists and a broken rib after one threw itself into the side of his motorbike at speed.

The good news? Kangaroo meat is amazing.

Get your sweet revenge on these menaces by frying them up on burgers, in stir-fries, and as remarkably lean steaks.

whitsundays australia
Image courtesy of Richard Rydge

It’s Expensive

Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world.

When you consider the high quality of life and the high minimum wage, it’s totally worth it.

It’s perfectly possible to get by in Australia on a budget, obviously, but you’ll want to cut back on creature comforts like dining out and drinking.

Drinking in Australia

Speaking of drinking, it’s both an Australian pastime and a controversial subject.

Alcohol in Australia is heavily taxed and heavily regulated, meaning you’ll pay a pretty penny for even the lowliest of beers.

You’ll also have to contend with Australia’s stricter ID policy, lock-out laws, and Responsible Service of Alcohol laws.

Despite the country’s reputation as a hedonistic orgy of alcoholism, you’ll find it can be quite difficult to get too drink in an Australian bar, as staff are trained to refuse service and eject overly intoxicated patrons.

Australian Outlets

Australia uses the Type I outlet.

I have nothing more to say about this.

one tree hill queensland
Image courtesy of Lenny K Photography

Get Travel Insurance

Australia has a world class nationlised healthcare system, but you’re not eligible for that until you’ve got residency.

While the country is safe, it still pays to come prepared with appropriate travel insurance.

Check out 457 Visa Compared for the best visitor insurance and travel insurance plans.

Get a Tax File Number (TFN)

You’ll need a tax file number to work legally in Australia.

Thankfully, applying for a TFN is an easy online process.

See as much of Australia as possible

Australia is huge.

I mean, it’s a continent all of its own.

There are so many things to see and do in Australia that many Australian citizens haven’t even begun to scrape the tip of the iceberg.

Thankfully, I’ve put together a handy Australian bucket list to get you inspired!

Your Say

Have you moved to Australia? Where do you wish you’d known ahead of your move?

Moving to Australia? Feel free to shoot me your questions!

Featured image courtesy of Marko Mikkonen

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    • Yeah, no worries at all! Aussies are pretty well versed in British and American slang, as most of our television comes from the two countries.

  1. Loved the article. Lots to think about on top of where to go in Australia. The bit about the sun I was aware of but the safety from wildlife was new as was the suicidal tendencies of kangaroos. Good to know that they are well worth eating.

    • They’re really reckless. My poor brother broke an arm and lost his motorbike when one flung itself into him at speed.

  2. As Australian citizen, you will lived here with the price as Chris said “it’s expensive.” I like the beaches and the road trips. Australia is very big, you have to deal with the weather if you are moving here. If you are flexible and easy to adopt with the new environment, Australia is for you. Above all, Australia is very easy to live as I say living here with the price. To experience Australia before moving, visit the country as a tourist and explore it by your own. Drive a car, tourist is allowed to drive anyway.

  3. I haven’t been really to Australia. Mostly on a layover from Wellington. Hope to visit it soon and actually experience it!

    • I’m sure you’ll have a blast. It’s a fantastic country to explore – you’ve just got to know how to stick to a budget!

  4. I haven’t been to Australia yet, i didn’t realise its expensive place. Id love to come and visit one day, for sure a roadtrip will be amazing.

    • It’s crazy expensive in some regards, but that’s somewhat balanced by the fact you get paid a higher than usual salary. Even cashiers at grocery stores are on $20+ an hour.

  5. When I was younger I couldn’t wait to travel to Australia, but as I got older I realised how expensive it was and it got slowly pushed down my bucketlist! I would still love to go, I’ll use some of these tips when I finally do!

    • It’s definitely still an affordable place to travel if you’re smart about it (cook instead of eating out regularly, make use of public transport, use CouchSurfing/AirBnB etc.), but I reckon it’s a place better explored when you’re a little older and more financially secure.

      I’m certainly holding off on exploring it until then!

  6. I had no idea Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world. I’m from Canada, and I’ve often heard the two countries being compared as similar in terms of income and expenses, so this is very surprising news. Great article–lots of great info for someone thinking about visiting the country.

    • I think Australia ranked at something like 13th in the world for cost of living. It’s just behind the UK, Hong Kong, and Japan – but miles ahead of the US and Canada.

      It’s somewhat countered by our high minimum wage and access to stuff like socialized healthcare and education, but that isn’t the case for visitors or those who haven’t yet earned their citizenship.

  7. Your Kangaroo story is incredible. They haul themselves out at moving traffic? Wow! You definitively answered by question about the meat. Nice!!! Great article

    • They’re either insane or stupid, haha. They just get startled by the light and noise and start leaping in any direction. It’s dangerous around dusk or dawn on country roads.

  8. Haha, love this article. It’s so funny because whenever we talk to our friends or meet new people from Australia I always am asking about those crazy snake and spider horror stories I hear about! I didn’t know about your internet over there either! We would love to visit, but I feel like no matter what length of time we stay it will be so hard to see everything we want. We better brush up on learning how to speak Australian too before we come! Also, we would love that healthcare you have over there!!!

    • I’ve had a few run ins with our dangerous wildlife. Lost count of the number of funnel web spiders I’ve seen in and around my parents place, and we regularly have to kill red bellied black snakes with shovels or bricks because they’ve set up camp close to the house.

      Internet in Australia is just depressing. So expensive and so limited. I pay $80 a month whenever I am home for a fast 50gb connection with $1 per 10mb excess usage charges. Not great for this line of work!

  9. I did consider moving to Oz a few years ago but after visiting for the first time earlier this year (Melbourne), its totally out of my price range. I find it more expensive than London, UK ๐Ÿ™ But hey ho, I will continue to visit as its such a fantastic country and loved my first experience there. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sydney and Melbourne are definitely comparable with London in my experience. The cost of eating out or getting around is just exorbitant. As much as I love visiting my friends and family there, I’m always happy to get out to sleepy rural Australia where things are a little less overpriced.

  10. My last trip to Oz was in 2004 and with the pound plummeting it doesn’t make sense for me to visit at the moment as I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about expensive. That said your image of Hill Inlet has me hankering to return as to this date after visiting 80 countries, I do not think I have ever been somewhere more stunning!

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