“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Moving to a new country can be a scary experience and it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my top tips for getting settled in Australia as easily as possible.
1. Bank Accounts
You can open your bank account with ANZ before you even arrive to Australia from the comfort of you own bed. You can open a bank account online and start to transfer your money to Australia nearly straight away. However you won’t be able to access the money until you arrive and collect your debit card. This is very straight forward – you just need to let ANZ know when you will arrive to Australia, nominate a branch to collect your card from and then visit that branch with your passport and flight ticket.
2. Shipping Things From Home
I am lucky enough to have a cousin who has been living in Sydney for the past number of years, so Ronan and I were able to ship over anything we needed for Sydney but didn’t need for the few weeks of travelling around the US (work clothes, shoes etc.). We used a company called World Box. This cost €110 to send a 20kg box from Dublin to Sydney and can take between 6 and 10 days to arrive. With World Box, you can order a free box and have it delivered it to your home, office or hotel. When you have filled your box, you can book your collection time. They collect mornings, evenings and weekends.
3. Finding Accommodation & When To Move
Finding somewhere to live can often be the hardest part of moving to a new place. We were lucky enough to only have to spend a few nights in a hostel, thanks to my cousin, Audrey, opening up her home to us until we found somewhere to live.
When searching for a home, the best tips include making a list of areas you would like to love, what are “must haves” and “must not haves” and most importantly, deciding on what your budget is. It is worth remembering that rents are calculated per week in Australia, not per month like in Ireland. Generally, you will be required to pay a bond of 4 weeks rent also. The best sites to search for accommodation include Gumtree, Flatmates and groups on Facebook such as Irish Around Sydney and Bondi Local Loop.
The Australian summer and autumn time (November to March, give or take), is the most popular time of the year for back packers to arrive and so it can be a little harder to find accommodation, so if you can, it is best to arrive outside of these peak times. As with any new city, it is important to keep your eye open to any potential scams. You should avoid making any payments for a room in a house or apartment until you see the room and decide that it’s right for you.
Some good questions to ask during your viewings include:
a) Did you all know each other originally? Elbowing your way into a group of friends who have known each other for years is a daunting prospect, but living with a group of strangers who may not be so committed to each other could mean that the house is just a conveyer belt of people.
b) Will I need to bring kitchen/bedroom stuff? Will I need to bring extra pots/pans/a bed etc.
c) Do you all sit together and watch TV? Bonding over the seventh episode of Come Dine with Me or Made in Chelsea is the basis of any new friendship.
d) Is the TV staying? Or is it vacating the premises along with the person you’re replacing? This could be a deal breaker.
e) I see there’s a bath, will there be a problem if I have one sometimes? Baths can be the cause of a lot of passive aggressive angst in shared houses. They are expensive and you take a hell of a long time in the one bathroom four other adults have to share. If you’re a bath person, you should know the score from the off.
f) What’s the morning routine? This could be disguised as a where is your office/ what time do you leave in the morning question. It’s good to know if you’re going to be 10 minutes late every day because someone likes to take a 30 minute shower in the morning when you just need to brush your teeth.
g) Are you in relationships? This can give you an indicator as to whether someone is going to move out soon to settle down with their significant other or whether there will be a new Tinder conquest hogging the bathroom every Saturday morning.
h) How many more people are coming to see the room? Are there any firends of current tenants interested in the room, as this may mean that you are unlikely to get the room.
i) When can I move in?
Perhaps the most important question you can ask is in regards to the land lord and the agreement that the head tenant has with them. It’s not easy to describe the person who takes such a large chunk of your salary every month as decent but it’s good to know if they’re going to make your life hell. Are they meeting your eye when they brush you off with “Yeah he’s great, we don’t really have anything to do with him”? You cannot underestimate how important it is to question what the relationship between the head tenant and the land lord is like. Ronan and I made this mistake in the first place we lived in, to our detriment. It was only when we were told about the landlord doing an inspection of the house that we discovered that there should only be 6 people in our 4 bedroom house (there was 9 of us in total). We were all told we had to be out of the house during the Saturday morning inspection and myself and another girl in the house (also a couple) had to hide all of our things to make it look like there was only 1 male living in the rooms which now had couples. The dishonesty of the head tenant and his hiding of information from both the landlord and the other tenants lead us to finding somewhere else to live, which in hindsight, was much nicer and more suitable for us.
For any issues with your landlord or head tenants, or if you need any advice, it is worth contacting the Tenants Board.
4. Finding a Job
Equally as important as finding a home is finding a job so that you can pay your rent and plan more travelling. My best suggestion for people on a working holiday visa is to sign up with as many recruitment agencies as possibly. This is perhaps the easiest way to find work that suits your background, be that in an office or medical setting. As my background was in office support, I signed up with People2People, Hayes, Lotus People, Beamount People and Randstad. It is worth making sure you know what the minimum someone in your role should earn in Australia, to ensure that you are not being under paid. I would suggest looking at a pay scale website, to give you a good idea.
5. Getting a Tax File Number
Going hand in hand with getting a job is making sure that you have a tax file number, to ensure that you don’t end up paying more tax than you need to. I would recommend applying for this as soon as you arrive in Australia, as it can take up to 4 weeks for you to receive it and unfortunately, you are unable to apply for one before you arrive. On the plus side, you are able to apply for it online here.
6. Getting a Mobile Phone
Similar to Ireland, Australia has 4 major mobile phone providers:
a) Telstra – Australia’s leading provider of mobile phones, mobile devices, home phones and broadband internet. This is probably the best company to go with if you plan to do a lot of travelling, as it is the only network which will work in the outback.
b) Optus – covers the second largest area, behind Telstra. Optus often run special offers for their members, such as discount cinema tickets.
c)Vodafone – the smaller of the 3 major providers (covers mostly metropolitan and larger regional areas).
d) Virgin Mobile – uses the Optus network.
These providers offer a range of options and coverage, such as:
- Package deals – which can include data, handset, pre-agreed monthly usage;
- Contract options – where you pay a monthly fee for a fixed period of time, usually 18 to 24 months. These options allow you to choose the package of minutes and texts that best suits your usage. If you have just arrived in Australia, a prepaid plan might be the best option to begin with, as most phone providers don’t offer contracts or plans without proof of employment or residential permanence (i.e. your name on a utility bill or residential lease). It’s best to check out what the specific requirements are by speaking to a provider or two.
- Prepaid plans – where credit is purchased in advance of service use. Allows you to control your spending;
- Capped inclusions – to protect you from overspending you can be notified via SMS when your mobile usage gets close to the agreed cap to warn you that your spend may exceed what you had budgeted;
- Data packages – recommended if you are a frequent user of the Internet.
It is worth doing your research before choosing your plan. There are a large variety of mobile phone plans and purchase options to choose from, especially if you need data or international roaming options. Have a look at what’s on offer before deciding.
If you are bringing an unlocked phone from home, check that it is compatible with Australian GSM technology. If your phone is compatible, then all you will need is a SIM card and a prepaid plan (where you top up your account monthly or as needed) to get started.
- Sign up for Meetup. Organize and join local, real-life “meetups” with people who share your interests. Download it for free here.
- Get a dog and download Meet My Dog. But, really. Dog parks = new friends. If that’s not in the cards for you, borrow a dog.
- Go explore. It can be scary to go out on your own in a new city, but you’re less intimidating when you’re alone. Get a good book and wait for people to approach you, or go up to people yourself while you’re out and about!
- Make an effort with co-workers. Start grabbing lunch with them as much as possible. You’ll get closer over time and start being invited to stuff outside of work.
- Look up local teams or running clubs. Most cities have adult leagues you can sign up for and meet like-minded people. If team sports aren’t your thing, think about joining a gym or yoga studio. If you go regularly, you’re likely to see familiar faces.
- Take a continuing education class. Now is the time to take that French class you’ve always thought about. Or a cooking class so you’re not *solely* ordering in. You just might meet a new BFF in the process!
- Ask people on friend dates. Be forward! Say, “I have a friend-crush on you, would you wanna go for coffee or something sometime?” Mention that you’re new to the city and trying to explore.
- Go to cultural events. It’s usually affordable and sometimes even FREE. Concerts in the park, art exhibits, and plays are just the beginning. And you’ll automatically have things to talk about with the people in attendance.
- Do your best to say “YES!” Most of us enjoy Netflix on the couch. However, you’re not going to meet anyone new from sitting in your apartment. Accept the invites you receive and get out there.
- Volunteer somewhere you’re passionate about. Make friends while making the world a better place? Win, win.
- Maintain budding friendships. Going to coffee with someone once is probably not going to cement a lifelong friendship. If you’re looking for something real, commit! Plan bi-monthly brunch hangouts, or wine Wednesday get-togethers the first of every month.
8. Getting Around the City
Sydney is very easy to get around, with an integrated system of trains, buses and ferries. I would recommend getting an Opal Card, which is the Sydney version of the Leap Card in Dublin and the Oyster Card in London. Many buses no longer take cash payments, so you will be lost without it. Opal cards can be purchased from most convenience stores and can be topped up at train stations, convenience stores and online.
To help you find the best routes around Sydney, you can use the trip planner section of the Transport NSW website. You can also find out more information about opal cards, transport tickets and general travel information on their website.
The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with Belgium, Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia,Sweden and the United Kingdom (UK). These agreements entitle you to some subsidized health services for essential medical treatment while visiting Australia.
Irish residents are entitled to services as a public patient in a public hospital. This includes medically necessary medicines available on prescription, which are subsidized under the PBS at the general rate, for outpatients. However, the reciprocal agreement does not cover GP visits for Irish people. A GP visit will cost about $80.
It is worth noting that prescriptions from home will not be filled in an Australian pharmacy. If you require any medications, you will either have to fill your prescription before you leave home or visit a doctor in Australia to get a new prescription written.
10. Power Plugs
Finally, it is important to know what type of adapter you will need when you arrive to Sydney, so that you can make sure your laptop will always be fully charged for all of the Skype calls home. The photo below is what is used in Australia and is a different plug to those used in the US, the UK and Europe.
“I love new places, new people, new ideas. I love cultural differences, and I’m fascinated by the truth – all the different versions of it.”