It’s exactly 13 years ago since Nick and I packed up our meagre belongings and moved to the other side of the world. We were newly engaged, our worldly possessions fit into a handful of bags (granted, I had far more than he did!) and we set off in January 2006 to live in Sydney, Australia. This was the first of many great adventures and whenever we talk about our time in Oz, we both agree that the three years we spent here was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Moving to Sydney, Australia
In contrast to later moves when we were relocated by Nick’s company, this journey was entirely self-funded. We didn’t have much money at the time so there was a lot of saving and budgeting involved. Still, once we got to Sydney we lived with the beach on our doorstep, swam in the ocean every weekend and learned how to make a half decent BBQ. If you’re considering a move to Australia then here are some of the things that you need to be aware of and some tips on how to keep the cost down.
Getting a visa
The cost of a visa varies depending on what type of visa you need. Nick was on a 457 visa, which was for foreign citizens and allowed “a skilled worker to travel to Australia to work in their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor for up to four years.” I was on a student visa as I was studying for an MA at the University of Technology, Sydney. There have been some changes since we were there, however, and the 457 visa is no longer available having been replaced by the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa. Check the Australian Immigration Webpage for more details on what visa you’ll need and how much it will cost but be aware that a ‘Business Talent’ visa starts at AUD $7,290! A working holiday visa by contrast costs only AUD $450 – but this is only available for 18 to 30-year-olds (inclusive) who want to work and travel in Australia for a year.
Shipping your belongings
We didn’t own much furniture when we left for Australia so we decided to leave whatever we owned in the UK and start afresh in Oz. However, if you do want to ship your belongings you’re looking at a significant cost – prices for a 40ft container start at around £2,000 (not including insurance) from London. This is the main reason we didn’t ship anything! If you have extra bags then take a look at companies such as Excess International who can send bags and cartons for a reasonable price. If you’re travelling with pets then you’ll need to factor in the cost of moving them as well as any quarantine costs. AirPets is one company that can help with this.
Renting a house or an apartment
Gone are the days of cheap rent in Sydney, these days prices are on a par with London. Today, a two-bedroom apartment in Bondi, where we lived when we were in Australia, costs from AUD $780 per week. Also, make sure you factor in your bond (deposit) when calculating what you can afford; the bond is usually equal to one month’s rent which means you’ll need AUD $6,760 just to move in (one month’s bond plus one month’s rent). Of course there are cheaper neighbourhoods to live in, the Northern Beaches for example tend to be less expensive. The best places to look for rental properties are Domain.com.au, RealEstate.com.au and, if you’re looking for a shared apartment, Flatmates.com.au.
Furnishing your new home
Once you’ve found a place to move into you’ll need to find some furniture (furnished apartments are available but you often need to pay a bigger bond, sometimes as much as three month’s rent). We kitted out our very tiny (but very lovely) apartment with views over Bondi beach with furniture from IKEA and borrowed some bits and pieces from friends. Another great option for furnishing your home on a budget is to check out sites like Gumtree where people can buy and sell furniture (among other things). And remember that in Australia homes don’t come with appliances so you’ll either have to buy or rent your white goods. We rented, which was very easy – take a look at RentaCentre.
Medicare is the Australian health system and you are eligible if you are visiting from a reciprocal healthcare country such as the UK. It’s not completely free but some things are covered. Take a look at the Department of Human Services website for more information on what it covers and what you’ll have to pay for.
Getting to Australia
Obviously, you need to get to Australia! Depending on where you’re coming from, this can be expensive! We flew from London on the cheapest tickets we could find. For good deals take a look at Skyscanner.net and Expedia.com.
Fortunately, once you get set up, you can live relatively cheaply in Sydney: the weather is glorious and the beaches are free! For more ideas on things to do in Australia, take a look at this post on animal experiences in Melbourne and this one on nature adventures in New South Wales.