How to move to Australia
Thinking of moving to Australia? There's lots to think about, like which Australian bank is best for international residents, how to get access to healthcare, finding a job in Australia and more.
Get all the information you need right here so you can deal with the boring issues quickly and get on to the fun stuff: exploring this great country.
Moving to Australia
- Australian Bank account for international visitors
- Cheap Sim card and phone providers
- Applying for Medicare card in Australia and your health
- Free sexual health clinics in Australia
- How does the Australian Tax System Work?
- Australian Job Market/Finding work in Australia
- Finding a place to live
- Secondhand Furniture Stores in Australia
- Public transport around Australia
- Australian domestic air travel companies
- Driving in Australia
- Farm work in Australia
- Making friends in a foreign country
There are a number of banks in Australia, but the 'Big Four' are NAB, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Westpac. Each of them offer international residents bank accounts, some that you can set up before you arrive. Before you can get your bank cards, most of banks require you to verify your ID, which is something you typically need to do in person. It might be worth setting the account up before you arrive, so that as soon as you land you can head to a bank branch to get your cards.
Commbank (Commonwealth): You can set up an account up to three months before you arrive, so you could land with a Australian bank with Aussie dollars already in it.
Westpac: Westpac have a Australian International student banking account, and one for people on a working visa. You can apply for this up to 12 months before you arrive.
You can apply and open a NAB everyday banking account up to 12 months before you arrive.
ANZ also offers a variety of options for students, workers and business owners.
These accounts are targeted at international audiences, and that;s what you pay for. If you are looking for a high interest savings account in Australia for example, once you are more settled, it would probably be worth doing a bit more research.
Australia has essentially two tiers of sim card providers. Almost all of the “big name” companies also have a budget version under a different name. The biggest difference is the customer service - most of the budget ones only respond via email.
And while unlimited data for mobiles is pretty new in Australia, if you look around you can actually get a really cheap price on a sim card provider with a lot of data.
Telstra: Telstra is one of the older providers, and also fairly consistently the priciest. What they do offer though is the best coverage in rural areas. So if you are going into the outback for a longer time, they’d be our suggestion.
But, if you only expect to do a couple of day trips out, and will be moving to an Australian city, or are spending your vacation time in the city, or closeby, then there are a heap of other providers we’d recommend.
Premium sim card providers: Optus, Vodafone, Virgin
Aside from Telstra, these are the other big three more premium brands. The closest international comparisons would be T-Mobile, Sprint. Unlike the budget brands, these ones also have physical stores you can go to to organise a sim card or plan, whereas the others are only online.
How to Apply for a Medicare Card
Before moving to Australia you might have done some research on how our healthcare works. Australia has good public healthcare, and we currently have agreements with eleven countries with offers of reciprocal healthcare. You can read more on Australian Medicare Reciprocal Countries
To apply for a medicare card you will need (for Permanent Residents):
- Your bank account details (so Medicare can pay any Medicare benefits directly to your account)
- Passport, traveldoc or Immicard and
- Visa from the Department of Home Affairs confirming permanent residency (or proof for Australian permanent residency applicants)
- Fill out the Medicare Application Form
To apply for a medicare card you will need (for Visitors):
For visitors to Australia who would want to apply for a Medicare card, your eligibility to receive one varies from country to country. Some countries have a receiprocal agreement with Australia, where visitors have access to our Medicare system, and then Australians have an equivalent access to that country's medical program, (like the NHS in the UK). Read more about Medicare’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreements and what options you have based on your citizenship.
How Medicare Works in Australia
Assuming you are eligible:
Bulk billing: The way Medicare operates is that they will reimburse you for doctors visits (this does not include specialists). But doctors can set their own prices, so what you may or may not pay really can vary. For example, a doctor may charge you $50 for a visit, and you may be able to claim $30 of that with Medicare, which they will process and then credit to your chosen bank account.
Why could I only get back $30?
Using the example above the "gap" is $20, ie the difference between what the doctor charged and what Medicare covers, which is what you pay. Typically the doctor's office will have their rates, so you will know before you visit if there is a "gap" which means the gap between what Medicare will reimburse you and what you pay to that doctor.
But you can also go to bulk billing doctors. What this means is there is no gap and they charge Medicare directly, so you don’t have to pay anything at all.
Important to know:
If you are on an Australian 405 or 410 visa, you are typically not eligible for Medicare.
If you don't have a Medicare Card
Even if you don’t have a Medicare card, you can still go to the doctors. You won’t get it for free or bulk billed, but if you have travel insurance you should be able to claim it back (depending on your coverage). If you are unwell, go to the doctors, or if you believe it is serious - go to the hospital. It isn’t worth risking your life or health to save a few bucks. Ever.
If you are here on vacation, living or studying and are concerned about your sexual health, there are also a number of clinics that can see you without a Medicare card. Your sexual health is something to be taken seriously, particularly if you believe you may have been exposed to HIV or another STD. Here are a list of places in Australia that have excellent sexual health doctors.
Sexual Health Clinics in each state:
Victoria Sexual Health Clinics and STD Test Centres
Melbourne Sexual Health Centre: 580 Swanston St, Carlton VIC 3053
You don’t need a Medicare card to go. You just turn up, get a ticket, fill out some information and then wait until your number is called. Some Medicare billed services aren’t typically available (such as PREP or TAG), but you can see a doctor without a Medicare card.
Family Planning Victoria’s Action Centre on Elizabeth Street – for youth 25 and under and the Family Planning Victoria in Box Hill – for people 25 and older. **They do both charge a small service fee. **
NSW Sexual Health Clinics and STD Test Centres
NSW has a number of sexual health clinics, many of which have departments that cater to young adults, gay men, sex workers and have highly trained staff who are extremely knowledgable.
These clinics also offer Rapid HIV Testing, so if you believe you may have been exposed, it is critical you get to one of these testing centres ASAP.
Sydney STD and Sexual Health Centres
The Albion Centre in Surry Hills Sydney offers their services to people without a Medicare card. Please note they aren’t a general practitioner facility, and specifically are there for testing of HIV, STI’s and for people with concerns related to HIV, sexual health or viral hepatitis.
Brisbane Sexual Health Clinics and STD Test Centres:
Some of the sexual health clinics do charge a fee, but you can check on the phone what this would be before you go for an appointment.
Western Australia Sexual Health Clinics and STD Test Centres:
For a comprehensive list of Western Australia clinics, have a look on the WA Government website.
South Australia Sexual Health Clinics and STD Test Centres
For a comprehensive list of South Australia clinics look on the SA Health Government website
In order to legally work, you must apply for a Tax File Number (TFN).
If you are applying as a visitor, permanent migrant, or basically any category other than Australian citizen, you can apply online for a TFN once you are in Australia
Superannuation or your pension
It’s important to note, if you are only here temporarily, you still earn Superannuation or ‘super’, otherwise known as a pension fund. So when you leave Australia permanently, you may be eligible to transfer your Australian Super Fund overseas. The ATO has more details for temporary residents departing Australia or essentially claiming your super early since you’ve left the country.
If you are wondering are you eligible for super? Most employers have to pay super, and if you aren’t you should check with this article from the ATO on whether you should be being paid super.
Calculating your Tax Return
The ATO also has a handy calculator for you to calculate your tax back at the end of the Australian Financial year which is at the end of June.
Good places to look for work in Australia
Australia is an expensive country, however are wages typically do reflect this and once you start earning you will find most things are comparative to your salary. However, we are a smaller country in terms of population, so if you are coming here to look for work it is important to do you research about where the hotspots are for your field. Generally though for big corporations, Sydney is your best bet. Another easy way to figure out where the hubs are for your field, is look up a few companies in your industry and see where their headquarters are located.
For casual or short term work some great resources are:
Facebook pages - most Australian cities have a lot of "Sydney Jobs" page, or "Melbourne backpacker jobs", or titles similar to this.
There are also pages dedicated to farm work, or even specific fruit picking industries. Typically the Facebook pages for work tend to be more towards casual and manual labour roles as opposed to white collar positions.
Location demands for your industry:
Hospitality, labourers, customer service focused jobs tend to be pretty decent across Australia. It is probably worth noting however Melbourne is pretty competitive in the hospitality/barista industry since food is taken very seriously there.
For hospitality work you also need a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate. They vary slightly from state to state, so make sure to do your research. It normally is about a day long course, and costs around the $40-$80 mark depending on the provider. You shouldn’t be paying much more than that for just the RSA, so don’t get ripped off. The government Myskills site allows you search for Registered Training Organisations who offer a RSA.
Biggest Job Sites:
Seek - this is the biggest one in Australia. You can upload your CV on here to appear in searches by recruiters or companies as well.
LinkedIn - don’t underestimate the power of networking. Once you’ve arrived, scope out as many professional events or industry organisations as you can and start adding people.
Other Job Sites:
If you are arriving on 417 visa (working holiday), don’t forget you are only allowed to work for six months with one employer. This can make it more challenging if you are looking for a decent job, but luckily many employers in Australia are open to sponsorship for the right employee.
Unlike a lot of other countries, it is much more common for rentals to come unfurnished here than furnished. You can find furnished apartments or sharehouses, but it isn’t the norm. So be prepared to potentially have to furnish your new place. Luckily there is also a healthy secondhand market, so you can pick up some cheap furniture pretty easily! If you’re looking to lease your own place, these are the two biggest real estate sites for renting and buying in Australia.
Sharehouses / Flatshare / Roomshares in Australia:
These sharehouse sites operate across Australia, whether you are looking for housemates in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast or Perth.
Flatmates: You can use a limited version of this site to find rooms for rent with flatmates, or teamups with other people looking for a house. There is a free version of the site, but otherwise you have to pay around $30 for the "premium" version which allows you to message people earlier.
Flatematefinders: Flatmate Finders asks you to be quite specific with what you are looking for in housemates and a house - age, smoking, sexuality, gender and then it shows you matches of rooms that fit or closely fit your specification.
There are many Facebook groups in each city on Facebook, all you have to do is type in the city name in the search and they will appear.
Melbourne Share House page
Fairy Floss - Big Facebook share house is a well known group in Melbourne. But becuase the name doesn't have Melbourne in it it's a bit harder to find in the Facebook search.
Sharehouse Scams in Australia:
Unfortunately there are some dodgy scammers in these Facebook groups who try to take advantage. So never send money before you’ve seen a place and met someone. If you are paying a bond, even as a subletter you can get it registered with the Rental Bond Authority in the state you are renting in.
Secondhand furniture is a great idea. It not only works out better value, but it's better for the environment - reusing instead of buying new.
If you want to buy some cheap furniture there are many “Buy and Sell” and Secondhand Facebook groups, along with Facebook Marketplace. Also look out for op shops (charity shops) and secondhand stores such as Salvation Army, St Vinnies or Brotherhood St Laurence.
Gumtree and the Trading Post are both online sites that you can pick up a bargain, as well as garage sales and weekend markets. If you don’t have a car to move that furniture, you can easily borrow one for a few hours. Cheaper than movers, and a lot more convenient!
Our personal recommendation is use a site like MicroBurbs to get the lowdown on what are the wealthiest per capita suburbs near you and then go to the op shops and garage sales in those areas - you're more likely to find a bargain!
A few recommendations we have for each city for bargain furniture shopping:
Mosman 2088, Bondi Beach 2026, Darling Point 2027, Spit Junction 2088, Bellevue Hill 2023 or basically anywhere on the east coast of Sydney (ie the beach).
South Yarra, Toorak 3142, Malvern 3144, Brighton 3186, Fitzroy 3065. The southern suburbs (South Yarra, Toorak etc) is where the Real Housewives of Melbourne is filmed, and is regarded as the more ritzy part of the city.
Ascot 4007, St Lucia 4067, Hamilton 4007, Bulimba 4171. Along the river and close to the city, these suburbs are filled with beautiful old Queenslander style homes.
Peppermint Grove 6011, Dalkeith 6009, Cottlesloe 6011, City Beach 6015.
The CBD of Melbourne (Central Business Disctrict) has free trams for you to get around. The City Circle line (as pictured) use the original, historic trams for a fun, free tourist activity.
Australian Public Transport
Australia has pretty decent public transport, especially when you consider the geographic size to the population.
Each city in Australia has it's own public transport network and name, here is the list of every Australian public transport site. They do have an Android or iOS apps for their sites, or you can plan your public transport travel online.
- Melbourne: Public Transport Victoria
- Sydney: Opal Travel
- Brisbane: TransLink
- Adelaide: MetroMATE
- Perth: Transperth
- Darwin: NT Bus Tracker
- Hobart: Metro Tas
Regional trains are somewhat of a thing outside of Melbourne and Sydney, but are fairly limited in other states. You can travel Australia by train but it is probably worth noting the trains themselves are a part of the experience - if you’re looking for a cost effective way to travel this isn’t it.
There are some buses between cities as well, or you can search for rideshare on sites like CoSeats or Share Your Ride and a lot of the Facebook Backpacker groups will have people putting up posts to share travel costs.
Australia has a few competitors in the domestic air travel market, and flights are fairly competitively priced, particularly if you can get a deal in a sale. As is typical of anywhere though, those prices really get hiked up around holidays, so if you are travelling during the holiday period, try to have some flexibility to avoid those peak fares.
Cheap Domestic Flights Australia:
It’s worth noting, much like other countries who have the budget air companies, their business model is around charging you for every extra they can (cough Ryanair cough). So if you are here travelling around Australia with an enormous suitcase or backpack, these airlines may not actually be cheaper for you once you get stuck buying all the extras.
Don’t try to get around it either, many of these budget airlines will now weigh and check your bags at the gate right before you board and then you will be paying the absolute maximum for your excess luggage...Or, be prepared to put on a lot of clothes before your flight.
Premium Domestic Flights Companies:
Qantas is the oldest of these airlines, and was the maker of a fairly iconic advert back in the late 90’s, which involves kids singing in a bunch of different places around Australia.
If you are going to be driving in Australia, rules vary from State to State about whether or not you can drive on your home country’s licence, or whether you need to have an International licence or that states licence. You can check out our article on Australian driving rules for more information, but for the most up-to-date guidelines, it's best to read about each state’s requirements on the government website.
It's probably a better option to rent a car in Australia if you only need one occasionally as cars in Australia are quite costly compared to other countries.
Don't forget - Australia drives on the left!
If farm work in Australia is a part of your requirements for that second year, one tip we have is to not leave it til the last three months of your first year! The government is strict, and if you are short a couple of days of your three month requirement, they won’t let you stay to make them up.
Word of mouth is your strongest ally here - talk to other travellers who have done their farmstay and try to go to one that has been recommended to you. Also do your research on what time of the year you are going. If you aren’t a fan of the humid heat, North Queensland at basically any time but winter (June - Aug) will be pretty intense.
Australians are a pretty friendly bunch, but moving to a new city or place can be a tough nut to crack. You’ll probably find when you first arrive, most of your friends will be other visitors, as getting in with an existing friendship group is always more challenging, no matter where you are.
To start branching out, check out some Meetups in your new city. They have them for a ton of different events, in all of Australia's major cities, and many smaller towns as well.
Speaking from personal experience after moving interstate, I personally enjoyed the ones that revolved around a specific activity - working out, boardgames or an educational event to be more rewarding than just drinking in a pub. In part because then you get to do an activity you like, but also if you find none of the people at it are quite your cup of tea, at least you can still enjoy burning a few calories or learning something new.
Giving back to your community is rewarding and a great way to get involved with likeminded people. Think about what you really find interesting, and what you would personally find as a rewarding venture - whether that is helping out at the RSPCA or volunteering at a retirement village.
All done! We hope you've found our guide on moving to Australia useful, and are on your way to having a fantastic time in the Land Down Under.