Considering I’m now an avid planner, it’s a little astonishing to think that I did next to no research for my year in Australia. No matter how many times my boyfriend tried to persuade me to do some planning, I wasn’t having any of it. The process of moving to the other side of the world can be daunting, and I think that I was so completely overwhelmed by the uncertainty of it all, that I didn’t even want to think too much about it until the day we were actually setting foot on the plane!
Whilst my concerns were completely understandable, if I’d done a little research I might not have been so apprehensive. Of course, travelling to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa is a financial risk. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find work, but if you don’t at least try, you’ll never know. I’m happy to say that despite the fears, it was probably the best decision I’ve made in my life so far! Exploring Australia has altered my dreams and ambitions, made me feel more inspired and ignited a love for travel that I’ve never had before! If I were you, I’d grab the opportunity with both hands and take a leap of faith!
Please note: The information in this post is based on my experience of the Australian Working Holiday Visa in Sept 2015-2016.
Before you go
Apply for your visa
The first thing you should do is apply for the Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417). In order to be eligible for this, you are required to:
- Be aged between 18-31
- Have sufficient funds to support yourself
- Not have any substantial medical conditions or criminal convictions
- Pay a fee of $440AUD
You can find out more about the visa, including how to apply, on the official Australian government website. Most people will receive their visa confirmation within a fortnight, but it’s worth noting that it can take longer. I have mild asthma, but was required to visit a specific location in Birmingham for a chest X-ray to obtain my visa, which set me back a further £100. So if you have any medical conditions, the sooner you apply the better! Then, once your visa has been confirmed you have a year to enter the country.
The visa allows you to:
- Stay in Australia for up to 12 months
- Work in Australia (up to 6 months with each employer)
- Leave and re-enter as many times as you choose within this year
Set up your bank account
When it comes to setting up your bank account you have two options; you can either set one up before you leave for Australia, or open an account once you arrive. There are a range of different banks to choose from, including Commonwealth, NAB, ANZ and Westpac. I personally chose Commonwealth which was free to set up at the time, but have heard positive things about the others. Depending on which bank you choose, you might be charged a monthly account fee.
The great thing about setting up your account before you leave is that your bank card will be ready and waiting for you at your chosen branch when you arrive. However, if you decide to wait until you get to Australia to set up an account it can take between 1-2 weeks to arrive. You can use the address of your hostel/place of residence for this to be sent to.
To set up an account with Commonwealth Bank click here.
Sort your finances
You’ll need to take enough money with you to live comfortably, and depending on your financial situation you might eventually have to send some extra money from home. If you’re planning on transferring money directly to your new Australian bank account, you should know that both banks will charge an international payment fee. To get around this, I took a prepaid travel money card with me which could be reloaded online for free. There are a few different versions of these on offer; I personally used the Thomas Cook Cash Passport and would definitely recommend it.
Rewrite your CV
It goes without saying that you should ensure your CV is as up-to-date as possible. At the end of the day, you’re travelling to Australia to travel and work, and a refreshed CV will only aid your job hunt.
Plan a general route
Whilst the beauty of the Working Holiday Visa is that you can be flexible, it’s nice to have a general idea of where you might visit. Check out this page for inspiration! I definitely wouldn’t recommend booking any flights or accommodation months in advance unless you are completely certain of your travel plans, as your route is very likely to change!
When you arrive
Get a SIM card
The main providers in Australia are Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. Having had experience of two of these three, I would recommend Telstra, especially if you’re heading further in land to the outback and/or to Tasmania, as the network has a much better coverage. Australia operates on a pre-paid system. Essentially you load an amount onto the phone each month, which gets you a certain amount of data, calls and texts. Here is an example of what each amount gets you. At the end of each month, anything you haven’t used gets wiped, but the good thing about it is that you aren’t constricted to a monthly phone contract; when you leave Australia you just don’t top up!
Get a Medicare card
Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with the United Kingdom, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. This agreement allows you to access essential medical treatments during your time in the country. It’s always worth getting a Medicare card just in case anything happens to you! You can find out more information here.
Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN)
In order to work you need to have a Tax File Number. This basically ensures you are being taxed the correct amount. Not having one can result in you having to pay way more than you should, so it’s pretty important! Once you’ve applied, you will get sent a temporary TFN that you can give to any employers; the real number usually takes between 1-2 weeks to arrive. You can apply for your TFN here.
Look for a job
The great thing about Australia is that the current national minimum wage is $18.29 per hour, but from experience a lot of employers will pay you $20+. This means that if you have secured a job and are savvy with your money, it’s very easy to save! Typical ‘backpacker’ jobs include fundraising, hostel work, construction, furniture removal and farm work. However, it isn’t impossible to get other jobs. If you have a certain skill or have experience in certain types of work, find out where the agencies related to that are in the city you’re staying in and apply! I’ve known people to work in various fields including childcare and hairdressing. Nothing is impossible.
It’s also worth knowing that with certain forms of work you’ll need to undertake training. For example, serving alcohol requires an RSA, working in construction requires a White Card and working with children requires a Blue Card. These can be easily obtained online but cost different prices depending on which state you are in when you apply for one.
My advice for the job hunt:
- Be proactive and persevere – Unless you’re really lucky, you probably won’t get the first job you apply to. Employers might be conscious of the 6 month maximum working period of the Working Holiday Visa, but don’t let this put you off! Persevere and you’ll be rewarded!
- Use job websites – These include Seek, Gumtree and Indeed.
- Don’t settle for a poorly paid job – One of my main regrets from my time in Australia was settling for a job with terrible pay! I worked there for two months and didn’t save half as much as I could have with a proper wage. Don’t let people take advantage of you!
Find somewhere to live
Whether you’ve decided to begin the job hunt straight away or travel first, you’ll eventually need to settle down somewhere for a while to work. This is one of the best things about the Working Holiday Visa; when you work in a city for a few months it allows you to get a real feel for it! The big cities are more likely to have a wide range of job opportunities, so my advice would be to choose one and start by finding somewhere to stay!
- Hostels – If you’re willing to share a dorm with other people then hostels are a great way to save a bit of money as well as being sociable. I still can’t believe that for 10 months of my visa I stayed in hostels, the majority of which was in an 8 bed dorm! It just goes to show that it is possible, especially when you’re sharing rooms with people who eventually begin to feel like your family! Most affordable hostels in Australia are within $15-$30 per night, but many offer cheaper weekly rates. I would recommend using HostelWorld.
- Flatshare – If you need a little more space then you could always rent a flat! Be aware that with these you usually have to pay a refundable upfront bond. Some useful websites are: Flatmates and Gumtree.
What comes next?
Well you haven’t travelled to Australia just to work; you’ve also come to explore! Why not have a little read of my other posts – hopefully these will give you some inspiration for where you might like to travel!
Are you planning on visiting Australia on a Working Holiday Visa? What are you most looking forward to? If you’ve enjoyed this post or if it’s has helped you then please share or comment in the section below!
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