If you're like me and decide to take the adventure of a lifetime and move internationally, first of all, CONGRATS! Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime. I'm very excited for you and know that you won't regret it! Immersing yourself in a new country, new culture, new adventure has so many perks and you'll really get to know yourself as you navigate making new friends and finding your way. If you picked Australia, you will absolutely fall in love with the untouched coastal beauty, laid back culture, and friendly people. There's a lot to think about when planning a big move across the world, so this guide is meant to help you navigate your first month in Australia (or understand what to consider regardless of where you're moving!)
Obviously before you arrive, you'll have your visa sorted. Make sure you've checked all the T&Cs with that. Did you know you can get a visa to work in Australia without being sponsored by a company if you're under 30? It's called the Working Holiday Visa! If you do get sponsored, you're one of the lucky ones. I shared more details about the logistics of how and why I moved in this post.
Save this post (or pin it) for reference as your ultimate Australia guide to settling in as an expat down under! These are the 6 most important things to keep in mind:
1. GET YOUR CELL PHONE SORTED
First things first - get yourself a phone or a SIM card to insert into your current phone. Telstra, Vodaphone, and Optus are the 3 major providers here & have shops at nearly every train station and mall. Pop in on day 1 to get an aussie number and data plan to be able to navigate around.
You may not want to lose your home phone number that all your friends and family back home will still have in their phones for ages. It's also often tied to a handful of websites (i.e. American banks that can't use Australia numbers). If you're like me and do have plans to move home, you won't want to lose your local number, so park it with NumberBarn before you cancel your old plan.
NumberBarn will put your number on hold and allow you to receive all your texts that flood through via an email directly to your inbox. It's very handy while people are still learning your new number, or your bank has a security code you need to access. It only costs $2/month, so it's well worth it if you want to get your number back once you move home.
2. SETUP BANKING & CONVERT YOUR $ TO AUD
You can actually setup your bank account before you arrive with some banks like Westpac (which is who I bank with). Commonwealth and Westpac are both great options as they offer expat accounts, and are the most common banking companies in Australia.
TransferWise is an awesome website that allows you to transfer currencies. The money stays in the TransferWise cloud and never actually leaves the country, so you won’t pay huge fees like you do transferring through a bank (Wells Fargo charged me something like 5-6% on top of the one time fee, so I wish I knew about TransferWise before I moved!) TransferWise only charges a 1% fee, being the cheapest way to convert money. I still use my American credit cards for the points, so I convert through TransferWise to pay it off every month. This link will get you a reduced or completely waived fee on your first transfer, depending on the amount you're transferring.
3. APPLY FOR A TAX FILE NUMBER
You’ll need to provide a tax file number to your company to get paid. It’s kind of like a social security number. Sign up immediately once you arrive so there’s no delay in paychecks or tax withholding issues if you start your job right away. This will also allow you to setup your Super (or Superannuation Fund, which is a retirement program that your Australian employer is required to contribute 9.5% of your salary, on top of your salary, to. Make sure you ask your employer for more info on this! They will either have an account they make you use, or ask you to BYO in which case you can just get one at your regular bank for simplicity or shop around for interest rates) You can apply for your tax file number here.
4. FIND A PLACE TO LIVE
Determine where you want to live. I'd recommend picking either 1) beach or 2) city & not fussing with the in between options. If you're looking to save money, the farther inland you go, the cheaper it will be. For Sydney, my beach recommendations are Manly, Freshwater, Bondi, Coogee, Double Bay. For the city, I recommend Surry Hills, Newtown, Darlinghurst, or Paddington.
Once you decide on a location, you have two options: 1) a shared flat, or 2) get your own lease (or buy of course, but I don't have much info to share with you on that option).
For option 1), check out flatmates.com.au and you can expect to find a place in about 1 week. There are so many expats constantly coming and going from here.
For option 2), check out domain.com.au where you can find housing appointments called inspections that are 10 minute slots that you must show up to in order to get a flat. Realators typically host inspections on Wednesdays and Saturdays only, and be ready to apply online and move in soon after.
5. LEARN HOW TO WATCH (GOOD) TELEVISION
See more of my Sydney apartment and get ideas for travel inspired decor in this post.
Don't bother with Australian cable -- even most Australians don't get cable. Did you know that Australia has a different version of Netflix too (much worse options, might I add)?! There are different copyright laws here, so certain countries don't have the rights to all the US shows we're used to watching. Yep, that means you won't have The Office (the US version at least), Friends, etc. -- aka my staples! I have figured out a loophole to be able to watch though: get a VPN.
I use ExpressVPN and login through an IP address somewhere in California. Then, I use my parents or best friend's cable login for OnDemand, HBO, Hulu, etc. I also use this to login to my Netflix account and watch the (good) US shows! Get 30 days free here.
I also use Hayu to watch all my Bravo trash (Vanderpump Rules, Southern Charm & all that juicy stuff...). Hayu is an Australian/UK company that streams American reality tv shows immediately after they’re aired. I’m obsessed.
6. UNDERSTAND AUSTRALIAN COFFEE
Australian coffee is not what I’m used to, coming from the States, where I rarely would ever order an espresso drink. I’ve tried most now and I’m all about the Flat Whites and Piccolos (mini latte pick me ups!) and obviouslyyy Espresso Martinis at night. Don’t be surprised to find ice cream in your coffee if you ask for an iced coffee. 🤦🏼♀️ The closest thing to an American cup of Joe is a Long Black, but be warned it’s much stronger since its espresso based! You’ll soon fall in love with the coffee in Oz... I’m addicted!
Make sure to check out Hey You, which allows you to order your coffee from the app (so it a stop before yours) and they’ll be ready to hand it to you on your way into the office. Saves me “heaps” of time! Use code QGE6R478 for your first coffee on me ('my shout' in aussie lingo!)
7. FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET AROUND
The public transport in Sydney is great. It's usually on time and clean, and the routes are efficient! You can travel by train, bus and ferry here. To ride public transport, you need to pick up an Opal card at any newsagency (aka convenience stores in any train stations or major public areas). I'm sure you'll also do a lot of walking! Be cautious that cars do not give pedestrians the right of way, even at street corners. Sydney also has Uber and Ola Cab (an Uber copycat; use code AG7ERHU for A$20 credit), and recently came out with UberPool which allows you to share your commute with another commuter & receive a 30% discount. Sydney is extremely spread out though, so Uber is expensive!
You’ll want to sign up for GoGet which is like GetAround inthe states, a cheap on demand car rental service where you can rent cars parked in your neighborhood or nearby at affordable hourly or daily rates. Get $25 off your first ride by putting my full name, Megan Peters, in the 'How did you hear about us?' section.
TripView is the best, most accurate smartphone app for public transport. Opt for the paid version - it’s worth the $5 one time fee to be able to save your routes. It’s saved me from being late to work when I’m rushing out the door and deciding whether to walk or run to the bus stop a time or twenty!
Everything in Australia is very modern and for me it wasn’t a huge culture shock, moving from California. Make sure to check out my Australia destination guides to start planning your adventures once you’ve landed down under! Here’s a good starter guide for being a tourist in your new city.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need (or have!) any recommendations! You'll fall in love with Australia just like I did immediately, I'm sure!
Next, check out 10 things I learned about Australia in my first 3 weeks here OR my ultimate Australian Bucket List.