For anyone who didn’t get the memo, I moved to Melbourne back in May. It’s been an incredible 6 months and I’ve loved every minute of experiencing life in another country, something I’ve always been keen to do. I researched extensively before I moved over here, so on the whole my move over was fairly stress-free. I had a job before I landed, we found an apartment easily and I knew all about tax file numbers, medicare and banking options. However, not everyone may have the luxury of time like I did, so I wanted to share my top tips for those considering the move down under.
For anyone who is considering moving abroad, I’ve already written a collection of posts which you may find useful: Pre Departure To Do List, How To Pack Your Life Into One Suitcase, Tips To Survive In A New Country and How To Find A Job in Australia. However I’ve also outlined the top tips for Australia specifically below. These are the things that were essential for me to organise or be aware of in my first few days and weeks in the country. Trying to be prepared is something I’d recommend to anyone making the move, it’s a big move to make and it will make you much more relaxed this way.
As I moved over with my partner, we moved into our own apartment, rather than sharing with others. Whilst my boyfriend is a dual citizen (Australia and UK – lucky thing), he wasn’t that familiar with Melbourne so we relied on friend’s recommendations and research to choose the area in which we live. We live in Northcote, it’s one of the northern suburbs and is a really lovely area – it has lots of cute cafes, nice shops and restaurants. It’s well connected to the city with 3 nearby train stations and a tram going direct to the CBD. Now that I work in South Melbourne my commute is slightly longer than I’d like, but it’s easy so I can’t really complain. If you’re looking to rent your own apartment, then sites like Domain.com.au and Realestate.com.au are your best bet – though be prepared that the experience of finding a place is very different to in the UK, and not in a good way. In the UK, if you speak to an estate agent mentioning that you’re looking for a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment you’ll be hounded with calls and offers of viewings. Over here, they have set viewing dates – if you can’t make it, tough luck. Multiple groups of people will turn up for the same viewing and most of the time the estate agent doesn’t even take you round. It’s tough to get a place, you need to move fast and make sure you have the necessary documents and references ready before you go, so that you can apply straight way if needs be. If you’re looking to share, then I’ve heard Flatmates.com.au is a great site, or there is a Facebook group called Fairy Floss that’s meant to be super helpful.
You don’t want to use your UK bank account when you move over, as the fees will cost you an arm and a leg. The main banks to choose from are Westpac, ANZ, NAB, Citibank and Commonwealth. It’s worth doing your research as some of the banks have associations with UK banks – however I decided to go to with Commonwealth and I’ve had no issues with them at all. I was able to open the account easily before I moved over, and then just popped into the bank to collect my debit card and fill in a few forms on arrival. Many of the ATMs over here charge if you don’t bank with them, so make sure you choose a bank which has a fairly generous sprinkling of ATMs so you’re not charged up to $2 each time.
Tax File Number (TFN)
A TFN is a unique number issues by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to individuals to help manage tax and other government services. Essentially, it’s the Australian equivalent of a National Insurance number in the UK, and you’ll need one before you can start a job. You can apply for one here, but you’ll need to do it once you’re in Australia – just make sure it’s a priority, as whilst you can still work without one, you’ll be charged higher tax and mine took a good 3-4 weeks to arrive.
Depending on the visa you’re on, will depend on what type of phone deal you can get. As I’m currently on a Working Holiday Visa, I’m not able to get a contract until my visa sponsorship goes through. As a result, I’m currently on a pay as you go deal with Optus. The package is actually really generous, I typically buy a $40 deal a month and that gets me 6GB of data and lots of international minutes. The key players are Optus, Telstra and Vodafone – I think all are seen as pretty good so you can work out what deal is best for you.
Medicare is Australia’s version of the NHS, and the UK and Australia have a reciprocal agreement in place meaning that we’re covered for free. You’ll need to download forms and visit a Medicare centre to take them in and then you’ll be sent a Medicare card. I’d recommend doing this in your first few weeks, however this was something I forgot to do for a few months and even still the process was pretty quick for me despite being told it takes forever. You want to make sure you do it as otherwise you’ll have to pay for your doctors appointments. When you do receive your Medicare card make sure you look for a surgery that offers bulk-billing, which essentially means that it’s free. Thankfully I haven’t had to go to the doctors yet, but I’m ready and sorted for when I do.
Melbourne’s public transport system is pretty good in my experience. It’s no London, granted – but I haven’t found it to be unreliable or slow at all. My main tip would be to find somewhere to live that is either by a tram or train station as buses are a bit of a waste of time. To use public transport in Melbourne you’ll need to get a Myki card (Opal card in Sydney), which is the same as an Oyster card. You can either have a Myki pass (travel card) or Myki money (pay as you go), just make sure if you choose the latter to enable auto top-up as it can be tricky to find spots to top up sometimes. The system is definitely a bit behind in comparison to London, but it’s easy enough if you’re organised. To help you with getting around in Melbourne, I recommend downloading the PTV app – it’s great at letting you know what tram, train or bus you need to get you from A to B.