How To Start Off Your Working Holiday Visa In Australia

how to start your working holiday visa in Australia

How To Start Off Your Working Holiday Visa In Australia

Australia is a country like no other.  The land down under offers a huge variety of opportunities.  You could spend your days surfing on Bondi Beach, enjoy all the coffee under the sun in Melbourne, explore the orange, desert like landscapes in the outback or forget your nights with excessive amounts of goon on the east coast, it’s hard not to have the time of your life here.

Each year millions of people decide to apply for their working holiday visa and make their way to Australia for up to 2 years.  This can be an exciting time for anyone, after months of planning back home, working hard to save while day-dreaming of lying on that beach in the beaming sun.  However, the first few weeks can be testing for anyone arriving in a whole new country with no home or job.  With the right preparation and knowledge though, those tiresome and sometimes stressful first couple of weeks of job hunting and flat searching can be made a hell of a lot easier.

During my first couple of weeks in Melbourne after arriving in Australia, I was literally spending all day either job searching, attending interviews or searching for a room in a shared house and going to viewings.  I did some exploring, but I wanted to get a steady income prior to splashing any cash.  These first couple of weeks were at times unbearable, but I soon got sorted with a job paying a good wage and a room in a nice, modern house.

The following is my 10 point list on how to start off your working holiday visa in Australia

  1. Make sure you save enough to tide you over until you begin working
  2. Decide whether you’re going to work or travel, to begin with
  3. Find somewhere cheap to stay initially
  4. Get a more permanent place to stay as soon as possible
  5. Find a job that you want to do
  6. Get the boring stuff out of the way
  7. Transfer your money over using a good money exchange service
  8. Decide what you want to gain from your stay in Australia
  9. Pick a city/town which suits you
  10. Most importantly, enjoy it
Picture of Melbourne skyline from Naked For Satan bar in Fitzroy

Melbourne Skyline

1. Make sure you save enough to tide you over until you begin working

Ensuring you have enough money saved before you arrive in Australia is key.  It’s easy to be have the mindset that you’ll be working, saving money, so why on earth would it be necessary to have money saved before you arrive?  Well, don’t forget, prior to working and earning money, there are certain things you will need to pay out for.  These things will include; accommodation when you arrive (either a hostel, hotel or AirBnb), the first months phone bill, food, maybe drinks if you’re going to go to a few bars, apartment/house bond and rent.  It all adds up doesn’t it? All those expenses potentially leaving your account before you get that first pay check.

Say for instance, you arrived, lived in a hostel for 1 week, found a room in a house following that first week and you had the rest of the expenditures above to pay for, all before you got a job after 2 weeks and paid the following week.

Well, here’s how much it could set you back. Example of first 3 weeks expenses –

  • Hostel – $50 x 7 = $350
  • Food – $60 x 3 = $180
  • Phone Bill – $40
  • Room bond – $1000
  • Room weeks rent x 2 – $400
  • Total = $1970

I would recommend having at least $2500-3000 in your account on your arrival.  This should be more than enough to tie you over.  Although the more, the better.

Picture of Australian Dollars

2. Decide whether you’re going to work or travel to begin with

If you want to work, then great, get going.  If you want to travel, then go ahead. In my experience it’s best not to waste time arriving in a city, partying for 1-2 weeks, then wondering what you have actually done and where all your money has gone.

You’ll more than likely be working and saving at home for the trip of a lifetime, then arriving in a brand new city where everything is exciting.  Temptation and eagerness can often overcome the urge to get a job and search for a room. It can be tempting to want to have a couple of weeks relaxing and partying.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing this, but like I said, further down the line you may wonder why you didn’t spend that money on Fraser Island, Magnetic Island or Whitsundays for example.

On the same note, if you’re coming to Australia to travel, why waste money in one city that can be a lot more expensive than other destinations around the country.  Australia can be very expensive, especially alcohol and before you know it, you’ll be looking at your bank account, tearing your hair out.

Most people come to Australia to have one of the best year or two of their lives.  Trust me, the time you spend in Australia will be much better if you’re not wondering whether your bank card will decline when you’re paying for that beer.

Champagne Pools on Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

Fraser Island, Money Well Spent

3. Find somewhere cheap to stay initially

I may have mentioned, Australia isn’t the cheapest country in the world and while you will probably want to find somewhere nice to stay semi-permanently, it’s a good idea to find somewhere cheap to stay for when you first arrive.

If you’re planning to start working as soon as you arrive in Australia, you will more than likely want to find a room in an apartment or a house, rather than living in a hostel the whole time.  However, it’s unlikely you will be able to find somewhere to rent before you arrive in the country.  That being said, unless you know someone who you can stay with, it’s probable you will have to stay in a hostel (take a look on Trip Advisor, which does the hard work of comparing prices for you), hotel or Airbnb, prior to finding rented accommodation.

If you’re by yourself, a hostel dorm bed will probably be your best option.  First of all, the dorm bed will definitely be the cheapest option.  Secondly, a hostel will be the best option socially.  When you’re not looking for a job or a place to stay, I’m sure you’ll want to do a bit of socialising and exploring.  If you’re with a partner it may be worth taking a look at a room in an Airbnb.  That’s exactly what myself and Olivia did when we arrived, it worked out cheaper than a dorm and it was much more relaxing.

4. Get a more permanent place to stay as soon as possible

Living in a hostel is all well and good when you’re travelling, but who wants to be living in a dorm with a group of backpackers getting back from a night out at 3am, when you have work at 9am.

The option the majority of people will opt for when working in a new city on their working holiday visa, is finding a room in a shared house or apartment.  The best way to find a spare room is to get on the internet, onto sites such as Gumtree and Flatmates, also there’s plenty of Facebook groups out there like Fairy Floss Real Estate for rooms around Melbourne  .  People regularly post on these websites, advertising spare rooms for rent.  Be warned, if you’re looking for a room in a nice place, within a popular suburb, you’ll have to be fast.

Picture of Carroll Street in North Melbourne

Typical Inner City Suburb Street, Melbourne

5. Find a job that you want to do

It’s easy to come to a new country, have little to no money or have your money dwindling away at a rate of knots, panic and take the first job that comes your way, no matter what it is.  I’d recommend to find a job to suit your needs and that you enjoy.

It probably won’t be as easy to get a job that you really want to do, it may be impossible.  The majority of career jobs will only employ permanent residents.  However, if you do search hard enough and put the effort in, you will find something you half enjoy doing and probably find one that pays more as well.  After all, more money = more money saved or more money to do things you enjoy! This may sound obvious, but get yourself out there when applying for jobs.  Instead of just applying for roles online by sending your CV over, give the recruitment agent or company a call if you see a number on the advert.  

6. Get the boring stuff out of the way

When you get the Australia, the last thing you will probably want to do is go and open a bank account, or order your Tax File Number.  However, these are all must-do’s and it’s best to get them out of the way, so they are over and done with.

The bank account is easy and this can even be done before you get to Australia.  Commonwealth Bank allow people to open their accounts before they arrive in the country, by applying online through the Commonwealth Bank website, which takes less than 10 minutes.  You can nominate a branch to head into once you arrive, so you can activate your account.

A Tax File Number is needed so you don’t end up paying a ridiculous rate of tax that you can get back, so yeah, this one is a necessity.  A TFN takes up to 21 days to arrive from when it is ordered, it’s usually less than this though.  The only catch with your TFN, is it does need to be sent out in the post, so you need an Australian address to get it delivered to.  Once you have an Australian address which is suitable to receive your TFN via post, you can apply for it on the Australian Taxation Office website.  The form is fairly straight forward and will only take a few minutes to complete.

If your plan is to start working straight away when you arrive in Australia, then a phone should be the top of your priorities.  You will need an Australian phone number to be contacted by or to contact potential employers.  Also, it helps to be able to use your phone whenever you want, rather than just on wifi.  In terms of mobile phone providers, Telstra claim to have the best coverage across Australia, so if you plan on being in rural areas, they may be the best option.  However, in terms of value for money, my choice is Optus and their Prepaid Ultimate Plan.  This Optus plan includes free calls to the UK, USA and more, 6GB of data and unlimited call and texts, when you top up $40 per month.

7. Transfer your money over using a good money exchange service

You will more than likely need to transfer money into your Australian bank account at one point or another.  Don’t transfer your hard earned money straight through your bank.  The banks give absolutely terrible exchange rates. It’s basically as though you’re throwing money down the drain if you do the transfer through your bank.

Find a reputable money exchange service, which offers the best rate possible.  The best money exchange service I have come across is TransferWise.  The exchange rate is the bank to bank rate, so you literally can’t get any better.  Also, they charge low fees.

Say for example, I transferred 2500 USD through TransferWise to my Australian account, I would receive 3223.64 AUD.  I would receive a  rate of 1 USD – 1.3024 AUD (exchange rate on 18/10/16) and a fee of 24.75 USD would be charged.


 

8. Decide what you want to gain from your stay in Australia

Do you want to save for your future travels or do you simply want to enjoy and experience working in a completely different country, or both.  The most common answer, is generally both.

Luckily, the wages out here are great for fairly average jobs.  Take for instance, my first job in Melbourne was for Australia Post as an inbound customer service adviser, paying $29 p/h.  $29 p/h is quite a high wage.  The majority of wages for backpackers seems to be $22 p/h+.  Which is much better than the average wage at home in the UK for those kind of jobs.

Yes, the cost of living in Australia is slightly higher, but it is fairly easy to save if you put your mind to it.  All I heard prior to arriving in Australia is how expensive it is in general.  I haven’t found that to be the truth though.  The majority of things can be done on a budget.  One thing I would say that can drain your bank balance is definitely drinking alcohol.  The great thing, or not so great thing, depending on how you look at it, is Australian bottle shops stock boxed wine, commonly known as Goon.  Goon is incredibly kind on the wallet, but it’s basically wine that has never been near a grape and this definitely shows in the taste.  Also, the hangovers from a night on Goon can be horrendous.

Saving and enjoying yourself can be done simultaneously on your working holiday visa in Australia.  The key word here though is moderation.  If you do things in moderation such as nights out and eating out, along with a combination of other factors such as working full-time and finding a cheap-ish place to live, it isn’t all that hard to save money.

My approximate monthly savings while working in Melbourne –

Income (after tax) –

  • $855 per week x 4 = $3420

Expenses –

  • Rent $1272/2 = $636
  • Mobile Phone = $40
  • Food $400/2  = $200
  • Bills (Electricity & Water) = $100
  • Nights Out & Eating Out = $250
  • Clothes = $150
  • Transport (Myki Money Pass)= $116

Monthly Savings = $1928.00.

Obviously, the income and expenses will vary for each individual, but the previous should give you an idea of how much you could be saving while on your working holiday visa in a city in Australia.

9. Pick a city/town which suits you

Do you want to live in the big city? Want to work in a country pub and experience rural Australia? Fancy extending your backpacker partying days and working in a hostel on the coast?  It’s best to have a research before you arrive, decide what you want to experience, then decide on a location.

Also, the weather is something to take into account.  The southern cities are colder during the winter months, especially Melbourne.  I have first hand experience of that, having to buy a coat as soon as I got here in August.  If the cold does bother you, maybe head north for the winter and then head further south when it’s summer.

Picture of Gordons Bay in Sydney

Sydneys Beaches Might Well Be Your Thing

10. Most importantly, enjoy it

You’re in Australia.  If your aim is to literally save as much as you can, then that’s all good.  Bear in mind though, you’re on the other side of the world, living in a brand new country for a maximum of one or two years (unless you get sponsored).  My tip would be to get the balance right.  There’s tons to do in Australia for little or no money.  Take for instance in Sydney, some of the nicest beaches going are on your door step.  Melbourne, there’s amazing street art to be discovered all around the city.

Picture of some street art on Artists Lane in Melbourne

Street Art In Melbourne

For more information and working holiday visa tips in Australia Click Here.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section.

Are you planning on making your way to Australia soon? Where in Australia are you heading and why?

 

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