Moving anywhere can be stressful and packing up your life to head down under is no exception. Without the right planning and crucial information at your fingertips, arriving in the lucky country can be a daunting experience. Having lived away from the UK for ten years – and for seven of those in Australia – I’m often asked for advice on the most important things to take care of upon arrival in a new home. So here are my top ten tips on what you need to do when landing in Australia.
1. Open a bank account
You won’t get far without a bank account and I can still remember heading to the bank within hours of landing to set up an account. These days, the banks may let you set up an account while still in the UK but, if not, it’s vital to have one created as soon as you can so that the process of transferring funds over becomes possible. There are a number of high street banks to choose from in Australia and the process for creating an account is straightforward assuming you have identity documentation (a passport and driver’s licence will do) and ideally a local address.
2. Register for healthcare
Sign up to Medicare for free when you arrive by registering at any Medicare office located in shopping malls and town centres across the country. Medicare’s level of service is similar to the UK but you might want to consider private health insurance for that extra peace of mind. There are also certain reciprocal arrangements with the NHS for those travelling to Australia on shorter-term visas.
3. Purchase private health insurance
For the additional cover and tax benefits, we chose to opt in to private health insurance within weeks of landing down under. In my experience, Medicare is a great service but it doesn’t quite match the levels of service with the NHS so, for us, the private option provided an additional level of service and security.
4. Set up a tax file number
To work in Australia, it’s necessary to have a tax file number (TFN) and these are relatively easy to set up. You can apply online through the Australian Taxation Office website by providing visa and passport details. Although it can take up to 28 days to receive, I remember mine coming through in less than a week. Still, it’s important to take care of your TFN as soon as you arrive if you want to be gainfully employed.
5. Seek out a job
Recruitment agencies and online job search engines lead the job market in Australia. Seek.com is by far the largest and most popular, and should be your first port of call. Then register at the more prominent job agencies based here including Hays, Hudson and Randstad. Personally, I found that networking achieves the best results in the land down under – go to breakfast meet-ups, pick up the phone to organisations of interest, and talk to your new neighbours and friends.
6. Expect a good salary but don’t expect the red carpet
Whilst not a ‘to-do’ task, it’s important to understand and accept that the cost of living in Australia is high. Thankfully, salaries are also high, particularly when compared to the UK so don’t undersell yourself when looking for that first role. By the same token, don’t expect your career history in the UK to guarantee first-class treatment when you’re interviewing for jobs. A typical Aussie will expect hard work and a track record in Australia so you may need to spend time building your profile in the place you now call home.
7. Find a house or apartment
Ideally you’ll already have a place to stay arranged before arriving in Oz – often it’s a temporary set-up or short-term rental. When considering a longer-term home, I trust only two websites for all my buying and renting needs – domain.com.au and realestate.com.au. Both sites are valuable resources for providing the necessary info to choose between renting and buying and, of course, finding that dream property down under.
8. Buy a car
Purchasing a car in Australia follows much the same process as in the UK. We initially hired a car for those first few weeks until we felt settled and only then did we begin the process of finding a more permanent solution to our driving needs. Also, watch out for imports (e.g. European brands), which can cost you considerably more than locally produced vehicles such as the Holden or the Ford.
9. Pick a school
If you’ve got pre-schoolers (2-5 year olds), you’ll need to get your name on the waiting lists as soon as possible. There are two basic options being either pre-school (9am-3pm) or long day-care (pre-school but with extended hours). Even if places aren’t immediately available, the importance of getting on a waiting list should never be underestimated – and understand how many children are placed ahead of your own as things can often change quickly.
10. Don’t forget to enjoy it!
You’ve just arrived in one of the world’s most desirable places to live and officially the happiest country on earth (for the third year running). Take a breath, look around you, soak it all in. You’ve landed in Australia and you’re hopefully here to stay. So congratulations on the rest of your life because you deserve it!
Russell VJ Ward
Russell Ward is a blogger and business writer living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and sharing his efforts at living a life less ordinary at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.com, one of Australia’s leading expat and travel blogs. He can also be followed on Twitter and Instagram as @russellvjward.