Australia Expat Health Insurance Guide
If you are planning on visiting or living in Australia it is important that you understand the healthcare system it has in place. With one of the highest life expectancies in the world, it is no surprise that Australia’s healthcare is one of the best in the world and is a merger of public and private sectors.
We’ve put together a complete guide to health insurance in Australia to help you ensure that you can get the treatment you need while away…
Public Healthcare in Australia
Expats with permanent residency are entitled to public healthcare in Australia which is paid for by taxes. Expats will need to present their permanent visa, travel documents and passport to be issued with a card granting them access to public healthcare. Whilst treatment in a public facility is covered, other aspects of medical care may only be partially funded.
Public facilities in Australia may suffer from crowded waiting rooms and lengthy waits for non-emergency care, but it runs seamlessly and is still recognised as a fantastic operation. Many compare it to the NHS hospitals in the UK.
Private Health Insurance
Expats going to Australia on a working visa will need to have comprehensive private medical insurance in place. Australian officials will require proof that each individual is covered.
Some Australian residents also pay extra for a private policy to cover expenses which the public scheme does not.
Reciprocal Healthcare Agreements
Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK have an agreement with Australia. Expats from these countries can get publicly funded medical care in Australia, and vice versa for Australian expats. However, health insurance is still required.
Australia Expat Guide
Australia is one of the world’s most popular expat destinations in the world. An outdoor lifestyle, exceptional education, personal freedom and sunshine filled days are just a few incentives as to why many move down under.
Hip cities contrast against vivid green rainforest and the copper red of outback sands. The technicolour nation, both in culture and geography, is then enveloped by the neon reefs of the Indian and South Pacific Ocean. Whether an urbanite or rural dweller, those who visit or emigrate to Australia fall in love instantly.
Australia is home to a variety of different climates due to its geographical size. Whilst it is snowing in one part of the country the sun can be beating down full force in another. Unlike most countries which have a fixed seasonal calendar, Australia has two and where you live will depend upon which you experience.
There are three tropical climatic zones in Australia which experience a wet season or a dry season. The equatorial, tropical and subtropical areas of the country all fall into this climatic zone and cover the most northerly parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The most easterly fringe of Queensland is also part of the tropics.
Australis’s wet season is also known as monsoon season. Throughout the year, the humidity levels and temperatures are high but the months of November to March take things to another level. In Darwin, temperatures frequently creep over 30°C and some months can see 22 days of rainfall, which often results in flooding.
April marks the start of the dry season, which lasts until late October. Temperatures hover around a more comfortable 23°C during this period until the ‘build up’ occurs. This usually starts three months before the first rainfall of the wet season and presents itself as unrelenting high humidity. Expats in the north should prepare for some clammy nights.
The reaming parts of Australia are the temperate zone, grassland zone and desert zone. Despite all having varying average temperatures by a couple of degrees, the seasons fall in the following sequence in each:
- Summer: December to February
- Autumn: March to May
- Winter: June to August
- Spring: September to November
Sydney Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Perth Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Darwin Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Alice Springs Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days
Despite Australia being void of challenges faced by expats in countries religious restrictions, complex languages and stifling bureaucracy, culture shock is very much still alive and kicking for many. This issue is that many believe moving to Australia and embracing its culture will lead to a perfect life. Some expats believe there is nothing they will need to adapt to when they touch down on Aussie soil. But, even in a land that denotes a dream way of living, there are nuances that will prove alien or confusing.
The most underlying cultural current in Australia is the idea of a ‘fair go’. The strength of freedom, equality and the notion of a classless society are often a surprise to expats. These aspects of Australian life mean that there is incredible cultural diversity but that the entire population is united in one utopian way of thinking. From this, the concept of everyone having an opportunity to achieve through hard work and talented as opposed to wealth or social hierarchy can be a very new idea to expats.
Expats who are a little more reserved may struggle with how open and direct Australians are. Down under this is not considered rude and people would rather an upfront and honest demeanour than diplomacy for fear of offence.
Australian nationals tend to love socialising in easy-going ways and expats will undoubtedly be invited to numerous barbeques or for a pint down the pub. The open and friendly nature can shock some expats but they should revel in the fact that ‘mates’ are thought of as family. Friendship in Australia means loyalty, helpfulness and selflessness.
Australia has no official language but is largely monolingual. English is the most widely spoken language and Australian English is noted for its distinctive accent and quirky colloquialisms. Expats will most likely adopt many Australian phrases and will pick up on the fact that shortening words is commonplace.
|Australian Word or Phrase||Meaning|
|Arvo||Afternoon, ‘pop round this arvo’|
|Barbie||Barbeque, ‘bring some shrimp for the barbie’|
|Barrack for||Cheer for, sign of support, ‘barrack for Australia’s team’|
|Bring a plate||A food dish that can be shared at a gathering|
|BYO||Bring your own meat and drinks|
|Chockers||Very full, ‘the supermarket was chockers’|
|Esky||Cooler, ‘grab be a beer out the esky’|
|How’re you going?||Common greeting|
|Shout/shout around||Buy a drink/buy a round of drinks|
Although the majority of the population speak English, 19% of the population speak a different language at home. Many first and second generation migrants are bilingual and languages such as Chinese, Italian, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese and Spanish are spoken at home. Also, different aboriginal Australian communities have their own language and 70 currently remain used.
Australia’s size means that getting around can be somewhat difficult. During day to day expat life this is no problem, but for those wanting to explore, it can be best to investigate the different modes of transport on offer.
Expats in Australia comment that they have greater independence and freedom with their own car. The country is somewhat dependent on road transport and for this reason roads are well-maintained and signed. Journeys between cities can be tiresome; Sydney to Melbourne is 560 miles. However, the highways which connect state capitals are a breeze to drive on. The only time things will get tricky for expats with their own wheels is in rural Australia where some of the roads are dirt tracks or riddled with pot holes.
The majority of expats will be able to take to the roads of Australia using the driving license of their home country. After three months, it is simply a case of switching to a local license.
If a road trip is too much for expats to handle, domestic flights are by far the quickest and cheapest way of exploring Australia. There are some bargains to be had when it comes to airfares and expats should research and book well in advance. Most airlines also have deals if you book online or cheaper fares for selecting a flight with a change.
The remainder of public transport networks is limited to buses and trains. Compared to other countries, Australia’s national rail network is underdeveloped and there are no high-speed trains linking cities. However, trains are a great option for those wanting to get to regional towns and cities which do not have airports. Also, it is a fantastic way to take in some of Australia’s jaw dropping scenery. Expats should just be prepared for slow journey times.
Although buses are an affordable way to get around, often you will be better off flying than purchasing a ticket for a long-haul bus journey. Those who don’t fly tend to opt for trains and, therefore, buses are often forgotten about aside from on a smaller scale such as serving a local area such as a city, town, village. Local and regional buses are similar to those in most European countries and aside from cramped conditions at rush hour, are cheap and easy to use.
A universal healthcare system, Medicare, exists in Australia. The level of care is generally considered quite high and this is demonstrated by the country having one of the world’s highest life expectancies.
Under Medicare, the federal government pays for the majority of treatments. Patients sometimes have to pay costs – although many people take out private medical insurance, which will generally cover these additional fees.
Australia has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, meaning that visitors from Britain can make limited use of the subsidised healthcare if treatment is necessary during their stay. However, this does not cover pre-existing conditions and is only applicable to holidaymakers. Therefore, it should not be treated as an alternative to having adequate international health insurance or travel insurance.
The Australia Dollar, shown as AUD or $A, if the official currency of the country. Each dollar is comprised of 100 cents. Expats will often see prices shown as $ instead of $A, but rest assured the price shown is for Australian Dollars, just without the ‘A’. Notes come as 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 AUD. Denominations of coins include 1 and 2 AUD and 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents.
Australia has a sophisticated banking system and a cash, debit and credit society. The country has countless banks and financial advisors so there is ample professional support available for those who want to understand how to manage their finances in the country.
Expats wishing to open a bank account in Australia will notice the disparity in interest rates between providers. It is always best to undergo research before settling with a bank. Australia’s most popular banks are ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac. Whichever provider you settle with, opening an account is very easy, just make sure to take the correct paperwork asked for – this will vary between banks so always ask if in doubt.
The calibre of education in Australia is world-renowned and many expats base their move down under solely for the benefit of their children. The standard of teaching and facilities in the country is so strong because the government are committed to quality, research, and both teach and student support in the sector.
Each state has their own rules on compulsory education ages for children but, generally it ranges from the age of five or six to 16 or 17. Parents will be able to pick from four schooling options; public, faith-based, private or international.
Just over 60% of Australian children and a substantial portion of expat children attend state schools. Those living in the country on a permanent residency visa can send their children to public school for free. However, those living on a temporary residency visa may have to pay a fixed tuition fee dependant on where they live. Only a small number of states enforce this and most of the time parents will pay for the usual necessities of school uniforms, stationery and school trips.
College is free in Australia. But, very few establishments offer the International Baccalaureate programme. Parents with children of college age should discuss options openly and consider whether the curriculum offer by a public school would be suitable for future university applications. Sometimes, the results achieved by an expat child via a traditional Australian curriculum will not allow them into a university back in their home country.
Like most countries, private and independent schools in Australia are said to benefit from a higher standard of education. Whether or not this assumption is true or not, some expat parents may prefer this route for their children. The majority of private schools in Australia are Catholic. However, the level at which religion is incorporated into curriculum varies between establishments.
Schools that centre around another religion, or are non-Catholic fee paying schools, are known as independent schools. Fees of independent schools are less than those of private schools. Sometimes, fees for independent schools are lower than some of the fixed tuition fees some states apply to children with parents on temporary residency visas. This is worth investigating if you live in one of these states.
Independent schools are not as prevalent in Australia compared to other popular expat destinations. However, there are some which offer the IB programme and a handful offering the curricula of other countries. Fees for international schools are extremely high and places are sometimes only acquired by applying far in advance or passing an entrance exam.
Food & Drink
Although a huge cliché for Oz, it is widely accepted that nobody can hold a flame to their barbeques. Fresh, crisp salads, prime meat and copious amounts of beer are on the menu at most gatherings and, yes, you may well find ‘shrimp on the barbie’.
Some other iconic Aussie dishes include the traditional meat pie, which is considered the de facto national dish. It is coveted by Australians young and old and is rumoured to have emerged during the colonial period. A flaky pastry case is filled with meat and gravy. So popular is the dish, the ‘Official Great Aussie Pie Competition’ has been a national event since 1990.
On the whole, Australian food is simple and fresh. Around the coast, you are likely to find an abundance of fish restaurants. One thing that Aussies do well, at the horror of Brits, is fish and chips. Don’t worry, mushy peas, gherkins and pickled eggs are all considered necessary accompaniments too!
If your palette is craving something sweet, there are three options that are much-loved. A cultural icon, Lamington are small sweet sponges filled with jam. Like meat pies, there is a national day devoted to them. The jam-filled squares are dipped in chocolate and coated in coconut.
We cannot discuss Australia and chocolate without an honourable mention to the Tim Tam. Not dissimilar to a British Penguin bar, the Tim Tam is a soft chocolate filling sandwiched between two oblong chocolate biscuits and dunked in chocolate.
A controversial sweet treat of Australia is the pavlova. Aussies argue they created it, whereas Kiwis retort it is their creation. The dessert was named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s. Regardless, it is a favourite dessert down under.
Australian’s aren’t shy of a tipple. Red wine and beer are the favourites and, as long as it tastes good, it will be drunk. In terms of soft drinks, Coca Cola is king, as are fresh fruit juices.
Countless foreigners emigrate and travel to Australia each year. Generally, everything goes to plan. Australia is a very safe country and a stable political system, well-maintained roads and low crime rates account for this.
The biggest threats in Oz often come from Mother Nature. Tropical cyclones, flooding and bushfires are all something to be aware of in the country. Warnings of such natural disasters will be available from your local authority and expats should monitor proceedings closely and react to any advice given by officials.
Expats should also be careful when swimming or sailing off Australia’s coastline. Strong currents have seen many perish and, on average, there are three fatal shark attacks every year. It is best to only visit beaches that have a lifeguard presence and to follow any safety instructions given or signified by coloured flags or signs.
Places to Visit
From the bright lights of big cities to the miles upon miles of deserted outback, Australia has it all. Expats and travellers alike revel in the smorgasbord of opportunities available, from scaling Sydney’s Skywalk to diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
Comprised of 74 islands in the Coral Sea, the Whitsundays. It is the most popular yachting destination in the Southern Hemisphere due to its Azure waters and idyllic beaches. Whitehaven Beach, on Whitsunday Island, is one of the most popular to visit and is only accessible by boat, seaplane or helicopter.
Located on Australia’s southeast coast is the city of Sydney. The capital of New South Wales, it is famous for the incredible Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Head to Sydney Towers outdoor platform, the Skywalk, to see a 360-degree view of the city.
Otherworldly Daintree Rainforest is Australia’s largest rainforest. Boasting scenes like that from a Jurassic Park film, a vast amount of Aussie flora and fauna can be found is this rainforest alone. The views aren’t just prehistoric, the incredible Cassowary bird is said to have walked with the dinosaurs and calls the depths of the forest home.
Kakadu National Park
South of Darwin is 3.2 million acres of natural wonders. Kakadu National Park is formed of land of several indigenous tribes and rock paintings dating back 5,000 years can be seen in many of the caves that dot the landscape. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many rare and endangered animals, including the salt water crocodile.
The Great Barrier Reef
Synonymous with Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is championed as the best place to scuba dive or snorkel in the entire world. With 2,300 kilometres of reef rich with exotic animal and plant species of all colours, many cannot believe their eyes. Located off the coast of Queensland, many visitors indulge in a 2 or 3-day trip that takes in the Whitsundays above the water and the Great Barrier Reef below.