An Expat’s Guide to Moving to Australia

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 rainforests 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.

Living in Australia as an Expat

Australia negates many of the challenges faced by western Expats, in that there is no issue with complex language barrier, religious restrictions, or stifling bureaucracy. However, there are still some differences for expats to adjust to.

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.

Australians are notoriously open and direct. Down Under this is not considered rude and people would rather an upfront and honest demeanour than diplomacy for fear of offence. This can take some getting used to for some expats, but can make for open and easy communication.

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 the most widely spoken language is English. Even so, Australia has its own quirky colloquialisms that expats will benefit from picking up early. You can read our guide to understanding Australian slang to learn the local lingo. 

Australian Visa Requirements

Australia is well known for having a strict and complex migration system. It uses points to assess applicants who are scored on factors such as their age, education level, work experience and skillset, knowledge of the English language, as well as whether they have a sponsor and/or family in Australia. Those that score higher are more likely to be successful in their visa application.

There are certain Skilled Migration Visas that aim to fill gaps in the Australian workforce with international workers. Those who are successful can enjoy permanent residence in Australia, which can lead on to Australian citizenship. Jobs contained on this visa include accountants, architects, engineers, medical and social care workers, teachers, surveyors, and more.

There are different types of Skilled Migration Visas. Some will be analysed by a points-based system only, whereas others can mitigate the points system in place for a sponsor. This will usually be with the applicant’s potential employer in Australia. Applying for a skill-based visa will cost around £2,300 and can take around three to 36 months to process, depending on the type.

There is usually an age limit of 45 for those who apply for a Skilled Migration Visa. If you turn 45 while living in Australia with a skilled visa, it will remain valid, but new applicants aged over 45 won’t be able to apply. There are other routes for people to apply for a visa, but these will require the applicant to have a large amount of funds and will also usually involve a longer wait time.

The Job Market in Australia

Salaries in Australia are generally higher than in the UK due to shortages of candidates. This also means that it can be easy for expats to find a job in Australia, provided they have the required experience and skills. It can be beneficial to look for a potential employer before you move to Australia, as they may be willing to act as a sponsor for you to get your visa.

Many jobs in Australia are involved in the services sector, as well as industry, agriculture, and tourism. Construction, engineering, healthcare and education have also recently seen growth, with more jobs available.

Cost of Living in Australia

The cost of living in Australia is, on average, 21% higher than in the UK. The average cost of living per month for an individual will be £835, plus rent, and for a family of four will be around £2,940, plus rent.

Accommodation is one of the highest costs in Australia, particularly in the large cities like Sydney. Rent in Australia is around 25% higher than in the UK, but living further from the city centre can help to reduce costs. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can cost around £1,200 per month, and renting the same size apartment on the outskirts of the city will cost around £936 per month.

As mentioned, these high costs are typically offset by the high salaries those in Australia enjoy. The country is in the top 15 for highest average salary in the world, at £3,820 per month.

Healthcare and Health Insurance in Australia

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.

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.

Healthcare in Australia

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.

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.

Health Insurance 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.

Expats going to Australia on a working visa will need to have international 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 that the public scheme does not.

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.

Money in Australia

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. You can open a bank account 14 days before you arrive in Australia and will then need to visit the branch to identify yourself once you move.

Foreign residents in Australia will need to pay tax on their income. You will be considered a tax resident once you have been in Australia for over six months. After this time, all income or gains generated in Australia will be subject to tax. How much you pay will depend on how much you earn,  your residency status and whether you have a tax file number (TFN). You can apply for a TFN  online and your employer will likely ask for your number before you start working for them.

Education in Australia

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 teaching and student support in the sector.

Each state has its 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 offered 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.

Some expat parents may prefer private education for their children. The majority of private schools in Australia are Catholic, however, the level at which religion is incorporated into the 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.

Weather in Australia

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 that have a fixed seasonal calendar, Australia has two and where you live will depend upon what you experience.

There are three tropical climatic zones in Australia that 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.

Australia’s wet season is also known as the 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

Temp °C232322191614131416182022
Rainy Days161415121313111011131514

Perth Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days

Temp °C252523191614131315162022
Rainy Days54571215171515974

Darwin Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days

Temp °C292829292826242528292930
Rainy Days222220103101381318

Alice Springs Average Monthly Temperatures and Rainy Days

Temp °C292825201512111620232628
Rainy Days664344333689

Australia Crime Rate

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 in Australia

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.

Whitsunday Islands

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.

Daintree Rainforest

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.

Moving to Australia Checklist

If you are moving to Australia, you will need:

  • Valid passport
  • To work out your monthly budget to cover accommodation, groceries, utilities
  • Money for flights and initial costs
  • Booked flights to Australia
  • Valid visa
  • Australian bank account
  • Health insurance policy
  • Enrolment in school for your children
  • Accommodation, either rented or purchased
  • Local SIM card or mobile phone
  • Arrange furniture for the new home
  • Arrange Wi-Fi for the new home
  • Tie up loose ends at home, such as closing utility accounts and informing the tax office