The thought of moving to Australia sounds like a dream, but it also takes some planning.
For some of us, it’s difficult to even think we can live in another country. Whereas, others are ready to pick up and go tomorrow.
If you’re having trouble believing you can take the plunge, imagine yourself in these situations: enjoying a day at Bondi Beach, strolling through Melbourne’s bustling laneways, swimming with manta rays and whale sharks off Coral Bay, or walking on the softest sands in the Whitsundays. Pretty amazing don’t you think? And you shouldn’t just imagine it! You should do it because it’s freaking awesome and unforgettable! Plus, I’m here to help you and give you the information you need to make it happen!
After I realized I could live, work, and travel Australia for a year, I created a budget of what it would cost to move there. Here’s How Much to Budget for Your Move to Australia.
Moving Costs Before Leaving the US
Before entering Australia I had to get a visa. To legally live and work in Australia for a year I had to be approved for the 462 Working Holiday Visa. You can apply online as long as you’re not applying while in Australia and you meet a few requirements:
- Have a valid US passport
- Be between the ages of 18-30
- Graduated High School or similar
Visa Application Cost AUD $440 / USD $330
For anyone who has traveled before you know that many factors play into getting a good deal. The season, the day of the week, time of day, non-stop vs multiple stops, the airport, and most importantly airlines. Any combination of these factors can get you a flight as cheap at $500 to $1500. In my case, my ticket from Los Angeles to Melbourne. Similar pricing usually applies for cities like Sydney and Brisbane. Perth and Adelaide are slightly more.
Since this was my first super long haul journey, I decided to splurge on my ticket. I didn’t want to deal with layovers or having my luggage run through multiple airports.
My Cost: Qantas one-way ticket - USD $1,250
No matter where you go abroad you should always get travel insurance for those unexpected moments.
I got reliable insurance for the rest of the year with STA Travel. In 2012, Travel Insurance was really expensive, but now prices have decreased. (As if you didn’t need another reason to apply for your visa).
Below are today’s prices based on a year of coverage, note prices and inclusions may change at any time. For example:
My Cost: STA Explorer Plus - USD $600
Costs When You Arrive
GETTING TO THE CITY FROM THE AIRPORT
Most Australian airports have a service to get you to the city. Costs are more expensive in the bigger cities, but affordable. I landed in Melbourne, and our accommodation was in St. Kilda East. We decided to take public transport over a taxi, probably not the best idea, but we were tired, jet lagged and not thinking straight. If we took a taxi or an UberX (had it be around) it would be between AUD $55-$80
My Cost: 1 Return SkyBus ticket plus 1 Myki card including fare - AUD $48
You’re definitely going to want a place to stay when your first arrive. OBV! But let’s see how much your budget is going to get you.
Couchsurfing is a popular and FREE option for those looking for budget accommodation. It’s easy as signing up and finding/connecting with a host that will let you stay on their couch. The community is regulated by your rating and network of people that vouch for you.
Hostels / Hotels - You can find tons of cheap hostels and hotels, but like the flight, you get what you pay for. Most hostels tend to be in certain areas of the city, for example St. Kilda or CBD in Melbourne, or Kings Cross in Sydney. Many hostels offer private rooms if you require more privacy. The nice thing about these places is that it’s easy to meet people if you want. AUD $35-$100 / night.
Airbnb - I love love love Airbnb. Whether you want to stay in a private room or book at an entire house, Airbnb is an amazing way to trial a neighborhood. Although it didn’t exist when we first arrived in Australia, we used it later when we traveled to Western Australia and Tasmania with great success. There are generally more amenities than a hotel room, like a kitchen, which can help cut on costs. AUD $35-$300 / night.
Room Shares/Rent/Bond - When you look for apartment shares or renting be careful. In Australia, they showcase the weekly cost of the rental. When you’re on gumtree.com.au, realestate.com.au, or flatmates.com.au you might see $200, multiply that cost by roughly four and a half for the monthly cost. And if you are getting your own place, be prepared to pay your bond (deposit) too, which is usually one month rent.
Luckily my boyfriend found a room share for us that was pretty reasonable. We lived with another couple in St Kilda East, Vic.
Cost per person per month: Shared 2 bedroom 1 bath - AUD $300 Rent / AUD $300 Bond (1x)
FOOD & GROCERIES
Farmer Markets. Australia has amazing markets. Melbourne alone has three phenomenal ones Queen Victoria Market, Prahran Market, and South Melbourne Market. You can find some cheap produce, but make sure the markets are open before you go!
Mom & Pop Shops + Asian Markets. Look for neighborhood stores for amazing deals and unique items! They are relatively cheap and you can find some amazing new products.
Grocery Stores. Coles, Woolies (Woolworths), and Aldi’s are the major grocery store chains. Aldi's is the cheapest, Woolworth's has average prices, and Cole's Ranges from average to expensive.
Fast Food / Restaurants.
This is very dangerous territory. Yes, you can get some cheap foods like dumplings, falafel, and standard fast food. But this can add up quickly. To give you an idea, coffee in a cafe is $4 and up. If you buy coffee every day, you're easily spending over $100 a month for your caffeine fix.
To give you an example, Melbourne was filled with amazing restaurants, and they were popping up every week. Every now and then I would splurge on a fancy restaurant with yummy drinks and spend about $150 per person. If you were to go out every week it can be a money pit!
Alcohol. There’s a reason why Goon (Boxed Wine) and Piss beer (Victoria Bitters) are so popular in Australia - it’s because they are dirt cheap. Yes, it will get you tipsy, but the good stuff will cost more. That’s why I would stick to a bottle of good wine a week.
Total Food & Drink Cost: AUD $75 / week
The best news about moving to Australia NOW is that the exchange rate from the USD to AUD is strong! For every USD you get $1.25 AUD dollars. An extra 25% right off the bat. When I first moved to Oz the AUD was anywhere from one cent to 10 cents stronger than the US dollar. However, watch out for those bank fees!
When I first arrived, I researched any partnerships my bank (Bank of America) may have with Australian banks. Sure enough they did! Although there was no additional fees to pull cash from the ATM the exchange rate I received wasn't great.
Cost: 1% of total transfer - US $10
PHONE / SIM CARD
If you have an unlocked phone (and I highly recommend you do), you can buy a SIM card. When I was living in Australia, I was paying $19 a month, on a pre-paid SIM, for about 1GB of Data for my iPhone 6 with Virgin Mobile. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist anymore.
My Cost: 1GB Data - AUD $19
GETTING AROUND THE CITY
Once I arrived all I wanted to do was get to know my new city! The cheapest way was to walk or bike. But Melbourne has plenty of options to get around. Aside from Taxi's and Ubers, you can rent bikes for as cheap as $8 a week! Unfortunately only Brizzy (Brisbane) and Melbourne have shared bike services, but the rest of Australia should be on board by 2018!
If you need to get somewhere fast and don't want to use a Taxi or Uber, public transport is easy and affordable. In Melbourne it cost about $8.50 a day, but if you subscribe for weekly, monthly or yearly programs you'll get more of a discount.
If you ever need a car, there are also shared car services such as GoGet, GreenShareCar, Flexicar and CarNextDoor. I'm not sure of the details, but there are special parking spots all over the city for you to return them.
I ended up walking a lot, and using public transport.
My Cost: 1 Week of Myki - AUD $52
Although the room we rented came with a bed and a set of sheets we were lacking a few things we wanted and needed. We bought towels, a coffee maker, a blender and a blow dryer and more essentials like soap, shampoo, and conditioner.
Go to Ikea, Big W, $2 Shops or my favorite the Salvos (Salvation Army)!
My Cost: Various items - AUD $200
You can't move to Australia and not have amazing adventures immediately. I had a 'Fun Fund' and saved an extra amount to splurge on some activities in my new country.
Although getting a job would have helped fund my trips, I wanted to have leeway on bigger trips like heading to the Great Ocean Road, Visiting the Gold Coast, etc.
My Cost: Fun Fund - USD $1k
What was the total cost to move to Australia?
Once I paid off my debt, I started saving for my move to Australia. This made it much easier to break out the costs for things I needed before I left and what I needed once I was there. Once I found a job, it would help me pay for monthly expenses and more traveling!
- Cost Prior To Moving: USD $1,850
- Cost Once in Australia: AUD $2,324 / USD $1,766
- Cost Fun Fund: USD $1k
- Total Cost: USD $4,166
Planning for the Move to Australia made it easier to save. So before you put your dreams of moving abroad aside, cost out how much it would cost you to live down under.
Now that you know the cost of moving to Australia, when will you be headed there?
Please note, throughout this blog post I have used affiliate links. This means I may receive a commission if you click on and purchase, but this does not affect the price you pay.