Are you thinking of moving to Australia?
When I left the UK on an Australian Working Holiday Visa in 2016 I was young, full of hope and had absolutely no fucking clue what I was doing. In a panic, I paid a company who assured me they’d set up the essential services. But to be honest I hardly used any of them.
The SIM card was with a rubbish provider, they set me up with some obscure bank and then the things I did use I could have set up very easily myself. Looking back I realise if there had of been a post like this I could’ve invested my money better elsewhere on things like cupcakes and cute clothes.
If you’re thinking of getting an Australian working holiday visa I want it to be as stress-free as possible. So you can spend less time worrying and more time chasing waterfalls and fighting off kangaroos. Sound good?
To help you get started I’ve created the ultimate guide to the Australian working holiday visa. It includes everything from packing and finding accommodation to securing your first job.
Ready for an adventure?
Let’s dive in!
Before you leave
Australian Working Holiday Visa requirements
When applying for an Australian Working Holiday Visa you need:
- to be between 18-31
- to own a valid passport from a country that Australia has a reciprocal agreement with
- the visa fee of $440
Australia is a country where it’s not possible to get a visa on arrival so make sure to have your paperwork sorted before you leave. Although most visas come through within 24 hours, sometimes it can take a bit longer. Don’t panic if you don’t get yours straight away. The Australian government have thousands of applications to process.
Moving country is no mean feat. Neither is stuffing your life into a 35l backpack. Or having to say goodbye to all your clothes… *cough* I mean friends and family. Here are some essentials to add to your packing list.
- Packing cubes. I swear by these and can guarantee they will make the process A LOT less stressful. Each cube can be used for a different item of clothing and helps keep everything organised.
- Portable charger – 3 USB ports so you can plug in multiple devices. Especially useful for long journeys.
- UK to Australia travel adapter & UK extension cable – Travel hack buy a UK extension cable and one adapter to save you buying multiple adapters for each device.
It breaks my heart to read about people who have been in an accident while on their Australian Working Holiday Visa and had to pay thousands because they didn’t have insurance. It doesn’t have to be this way. I purchased year-long insurance with Outbacker Insurance and then later extended it for another six months.
I think a lot of people are put off buying travel insurance for such a long period as it’s difficult to part with a chunk of money for something you can’t see. But isn’t it worth just have something to fall back on?
It’s very cheap for a just in case. Another benefit is you can insure yourself for travel to multiple countries so if you stop off at places along the way you’re covered for that too. To bring the cost of my insurance down I removed what for me were unnecessary extras like missed flights. My main concern was my health and my stuff!
When you get to Australia
What do I do if I need a doctor?
Australia offers reciprocal health care to 11 countries. If your country is included in this list it means you have access to a free public health system. I’ve used this myself a few times and received an operation that should’ve cost over $6000 completely covered by the state. You do have to pay for medicine though. If you’re coming from somewhere where the healthcare is free stock up on birth control etc.
Also, you do actually need to set up Medicare it’s not just automatically granted when you enter the country. You can either get a form online or from a Medicare store and you attend an appointment to verify your identity. Top tip – The queues for this can be over an hour so the earlier you go the quicker you will be seen!
If your country is not eligible for free health care you’ll need to get private health insurance.
How do I transfer my money?
Don’t make the mistake of transferring directly from your bank or through PayPal as you can be hit with ridiculously high fees. I’m a big fan of TransferWise. The service is simple to use, fast and if you use this link you can get your first transfer free!
Who should I open a bank account with?
Before you start work you’ll need an Aussie bank account. There are a few banks to choose from so it’s worth shopping around to find something that suits your needs. I recommend Commonwealth. They have banks everywhere and they’re used to backpackers setting up accounts before having a permanent address.
Where should I stay when I get to Australia?
It is likely that when you first arrive in Australia you’ll end up staying in a hostel. Or if you’re lucky you might have a friend who’s already living in Aus who might be willing to let you stay for a bit!
If hostel living isn’t for you or if there are a couple of you travelling it’s definitely worth checking out Airbnb. This service lets you rent out rooms in someone else’s house or even an entire apartment. If you haven’t used Airbnb before use this link for £25 towards your next trip!
You should begin looking for flats as soon as you’ve decided on a location you want to spend some time. I don’t know about you but as much as I love hostels I can’t think of anything worse than sharing a room with ten people for an extended period of time.
How do I find a flat?
Again Facebook Groups are really great for finding accommodation just type your city + backpackers and take it from there. I found my first flat on Flatmates. Or rather they found me!
I placed an ad on there and within the day I’d had a reply. Immediately at the viewing, we could tell it was going to be a great fit. I lived there for six months and we’re still friends today almost two years later.
You can also look for flats on Gumtree and with agencies but I don’t have much experience with this. All I can say is make your application on groups sound engaging as you are competing with everyone else. What makes you the perfect housemate? I think I put something about baking my future flatmates cupcakes, although I’ve still never done it. Whoops.
I know another friend and a girl brought a case of beer to the flat viewing. They accepted her on the spot. Don’t discount ethical bribes – they work!
What do I need to set up before I start?
One of the first things you set up when you get to Australia should be an Australian SIM card. I recommend going with Telstra as they have the best signal even in really obscure locations.
Before you start working you will need Taxfile number. As long as you’ve applied you can still start working without one and provide the details when you get them.
You’ll also need a Superannuation account, which is essentially your pension account. It used to be the case that when you left the country you could claim all your Super back. These days I think you can only get 15% back at the end of your Working Holiday Visa. Still, 15% is better than nothing and makes a nice little savings contribution for future travels.
Lastly, I advise setting up an ABN. This isn’t a requirement unless you’re self-employed. However, often one-off jobs will come up that require you to invoice and for that you will need your own Australian Business Number. It only takes five minutes to set up and is totally free!
Where can I find a job ASAP?
Are you tired of hearing me say Facebook groups yet? I hope not ‘cause get ready for a few more.
Groups are a great way to quickly propel yourself into the working world as often there are last-minute shifts that need to be covered. Be sure to do a good job even if it’s only a temporary role as it can often lead to a position.
How can I find something more permanent?
Handing in CVs locally is a good way to showcase your personality. Remember to head to a library for cheap printing.
Of course, apply for jobs online is great too just bear in mind you’re competing with a lot of people. Here is where it really counts to have a great covering letter. But please don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back.
My favourite method of finding a job is by flaunting your skills on social media. Write a status/story/tweet/LinkedIn post saying where you are and what you’re looking for. Ask if people can help out or would be willing to connect you with some contacts. This is how I managed to get a job in Australia within a week of landing. People can be very resourceful!
Extending your Australian Working Holiday Visa
One way you can extend your Australian Working Holiday Visa for another year is by completing 88 days of farmwork. Once you’ve successfully completed your sentence, I mean placement, you will be granted another year.
I spent my three months in a shed speed packing bananas for a living. The work can be demoralising but it’s worth it for your second-year visa and the friendships you make along the way awwww.
You can find farm jobs that qualify for your visa on Gumtree, Facebook Groups and just good old fashioned recommendations. Just sure to do your research, there are a lot of people out there who will try and take advantage of you!
Ah, sponsorship the golden ticket to the Australian chocolate factory. Sponsorship involves your workplace agreeing to train and keep you in their organisation for a number of years. Once you have completed the sponsorship you can then apply for Permanent Residency. This method is becoming harder and harder due to the Australian government cracking down on which skills qualify for sponsorship.
It is still possible though.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Being able to work and live in another country really is a privilege and can be an amazing experience if you just trust. Things always have a way of working out. I don’t know the answers to everything, but hopefully, I’ve eased some concerns. The years I’ve spent on my Australian Working Holiday Visa have been some of the best of my life. I can’t wait for you to experience it.
If you’re still wondering whether or not making the move is for you my advice to you would just be to go for it. Remember at some point in your life everything was new or scary. I haven’t met a single person out here who’s regretted their decision. The only regret has been wishing they could have stayed for longer.
What about you? Have you ever thought about doing an Australian Working Holiday Visa? Have you already?
Let me know in the comments below!
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