You’ve been thinking about it for a while, and now you’ve finally made your decision – you’re heading to Australia! Whether you’re planning a short holiday or hope to stay for at least a few months/years on a Working Holiday Visa, a trip Down Under requires planning and preparation. To help you out, here are the first steps to take when you arrive in Australia.
Formalities to enter Australia
Your first contact with Australia will most likely be at the airport. When you get off the plane, you will have to collect your luggage and go through customs. Here are the requirements to enter Australia:
A valid passport
To apply for a visa for Australia, it is necessary to have a passport. Check that it is valid for at least 6 months after your return date.
A valid visa
To enter Australia, you absolutely must have a valid visa. If you are only going on a short trip and don’t plan to work in the country, go for a tourist visa. If you want to study in Australia, then a student visa is what you need. If you plan to work and/or go on a longer road trip around Australia, opt for a Working Holiday Visa.
Visa applications can be made only on the Australian immigration website.
Your visa will be electronic and linked to your passport, and will be checked by Australian immigration when you arrive in the country.
The customs clearance process
First, you will need to present your passport to the Border Police officers. Note that if you have a biometric passport, this check can be carried out through an automatic airlock (passport scan, facial recognition), allowing you to get through faster. Since your visa is linked to your passport, the authorities ensure that you have the right to be in Australia.
After that, you will have to pass a second check, where you will present your Incoming Passenger Card. This declaration form is usually given to you on the plane, and contains details of any items like fresh food or large amounts of cash that you have may have brought with you. A biosecurity officer will check any declared items, ask you questions and ensure that the items comply with customs regulations. Items may be confiscated. Before your arrival in Australia, it is important to check customs regulations, especially concerning the import of food.
Read also : Customs in Australia
Getting to your accommodation from the airport
Once you’re past the initial formalities at the airport, it’s time to go to your accommodation. Depending on your city of arrival, you can choose to take a train (underground), a bus, or a taxi/Uber. Some hostels and hotels offer a free shuttle bus from the airport, so make sure you check this before your arrival!
As an example, Sydney Airport is located just 13 minutes by train from the city. The Airport Link shuttle offers a quick way to reach the city, with trains running every 10 minutes, priced at around $20. A taxi will take about 20 minutes and will cost you around $50 (around if you get an Uber). To reach the city via public transport, you will need to take two buses (about $10 total) and it will be about a 90-minute trip.
For Melbourne, the SkyBus is an express shuttle service that connects the airport to Southern Cross bus station in the city centre. Buses run every 10-15 minutes and the trip takes around 25-30 minutes (approx $25). You can also take the bus, which will cost you around $15 but takes 50 minutes. Finally, a taxi or Uber will take you to the city centre in 20-30 minutes. Budget about $45 for a taxi and $35 for an Uber.
Get a phone plan and Internet access
One of the first things you will need when you arrive in Australia is a phone number and internet access. If your current phone plan can be useful the first few days, it is strongly recommended to take out an Australian mobile plan.
Have an Australian phone number
Whether it is to find accommodation, work or even sometimes to open a bank account, an Australian phone number is very useful.
The easiest thing to do when you arrive is to buy a prepaid Sim card. You can then recharge it whenever you want. You will even find some for sale at the airport.
Access the internet
It’s always a good idea to make sure data is included in your phone plan, but if you don’t have data, WiFi is quite widespread in Australia. You will usually find free Internet access:
- In large cities, most with accessible Wi-Fi in public spaces
- In some cafes and restaurants (McDonald’s, Starbucks etc)
- Public Libraries
- At malls and shopping centres
- At youth hostels or where you are staying (campsite, hotel, motel)
- In some public transport
- In special backpacker travel agencies
Buy a transport card
Australia is huge, and not always easy to get around. Jumping in a taxi or an Uber is fine on a shorter trip, but the cost can easily add up over time. Unless you have enough money to buy a car, look into buying a transport card for your city of arrival. These cards allow you to save money when travelling by bus, train, tram, metro, ferry and sometimes even bicycle!
- In Sydney: the Opal card
- In Brisbane/Sunshine Coast/Gold Coast: the Go card
- In Melbourne: the Myki
- In Perth: the SmartRyder card
- In Adelaide: the Metrocard
One of the most important things you will have to do when you arrive in Australia is finding accommodation. To give you a few days or a week to get your bearings, it’s a good idea to stay in a hostel (Backpackers Hostel) if you’re on a smaller budget. Prices can range from $20 to $70 for one night. It all depends on the location, the type of room and the time of year.
For accommodation in Sydney or Melbourne, for example, expect to pay a minimum of $40 per night for a bed in a dormitory, and $70 for a private room. In high season, these rates can increase by 50% to 70%!
Although there are loads of hostels in the major Australian cities, it’s recommended to make a reservation before your arrival. You will generally get better rates if you stay longer than one week.
To find the hostel that best meets your needs, use Booking.com. It’s very thorough and the reviews are always honest!
For short stays, other options include hotels and Airbnbs.
Shared accommodation is a great option if you plan to stay longer than a few weeks in one place in Australia. If you’re on a budget but want to live centrally in a big city, sharing accommodation can allow you to save money while enjoying the benefits of a larger apartment or even a house.
It’s also a great way to meet new people and immerse yourself in the local culture.
It is easy to find flatmates on the internet by using forums, Facebook groups, specialised sites like Flatmates etc. You can also sometimes find ads for house shares on notice boards in shopping centres or on street lights in big cities.
For a room in the centre of Sydney, expect to pay around $350/week in shared accommodation.
Read also: Accommodation guide in Australia
Open a bank account
Open a current account
Before you arrive in Australia, make sure you have saved enough money to live comfortably until you can find a job. In order to be able to use your money without having to pay international withdrawal or payment fees, you will need to open an Australian bank account. This will also be necessary for you to receive your salary if you plan to work in Australia.
To open a bank account in Australia, you can go to one of the main banks or consult their website:
- ANZ (Australian and New Zealand Banking Group)
- NAB (National Australia Bank)
You can start the process of opening your bank account online from your home country, but you will need to complete the process in person after you arrive in Australia. You will need to show your passport and provide an address (this can be your hostel or temporary accommodation until you find something more long-term).
More information: Open a bank account in Australia
If you intend to work in Australia, consider opening a superannuation account, i.e. a retirement savings account. Your employer is required by law to pay contributions into your superannuation account, so if you don’t open one, they will do it for you.
You can set up a superannuation account with your bank when you open your bank account after you arrive in Australia. You can also choose a private company (Ausfund, AustralianSuper, CBUS, ClubPlus, SunSuper etc). If you open your superannuation account with your bank, you will have the advantage of being able to see how much money you have in it and watch it grow.
More information: Superannuation in Australia
Get your Tax File Number (TFN)
Your Tax File Number (TFN) is a personal number that identifies you to the Revenue Service (ATO) and the Australian Pension System. Having a TFN is a requirement to be able to work in Australia. You will need to provide it your employer every time you get a new job. If you are self-employed, you will need both a TFN and an Australian Business Number (ABN).
You will also need your TFN when filing your tax return at the end of the year.
To get it you can go to either:
- The ATO website
- An ATO Office. You will find one in every big city. In Sydney it is at 32 Martin Place.
More information: Get your TFN
Find a job
Redo your CV
If you plan to find work as soon as you arrive in Australia, you will need a CV/resume. Australian CVs are different to European and American ones, so you will probably have to change/update the one you currently have.
Australian resumes don’t generally include a photo or details specifying your age or family status. On the other hand, it is important to include references (with their names and contact details on your resume as opposed to “References on request”). Choose people who have a good standard of English and with whom you have a good relationship.
Get your certificates
Australia attaches a lot of importance to official certificates and training courses. To maximise your chances of getting hired, it’s a good idea to obtain any relevant certificates before you apply for a job.
- RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) for hospitality and catering
- the White Card for construction
- the RCG/RSG (Responsible Service of Gambling) for the gambling industry
- the WWC Check (Working With Children Check) for working with children
- First aid and CPR
Most of these training courses and certificates cost money, but the investment can quickly pay for itself because you will have easier access to certain jobs.
Transfer your money to your Australian account
After opening your Australian bank account, you will probably want to transfer some of your savings to your new account. To do so, you have several options:
Option 1: A bank transfer via your national bank. The problem with this option is that the costs are quite high, so you will lose some precious dollars! Even if your bank says it doesn’t charge fees, they will usually offer a much more unfavourable exchange rate than the market rate.
Option 2: Receive money via Western Union. This option will allow you to withdraw cash from one of their relay points, but the costs are high.
Option 3 (recommended): Transfer your money through a company that specialises in international transfers. This will cost less than going through your own bank, and the exchange rates will also be better. Through our partnership with CurrencyFair, you will get 5 free transfers. After that, on average you pay just 0.45% of the amount exchanged plus a fixed transfer fee, regardless of the amount of money you want to transfer. It is cheaper and faster than going through your bank, and very safe!