Living in Australia
So you’ve made the big move, and now you’ve got some big questions. Why’s everyone paying for things with Monopoly money? Did that man seriously just ask for some dead horse to go on his four-and-twenty (whatever that is)? Why is the flush button on toilets cut in half?
Relax. We’ve got you covered. You’ve travelled all the way from the other side of the world, so you can’t expect everything to be the same. But before you start madly clicking your heels and repeating “there’s no place like home”, take some time to read through our guide and you’ll discover that, actually, pretty much everything is the same. Just with a different name.
In no time at all, you’ll be squirting dead horse on just about everything.
Renting in Australia
So you’ve decided to live in Australia, and it’s time for the daunting task of finding a place to rent. Don’t stress. Like all countries, Australia has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to applications and processes, but we’re here to guide you through it.
The 100 point check
The first thing you’ll want to get familiar with is Australia’s 100 point check. This is a system of identification established by the federal government and used by landlords countrywide. Basically, you need to provide enough documentation of who you are to make up 100 points, with each piece of ID worth a certain number. For example, you can submit:
- Driver’s licence
- Previous tenancy agreement
- Utility account
- Birth certicate
If you can’t put together enough documentation to make up the 100 points, you might need to get creative. For instance, you could get references from past employers, or from the real estate agent in your home country that managed a property you lived in. Even bank accounts from your home country can be useful.
Choose a Location
Rental prices in Australia are high when compared globally. Don’t get focused on what the average rent is for a city, though; there will be pockets that are more expensive, and areas of far more affordable housing. Explore the neighbourhoods, get the feel of different areas, find what suits you and your lifestyle preferences.
Searching for a Rental
The internet and newspapers are the best ways to search for property in Australia. Check out sites like realestate.com.au. Once you’ve found a place you’re interested in, you’ll need to reach out to the agent and book a time for an inspection. Sometimes, the agent will hold an ‘open house’, which is when the property is open for a couple of hours for anyone to drop by and inspect.
It's extremely rare to get approval for tenancy if you haven’t inspected the house or apartment; agents don’t want a lease cancelled before it begins simply because the tenant doesn’t like the look of the place in the flesh, or thought the photographs were misleading. Obviously, this makes applying from overseas quite difficult.
The Rental Application
Found your dream rental? Or your it’ll-do-for-now rental? Here’s what you most likely will need as part of the application process.
- Proof of identity (100 point check)
- Income statements
- References from previous landlords
- Employment details
In Australia, we don’t have a rule for how much rent you should pay in advance to secure a place. The only thing you will have to pay prior to moving in is the bond. The bond is insurance for the landlord against any damage done to the property by you. This is why it’s important to inspect the property when you move in for existing damage and make a note of it.
Take note of marks and chips on walls, and any appliances that come with the rental that aren’t in working order. If there is damage or things missing at the end of your lease, the costs will be subtracted from the bond.
Fortunately, in Australia the bond is held by an independent, government-owned body.
- Maintaining the structure of the property
- Ensuring installations are working, such as gas, electricity and heating
- Installation and appliance maintenance and safety, applicable only to landlord-owned appliances
- Treat issues such as rising damp
It’s a good idea to consider short-term rentals when you first make it ashore in Australia. You don’t need as much documentation to secure one, and it also gives you a chance to look around and explore where you might want to move to on a more permanent basis.
There are a heap of accommodation websites listing monthly furnished rentals, so research isn’t hard. You’re sure to find one that suits your short-term needs.
The Lease Agreement
A lease agreement is a legal contract that also covers any verbal agreements. However, if it’s written down, it’s obviously much easier to check if there’s an instance where problems arise. The agreement must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant, and it must include:
- Name, phone number, address and registration number of the agent (if one is used)
- Landlord’s name and address
- Name of all tenants included in the agreement
- Address of premises
- Rent amount, including how and when it is to be paid
- The length of the lease agreement
- The amount of the bond
- Who pays for water supply and use
- A list of appliances in the property that require instruction for use, such as an air conditioner
- Anything excluded from the agreement, such as the tenant’s use of the shed
- Any rules about pets
- Date and signature of all parties to the agreement
Public Transport in Australia
You’ll want to get familiar with the best ways to navigate our sprawling cities. Oftentimes, public transport will be the best option and, depending on where you are, you’ll be able to choose from trams, trains, buses, light rail and ferries.
Public transport in Australia is expensive when compared globally, but it is clean, air-conditioned and efficient (don’t listen to the locals). Every major city has their own ticketing system, and you’ll want to pick up the relevant smartcard (much like the Oyster card in London) to make tapping on and off and paying for fares simple and easy.
Similar to most places in the world, you’ll find pockets that are well-serviced by public transport and others that simply aren’t. If convenient access to a network of transportation is important to you, you’ll want to factor this in when looking at which suburbs to love in.
Melbourne Public Transport
Melbourne is world famous for its extensive tram network, but it also relies heavily on its trains, and a fleet of buses to fill in the gaps. Myki is the name of the ticketing system, but mention it to any Melburnian and you’ll have to put up with a five-minute tirade on how useless it is (some things are the same the world over). Don’t listen. It’s actually pretty useful. You can pick up a Myki card at some tram and train stations, many newsagents and 7-Eleven stores.
In the CBD, travel is free on trams, so there’s no need to touch on or off.
2-hour ticket - $4.50
Daily - $9
The above ticket prices are for those travelling in both zones 1 and 2. If you’re travelling in only zone 2, the fares are cheaper. For those with a concession, tickets are usually half price.
Sydney Public Transport
Sydney relies heavily on its fleet of buses, which is complemented with trains, ferries and light rail services. An Opal card is the best method for paying fares, and it’s valid for all forms of transport. Prices are based on kilometres travelled. For instance, with an adult Opal card:
Metro and trains: 0-10km - $3.61
Bus: 0-3km - $2.24
Ferry: 0-9km - $6.12
Light rail: 0-3km - $2.24
Brisbane Public Transport
Buses, trains and ferries are your options when using public transport in Brisbane, and you’ll want to get your hands on a go card, available at airports, convenience stores and train stations. The price of the fare depends on the number of zones you’re travelling through, whether you have a concession, and if you’re using public transport during off-peak times. For full priced, adult, on-peak:
1 - $3.37
2 - $4.11
3 - $6.28
There are eight zones altogether.
Darwin Public Transport
Buses are your only option in Australia’s northernmost capital. Fares are as follows:
|$3 full fare – allows 3 hours of travel from purchase||$7 full fare – unlimited travel until the last service of the day||$20 full fare – allows 10 3-hour trips||$20 full fare – allows unlimited travel for 7 days.|
Perth Public Transport
A SmartRider card is what you’ll want to get your hands on in Perth. It can be used across buses, trains and ferries, it’s reusable and you can top it up with additional funds as you go. The price of a ride depends on how many zones you travel through, with 1 zone costing $2.88 all the way through to $11.79 for 9 zones.
Adelaide Public Transport
A Metrocard is your pass to Adelaide’s public transport system, comprising buses, trains and trams.
Peak trip: $3.77
Interpeak trip: $2.07
Canberra Public Transport
Canberra’s public transport system is composed of buses and light rail, with a MyWay smartcard giving you access to both.
Peak trip: $3.22
Off peak trip: $2.55
Hobart Public Transport
It’s bus and bus only in our southernmost capital, and the Greencard is your ticket to ride. It’s $2.80 for travel in one zone, and $3.84 for travel in two.
Cycling in Australia
Compared to our neighbours in Europe, Australia is not a cycling-mad country. This may come as a surprise, given the cliché of a sunny climate and a sports-obsessed nation, but the truth is that Aussies love their cars. This may be due to the fact that we have a lot of space and our cities tend to sprawl, with only one central business district, so our commutes generally cover more distance.
But cycling is growing in popularity as people become more environmentally conscious, develop a stronger focus on their health, or simply want to avoid the costs of running and maintaining a vehicle.
The knock on cycling in Australian cities is that there are large areas with dedicated bike lanes, but there are also large areas without, so you could find yourself suddenly sharing a lane with peak hour traffic on a busy main road.
But things are improving all the time, and the state governments are always under pressure to create more bike lanes and make commuting safer for those using pedal power.
Cycling Laws in Australia
Along with our neighbours across the Tasman Sea, Australia is the only country to enforce the use of helmets. Yes, you read that correctly; it is illegal in this country to ride a bike without wearing a helmet. There are elements who bemoan this fact and complain about the nanny state but, really, it’s an easy rule to follow, and HELMETS KEEP YOUR NOGGIN IN ONE PIECE.
Aside from that, every state and territory has its own set of rules for cyclists, so get familiar with them here:
Getting a Bike
The first question: new or used? For new, Australia is much like everywhere else; we have a plethora of bike shops in all cities, including several chains. A quick Google search will show which ones are closest to you.
If you’d prefer to hire a bike, some of our major cities have bike share schemes you can take advantage of. Check out:
Driving in Australia
First off, we drive on the right side of the road, which is the left. Crystal? And you’ll want to get used it, too, because Australia is a pretty big place, and some areas are only accessible by car. Let’s have a quick look at some rules:
- Always carry your driver’s licence
- Drive on the left
- Give way to the right
- Don’t use a mobile while driving, unless it’s hands-free
- Always park in line with traffic (which means the passenger door will always face the footpath)
- The speed limit in most built-up areas is 50km/h unless otherwise signalled
Driving in Australia with a UK, US or European licence
You will need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to drive in Australia if your licence is in a language other than English. If you have a permanent visa, you’ll have to apply for an Australian driver’s licence once your first three months in the country are up (or six months in Victoria).
This is what you’ll need to get an Australian driver’s licence:
- Proof of an Australian residential address
- Proof of identity
- Completed eyesight test
- Completed knowledge test (if applicable)
- Completed driving test (if applicable)
- Paid licensing fee
- Information on any medical conditions that affect your ability to drive
If you come from a country whose licensing system is recognised by us as similar to ours, you won’t need to undertake a knowledge or driving test. Countries that fall under this category are the US, Canada, Japan and most EU nations.
Here’s a complete list of exempted countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Isle of Man (for licences first issued on or after 1 April 1991)
- Malta (for licences first issued on or after 2 January 2004)
- New Zealand
Renting a Car in Australia
If you’re here for any length of time, buying a car will be more economical than renting one. But, if you need a car when you first arrive and don’t want to rush the buying process, renting is a viable option. You will need:
- Valid driver’s licence
- IDP (if necessary)
- Passport for ID
- Credit card
You’ll also need to be 21 or older. For those aged between 21 and 24, additional surcharges may be applicable.
Word of warning: When returning your hire care, make sure you top the tank up as close to the hire depot as possible. If the rental company has to fill it up once you’re finished with it, they’ll send you the bill with a hefty mark-up (sometimes up to 300%).