Australia is a unique, vast country with a fantastic climate that has developed to become one of the most popular destinations for expats seeking an exciting life adventure abroad.
Whether you’re looking for a lifestyle of outdoor adventure or city sophistication, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant nation. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of living in Australia that you need to know!
The pros and cons of living in Australia
Moving to Australia is a pretty big commitment, and before you make that commitment, you need to consider the pros and cons to decide whether Australia is the right country for you.
It goes without saying Australians are usually very friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Coming from an English-speaking country, one hurdle of moving abroad is often the language barrier, which won’t happen. However, Australia is a long way from most other English-speaking nations, and that’s often where a challenge exists.
We’ll first examine the advantages and disadvantages of living in Australia. If you’re still on board after that, we’ll move into making that move happen successfully.
The pros of living in Australia
1. Quality of life – Australia is ranked one of the highest nations in terms of quality of life, providing some of the best amenities and healthcare worldwide.
2. Relatively high earning potential – Australia generally offers good earning potential. With an average salary in Australia of $68250 AUD ($48,000 USD / £39,000) and a full stack developer can expect $120,000 AUD ($85,000 USD / £68,000 GBP)
3. Excellent educational system – Australia offers a broad range of educational choices with high standards in state and independent schools and world-class universities.
4. Logical visa and emigration system – Australia makes getting visas and residency permits relatively straightforward when they fulfil the criteria.
5. Welcoming Community – Australians are well regarded for their friendly and welcoming approach towards newcomers.
6. Low crime rates – Australia has a relatively low crime rate making it an ideal place for families and personal peace of mind
The cons of living in Australia
1. High cost of living – Australia is rated as one of the most expensive countries in the world, and its cities are among the most expensive internationally
2. Strict immigration rules – While the immigration rules for Australia are quite straightforward and logical, if you fall outside of the qualifying criteria, it will be practically impossible to migrate.
3. Isolation from family and friends – A big negative for many expats. With the distance from your home country and being separated from loved ones, you may struggle with homesickness and isolation.
4. Distance between Australia’s major cities – Especially if you’re European, you’ll really miss the convenience of major cities being relatively close.
5. Extremely hot summers in certain regions – Parts of central and western Australia can experience incredibly hot temperatures throughout the summertime
6. Challenging International Travel – If you still intend on doing a lot of international travel after relocating to Australia, especially towards the northern hemisphere, you will find it to be a lot less convenient and far more costly.
Emigrating to Australia, which visa route?
While Australia has rigid immigration rules, it remains one of the most popular countries for thousands of expats worldwide.
Australia offers a range of visa immigration routes. Work visas, family visas and investment or business development visas are among expats’ most used visa types.
See the Australian government’s complete visa list for full information. It can be confusing, and if you’re unsure which route is best for you to become a permanent resident, you can search for professional immigration advice.
If you can meet the criteria for a skilled work visa or a family visa. In that case, you should be able to become a permanent resident in Australia and, after a certain time period, be able to apply for Australian citizenship.
Regulations and criteria do change often. Visit the Australian government’s immigration and citizenship advice pages for the latest information.
What is living in Australia like for expats?
The expat community in Australia is thriving. The majority of expats love life in Australia and make the very most of everything that life in Australia offers.
If you’re an expat from the United Kingdom or the United States, you’ll experience a comfortable degree of familiarity. If you’re an expat from another western country, except for language, you’ll unlikely find anything too outrageously different to your life back home.
The remoteness of Australia in relation to other western countries is certainly something that impacts expats in Australia, but the majority don’t see it as a major problem.
The Australian Healthcare System
Australia has one of the most impressive healthcare systems worldwide. Medicare and the public hospital system provide safe, affordable and cost-effective medical services to all citizens and permanent residents of Australia.
The Australian healthcare system is a collaboration between government, federal, territory and local administrations. The collaboration has been proven effective, with Australians enjoying one of the longest life expectancies worldwide.
Private healthcare in Australia
The private healthcare system is well-integrated with Australia’s public health. The government does actually offer permanent residents tax incentives to encourage the use of private healthcare services. You require Australian private medical insurance or international health insurance to access healthcare benefits within the private system.
Your starting point for any health issues will normally be via a GP (general practitioner), who will make initial decisions about the care route you follow.
You don’t always need to register with a GP, although some doctors won’t take on new patients. Generally, it’s always possible to find a doctor for a same-day appointment in most cities. Remember you’ll need to pay. You may be able to claim back some of the cost via Medicare.
International health insurance
Expats often opt for international health insurance as it increases their options and choices should they need hospital or other longer-term treatment. If you want to compare to prices of leading international health insurance providers, go to our health insurance quotes page.
Education and schools in Australia
The Australian education system is considered among the best in the world, and every city has a broad selection of state and private schools.
Australia is also the third largest education provider to international students after the United States and the United Kingdom. Most cities have schools with a great deal of experience getting expat children settled and happy in their new environment.
The worldwide education index created by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) ranks Australia in 8th place in 2019. For comparison, the UK ranks in 3rd place, the United States in 15th place, and the German education system in 1st place.
Expat School Choices
- Public School – A regular choice for expats, you may need to contribute to the fees if you’re on a temporary visa. The schools run to a curriculum set by their state or territory.
- International School – Australia has an excellent range of international schools following multiple curriculums, including the International Baccalaureate and American and British education curriculums.
- Private School – A good range of private schools in Australia cater to both Australian and international students. Many can also cater for the International Baccalaureate curriculum.
- Faith School – Most schools are non-denominational. However, there is a good range of Catholic and other Christian schools. In the major cities, there are a number of Islamic and other faith-based schools.
The cost of living in Australia
Australia can be a fantastic life experience, but it’s an experience that comes at a cost that you should consider before committing to move to Australia.
Australia, compared to other countries, is expensive. The cost of living is higher than in the United Kingdom and the United States. Numbeo currently ranks Australia as the 13th most expensive country in the world to live in.
As with any country, the bigger the city and the more opportunities it offers, the higher the cost of living. The cost of living varies across the country, with Sydney being the most costly city.
You should research the region you’re most interested in to get a more precise picture.
Sydney is Australia’s top destination for expats seeking employment and job opportunities and anywhere else will be cheaper, so we’ll start there.
In Sydney, an average family of four will need $5,850.00 ( $4,100.00 USD / £3,280.00 GBP) per month to live, not including property rental or mortgage.
A single person living in Sydney will need $1,620.00 AUD ($1,115.00 USD £905.00 GBP), not including property rental.
Melbourne Vs Sydney
Melbourne, another favourite city for expat newcomers, is about 5% less expensive than Sydney. A single person could achieve the same lifestyle in Melbourne for $1560.00 AUD ($1,090.00 USD / £882.00 GBP).
Also, depending on the area within the city, property rental and purchase can be around 30% less than in Sydney.
Property Rental Sydney
On a more positive note, rental costs are approximately 16% less than in London and more than 40% less than in New York.
Find the best areas to live in Sydney in our guide.
Property Prices in Australia
Furthermore, if you’re planning on buying property, it tends to be more expensive than most countries.
At the time of writing, the average property price in Australia’s regional capital cities was $770,300 AUD compared to ($530,200 USD / £430,000 GBP)
The most expensive city in Australia with an average property price of $1,000,100 AUD ($688,000 USD / £560,000 GBP) and Darwin is the least expensive at $510,000 AUD ( $350,000 USD / £285,000 GBP)
If you’re planning to stay in Australia on a temporary visa you will also need to factor in international health insurance costs as you won’t be able to use Medicare.
Driving in Australia
If you live in Australia, you really need a car. Even if you plan to spend most of your time in your home city, you’ll still find that owning a car makes life much more enjoyable.
When you first arrive in Australia, you’ll be able to drive on your home country’s licence. If your driving licence isn’t in English, you’ll need to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP).
You’ll need to apply for an Australian driver’s licence to continue driving beyond the initial three-month grace period.
The process of applying for your driving licence varies from state to state. However, regardless of which state issues your licence, you will be covered to drive throughout Australia.
If your current licence was issued in the UK, the US or most European countries, you won’t have to sit a driving test.
Driving on the left
Not a problem for British expats. You will need time to adjust if you’re from the US or Europe.
When you’re in a traffic flow on a major road, it will all feel quite normal driving on the left; you’re more likely to make an error on a quiet road with little traffic. Take extra care when pulling out onto quiet roads T junctions; it’s easy to forget.
Renting a car
You may want to rent a car when you first arrive in Australia. You must be over 21 years of age, and you can expect a young driver surcharge if you are under 24 years of age.
You’ll need your full driving licence and IDP (International driver’s permit) if it’s not in English. You’ll also need a valid credit card and your passport.
Public transport in Australia
Travelling around Australia’s cities and beyond is relatively comfortable with an efficient and modern public transportation network.
Buses, trains and trams are well-maintained and air-conditioned. Personal security is also taken very seriously, with 24/7 security personnel who monitor the stations and often uniformed or plain clothes officers will ride on services to ensure passengers travel safely.
How to pay for public transport
All of Australia’s major cities have a pre-paid transport card system that is much more convenient than purchasing a ticket for each journey.
You can purchase pre-paid travel cards at the airport when you arrive or at the bus or train station. When you’re living in Australia, you’ll be able to get pre-paid cards from multiple locations, such as vending machines and convenience stores.
Banking in Australia
If you’re moving to Australia, you will need to open an Australian bank account.
Can I open a bank account straight away?
Yes! Australian banks make it relatively easy for expats to open an account on arrival. The major banks also allow you to open an online bank account from your home country before arrival.
Documents you’ll require to open your bank account.
- The address you will be living at in Australia
- The date you are arriving in Australia
- The visa type with which you will enter Australia
- Passport number and possibly other proof of identity
- Your employment and salary details
- 100-point ID check documentation after arrival (explained below)
Australia’s 100-point ID check explained.
Australia has a system of identity verification whereby you must score at least 100 points to verify your identity. An Australian must produce all Australian-issued documents, but these requirements are less stringent for new arrivals.
Documents you can present for ID proof
- Current passport
- Birth certificate
- Driving licence
- Australian Visa
- Marriage certificate
- Rental agreement
- Educational qualifications and records
- Records of any professional trade body of which you are a member
Finding a job in Australia
You can begin job hunting as soon as you have the right to work in Australia.
Ideally, you’ll be able to start searching online from your home nation so that, at the very least, you’re registered with some appropriate agencies and job sites and ready to start job interviews as soon as you arrive.
Some of Australia’s more popular job search sites include Seek, which has some great career and job-hunting tips and advice for expat newcomers. Also, Adzuna, where you can upload your CV and get it valued, so you’ll have a good idea of your income potential.
Also, see our helpful guide to getting a job in Australia with an employer-sponsored visa.
Planning your migration to Australia checklist
Having digested the info above, if you’ve decided that moving to Australia is right for you, here’s a checklist to help you make it happen.
Make moving to Australia a two-year plan.
Planning to move to Australia over two years may seem excessive, but when you eventually live in Australia, you’ll realise how essential it is to give it time.
Australian Migration – Stage One
Ideally, give yourself two years, especially with finances.
- Do your research and get advice. Start to build up a good idea of where in Australia is right for you. Discuss your plans with family and friends, and find online resources and hangouts to ask questions.
- Figure out money and income. Build a better picture of what you can expect to earn with your skill set and your individual cost of living, including lifestyle needs.
- Check visa options. Find the visa type that looks best for you.
- Engage professional services. Contacting a professional migration service can help to understand your options and ensure you’re giving yourself the greatest chance of success.
- Apply for your visa. When you find your best visa options start the application process.
- Build your finances. Moving to Australia is going to be expensive. Start saving as much as possible, and pay up any existing debt you have. Get yourself as strong as you can financially.
Australian Migration – Stage Two
You’ve got your visa, know where you want to head, and are ready to go in the next six months.
- Update your CV and start applying for jobs – Good businesses will be happy to hold on for a few months for the right candidate.
- Organise schooling and education – If you have children, you can enrol them in either a state school or an independent school ready for when you arrive.
- Plan for pets – If you’re taking any pets with you, organise vaccinations certification, transport and care for them when they arrive in Australia.
- Find initial accommodation – Try to get it in the locality that you intend to settle, especially if you’ve got children, to avoid them changing schools twice.
- Organise schooling – If you have children, you can enrol them in either a state school or an independent school ready for when you arrive.
- Book shipping and flights – It pays to get these done well in advance
- Start selling – If you don’t intend to keep your property and any furniture and other items that you don’t want to ship to Australia.
Australian Migration – Stage Three
One month before your new life starts
- Collate all documentation – Get everything together logically, making everything easy to locate.
- Cancel accounts – Cancel any outstanding accounts and services left in your home country.
- Finalise shipping – If anything needs special packing or transportation.
- Organise a going away party – Take time to say goodbye to friends and family and remind them you’re not actually leaving the planet
- Confirm everything in your new country – Schools, accommodation, hire cars, money. Make sure you’ve got everything ready for your arrival.
Australia more than deserves its status as one of the world’s most popular expat destinations.
You can make Australia your home with the right criteria for a visa and good planning. Thousands of people have settled in Australia, most of whom are incredibly satisfied with the lifestyle changes they’ve experienced.
If migrating down under is your goal, stay persistent, and you will achieve success!