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Moving To Australia: An Expat Starter Guide, Tips, & Checklist


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Antonella Pack



Moving to Australia can be an exciting and life-changing experience. Known for its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant cities, Australia offers a high quality of life and numerous opportunities for expats. However, relocating to a new country can also be challenging, especially when it comes to navigating through the different processes and adjusting to a new culture.


In this expat starter guide, we will provide you with essential tips and a handy checklist to help you make a smooth transition to Australia. From researching the country and obtaining the necessary visa to finding accommodation, understanding the healthcare system, and exploring job opportunities, we will cover everything you need to know to get started.


Whether you are moving to Australia for work, education, or simply for a change of scenery, this guide will assist you in making informed decisions and ensure that you have a seamless experience as you embark on your new adventure Down Under.


It is important to note that Australia is a vast country with diverse regions and cities, each offering unique experiences and opportunities. So, while this guide provides a general overview, it is always recommended to research specific details about the state or territory where you plan to settle.


Now, let’s dive into the details and discover what you need to consider when planning your move to Australia.


Researching Australia

Before making the decision to move to Australia, it is essential to conduct thorough research to gain a better understanding of the country. Australia is known for its diverse landscapes, ranging from beautiful beaches to rugged outback regions. Each state and territory has its own unique features and lifestyle, so it’s important to consider what you’re looking for in terms of climate, job opportunities, and lifestyle preferences.


Start by researching the major cities in Australia, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. Look into the local culture, cost of living, housing options, and job opportunities in each city. This will help you determine which city aligns best with your needs and preferences.


Additionally, familiarize yourself with the visa requirements and immigration policies. Australia offers a variety of visa options, including work visas, student visas, and skilled migration programs. Research the eligibility criteria, application process, and any specific requirements for your chosen visa.


It’s also crucial to research the healthcare system in Australia. Medicare is the country’s universal healthcare system, providing access to medical services and subsidizing medications for eligible residents. Familiarize yourself with how Medicare works and understand whether you need additional private health insurance.


Furthermore, learn about the education system in Australia if you have children or plan to study yourself. Australia is home to renowned universities and educational institutions, offering a variety of courses and programs.


Lastly, explore the different cultures, traditions, and customs practiced in Australia. Australians are known for their friendliness and laid-back attitude, but it’s still important to be aware of and respectful towards cultural differences.


By conducting thorough research before your move, you will be better equipped with the knowledge and information necessary for a successful transition to Australia.


Visa and Immigration Requirements

Understanding the visa and immigration requirements is one of the most crucial steps when planning to move to Australia. The type of visa you need will depend on your purpose of travel, whether it is for work, study, or leisure.


For work purposes, there are several visa options available, including the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) and the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186). The Skilled Independent visa requires applicants to meet specific skill and experience criteria, while the Employer Nomination Scheme allows Australian employers to sponsor skilled workers.


If you plan to study in Australia, you will need to apply for a student visa. The Student visa (subclass 500) allows international students to study full-time at a registered educational institution in Australia. Keep in mind that you will also need to provide proof of enrolment and meet specific financial and health insurance requirements.


For those seeking temporary work opportunities, there are different visa options available, such as the Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) or the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462). These visas allow individuals aged 18 to 30 (or 35, depending on the country) to work and travel in Australia for a specified period.


It’s important to note that visa requirements and policies can change over time, so it’s essential to stay updated by visiting the official Australian Government immigration website or consulting with an immigration agent.


Once you have determined the type of visa you need, you can begin the application process. This typically involves gathering the necessary documents, including identification, proof of qualifications, and a valid passport. It’s crucial to carefully read and follow the instructions provided by the Department of Home Affairs to avoid any delays or issues with your application.


It’s highly recommended to begin the visa application process well in advance to allow for sufficient processing time. Keep in mind that visa processing times can vary depending on the type of visa and individual circumstances.


By understanding and meeting the visa and immigration requirements, you can ensure a smooth transition to Australia and legally reside in the country during your stay.


Finding Accommodation

When moving to Australia, one of the first tasks on your to-do list is finding suitable accommodation. The type of accommodation you choose will depend on factors such as your budget, preferences, and location.


One popular option for expats is renting. Rental properties are widely available across Australia, ranging from apartments and townhouses to standalone houses. Websites and real estate agencies offer comprehensive listings of available properties for rent, allowing you to search based on your specific requirements.


Before starting your search, determine your budget and consider the cost of living in your desired location. Keep in mind that rental prices can vary substantially depending on the city or region. Consider whether you want to live in the heart of the city, near the beach, or in a suburban area.


Another housing option is buying a property. If you are planning to stay in Australia long-term or have the financial means, purchasing a property can be a worthwhile investment. Research local real estate markets and consult with a professional real estate agent to explore available options.


If you prefer a more communal living environment, shared accommodation can be a cost-effective and sociable choice. Websites and platforms catering to shared accommodation, such as flat-share or roommate websites, can help you find like-minded individuals to share a property with.


When searching for accommodation, it’s essential to consider factors such as proximity to amenities, public transportation, and the overall safety of the neighborhood. Research the local area and read reviews or speak to locals to get a better understanding of the community and its facilities.


It can be beneficial to visit or arrange virtual tours of prospective properties to get a feel for the space. This will enable you to assess its condition, size, and suitability for your needs.


Once you have found a suitable accommodation, you may be required to complete an application and provide references. Make sure to read the lease agreement thoroughly and understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.


Keep in mind that the rental market can be competitive, especially in popular areas, so it’s important to be proactive and organized in your search for accommodation.


By considering your budget, preferences, and researching the different housing options available, you can find the right accommodation that suits your needs and makes you feel at home in Australia.


Healthcare and Insurance

Understanding the healthcare system and ensuring you have the appropriate insurance coverage is vital when moving to Australia. Australia has a well-regarded healthcare system that provides access to medical services for its residents.


The primary healthcare system in Australia is known as Medicare. Medicare provides free or subsidized healthcare services, including visits to general practitioners and specialists, certain diagnostic tests, and hospital treatment. However, it’s important to note that Medicare does not cover all healthcare services, such as dental care, optical services, and certain medications.


As an expat, it is essential to assess your eligibility for Medicare. Generally, permanent residents of Australia are eligible for Medicare, while temporary residents may have access to Medicare through reciprocal healthcare agreements with their home country. It’s crucial to check the specific requirements based on your visa status.


Additionally, it is highly recommended to consider private health insurance. Private health insurance provides coverage for services not covered by Medicare and offers more choice and flexibility in terms of healthcare providers and additional benefits.


Research different private health insurance providers in Australia and compare their coverage and premiums. Consider factors such as your age, health needs, and budget when selecting a suitable insurance plan.


Private health insurance can provide coverage for services like dental and optical care, physiotherapy, and specialist consultations. It also allows you to choose your preferred healthcare provider and potentially reduces waiting times for certain treatments.


Before purchasing private health insurance, carefully review the coverage terms, the waiting periods for specific services, and any exclusions that may apply.


It’s important to note that having private health insurance does not exempt you from paying the Medicare Levy, which is a tax imposed on Australian residents to fund Medicare.


By understanding the healthcare system in Australia and having appropriate health insurance, you can ensure access to quality healthcare services and be prepared for any unforeseen medical expenses.


Setting Up Bank Accounts

Setting up a bank account is an essential step when moving to Australia, as it allows you to manage your finances and conduct day-to-day banking transactions.


Australia has a well-developed banking system with several reputable banks to choose from. Some of the major banks in Australia include Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, and National Australia Bank (NAB). Research each bank’s offerings, such as account types, fees, and digital banking services, to determine which one best suits your needs.


To open a bank account, you will typically need to provide identification documents, such as your passport, visa, and proof of address in Australia. Some banks may also require a Tax File Number (TFN), which is a unique identifier for tax purposes. It’s recommended to apply for a TFN as it enables you to work and pay taxes in Australia.


Choose the type of account that aligns with your banking requirements. Common account types include transaction accounts for everyday banking, savings accounts for accumulating funds, and term deposit accounts for saving with higher interest rates.


Consider factors such as fees, accessibility to ATMs, online and mobile banking features, and customer service when selecting a bank and an account.


Upon opening a bank account, you will receive a debit card, often known as an EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) card. This card allows you to make payments and withdraw cash from ATMs.


If you plan to receive regular income or salary payments, such as wages or rental income, you can provide your bank account details to facilitate direct deposits. This ensures that funds are deposited securely and conveniently into your account.


It’s also important to consider international banking services if you will be transferring funds to and from other countries. Banks in Australia offer various services for foreign currency exchange and international money transfers. Compare exchange rates and fees to find the most cost-effective option for your international banking needs.


Once you have set up your bank account, familiarize yourself with the digital banking services available. Most Australian banks offer online banking platforms and mobile apps that allow you to manage your accounts, transfer funds, pay bills, and access other banking services conveniently from anywhere.


By setting up a bank account in Australia, you can effectively manage your finances and access banking services tailored to your needs, making your transition to Australia smoother and more convenient.


Transportation and Driving

Understanding the transportation options and regulations is crucial when moving to Australia. The country offers a well-developed transportation network, including roads, public transportation, and domestic flights.


If you plan to drive in Australia, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the driving regulations. In Australia, traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road, and the legal driving age varies between states, typically ranging from 16 to 18 years old.


If you hold a valid driver’s license from your home country, you may be able to drive in Australia for a limited period. However, it’s recommended to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) to provide a recognized translation of your license. If you plan to stay in Australia for an extended period, you may need to obtain an Australian driver’s license. The requirements for getting a local license can vary between states, so check the specific guidelines applicable to your location.


Public transportation in Australia is well-developed, especially in major cities. Cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth have extensive public transportation networks consisting of buses, trains, trams, and ferries. Purchase a travel card, such as the Opal card in Sydney or the Myki card in Melbourne, to tap on and off for seamless travel and discounted fares.


For regional and long-distance travel, Australia has an extensive interstate bus network and domestic airline services. Companies like Greyhound and Premier Motor Service provide bus services between cities, while airlines like Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar offer domestic flights to various destinations across the country.


Another popular mode of transportation in Australia is cycling. Many cities have dedicated bike lanes and shared paths, making cycling a convenient and environmentally-friendly option for commuting or leisurely rides.


It’s important to familiarize yourself with the public transportation schedules, fares, and any travel restrictions or requirements that may be in place, especially during peak periods or special events.


When it comes to owning a car in Australia, consider factors such as the cost of purchasing a vehicle, ongoing maintenance expenses, registration fees, and insurance premiums. It’s recommended to obtain comprehensive car insurance to protect yourself and your vehicle in case of accidents or damage.


Understanding the transportation options available in Australia will help you navigate the country conveniently and efficiently, whether you choose to drive, use public transportation, or a combination of both.


Education and Schools

Moving to Australia with children requires careful consideration of the education system and finding suitable schools for them. Australia offers a high standard of education, with both public and private schools available.


The education system in Australia is divided into different levels: primary school, secondary school, and tertiary education. Primary school typically covers grades Kindergarten to Year 6, while secondary school covers Years 7 to 12.


There are two types of schools in Australia: government-funded public schools and private schools. Public schools are open to all students and are funded by the government, while private schools charge tuition fees and may have specific religious or educational philosophies.


Researching different schools in your chosen location is essential. Consider factors such as the school’s academic programs, extracurricular activities, facilities, and overall reputation. Websites, school ranking lists, and word-of-mouth recommendations are valuable resources for gathering information.


Enrolling your child in school requires contacting the relevant education department or the school directly. They will provide the necessary information and guide you through the enrollment process.


If your child is of preschool age (typically 3 to 5 years old), Australia offers early childhood education options. These include childcare centers and preschool programs that focus on early learning and development.


For older students, Australia has a strong tertiary education sector, including universities, vocational education, and training institutions. Australian universities are renowned for their quality education and are popular among international students.


It’s essential to check the entry requirements, application processes, and deadlines when considering tertiary education options. Keep in mind that international students may be subject to additional visa requirements and tuition fees.


Australia also has international schools that cater to students from various countries. These schools provide education using international curricula and may be an option if you want your child to continue with a curriculum they are already familiar with.


When selecting a school, consider its proximity to your place of residence, transportation options, and any additional support services available for international students.


By researching and choosing the right educational institution for your child, you can ensure they receive a quality education and have a positive learning experience during your time in Australia.


Cost of Living

Understanding the cost of living in Australia is essential for effective financial planning. Like any country, the cost of living can vary depending on the city or region in which you reside.


Australia has a relatively high cost of living compared to some other countries. Major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne tend to have higher living expenses, including housing, transportation, and dining out. Regional areas and smaller cities may offer a more affordable lifestyle.


The biggest expense for most individuals or families is housing. Renting or purchasing a property can account for a significant portion of your monthly budget. Keep in mind that rental prices and property values can differ considerably between cities and even within different neighborhoods.


Other factors to consider when budgeting for living costs are groceries, transportation, healthcare, education (if applicable), utilities (such as electricity, gas, and water), internet and mobile phone services, and leisure activities.


Public transportation costs can vary depending on your location. Major cities usually have integrated ticketing systems and offer weekly, monthly, or yearly travel passes for discounted fares.


Food prices in Australia can also vary depending on whether you shop at major supermarkets, local markets, or specialty stores. Dining out and entertainment costs can vary greatly depending on your preferences and the type of establishments you frequent.


It’s important to create a budget that takes into account all your expected and recurring expenses, as well as any savings or financial goals you may have. Monitoring and adjusting your budget over time will help you manage your finances effectively.


Australian wages are typically higher than many other countries, which can help offset the higher cost of living. However, it’s important to consider your income and employment opportunities when assessing the affordability of living in Australia.


Keep in mind that exchange rates can also impact your cost of living if you are earning or receiving income from another country.


Staying informed about the current cost of living in Australia, researching prices for goods and services, and seeking advice from locals or expat communities can help you plan and manage your expenses successfully.


By understanding the cost of living and budgeting accordingly, you can ensure a comfortable and financially stable lifestyle during your time in Australia.


Employment and Job Market

When moving to Australia, understanding the job market and employment opportunities in your chosen field is crucial. Australia offers a diverse and dynamic job market, with various industries and sectors experiencing growth and demand for skilled workers.


Before making the move, research the job prospects in your industry and the specific requirements in Australia. Consider factors such as the demand for your skills, qualifications, and any necessary certifications or licenses.


There are several resources available to help you in your job search. Online job portals, professional networking platforms, and recruitment agencies are common avenues to explore employment opportunities. Additionally, attending job fairs or industry-specific events can provide valuable networking opportunities.


It’s essential to tailor your resume and cover letter to the Australian job market. Highlight relevant skills, qualifications, and work experience that align with the specific job requirements. Adapt your job application materials to adhere to Australian resume and cover letter conventions.


If English is not your first language, consider improving your language skills by taking English language classes and obtaining English language qualifications such as IELTS.


Australia has a minimum wage system in place to ensure fair pay for workers. The minimum wage is set by the Fair Work Commission and is regularly reviewed and adjusted. Employers are required to comply with the minimum wage and provide other employment entitlements and benefits as per Australian labor laws.


Australian work culture values punctuality, professionalism, and a strong work ethic. It’s important to familiarize yourself with workplace norms and expectations to ensure a smooth transition into the Australian workforce. Understanding workplace etiquette and communication styles can help build positive relationships with colleagues and employers.


Depending on your visa and employment status, you may also need to obtain a Tax File Number (TFN) to legally work in Australia and pay taxes. A TFN is a unique number issued by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and is used for tax reporting purposes.


Volunteering or taking on internships can also be valuable ways to gain local work experience, expand your professional network, and demonstrate your skills to potential employers.


It’s important to remain persistent and proactive in your job search, as finding employment may take time and effort. Be open to networking opportunities, attending industry events, and exploring different avenues to secure job interviews and ultimately land your desired position.


By researching the job market, understanding the requirements, and actively engaging in the job search process, you can enhance your chances of finding suitable employment in Australia.


Cultural Differences and Etiquette

When moving to a new country like Australia, it’s important to be aware of and respectful towards cultural differences and etiquette. Australia is known for its multicultural society, and understanding the local customs and norms will help you navigate social situations and build positive relationships with locals.


Australians are generally known for their informal and relaxed nature. However, it’s still important to observe certain etiquette practices. Here are some cultural differences and etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Greetings: Australians often greet each other with a casual “G’day” or “Hello.” A firm handshake is a common way to greet someone. However, among close friends or in informal settings, a simple nod or wave may be acceptable.
  • Punctuality: Being on time for social and business engagements is greatly appreciated in Australia. It’s considered polite to arrive a few minutes early for appointments and meetings.
  • Personal Space: Australians value personal space and tend to stand about an arm’s length apart during conversations. It’s important to respect this space and avoid standing too close or touching others unless you have a close relationship.
  • Informality: Australians generally have a more informal communication style. It’s common to address people by their first names, even in professional settings. However, it’s advisable to use titles and last names when initially meeting someone in a formal context.
  • Sense of Humor: Australians have a unique sense of humor, often characterized by sarcasm and self-deprecation. Engaging in friendly banter and light-hearted jokes is a common way of building rapport. However, it’s important to be mindful of cultural sensitivities and avoid offensive or derogatory humor.
  • Respecting Indigenous Culture: Australia has a rich Indigenous culture, and it’s important to show respect and understanding towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and traditions. Educate yourself about their customs and histories, and be mindful of cultural protocols when visiting their sacred sites or participating in cultural events.
  • Outdoor Culture: Australians have a strong outdoor culture, and activities such as barbecues, beach outings, and sports are popular. Embrace these activities and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle that Australia offers.

Being open-minded, respectful, and willing to learn about the local culture will help you integrate smoothly into Australian society. Observing and adapting to local customs and etiquette will not only enhance your experience but also foster positive interactions with the community.


Social Life and Networking

Building a social life and network is an important aspect of settling into a new country like Australia. Developing connections and engaging in social activities will not only help you feel more connected to the community but also provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.


Australians are generally known for their friendly and social nature, making it relatively easy to meet new people and make friends. Here are some tips to enhance your social life and networking opportunities:

  • Join social clubs or groups: Australia offers a wide range of clubs and groups catering to different interests, hobbies, and sports. Whether it’s joining a sports team, book club, or community organization, participating in group activities is a great way to meet like-minded people.
  • Attend local events and festivals: Australia hosts numerous cultural events, festivals, and community gatherings throughout the year. Attending these events provides opportunities to engage with the locals, explore the culture, and make connections.
  • Take part in community volunteering: Volunteering not only gives back to the community but also allows you to meet new people and contribute to causes you care about. Research local volunteering opportunities and get involved in initiatives that interest you.
  • Engage in sports and outdoor activities: Australians have a strong passion for sports and outdoor activities. Participating in sports teams, hiking groups, or fitness classes can connect you with individuals who share similar interests.
  • Utilize social media and online platforms: Social media platforms and online communities provide a convenient way to connect with people, join groups, and find events in your local area. Websites like Meetup and Facebook groups can be valuable resources for finding social gatherings and networking opportunities.
  • Network professionally: Building professional connections is important for career growth. Attend industry conferences, seminars, and networking events to expand your professional network. Engage in conversations, share your expertise, and seek out mentorship opportunities.
  • Explore expat communities: There are thriving expat communities in Australia, particularly in major cities. Engage with expat groups and associations, as they can provide a support system, offer insights into the local culture, and help you navigate through the challenges of settling into a new country.

Remember to be open, approachable, and proactive in initiating conversations and making connections. Australians value genuineness and friendliness, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with someone new.


Building a strong social network takes time, so be patient and persistent. Embrace social opportunities, step out of your comfort zone, and be willing to participate in social activities. By actively engaging in the community and cultivating social connections, you can create a fulfilling social life and expand your network in Australia.


Exploring Australia’s Attractions

One of the most exciting aspects of living in Australia is the opportunity to explore its diverse and stunning attractions. From beautiful natural landscapes to vibrant cities, Australia offers a wide range of attractions that cater to various interests and preferences.


Here are some must-visit attractions to consider when exploring Australia:

  • Great Barrier Reef: Located off the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dive or snorkel in its crystal-clear waters to witness the breathtaking marine life and vibrant coral formations.
  • Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge: Sydney’s iconic landmarks, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, are must-see attractions. Take a tour of the Opera House, enjoy a show, or climb the Harbour Bridge for panoramic views of the city and harbor.
  • Uluru (Ayers Rock): Situated in the heart of the Australian Outback, Uluru is a sacred site for Indigenous Australians. Marvel at the majestic red rock formation and immerse yourself in its cultural significance.
  • Great Ocean Road: Stretching along Victoria’s coastline, the Great Ocean Road offers stunning views of cliffs, beaches, and the famous Twelve Apostles rock formations.
  • Kakadu National Park: Located in the Northern Territory, Kakadu is a vast national park rich in biodiversity, Aboriginal rock art, and natural beauty. Explore its wetlands, waterfalls, and ancient rock formations.
  • Whitsunday Islands: Experience the beauty of the Whitsundays by sailing through its turquoise waters, relaxing on pristine beaches, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Melbourne’s laneways: Explore Melbourne’s vibrant city streets and laneways, known for their street art, trendy cafes, boutiques, and hidden bars.
  • Tasmania’s wilderness: Discover the natural beauty of Tasmania, known for its rugged mountains, pristine forests, and unique wildlife. Visit Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay, and the beautiful capital city of Hobart.
  • Barossa Valley: Wine enthusiasts can indulge in a visit to South Australia’s renowned Barossa Valley, famous for its vineyards, wineries, and world-class wines.

These are just a few highlights of the many attractions Australia has to offer. Whether you enjoy outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or city exploration, Australia’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities provide endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.


Make sure to plan your trips in advance and consider factors such as weather conditions, travel permits (if applicable), and any necessary equipment or guided tours. Embrace the Australian spirit of adventure and immerse yourself in the unique experiences that this beautiful country has to offer.



Moving to Australia can be an exciting and enriching experience. From its stunning landscapes and vibrant cities to its high standard of living and diverse culture, Australia has much to offer expats seeking a new adventure.


In this expat starter guide, we have covered several key aspects to consider when planning your move to Australia. By conducting thorough research on the country, understanding visa and immigration requirements, finding suitable accommodation, and familiarizing yourself with the healthcare system, you can ensure a smooth transition.


Additionally, we discussed the importance of setting up bank accounts, understanding transportation options, and considering education opportunities for children. We also explored factors such as the cost of living, employment prospects, cultural differences and etiquette, social life, and networking opportunities, as well as the numerous attractions Australia offers.


It’s important to remember that every individual’s experience in Australia will be unique, and your journey will be shaped by your choices, preferences, and circumstances. Take the time to plan and prepare, but also remain open to the unexpected and embrace the Australian way of life.


As you embark on your new adventure Down Under, be proactive in immersing yourself in the local culture, forging new connections, and exploring all that Australia has to offer. With an open mind and a sense of curiosity, you will undoubtedly create a fulfilling and memorable experience in this beautiful country.


So, get ready to embark on your Australian adventure and make the most of this opportunity to explore, grow, and create lasting memories in your new home.