There's a lot to think about when emigrating to Australia from the UK. I've been through it myself. The best thing to do is break everything down into small steps.
A few years ago, my wife, two kids and I moved to Australia.
When I looked online for tips and advice, I couldn't find a page by someone who had actually done it. There were lots of slick pages by professional writers - but they lacked any substance or opinion.
The discussion forums can be good, but you have to read a lot of posts (some good, some crazy) to get an answer.
I put this page together based on my own experience. Hope it helps.
What's the weather really like?
There used to be a tourism ad in Australia with the slogan: “Beautiful one day, perfect the next”.
No quite true.
But without a doubt, Australia gets far more sunshine than the UK.
By way of comparison, Sydney gets 75% more sunshine per year than London.
However, it might surprise you to know that Sydney and London have roughly the same number of wet days.
You get a lot more short, heavy downpours in Australia (I'm talking bucketing down), as opposed to relentless drizzle.
Australia, of course, is a huge country. It has different micro-climates.
Sydney has what is described as a 'temperate' climate - a bit like the Mediterranean.
Melbourne has a more varied climate – it can wet, warm and everything in between. Crowded House wrote a song about it "Four Seasons in One Day".
Brisbane is more tropical - hot and humid. And Perth is dry and (damn) hot.
If you prefer the English climate, head to Tasmania (or consider New Zealand).
How much will you get paid?
Australian salaries are generally higher than those of the UK.
To state the obvious, it depends on what you do for a living.
Based on broad-based studies, you can expect to receive 20%-30% higher pay in Australia compared to the UK.
From my experience, tradespeople get paid well in Australia. A lot seem to be middle class to upper middle class.
Even bar workers do nicely. There's a high minimum wage which pleases British backpackers.
If you're a highly paid investment banker in London, you won't be paid like a rockstar in Australia. It's not a global financial centre.
Those in the medical world can expect a big lift. Australia's healthcare system has far more private work. Pay is high.
The two big cities, Sydney and Melbourne, pay a lot more. But as you would expect, the cost of living is much higher too (particularly for rent).
Almost all large companies are based in either Sydney or Melbourne.
As a sweeping generalisation - Sydney has better weather and Melbourne is more cultured.
Quick tip - Australians pronounce Melbourne as 'Mel-bin'. Keep that in mind if you don't want to sound like a tourist.
If you're looking to settle permanently, the cost of buying a house can often be a deciding factor.
Sydney is more expensive than Melbourne, and the other capital cities are considerably cheaper.
Picking a removalist
If you’re serious about emigrating to Australia, one of the first things to do is hire a removalist company.
There are a lot of companies that compete in this market. So many, it can be hard to pick one.
Maybe due to the intense competition, I found the prices are pretty reasonable when you consider they are moving your stuff to the other side of the world.
As always, it’s best to get a few quotes.
Let the removalist companies know you are getting a few quotes - it will bring the price down.
Normally a sales rep will come to your house, have a walk around and determine how much stuff you have. You then get emailed a quote in a few days time.
A typical 3 bedroom house will fit into a 20-foot container.
If you have fewer things, the removalist company will give you the option of sharing a container with other customers, which works out cheaper.
If your things go over a 20-foot container, then you can always put the spill-over items in a shared container.
In addition to the removal costs, you will also need to consider insurance and storage costs.
Quick tip - Getting insurance on the items you ship is worth taking out. I don't know the odds of damage, but from my own experience and those I've spoken to, there always seems to be something that takes a knock. We had a bunch of furniture damaged (you need to make a claim within a few months of arrival).
Bear in mind, on international moves; you are not permitted to do the packing. So keep an eye on the guys when they are packing big items.
Some removalist companies may throw in some free storage in Australia, which you may or may not need.
Finding accommodation (and a bizarre thing you need to know)
Most likely, after you emigrate to Australia, you’ll need to rent for a while.
We used Airbnb and Stayz for the first month, then found a rental property with a 12-month lease once we had narrowed down areas.
A lot of leases allow you to leave before the end of the lease period, but you normally have to pay 1 month's rent as a break fee.
While many of us dream of overlooking the ocean, things like budget, proximity to schools, work and shops often tend to become a priority in the real world.
One thing to note is almost all rental properties in Australia come unfurnished.
That's not very helpful for someone arriving with just a suitcase.
So unless you have your furniture sent ahead (and you pay for storage until you get there), you may need to rent furniture and household essentials until your own stuff arrives.
Fear not, there are quite a few companies that rent furniture and white goods (even cutlery and plates) for all price ranges and time periods.
You can also nip over to Kmart or Target and buy some cheap household essentials (iron, toaster, coat hangers).
Quick tip - If you are trying to decide what suburb is going to suit you best, one tool I found useful to compare different areas was the Suburb Reviews on Homely.com.au.
The reviews are written by real residents and give you a good overview of a suburbs pros and cons.
Getting an Australian bank account
There are four big banks in Australia: Commonwealth (CBA), Westpac, ANZ and NAB.
They’re all massive and make far too much money.
In my opinion, there’s not much to separate them.
Quick tip - Australian banks charge you when you use an ATM from a rival. Choose a bank with an ATM near your work or house.
I chose Commonwealth purely because they had a branch right near me and the others didn't.
Moving your money over (don't use a bank)
While you can survive for a while using your Visa or Mastercard to pay for everyday expenses, it’s not advisable to keep doing this for long.
It doesn't matter so much on small everyday purchases, but over time the fees and poor exchange rate add up.
Once you've committed to emigrating to Australia, it makes more sense to move a chunk of money over.
Steer clear of the banks.
The exchange rates at banks are generally uncompetitive, and they tend to charge you additional transfer fees.
A money transfer specialist, such as Key Currency, could save clients thousands of Pounds on larger money transfers.
We have far lower overheads than the big banks and pass on the savings to our customers.
These days, a lot of places make you download an app and do everything yourself.
With us you will be assigned a real person, who can help you acheive a better rate and assist you from start to finish.
As an FCA Regulated firm, all money transfers with Key Currency are conducted through segregated and safeguarded client accounts.
If you would like a free quote, just click on the button below.
Choosing a mobile provider
You can’t bring your existing contract or number across from the UK, so you’ll need to get a new mobile.
It’s easy enough to do as there are mobile phone shops everywhere wanting your business.
I found the whole process confusing with too many options, so I'll tell you what I did.
There are three main mobile phone companies in Australia – Telstra (the equivalent of BT), Optus and Vodafone.
Vodafone is typically the cheapest because it has the worst coverage.
Telstra is the most expensive because it has the best coverage.
I signed up for Vodafone when I first moved to Australia to save money. I then found out it didn't work in my area and had to cancel the contract, hand back the phone and start again.
I ended up going with Telstra because the signal was much better. But as I said, Telstra is more expensive.
Quick tip - I've since switched to Belong. It uses the Telstra network and is less than half the price of Telstra. Woolworths and Boost also use Telstra's network and are cheaper than Telstra.
Healthcare – public or private?
Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world – public or private.
As Australia and the UK have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, as a Brit, you’re covered for the length of your stay in Australia, as long as you have a current and valid visa.
Permanent residents are entitled to a Medicare Card, which gives full access to the government-run system. Once you have a Medicare Card, you can head into a “bulk billing” doctor or dentist and not be charged.
Almost 60% of Australians have chosen to take out private health insurance, which has the usual perks of better facilities and lower waiting times.
The big players are BUPA, HCF, NIB and Medibank.
I’ll let them bore you with the details, but I went with HCF and have been happy with them. They are a not-for-profit, whereas the other big players are private. My logic was that a not-for-profit would not be as resistant if I needed to make any claims.
The education system (public, private, catholic)
Australia’s education system scores well by global (OECD) standards. A survey a few years back had it at 14th in the world.
Average class sizes in schools are around 24 for both primary and high school.
There are three main types of school.
- Government (state) schools are the largest type, having 65% of all students.
- Catholic schools are the next largest with 20%
- Private/independent schools have the remaining 15%.
The Catholic school sector is probably the biggest difference between the UK and Australia. They are a way of sending your kids to 'semi-private' schools without the crazy expense of going fully private. And no, you and your kids don't have to be Catholic to go to a Catholic school.
I won’t get into a debate about whether the Australian or UK education system is better. It’s a hot topic on internet discussion boards.
Let’s get some perspective here. There are bound to be differences, but the reality is they are both very good based on worldwide standards.
Driving in Australia (beware Aussie cops)
For the British, driving in Australia should be fairly straightforward.
You drive on the left-hand side of the road, the signs are in English, and there are similar rules and regulations. What could possibly go wrong?
Quick tip - One difference to note is that Australian police are pretty keen on handing out fines and they are seriously expensive compared to the UK. Stick to the rules.
After emigrating to Australia, you’ll need to obtain an Australian State driver’s licence within 3 months of arriving.
Each Australian State issues its own licences.
To get one, you need to bring along your UK licence and a proof of address. And fear not - you won't need to do a driving test.
Getting the right visa
Before emigrating to Australia, you need to figure out what visa is right for you. This can be easier said than done.
There are 4 main categories of visa:
- Temporary residence
Bear in mind, within these categories are varies ‘subclasses’.
Unfortunately, most visa systems, including Australia’s, are complicated.
In simple terms, here’s a rundown of some of the more common options and what it means in terms of employment.
If you simply have a visitor visa, you cannot work at all. If you have a student visa and a work permit, you can work up to 20 hours per week while you are studying.
A working holiday visa is available for those under the age of 31 and entitles you to live and work in Australia for a year. However, you can only work for a maximum of 6 months with any one employer.
Multiple-entry visas are issued to those who need to visit Australia frequently over a long period, such as businessmen, entertainers or the parents of children living there.
If you have skills or qualifications that Australia needs, then you may be able to apply for a skilled visa. The good news is there are over 180 occupations that make the list.
If you want to know whether you might qualify, google Australia’s skilled occupations list. There are fees for almost all visas. Because there are so many types of visas, many people (reluctantly) choose to pay a professional to steer them in the right direction and help with the process. This obviously costs money too. Just keep thinking of the sunshine that awaits you.
Depending on the visa, approval can take anything from a few weeks to months or even years. Enough on visas, they’re so dull (but necessary).
10 random facts about Australia
Fact 1: The Emu and the Kangaroo are on the Australian crest because neither animal can walk backwards.
Fact 2: Australia is as wide as the distance between London and Moscow.
Fact 3: More than 80% of Australians live within 100 kilometres of the coast.
Fact 4: The Great Barrier Reef is the planet’s largest living structure.
Fact 5: Crocodile Dundee is the highest-grossing Australian film to date.
Fact 6: The wine cask is an Australian invention.
Fact 7: The Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous culture on Earth.
Fact 8: Australia is the only continent without an active volcano.
Fact 9: There are more than 150 million sheep in Australia and only 20 million people. That’s almost 8 sheep for every person.
Fact 10: More than 25% of all Australians were born in another country.
Yes, when you emigrate to Australia there is a bit of a checklist of things to work your way through.
But before you know it, you will be on your way.
I've hopefully given you a few shortcuts to make some of the decisions easier.
Half the battle is picking the right company for each step.
When you're ready to move money over to Australia, don't make the costly mistake of using a bank.
I am one of the Directors at Key Currency.
Why should you use us?
As we have far lower overheads than a bank, we pass on the savings to our customers.
We can offer you great exchange rates and no fees on your money transfers from the UK to Australia.
And unlike an online platform or a bank, we can discuss and agree on the right time to send your money over.
Even small, fractional moves in the GBP to AUD exchange rate can make a big difference to the amount of Australian Dollars you get for your Pounds.
If you feel our service may be of use to you, simply request a free quote below.