So you’ve arrived in Australia: Jet lagged, pale, working holiday visa sorted and with no plan what to do next. Every year thousand of us flood to this country at the other side of the world, prompted by visions of road trips, beaches, kangaroos and the outback in our mind: But what do you actually do when you get there?
With so many options and so much time ahead, it can seem impossible to know where to start when you get to Australia. Topics like ‘Farm work, cafe jobs, east coast, west coast, flat shares, CVs’ are the main areas of conversations in a lot of hostels and separating out what you want to do from what others are doing can be exhausting.
Ultimately whether you decide to work first or travel, remember that there’s no right way to do a working holiday and it’s impossible to have it all planned out. This year will through you more hurdles than you knew possible and everyone has different expectations, interests and financial situations that will impact their trip.
If you’ve been researching about working holidays online then you probably would have come across information on Australian working holiday starter packages. These are bundles offered by tour companies that generally include a weeks hostel accommodation and job hunting assistance. While this option might give you peace of mind, I personally think it’s not worth the money and you can easily find work and sort out the extras without any assistance. I’ve done a bit of a ‘how to’ guide below.
Having only arrived here myself last week I’ve really not got it figured out yet but here are a few tips that I’ve been given and come up to help you sort things out a little when you first arrive.
When you arrive
Prebook a hostel for a couple of nights
In my opinion, this is vital to get you settled into your working holiday. I know a lot of people advise to book a private room somewhere for the first few nights to ease yourself in: I say book a sociable hostel.
They are cheap, easy places to meet people and usually offers loads of helpful information and even help you work out your plans.
If you’re flying into Melbourne I can’t recommend United Backpackers enough: It’s one of the cleanest and comfiest hostels I have stayed in and it’s right opposite the iconic Flinders Street Station so you wont get lost.
Explore the place you’re in
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to sort everything out straight away. You’ve come a long way to get here, go and see the place that you’re in. Go be a tourist, eat out, find your own favourite spots to chill. How are you supposed to decide if you want to stay somewhere for a while if you’ve not really seen it yet.
Sim card, bank account and tax file number
Sorting out the things in this list when you first get to Australia will make your life so much easier in the long run.
Firstly get an Australian sim card. This is vital if you are applying for jobs and it means you can communicate with your friends and work colleagues that you meet along the way. You can do this in a phone or shop or even just pick up a sim card from Aldi.
Other things worth doing are settling up a bank account so that you get paid. You can do this by going in store to any bank: National Australia Bank is a good one. Employers also require you to have a tax file number which you can apply for online on the ATO website. This can take up to 28 days to come through so do it quickly.
Working out a plan
How to work out if you want to travel or work first?
After a few days you’ll have a rough feel for how far your budget will stretch and what you might want to do next. I’ve done a rough breakdown of average daily costs underneath for you. When you know what you can afford you can then decide if you need to work first, or if you have enough just to travel for a while instead.
Daily budget guide:
Bed in a hostel dorm- $30
Brunch style meal out- $18
Quick bite to eat- $8
Public transport in city (av per day) -$8
Internal flight- $140
Hop on hop off bus passes- $300-400
Car rental- $100 a day
Don’t forget about the weather
The other thing to bear in mind when you’re working out your plans is the weather. Australia’s climate varies from north to south and during Australian winter months, cities like Melbourne and Sydney actually get pretty cold and rainy. You might want to consider doing the east coast in September to December, when it’s less hot and crowded and then start heading west again around December/January. Internal flights are cheap so you can always come back to the city you’ve started in.
Work out how you’re going to get around
If you decide to travel first then start thinking about how you’re going to do it. Australia has a lot of cheap internal flights so flying from say, Melbourne to Cairns is around $140 one way. Popular travel routes include Cairns to Sydney, Melbourne to Adelaide and Adelaide to Perth. Don’t forget to do a trip to the outback too and also other places like Tasmania.
If you’re travelling down the east coast then the most popular way to do this is by bus. You can book a bus pass from one of the tour shops for around $300. You could also consider renting a car or camper van if you wanted to save accommodation costs. If you’re doing the west coast then you can also take the bus however most people tend to rent a car or van as it’s really scenic and you’ll have the freedom to stop off where you want on the way.
Sort out your CV
Even if you don’t want to start working right away, it’s not a bad idea to type up your CV and print out a few copies when you first get to the country. You might want to give your CV a bit of an Aussie update: Change your home address to your hostel one, add in your Australian phone number and maybe even convert or explain your qualifications if extremely different to Australian ones. Depending on your skills, you may want to make two CVs: Maybe one for causal cafe/bar jobs and one for professional jobs.
How to find a job
As always remember that when you’re looking for a job, you’re working to live not living to work. Unless you’re complete broke I’d probably advise against working ridiculous numbers of hours each week, you’ll be too tired to enjoy yourself and your new life.
Whether you want to work straight away or after travelling, finding work can be quite stressful in Australia. Don’t worry though, there are loads of jobs out there for backpackers such as the obvious ones like farm work, cafe/bar work and construction but you can do anything from retail work, office work, fundraising and more. There are loads of opportunities listed online on sites such as SEEK, Gumtree and Indeed. Also it’s worth joining some Facebook groups such as Melbourne hospitality jobs as these are usually easier for getting work quick.
Where to stay long term
Hostel are the king when it comes to budget accommodation in Australia and you’ll that a lot of hostels offer one week rates which are a good option while you settle in. However if you’re planning on working in one city for a while then what most people do is look at house shares. There are lots of short contract listings online for rooms or houses that you can share with other travellers or locals. A good place to find these is on Facebook groups like Fairy Floss Real Estate.
If you’re planning on driving then you may want to consider saving accommodation money by getting a camper van instead of a car. This way you can see the country and park up in camp sites over night, saving you loads of cash. Other options include doing workaways where you stay for free on farms, people’s houses or hostels and get free accommodation in exchange for labour. You might also want to look at airbnbs.
Travel and work simultaneously
Who said that it had to be all or nothing? Integrating a little work as you travel the country may be the best option for you.
How do you do this?
Depending on your skills and experience, there are a range of ways that you can do this. Generally speaking the easiest way is to search for temp jobs. This may include temporary jobs in the cities such as promotion, fund-raising roles and office work or agricultural work or causal labouring jobs elsewhere. You can find these jobs listed on the backpacker job board or by searching for temp jobs on SEEK.
Working in a hostel, even in exchange for free accommodation and food is also a good way to cut costs, although granted you probably won’t make quite as much money relative to your time.
If you have experience working in certain industries such as copywriting, web design or marketing then you may want to have a look at freelance opportunities with Australia or international countries and literally work as you go.
Of course there is no one set way or a ‘how to’ guide, for an Australian Working Holiday. Everyone’s trip will be different, depending on your expectations, money, the people you meet and the places you go but with unlimited freedom and so much time, you’ll get the chance to tailor make your trip, just the way you want it.