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Living in Australia
What You Should Know About Living Costs and More in Australia
Australia country facts are useful to know if you plan on moving Down Under. You will want to understand the basics such as social etiquette, emergency numbers, and the best ways to get around in the country. Plus, Australia’s cost of living will need to be taken into consideration too. The median cost for a single person is between 400–600 AUD (270–405 USD) per week.
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The cost of living in Australia can be quite high. But of course, this can also depend on the city you choose to settle in. Australia’s most expensive cities are Sydney and Melbourne. The cheapest are Adelaide and Brisbane.
If you are moving Down Under, you will want to know some practicalities as well, such as Australia’s emergency number, which is 000. This number allows communication with police, ambulance, and fire services.
If you move to Australia, you may also want to get familiar with driving and public transportation in the country. To drive in Australia unsupervised, you must between 16–18 depending on the state. If you do not plan on driving, you can expect an efficient, clean, and secure public transportation system across all of Australia.
The following is a list of useful information you will want to know as an expat living in Australia including emergency numbers, your nearest airport, public holidays, and your country’s main embassy.
In the event of a crisis during your time abroad, you will want to keep the following numbers handy:
- State emergency service (SES) assistance during storms and floods—132 500
- Police attendance—131 444 (all states except Victoria)
- International incident emergency helpline—1300 555 135 within Australia and +61 2 6261 3305 outside Australia
National public holidays in Australia for 2020 are
- New Year’s Day—January 1;
- Australia Day—January 28;
- Good Friday—April 10;
- Easter Monday—April 13;
- Anzac Day—April 25;
- Christmas Day—December 25, and
- Boxing Day—December 26.
Other public holidays include the Queen’s birthday (second Monday in June) and Labor Day but are declared individually by state and territory. Labor Day, for example, is observed on the first Monday in March in Western Australia, the second Monday in March in Victoria and Tasmania, and the first Monday in May in the Northern Territory.
Most people that move to Australia come from England, mainland China, India, New Zealand, Philippines, Vietnam, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, and Scotland. If you are from one of these top 10 places, here are the main embassies for each country in Australia:
- British High Commission Canberra
- Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
- High Commission of India
- New Zealand High Commission
- Philippine Embassy of Canberra
- Vietnamese Embassy in Australia
- South African High Commission
- Ambasciata d’Italia Canberra
- Malaysian High Commission
- United Kingdom High Commission in Canberra
The country’s busiest airports are
- Sydney Airport;
- Melbourne Airport;
- Brisbane Airport;
- Perth Airport;
- Adelaide Airport;
- Gold Coast Airport;
- Cairns Airport;
- Canberra Airport;
- Hobart International Airport;
- Darwin Airport.
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Cost of Living
Is it expensive to live in Australia? While the average cost of living in Australia depends on the size of your family, expenses, and even the city you live in, the average cost for a single person is between 400 and 600 AUD (270 and 405 USD) weekly.
The most expensive cities in Australia (including housing, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, and household goods) are Sydney and Melbourne. The cheapest cities are Adelaide and Brisbane.
The monthly cost of living in Australia by cities for a single person without rent are as follows:
- Sydney—1,371 AUD (926 USD)
- Melbourne—1,280 AUD (864 USD)
- Canberra—1,256 AUD (848 USD)
- Perth—1,246 AUD (841 USD)
- Brisbane—1,218 AUD (822 USD)
- Newcastle—1,213 AUD (819 USD)
- Gold Coast—1,183 AUD (799 USD)
- Hobart—1,181 AUD (798 USD)
- Adelaide—1,101 AUD (744 USD)
Living Expenses in Australia
Australia’s Food and Alcohol Prices
Weekly grocery prices in an Australian household average out to 255 AUD (USD). For families with young children (between the ages of five to 14) this median spikes to 336 AUD (USD). Singles under 35 spend the least on groceries with an average of 122 AUD (USD) and 22 AUD (USD) on alcohol. Couples with kids over 15 spend the most on alcohol: 47 AUD (USD) per week.
Prices of specific food items vary by state. The following are the average prices Australians spend per week on food:
- Bread—7 AUD (5 USD)
- Rice—1 AUD (1 USD)
- Meat—27 AUD (18 USD)
- Eggs—2 AUD (1 USD)
- Dairy products—14 AUD (9 USD)
- Fruit—14 AUD (9 USD)
- Vegetables—16 AUD (11 USD)
- Condiments—25 AUD (17 USD)
Eating out costs also vary from state to state; however, the overall average Australians spend on restaurants, meals out, and fast food per week is 92 AUD (62 USD).
The average annual electricity bill by number of people in the household is as follows:
- 1—1,323 AUD (894 USD)
- 2—1,695 AUD (1,145 USD)
- 3—2,090 AUD (1,412 USD)
- 4—2,088 AUD (1,411 USD)
- 5—2,604 AUD (1,759 USD)
- 6—2,516 AUD (1,699 USD)
Cost of Education
International students studying in Australian universities will be required to pay a lot more in tuition fees than local students. In 2018, this average was 30,840 AUD (20,926 USD) for an undergraduate degree and 31,596 AUD (21,444 USD) for a postgraduate. If you choose to send your child to a private school versus a government (public) school, expect to pay more too. A private high school can cost 10,000 AUD (6,841 USD) per school year. Public schools are usually no more than a few hundred dollars annually in tuition fees. For more information on the cost of education, including daycare, international schools, and language schools read our detailed Education section.
The average rent price in Australia was 436 AUD (304 USD) per week in the second quarter of 2019. Rent prices, however, also vary depending on the city. Here is the average rent per week across Australia’s main cities:
- Sydney—582 AUD (406 USD)
- Canberra—559 AUD (390 USD)
- Melbourne—454 AUD (317 USD)
- Brisbane—436 AUD (304 USD)
- Perth—385 AUD (269 USD)
- Adelaide—386 AUD (269 USD)
- Hobart—453 AUD (316 USD)
- Darwin—458 AUD (320 USD)
For full information on prices including costs for short-term rentals and house prices in Australia, read our Housing section.
Through Australia’s Medicare Benefits Scheme, Australians and expats of certain countries covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement can access free public healthcare. This universal healthcare system costs taxpayers 2% of their salary, which helps fund the operation.
Additionally, half of Australians also pay for top-up health insurance. The average cost in 2018 of health insurance coverage was 166 AUD (115 USD) monthly. The median hospital insurance was roughly 2,000 AUD (1,382 USD) per year, and extra policies cost approximately 850 AUD (587 USD) annually. Health insurance costs also depend on the level of coverage you pick. In 2019, the average costs for basic, medium, and top coverage were as follows:
- Basic—200 AUD (138 USD)
- Medium—296 AUD (205 USD)
- Top—300 AUD (207 USD)
For more detailed information on healthcare costs in Australia, including the country’s newly introduced hospital insurance tiering system and related expenses, visit our Healthcare section.
Travel and Transportation Cost
The average cost of a bus ticket in Australia is 3 AUD (2 USD). A bus ticket for a day is roughly 8 AUD (5 USD). A ticket for the tram is 2 AUD (1 USD) on average, and the train is 2 AUD (1 USD). Starting prices for a taxi are between 2 to 3 AUD (1–2 USD) and are approximately 1 AUD (1 USD) for each kilometer. See the section below for more information on Public Transportation in Australia and related costs.
Culture and Social Etiquette
There are certain rules and social etiquette you will need to learn about when moving to Australia. With the following tips and information, you can avoid major social faux pas in your new expat destination. But if you are still unsure and uneasy in your new home country, check out our Intercultural Training service. Our local culture experts introduce you to the etiquette, ways of thinking, and traditions of the country you want to integrate into. Ask questions about the new culture, and learn its peculiarities before you face them in real life. Informative sessions or intensive courses are available according to your needs. This service is made for you if your job involves communication with locals, or you wish to adapt sooner.
Australian culture values are made up of the following:
- common sense
Like in Australia’s business culture, Australians appreciate modesty in everyday life as well. Australians are down to earth people and do not feel superior to others. For this reason, Australia can be described as a classless society. They value realness, humility, and genuineness, and dislike arrogance and pretentiousness. For this reason, self-deprecating humor is the norm and appreciated. Australians are distrustful of people who brag or show off too much and outwardly.
Meetings, Greetings, and Conversation
Because Australians are so relaxed and casual, greetings can be as well. They are never too formal. For example, Australians prefer to interact on a first-name basis (and do not use titles) even when first meeting someone.
When meeting someone, shake hands firmly and confidently. If you are a foreign expat, do not attempt an Australian accent or say “G’day” or “G’day, mate,” as this may sound condescending from a non-Australian. Stick with a simple “Hello/Hi” and “How are you?” There are not many topics that are taboo or off limits in Australia; however, try to avoid sex, religion, politics, or race when you first meet someone. Try talking about something like sports instead. It is also rude to ask about a person’s salary, age, or weight.
Australians can be difficult to impress. Even when they are impressed, they will not outwardly admit it, so do not be put off by this behavior when meeting people for the first time.
Australians exchange gifts on Christmas and birthdays between close friends, family, and neighbors. Gifts are usually opened upon receipt.
If you are invited to somebody’s home for dinner, it is polite to bring a bottle of wine, chocolate, or flowers to thank your host. Do not arrive more than 15 minutes late if invited to a party and ask if there is anything you can bring beforehand. It is also polite to help the host clean up afterward. When dining, keep your hands above and elbows off the table, and practice proper table etiquette (Continental style). If you are asked to come to a typical Australian “barbie” (barbecue), it is customary to bring your own alcohol with you (in some cases your own meat too). You may also ask if you can bring anything for this occasion. Any leftovers are typically left behind for the host.
If you are out to dinner, be polite to everyone, including hostesses and waiters. As mentioned, Australians do not feel superior to anyone, so everyone from secretaries to busboys is treated with respect. While in some countries it may be good manners to leave some food on your plate, Australia is not one of them. You can finish everything on your plate. If you are out to eat with friends or on a date, each person pays for their food and drink; however, buying rounds is sometimes common. Tipping in Australia is not expected as it is in countries like the US, for example. You may tip at high-end restaurants, but it is optional.
Unlike some countries, when it comes to sidewalks, escalators, and stairs, stick to the left and let people pass on the right (this comes from the driving culture: drivers drive on the left-hand side of the road; learn more about Driving in Australia in the following section).
Personal space is also very much appreciated in Australia. Keep about an arm’s length at all times. It is considered rude to point at someone.
Unlike in some countries, Australians take littering and spitting very seriously, and they frown upon it. For example, even in movie theaters where there is staff to clean up after you, you are still expected to take your garbage and throw it away.
Relationships in Australia are loyal, particularly among friends. Many Australians rely upon the help and support of good friends instead of family during hardships. Swearing among friends is common and is not always considered rude. When visiting friends’ houses, do not show up at unannounced.
Families in Australia can be described as nuclear. Corporal punishment for young children is not the norm among parents; instead, guardians choose to discipline their kids by taking away privileges and rewarding good behavior.
Women in Australia
In Australia, women are not expected or required to fulfill any archaic, stereotypical gender roles. They are considered equal to men in Australian society. Nevertheless, many women still experience more interrupted careers than their male counterparts. They work fewer full-time hours than their male partners, making them more readily available to raise children and take care of the household.
Driving in Australia
Driving in Australia is quite necessary, especially if you plan on visiting remote areas. Some parts of Australia are only accessible by car, so having your license is quite useful.
The age for driving in Australia varies between state and territories. You can obtain a learner’s permit at 15 years and nine months in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and 16 everywhere else. You can finally drive unsupervised at the age of 18 in Victoria, 16 years and six months in the Northern Territory, and 17 everywhere else.
Driving in Australia Rules
- Always keep your driver’s license and other proper documentation with you while driving.
- Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road.
- All drivers and passengers inside the vehicle must wear a seatbelt, and children under seven must be in an appropriate car seat.
- Drinking and driving in Australia is a serious offense. You may not drive a motor vehicle if your blood alcohol level is .05% or higher.
- Cellphone use while driving is illegal (this includes texting).
- The speed limit in a built-up residential area is 50 km/hour (31 mph) except in the Northern Territory where the limit is 60 km/hour (35 mph).
- The speed limit beyond built-up residential areas is 100 km/hour (62 mph), except in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where it is 110 km/hour (68 mph).
- You cannot smoke in a car if you are with a child under 18 (or under 17 in Western Australia).
- It is against the law to turn left at a red light unless otherwise indicated.
Driving in Australia with a UK, US, or European License
To drive in Australia with a foreign license, you will require an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) if your original license is not in English.
Expats with a temporary visa can drive in the country with their own license (and an IDP if required) for the duration of their visa period, except in the Northern Territory. Once you are granted permanent residency however, you must obtain an Australian driver’s license within three months. In Victoria, a permanent resident can drive with their foreign driver’s license for six months before having to obtain an Australian one.
How to Get An Australian Driving License
The process of obtaining an Australian driver’s license varies from state to state, but once you get one, it is valid everywhere in Australia. If you are an expat from one of the following countries, you can exchange your license for an Australian one without having to take a knowledge or road test:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Isle of Man
- New Zealand
If you are 25 years or older and an expat from one of the following countries, you fall into the category of Experienced Driver Recognition. Therefore, you too can exchange your foreign license for an Australian one:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- South Africa
- South Korea
If you are from one of these countries but under 25, you will be required to take a road and knowledge test. If you are from any other country not mentioned in the lists above, you too will be obligated to take a road and theory test to get your Australian driver’s license.
Renting a Car
You can rent a car if you plan on only being in the country for less than three months. If it is anything over this, it might be more economical to purchase a car.
If you opt for renting, driving a rental car in Australia will require the following documents:
- a valid driver’s license
- IDP (if necessary)
- passport for ID
- credit card
To rent a car in Australia, most companies will require you to be 21 years old. If you are under 24, you may need to pay an additional charge for being a “young driver.” As a young driver, your choice of car for rent may also be limited.
Costs for renting a car depend on the company, type of vehicle, city, etc. It can start at 25 AUD (17 USD) and go up to 150 AUD (101 USD) per day in large cities (tip: renting in larger towns is cheaper than in smaller ones). The following is an average you will pay per day based on the type of vehicle:
- Economy car—30 AUD (20 USD)
- Medium car—40 AUD (27 USD)
- SUV—45 AUD (30 USD)
- Five-door car—60 AUD (41 USD)
- Sedan—80 AUD (54 USD)
- 4WD or station wagon—85 AUD (57 USD)
- Premium car—100 AUD (68 USD)
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Public Transportation in Australia
How is public transportation in Australia? Public transportation in Australia is designed to be efficient. It is generally well-maintained, modern, air-conditioned, and clean. Australia offers excellent facilities, and public transportation is heavily regulated to ensure this. Stations and terminals are monitored 24 hours a day for security. You will find uniformed and plain clothes security riding public transportation to ensure the safety of all passengers and commuters.
The main options for public transportation across Australia are train, bus, ferry, and light rail (tram); however, not every city has ferries or trams.
For travel within the country, you can either opt for the bus or train. Greyhound Australia offers excellent discounts, specials, and may be the cheapest option. Premier is another bus company, but it does not have as many stops. Finally, Oz Experience is another bus option. For a more scenic mode of transport, choose the train via Rail Australia. Other train options are the Ghan and Indian Pacific.
The fastest way to get across Australia is flying; however, this is also the most expensive option. Qantas, Jetstar, Rex, and Virgin are the major airlines that service the majority of the country’s destinations. Budget carrier, Tiger, often offers discount flights and deals.
Cost of Public Transportation in Australia
The average cost of public transportation in Australia is as follows:
- bus ticket—3 AUD (2 USD)
- bus 24-hour ticket—8 AUD (5 USD)
- tram—2 AUD (1 USD)
- train ticket—2 AUD (1 USD)
- taxi—2 to 3 AUD (1–2 USD) starting price; 1 AUD (1 USD) for each kilometer
Greyhound and Premier sometimes offer 1 AUD (1 USD) fares, but typically you can expect to pay 35 AUD (24 USD) for a ticket. Overnight buses are anywhere between 60 and 70 AUD (41 and 47 USD).
The following are sample airline fares between some popular cities in Australia:
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