A Comprehensive Guide about Living in Perth

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  • Harald Waibl

    After I moved to Australia, InterNations helped me connect with some compatriots in Perth and thus start enjoying the expat way of life.

Life in Perth

  • Perth is an expensive city to live in, with an average one-bedroom flat in the city center costing well above 1,000AUD per month.
  • The abundant restaurants, cafes, clubs, and bars make Perth’s nightlife rich and entertaining.
  • Since proof of health insurance is required for a successful provisional visa application, make sure yours is sorted out prior to moving to Australia.
  • Perth’s public transportation network, called Transperth, consists of a wide network of trains, buses, and ferries.

Living in Perth agrees with most expatriates who have made the decision to spend a few years in Western Australia — or to stay there forever. As we have pointed out in our guide on moving to Perth, the geographical isolation of the city and the rising cost of living are the most significant disadvantages of living in Perth. However, those contemplating starting a life in Perth will be happy to hear that the latter shows signs of improving.

In the 2015 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, the city’s standing fell from 37th to 48th place. This change is primarily due to the depreciation of the Australian currency. Although Perth is more affordable than Sydney or Melborne, which ranked 31st and 47th on the scale, the average rent for a one room studio in the city center is around 2,000 AUD.  Luckily there are less expensive options available on the outskirts.  Hence, if you want to find a new home in Australia with a relatively low cost of living, Perth might just be the right place for you.

Moreover, most residents would agree that these aspects are more than compensated by the relaxed pace of life and the high quality of living in Perth. The Economist newspaper appreciated Perth so much that they considered it one of the ten most livable cities worldwide in 2015, along with Melbourne and Sydney.


Perth has plenty of leisure-time activities to offer, and there is always something to suit everyone’s tastes. One popular option for animal lovers is to observe quokkas, which are small marsupials endemic to south Western Australia, on Rottnest Island or to go birdwatching in the Perth Hills. Athletes can take advantage of the hiking paths in the Swan River Valley or the many beaches, which are ideal for running, swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.

There is also a rich nightlife in Perth; the most popular nighttime district is Northbridge, which offers some of the best-known bars and night clubs in Western Australia. Another popular destination is the cappuccino strip, which is renowned for its abundant street side cafés and restaurants. During the weekend nights, the cappuccino strip is one of the popular centers of entertainment for residents and tourists in Perth. A typical night in this area usually offers open mic nights, cabaret, and a variety of music.

Fans of local culture and history could explore Australia’s Freemantle Prison, an Australian convict site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or stock up on travel books and Australian literature at Boffin’s Bookshop in central Perth. Last, but not least, expat families living in Perth have the opportunity to take their children to tour one of the many wildlife sanctuaries or to even go camping in the Yanchep national park, where they would be able to see koala colonies.


In addition to various family activities, expatriate parents are provided with numerous facilities for childcare and schooling. If both of their parents work outside the home, children up to the age of five can spend the day at one of Perth’s many not-for-profit community centers or in a licensed private daycare. Other childcare options that allow for more flexibility are at-home daycares or hiring a nanny or au-pair for in-home care. You can find a suitable childcare service for families living in Perth on one of the following websites:


Once your child has reached the age of four, he or she can attend kindergarten for 15 hours a week on a voluntary basis. For all children who are five years old, attending pre-primary classes is mandatory. Pre-primary classes prepare children for primary school and are necessary to ensure that children adapt well to educational settings. After pre-primary classes, when children are six years old, they are enrolled in primary school.  In Western Australia, primary school lasts for six years, from grade one to grade six. After primary school, children are able to move on to enroll in secondary education.

The language in the classroom is always English; if your children learn new languages easily or if you are planning on living in Perth for a long time, this might actually be helpful. But for secondary students without a good grasp of the English language, the situation in grades eight to twelve might be rather difficult.  If this is the case, it is recommended to find an international school that fits your child’s needs.

As of 2015, Western Australia set forth a new tuition taxation fee for foreign residents holding a 457 visa with children enrolled in the public school system.  The new fee is 4,000 AUD per year for each family, regardless of how many of their children attend school. You will be able to read more about this new fee via, Western Australia’s Technical and Further Education website.

International Schools and Higher Education

Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of international schools available for expat students. There are eight schools that offer the International Baccalaureate in Western Australia. Two of them are Montessori schools, and there’s only one international school with intensive tutoring for non-native English speakers; the International School of Western Australia is among the most expensive independent schools in Perth. If you consider home-schooling as an alternative, get in touch with your regional education office to talk about formal requirements.

If you are interested in furthering your own knowledge, living in Perth will provide the perfect opportunity, with the city containing five universities. Furthermore, the Career Centre for Western Australia has lots of information on professional and vocational training for adults living in Perth.

Healthcare and Medical Services in Perth

Obviously, it would be ideal to stay in good shape and health during your expatriate life in Perth. However, in case you should fall ill after all — be it a knee injury from running, a particularly tenacious flu, or a serious accident — having a suitable health insurance plan is extremely important. Getting a sufficient health insurance plan should be one of your top priorities.

Medicare: Australia’s Public Healthcare Provider

People who have a permanent visa for Australia have automatic access to Medicare, Australia’s government-run healthcare system. Medicare patients are lucky; their public healthcare policy covers all medically necessary treatments at public clinics, consultation fees for most doctors, as well as all tests and examinations required to diagnose and treat illnesses. Medicare also includes a limited number of mental health services per year and a subsidy on most prescription medication. Although Medicare does cover most of your appointment fees, a co-payment of 7 AUD is required at GP visits.

If you do have a permanent visa for Western Australia and are thus eligible for Medicare, be aware of what it doesn’t cover. For example, it excludes most dental costs, full reimbursement for stays in private hospitals, glasses, hearing aids, home nursing, acupuncture, most physiotherapy, elective surgery, and even ambulance services. For this reason most people who can afford it take out additional private health insurance for such eventualities.

Medicare: Eligibility and Alternatives

Unfortunately, only a small minority of temporary/provisional visa holders are eligible for Medicare. This applies to visitors from those countries which have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia: Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK.

Nevertheless, even as a citizen of one of these nations, you need to arrange for private health insurance back home and officially apply for an exemption once you have arrived in Perth. Everyone else should just look into private healthcare plans for Australia right away. Remember to do so well in advance of your move to Perth: Proof of health insurance is required for a successful (provisional) visa application.

Medical Service Providers in the Perth Metro Area

While living in Perth, you may find yourself in need of specific medical services. To avoid any unnecessary stress when you are feeling ill, let alone in an emergency situation, here are some phone numbers and websites to remember:

  • In case of a serious accident or medical emergency, just phone 000.
  • For minor injuries or ailments, you can call 1800 022 222, a toll-free 24/7 hotline for medical advice by qualified nurses. For example, if it is 10 o’ clock at night and you have a really bad cold, you could ask them for household remedies that will actually work. If they think you might require emergency help (i.e. that chest pain could be the first sign of a heart attack), they will immediately put you through to 000.
  • If you are suffering from mental health issues and do not know whom to talk to, +61 8 9224 8888 is the mental health support hotline for metropolitan Perth.
  • To find a clinic, please check this list of metropolitan hospital services in Perth. But pay attention: If there’s the word “private” in the hospital name, Medicare will not cover the full cost of treatment at this clinic.
  • If you need a dentist in the metropolitan area of Perth, then search on Western Australia’s Department of Health website.  
  • The ambulance services in Western Australia are provided by St John, a charity based in Perth. St John offers an ambulance cover insurance program for rural area residents. For a monthly fee, you can sign up for this plan. If you should ever need emergency transportation service in a St John ambulance, it will be free of charge. However, this does not apply to anyone living in metropolitan Perth. So, do make sure you have a private insurance policy which includes ambulance services. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Transport and Driving in Perth

Perth International Airport

Due to the city’s location in the remote southwest of the Australian continent, you are probably going to arrive in Perth via plane. The airport forms a little suburb of its own, about 11km from the central business district.

Perth Airport serves regional, domestic, and international flights by 20 airlines to circa 50 destinations. In August 2016, Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Bangkok, Christmas Island, Cocos Island, Denpasar, Doha, Dubai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Mauritius, and Singapore all had direct connections with Perth.

You can reach central Perth via public transport or the airport shuttle. The former option is cheaper, but less convenient. First, you need to take a free transfer bus from the international terminal (T1) to the domestic terminals (T3 and T4). There you can change to the Transperth bus #40, which takes about 47 minutes to reach the business district.

The Perth Airport Connect service will bring you directly to the CBD, for a fare of 15 AUD (one-way ticket for a single adult). Of course, you can simply hail a taxi. But like everywhere else, going by taxi is the costliest choice, with prices ranging between 43 AUD to central Perth and 97 AUD to Joondalup in the northern metro area.

Public Transportation in Perth

Perth itself has a public transport network – called “Transperth” – which consists of a wide network of trains and buses. The suburban rail services include six lines to Midland, Armadale-Thornlie, Fremantle, Joondalup, and Mandurah. Trains run from 5:00am to 0:00am-2:00am at a frequency of every 30 to every 2 minutes (the latter during rush hour).

Bus routes in Perth mostly serve as links to central suburban stops or train stations or as direct connections to the CBD. In the central business districts of Perth, Fremantle, and Joondalup, there are also free central area transit (CAT) buses during the day. If you are on a shopping spree or a tourist trail in the city center, you should take advantage of this.

Frequent passengers on public transport should make sure to buy a smart rider card. It allows you to add money on it for your fares instead of purchasing a ticket every time you use public transportation.  If you set up your smart rider card with Autoload, which creates a link to your debit account, you never have to worry about manually putting money onto your card. Autoload also gives you a discount of up to 25% on most fares.

Driving in Perth with an Overseas License

In case the public transport connections near your new home in Perth are rather insufficient, you’ll have to opt for driving instead. If you already have a driver’s license from your country of origin, you may wonder if it is valid in Perth.

If you have a tourist visa, a student visa, or a temporary work visa, you can indeed keep your overseas license as long as it is valid. If your overseas license is not in English, you need to have a certified translation or an international driving permit.

How to Get a Local Driving Permit for Western Australia

Everyone who has a permanent visa for Western Australia should apply for a local license after their first three months in Perth. The requirements for obtaining a driving permit in Western Australia may differ, depending on the country where your original license was issued, the type of vehicle you’d like to drive, and your personal health.

So, according to your specific situation, you may have

  • to provide verification of your overseas permit;
  • to take an eyesight exam;
  • to take a road theory / motorcycle theory / heavy vehicle theory test;
  • to participate in a practical driving test;
  • to undergo a medical examination.

Once you have fulfilled all requirements, you can swap your old license for a local permit. Please bring along the following documents to the nearest driver and vehicle center:

  • proof of identity
  • proof of address
  • current license and an official translation
  • one document showing your personal signature
  • the application fee (40.70 AUD for a standard transfer in 2016)

If you want to know more about driving in Australia, just check out this link to our InterNations guide. For specific questions concerning driving in Perth or Western Australia, make a local call to 13 11 56 (Monday – Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm) for further details.

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  • Harald Waibl

    After I moved to Australia, InterNations helped me connect with some compatriots in Perth and thus start enjoying the expat way of life.

  • Barbara Richter

    Thanks to InterNations, I quickly found useful tips of where to search for a flat. And I met great global minds at the same time.

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