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A Comprehensive Guide about Living in Sydney

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Life in Sydney

  • Many expatriates from around the world are drawn to Sydney’s high standards of living.
  • Attending school is mandatory for all children from the age of 6 to 17.
  • Since Sydney is so culturally diverse, there is an abundance of private and public international schools to choose from.
  • You are not eligible for Medicare if you have a temporary visa; all temporary visa applicants and visa holders need a private healthcare plan.
  • Sydney is home to a vibrant live music and theater scene with an abundance of open-air festivals and events.

Expats living in Sydney can consider themselves lucky in many respects: Not only have they chosen one of the ten most livable cities in the world, but their city also ranks 18th in the 2015 Innovation City Top 100 index. The capital of New South Wales offers many perks to anyone living in Sydney: Australia’s biggest and most populous city is a truly exciting and multi-cultural metropolis with the country’s leading economy, surrounded by impressive scenery, both natural, like Bondi Beach, and man-made, like Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The large number of skilled migrants living in Sydney is one of the factors that make it such an attractive place for international business. While the cost of living also exceeds that of any other Australian city, the quality of life in Sydney you get in return makes the experience worthwhile for many expatriates. The high standards of education and healthcare encourage plenty of expats to bring their families to Sydney.


Like in most parts of Australia, children living in Sydney have to attend school between the ages of 6 and 17, but most of them are sent to preschool at the age of 4. A large proportion of Sydney’s students stay in high school until grade twelve; many go on to university or do vocational training. Australian school facilities are held in very high esteem, whether your child wants to pursue an artistic, scientific, or technical career.

The NSW Government enforces a policy to ensure that all children in Sydney are guaranteed a place in their local state school. Thus, while you are free to apply for admission at any school of your choice, your child will only be guaranteed a place at schools within a certain catchment area.

While state schooling is free to permanent residents of Australia, children of temporary residents may be subject to an administration fee. Applications of international students living in Sydney are handled by the NSW Department of Education rather than the individual schools. Further information, including an online application form, can be found on the DEC International website.

If you are looking for specific information with choosing a Sydney state school, check the NSW Public Schools Finder website.

Private and International Schools

Due to the high numbers of international migrants and expats living in Sydney, the city is full of private and international schools. While quite a few of them serve predominantly as boarding schools for students from Southeast Asia, there are also bilingual French, German, and Japanese schools in Sydney.

Quite a few schools offer an International Baccalaureate program and classes in English as a Second Language for expat children. They are a good choice for families who attach a particular importance to staying in touch with their native culture and language. If you are looking for a suitable private school in and around Sydney, the Private Schools Directory of Australian non-government schools is a good place to look into.

Continue to the next page to read more about life in Sydney.

Health and Leisure in Sydney


Australia has a public government-regulated healthcare system called Medicare. It is tax-financed through the Medicare Levy. Medicare covers the cost of all medical treatment a patient receives in state hospitals, as well as part of the medical expenses incurred by seeing a general practitioner or specialist doctor outside of a hospital. Although Medicare does cover most of the costs from doctor visitations, there is a usually a co-pay of 7 AUD at general practitioner appointments. In order to avail of Medicare coverage, simply visit the Medicare services website or go to your local Medicare office.

Some types of treatments or services are excluded, for example dentists, physiotherapists, visual aids, ambulance transport, etc. Prescription drugs are also excluded, but due to government subsidies, medicine is cheaper in Australia than in many other countries.

The Sydney metropolitan area has around 50 public hospitals or clinics, many of them providing specialist care or maintaining close links to university research centers. In addition, there are numerous private hospitals. The website of the Ministry of Health contains some useful information about medical services in the area, including a search function for medical facilities.

Private Healthcare

Please note that if you live in Sydney on a temporary visa, you will not be eligible for Medicare assistance. In this case, you need to get private health insurance. Proof of adequate health insurance that provides coverage for the whole period of your stay is a prerequisite for most temporary work visas.

Private healthcare providers are called funds in Australia. A lot of these funds offer packages especially tailored to the needs of expats and their visa requirements. Please refer to the website of the Australian Government Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, or check out commercial websites for more information on different funds and their products.

Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements with a number of countries, namely Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK. Nationals of these countries qualify for Medicare assistance if they need essential medical treatment during a short-term stay in Australia.

Leisure Activities

A true metropolis, Sydney has much to offer in terms of leisure activities. Plenty of festivals are scheduled throughout the year, ranging from food festivals to sports events, from concerts to arts and crafts fairs. Many of them are free and outdoors.

Sydney has a vibrant live music and theater scene, and the world-famous Sydney Opera House hosts performances of international stars from the worlds of both classical and popular music. To find out what’s on in Sydney, visit the City of Sydney’s events pages“What’s On Sydney”.  You can also subscribe to Time Out, which sends weekly listings of popular restaurants, pubs, clubs, and events to your email inbox.

In a climate like Sydney’s, outdoor activities are, of course, immensely popular among young and old alike. The City of Sydney maintains around 400 public parks, playgrounds, and other green spaces. They are used for cycling, running, picnics or barbecues and can be hired for sports competitions and parties.

Even horticulturalists lacking their own garden can entertain themselves in one of Sydney’s 23 community gardens. These gardens are perfect for growing herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruit. And don’t forget about the strips of beaches for swimming, sunbathing and surfing that abound in and around Sydney. Once you have left the city limits, you will soon find yourself in one of the vast and beautiful national parks surrounding Sydney.

Continue to the next page of this article to learn more about life in Sydney.

Transportation in Sydney

Public Transport

Public transport in Sydney is fairly good. There is a vast network of trains, buses, and ferries serving the Central Business District and the various suburbs.

Trains are operated by a state-run company called Sydney Trains. In reports from 2003 and 2007, its performance was, rated poorly, especially to other metropolitan rail services around the world. As a result, a huge project was launched to increase the reliability and capacity of Sydney’s trains. While the former has been achieved, Sydney’s trains may still suffer from overcrowding during peak times.

Between midnight and 04:30, Sydney’s trains are replaced by Night Ride bus services. Other bus lines also run late-night services, especially on major traffic lanes and between train stations.

There are also several ferry services departing from the Circular Quay Ferry Terminal, which are used by commuters and tourists alike. In addition to all these government-run means of transport, there is also the Metro Light Rail services, the latter running 24/7. Moreover, the local government has invested 1.9 billion AUD in an infrastructure plan with the aim of developing a new line for the Light Rail service and to pedestrianize George Street. Sydney’s airport is served by the Airport Link train, which departs from Sydney central station about every ten minutes and takes you to the airport in less than half an hour. On weekdays the airport trains run from 04:23 to 23:23, and on weekends the trains run from 04:54 to 23:54.

For more information on all of these services, links to timetable information and a route planner, please check the public transport pages of the City of Sydney website.

Cars and Cycling

Most Sydneysiders — as inhabitants of Sydney are referred to — prefer to travel by car, especially the residents living in the more remote suburbs. A network of motorway-like roads directs traffic on radial and circumferential “Metroads” into and around Sydney. However, high volumes of traffic can be experienced during rush hours, and parking restrictions are in place nearly everywhere. There are also three privately operated car sharing schemes in Sydney: Hertz 24/7, Car Next Door, and GoGet.

Taxis and Uber are, of course, the other motorized alternatives. Taxis can be hailed from the street or at designated taxi ranks. Some taxi ranks are staffed by security guards late at night on Fridays and Saturdays to ensure the safety of travelers. A list of these secure taxi ranks can be found in the transport section of the City of Sydney website. Expatriates would also be interested to hear that Uber is available in Sydney. Uber is usually a more affordable option in comparison to taxis, but the prices fluctuate depending on many factors.

Cycling is often the cheaper and healthier alternative to both public transport and taking the car. The government encourages cycling by providing free lessons and building a large network of bike paths. Further initiatives include the Pedestrian Cycling and Traffic Calming Plans to limit traffic and improve safety on local roads. If you are interested in using the bike for commuting, there is a whole website dedicated to cycling in Sydney.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

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  • Serhat Ahmed

    Without experience of having lived abroad, I thought it would be hard to get to know other expats. But not with InterNations.

  • Lotta Koskinen

    When I first attended the Sydney Bar night I was really nervous. But everyone welcomed me and I quickly felt as part of the community.

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