Why I Moved To Australia From The UK
I first experienced life in Australia back in 2001, when I spent a year at the University of Queensland in Brisbane as an exchange student. I loved the sunny weather and outdoor lifestyle, and when I backpacked for three months over the summer holidays, I realized what a beautiful country Australia is.
I returned on a working holiday after graduation and knew that at some point I would love to live in Sydney. I ended up working in a corporate job in the UK for ten years but thought about Australia daily and always felt like I was meant to live there. When I realized I was eligible for permanent residency, I grabbed it and made the move!
I’ve Traveled All Over Australia
I’ve visited every state and territory in Australia. I traveled the east coast and red center when I was a student, the west coast on my working holiday, and the south coast and Tasmania when I arrived as a permanent resident.
Along the east coast, I remember loving the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands up in Queensland; it’s so tropical and like another world when you snorkel or dive with all the colorful fish.
South Coast NSW around Jervis Bay is amazing because of the bright white beaches and tranquillity. My big Perth to Adelaide road trip was brilliant, as the scenery was so diverse. You pass through surf towns like Margaret River, ancient forests and sand dunes around Pemberton, phenomenal beaches towards Esperance, and then the desert along the Nullarbor.
The Australian places on my bucket list right now include Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the Whitsundays, as it’s been 20 years since I last visited, outback NSW, and Far North Queensland beyond Cairns. There’s plenty more, but it’ll take some time to tick it all off!
I think Australia is definitely an ideal destination for backpackers and digital nomads; you’ll never run out of amazing scenery and places to visit. You need to be aware that the cost of living is quite high here compared to many countries though, but wages are high too, so if you’re earning Aussie dollars you should be fine. If you’re earning money online in another currency, make sure you research how far your money will stretch.
Backpacking Australia is so common that the country is extremely well set up to make travel easy. There’s an abundance of hostels and camping grounds to keep your costs down.
The Best Way To Travel Around Australia
If you’re new to traveling and a bit nervous, I’d go with the Greyhound bus or on a tour.
That’s what I did when I was 20. It’s great for solo female travelers as you’re in a group and have a guide, so you feel a bit safer.
If you’re pretty confident and want more freedom, go for the campervan option. You can always team up with other travelers who’ve bought a car and just pay them for petrol.
On my last big road trip, I bought a car and camped in a tent with another traveler. When I decide on a route, like Perth to Brisbane, I’ll look at the distances between each major city and work out how long I should spend on each section to make sure I don’t run out of time. Then I’ll research all the places in between and where I should stay overnight, and then look into attractions in those places.
My Travel Frequency & How I Pack
I go on around four short trips a year now outside of Sydney, and usually one visit back to the UK per year to see family and friends (before Covid anyway!). Sydney itself is very diverse and beautiful, so there’s plenty to explore here on weekends without going too far.
For a longer road trip in Australia, I would normally make sure I have camping equipment, to cut down on costs, including a camp stove and cooking equipment. A large water container is a must if you’re camping somewhere rural or driving a long way between towns, as well as an esky (cool box) with a bag of ice inside to keep your food cool. A can of petrol is a good idea too.
I always make sure I’ve looked at the weather forecast wherever I’m going, so I can pack the right clothes. Comfortable hiking gear is important, and in Australia, you can’t go anywhere without sunscreen!
How I Met Other Travelers & Locals In Australia
I’ve always found the best way to meet other travelers is to stay in hostels, as you’re instantly surrounded by other solo travelers who want to make friends. I’ve done a lot of house-sitting too, and that’s been a great way to meet locals.
Staying in someone’s spare room on Airbnb is another way to meet locals and get advice on what to see while you’re there.
One of the most eventful solo trips I’ve taken was to the Blue Mountains in Sydney a few years ago. I stayed in a hostel and made friends with a group of guys who’d been living there for a few months. During a six-day trip, the receptionist robbed the hostel’s safe and did a runner, I got bitten by bed bugs, one guy started a fight with another guy in the middle of the night which woke the whole hostel up and another guy in his twenties got relentlessly pursued by a randy 50-something cleaning lady who locked him in a room and flashed him! It wasn’t the most relaxing break, but it was more entertaining than being in a hotel by myself!
How I Manage My Travel Costs
I discovered house sitting pretty early on in my travels, which is where you stay in a local’s home for free while they’re on holiday in return for looking after their pets. I did that in the major cities on my long road trips which saved a lot of money, particularly over Christmas and New Year, when accommodation rates are expensive. I also camped with another traveler between cities, which was cheap between the two of us.
When I go on solo trips now, I usually stay in someone’s spare room on Airbnb, which is about half the price of a basic hotel. This means I can cook all my own meals, so my daily expenditure is low. When I’m picking a destination that’s too far to drive to, I’ll research flight prices to find the cheapest destinations to reach from Sydney. I also use public transport when I’m there instead of hiring a car or taking taxis.
My Travel Budget
For accommodation in Sydney, you’re generally looking at $250-$350 per week for a room in a share house or apartment including bills. For a 1-bedroom apartment to yourself, it’s more like $450-$550. This will vary from suburb to suburb, and remember Sydney is the most expensive city in Australia for accommodation.
I’d budget $70-$90 per person per week on supermarket food. The main meal in a standard high street restaurant will generally be $20-$35 plus drinks.
Owning a car is pretty expensive over here. My insurance and legal requirements (registration etc) come to around $1,600 per year. I also spend $700-$1,200 per year on services and replacing tires/brakes when necessary. Mechanics charge over $100 per hour for labor too!
That puts my basic expenses of food, car, and rent at around $1,700 per month. Then there’s petrol, public transport fees, trips, going out and any clothes or other items I need to buy.
To save money as an expat, cook at home when you can, consider living in a share house if you’re moving here by yourself (that’s a good way to meet people when you first arrive), and think about whether you need a car or not if you’re living in a major city.
Most of my expat friends in Sydney don’t have cars. Also look into rent and property prices across the country before choosing a city, as they vary dramatically.
One Of My Favorite Memories From On The Road
My favorite memory from my big road trip was catching the sunset at D’Entrecasteaux National Park in Western Australia.
We’d been sightseeing all day and arrived at a campsite in the early evening. We had no idea you could walk to this amazing sand dune system from the site, so we ended up practically running there via a 2km sandy track through the forest so that we could catch the sunset. The dunes were bright white and went on for miles, and the sunset was phenomenal.
It was so unplanned and felt like we were in fields of snow.
How I Manage Work And Travel
I did a very long road trip when I first arrived in Australia, but since 2016 I’ve lived in Sydney and just take short trips when I can.
I house sat in Sydney for over three years without having my own home, so I slotted in trips when I had gaps of 4-5 days between house sits, meaning I didn’t have to pay rent in Sydney while I was away. I also got to explore Sydney thoroughly, as I lived all across the city.
When I started house sitting in Sydney, I registered my own business, so I got paid for the sits.
I now have my own place but take on local house sits and do other pet care jobs like dog walking and home visits. Since I’m self-employed, I can book trips around my schedule. I’m generally the busiest in school holidays so I go away during term time, which is also cheaper for me.
At the moment Covid is the main thing preventing travel in Australia, as we go into snap lockdowns when there are outbreaks and state borders can suddenly close. It’s a bit risky booking trips to other states, in case you have to cancel or get stuck there. Also, the size of Australia means you have to fly to a lot of places or have an extremely long drive!
What I Wish I Had Known When I First Moved To Australia
Australia’s known as a laid-back country, but the law enforcement here is phenomenally strict, particularly when it comes to driving.
I once misread a parking sign and got a $200 fine within 20 minutes of leaving my car. A German friend of mine hired a car for one day and got speeding fines as well as fines for crossing the harbor bridge without a toll pass. I’ve been breathalyzed multiple times too.
I wish I’d known how cold the south coast is before I traveled there. It was the height of summer, and I had to sleep in multiple layers with a hat and hot water bottle!
I’ve learned to keep a sense of adventure by exploring what’s on your doorstep. It’s easy to slip into a routine of doing nothing on the weekend, but there’s so much to see in and around Sydney that it would be a waste to ignore it.
In the UK, it didn’t even cross my mind to go on solo trips in Europe. I had access to so much, including places in the UK itself, but didn’t make the most of it at all.
My Advice To Anyone Moving To Australia
If you’re moving to Australia permanently, I’d suggest doing a lot of research on the cost of living, climate, and job availability before choosing where to live, as these factors vary so much across the country.
I see a lot of British expats on blogs and YouTube saying that they bought a huge, detached house with a pool in Australia for the price of a much smaller home in the UK. This is nearly always people who’ve moved from London or the southeast of England, where it’s quite expensive, to regional Queensland or Western Australia. The price of my old three-bedroom house in the West Midlands region of England would only buy a studio apartment in Sydney.
In terms of jobs, a British friend of mine moved over here and couldn’t find a job at all in the areas he wanted to live in (Gold Coast then Adelaide). He ended up running out of money and had to return home. Thankfully he saved up, came back, and got a job in Sydney straight away. He loves it here now!
If you’re coming here to travel long-term, make sure you have enough money saved up to fund your trip. If you’re on a working holiday, the wages are pretty high here, so you should be fine. But allow time to find a job first. And schedule in enough time to travel and go on road trips. There’s so much amazing stuff to see!
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