Helpful links if you’re moving to Sydney
Moving to Sydney or Australia or interested in getting a feel for what its like…
Moving to Sydney or Australia, interested in making the move, just thinking about the move? Here is some information and a list of links that will help give you an introduction to Australian life.
Prior to moving to Sydney we visited on a Look See Decide Trip and the biggest shock to me was the cost of everything. I think I would have died of fright if we had not be aware of the cost of things before moving here.
This post is adaptation of an email I’ve sent to friends thinking about making the move. On the back of the readership of the post on our 2 Years in Australia I realised that there may be a lot of people who would benefit from this type of information. I hope that if you are thinking about the move, this post is helpful to you.
Before I hit you with all the information, I just wanted to say Good Luck with your journey, whatever you decide, whether you decide to stay or go, Good Luck!
Helpful information if you’re moving to Sydney
First know: Opinions will differ
You will come across a multitude of differing opinions on everything. My opinions and views don’t trump anyone else’s opinions. I am happy to hear and learn so if you find something you don’t necessarily agree with, please voice your opinion. It’ll all go to help someone.
What does help in the myriad of differing opinions is that most things can be checked or confirmed online.
All of this is based on our experiences in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW) as Permanent Residents.
We’ll start with the everyday – grocery shopping.
Coles and Woolworths
In most States and Territories you will find Coles and Woolworths. The are currently the biggest of the grocery stores in Australia. Both Coles and Woollies have online sites where you can buy online and have it delivered to your home. Coles is at http://shop.coles.com.au/online/national and Woolworths is at https://www.woolworths.com.au/.
The new kid on the block – Aldi
Relatively new on the scene is Aldi. It is available in a number of States and Territories but not all. Aldi doesn’t stock all the same brands that Coles and Woolworths do but you can get the equivalent in their own brand.
Aldi is generally cheaper but shopping there is a completely different experience. Everything is stocked in boxes on the shelf. It isn’t as ordered or neat as Coles or Woolies and at the checkout you don’t get the teller packing your bags for you – it all gets given back to you individually to put back in your trolley.
The whole ALDI experience is something you have to see for yourself. It is so different to what I have experienced before. ALDI also has sales specials that come out on a Wednesday and a Saturday and they can be anything from school shoes to snow equipment or a garden table and chair set. I’ve bought kids’ pjs and a whole lot of snow gear, children’s books. Every year there is a South African sale where you can but lots of South African stuff, if you follow the AllThingsMomSydney Facebook page there will be a notification of this sale.
There are also a number of smaller stores that are more tailored to the State that you live in. You will find IGA and Harris Farms in New South Wales, both of which I shop at.
What I didn’t realise until recently is that a lot of people source their fresh produce and meat from green grocers, butchers and farmer’s markets. This is wear you will really find good quality.
Homes and Living
Property is so unbelievably expensive. I don’t know any expats who were able to buy property upon moving here. It is just so unbelievably expensive. This unfortunately translates into the renting market. To get an idea of what the cost is have a look at the two main property sites: realestate.com.au and domain.com.au.
One thing I can tell you is that because Sydney’s housing market is so bizarre and expensive you need to understand it before you do anything.
No matter who you ask in Sydney, they will have an opinion on the “property bubble” but I am not sure anyone can guarantee what is going to happen.
A home for when you arrive
When we moved over we found a month long holiday rental that came with a car. This concept saved us so much and would recommend this to anyone who doesn’t have family or friends to stay with.
This way we didn’t need to rush out and buy furniture or buy a car. We had a home base to come home to every night after we had spent the day running around. We found a place on Airbnb but you can also look at Stayz and Trip Advisor.
Renting in Sydney
RealEstate and Domain will give you a good indication of the rental prices. The difficulties is that most of the pictures you see would have been edited and/or styled. A styled property is when all the furniture and décor has been redone by a private company to make the place look better.
You cannot and should not rent anything without inspecting. Not only because of the above but because of the two issues we found across a lot of properties there were issues with light and damp.
When calculating rental the price displayed is the weekly amount but you pay the amount monthly. The rental will be slightly higher than that which is advertised because of the formula used. Weekly rental X 52 ÷ 12.
In order to rent you are going to need to provide 100 points of Identification so make sure you have copies of your passport. It helps to get your Aussie driver’s licence as soon as possible so you can use this too.
There are a number of different places you can buy furniture from. From big national stores to small little boutique and the prices vary. You can’t expect that a small boutique is going to be more expensive than an online store. You have to go in and check for yourself.
We bought most of our furniture from South Africa but left the really big pieces and begs behind. The bigger pieces because I knew they wouldn’t fit in the smaller spaces available. We didn’t bring beds because the sizes of South African beds and linen differ to Australia.
A lot of people I know went to IKEA and kitted out a large portion of their home from IKEA. Coming from South Africa I was very excited about visiting IKEA. Yes I did buy lots from IKEA, but the bigger items were mainly cupboards and bookcases.
There are a lot of good smaller goods to get from IKEA.
What I would always check is the materials used – I always make sure to buy 100% wood. What South Africans refer to as “wood” Australians refer to as “Timber”. I’ve also bought a rug or two from IKEA. The IKEA website can be located at: http://www.ikea.com/au/en/preindex.html?region=au-east.
Other furniture stores
We have also bought furniture from Freedom Furniture http://www.freedom.com.au and OzDesign Furniture http://ozdesignfurniture.com.au/.
There are also a number of good quality items for sale on Bidorbuy and Gumtree.
Australia and Australians are also big on sales so before you buy anything check it out online and see whether you can get it cheaper.
Every single piece of furniture I have bought here I have bought on sale for 50% or less of the price.
If you are getting things delivered always ask
1) Am I going to have to assemble it myself and
2) Will you remove the old one.
Linen can be bought from all of the above but I’ve found them to be expensive in comparison to the quality.
For linen I love
- Adair www.Adairs.com.au and
- Bed, Bath ‘n Table https://www.bedbathntable.com.au
But I only buy from these two on sale or at the outlet store, the outlet store is actually even cheaper than Target. I have bought a sheet or two from Kmart, Target and Ikea but the quality wasn’t as nice as I had hoped. Of those three Target is the better.
Furniture on the sidewalk
The most bizarre thing happens in Australia with furniture. When someone has decided that they don’t like their couch, desk or children’s toys anymore they put them out on the curb.
This initially started so that the council would come and collect them at a pre-arranged time but what it has actually become is a place for people to get these things for free. Everyone does it, if you’re driving down the road and spot something you like, you just hop out and get it.
You can get everything you need online. In some instances you can even buy stuff in advance and ask them to keep it for you until you get here.
We didn’t bring any white goods from Australia save our microwave which I just couldn’t say goodbye to. I have since had to replace it.
There are a number of good places to buy white goods from.
When buying white goods you need to ask them for a discount and to price match. I’ve even got a discount on a toaster. I look at the following places to buy whitewoods:
- Myer (It’s a big department store but sometimes they have good deals
- David Jones (same as Myer but generally a bit more expensive than Myer)
- Bing Lee
- The Goodguys
- Appliances Online
Most of the time Appliances Online wins hands down but I have price checked them once or twice.
If you get stuff delivered, ask them whether they will get it working for you and then whether they will take the packaging material away.
Cellphones and Internet
My husband got his contract through work and I am on Optus. We went with Optus because of a combination of the price and network coverage.
Our home internet is powered by Telstra as it came part of a package with the paid TV (Foxtel). In hindsight I don’t know if we should have gone this way. Foxtel is rubbish and more frustrating than anything. The only reason we liked Foxtel was because it’s the way to get the South African rugby.
I’m not going to talk about Foxtel because it’s a nightmare and now we live in an apartment block that won’t let us have it.
Public transport in Sydney is fantastic. It’s clean, on time and allows you access to most places. A lot of people don’t even own cars because of the cost of insurance and parking. Parking in the city of Sydney is horrendous so if you’re working in the city you will most likely need to travel into the city via public transport.
The trains, buses and most ferries work on the Opal card system – you buy your Opal card and then just tap and go. Similar to transport in London.
If you’re not keen on public transport and you don’t want to buy a car, there are car share options. In a car share option you can book and collect a car, use it for a couple of hours or longer and then drop it off after you’re done.
Coming from South Africa we didn’t need to redo our drivers licence in NSW. We just went in, filled out a form, found proof of residence, took a picture and left with a driver’s licence.
We opened a bank account before we moved to Australia and then just activated it when we arrived. I even think we got our bank cards the day we went to activate the account. Activate literally means going to show face at the local branch of the bank.
We moved money with Commonwealth Bank because they had a division in the UK which was on roughly the same timeline as South Africa. We however then opened bank accounts with Westpac when we got here and got our credit cards through them.
When you go into the bank to verify yourself make sure to ask for a proof of residence letter. The bank will easily put one together for you – you will need this for your driver’s licence and in order to rent.
We moved to Australia without any jobs. My husband had two Skype interviews before we left South Africa and then the week we arrived he had a third interview in person. He got the job after the third interview.
The best place to look for a job is on Seek – seek.com.au
Outside of the above, there are special sites dedicated to moms who want to return to work, South Africa job boards and niche Facebook Groups.
But you must update your LinkedIn profile because a number of recruiters use it as their go-to tool.
Childcare in Australia is super expensive – we paid $130 a day for our 3 year old to go to daycare from 9am to 6pm.
There are people who pay more than we do, people pay up to $170 a day in some areas.
If you are looking at a place and it charges under $100 a day you will mostly likely have to send your kids to school with nappies, food, water or drinks and volunteer for a monthly clean-up.
The different types of child care
There are various types of child-minding facilities:
1. Pre-school is the year before Kindergarten. Kindergarten in NSW is the year your child turns 6 and is within the ‘big school environment.
2. Day care is before pre-school and your child can attend some from as little as a few weeks old. The day care my son currently attends is only for kids ages 18 months plus.
3. Long day care is from early morning until 6pm at night.
All of the above mean that your child goes to the facility. There are other options:
1. A nanny / au pair (which a lot of families do if they have two or more children because of the cost or families with children who are at school going age).
2. Shared family care where a nanny or babysitter looks after various children from different families.
Rebates and Government Assistance
If you are on a Permanent Residents Visa you will potentially qualify for a Child Care Rebate or a Child Care Benefit. You will need to register for both at a Centerlink Office and then you will be assessed based on income.
Both parents will need to be working, studying, looking for work, starting a business and the facility will need to be registered with the government.
This is the worst government department I’ve dealt with in Australia so make sure you do all your research before you go in. Only take copies of your important documents and find the quietest Centerlink you can otherwise you will wait for hours.
The maximum benefit you can get at the moment is half of your out of pocket expenses or up to $7000.
On top of the day care costs, you will most likely be given the option of your child participating in extracurricular activities. At my son’s daycare we may an additional amount for Playball (a sports activities which runs on a Tuesday morning) and singing / dancing (which runs on a Wednesday).
Outside of extracurricular activities run during the day care day there are hundreds of other clubs and activities your children can sign up for. Even when your children go to school you will probably pay for sports clubs unless your child goes to private school.
These activities are generally between $11 and $20 per lesson.
There are two online sites where you can check out day care / pre-school facilities www.careforkids.com.au and mychild.gov.au.
If you are on a permanent resident’s visa you have access to Medicare. Medicare is the State provided Health Fund. This means that in case of emergencies you can go to your local hospital and not incur any fees. There are also doctors which are ‘bulk billed’ which means that you don’t pay for the appointment.
In the two areas we have lived in I have found no doctors who bill at government rates. We only get a portion of the doctor’s fees back, for example a 15 minute appointment costs $78 and we get a rebate from the government of about $30 – these amounts vary based on the doctor you visit.
When you go to the doctor you pay the full amount and then ask whether they will submit your claim to Medicare or if you must.
Dental is not covered by the government so for that you will need Private Health Care.
Private Health Care
There are hundreds of different options but one of the biggest is BUPA and that is who we are with.
Choosing the Private Health Care provider is a hard task because there are so many options. It literally just depends on where you are in your life, the age of your kids, whether you will need maternity care, the extent of dental care you need etc.
Private Health care will cover a portion of your physio, dental, specialist, X-rays costs. You won’t get the full amount back from your health care provider but it does contribute. Again, you may not get a large amount back.
Other helpful resources:
There are a lot of other great places to get information and to engage with people in a similar situation. Some of my favourite places to go are:
Sydney Moving Guide
Last Bit of Advice and Probably the Most Important
If you are planning on immigrating it helps to pack a file or folder with all your important documents. Guard that file with your life.
In that file you can keep copies of
- your passport,
- visa confirmation letter / proof of visa (you will be asked for this 100 times)
- travel insurance,
- banking information,
- details of where you’re staying,
- drivers’ licence,
- marriage certificate and
- CHILDREN’S birth certificates.