Just kidding. Ok, it is but not as expensive as you think. A lot of people have been asking me about my move to Sydney on a Working Holiday Visa lately so I figured I would write my thoughts down after living and working here for nearly 6 months. This is my second Working Holiday Visa so I find myself comparing it to my first experience in London a lot.
Here’s a little snippet about creating a base for yourself in Sydney.
The worst in the world but this might be a little biased coming from living in London where the transportation is almost perfect. You can get an Opal card for free at any convenience store and just continually top up from there. Sydney is a car city (with limited places for parking, haha) and public transportation is a nightmare. Each train takes a long time to come (15 minutes) if you’re not in the city and buses are off schedule and constantly late. If there was a 15 minute wait in London, there would be protests. As much as it sounds like not a huge deal, it’s crazy when you think of how much of your life you can spend commuting. My gym is 3 and a half kilometres away from my house but it takes me 25 minutes to bus there. It’s not a joke!
*Pro tip: Download the TripViewLite app, it’ll give you real time data about bus and train times.
Food is everywhere. I’ve never been to a country where everything is so heavily focused on food and wine so this is one of my favourite things about living in Australia. Every week, there’s a new market or food festival to go to (check out Marrickville Market, Pyrmont Growers Markets or Carriageworks Farmers Market for great, fresh produce options or The Grounds of Alexandria delicious food against perfect Insta-backdrops). Sydney also has some of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. The Asian food is on another level (mainly fusion but it’s great…did you know there’s such thing as fine dining Chinese?). I’ll write a post later about my favourite restaurants here but I can say, move here for the food alone.
*Pro tip: There’s usually a deal on in Sydney every day of the week so look those up. For fine dining, choose tasting menus, which have great value.
I’m a market person and luckily there’s tons of those in Sydney. You can find food, clothing or vintage markets any day of the week. I also find a lot of the fun to be nature based. Check out beaches (my favourites are Coogee and Palm Beach), go surfing/snorkelling/diving, go camping, see some animals or go for a bush walk (in the Blue Mountains). I can’t say much about the nightlife but the bars are great here - Sydney has some awesome beer gardens (check out Petersham Public House, The Vic On The Park, The Sheaf). Dining is always fun - like I said, I’ll write a post about some of my favourite options soon. Also, don’t miss an AFL game - Australia’s very own sport.
I don’t have much experience looking for accommodation in share houses in Sydney but I can imagine it to be much easier than looking for your own apartment. There are lots of Facebook groups available for Sydney backpackers with housing specific ones (Inner East or Inner West) as well. I tried looking for my own apartment instead, which proved to be next to impossible, especially if you’re looking in a good area. Surry Hills is one of the hot spots to live in Sydney (it’s between the beach and city and where a lot of the action happens). You go to open houses and compete with 50+ others that show up to view the place and then you have to lodge an application if you like it and the most suitable candidates are chosen. Not having a job didn’t help so I looked to Facebook and Gumtree and finally found a private landlord who selected me! The housing market is tough though but I would recommend living in a share house, especially if you want to live in a great location like Surry Hills or Bondi. Location is key so choose wisely as it can really make or break your experience. After living in the Inner West, I would suggest staying in the Inner Eastern suburbs for a better Aussie experience.
*Pro tip: Live close to a train station. You won’t want to deal with buses going home.
It’s part luck and part skill. Working Holiday Visas in Australia don’t provide you with great job options as you are restricted to working for one employer for only up to 6 months meaning almost no employers can take you seriously. I spent just over a month looking for a job. Most of the most corporate jobs I applied for at the beginning were only hiring on the basis of sponsorship. It’s hard to find a 6 month gig in a role that suits you but I ended up lucking out and negotiated a 6 month role with a start up company I found on Gumtree. The best places to look for a job are:
- Seek: The best source for “more legit” jobs
- Gumtree: Hospitality, office/admin work
- In person: All hospitality
- Recruiters: There are so many so just google them and get in touch. Find ones that specialise in your industry. I didn’t find that they worked that well for me but a good option for temporary roles
If you’re from anywhere like Canada, expect to be thrilled with the wages but that shouldn’t hurt you from negotiating. Also pay attention to NSW Fair Work Ombudsman and know your rights as an employee, especially you farm workers.
*Pro tip: Be open to working jobs you’re not use to. The 6 month restriction is tough but if you’re willing to get sponsored and stay for a little longer than it might be worth it.
The weather is great. I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about this. The weather was one of the main reasons why I moved to Sydney and NOT Melbourne (where everyone says the cafes and overall vibes are way cooler). In the summer, it got up to 40 degrees and I loved every second of it. I’m currently writing this in a cafe during mid July and it’s still 20 degrees - how is that possible? To top it all off, Sydney has my vote for the best sunsets ever, everyday. You’ll see Sydneysiders complaining about how cold it is…in flip flops aka thongs, ha!
*Pro tip: Bring a light jacket. In the winter, it’ll get cold but still not that cold.
Like I said before, it’s expensive but we all know that, especially living in Sydney. What people don’t tell you is you make A LOT of money living here. Yes, the cost of living is a bit higher but not so much higher than living in Vancouver or London, where you don’t make as much. You can earn $25 an hour working in a cafe - there is literally no where else in the world you can do this. You can come to Australia with the bare minimum and come out with a lot more than you expected. Most people go back home with lots of savings from Australia or some also spend their money travelling Asia where your money stretches far (yes, this is me).
*Pro tip: You can only save a lot of money if you don’t spend a lot, so cook your lunches at home and give yourself a weekly entertainment budget - you can still do a lot.
Of the two working holidays I’ve done now, London is my favourite although that city is hard to beat. A working holiday is suppose to be exactly what it sounds like - work and holiday. I found it hard to do that in Sydney. Work is hard to get if you’re not working in hospitality because of the 6 month restriction. On top of that, it’s expensive to holiday and Australia is just REALLY FAR from the rest of the world. Even small trips outside of Sydney require a rental car (which can be expensive) because it’s just so big.
I would recommend an Australian Working Holiday Visa experience to first-timers living abroad. It can be a great place to meet people and earn a ton of money. It’s not a huge change from home (for me at least), giving first timers the opportunity to take that baby step from living at home.