A quick look on the internet shows many travel companies offering you help with your visa and getting set up for your working holiday in Australia, but with a tiny bit of effort, and by following these steps, you can do it yourself and save hundreds of pounds. For example, STA offers you your WHV and help setting up your tax file number, medicare and superannuation account, all for just £349! You will save £100 by just getting your visa yourself (it’s easy) and following my instructions for the other stuff, which is all free!
Before you leave…
Before you do anything, ask yourself if you have enough money. It is well known that the government asks for you to have $5000, however I know of no one who has been checked. The amount is there for a reason though, so I strongly recommend you at least come close, it’s an expensive country and you will need to support yourself. Apply for your visa on the official Australian Government website to ensure no one is playing middle man and taking a fee off you. Mine came through instantly. The form is incredibly easy to fill in, and if for some reason you struggle understanding something, google the question! Once you have got your Visa granted, book your flight! You do not need an outward ticket as some people believe. Want a cheap flight? Read my cheap flight guide.
The UK has a reciprocal agreement with Australia, and so if you have Medicare (which is one of the first things you should sort when you arrive), then you are covered for EMERGENCIES. So if you break your leg and are rushed to hospital, you don’t have to pay. It does not cover flight delays and cancellations, your lost camera, toothache, emergency contraception, doctors appointments, lost luggage, family emergency and repatriation… the list goes on and you get my point. Get insurance. Use a comparison website (just google travel insurance compare) to get a feel for cheaper companies and then check the small print…what do they actually cover. For example, I am a Diver so I wouldn’t take out insurance that doesn’t cover that activity. Then, and this is important, contact the company directly for the best price. I personally love World Nomads, they are well know around the world, and the only big insurance company I have found that can quote you when you are already abroad!
Book a few nights in a hostel for your arrival, but NO MORE! If you ae planning an East Coast trip, check out my guide here! Don’t agree to a 3 month lease in Sydney before you arrive, or a month in a Melbourne hostel because it was on offer. You don’t know who you will meet or what plans you will make, so trust me on this. Check Hostelworld for a hostel in your budget and that has good reviews. Most will organise things like pub crawls or BBQ nights, which are great for getting to know other backpackers. Top Tip : Usually hostels charge for EVERYTHING! So bring carry your own washing powder and invest in a quick drying Microfiber Towel!
If you are from the UK, or another country with a reciprocal agreement with Australia download the Medicare Application Form, print it and fill it in. Then, just find your nearest Medicare office here, and hand it in. See, easy!
Don’t panic about having an account set up before you even arrive, you’re not going to be getting paid the second you land! Setting the account up in person is easier, the only slightly difficult thing is choosing which bank to go with. I chose Commonwealth and so can only speak for that particular bank, but set up was easy, just make sure you take your passport with you. The app is handy to see your account, and I actually had some fraudulent activity, probably due to a dodgy ATM, that was dealt with very quickly!
Tax File Number
You need a Tax File Number, or TFN, to be able to work in Australia. You can actually start without one, and will be given 28 days to then apply and give the number to your employer, but you may as well do it straight away. You have to be in Australia to apply, so don’t try before you get there! Apply online with the ATO, and have your passport number and personal details at the ready. One issue you may have is providing an address for the TFN to be sent to, here you need to really think ahead. Do you know someone with a permanent address in Australia? Or is there a hostel you know you will visit? Or even your current hostel that you can trust? It can be a bit of a pain but there’s always an answer!
Here is where I made a mistake….I forgot to get my phone unlocked before I went! I tried when in Australia, begged my phone company (who I was actually still paying the contract to even though I wasn’t using it!) but they were no help whatsoever. What I ended up doing was buy a really cheap phone, and a pre paid Optus sim. So many people panic about getting a sim card in Australia, it works exactly the same as in the UK! Just pick a provider, buy a SIM card, figure out what you want eg. more data more calling minutes, and top it up! Optus and Telstra are the 2 biggies, either is fine but you can check the respective websites to see if there are any special offers.
Don’t pay anyone to “find you a job”, you are an adult and you can do it yourself. Would you pay some stranger in your home country to write your CV, or arrange you interviews? No, so you don’t need to do it in Australia! Just as you would at home, walk the streets, look for adverts, hand out your CV, check Gumtree and hostel notice boards, speak to managers and owners, and something will come up I promise! Check out this post on common working holiday jobs for inspiration. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find something straight away or you will end up taking any job, which is why I say make sure you have enough money! If you can find farm work, then you’re earning money and collecting days for your 2nd year, as well as doing a job you probably wouldn’t do at home!
I hope this information helps ease your nerves, but more importantly, saves you money!