Tips To Get Settled In Australia As A Newbie Or A Backpacker

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Arriving in Australia can be a real hassle, actually it is a hassle. In my case it took me 33 hours involving flights and lay-overs, in fact it took my two calendar days. I left the 4th of August and arrived on the 6th, skipping my birthday which was on the 5th. Oh well.

I landed in Sydney at around 9am with a heavy backpack and no idea whatsoever of how to make it to my hostel. I needed Internet and to store my money somewhere, I had a lot of cash with me and was afraid of carrying it around. I was tired, but in my mind I could only think of internet an a bank, so I proceeded to start solving all the autocratic problems that one needs to solve in a new place where one is going to live.

getting settled in sydney

Sim Card:

The most obvious and maybe banal of things, but one of the most important too. Without a Sim card internet is not always accessible, with no internet there’s no Google Maps, and without Google Maps it’s hard to move around in an unknown city. Therefore, that was a priority and getting it at the airport is actually pretty simple. I advice anyone to get first a prepaid Sim, that way you can change it if you don’t like the company you’re with, or simply if you don’t want to tie yourself to a one or two year contract without even knowing if you’re going to be in the place for that long.

Opal Card:

Already with internet on my phone I proceeded to Google the location of my hostel, and Google Maps traced me a route involving the train. Well, I went to the station at the airport and when I was trying to buy the ticket, the lady behind the counter kindly suggested to get an Opal Card. “What is it?” I asked, and she told me it was a simply a card that enables you to put money into it and pay electronically in buses, trains and ferries across New South Wales. The best of it all is that you get discounts on Sundays to travel!

Bank Account:

Once I had checked-in at the hostel I asked for the closest bank, in my case it was Westpac. I needed to open a bank account and it was pretty easy. I just needed my passport and a copy of my visa, as well as an address, which in my case was the hostel’s.

australian bank account

After half an hour I had a current account, an online banking account, a debit card and they had changed my money from USD to AUD. Now I just needed a Tax File Number.

Tax File Number (TFN):

To get it I needed my passport, a copy of my visa and a proof of address, for example a bank statement. And so, at the bank I requested a statement, got it and went to the Post Office to apply for my TFN. I filled a document they needed, added a copy of the passport, the visa and the bank statement and in two weeks they sent he number to my new address.

Getting a job:

Even without the TFN you can start looking for jobs and even working, the only thing that will happen is that the employer will hold the payment until he gets the TFN.

In hospitality you need the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) and in some cases the RSG (Responsible Service of Gambling), the later in case the pub or venue has betting machines. To get this license one needs to do a course that lasts one day (per license) and costs $100 (per license). It sounds like a lot of money, but after one day of work you get it back.

To work in laboring or construction the White Card is needed. Yes, another sort of license. The good thing about this one is that it can be done online and it costs only $25-$50.

To then start looking for jobs the best thing, in case one wants to do laboring, is to go straight away to an agency and they’ll do everything, find the workplace, send you a text where to go and at what time, and eventually pay you. They’re normally free of cost.

In hospitality or any other kind of job it’s easy to go to or and look for the jobs. There’s also the old school way of just going around the city handing CV’s in restaurants and bars.

Another great option is Air Tasker, which is an app where you can find casual jobs such as helping out people in setting up a living room, fixing a car, etc, and get paid. It’s useful for people on tourist visas or to make spare cash on the weekends.


Gumtree is again a good ally, thousands of people post daily ads about rooms, houses and apartments. You see the ad, contact the user, get an appointment and go see the place.

Another option is an agency, but they work differently. They’ll ask for a lease that will probably be for a longer period of time, like 6 months, and they’ll need a juicy down payment and also signing of contracts and documents proving one can afford it, etc. This is useful if one plans to stay in a city long term and wants to live with a group of people that one already knows. It’s also safer as nobody will steal the bond or downpayment.

If it’s only to stay for a couple of months, Gumtree is a better solution as there’s no contracts involved, but the bonds might get stolen if one is not careful.

Rent in Sydney is really expensive; it gets cheaper the further away from the CBD and sometimes depending on the neighborhood. Places in Bondi or the CBD are going to be pretty expensive, and it’s hard to find a single room for less than $250 a week. Other more accessible neighborhoods are Paddington, Darlinghurst, Chippendale, Broadway and Redfern.

And with all this out of the way, a new life in Sydney began.

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