7 things to know before committing to an Australian Working Holiday
‘The land down under’. ‘The lucky land’. ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’. Whatever you call it, Australia is a country that has been luring those in search of a life less ordinary since, well, since that first boat docked in Botany Bay all those years ago.
Everyone has visions of what life in Australia would be like, and most of the time it involves surf, sand, good times and a few too many scooners. As someone who lived in Australia for 2 years a few years back, I can verify that all these assumptions are correct. The surf is pounding, the sand is so pure it squeaks underfoot, the good times are never ending, and the scooners will have you table top dancing at Cheeky Monkeys in Byron Bay into the small hours.
But Australia is also way more than this. Put simply, it’s a land of opportunity. It’s a place where you can come and live out your biggest dreams, and become the person you always hoped to be. The ride isn’t always easy; my first Christmas away from home was tough and I missed family and friends like crazy, but did I hesitate in putting pen to paper when applying for that second-year visa? Absolutely not.
To anyone considering a working holiday in Australia, I have two words of advice - DO IT. Life is too short for missed opportunities. Here are a few pearls of wisdom to help you seal the deal...
1 - Getting the visa is not a complicated process
When someone says the words ‘you need a visa’, panic normally ensues. But let me just tell you to stop your stressing right now. Applying for a working holiday visa in Oz is pretty straightforward as long as you are from one of the eligible countries, and you do your research to ensure you are applying for the correct visa. All you have to do is head over to the Visa Bureau website, set up a profile and get started. Be sure to apply for your visa at least 8 weeks (ideally longer) before you plan to travel, giving the application enough time to go through.
Want to make the visa application process even simpler than the above? Just book a trip to Oz with Intro, and we’ll sort your entire working holiday visa for you. All you have to do is add on the visa at check out, and we’ll do the rest!
2 - Australia can be expensive - come prepared
Before you’ve even stepped foot on Aussie soil, the Australian Visa Bureau requires you to have a minimum of AUD$5000 in your bank account. This may sound like a lot, but in reality, it won’t get you all that far. Depending on how much travel you want to do (and how long you want to live the surfer bum lifestyle before settling down and getting a job), I’d recommend heading over to Oz with at least £5000. This will give you ample money to play with and will cover any big-ticket items you want to do, such as skydives, Great Barrier Reef visits, trips to the Red Centre, etc. Plus, booze Down Under don’t come cheap. Whilst living in Sydney a round of just two drinks would regularly come in at around AUD$20. Rent is on average a little cheaper than London prices, depending on the area you stay of course.
But, before you despair, I do also have good news. The wages in Oz are generous, and more than allow you to attain a good work / life balance. Once you start working you can stop stressing, but until then be sure to save enough money to really enjoy yourself.
3 - Be sure to travel a little before settling on a place to live
Chances are you’ve earmarked either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane as the place you’d like to lay down roots. All of these cities are awesome, but they are also completely different. Sydney is slick, modern and fast-paced, and has the obvious benefit of being smack bang in the middle of some seriously gorgeous beaches. Melbourne, on the other hand, is way more chilled and trendy.
The weather isn’t as good and beautiful beaches are a little further away, but it’s also got culture and incredible coffee on its side (plus, I found, friendlier people). And then you’ve got Brisbane - big city lifestyle in sunny Queensland, with easy access to world-class stretches of coastline such as the Sunshine Coast, and Surfers Paradise.
My advice here? Travel around and visit all three before making your final decision. Of course you can move at any point, but if you’re going through the effort of getting a job, getting a house share and trying to meet new friends, you kind of want to get it right the first time.
4 - Farm work can be an adventure
Many people talk about their farm work with a massive eye roll and sense of duty. Basically it’s something you need to do to be eligible for your second-year visa; 88 days of ‘specified work in a regional area of Australia’, according to the AVB. Most people tend to do fruit picking, farm work or horticultural work, and whilst you’ve likely heard horror stories of backbreaking work or horrible rashes as a result of handling fruit, in reality, it’s really not all that bad. In fact, with the right mindset it’s really quite an incredible adventure, and something you’re likely to never do again. Plus, you’ll be working alongside other travellers just like you, so there are countless opportunities to make friends and share the unique experience with others.
5 - It’s more than likely you’ll want to stay for the second year
Some people are satisfied after completing one year, but the vast majority tend to stay on for two. Australia is a BIG place with lots to see and do, and you’ll find pretty quickly that the lifestyle and laid back approach to everything is pretty intoxicating. If you do find you want to stay on for a second year, be sure to organise your regional work well in advance. The best jobs and the popular hostels get booked up really quickly, so you have to be quick. If you’re struggling to find a job, don’t forget that WOOFING is always an option. You don’t get paid, but often the jobs are easier and the accommodation more favourable.
6 - Aussies are some of the best people on earth
I mean, talk about a warm welcome. If you want to feel like you belong in a place, head on over to Australia. With a lazy smile and a casual ‘gday’, these guys will charm you from the second you jump off that plane. Sure they’ll take the mick out of you all day long and will likely add an ‘o’ to the end of your name, especially if you’re called Dave, John or Sam, but all jokes aside, never have I felt more welcome and instantly at ease in a country.
7 - You might never come home
Idyllic beaches, yummy BBQ’s, year-round sunshine, buzzing cities and incredible surf... what’s not to love? There are job opportunities aplenty in Australia for those willing to seek them out, with many places offering sponsorship. And if you do get offered sponsorship, suddenly you have a very big decision to make. Many people I know still haven’t come home over 6 years later, and sometimes I wonder if I made the wrong decision. Either way, my advice is to go to Australia with an open mind and a sharp CV. And perhaps best to warm the parents in advance that a Christmas down under is something everyone needs to experience at least once...
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