The Backpackers Guide to Australia — ‘What To Know Before Arriving’

15th January, 2020

Prepping for Australia - just do it!

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ― Abraham Lincoln

Documents & forms discussed in this guide

Start with some fun!

Hello travellers! Are you as excited as I am to take you through the seemingly laborious process of sorting out all the things your parents love to remind you about?! Well you’re in luck because we specialise in making the boring beautiful. Always striving for each experience with us to be enjoyable.

No this wasn’t drawn by a 5 year old… it was me— Always Drink Responsibly

So here’s our take on how to make this small journey an enjoyable one:

Everything is interesting.

If you’re game — Draw up a list (example to the left) and tick off each of your tasks as you complete them. After each task assign something fun to do or perhaps a little celebration to be had. Everything is interesting when you find out how to make it so!

Got your visa — now what?

Step 1 - Flights

The first thing you should do is start looking for flights because this should be #1 on your list of priorities — the cornerstone of your journey. Once this is locked in everything else will begin to fall into place. There are a number of sites that compare airlines across the globe such as expedia and cheapflights.

We recommend Skyscanner because it now has a tool that allows you to see the cheapest flights across any month throughout the year — pretty cool. — dashboard

It also visually displays what days across the month are cheapest to book.

Average flight cost from London to Perth across the month of September

Step 2 - Phone

Check that your phone is unlocked from your provider!
Most phones now come unlocked when bought through a provider plan. Particularly big player phones like the samsung galaxy and iphone. However purchasing your phone through a pre-paid plan may mean your phone is tied to your network provider.

Why does it matter if my phone is locked?
This would mean you wouldn’t be able to swap your current SIM card out for an Australian SIM card = expensive roaming data costs.

How can I check if my phone is locked?
The easiest way will be to simply call up and speak to your telco’s representatives and find out. You’ll need your IMEI number which you can easily acquire by typing into your phone *#06# (star, hash, zero, six, hash).

***Nerd alert: Make sure your phone is GSM compatible (most are) — Australia now has 4G (LTE) coverage with 5G expected be rolled out between 2019–2020.

Global 4G coverage —

Now that your phone is unlocked you’ll have the choice of Australia’s three main telco providers:

  • Optus
  • Vodafone
  • Telstra

We recommend this guide for a in-depth look at the best phone plans to suit your needs in Australia.

*Note — You don’t need to worry about getting a SIM card until after you arrive in Australia

Our general recommendation is Telstra based on this provider having the best coverage of rural Australia. So if you’re planning on completing some farm work (for your 2nd-Year Working Holiday Visa) whilst being able to stay in touch with friends, family and fellow travellers then Telstra might be for you.

Step 3 - The backpack dilemma

There are few things in this life that warrant spending both time and money on to get right. In my opinion your backpack warrants both. It will carry your life from A to B and never complain. It will always have your back and store more than just your clothes. It will soak up your entire experience and take on a personality of its own. It will be your best friend and if you treat it right, it will serve you until you find somewhere for your feet to plant firmly on the ground.

Sure you can use a friend’s. Or purchase a cheap old thing that will ‘get the job done’. But if you factor in:

  • How often you’ll want to travel inside and outside of Australia.
  • The learning curve of getting to know your backpack and how it can work for you.
  • Saving yourself back-pain and frustration with an ill-fit
  • Solving a problem indefinitely
  • And the overall experience

You might agree this is a worthy investment.

***Our recommendation for Australia is a backpack over a suitcase — unless you plan to stay in the same spot***

But there are so many choices …
But just do what most millennial’s do now and research online what might work for your individual needs. Ask yourself a few questions:

1. Do you have a laptop to worry about?
2. Will you be travelling light or heavy?
3. How much moving around are you planning to do?

Choose a backpack that works for you.

Once you have a basic understanding as the sort of traveller you might be then like the wands in -Harry Potter- the backpack chooses the traveller. Here’s an in-depth review of travel backpacks to help you get started. In addition if you’d like to know WHAT to pack for your Australian trip we suggest checking out this blog post.

But make sure you don’t forget the most precious item of all… a towel!

“A towel, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have."

Step 4 - Put your finances in order

What does this mean?
Call up your friendly neighbourhood bank and let them know the dates you’ll be travelling away for. The last thing you need is to have your card cancelled due to ‘suspicious activity’.

How much should you bring to Australia?
The standard recommended amount to have in your bank account when arriving in Australia is $5,000 AUD. You actually need to be able to prove you have this amount if asked by the border authority (though this is rare). Australia is an expensive place to live and travel, but our paychecks reflect this. Working ain’t so bad!

Example of Average Daily Costs:

  • Accommodation — $40
  • Food / Drink — $30
  • Travel — $20

Like all things in life the above can vary greatly. The standard rule of $100 a day can be a nice default budget. If you’re planning to live on a shoe-string budget see here for some tips and tricks.

Documents, forms, and all that fun stuff!

What you'll need.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is a must-have when you travel. Choose a cover that suits you but IMPORTANTLY choose a cover with an ‘extendible’ option. Otherwise, if your insurance expires whilst you’re still in Australia you won’t be able to renew your cover.

We wish you the safest of travels but life loves to throw curveballs, so please protect yourself from financial hardship in the unlikely event something were to go wrong.

Update your resume

Your CV is important in showing your potential employer that you’ve had sufficient experience. HOWEVER handing out hundreds of CV’s is NOT how you will find work. It will come down to three things:

  • Luck — No getting around this. You might be in the right place at the right time and simply fall into a job.
  • Skills — The more useful skills and certifications you have, the more in-demand you will find yourself to be.
  • How you sell yourself — This is the big one! Whether you work in hospitality, outdoor education, administration, labour, the tech industry etc...

Personability is key

Whenever you talk to someone, walk into a cafe, send an email or accept a trial shift, you’re representing who you are and what you can bring to the business. What people really want is someone that can connect, that has ‘personality’ and that regardless of skill has the right mentality towards learning. The biggest thing you should remember is ‘this isn’t a job, its a chance to forge deep relationships!’ Because everyone wants to work with awesome people, so BE AN AWESOME PERSON!

If you’d like an example of how to set-up your CV see here.

Apply for an Australian TFN

You will need to complete this form to work in Australia.
*Hint: You can use your nearest Australian Post Office for your address

Apply for medicare card

Medicare is the Australian health insurance scheme allowing access to free or subsidised medical care.

If you are from one of the following countries you can claim these services:

  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Sweden
  • Netherlands
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Belgium
  • Malta
  • Slovenia
  • Norway

Complete this form and hand it into your local medicare centre once you’re settled in Australia.

Bank account

Some of the main banks to choose from:

  1. NAB
  2. Commbank
  3. ANZ
  4. Westpac
  5. ING (online)
  6. UP Banking (online)
  7. Transferwise (currency exchange platform + debit card)

Compare the banks here for what suits your needs and preferences. If you choose a bank that you can apply for online prior to coming to Australia this will save time. However you will still need to visit your local branch upon arrival to receive your associated debit card(s) and to activate the account.

Tip: Ask about setting up a superannuation fund while at your local branch

Upload everything to the cloud

Save everything to the cloud

Take photo’s of all the documents just mentioned (including your passport):

  • Upload and store on the cloud
  • Stress less about losing original items
  • Stress less about losing or breaking your phone

Time to celebrate!

Well done getting through the above ordeal!

Being organised and completing these tasks might not be your idea of a good time. But hopefully this will have helped you feel confident that you can fully immerse yourself in Australia when you arrive, rather than being stuck behind your laptop. If there are tasks still left to do at least you can rest easy knowing we’ll be here if ever you need further guidance.

Either way you’ve earned yourself a beer, wine, tea, coffee, OJ, Kombucha or whichever drink that floats your boat! And while sipping on your delicious beverage you could contemplate how you might like to spend time with your family and friends before your Aussie adventure — even if it's just to make them a little bit envious.

Our recommendation — Have a get-together! To each their own of course, but we think this is definitely cause for celebration! Whether it be a picnic, some tea, a home cooked dinner, classic dance party or simple beer at the pub, be sure to let us know what you did for your send off — we love a good party.

*For motivation purposes, stare at this — Cottesloe beach, WA

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” — Winnie the pooh