Expat Guide To Living In Sydney, Australia
Are you planning to move to Sydney? What is it like to live in Australia?
In this Expat Interview, Catrina shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers. You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Sydney, such as the cost of living in Sydney, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
What is it like to live in Sydney?
Sydney is full of Instagrammable places and is an absolutely fantastic city to live in. It’s definitely, in my opinion, the best city to live in Australia. Despite not being Australia’s capital, it is the largest and most populous city in Australia – home to around 5 million people!
Sydney is a multicultural city, with around a third of its residents born overseas, and is consistently ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
Residents love how you have city life and beach life: the best of both worlds! Plus, the beautiful Blue Mountains are only a couple of hours’ drive away too, so whether you’re into surfing, hiking, swimming under waterfalls, shopping, or just lying on one of the numerous beaches with a good book, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained in Sydney.
How to prepare for moving to Sydney?
Before you think about anything else, you will need to first sort out your visa to be able to live in Australia. The visa system is quite complicated and strict, and there are many different types of visas you can choose from. Many travelers visit on a Working Holiday Visa for a year or two, and Student Visas are also very popular for temporary residents.
If you want to get a Permanent Residency in Australia, it does take quite a few years, and you’ll need to have a skilled occupation that is in demand in Australia before you can apply for the visa.
Depending on what visa you apply for and which country you are coming from, you may have to do some medical exams before your visa is granted. You may not be eligible for free healthcare when you arrive in Australia, so always sort out health insurance.
You should ensure you have money saved up, and also pack clothes for all types of weather! When I moved to Australia, I only packed summer clothes as I didn’t realize Australia actually does get quite cold in the winter (it actually snows here more than in Switzerland – crazy right?!). So make sure you pack your winter coat and boots!
It’s good to have a reference letter from your current landlord to help you be able to rent an apartment in Sydney as the rental market is quite competitive.
Australia uses Type I plugs, the same ones used in New Zealand, China, Argentina, and several Pacific Islands. Bring an adaptor with you if you have appliances with a different plug.
Australia drives on the left-hand side of the road – like The UK. You can use your foreign driving license here – there’s no need to convert to an Australian driver’s license until you become a Permanent Resident of Australia.
The cost of living in Sydney
The cost of living in Sydney is high – there’s no denying that. Rent is very expensive, especially if you want to live by the beach. But it is completely doable, and you can live comfortably even on a minimum wage salary if you are smart with your budget.
Many single people who move to Sydney choose to live in a house share at first, as that definitely lowers your living costs.
Note that everything in this article is in Australian Dollars and not US dollars!
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||$600 per week (rent is usually paid weekly in Australia)|
|Electricity||$100 per month|
|Gas||$100 per month|
|Internet||$70 per month|
|Prepaid cell phone plan||$50 per month|
|Groceries||$500 per month|
|Transportation||Capped at $200 per month|
|Average meal/ person||$20 if eating out. Otherwise, it can be $8 if cooking yourself.|
|Gym membership||$40 per month|
|Petrol||Currently, $1.75 a liter|
|Total||Around $2000 AUD|
What salary do you need to live in Sydney?
An annual salary of $80,000 is enough to live comfortably in Sydney and support a family. However, many people live comfortably in Sydney for less than this if they choose an economical suburb to live in or don’t own a car and live modestly. Eating out and drinking in Sydney is quite expensive, so if you cut this out, you can live comfortably for less.
Don’t let that figure be a benchmark or scare you off if it sounds too high – in my first year living in Sydney, I earned half that amount and did a lot of traveling – it’s all about prioritizing what you spend your money on.
The minimum salary in Australia is $22 per hour, which is really good compared to many countries, and even working part-time, you should be able to support yourself.
Properties in Sydney are very expensive to buy, especially near the beach (even apartment units cost over $1 million), so it’s very likely you’ll be renting for several years to start with.
Where to live in Sydney? – The best areas to stay
Living next to the beach in Sydney is incredible. Some of Sydney’s best beachside suburbs live in include Bondi, Manly, and Coogee. They all have a great vibe with lots going on and many expats (mainly English and Irish). They are also very safe areas, but equally, they are some of the most expensive suburbs to live in.
You can look to Newtown or Surry Hills, located just a few kilometers from the beach if living by the beach isn’t a high priority for you.
How to find apartments in Sydney?
Domain and Real Estate are both popular websites to find accommodation in Sydney. Facebook groups such as Bondi Local Loop are great for finding short-term lets. You’ll usually have to pay 3 or 4 weeks deposit.
Also, check if the apartment is fully furnished as many in Sydney come unfurnished! You’ll want a fully furnished one when you first move here for convenience.
Also, check if household bills are included or not, as this can affect your budget. The rental market is quite tight at the minute, so it may be more difficult to rent an apartment if you have pets and young children.
If you have a car, check if you have a dedicated parking space or if you need a parking permit. In some popular beachside suburbs, such as Bondi Beach, there are many parking restrictions. So you’ll ideally want your own garage or dedicated parking space as ticket wardens frequently come around and fine people.
Transportation in Sydney
Sydney has a really good bus and train system. The Northern Beaches of Sydney aren’t connected to the train system, but they have a very efficient bus system.
The rest of Sydney is well connected by both trains and buses, and some suburbs also have the light rail tram that takes them into town. The ferry is also a popular method of transportation for many who live along the harbor!
You’ll need an Opal card to ride any of these public transport systems, as public transport in Sydney is cashless. Top up your Opal card and tap on and off for the correct fare to be deducted.
There are also several car share companies in Sydney, such as Popcar and Car Next Door, that are reasonably priced and very convenient.
Weather in Sydney
The weather in Sydney is lovely – featuring warm summers, cool winters, and blue skies most days. Summer in Sydney is an average high of 26 degrees Celsius and an average low of 19, whilst winters in Sydney are an average high of 17 degrees Celsius and an average low of 8 degrees. Contrary to what many people think, Sydney does actually experience four seasons. It isn’t hot all the time!
Emergency numbers: Call 000 if you need urgent help from police, fire, or ambulance services. Many GPs have a walk-in service.
Best public hospitals:
- St Vincent’s Hospital – Darlinghurst
- Prince Of Wales Hospital – Randwick
- Royal North Shore Hospital – St Leonards
Phone & Internet providers: Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. If you live in a remote area or travel to remote areas when you travel, you should go with Telstra as they have the best coverage. With the other companies, you can often have no signal when you are far away from towns and cities.
Supermarkets: (in the order from most economical to most expensive) – Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, Harris Farm. Depending on where you live, you can order online and get your groceries delivered to your home.
Shopping: Most neighborhoods will have their own high street. In fact, there are many Westfield shopping centers spread out around the city, so you won’t need to go into the center of the city (known as the CBD: Central Business District) to go shopping.
What do you like about living in Sydney?
I love how crime rates in Sydney – particularly in the beachside suburbs are so low. Even walking around the beachside suburbs late at night, I feel safe – safer than I have felt in any other country in the world.
I also love how people are more health-conscious here. They are always exercising, which is really motivating! Another thing I love about Sydney is that the marine life is so rich here – we often see dolphins hanging out with surfers. It’s so amazing!
I also love watching the sunrise on the beach in Sydney. I have seen some of the most spectacular sunsets here, particularly in summer! Springtime in Sydney is amazing too, as this brings an explosion of purple jacaranda trees all over the city, which is a highly anticipated event!
What do you dislike about Sydney?
Something I dislike about Sydney is the fashion (Australian fashion trends always seem so far behind the rest of the world!). Many houses suffer from mold due to the climate (especially if you live by the sea), and the rules for parking in order to avoid getting a parking ticket (some signs will tell you you can only park front to kerb or back to kerb, or park at a 60-degree or 45-degree angle – for a laid-back nation the parking is a nightmare!).
What are the best things to do in Sydney?
There are so many things to do and see in this beautiful city! Sydney is home to numerous beaches and the most beautiful natural harbor in the world that you cannot help but be drawn to!
Go surfing at Bondi Beach, climb the Harbour Bridge, go up Sydney Eye Tower, have a drink at the famous Sydney Opera House bar, or go on rides at Luna Park. Another great thing in Sydney is swimming in the many ocean pools – Bronte Baths are a favorite!
And if you love walking as I do, then the Bondi to Coogee Walk and the Manly to Spit Walk are very popular, although there are so many other incredible walks in this city too!
You can even do a multi-day hike and walk the 200 km Great Coastal Walk from Sydney’s most northern beach to Sydney’s most southern beach! And if you do these coastal walks in the winter months, you’ll often spot humpback whales – how epic!
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here? How did you deal with that?
I didn’t find many difficulties when I moved here – there wasn’t a culture shock as English is my mother tongue and Australian culture is fairly similar to my culture (British).
One thing I struggled with was the parking signs – they are incredibly confusing! ‘2P’ means you can only park in that spot for 2 hours – who would have known?!
The hardest part was probably being able to stay in touch with family and friends back in the UK due to the massive time difference – you either have to phone them first thing in the morning or last thing at night, but thanks to WhatsApp voice messages it’s a lot easier to stay in touch if you aren’t able to find a mutual time to chat!
Is it easy to make new friends in Sydney? Where to meet new people in Sydney?
It is easy to make friends in Sydney via local Facebook groups. There are several specifically for women that have brought so many friends together, such as Bondi Beach Babes, Sydney Ladies Social, and Sydney Over 30’s Social Girls, where females organize get-togethers and offer each other support.
Alternatively, there are many Facebook groups for people of the same nationality to share useful things with each other. For example, Irish in Sydney, Indians in Sydney, and Colombians in Sydney.
Apart from Facebook groups, if you join a gym or hobby class, you’ll easily be able to make friends, as most people who live in Sydney are very friendly.
Where are your favorite cafes in Sydney?
Coffee is a huge culture in Australia, so there are so many cafes and cute coffee shops around! All the cafes down by the beaches in Sydney are such a vibe: my favorites are down in Bondi Beach – Speedos Cafe, Harry’s Bondi, and The Depot is a must. Plus, the Bennett Street Dairy up on Bondi Road has THE best cookies!
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Sydney?
Bars with the best views will always be my favorite! Sky Bar, Bar 83, and Cirq are all rooftop bars with incredible views. Plus, you can’t bear the outdoor Opera Bar next to the Sydney Opera House – Australia’s most iconic bar with a view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House!
In terms of restaurants, El Loco at The Slip Inn has some of the finest Mexican food, plus the atmosphere and interiors here are just incredible!
Tips for finding a job in Sydney
Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn are good for finding professional jobs in Australia. For bartending and hospitality jobs, join The Sydney Bartender Exchange Facebook group or Sydney Hospitality Jobs group – local companies constantly advertise for staff.
What have you learned from living abroad?
I have learned that living by the beach is amazing and so good for your mental health! I have also learned that every animal in Australia wants to kill you. Jokes. Just some of them.
Do you have any tips for living with kids in Sydney?
I don’t have children, but I think Sydney is the perfect city to raise children in, especially if you live by the beach. Being able to raise children in a safe environment is important, as well as having great weather to be able to enjoy activities together, such as going to the playground and the beach.
I often see young children in Australia who are so good at surfing, and I think it’s so incredible they have this great environment in which to grow up.
Sydney is a really fantastic city, so if you are considering the move, I say go for it!
Catrina has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and England.
She has been working as a Travel Writer for over 4 years and previously worked as an International Flight Attendant for many years. Catrina has written for a variety of popular travel publications, including Fodors and Escape, as well as several international newspapers, aviation, and travel companies. The majority of her work, however, features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com, where she has written over 400 travel articles!
Her work has been nominated for a number of awards, including best Travel Photographer. You can also follow her on Instagram and Youtube.