When I hit the ripe old age of 25, I had what I like to refer to as my quarter life crisis. I loved my job as a travel coordinator and the travel perks that came with it, but I needed something more – I was craving adventure and excitement on a grander scale. So after much umming, ahhing and back and forthing I booked a one way flight to Australia (via Fiji and New Zealand, but those are stories for another day!), and got my Working Holiday Visa.
I’ve been back a couple of years now (although frequently still start stories with “When I was in Australia last year...) and I will happily tell anyone who asks that this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I won’t lie and say it didn’t come without its challenges and “OMG what have I done???” moments, but I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the year I had Down Under.
Here at Real Gap Experience we know how big and life changing a decision like this can be, so I sat down with our Travel Advisor, Emma, to go over some of the most common questions she gets asked about our Paid Work in Australia programme and to give her my take on the experience. Read on to find out more!
Will I meet other people doing the same thing as me?
Absolutely, 100% without a doubt! I’d say 80% of the travellers I met in Australia were there doing a working holiday visa. One of the best things about doing our Paid Work in Australia programme is that you’ll be with a group of other people all in the same boat as you and that intro week is a really great way to bond and make new friends – you might even find yourself with a new flatmate!
What support will I get?
The job support team in Sydney are an amazing bunch and they’re there to provide you with all the support you need to get life in Australia rolling. They’ll help you finalise opening a bank account, set up your Medicare, your taxfile number, give you access to the jobs board, go over your CV with you to help make it more Aussie-employer friendly, and they’ll even sort you out with a SIM card so you have an Australian number. They will be there to give you support for the full 12 months of your visa, and even if you don’t stay in Sydney they will always be at the end of an email or phone call to offer their help!
How long does it usually take to secure a role?
How long is a piece of string?! This one is really all down to you and much like here in the UK (or wherever you’re from), it depends how proactive you are with applying for jobs. You’re not going to get handed a job on a silver platter, but as long as you use the support provided by the jobs team and get your CV out there, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a job within a few weeks of arriving in Sydney!
The one external factor I would say is important to take into consideration is the time of year you choose to arrive. I got to Sydney a week or so before Christmas, because I was adamant that I wanted Christmas on the beach and to witness the infamous Sydney NYE fireworks display, however what I should have been more aware of (especially as someone who had been working in the industry for a couple of years!) is that during this time of year, companies tend to stop employing new staff almost entirely. For a few weeks I was worried about whether I’d find work, but a couple of weeks into January recruitment picks back up again; I had interviews lined up within a few days and by 1st February I’d started my new job, so really it didn’t take that long once I’d actually starting having interviews.
What job roles are available?
There are all sorts of jobs available – honestly, there’s something to suit everyone! From hospitality roles, to admin jobs, customer service positions...the options are endless. For those of you with a specific skill set (chefs, builders, nurses, plumbers etc) there are roles to suit you too. When you’re on a WHV you can only work for one employer for a maximum of 6 months unless you get sponsorship so this is a great chance to try your hand at different roles and gain new experience.
Something to note is that if you want to work behind a bar, or in any licensed venue in Australia, you will need to have your RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate so it’s worth budgeting an extra $100 or so to pay for this – it will almost definitely come in handy at some point!
Personally, I worked as an au pair (fancy term for a nanny!) for the majority of my time there. It wasn’t what I went out there with the intention of doing, but it was an amazing new experience. I got to live with the family just 5 minutes from Bronte Beach in a beautiful house, and as it turned out, I wasn't half bad at it! The money isn’t the greatest, but the fact that your accommodation and food is all covered by the family definitely makes up for it!
If the idea of spending a second year in Australia appeals to you, there are also plenty of farm work roles available that count towards your 88 days of Regional Work that are required to apply for the second year; I met people who’d done everything from sheep shearing to potato harvesting to working in a packing shed. It’s tough work (I tried my hand at stick cutting and as it turns out I was WAY better at looking after kids!) but it’s also a great way to make friends – sweating buckets whilst you’re up a tree in an orange grove in the middle of nowhere, South Australia, forms friendships like no other!
Do people stay in Sydney or find work all over? / Do people tend to work and travel?
You will definitely find a mix of those who choose to stay in Sydney, those who make their way to one of the many other cities Australia has to offer, and those who head straight off into the rural countryside to get their 88 days underway. In terms of jobs, I will say that there are probably more available in Sydney than other cities, but the jobs board has options all over the country, and the local team will be able to point you in the right direction if you’re set on heading somewhere specific, although it’s definitely best to be as open minded as possible!
From my experience, Sydney tends to divide opinions! I absolutely fell in love with it, spent the majority of my time there and still list it as one of my favourite cities. It’s vibrant and there is always something going on, so you will never sit around in your hostel or flat thinking “I’m bored”. I spent my weekends at surfing competitions, baking classes, skateboarding bowl-a-ramas, tattoo conventions, on coastal walks, climbing up the Harbour Bridge Pylons (the cheaper version of the Bridge Climb but with equally great views!) and checking out the thousands of bars and restaurants that the city has to offer. It’s where I got my job as an au pair, and it’s the city I spent my last couple of weeks in before the long flight home. I was practically kicking and screaming when it was time for me to leave!
However not everyone feels that way, and having travelled up the East Coast, through the Northern Territories, around Victoria and South Australia, I fully appreciate there are other amazing places to find work. Melbourne is a popular option, although personally I prefer Adelaide (which somewhat unfairly often gets described as the slightly less cool, little sister), as are Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin – I met people who opted to leave Sydney for each of these cities, so it really depends what appeals to you, as I don’t think there’s a bad option. It’s a bit like saying “London, Birmingham, Sheffield or Edinburgh?” They’re all great cities in their own right; it just comes down to personal opinion!
How much money do I need?
Australian Immigration recommending having around £2,500-3,000 in your bank account when entering Australia on a working holiday visa to support yourself until you get settled. I would say this is a good amount to have, as it will cover the cost of accommodation/living until you get a job and your first pay check, and also give you spending money for activities.
You may have heard that Sydney isn’t the cheapest the city in the world, and whilst I wish I could tell you its all lies, I’m afraid it’s true. Eating and drinking out is on a par with somewhere like London or New York, and whilst this is fine once you’re earning money (hollaaa, $19 an hour minimum wage), in those first few weeks you’ll definitely feel like every penny counts. If you’re on a bit of a budget during those first weeks, pick a hostel which has a decent kitchen so you can shop and cook for yourself rather than eating out – if you’re lucky you’ll find a friend who’s up for going halves of both the cost and cooking duties.
Although alcohol isn’t the cheapest, there are loads of fantastic bars which have backpacker friendly deals and happy hours on so a night out doesn’t have to break the bank, although for gorgeous views of Sydney Harbour you should definitely treat yourself to a drink to two at the Opera Bar – it’s definitely worth the extra money you’ll spend!
After those first few weeks, once you’ve got your job sorted and the money starts rolling in, you’ll have enough to cover things like your rent, bills, food and going out etc. You’ll find it hard to save much if you’re in a big city like Sydney, but I had a friend who managed to save nearly £7000 whilst she did her farm work (in South Australia) so it all depends on what’s most important to you!
If you’re planning on travelling up the East Coast, hop on/hop off buses are a great way to do this on a budget and you’ll meet loads of other backpackers doing the same thing as you. The bonus is that you’ll often get preferential rates on accommodation if you book it with your driver/guide, and they have exclusive deals on activities. Our East Coast Travel Pass even includes a bunch of great activities which will save you some dollar on your travels!
What kind of accommodation is available for backpackers?
Most people will stay in a hostel for a few weeks after their intro week in Sydney whilst they get things sorted, and whilst some people will love hostel life so much they’ll stay for the long term, most people tend to start looking for a flat share. The team in Sydney will be able to point you in the right direction for finding somewhere a bit more permanent, but there are loads of websites and also a lot of Facebook groups for different suburbs in cities where people look for flat mates. If you’ve got a group of you who all want to find somewhere together you have the option of renting a whole apartment and there are companies that specialise in renting furnished places so you won’t have to shell out for furniture!
In cities like Sydney or Melbourne you should expect to pay the equivalent of anywhere between £600-£1000 per month depending on where you choose to live. Inner city areas will be cheaper, whereas a Bondi beachside pad is going to set you back a bit more. If you want to save money, there is always an option for a room share; you’ll find places which rent out a room in a flat to several people, making it similar to a dorm room but on a smaller scale, and without having to share your kitchen and bathroom with tonnes of other people.
If you plan to head off and try your hand at farm work, you may find yourself with a position which includes your accommodation (usually on family run ranches/farms), but another popular option is working hostels. These are hostels specifically set up for people looking for the 88 days regional work, and the hostel will have connections with local farmers/fruit growers/ranches etc and when jobs are available the hostel will be notified and let people staying there know. I stayed in one of these in Australia, and although I didn’t get all my 88 days, it was a great experience (apart from spending my first week living in a leaky tepee...) and I made some great friends.
If Katie’s experience has made you want to quit your job and head to Sydney on our Paid Work in Australia package then you can save your space here! If Sydney isn’t doing it for you then we’ve also just added a brand new package in Melbourne too!
Got any questions and want to speak to someone who’s been there and done it? Just give us a call on 01892 277040, pop us an email to [email protected] or chat to us on livechat.