Finding Things You Might Need
Gumtree.com.au – This is the Australian equivalent of craigslist. You can find all sorts of things here, but I was never brave enough to try it.
Op Shops– The Australian Red Cross, the Salvation Army, which are called the “Salvos”, and many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) run thrift stores which are called Opportunity Shops to benefit their respective charities. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want different ones, and you’ll need to ask around or look online for the ones that might best fit your need.
Myki Card are the local RFID cards used for all your public transportation needs in Victoria and are available at any 7-11. Ticket inspectors are ruthless, and though they’ve added a free ride zone for the trams it was pretty confusing. Free Tram Zones were implemented while I was in Victoria so the public as well as tourist didn’t have a good understanding of the boundaries yet. Click here for a map of the Free Tram Zone. Your myki card can be used throughout Victoria on all public transport. Click here for more information about your myki card from PTV.I recommend buying at least a weekly pass, as I found it saved a lot of money over buying the individual trips, but I used the transportation system to go pretty much everywhere.
Transport to the Airport: There is no public transportation available to Melbourne Tullamarine airport. You can book Skybus which drops you off at Southern Cross, a major public transport station. If there’s two of you, a taxi will probably be similar in cost and much more convenient. A taxi estimator can help you figure out the cost depending on day and time of your arrival.
Money Transfer: I used PayPal, though I did have to go to Australia Post, present my ID, and fill out a form to verify I wasn’t a terrorist for compliance with the Patriot Act before I could transfer money into my account from the US. If you have an established PayPal account this may not be an issue. You may want to contact PayPal before departure to verify this.
Flying Domestically: It’s no secret I dread flying around in the United States. It’s not the flight, but going through the airport, interacting with TSA, and the overpriced food and beverages on the other side of the security checkpoints but the rules are incredibly relaxed comparatively speaking and the security personnel is really polite. The biggest difference is that you can take a cup of coffee or a full water bottle through the checkpoints, though some airlines don’t allow you to pack it with you onto the plane. I’ve been checked for explosives a couple of times which appears to be randomized, and it was straightforward with a swab quickly taken and analyzed by the computer. There are some amazing deals to get around Australia by air. If you’re planning to visit Tasmania, plan ahead as you can get some really cheap tickets when purchased around 4 weeks in advance.
I’ve flown pretty much every airline in Australia except Tiger, which I’ve heard warnings of through word of mouth. If you’re purchasing an early morning or late arriving flight, verify there will be a shuttle or public transport available at that hour. One really early morning flight out of Brisbane was almost too early to take the train to the airport, and was earlier than shuttles were running. I was faced with the decision of arriving at the airport without my preferred buffer of time and taking the first train to the airport which I could only pray wasn’t late, or taking a cab which would have been more than other flight options. If you can make the early or late night flight work, go for it. They tend to be really reasonably priced and sometimes you get a whole row to yourself to stretch out on.
Another lesson I learned while flying around Australia is that some airlines provide a free checked bag while others don’t. For instance, one flight I took with Virgin Australia provided a free checked bag, and a beverage for roughly 3 dollars more than the Jetstar Airways flight. But, the Jetstar flight did not include fees to check my bag which would have been about $15, and I would have had to purchase my own drink or bring it on board with me.
About POLi Payments: If you decide to buy airline tickets online you might notice a credit card surcharge around $7 – 10 dollars for the privilege of buying your ticket by credit or debit card. You may also notice POLi is a free option. You can link POLi Payments to your bank account and purchase your tickets surcharge free. I was a little skeptical at first, but then learned that Poli Payments is run by Australia Post, which calmed me down a bit. I did a little research and Australian Law dictates there needs to be at least one surcharge – free way to purchase your tickets. It was a little difficult to set it up at first, but once it was it was really easy to use. I had one occasion where it was broken and I had to phone the airline and book over the phone. The phone operator was quick to waive the fee to have her do the transaction but reluctant to waive the credit card fees. I simply informed her that the law dictated they needed to provide a surcharge-free way to purchase the tickets and that it was not my error that POLi was not working and asked her if she didn’t have the authority to waive the fee to discuss it with a supervisor. After a short wait, the fee was waived. Click here to learn more about Poli Payments.
Dental: If you can avoid seeing a dentist while in Australia I highly recommend it. The cost is going to be at least 2x what you’d pay in the states. I looked it up because my wisdom teeth started bothering me, and learned a lot of Australians travel to Asia for dental care which varies in reputability. I decided to wait until returning to the states for surgery.
Contacts / Glasses: I didn’t take a year’s supply because my contacts were available for purchase in Australia. I paid about 1.5 x more for contacts then what I would have in the States. The current value of AUD would make it comparable. If you need them, you can take the prescription with you. Specsavers is a reputable place you can order from.
Driving: If you’re going to do it get out of downtown. It’s complicated enough driving on the wrong side of the road without throwing in a uniquely Melbourne hook turn. But really, if you’re living and working in Melbourne you don’t need a car. If you do decide you want to drive in the Central Business District of Melbourne watch the video from VicRoads below for instructions on how to make a hook turn.
If you decide you’re going to drive in Australia, refresh your memory about roundabouts, it’s not uncommon to experience a multi-lane roundabout.
Working in Hospitality: Experience is key so be sure to get your resume ready in paper size A4, which is similar to letter size, with Australian spelling and date formats (Day/Month/Year). Upon arrival you’ll probably want to take a couple of classes to qualify you depending on what type of work you want. You can get a Responsible Service of Food, Responsible Service of Alcohol, and a Responsible Service of Gambling training which I think were around $40 each and discounted if you purchased multiple classes with some providers.
Working in an Office: If you want something a bit more professional temp agencies are a good way to go. It’ll likely get you something fast, though it’s often low wage jobs. If you’re working something professional, you should get at least $22.5 p/h. I went with a different temp agency that shall not be named and was paid about $3 less each hour than the girl I trained working for a different agency.
Work Week: Expect to work between 35-38 hours each week if working an office job.
Working in Agriculture: If you’re keen to do farm work you can find information about it through Harvest Trail, which is a government run website. Be aware, however, the American Visa is not eligible for a year extension if you do three months of it like our European counterparts. This industry is rife with people looking to take advantage of a workforce that may not know all the labor rules. Read reviews carefully and be very skeptical of any offers you’re looking at. A good alternative is a volunteer organization called Willing Workers on Organic Farms also referred to as WWOOFing which requires a small membership fee and allows you to work in exchange for room and board. I have friends who had fantastic experiences and even noted they got paid for some of their time by their host.
Public Holidays and Travel
Summer Holidays: If you’re working in an office be advised it’s not uncommon for most offices to close in December/January while folks are on their holidays. You may not be able to get reliable work during this time in the city.
Public Holidays: If you’re traveling out of state be aware that while some holidays are Australia wide many aren’t. Many states and territories celebrate their own holidays (like the Queen’s Birthday) in different days and months of the year.
Taxes: If you live in the same residence for at least 6 months of the tax year the first $18,000 is not taxed, beyond that the taxation is based on a tiered system, based on how much you make. If too much in taxes are collected, you can get them refunded. Be aware that anything you buy for a job is probably tax deductible so save your receipts. It’s much cheaper to be a resident for tax purposes which means you’ll want to have the same address for six months of the tax year, so plan accordingly. I used H & R block Australia to do my taxes for about $30 online and it was easy and straightforward though some people I know didn’t bother with a service and lodged their taxes themselves. Tax year runs from July to June. To learn more about Australia’s tax code, you can always visit the Australian Taxation Office’s web page at https://www.ato.gov.au/. *
*I am not trained in Australia’s tax code and this is not legal advice.