The best choice I've ever made in my life was deciding to do a Working Holiday in Australia
And I have now been away for 12 years and helped 1000s of backpackers with every travel, life advice and employment question under the sun. So, I thought I’d pass on some of that experience to the next load of backpackers (you) heading for their life-changing first year in Australia.
Funnily enough, one of the main reasons I chose Australia originally was after googling “Where is it always hot?” Yep, I know. That was mainly because I wasn’t sure if Australia also had ‘off’ seasons like other destinations might have due to monsoons or cold weather. But as I continued my research, I knew I wanted to be there whether it was hot, cold, rain or hail.
Which leads me to the first question that I get asked a lot.
What time of year should you go to Australia?
Luckily the answer to this one is simple. It’s never a bad time to come to Australia. And nope, that’s not because it’s always hot.
It is actually because it’s such a massive country. This means that there are so many different regions to head to and explore, depending on the time of year it is. On top of that, some of our cities are so epic that even in the winter they are the best location to start your travels in.
Therefore even though it may be colder in the southern states at certain times of the year (around May – September), cities like Melbourne and Sydney are still top destinations for people to start their Working Holiday Visa off in, and for good reason. With cheaper flights, more ease getting around and being home to various ‘intro weeks’, cities like these are much better to get your bearings in first, before heading off to use your hard earned money exploring other regions of this big, big country. Which in turn leads me to the next question…
How much money should I arrive with?
Ah the age old question, how much to save for your big trip!
The thing with a Working Holiday Visa, as opposed to a Visitor Visa, is that you need to take into account not just the travel side of things but also ensure you have enough money left over to set yourself up when it is time to work. For example, bond money for a room sublet, public transport to get around etc.
Saying that, you don’t want to come all this way just to dive straight into work! Especially as you don’t know where your favourite places will be when you first land. So you need to head out and explore some of the epic options first.
So let's say a perfect plan
would be taking a week to get settled in, then doing a trip up the East Coast (a MUST-DO destination that has all of Australia’s bucket list items) and then settling in and finding work afterwards. Taking this all into consideration, I’d recommend a good amount to arrive with would be around $7500AUD. That is around: 4200 GBP/4600 EUR/5250 USD
Don’t panic if this wasn’t quite what you were aiming for. This would just ensure you are in a very comfortable position to be able to travel a bit first and have a safe amount left afterwards for job hunting. Everyone is different but it is always good to have a number to aim for. It’s easier to pick a budget if you have an idea of how you want your year to be laid out, as the best part about travelling is seeing where it takes you! So…
How do I make the most out of my Working Holiday?
There are obviously 1000’s of ways to structure your year in Australia. But I firmly believe that you shouldn’t decide 100% where you will live/work or what you will do straight away.
One easy reason for this is that you haven’t lived here yet. You could read every article/blog/newspaper clipping and still not know if you’ll actually love a place as much as you expect to.
With that in mind, and after helping A LOT of people plan their time in Australia, I think this is an ideal example of how to structure your Working Holiday here:
Months 1+2: TRAVEL!
Months 3-5: Work (regional or other)
Month 6: Travel
Months 7-12: Work and live in your favourite location
Why is the first TRAVEL in capital letters, you ask?
Because I think this bit is really important.
You need to get out, explore this fantastic country and figure out where your personal favourite places are. Step outside of your comfort zone, meet other awesome backpackers, feel the pain of waking up for an early morning bus after a big night (a backpacker rite of passage), jump out of a plane, snorkel the reef, do all of the incredible things that you are currently spending all of your time researching from wherever you are right now.
By the end of a couple months on the road traversing our beautiful land, you’ll have a much better idea of where you want to settle and spend some time, get work or head back to later on in your year. Next up it’ll be time to work and this is a great opportunity to get your regional work done for your 2nd year visa, if you are wanting one of course…
Do I really need a second year?
Yes, trust me yes. To start, you don’t actually need to use your 2nd year visa directly after your first one. This means that you can complete your first year (having done your regional work) then head home and finish university or whatever the plan was and come back to Australia later on in a couple of years time when you’re ready for part 2 of your Australian adventure.
Trust me, 29yr old you having a quarter life crisis will thank you for it.
Is farm work fun to begin with? No. Is it easy? Also no. Will it be a unique experience and will you meet amazing friends for life? Yes. The last one is mainly because when you’ve been through something a little different, out of the ordinary, something a bit tough with other people, the bond is definitely stronger.
Still unsure? Well if you haven’t already decided by the end of your 2 months travelling at the start of your year that you never want to leave the glorious land down under, then I can guarantee by the time you’ve stopped and worked somewhere later on and lived a life here you won’t want to, and by then it could be too late! Check out our guide to your 88 regional days HERE for all the information on getting this done.
What's the best way to start my Working Holiday Visa?
So now you know how much to bring, when to come over, when to do what and I’ve convinced you to head into the middle of nowhere and pick avocados for 88 days. Now how to spend those first few days in Australia…
Arriving for a year on the other side of the world means there are some (admin) things you need to get out of the way (not enjoyable, but necessary). Sim card, tax number to use when you will work, bank accounts (can’t use that overseas card forever) plus just generally finding your feet and getting your head around all that weird Aussie slang. That’s where those Intro weeks come into play that I mentioned earlier. These usually include your first week accommodation, various meals (usually at great places you’d never find yourself that quickly), major activities in the city you’ve arrived in and its surroundings, plus the best part: meeting likeminded people to spend time with. The tour companies also do all of that boring admin stuff for you and give you heaps of job help and advice on top.
There is definitely the option to arrive and just wing it, but you’ve got the whole year to make spontaneous decisions and if I could have arrived and had someone arrange my Tax File number for me before I’d even made it to my dorm room, I definitely would have (not so many of these packages available 12 years ago).
Not to mention being picked up from the airport and delivered directly to my bed with my brand new sim card all ready to tell everyone I’d made it. Trust me you can’t put a price on those kinds of moments after a 24hr flight.
Melbourne is a great place to start yourself off with a cheeky intro week. It also means that when you head off up the East Coast you are starting from the bottom of the country and working your way all the way to the top… Not having to backtrack down this way later on because you’ve missed out on the greatest city in the world (for 7 years anyway and permanently in my opinion), unless of course you’ve decided to come back down to work here and take advantage of our huge hospitality scene.
I'm ready, now what?!
Once the decision is made to go travelling I feel the rest is easy (ish).
Start with your finances and work out when it would be feasible to head here with a decent amount saved so you don’t have to jump directly into work.
Next up, start looking at those flights, put on alerts for dates you are looking at and when you’re ready, just go for it! While you wait for that final flight date decision, it is time for the visa. Follow this link for Working Holiday Visa information.
Finally (or firstly!) get a look at those Intro companies. They will likely assist you with all of the above before you’ve even booked their tour.
The guys at Welcome to Travel will even give you a call to run over everything over a video call from their office in Melbourne. They also offer deposit options so you can choose a tentative date and alter it later if needed for only $99!
It’s time to start the rest of your life and I can honestly say, I’ve never regretted a second.