Moving to Sydney

Update: We found this to be the best resource on moving to Sydney. GoodMigrations Sydney City Guide. 

Here are the basic things you should know before moving here:

The best source for finding housing (either for rent or sale) is
There are a number of serviced apartments available in Sydney for short-term accomodation while you hunt for a place. Alternatively, check out available rooms or apartments on,, or, which is Australia's version of Craigslist (while Craiglist can also be used, it's not very popular here so you won't find much).
Apartments will typically have scheduled 15 minute viewings on Saturdays. Expect lots of other people at the viewings. If you like something, you should put an application down as soon as possible. It doesn't cost anything to put an application down so you don't risk anything. If your application is approved, you'll be asked to put down a deposit to hold the place prior to signing the lease.
If you're available during the week, you can also schedule viewings with the real estate agent. Usually you won't be with many other people and this is a good way to get a jump on places new on the market.
Only one real estate firm/agent will represent an apartment -- compared to New York where several agents may all be showing the same place.

When to Move
During summer (~January - March) you've got a lot of people here renting out holiday homes so the inventory of places is limited. If you have any option, try moving during any of the other seasons, during which times you'll have more housing options.

Rent here is shown per week. Be careful when looking at apartments to make sure you consider the monthly rent, which is the price per week times 52 weeks divided by 12 months. Rent is typically paid monthly or fortnightly. Many places allow you to pay via credit card (, so you at least get reward points, but you also pay an additional 1.78% of your rent as a transaction fee to them.

Shipping household goods
As expensive as shipping your household goods over here will be, it will end up being far cheaper than replacing everything over here (see the Cost of Living page to see what typical items cost here). International shipping is fraught with risk. It's not something you do often (or ever) so you have no experience to go on. There weren't, when we moved, any websites out there with reputable ratings of the various shipping companies. ...So we started one: check out to find movers that serve your area and read customer reviews.

I got quotes from several companies that seemed reputable based on my research. Below are the quotes they gave me. Price can be based off cubic feet or weight, or both. In the Normalized Cu. Ft.  column I did my best to normalize the cost across the companies so I could get an accurate comparison.

Note that I was only shipping part of my apartment's furniture, so did not even require a full container. This skewed pricing for some of the companies that do not offer partial containers. You should have have any/all shipping companies come to your house to do a full estimate.

Australia has something called Superannuation, which is similar to a 401k. The difference is that employers are forced to put 9.0% of their employees pay into superannuation plans. If you stay in Australia forever, you get this money when you retire, otherwise you get it back (after taxes of course) when you move out of the country. When a company says your compensation is $100k per year, that doesn't mean your salary is $100k. Compensation includes both salary and the superannuation payments. So multiply that $100k by .91 to get your salary amount.

Given this, make sure you are explicit about your salary expectations when negotiating and make sure the superannuation piece isn't part of it.

Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA)
LAFHA is a way of reducing your tax burden in Australia and can put significant cash back in your pocket. For a single person making $100k per year, this can translate to more than $10k annually. It's even more if you have a partner or children.
This is covered in detail on other sites so I won't go into detail, but make sure this is something you discuss with your employer before relocating.
LAFHA resources:
The Living Away from Home Allowance

UPDATE: As of October 2013, The Australian government has got rid of LAFHA for non-Australian citizens.

In general, Australia's web scene is still pretty immature. But there are a number of sites where you can get reviews of restaurants.
  • Yelp
  • Eatability
  • Urban Spoon
  • Dimmi is similar to OpenTable and allows you to make restaurant reservations online. Its not as comprehensive as OpenTable but hopefully over time it will be.

City Searching
Here are some useful website for city searching that will allow you to search all areas of city living from dry cleaners to pubs to hair salons. Granted, many retailers don't even advertise online so these aren't as big as some of their comparables as in The States.

Credit Cards
There are almost no fee-free credit cards here. Even the ones that don't offer rewards cost about $35/year, and for a basic Qantas Rewards card you can expect to pay around $80.

Once you've arrived you may want to travel to other cities and since Australia is almost as big as the continental U.S. you're going to need to fly.

Webjet is the local flight search engine but Kayak has still proven to be the better tool.

We highly recommend checking out Yapta as well. Use this site before actually booking flights to get price alerts and see when is the best time to fly. Use this site after booking your flights to get notified when the price of your ticket drops so that you can get a refund.

Find a doctor at Anyone coming to Australia on a visa must secure private health insurance before the visa will be issued. Because you'll have private insurance, you do not need referrals from a GP to see specialists. Also, you pay for the visit up front and then submit a claim to your insurance company.

Phone Plans
There are three main providers here:
Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone. Telstra is the best and the most expensive. Vodafone is the first to have an unlimited voice/text plan (and for a low price), but also has poor service. I drop more calls with Vodafone than I did with AT&T back in the States (although I've seen some articles that suggest this is also a result of the iPhone design, so who knows).

To get a pay-as-you go plan doesn't require much other than a credit card. For a monthly plan each provider requires 100 points of documentation. This could include a passport, a rental agreement, an Australian credit card, etc. Each piece of documentation is worth a different amount of points, so make sure you check the provider's website to see what you'll need before going to get a phone plan.
Home Internet
The main internet service providers (ISPs) here are
Internode, iiNet, TPG, and iPrimus. You can find a broadband selector on this website: I recommend locking down a provider and purchasing a plan as soon as you have found a place (even before you move in) because it can take weeks for a technician to actually come out and install everything.

Group Buying Deals
A great website to check out is Daily Deals. This website aggregates tons of daily online coupons. We were using Groupon while living in the States; Australia has a dozen knockoffs that offer group buying and offer a great way to lock into deals around the area. We have already purchased coupons from several sites ranging from pizza dinners to surfing lessons on Bondi Beach to outdoor boxing lessons. 

Job Searching
If a job is what you need before making the big move down under then there are a few general job listing engines use can utilize. The most popular are Seek. MyCareer and CareerOne.  
Since fashion is my (Sharon) area of work I used the above websites but I also used the industry specific site, Ragtradejobs
After speaking with lots of local Ozzies, they all said that recruiters have all the job listings here and they are the key to getting a job. However, I did use a few but with NO success. They are just as bad as recruiters in The U.S. 
If this is still a route that interests you then here are few that I have either used or been told to use. (Still fashion focused)
Who In The Zoo
Scarlet Recruitment
McKenzie Consulting
Michael Page

Buying a Car
Like everything else, cars are very expensive here. I recently was blown away when we passed a dealership where a new Jeep Wrangler was listed for $50,000 -- this is a vehicle that costs about $20k in the U.S. 

Besides the staggering costs, buying a car here is fairly straightforward: you can purchase new or used cars from dealers, or purchase a car through a private sale. You can search for what you want using a website like Some companies, like NRMA, offer pre-purchase inspection services to make sure you're not buying a lemon. They'll come to you to check the car out and from personal experience I can say it's money well spent.

To drive your car legally you need (and I'm probably mixing the two up here) a pink slip, which indicates you've paid the annual (yes, annual) tax on your car, as well as a green slip, which indicates that your car is road-worthy.

Best of luck!


  1. As a first time visitor to your blog I am very impressed. I found a lot of informative stuff in your article. Thanks for posting.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for this! I just migrated to Sydney with not much knowledge on practical tips so it's nice to read blogs from the point of view of a fellow expat. Cheers!

  3. your blog is great & proving v useful for our planned to move to sydney next june - thanks! luan

  4. Thanks for this post - we are moving to Melbourne from London in the new year and I found this really helpful!

  5. Pleasure Wandy. All the best!

  6. Hey Sharon and Adam! Great list. However, I want to ask if you have any suggestions on what health insurance to get in Australia? I've been looking at this site , and it looks like they have a pretty good and reasonable rates but I'm also interested to know your suggestions. What do you think about Medicare? I am moving to Australia with a 457 visa. I hope you can help me. Thank you so much!

  7. Hi Patrick,
    The link you provided is the healthcare provider that we use. They are pretty good but I would also recommend checking out Bupa. A few of our other expat use them and get pretty great rates. Feel free to email us to discuss further. Best of luck!

    1. Hi Sharon, do you have any suggestions about schooling in Sydney for a 5 & 7 year old? And a children friendly area to rent a home? Thanks!!!!

    2. Hi Melanie,
      Send me a message through contact us and I can email you a bunch of really helpful information. All the best!

  8. Great Article with tips Sharon & Adam. If the world was made with more informative and helpful people like you things would be easier for everyone. I have a quick question how about Nursery for children in Sydney, and buying a car.
    Thanks so much !

  9. Glad we could help! I can't help with the Nursery bit because we don't have kids. But excellent suggestion about buying a car -- I'll add that in.

  10. Very informative article...Your ideas on Jobs in sydney help me!!

  11. Have you heard what it costs to ship a car there? We are considering relocating from east coast of the U.S. and have a nice Hyundai we would be happy to keep.

    1. Hi Christine -- that's a great question but unfortunately we don't know anyone who's imported a car. But I will caution you on a couple things:

      a) You could pay some serious customs charges on importing a car here so it may not be worth it. Here's a link that might help:

      b) If you're not coming from the UK or other commonwealth country, it's worth noting that Aussies drive on the other side of the road here (and the driver sits on the right, not the left, side of the car). Trying to drive an American-style car would only complicate the learning curve :)

      Hope that helps!

  12. Wow. Never read something so neatly organised and lucidly written.

    We are planning to move from SF Bay area. The more we read the more we question the call for expat assignment.

    Would you say you 'Regreted'

  13. We have loved the experience of living here in Sydney. It is an amazing city with beautiful views every where you turn. We definitely have not regretted moving here.

  14. Awesome! Thanks for the extensive list. Do you have a guide or checklist like "Checklist of things to do before moving to Sydney"? I'm moving there in January, not the best time of year to move but my only option. I'm so excited/nervous!

    1. Actually Ritu its a great time to move there! Its summer time! We don't have a proper check list but I would be happy to PM you some items to consider. Send through your email.

  15. This is a great list of tips and advice, I’m sure all the newbie’s arriving in Sydney will appreciate them. This list is really helpful to someone who doesn’t know the area or anything about how things work over here. I have lived in Sydney for a long time now and have a young family that keeps me busy so when a friend of mine asked for some advice about moving here I was happy to direct her to your website.

    1. Really happy to hear that you found our blog helpful. Thanks for passing it along!

  16. Thanks Adam for the helpful incites. We should be landing in OZ by EOY. This info will be very helpful...

  17. Relocating seems to be the most stressful job but if it is done with meticulous planning, it will be much easier and smooth. If you are planning for a home relocation in Sydney, its better to choose a reputed logistics service that can transport all your belongings safely.

  18. Hi Adam & Sharon, Good Morning.

    Thanks for your detailed information, Highly appreciated.

    I am planning to relocate from Doha, Qatar to Sydney during early June 2016.

    We are blessed with two kids, 13 years (boy) and 08 years (girl) old.

    Please advise us about the schools and job market in NSW.