A Guide to Living in Sydney on a WHV (Working Holiday Visa)

Living in Australia is an exciting decision that a lot of people have the chance to make. With visa requirements being: be under the age of thirty, not having entered Pakistan within the past year and not having polio, it seems like a very doable excursion.

It is in fact very doable, and if you're having thoughts about making the move then I wouldn't hesitate a minute longer.

Sydney at sunset looking like a GTA loading screen

Australia is a relatively prosperous country and Sydney is the city to thrive in. It’s beautiful, full of gorgeous people and even more full of job opportunities. There are points, though, that you should be aware of so you don't head out like I did: keen, but ignorant.

Who is the working holiday visa for?

First off, the working holiday visa is perfect for anyone looking to get away; searching for change in their lives. It was designed to allow younger citizens of other countries to travel and learn about different cultures. It works. I met many English, German, Brazilian and Chilean people on the same visa as myself. All were eager and excited to both talk and listen. There's a great energy off of the other visa holders.

Explore a city full of different nationalities, or explore beautiful coastlines by yourself...Your choice.

The visa grants you the same rights as an Australian resident for a year, basically. Work in any field, explore a diverse landscape and meet a range of characters. It's fun. Take the Aussies with a pinch of salt, but embrace their twisted characteristics.

You can make a fortune in construction.

The city is very welcoming to workers. It won't take long before you have yourself a job, as long as you have your bank account set up and ready to receive. There is plenty of money to be made in the city. However, you need to be in specific job fields.

If you're looking to save your dollars, it's a bit of a man's world out there. There are still some spaces for the girls who are willing to get in among it, though. Construction site work is the ticket.

As an unskilled labourer, I was able to earn $35 an hour on a civil site basically playing hide and seek with the boss. That's fairy-tale stuff, though. It's not always like that so do be prepared for some lesser paid jobs and harder working days.

All hands on deck. How did you REALLY think I was earning $35 an hour?

I found that there are a few wage brackets within the construction work field. They seem to be $24, $27 and $30+. $24 construction is usually a forty hour week in residential buildings. Most visa holders are in this category. The work will be a mix of job roles in a small team. It's very common and probably the easiest type to fall straight in to. The $27 and $30 brackets are for civil sites. Bigger teams, out in the elements and the chances of a 50 hour week are much better. $27 should be what you aim for, but union sites will pay better so don't think that the wage is higher because they want someone more skilled. My $35 an hour job was only looking for six months of experience, which I absolutely lied about.

For my ladies in the audience, construction seems like an impossible job to land. Fear not though, there's a gateway. Pretty much all civil sites need traffic controllers, and pretty much all traffic controllers are female. Traffic controlling is extremely straightforward but it is monotonous and comes with long days. It is though, one unskilled job that women can comfortably do in Sydney to save money.

My cousin was earning $2,000 a week working nights as a traffic controller. It became her life, though, and didn't make that period in Sydney a memorable one. Also, it was not quite as good as the $3,000 her brother made a week working nights on a site. Both were borderline depressed, but paying for a thirteen flight trip around the world, lasting nearly six months by only working twelve weeks, makes it seem worth it.

Waiting and retail work is often paid at and below $22 an hour, so with a forty hour week you won't be able to save money. You will survive in the city, though. It's up to you to decide what lifestyle you want when in Australia. Sydney caters to all, but favours the hard workers.

Accommodation: Sydney loves to take your money

The cost of living in Sydney is extremely high. The Australian visa requirement states that you must have $5,000 in your account on entry to ensure you can get home and not struggle in the country. You shouldn't need that much, but you definitely need to have a cushion for when you get there. Sydney is quick to give you money, but can be faster to take it from you.

Hostels like Rooftop Travellers Lodge in Glebe are popular among visa workers. At about $180 a week and offering long term stays in their four-bed dorms, it can be a good option upon landing. Everybody gets sick of it though so keep an eye on Facebook pages and it won't be long before you land yourself a room in a shared house for the same price as the not-so luxury hostels.

Soon enough you can be living lavish in your own apartment

Accommodation of course varies by region in Sydney. You should be expecting to pay around $200 a week for a room. That would be the price of a single room in an average area, or a shared room in a nicer district. That comes with a two week bond, too. So keep in mind you will effectively need $600 to pay for your first week of rent in Sydney. It gets expensive quickly, so I recommend moving into a hostel for a few weeks and finding your feet before doing a house hunt.

If you're travelling from a country like Ireland or England, Sydney is a very easy city to transition into. It's multicultural, teeming with work and the weather is great year-round. Use pages like Irish Around Sydney on Facebook to help the move. It has become infested with non Irish and is now a page of visa holders helping each other out and selling things. It's good.

Extra tips on the city

My own personal tips on living in Sydney would be to take the first bit of work you get, and don't stop looking until you find what you're happy with. When you start making good money; spend it in on travelling Australia, or a different country. Don't waste it on $9 pints and $300 grams of coke. The nightlife is weak in Sydney, anyway. Flights to Bali are relatively cheap from down under and then use your hard earned cash to get a whole lot more value for your partying.

It's one of the best countries to walk into with no skills and earn a small fortune. Use that opportunity and if you're having fun, leave time to work on a farm and earn a second year visa. Just don't go to the farm I went to.

Financial Pro Tip: Don't spend your money on a beautiful, but broken 1984 BMW

It really isn't a big move. One of the hardest parts could be the twenty four hours of flying to get there. I don't think anyone regrets trying the visa, and doubt you would, either. In fact, you'll be delighted you did it. I was nineteen when I arrived and even for me it wasn’t too much of a shock. By no means was it simple, but I wouldn't stay waiting. Give it a go before you can't.

Lot of Love,

Les x

Creep On Us.

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