In February 2023, I moved to Melbourne solo on a working holiday visa before embarking on a new role at an SEO agency. Moving overseas can be a daunting, particularly in those first few weeks. Here are my suggestions on things to get set up during your first week in Melbourne. I was fortunate enough to have a job lined up before I arrived, so I don’t have advice on finding jobs when here.
Initial Accommodation in Melbourne
The first thing you’ll need to sort out when you move to Melbourne is your accommodation. Although you might want an apartment or house lined up before you arrive, it’s more likely you’ll have to stay in short term accommodation at the beginning. Unfortunately, the difficult rental market in Melbourne means it’s much harder to secure long term accommodation offshore. Many rentals require you to attend an in-person inspection, before you’re able to apply for the property. To get around this, you can hire an agency to do the inspections/viewings on your behalf. Or, if you know someone already in Melbourne, they can also go on your behalf. The second issue is the shear number of people looking at each rental. This competitive market will put you at a disadvantage if you’re offshore and going against people who are already in Melbourne. To get around this, I heard people offering 3-6 months rent up front or even pitching higher weekly rent.
The next thing to note is the suburbs of Melbourne are all very different and unique. It’s worth being in Melbourne to get a feel of the different areas and what might suit you best. I would recommend booking into an AirBnb, hotel or serviced apartment for a few weeks to get yourself over the jet-lag and in a position where you can see the property and neighbourhood yourself.
Finding a Place to Live in Melbourne
If you’re looking for an apartment or house for yourself or family, the best place to start is through sites like View and Domain. Once in Melbourne, you can also pop into real estate agencies on the high streets.
If you’d rather stay in a house share, sites like flatmates.com/au are your go-to. If you go down this route, I’d highly recommend upgrading to a paid subscription – even just for the short term plan. After I upgraded I had a huge number of people reach out to me and I secured accommodation within a few days.
Fairy Floss is also a fantastic place to look for places to live. This is a facebook group for sublets, lease transfers and house shares in Melbourne. This is updated frequently. My best advice for Fairy Floss is to turn on post notifications for the group. Each posting gets 15-40 responses within the first few hours, meaning the earlier you message, the more likely it will be seen. Don’t just reply, ‘is this available still’. Give some details about yourself (age, where you’re from, interests etc), plus salary, visa info. A few people I met through viewings here said there were high numbers of unemployed people messaging….apparently lease transfers are unlikely in this case so try have some form of employment or maybe proof of high savings beforehand.
Another option is to stay in hostels and form house shares with people you meet. This won’t be for everyone, but a number of hostels are known for having long-term stays. I’ve met people who found their future housemates in hostels and did viewings for houses/multi-room apartments together. They found this less competitive than going after one or two bedroom apartments.
A bit about my experience:
Finding a place to live in Melbourne was overwhelming to say the least. I had tried researching the different suburbs whilst in London, but it was hard to get a feel of the areas. I did 6 virtual viewings for house shares and lease transfer whilst in London. However, I was wary about signing up for a house without seeing it in person or knowing anything about the surrounding areas. The 11 hour time zone was also problematic, as postings on Fairy Floss were typically uploaded whilst I was asleep. I’d wake up to find each post had 40+ comments and my response seemed to get lost in the mix.
I had three weeks between landing in Melbourne and starting my new job, so I hoped that would be enough time to find a place to live and move in. I decided to get an Airbnb for 10 days. Once in Melbourne, I continued to message people through Fairy Floss and Flatmates. Across the first two days in Melbourne, I did 11 viewings. It was draining but so worth it. I ended up securing a place in South Yarra with two lovely girls.
My advice would be have your documentation ready to go as the competition is fierce. That means having a copy of visas, passport, references (I had one from my Aussie job, salary, one from a previous landlord), a screenshot of savings account and proof of tenancy agreement for my apartment back home.
This is a real process but you will get there!
Get Your Phone Contract
There are a number of options for phone contracts. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are the biggest network providers in Australia. These will typically have the best coverage and often have perks included. Woolworths and Aldi are also good options and typically much cheaper.
Temporary sims can be bought in the meantime from the airport or 7-11 stores. It’s worth checking what inclusions your home network providers has before moving to Melbourne. I was with o2 and my sim included data usage in Australia at no extra charge – ideal during my first few weeks. When you look to get a contract, consider booking an appointment in advance. I tried to walk into a Telstra in the early afternoon and was turned away due to lack of availability that day.
Set Up Your Bank
I was advised to set up a wise account before moving to Melbourne and transfer Pounds into Australian dollars. Before I left England, I applied for a physically Wise bank card and added it to my Apple Wallet. This saved me extortionate international fees – particularly with big initials bills like rental deposit and first months rent.
My Aussie company advised I set up a CommonWealth Bank account from London. You can find out more about this here. Once in Melbourne, I had to go into a pre-selected branch with my passport. They need passport for account verification and an Australian address. They will also ask for a Tax File Number, however this isn’t essential to the initial set up of the bank account. Once my tax file number came through a few weeks later, I went back into the branch to update this. I also had to go to a branch to update my Australian phone number. Note, you have to go into a physical branch to update telephone numbers. Everything else can pretty much be updated via Commbank app or Netbank site. Everyone was extremely helpful at the three branches I visited.
Apply for a Tax File Number
You will need to apply for a tax file number. Unfortunately you will need an Australian address in order to apply. It will take up to 28 days once you’ve sent off the application. I met people who were able to put their hostel or airbnb down as an address, so the document was sent there. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option where I was staying. If you have a contact in Australia, you could send it there too. You can apply for a Tax File Number here.
Apply for Medicare if you Qualify
Some countries have a reciprocal agreement with Australia, meaning you might be eligible for Medicare. Medicare is Australia’s national health insurance scheme, which guarantees Australians (and some overseas visitors) access to a range of medical services at little or no cost. As a British citizen, I was entitled to apply for Medicare. Find out more about Medicare enrolment, and how to apply, here. It’s worth doing this early on, as it can take a few months to come through.
Get a Myki Travel Card
If you’re moving to Melbourne from a city that relies heavily on contactless payments and Apple Pay, yo might be in for a shock. To use Melbourne’s public transport, you’ll need a Myki Travel Card. You can’t use contactless on any public transport within Victoria, as you would in other cities, like London or Singapore. You can get a Myki card from 7-11 stores and any large train station – including Southern Cross Station and Flinders Street.
Joining social groups
I didn’t know a soul in Melbourne when I moved. Staying in a hostel initially wasn’t an option given the amount of bags I brought over and with work starting shortly. However this could be a great way to meet people. I joined a few Facebook groups (Making Friends in Melbourne, British Expats in Melbourne, Girls Gone International are a few). I joined MeetUp and Bumble BFF too. Ultimately, having house mates and work colleagues was the starting point I needed. From there, Facebook groups and events like Conscious Connections help me meet people. It snowballs from there. If I could give advice, it would be say yes to things, be open minded and put yourself out there. It can be hard but most expats or international students have been there and are usually very open to help out.
Writing this recap, 9 months after moving to Melbourne, makes me feel proud of getting through those first few weeks alone. It might feel stressful in the lead up to arriving, and in those first free weeks, but moving to Melbourne has been an amazing experience and was worth the stress. Please feel free to reach out with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer. I’m so grateful for everyone who helped me out before moving to Melbourne and would love to pass that along.