Over 220,000 people a year are granted an Australian Holiday Working visa. And it’s no surprise with the famous Australian weather – warm to sweltering hot all year around – stunning beaches, varying cultures and a uniquely beautiful ecosystem – the Great Barrier Reef – off the shores of its east coast.
In fact, the Australian Holiday Working Visa is the most popular holiday working visa in the world. It allows you to travel the country for up to two years, work throughout your stay and re-enter Australia as many times as you like (think of all the island hopping trips in South-east Asia you could take).
With the country geared to receive backpackers, it’s an option that a lot of people should consider. So we’ve put together this handy Australian holiday working visa guide so that you can start your Aussie adventure.
Before you arrive
Before you arrive there will undoubtedly be a number of things you need to have in order. You’ll want to be sure that your visa and accompanying paperwork are all in order. This includes your travel insurance, Australian bank account (we’ll explain why setting one up before hand is better), and temporary accommodation for at least the first month after you touch down on Australian soil.
Australian Holiday Working Visa
The first and most important thing to set up is your Australian Holiday Working Visa, for obvious reasons if your intention is to arrive in Australia with a Holiday Working Visa. Depending on the country in which your passport was issued, you will either be eligible for: the Working Holiday Visa Subclass 417 and the Australian Work and Holiday Visa Subclass 462.
The Subclass 417 Visa and Subclass 462 Visa
For the Subclass 417 Visa, the process is incredibly easy. After creating an account on the Australian Gov website you have to fill out the relevant application form. Make sure that you have all of the required evidence and enough funds to make the payment. Before we knew it we received an email saying our visa had been granted. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long it takes to acquire the Subclass 462 Visa.
For the Subclass 417 Australian Holiday Working Visa you have to provide evidence of employment, proof of funds, copies of your passport and two passport pictures. It’s best to have this all printed out and to hand for when you land in Australia incase you have to confirm anything.
For the Subclass 462 Visa the same documents are required, though you may need to prove evidence of education and your level of the English Language.
What the visa lets you do
As the title of these visas suggest – Australian Holiday Working Visa – you are able to both travel and work in Australia. Of course, there are some restrictions when it comes to work, but if you’re here to get sand between your toes, experience the Australian outback and swim amongst coral, the restrictions shouldn’t bother you too much.
With both of these visas you are able to work with one employer for up to 6 months. After that, if you wish to continue working you’ll have to find new employment. But, again, this shouldn’t be a problem if you plan to supplement your travels with a few hours here and there.
As for the holiday part, you can stay in Australia and soak up the sun on a year-long holiday if you’ve saved enough to support yourself. Either way, take some time to visit all of the major Australian cities, take the roads less travelled, and see some of the world’s most iconic sites.
Contact Student Finance
For those in the UK who have their student finance repayment in progress or pending, make sure you do this. If you went to university before leaving for your big adventure make sure you contact Student Finance England know that you won’t be in the UK for a while, or you’ll end up with enforced repayments.
The process is pretty simple, just give them a call and they send you an Overseas Assessment form to fill out and return along with the evidence required to show that you won’t be in the country for the year. You have to provide evidence of your visa and 3 months worth of bank statements.
You have to submit this form every year to update Student Finance on your situation, so bear that in mind if you plan to be out for longer than a year. Similarly, if you enter employment abroad, you must notify them.
Australian Bank Account
When you set up an Australian bank account in Australia, you have to pay the bank a monthly service fee – around $4 – to keep your account active. That monthly service fee is waived for 12 months for overseas visitors – perfect!
However, the bank account needs to be opened online and, crucially, before you arrive in Australia! Make sure you look at your banking options before you arrive and save yourself the fees. If you’re not working, those $4 a month may go a long way.
Once you arrive in Australia you’ll need to complete the application process and activate your account by heading down to the bank with your proof of identity and, If you’re from the UK, your NI number – be sure to jot it down before you leave home, we don’t suggest taking your NI card with you.
When you get to Australia you might want to stay in a hostel whilst you find your feet. This will be the cheapest option and it may allow you to meet fellow travellers who can answer your travel – or life – questions. It’s also useful for finding tours and getting a sense of where you want to head to as your trip unfolds.
HostelWorld is super easy to use and you can find hostels across the country. Just enter the location, number of guests and the dates you’re looking for. A list of available hostels will appear. You can see pictures, check out their amenities and read reviews from other travellers.
We recommend having your hostels planned out for about a month. At the start, you’ll have to go through a bit of admin, which can take anywhere between 7-27 days to complete – bank letters, cards etc will need to be retrieved.
Long Stay Travel Insurance
When you’re travelling around and don’t have a permanent base, getting long-term travel insurance, or gap year travel insurance is so important. Travel insurance won’t just cover you in case anything happens, but will also cover your belongings in case they are lost or stolen.
There are a number of Travel Insurance companies out there but be careful, some of them require a return ticket to purchase. We recommend True Traveller Insurance. You can insure yourself, your laptop and your camera for the entire year, without the need for a return ticket. If you have preexisting conditions like asthma or food allergies, True Traveller will have you covered.
‘Do I have enough money?’ is the usual kind of anxiety inducing thought that can leave you umming and ahhing even before you get to tourist information desks, Australian supermarkets and bars where you reach for that fresh, shiny and newly issued Australian bank card.
Before even setting a foot in the country, you are required to have, at least, around $5000 of available funds. When you arrive, if you’re smart with your money, it can last you a while. Though this isn’t something that should worry you too much.
There are plenty of opportunities to earn and save as you go along on your gap year in Australia. We recommend that you have, at the very least, enough funds to get you home in a case of emergency.
What to Do After You Arrive in Australia
Once you touch down in Australia there are a few things to get out of the way, which will help you further down the line. You can get everything on this list ticked off in the first week so you can start your adventures quickly and without a worry.
Tax File Number in Australia
An Australian Tax File Number is a unique identifier in the tax and super records for those working and living in Australia. Whilst it is not compulsory to have a TFN when working, it will save you from overpaying tax.
It also allows you to claim back some of the tax you’ve paid when you leave or head home. It’s worth doing even if you don’t think you’ll be working – you never know if you’ll need to. You can set up your tax file number online in a matter of minutes. You will then receive your tax file number in the post within 28 days.
Medicare Australia is a scheme you’re welcome to join if you’re on an Australian Holiday Working Visa. We highly recommend joining this scheme. With it, you can go to certain practices without having to pay doctors fees. You could even get some medication fee-free if it’s medicare reclaimable. For those of us who come from the UK, it’ll be like having the NHS lite for your peace of mind.
To set up your medicare account you need to find your local medicare office. Head down to the branch with all of your documents, and collect and fill out a form. You’ll then be seen by a Medicare officer who will check everything over and add you into the system. Whilst it can be a lengthy process, it is relatively straightforward.
When you go to the Medicare centre you’ll need to take your passport, your visa, and an Australian bank account so that they can open your medicare account. You’ll also need to have a postal address to which Medicare can send mail to, incase you make a claim.
This address must be somewhere that your mail can be picked up from and will not be returned to Medicare throughout your stay. It could be a friends address or a family member; it can also be anywhere in Australia, you just want a safe place for your mail to land. If Medicare mail is returned to sender it could put your account on hold – it takes a lengthy process to remove the hold.
Once all setup, your Medicare card will take around 27 days to arrive, but you can start using your account and a digital Medicare card right away by downloading the app.
Phone Contracts in Australia
Where would most of us be without our phones? The big competitors in Australia are Optus, Vodafone, and Telstra. You can get pay as you go options, monthly rolling contracts, and 12 month contracts. If you choose to take out a contract rather than opting for pay as you go you’ll need to show your passport and visa when setting it up.
During the Written From Travel Team’s Aussie holiday working visa, we opted to share a contract with Optus, and use one pay as you go sim on Telstra. Telstra has greater coverage throughout Australia than any other provider. It acted as an emergency sim if we were venture quite far out of Optus range on the road.
Our Telstra sim was pay as you go, which we had to top up every 3 weeks or so. In addition, we could use free and fast Telstra air hotspots, which are dotted around all of the major cities. This was brilliant when we were on the road.
Our Optus contract was $40, which we split between two of us. We had 15GB of data that was used for Google maps and accessing the internet on the road. We also had unlimited Netflix and Spotify streaming as part of the package. We never had to worry about using all of our data watching films or listening to the latest road-trip playlist.
Setting Up A Postal Address
You can set up an Australia Post post box for free and have your parcels or mail delivered there. Once your Australia Post account is setup you can change your delivery destination when needed. If you’re constantly on the move, you can allocate a postal box in that location and have your mail . delivered there at no extra cost.
If you decide you absolutely love a city and want to spend a bit longer there then looking at temporary accommodation, fixed-term, may be the cheapest option for you – and it will stop you having to move every couple of weeks from hostel to hostel.
Once you’re moving around traveller circles you may hear people looking for roommates. There are sites like Flatmates which list vacant rooms throughout Australia. Alternatively you can look for long term house sitting on sites like Australia House Sitters.
This last one isn’t a must, but it may end up saving you a little money in the long run. Two of the biggest supermarkets around Australia are Coles and Woolworths. Both have and use different rewards cards and give you either money off or vouchers when you shop in their stores.
The Flybuys card works in Coles and other stores such as Target and Liquorland. The physical card will take a few weeks to arrive in the post, but you can start using your rewards card straight away by downloading the app.
Getting Around Australia
Local transport such as busses and trains are great when you’re in a city. They will get you to where you need to be and aren’t too expensive. You can either buy paper tickets or a plastic travel card which you top up when needed. However, whilst these busses and trains are great in the cities, these won’t get you from city to city. For that you’ll have to look at different modes of transportation.
For backpackers the Greyhound bus is a popular option – really it’s the only option of its kind, which is both good and bad. They have many routes running throughout Australia with an option to buy hop-on, hop-off tickets, and can also provide you with tours of some of Australia’s renowned landmarks. Getting from one place to another can be quite costly with one way tickets. If this is your selected mode of transport for the year, be sure to look at hop on, hop off tickets that come with a set KM travel limit.
Domestic flights in Australia are popular and relatively cheap if you buy them at the right time. However, you must remember that with domestic flights you only get 20KG baggage allowance. If you came over on an international flight with 30KG, you’ll need to lose or store 10KG somewhere for a while.
Renting a Car
Renting a car is another great option to get from city to city. It allows you to experience the great open road without having to commit to buying a car. If you’re only thinking of driving around for a few weeks to tick the most iconic road trips off your bucket list – The Great Ocean Road etc. – then this would be a fuss-free solution.
However if you want to drive as much of Australia as possible and camp around at some of the beautiful National Parks then buying a car or campervan could be a more cost effective option.
Buying a Car / Van
Buying a car or van can be a lot more cost effective if you plan on road-tripping. The money you invest in the start will come back to you when you sell it on afterwards. Be sure to give yourself enough time to sell it on!
On both Australian Holiday Working Visas you can choose to extend your stay from one year to two. However, this isn’t an easy tick-a-box-on-an-online-form kind of option, you need to work for it.
If you want to extend your visa you’ll need to get yourself some farm work, which has to last 3 months. The rules are slightly different for each visa. You will also need to complete this work within the first 12 months of your first visa to be granted the next 12 months.
Go through an agency to find the work rather than Gumtree – there are a lot of scams on there. If you find the right work placement you’ll be able to go away with more amazing memories and possibly some friends for life.
Australia is a great destination for a Holiday Working Visa, and you won’t regret it. The weather, the open road and the stories you’ll get out of it are priceless. Be sure to stay safe on your travels and watch out for those crocs!