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"Difficulties make the travel more intense."

Working Holiday Australia: Part 2 – What to do there?

What are the first steps to do when you arrive in Australia for your Working Holiday?

Once you landed in Australia and you set up in a hostel, the next thing to do to start the real Working Holiday is to face the annoying paperwork. Yes, they’re annoying even in Australia.
In Italy we are used to postal forms, stamps, cash payments, absurd requests of documents which are made just to let work some otherwise-useless official.
So, for me, it was like being in the future, in a space ship, and not in a normal office.

The first thing to do is to buy a SIM card for your smartphone. In Australia there are four major mobile companies, in alphabetic order: Optus, Telstra, Virgin, Vodafone.
Each company offers different mobile plans due to your needs and, obviously, the prices are different depending on the signal power and other services.
Telstra is the major company, the national one (the one that puts public phones in the streets, you know), its signal is almost total in the Country, and it covers even some Outback regions (not everywhere, someone told me), and this is useful if you’re planning to stay away from the cities for a long time.
I’m not going to tell you every SIM plan because they change continuously, but more or less you can spend 50 AUD for 8 GB of data, with unlimited phone calls and texts (Who is using them anymore?).
Optus offers a very good service, and its signal is quite good outside the cities, but not as much as Telstra. I chose Optus for this reason and it was good until I was not too far from the towns.
To get 8 GB you have to pay 40 AUD per month.
Vodafone in Australia ain’t like Vodafone in Europe, basically it works only in the cities. I changed my SIM from Optus to Vodafone in Melbourne (it was really convenient for me at that time), and I saw that just outside the cities the signal disappeared. They say they’re improving it but now I recommend you to use Vodafone only if you’re planning to stay in the city.
In this case the company is perfect because they offer you very convenient plans and, most of all, the possibility to edit your own plan as you like, choosing how many data or minutes for calling you want. The standard plans give you 3 GB for 30 AUD, or 14 GB with 50 AUD.
The last company is Virgin Mobile. I don’t know anybody who is using this one, but on their website they offer you 5 GB for 30 AUD. Probably the signal is worst than the Vodafone one, but if you want to remain in the city and you want to save some money, maybe is the right choice.
Every company has its own App for smartphones in which you can check your balance, the plan, etc.

The second thing to do is to open a Bank account, if you’d like to work legally in Australia. You should buy the SIM card first, just because in the Bank they’ll ask you a phone number to open the account.
I chose Commonwealth Bank which is the most diffuse bank in the Country and it has the major number of ATMs, even in the outback, so you can avoid to pay the fee for every withdrawal.
If you choose Commonwealth Bank you can also open (and close) the account from home through their website.
The differences between the banks are not so many, but above all, I’m not an expert in banks or financial stuff to tell you which bank has the best interest rate or whatever.
Every Bank will give you a Debit Card, to withdrawal money or pay in the shops, and an App for your smartphone to check your balance and transfer money. Anyway, any bank is just good to get your money from your employer (weekly).

Commonwealth and the other Australian banks – Westpac, NAB, ANZ – have branches even outside Australia, especially in New Zealand, China, USA, UK and the other countries in South East Asia or Oceania.
When you’ll go to open the account they’ll ask you some personal information and an address to send you the Debit Card and other notifications. You can easily give the address of your hostel and it’s good for them, the card will arrive in a week.
They’re used to backpackers who open and close Bank accounts every day, so don’t worry about it.

The last important thing to do is to apply for the Tax File Number, TFN.
To apply for it you can go to this website. They ask you the usual personal information and an address. Even for the TFN you can use your hostel address.
In a week you’ll receive the TFN and you should keep it safe because is a personal number that belongs to you for all your life. You can comeback in Australia after years, to work, and the TFN will be the same, you won’t need to apply again.

There is one more thing I want to talk about, but I’m not sure that is the same for every Country.
For Italians, we can apply for Medicare and having a free health insurance which cover us for the first six months.
To apply for this you just need to go to a Medicare centre with your own Health
Insurance Card (from home, the card from your own country) and your Passport, and apply for the Australian Medicare. They will send you their Card in 6-7 days.
After the first six months you can leave Australia and comeback, to ask a new Medicare for free, or you can just buy a private Travel Insurance online to cover the other six months.
I know that some countries don’t have this agreement with Australia, so you should check before going there.

In the next post I’ll talk about how to find a job (resumes and ad sites), and how to pay (or claim) taxes before leaving the Country.



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