Living In Sydney – What To Expect from Someone Who’s Done It!

You want to know what living in Sydney is really like. In this blog post, I’ll give you the lowdown on finding a job, finding an apartment and how expensive it really is to live in Sydney.

Sydney has been my home for four years, and what a beautiful life I’ve been lucky to live here. I mean where else can you get stunning beaches a short drive (or walk) from the city and what I really love about Sydney is how laid-back it is (I mean it’s almost horizontal it’s that laid-back). Living in Sydney is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever lived (I’m originally from Cork, Ireland).

So, read on how you can make your dream of living in Sydney into a reality!

What is it like living in Sydney?

Sydney is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world – I mean, not only is it home to the iconic Opera House and the Harbour Bridge but the city is filled with quirky colorful area’s like Potts Point, Surry Hills and Newtown. For such a large city (Sydney has a population of 5.3 million) it’s pretty safe, in fact Sydney has a very low crime rate and in my four years living here I never felt unsafe walking at night or getting public transport on my own.

The lifestyle you can have when you live in Sydney is second-to-none, it’s very relaxed here and of course the excellent climate and beaches add to the appeal. However it is expensive to live in Sydney so, of course earning a decent wage is important to truly enjoy life here – rent can be very expensive as I’ll explain later.

sydney opera house
The famous Opera House as seen from the Harbour Bridge!

Is Sydney expensive to live in?

Yes! A persons average expenses for one month in Sydney is $2352 AUD and that includes rent, food and public transport. The average persons income in Sydney is $4300, so, as you can see it doesn’t leave you with much play money. Moving to Australia with a decent chunk of savings is important.

Rent as you can imagine is the most expensive outgoing cost for most people with the average one-bedroom apartment near the CBD going for $2400 AUD per month, of course the further away you go from the city the cheaper rent will become. Some of the cheapest neighborhoods to rent in Sydney include Cabramatta, Blacktown and Campbelltown although less desirable than say Bondi or the Northern Beaches it may be necessary to rent in these cheaper area’s in the beginning.

Buying groceries in Sydney, I found to be surprisingly reasonable provided you shop in the larger supermarkets like Woolworths, Coles and Aldi. Worth noting is to only buy fruit & veg in season as out of season you will be paying way above the odds for certain items. For example, one time I paid $5 AUD for a capsicum (pepper) because I was desperate.

sydney harbour bridge from milsons point
View of Sydney from Milsons Point!

How can I move to Sydney?

A Working Holiday Visa is the easiest way to gain entry to Australia, provided you meet certain requirements –

  • Aged between 18-30, unless you’re from Canada, Ireland or France in which case you can apply until the age of 35
  • Have no dependent children
  • Must hold a passport from one of these countries

If you are unable to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, here’s a list of all other Visa options for Australia

For any of you who have been following my travels for a while, you will know that I love the freedom a Working Holiday Visa offers. My husband & I have been travelling together for 10 years. And we have also lived and worked in Queenstown, New Zealand, Whistler in Canada under the Working Holiday Scheme.

Think about it – you move to a beautiful new country, get to explore said country and the nearby surrounding countries easily and cheaply. What we like to call ‘Expat Travel’ is a great way to see the world. It means you have a base country for the duration of your visa and you can earn money while essentially “travelling”.

As much as we love travelling long-term without a care in the world. There is no way we would be able to do that without having lived in and earned a good wage in countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Luckily, for us we are from Ireland and England, both passports make it relatively easy to get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia.

sydney buildings downtown
Skyscrapers in downtown Sydney!

How to get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia

Perhaps, the most popular of the lot. I think everyone knows someone who’s done a Working Holiday Visa in Australia. This visa is called the Subclass 417 visa.

Step one – 

It’s pretty easy to start the application process, you can start applying online here. The first step is to set up an IMMI account (see photo below) and the next page asks you to set some Security Questions and set a Password.

australia working holiday visa, expat travel

Step two – 

  • Et voila, IMMI account set-up. You then login to your IMMI account and start the application process for your Working Holiday Visa.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to fill out the application.
  • The visa costs $440 AUD. This does not cover other costs, such as the costs of health assessments, police certificates, or any other certificates or tests you may need.

FYI – If you’re a Nurse or plan on working in Social Care or with children you will need to do a health assessment. Find out more about working as a Nurse in Australia here.

Step three – 

  • It can take anywhere between 11 – 32 days to process the visa according to the official Australian Government website
  • Important note – on this visa you can work for any one employer for a maximum of 6 months, there are exceptions to this rule however.
  • Also be aware that at the application stage you will need to prove that you have “sufficient funds”. You must provide a bank statement as a proof you have enough money to support yourself in Australia (AUD $5,000). You may also be asked for this bank statement when you enter Australia so ensure you have a copy of a recent bank statement proving this upon entry.

Working in Sydney

If you’re looking for an easy entry into Expat Travel then I highly recommend Australia as a starting point. The visa is cheap, quick-to-get and relatively stress-free. The work-life balance in Australia is amazing, with an average of 5 weeks annual leave, 10 paid sick days and the pay is high. Australian employers will even pay your Pension for you (it’s called Superannuation in Australia). And at 9% of your salary that can add up to a lot of money. Which you can claim back when you leave. 

Plus, the minimum wage in Sydney is $20.33 per hour, which is pretty decent!

It’s easy to find a job in Sydney even a few days after arriving (especially if you sign up with a Recruitment Agency when you land). You may not get your dream job first but it’s important to get on the job ladder because once Australian employers see relevant local experience you’re instantly more ‘hireable’. For example, I worked in a pharmacy in Rose Bay for my first few months living in Sydney before finding my “dream job” in event production.

One of the best websites for job searching in Sydney is Seek

FYI – in order to work and get paid you need a Tax File Number or TFN. Get this in your first few days (more info here)

milsons point sydney view of opera house
Sydney CBD as seen from Milsons Point!

Renting in Sydney

Rent is expensive and hard to come by especially in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Renting a room may be the way to go to begin with, especially if you want to live near the city, try – flatmates.com.au or gumtree for rooms to rent.

Alternatively, moving out to cheaper neighborhoods like Cabramatta or Blacktown if you want your own place but don’t have a big budget. One-bedroom apartments in these area’s typically average at $1000AUD per month. The most desirable area’s to live in Sydney include Bondi, Surry Hills, Balmain and the Northern Beaches (areas like Manly or Mosman). But you’ll be paying closer to $2200AUD per month for a one-bed in these places!

Sign up with letting agents like McGrath and Raine & Horne early so that you get notified early of any rental properties. Other good places to search for a place to rent in Sydney is on Domain and RealEstate.com.au

The documents you should have at every rental viewing include:

  • A form of I.D like your drivers licence, passport and your PPSN (Personal Public Service Number)
  • References from past landlords
  • A current work reference
  • A current payslip or bank statement that shows your income
milsons point sydney voews
Beautiful Sydney!

Thanks for reading!

Have you ever considered living in Sydney or anywhere else in Australia, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!

If you’re interested in applying for a Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand or Canadaread all my detailed instructions!

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o know what living in Sydney is really like. In this blog post, I’ll give you the lowdown on finding a job, finding an apartment and how expensive it really is to live in Sydney.