Are you thinking of doing a Working Holiday Visa for Australia but not sure if you’re taking a big risk? Or maybe you’re just keen to read a review of doing a working holiday in Australia?
I’ve actually done two working holiday visas in Australia and am here to show you what it’s like and to hopefully banish any fears you might have about backpacking Australia.
I get quite a few emails from people worrying about coming to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. I know you’ll wondering if you’ll be safe, will you make any friends and then wondering why on earth you’re thinking by leaving your life back home. I’m going to tell you what it’s like from first hand experience and how I can help you with a few tips to get you on your feet.
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What is a Working Holiday Visa in Australia?
A Working Holiday Visa (WHV) is applicable for people between 18 and before their 31st birthday to come to Australia and work for 1 year. You’ll have to change employer every six months which is designed so you can actually see some of the country. You can apply for this visa if you are from one of the below countries:
You’ll need to apply for the WHV BEFORE you arrive in Australia. It tends to take up to six days for approval. Apply for it here. There are so many questions I’m going to cover in another post relating to the WHV and how you can get a second year visa.
If you just want to come over for no more than three months and have no desire to work then you can apply for a tourist visa. Check out my visiting or moving to Australia Tips here.
1. It’s natural to be petrified of leaving home
I left for my first WHV when I finished University back when I was 23. When I finished University I decided I was going to have a year away mainly in Australia on my own. I didn’t really think that much about it until a few days before I left the UK. I felt absolutely petrified and thought I was going to throw up right until I landed in Aus.
Your family and friends will probably think you’re nuts for a/ wanting to travel or b/ wanting to live on the other side of the planet and worst of all do it all on your own. Remember – you are not your friends or family, you are you and it’s something you want to do. The funniest thing is when you go back home, you’ll more than likely notice how nothing has changed at all except you (in a good way!).
If you’re in two minds on whether to go, I would always hands down say YES! You can always go back home and pick up that career again at a drop of a hat. This is your time NOW. Imagine when mortgages and kids are put in the mix. It won’t be as easy then!
If you’re from London, see my London vs Sydney post here.
There are also lots of pro’s to living in Australia here.
2. How to book your ticket to Australia
The easiest way is to book through a travel agent like STA Travel which cater for young backpackers or if you want to book independently then via SkyScanner, Etihad Airways or Qantas.
I booked my round the world trip with STA which also included a pick up service from the airport and 3 nights accom at the hostel called Wake Up. This was incredibly comforting to know there was going to be someone at the airport waiting to pick me up and take me to the hostel.
I highly recommend this service for the first time travellers out there. Otherwise you can either get a train from the airport into town (approx $30) or a cab (approx $60).
3. Book into a Backpackers Hostel
I know you might think it’s probably not for you but by booking yourself into a backpackers in the middle of Sydney is going to be your biggest chance of making friends and finding your way around the city fast.
A backpackers hostel employs staff who can help you out with any questions and advice you need about the city or country. It’s also a very sociable place.
I absolutely loved Wake Up and my friend Jack recently stayed there when he came to Sydney. To find the best accommodation for you, I’d recommend going onto Hostelworld and Trip Advisor.
4. How to Make Friends in Australia
This was taken in a dorm at Wake Up. None of us new each other before arriving in Australia
Following on from staying in a hostel, I would recommend you staying in a dormitory, because you’ll instantly meet other people who are also travelling on their own. I originally stayed in a 4 bed mixed dorm and then transferred to a 6 bed female dorm at Wake Up hostel. I ended up staying there for an entire month because I had so much fun with other backpackers. There’s a bar downstairs which everyone goes to each night so you’ll be meeting people in no time.
There are also expat meet ups as well so you can easily meet other people from your own country. I found that most of the other backpackers in Aus were British with the odd American, Canadian and European thrown in to mix it up!
It’s amazing how many people you’ll meet who will have the same story as you – you’ll both talk about how your friends and family thought you were mad for travelling on your own and wonder if you’re ever lonely. That won’t be the case at all.
If someone asks you to do something with them, always say yes. Don’t be scared to put yourself out of your comfort zone because you’ll be doing that anyway when you step foot on the plane.
5. Will you ever feel lonely travelling on your own?
I met some of these guys in Sydney and bumped into them in Northern Queensland months later
I couldn’t recommend travelling on your own any greater because it gives you the absolute sense of freedom. You’ll end up meeting some of the best people you’ll ever meet as soon as you step foot in Aus and you could end up travelling with them for a bit or even living with them.
When you’re travelling, you make big decisions and fast. You’ll know someone for a couple of days which will feel like a lifetime and before you know it, you’re getting a house together (trust me, I have done that!). That’s how it works when you travel and it’s not something to be scared of but to embrace.
If you’re going to travel, you’ll end up seeing the same people a lot in the most random of places. I kept bumping into the same people I met in Australia who I then saw again in Fiji, Hawaii and San Francisco! If you travel up travelling up the East coast of Australia, you’ll see the same people over and over again. But that’s the beauty of travelling on your own, you decide when you want to move on and venture off to meet new people.
6. How to travel when you land in Australia
Most people either start in Melbourne or Sydney when they first arrive. Melbourne is more cosmopolitan and more similar to the UK whilst Sydney is famous for its Harbour and beaches. A good thing to buy is a Lonely Planet. I know it probably sounds standard but I had no idea what it was when I arrived as a first time traveller!! It’s a great guide that gives you plenty of information on where to explore and stay in Australia with food guides, events and so on.
I had absolutely no plan when I arrived in Sydney and so I found myself jumping on a tour bus up the ever popular East Coast (info on tours here) to Cairns.
To get around Sydney you’ll need to get an Opal card (similar to the London Oyster card), a tap on tap off card for all Sydney public transport. You can purchase them and only top up at any newsagent. It charges you per travel so there isn’t the monthly pass system yet.
7. Travel or Work in Australia?
The biggest dilemma you’ll have is whether to stop and work or to continue travelling. It’s a tough call but if the funds are low, you’ll have no choice. Getting a job is best found on gumtree for hospitality or labour work and for office work, I’d recommend signing up to temp agencies like Chandler Mcleod (I used them for a year!) and searching for jobs on Seek.
You would potentially be paid more in an office job than in a bar. If you want to work in a bar in NSW, you’re going to have to do a day’s course called an RSA. It’s a certificate allowing you to work in the industry. I know it sounds crazy but it’s the law here.
See which is better – working in London vs working in Sydney here.
8. Where to travel in Australia
Getting off the Oz Experience bus from Sydney – Cairns
The most popular route is Sydney – Cairns. During my year I started in Sydney, jumped on the Oz Experience bus to Cairns then went onto Darwin and worked in a bar, hired a camper and drove to Ayers Rock, flew to Perth and spent 3 months fruit picking around WA before heading over to Melbourne and back to Sydney.
There were so many highlights but I loved Darwin and WA the most as they were far less touristy and untouched compared to the East Coast. The beaches in WA were by far the best in Australia too! But, Sydney felt like home and 10 years later it now is 🙂
On a plane in Coral Bay, WA. The water really is this colour!
Just keep in mind about the seasons. Melbourne and Sydney are very cold in winter (yes it does get cold!) so between April-Oct is a good time to head up to the East Coast, Darwin, outback etc. And dec-jan is a great time to be in Sydney for new years and various festivals on.
9. Is it safe to travel alone in Australia?
Australia has to be hands down the safest country I have ever been to in the world. There’s seriously not that much crime here as all you need to do is watch the news. They’ll report stories like how someone was beaten up outside a nightclub and that was standard back in UK.
The problem most backpackers have is thinking they are invincible. Even though Australia is super safe, you still have to keep your wits about you. Lock up you stuff in your dorm at the hostel, don’t leave you handbag anywhere and be switched on.
If you have any questions relating to the Working Holiday Visa in Australia, please use the comments section below or email me privately here. If it’s your first time travelling to Australia on your own, don’t worry too much; you’re going to have the time of your life!!
I recently interviewed my friend Jack who came to Australia on this visa nearly a year ago. Find out how he got on here.