The Ultimate Guide to an Australia Working Holiday Visa

I had originally written a similar post 2 years ago; before actually stepping foot in Australia. I clearly thought I was a know-it-all. I felt it was high time to give this bad boy an update and add any extra information I feel is useful for current or future backpackers coming to Australia. Its very info-heavy so I do apologise but hopefully you can take the best out of it to help with your travels - or just skip all the words and look at all the pretty pictures I have taken. 



I came to Australia in March 2016 and have had the best time. I am currently in my 2nd year with less than 6 months left before I have to leave this beautiful country I have fallen in love  with. I've seen and done the most incredible things and covered so much ground already but still barely scratched the surface. I came out by myself so if you're also planning to come solo do not worry you will be fine! 
I have a lot of content & videos on Australia throughout my site so have a read through and hope some of them inspire you! 

BEFORE COMING TO AUSTRALIA 

WHICH VISA?
If you're wanting to come visit Australia, great news - you can! You have the option of either a 3 month Tourist Visa (Subclass 600) which lets you travel around Australia for up to 3 months. You CANNOT work whilst on this visa, only travel!
OR you can apply for the beloved Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) which allows you entry for 12 months where you can work and travel your way round this beautiful country. You can apply for your visas directly on the Australian Government Border website. I recommend applying for your visa at least 1-2 months before you intend to travel. Generally visas can take a couple of weeks to be granted - mine took 5 minutes but i'm special. Once your visa is granted you have 1 year to enter the country. On entry, your visa is activated and you have 12 months to enjoy. If for any reason you leave Australia during those 12 months - say for example you go back home for a month for Christmas, your visa continues and will still expire 12 months from the date you first arrived. 
Always check the entry requirement for your specific country! Some common requirements include: 
- Must be between 18-31 
- Have not been on a WHV before in Australia
- Has enough money to support yourself - around $5000 and at least $1000 for a return fare home. You can sometime be asked to prove this on entry into Australia but no one I know has so far. 
The visa is attached electronically to your passport so no need to carry your visa documents around everywhere - just make sure you take 1 paper copy for just-in-case-purposes. 


FLIGHTS
To get to Australia, likelihood is you're going to be on a plane for a very long time. When booking flights don't book the first ticket you find; spend some time comparing prices and if you can be flexible with your dates have a look at different weeks incase you find an even better deal leaving a week later. I booked my flights through STA Travel online & booked from Manchester to Perth (via Doha) for March 2016 for £310 one-way. I flew with Qatar Airways and it was faultless! I had originally planned to travel in late January / February but the prices were almost double. So instead I booked for March and it meant I had an extra month or so wages from work. 
I always use Sky Scanner to compare flight prices. If you aren't too fussy about long it takes, you might often find cheaper flights that maybe have an extra stop or longer wait times. The more direct options; usually with Qatar, Etihad, Emirates will more than likely be the most expensive but you are paying for a great quality airline. 
Example flights times: 
Manchester to Perth - 21 hours
London to Perth - 19.5 hours
London to Sydney - 22.5 hours
London to Melbourne - 22 hours 
These are general and can depend entirely on where you have a layover & for how long for. 


I will always recommend buying a one-way ticket - you have 12 months in Australia and plans can change on the daily. You may book a return ticket from Perth back to the UK for 12 months down the line but end up living in Sydney & plan to stay on for a 2nd year. Also it would be rude to just fly straight back home; you're on the other side of the world you may as well explore a bit more and take a trip to New Zealand, Indonesia or SE Asia.

So the question is where do you book your flights to? Australia is extremely big FYI so spend some time researching the best base to start for you. I started in Perth because exploring Western Australia was my top priority & there was activties, like swimming with Whale Sharks that were only possible a few months in the year so I wanted to do them during that time. I've found the most popular places for backpackers to fly to is either Melbourne or Sydney. If you plan to go with a fair bit of money behind you and want to travel for a while, make a list of things you are most interested in seeing and see where the closet major city & airport would be for you. The great thing about Australia is though, if you're not feeling somewhere you can easily hop on a domestic flight elsewhere for relatively cheap. 

Try not to come with a solid 12 month plan because chances are you'll be changing it a lot. Its great to know where you want to see but try to leave room for freedom and spontaneity.  You'll end up allowing yourself to go to areas you maybe hadn't considered and new opportunities  The map below is really handy and shows loads of the most popular spots and activities around Oz. 


INSURANCE
Get travel insurance. End of. Make sure you are covered for the full length of your visa. It isn't one of the most exciting aspects of preparing for a trip but can be one of the most important. Australia is home to everything that wants to kill you - if it tries, you'll be glad you've got your insurance! This was the result of a zucchini & too much wine - just think what an actual harmful accident could do.


ACCOMODATION
You've booked your flights & know exactly where & when you'll be arriving into Australia. I would recommend booking in some accommodation ready for your arrival and book at least the first week. My favourite site to book my hostels is Booking.com - you can filter by price, location etc and see on the map where exactly they are in relation to the city centre. Australia is perfect for backpackers and caters well for us with the abundance of hostel options in each town & city. Some of the most popular hostel chains are: YHA, Nomads, & Base. Your best bet is booking into a shared dorm; mixed or female rather than isolating yourself in single rooms. The bigger the room the more people you will meet! Hostels are literally the best and easiest way to meet like-minded travellers like yourself and start forming those bonds. On average I'd say a decent hostel is around $30-35 a night depending where you're staying. Always read the reviews of hostels & what they include; a lot will include breakfast which will save you some money on food & see if they have any weekly free activities. 


BANK ACCOUNT
Ok so you don't have to set this up before you leave but I did because i'm organised AF. The most common banks in Australia are Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB. Probably others but my minds gone blank. I set up an account with Commonwealth online from the UK. I would do this AFTER you book your flights so you know where you'll be starting off and where you can collect your card from. Its very easy and simple to set up - you are provided with all your bank details so you can easily transfer your saved money into your Australian bank account ready to use when you arrive. When you arrive into Australia you can pop into your local branch and collect your card which will be ready to use straight away. This just saves times doing it when you first arrive and waiting for your card to be processed.


SAVE SAVE SAVE
The sad truth is that you need money to travel. If you're planning to come to Australia and don't want to have to work for a while, make sure you get those dollas saved. Australia is an expensive country to travel and live in but if you work hard beforehand and save up as much as you can you'll benefit in the end. I had about £5000 saved which I transferred to my Oz bank account before I left the UK - exchanged to just under $8000. It can seem like a lot of money and you can feel like the richest person but trust me it doesn't last. I'm guilty of it - I am not the best person with money and takes me until I literally have $2 (legit happened) to my name that I became money-conscious. 


ONCE YOU'RE IN AUSTRALIA 

SIM CARD
You're going to need to get yourself an Australian sim card for your phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked so that you can use it aboard. There are a number of different phone providers in Australia, the main being; Telstra, Optus & Vodaphone. Telstra probably have the most coverage across Australia, followed by Optus, and then Vodaphone not so much. Get yourself a sim only and choose the best top up plans for you. I was with Vodaphone when I first arrived and loved their plans; they had the best prices with great data but once I left Perth CBD I literally had no service. I switched to Telstra and get full coverage the majority of the time, its just their data plans that screw me over. 


TAX FILE NUMBER 
If you want to work in Australia, you need a Tax File Number - TFN. You will be required to provide this for any job. You can only request a TFN once in Australia so I recommend sorting it within the first week you arrive - it can take a week or 2 to be posted so make sure you're going to be in the same hostel. You can apply for it online at the Australian Taxation Office website. The number will be posted to you and make sure you keep it safe so you can provide it to employers. When you are employed, you will be taxed on your earnings. At the end of every tax year (July) you will be apply to apply for your tax back. 


SUPERANNUATION 
Superannuation is a % of money that employers will pay out on top of your wage into a "fund" for you - its basically like a retirement fund but as we're backpackers we can only access it after we leave Australia. You can set up an Super Account with your chosen bank - they will send you all your Super account details which you can pass onto your employers. This saves having several accounts set up with different companies - so that when you leave, you can claim you Super back all at once. This isn't massively urgent to sort out but something handy to do. 



REGIONAL WORK
So your current visa allows you to stay in Australia for 12 months. However (depending on which country you're from) you do have the option to extend this by another year. To do so you must complete 88 days of "regional" work. You may have heard horror backpacker farm stories but don't worry the majority of the time they are great & you have no problems. You do not have to complete your 88 days on the same farm, but it helps if you can. Regional work can vary from picking different fruit & vegetables to working in a remote outback pub. When applying for jobs always make sure they are valid to be counted towards your second year.


I completed by farm work at Dalbeg Inn in Queensland picking, sorting & packing zucchinis and squash. You had to work for 3 months on the farm to get your visa signed off - I stayed for 4 because I loved it so much & i'm a loser. Its a fantastic way to save money & the people you meet there will be friends for life. Once you have completed your 88 days - if you want to stay straight into your 2nd year you must apply whilst in Australia and remain there until it is granted. Try not to leave it until the last minute! Otherwise you can leave and use your 2nd year another time before turning 31. You may be asked to provide evidence when applying so make sure you keep all payslips handy & send it any relevant photographs showing your time on the farm. 


JOB REQUIREMENTS
In Australia you need a certificate for everything. If you plan to work in a bar or a restaurant or anything that involves being around alcohol you will need to get yourself an RSA (Responsible Serving of Alcohol) - these vary from state to state so if you plan to work in a bar in Sydney & get a NSW RSA, and then move to Melbourne, you'll unfortunately need to get another one. You must pay for the course but can be done in a day at a centre. If you want to work as in labour you have to have a White Card. There are loads of other courses you can do to make yourself more employable; Food Safety, Traffic Controller, Barista etc. 


FINDING WORK
Your visa allows you to work in Australia; however you can only work for the same employer for no more than 6 months in each visa year. Sucks I know. You might find the job of your dreams but are not allowed to work for more than 6 months. The main purpose for this is to make sure you are using your visa for travel as well as work. Finding a job can be hard, especially in the large cities with so much competition but don't fret. Tips to help you:
- Make sure you have an up-to-date resume with all your Australian contact details. 
- Complete any of the courses you'll need for the type of work you want to do; RSA for bar work etc. 
- Gum Tree, Indeed & Seek will be your new best friends. 
- Join an agency to help you find work if you're struggling. 
- Don't be afraid to try new things - I have been a cleaner, door-to-door sales, TV extra, window cleaner, charity fundraiser & all sorts before finding a job I really liked. If it keeps you in the country for longer and helps to pay the rent then who cares! 


HAVE FUN
& most importantly of course is to enjoy your new adventure. I am so lucky to have experienced and been where I have over the last year & a half and can truly say that coming here was the best decision I have ever made. I hope the above helps even just 1 person and makes the whole experience a little less daunting. 


If you have any questions about Working Holiday Visas in Australia / living & travelling Australia in general then please feel free to comment below or send me an email. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions. 

Other posts you might find useful: 

Thanks for reading & happy travels 

♡ G

Join me on Instagram @gemwills 

& follow me on my Australia Adventure! 

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