Living in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide for International Students

Australian Culture

Moving to a new country can be a confusing bundle of excitement and anxiety, and a common fear that most international students have is how they’ll adapt to Australian culture. You might experience initial culture shock, but that’s alright. Learning to face challenges and adapting to major changes are a valuable part of growing up and gaining new experiences. Plus, Australians are all about keeping it friendly, so don’t be afraid to keep positive and reach out! Here are some tips to familiarize you with Australian culture.

In Australia, it’s important to treat everybody with respect, regardless of age, race, class, gender or sexual orientation. When you’re in a restaurant, shop, or any other situation where you’re receiving service, remember to treat staff kindly and say ‘thank you’ after they have assisted you. Be mindful about street etiquette – it is prohibited to loiter on the street, and drinking alcohol in public spaces is not allowed. When waiting for a service or public transport, it’s important to stand in an orderly queue – don’t cut lines or push ahead, as it shows a lack of respect for the people around you. When taking public transport, wait by the side of the doors to allow passengers to exit the vehicle before you enter.

Australian Culture

When you’re on public transport, avoid eating or engaging in loud conversation, and always offer your seat to those who are more in need.

Improve Your English

When you’re planning on living in Australia as an International student, there are plenty of reasons why you should brush up on your English language skills. From completing an English language test to be eligible for your student visa to getting the most out of your courses, here are some ways to improve your English so that your transition into Australian life is a lot smoother.

Read, watch and listen to more English-language content
Sign up for English language courses
Speak English with your friends and family
Keep a notebook for new English vocabulary

Improve Your English

Student Visa Documents Checklist

Completing an application for a student visa can be an intimidating task. To make sure your application process runs smoothly, we’ve created a brief checklist of the documents you need to prepare before you’re on your way to Australia.

Personal Documents

Passport, Birth Certificate, National Identity Card. Make sure that these documents are valid and have not expired.

CoE

Provided by your institution once you receive and accept your offer. This is an essential document to apply for a student visa.

OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover)

As an international student, you’re required to have OSHC for the proposed duration of your student visa. Make sure this is prepared by the time you begin your application, as you will need to provide the name of the health insurance provider, starting and finishing date of the cover, as well as a policy number (a policy number is required if you or an agent has applied for OSHC, but not if it was provided by your institution).

English Language Test Results

To be eligible for an Australian student visa, you must sit for an English language test as proof of your language proficiency. Currently, there are five kinds of tests accepted for student visas in Australia: IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, CAE, and OET.

Packing Tips

Medical Examination Results

A medical examination may be required, depending on your home country and your intended length of stay in Australia. Keep in mind that medical examinations can be completed before you lodge your visa, but no more than 6 months before your course begins.

Evidence of sufficient funding

The Australian government requires evidence that you’re able to financially support yourself for the duration of your stay. Documents such as government and institution loans, scholarship letters or proof of a parents’ annual income are required, as well as evidence that these sources of funding are genuine. If you’re submitting your parent/guardian’s source of income, submit a document proving your relationship to them. If it’s a business or institution, provide evidence that they’re still running.

Packing Tips

When you’re packing to live and study in a different country, things can get overwhelming quite quickly. Fortunately, we have some helpful suggestions on what to bring and what’s best to leave at home, to save you the time, stress and additional baggage fees!

Essential Items

You can get almost anything in Australia. However, as an International student, there are some items that are irreplaceable, so be sure to double-check if they’re in your bag before leaving for the airport.
Passport
An electronic or physical copy of your:
Student visa
Letter of enrolment to your Australian institution; and
CoE (Certificate of Enrolment)
Important contact information

What to Bring

A list of things you should bring to Australia – it’ll make life a lot easier if you have these when you arrive. Plug adaptor suitable for Australian power outlets, Australian currency, enough to support you until you register for an Australian bank account, and weather appropriate clothing – Australia’s seasons are different from the rest of the world, so make sure you’re not packing sandals and beach shorts if you’re travelling in July!

Packing Tips

What Not to Bring

The Australian Government imposes strict laws on what you can bring into Australia. A list of items that are best left at home includes certain food, plant material and animal products. If you’re thinking of bringing in food items that remind you of home, it’s not necessary as many international grocers in Australia stock food items and ingredients from different countries.
Large amounts of cash – you’re required to declare anything more than $10,000.
Anything that could be considered a weapon is not allowed. If there are any items that fall loosely under these categories that you are unsure about, it’s best to either leave them at home or declare them on your incoming passenger card. Please click Australian Border to get more details on what you can or cannot bring into Australia.

Arriving Here

Airport Transport

The first thing you should arrange after arriving in Australia is transport from the airport to your accommodation. This can be prepared pre-departure or arranged after you’ve arrived at the airport. Below are a range of available airport transport options:

Taxis

Taxis are a no-fuss way of getting to your accommodation. You can usually book one at a service kiosk available at the airport, or pre-book one online. If you’re bringing with you a large amount of baggage, remember to add that information when booking, so that the taxi service can provide you with a vehicle to accommodate your needs. Although taxis are easily accessible and convenient, they fall on the expensive side of airport transport.

Airport Buses and Trains

Airport buses are a common way to get to and from the airport. In Melbourne, you can choose from either a Skybus or public transport buses. Keep in mind that whilst public transport buses require a myki (public transport pass), you’ll be able to either book a Skybus ticket online or buy a ticket at a ticket booth in the airport. For more information on airport buses in Melbourne. In Sydney, travelling from the airport by train is more convenient than by bus. Trains run approximately every 10 minutes. Don’t have an opal card (Sydney’s public transport pass)? Don’t fret, as you’ll be able to purchase one from the train station, or pay by Amex, Visa or Mastercard.

Arriving Australia

Shuttle Buses and Limousines

There are a number of independent shuttle buses and limousines available at the airport. They’re a cost-effective way of getting to your destination. You can access them online and pre-book them in preparation for your arrival, or book them at the kiosks available at the airport.

Uber

Uber is a new, cost-effective and convenient way to get to your destination without much hassle. However, you’ll need a stable internet connection, an Uber account and a credit or debit card that can take Australian online transactions to be able to use their services, which may not be accessible to an International student who has just arrived in Australia.

Accomodation

Accommodation can be tricky, especially if you’re new to the country. We’ll walk you through some accommodation options and their pros and cons.

Homestay

For those who prefer a family setting, a homestay option allows you to live with a family in their home.

Pros:

  • Additional living costs such as meals, utility and internet are covered by the family
  • Opportunity to immerse yourself in Australian culture
  • Living with a family can help with homesickness and loneliness

Cons:

  • Less independence – as a homestay student, you’re expected to abide by the household’s rules.
  • Most homestays are located further away from the CBD, so travel times and costs will increase.

Student Housing

Student housing is ideal for the international student who wants a sense of independence, with the added benefits of student support and round-the-clock security.

Pros:

  • Fully furnished, often includes additional facilities such as communal study spaces and dining areas
  • Usually located within the CBD and in close proximity to institutions
  • Utilities are often included in rent

Cons:

  • May be higher in cost than shared housing and homestay
  • Rooms are often small
  • Meals are not provided.
Accomodation

Shared Accommodation

Shared houses, or shared accommodation, are a great way for students to cut costs whilst living with a group of people.

Pros:

  • Shared cost of rent and utilities
  • Good opportunity to make friends
  • Provides students with a more independent lifestyle

Cons:

  • Overcrowding and fighting over communal facilities may occur
  • Lifestyle clashes with other roommates
  • Lack of privacy

Private Property Rental

Students who value their privacy and are confident about living independently can consider renting private property, either individually or in groups of two or more.

Pros:

  • Independent living
  • Increased privacy
  • Provides students with a choice in their living preferences

Cons:

  • Costs might be higher than shared accommodation
  • Utilities are not included in rent and often have to be set up by the tenant themselves
  • Difficult to meet new people

No matter which accommodation you end up choosing, it’s important that you understand your rights as a tenant, security bonds, leasing conditions and more. For a more detailed guide, visit VIT’s guide to student accommodation here .

Transport

As an international student, there are many modes of transport you can take to get from place to place. Here, we outline a few that may apply to you:

Public Transport

Getting around Melbourne and Sydney is no problem, thanks to their efficient public transport systems. The trams, buses and trains available in Melbourne are all accessible by a myki card, so be sure to top-up if this is going to be your main form of transportation. You should use your myki to tap on whenever you enter a form of public transport, but you aren’t required to tap off for Melbourne trams.  In Sydney, students living in the city and suburbs can easily get around by bus, train, light rail (tram), and ferry. These are accessible by an Opal card – remember to tap on when entering a form of public transport, and off when you are exiting.

Bikes

A cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way of getting around is by riding a bicycle. In addition to staying active, you’ll be able to easily access areas that public transport might not cover. However, be careful of weather changes and pay attention to road safety – rainy roads can be slick and dangerous, and you should always be alert when you’re on the road, for the safety of yourself and others.

Car

Choosing to travel by car is by far the most expensive option, but it’s time-efficient and convenient. Just be sure to pay attention to road safety (sometimes road rules in Australia are different from your country) and check if you’re holding an international driver’s license, which you need to drive in Australia as an international student.

Transport

Health

It’s important to pay attention to your health, especially when you’re new to a country. In this section, we highlight the details of your student insurance and provide you with healthcare providers to turn to when you’re feeling unwell.

Student Insurance

All international students are required to have OSHC (Overseas Student Health Cover) prior to arriving in Australia, which covers them for the duration of their visa. It covers the cost of any medical or hospital costs while you’re in Australia. When you arrive, please visit your insurance service provider to collect your insurance card. You should carry the card with you at all times, as most healthcare services require your insurance card when they bill you.

Emergency and First-Aid in Melbourne

Below are a list of medical facilities in Melbourne that offer 24-hour emergency treatment:
St Vincent’s Hospital
41 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9288 2211
The Royal Melbourne Hospital
Grattan St Parkville VIC 3052
(03) 9342 7000

Health

Emergency and First Aid in Sydney

Below are a list of medical facilities in Sydney that offer 24-hour emergency treatment:
St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010
(02) 8382 1111
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
50 Missenden Rd Newtown
(02) 9515 6111

Money and Banking

Setting up a Bank Account

Setting up a bank account is an easy process, as long as you’re organized. Visit your preferred bank and inform them that you’re an international student looking to open a bank account. You can call the bank ahead of time and ask about required documents, but generally, the documents required to open a bank account are:

  • Proof of identity: A passport or national identity card
  • Proof of Australian address: A lease agreement, etc
  • Proof of enrolment: Some banks require a student card, but for others a letter of enrolment should suffice – it’s best to check with your bank

You’ll then be provided with a student bank account and a debit card. Once you’ve put money in, you’ll be able to use your bank account and debit card in your day-to-day life.

Transferring Funds

In order to transfer money from overseas into Australia, you can do so with Telegraphic Transfer (TT). Although a transaction fee will be charged, it’s a relatively fast and convenient way to transfer funds from overseas as it takes approximately 48 hours.

Electronic Payment and Bills

As an international student, there are a series of bills you have to pay, so it’s important to be familiar with online bill payment systems as late payments will incur a penalty fee. Many institutions, utility companies, and accommodation services will give you the option of paying through BPay, a convenient electronic bill payment service. Enter the BPay reference number on your bill and make your payment. Remember to keep receipts from all your payments, to keep track of your finances and to use as proof of payment if any payment mistakes occur.

Communication

You want to connect with friends and family back home, and access academic material online when your course starts – this is why it’s important to set up a mobile SIM and a home wi-fi network as soon as possible.

Money and Banking

Setting up a Mobile SIM

To register for a mobile SIM, be sure to bring in important documents such as an Australian bank statement, proof of identity such as a passport, and a copy of your student visa.

Prepaid

If you’re an international student who doesn’t want to be tied down by a phone contract, or you don’t want to pay for the months when you’re visiting your home country, a prepaid phone plan is ideal as it’s cost-effective and flexible. You can recharge and top-up your SIM however you see fit.

Plan

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of recharging every month, a contract-bound phone plan allows you to stay with a SIM provider for a minimum of 12 months. A phone plan often provides you with more data, calls and external perks than prepaid plans. Most SIM providers also provide students with cheaper phone plans .

Setting UP A Mobile SIM

Setting up an Internet Connection

As a student, you’ll have to access the internet outside of school hours. As such, setting up a home wi-fi network is important if you’re living in accommodation that doesn’t provide wi-fi.

National Broadband Network (NBN)

An NBN (National Broadband Network) is a fast internet service provider that is available in select locations. The best way to check if your location has NBN is to check with your preferred network provider, such as Telstra or Optus, and enter your address. Most NBN plans provide you with unlimited access, with costs varying by speed.

Home Wireless Broadband Plans

You’ll be able to access the internet through the 4G network when you sign up for a home wireless broadband plan. However, keep in mind that most home wireless broadband plans, as they run on the 4G network, provide you with limited data, and are often more expensive.

Setting up an Internet Connection

Student Life

Now that living arrangements have been organised, it’s time to settle into life as an international student in Australia – here are just some tips to get you started.

Academic Success

In order to achieve academic success in Australia, you should make the most out of your resources. At VIT, we offer academic assistance in English language, study skills and academic writing. If you’re a student with us, contact us now to access these services.

Employment

As an international student, you may be interested in gaining work experience and/or earning some extra pocket money. There are a number of things you should keep in mind before you apply for your first job in Australia.

Pay attention to your work rights and limitations as outlined in your student visa. Register for a TFN (Tax File Number). Make sure that your Australian bank account is connected to your TFN, to avoid being taxed large amounts out of your income.

There are a number of ways to find a job in Australia: job search websites, your institution’s student services and personal recommendations. If you’re leaving Australia permanently, make sure to check your eligibility and/or file a claim to Superannuation at www.ato.gov.au/departaustralia.

Safety and Wellbeing

It’s crucial to pay attention to your safety and wellbeing for the duration of your stay in Australia. Here are some tips to keep safe in Australia:

Know the phone number for emergency services (ambulance, fire brigade, police): 000.
Avoid walking late at night. If you have to, avoid listening to music on headphones and pay attention to your surroundings.
When walking in high-traffic areas, always make sure to look twice before crossing the roads, be attentive of traffic lights and other traffic signs, and pay close attention to your surroundings.
Always inform a trusted person of your whereabouts and your estimated time of arrival to your home.
Always keep your door locked, whether it be your car or your home.
Always wear a bike helmet when you’re riding a bike, and always wear a seat belt when you’re in a car.
If you’re feeling unsafe on campus, contact student support services at VIT.

Discover Australia

A great part about studying in Australia is that you’re able to experience the best of what this beautiful country has to offer. Whether it’s a meal after classes or a weekend trip away, you’ll never be bored.

Melbourne

The city of Melbourne is known for its rich arts and culture scene, its budget-friendly dining options, and its coffee! It’s always at the top of the Most Liveable City lists each year, and it’s easy to see why. Here are just some of the things that you can do in Melbourne:

What to See

Hosier Lane is a popular tourist attraction and home to impressive, vibrant street art by international artists.

National Gallery of Victoria – With special exhibitions alongside expansive permanent exhibitions, Australia’s largest, oldest and most visited art museum is a must-see.

St Kilda – Home to a gorgeous beach, amusement park, and a Sunday market full of handmade crafts and artisan goodies, St Kilda is a perfect place to take a stroll or bike ride.

Queen Victoria Market Fresh produce, souvenirs and food stalls are aplenty at the Queen Victoria Market. Night market events are held throughout the year.

Sydney

Home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and globally-regarded landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney is a bustling cosmopolitan city inhabited by friendly Sydney-siders. You won’t want to miss out on all that Sydney has to offer – here are just some of the many attractions:

What to See

Sydney Opera House This iconic cultural landmark of Sydney is even better in person. If you’re interested, you can book tickets to see one of the many dance performances, musicals, concerts – and yes, operas! – that it has to offer.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Another iconic landmark of Sydney, the Harbour Bridge is a beautiful sight to see during sunset. If you’re adventurous, you can also climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Bondi Beach One of the most famous beaches in the world, and the perfect place to go for a beach day. Make sure to have a dip in its famous iceberg pool!

Darling Harbour Home to the SEALife Aquarium, IMAX Theatre, and various shops and restaurants, this is a great place to spend the weekend.