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Australia Travel

The Cons, Pros and Need-to-Knows of doing a Gap Year in Australia

October 14, 2014


So technically mine wasn’t a ‘Gap Year’ because I was 27 when I lived in Australia, but for the sake of this post it’s easier to just call it that (it also makes me feel slightly younger). I did a total of nine months in Australia, all spent living on the East Coast. I can’t even put into words the truly amazing experiences I had and the wonderful things I saw; things I couldn’t even fully appreciate until I was back in England without them (like those little annoying kookaburras). However, there were also some things about Australia that I hadn’t expected, so I thought I’d do a post for anyone out there thinking of doing 12 months in the land of Oz.

First of all a little disclaimer (boring, I know) I just want to state that these points are all related to my own experience of living in Australia from 2013 – 2014. Whilst the need-to-knows are facts, the Pros and Cons are related to my personal experience in Australia. Also, I would never try to discourage anyone from travelling to Australia, the opposite in fact, I encourage it. This post is simply just some points I wanted to share for anyone thinking of doing it. So, let’s kick start with the facts…

The Need-to-Knows:

  • An obvious one I’m sure, but I will say it anyway. You need a Working Holiday Visa (WHV), unfortunately you can’t just turn up and live there for a year. You can get this visa by applying online. Of all the visa’s I had to get this one was by far the easiest to apply for and obtain. However it was the most expensive, costing around £350.
  • From the day your visa is granted you have 12 months to get yourself to Australia. The visa will then begin from the day you land in Australia i.e. if it was granted on 14th October 2014, you have until 13 October 2015 to arrive in Australia, and if you arrived on 13th October 2015, you would have until 12th October 2016 to live there. Make sense?
  • It is an electronic visa meaning no paperwork necessary (wooohooo) it will begin once your passport is scanned as you enter the country.
  • Unfortunately if you are over 30 you cannot apply for this visa (I know, ageist, right?)
  • The WHV enables you to work wherever you like, but each job can only last a maximum of six months, meaning you can’t work in one place for the full year. But trust me, Australia is such a huge and amazing place, you won’t want to be tied down to one city.
  • Should you find yourself loving Australia, you can apply for a second year WHV. To do so you will need to spend three months of your first year working on a farm.

For more information on the Australian WHV click here

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the boring stuff out the way, let’s move on to the Pros and Cons….

PRO: Glorious sunshine! Nothing beats waking up every day and opening your curtains to see Sunshine.
PRO: Even the storms are better than ours. I’ve never seen anything like it. We loved to sit on the Porch with a glass of wine and watch the sky light up.
PRO: Bored of one beach? Nay bother, there are 6,999 more you can visit. And they really look after them.
CON: It can get TOO hot. 47 degree heat waves may sound appealing, but trust me they are unbearable, not to mention dangerous for us pasty British folk. I advise living somewhere with aircon.
PRO: There is free water EVERYWHERE, they’ll never let you dehydrate in Australia.
CON: Compared to the UK, Australia’s public transport system is not great, particularly in smaller towns (one bus per hour? Pfft)
CON: Australia is incredibly expensive. People warned me, but I was still shocked at just how high the cost of living is in Australia. So whatever scary prices your thinking in your head, double them!
PRO: Because the country is so expensive, the jobs are very well paid. You can expect to earn around $20 an hour for pouring pints (that’s over £12 an hour, plus tips)
CON: Decent jobs for backpackers can be hard to come by. Unfortunately backpackers have gained a reputation for just upping and leaving whenever they like (although this is a bit of a pro in itself – freedom!) so employers in Australia are often reluctant to hire backpackers. The most popular jobs being offered to us were charity jobs or sales jobs, most of which were commission only, meaning you don’t get paid anything unless you make a sale. Harsh! I only lasted three weeks in a sales job, I was pulling in an average of $100 a week over six days of work (that’s just £55!!) erm, I don’t think so!
CON: In every state you need an RSA to work anywhere that sells alcohol, that includes shops and bars. You cannot work in these jobs without one. In some states, like Queensland, it’s a simple online course, in others you need to go and do a day course. It’s not exactly a huge pain in the arse, but considering you have to pay for it and then wait for your certificate, it is slightly annoying.
CON: In major cities, rent is high, even if you’re in a hostel. We rented a private long-stay room in a hostel for about 12 weeks in Melbourne, it was a basic room with just a bed, we shared bathrooms and a kitchen with 50 others. It cost us $380 a week, £207, that’s double the rent of the flat I left in London.

CON: With drinks and food being so expensive it can often to lead far too many ‘nights in’.
PRO: The thing that is cheap however, is boxed wine, nicknamed in Australia as Goon. For $12 you can buy the equivalent of 5 litres of wine. It taste disgusting and the hangover is a killer, but it’s perfect for you and your buddies on those cheap cheap nights and drinking it has become somewhat of a backpacker ritual.
PRO: If your hiring a camper van for a road trip, campsites are very cheap, and there are plenty of other places to stop, park up, get some free water and have a BBQ.
PRO: Oh, there are public barbecues EVERYWHERE! Now, this is a massive pro. All the parks have giant barbecues set up for the public to use. So at any given time if you and your friends fancy a get together but don’t have the space, just grab some beers and some burgers and head for a bbq in the park.
CON: SPIDERS! GIANT SPIDERS! Oh, and giant flying cockroaches.
CON: Oh and snakes.
PRO: Kookaburras – Fascinating birds that sound like monkeys and live in your garden, amazing to listen to whilst you relax and sip on a glass of Goon.
CON: Kookaburras – Annoying birds that sound like monkeys and wake you up at 6am, horrible to listen to after a heavy night on the Goon.
PRO: Kangaroos. And not just in the Zoo, you can spot plenty of wild Roo’s once you get out of the city.
PRO: You can cuddle Koala’s. Naaaawwww
CON: Crocodiles. If you’re going to remote hot places be very careful near rivers and lakes.
CON: You can’t buy alcohol from local shops, petrol stations and not even all supermarkets sell it, it’s mainly just liquor stores or ‘Bottle Shops’ as the Aussies call them.
PRO: They do have drive-thru bottle shops though.
CON: There are a lot of homeless Aborigines, which is so sad to see, as it’s as if their history has been erased, despite the fact that Australia is THEIR land and home. I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s quite distressing to see how they are treated.
PRO: Head to Nimbin to see an incredible ‘Home Made’ museum dedicated to the Aborigine history, culture and life.

To round up, Australia is a flippin’ amazing place to go and live for a year, there is no denying that. Although their history might be a little messed up, and there are some definite equality issues, if you like beaches, barbecues and gorgeous weather (and your under 30) then what are you waiting for? Whether it’s nature your after or the city life, I recommend it. Just be prepared for the high rent, expensive drinks and if you are planning to work just prepare yourself as much as possible. My advice is to save a nice little chunk of money prior to your trip just in case you have trouble landing a job straight away.