When Jan received news that she had been accepted to go to Melbourne on exchange, we were ecstatic! And I say we because being a remote worker meant I could accompany her there, too.
And being an Australian by birth (I had been “forced” to give up citizenship when I turned 21), I couldn’t have been more excited to return to my home country.
So there was a lot of excitement in the air at first. We were going to live in a charming loft overlooking the city! Make a list of cities and cafes to visit every weekend! Exercise everyday!
And as the date got nearer, suddenly we found ourselves waist-deep in paperwork and chores to be completed. More questions came up than we had answers to:
Was I legally allowed to stay in Australia for the full 6 months?
Were there apartments that we could rent for just half a year?
What was the best way to convert our Singapore dollars to Australian dollars and send it over to Australia with minimum loss in between?
And so on.
Excitement slowly gave way to fretting.
Lots of phone calls and Googling later, however, we came out the other end far more wiser in the ways of the world.
Here are the 5 most important things that we learned as we prepared to move to Australia.
1. For Singaporeans, get the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA)
If you’re not on a student visa, you should get the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA will allow you to enter Australia as many times as you want over 12 months, will be approved within a day, and costs just A$20.
However, you can only stay in Australia for three months on each visit. I used this opportunity to head back to Singapore for a week and stock up on local food, but you can go wherever you want, as long as you leave Australian soil (New Zealand, anyone?).
You can apply for the ETA here.
2. Start looking for an apartment early
Especially if you plan to stay in Australia for less than a year. Short-term rentals are incredibly hard to find, and tend to cost more too.
In particular, apartments near the universities and CBD will be snatched up like hot cakes, so be sure to keep an eye out for them as early as possible.
Also, while it is possible to secure a year-long contract and break the lease later on, in most cases it will cost you a sizeable sum. Don’t take the risk.
3. And if the apartment seems suspicious, don’t settle
We made the mistake of starting to hunt for an apartment only a month in advance. As a result, many of the units that we wanted had already been reserved, and there were few other options.
After days and days of searching desperately, we finally found an apartment that seemed decent. Jan didn’t have a good feeling about it, but nothing that she could put her thumb on, so we decided to run with it. We’d make it work out, we said.
That apartment turned out to be infested with cockroaches, and we moved out within two weeks. Enough said.
4. Use Pay2Home to send your funds over
Transferring large sums of money overseas through banks can potentially cost you a small fortune, not only in administrative fees, but due to poor exchange rates as well.
We had an extremely positive experience shipping our Singapore dollars over to the Commonwealth bank account that we had set up in Australia with Pay2Home. It cost us a mere S$20 per transaction regardless of the amount sent, and the process was very smooth.
As a (huge) bonus – good timing was involved as well – every cent of our Singapore dollars was converted to Australian dollars. 1:1, no tricks and gimmicks.
Learn more about Pay2Home here.
5. Make copies of all important documents
In no way am I exaggerating when I say this. Many things in Australia, such as opening a bank account or starting a mobile phone plan, require what is known as the 100 point check.
Basically, different types of documentary proof of identity are allocated with a number of points. To prove that you are you – and hence are eligible to open a bank account, for example – you’ll need to provide a hundred points worth of documentation.
A passport, for instance, is worth 70 points, which puts you 7/10th on your way there.