Workwise, it is important to remember that you are travelling to Australia on a visa that will only allow you to work for one employer for a maximum of three months. This inadvertently will mean that you won’t be getting the ‘crème de la crème’ of jobs, as you will be seen as a temporary worker. And in that regard, employers worldwide feel the same; “why pay someone who is only going to stick with me for a maximum of three months a great salary if I can get a local to do the same work for longer?”. So, if you are looking at your time in Australia to give you work experience that will be beneficial to your career, you should rethink your motives for travelling Down Under.
Another thing that unfortunately is not in favour of those backpackers looking for short term work is the large amount of people who have gone before you and scammed employers, quit after their first day, never showed up, showed up drunk because they just didn’t care etc. Sad but true, a lot of backpackers have ‘scammed’ in some way, shape or form and considering Australian employers have to deal with nearly 100 000 of them each year, they are increasingly wary of hiring them.
Compared to 10, and even 5 years ago, work has become increasingly hard to find in Australia for independent travellers. This has paved the way for certain organizations to claim that they can offer guranteed jobs to backpackers who pay them a membership fee. It is always good to be wary of these guarantees as one 8 hour shift already qualifies as a ‘job’ in their eyes. Furthermore, the largest part of the jobs these organizations offer are ‘passed on’ jobs which they get referred from other free employment agencies, so if you enlist with enough free employment agencies, you can always get the same positions offered to you without spending the fees.
Next to registering with employment agencies, keep an eye on the local newspapers and notice boards in hostels for temporary work going around. Most work is still found the old fashioned way, by looking for it. Whether this means searching countless newspaper pages, calling employment agencies regularly to show you are eager or just knocking on doors of restaurants, cafes, bars and lunch rooms is up to you. But if you show you are eager, you will find the work available sooner or later.
There are some times of the year when work is exceptionally hard to find in certain areas, but not in others if you are willing to re-locate. For example, December and January are a particularly hard time to find work in Sydney with a lot of travellers heading there to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations. However, this happens to also coincide with the main grape picking season in Victoria and travellers that are out of money regularly decide to choose making money and spending little to not making money and spending a lot.
Having said all of this, if you go to Australia with right state of mind and expectations regarding the type of work you will be doing there, you will enjoy your time there like no other. Expect to get dirty working on a farm, ‘enjoy’ picking bananas or other fruits with hundreds of other backpackers on a plantation, try your hand at telesales or cleaning in hostels around the country; in short, be ready to do work you would never do at home. And if you work hard and are honest, you will be paving a smoother way for your fellow travellers after you!
The most important reason for heading down to Australia will probably be the travelling that can be done there. And rightly so because there is a lot to be seen and without travelling you won’t be able to see it. Australia might not look the part when you see it on a map of the world but it is the sixth largest country in the world. So when it comes to distance, it is best not to underestimate the time you need to spend travelling in Australia to be able to really see it. For comparison, the 8 States or Territories are about the same size as the 48 mainland states of the USA and about 1 ½ times as big as Europe.
Your choice of transportation around the country should be dependent on the time you have to see it. A good example is the 1000 or so kilometres between Melbourne and Sydney, a good 12 hours by bus or train and comparable with a trip from Amsterdam to Barcelona in Europe. Not to mention the 40+ hours that a bus trip from Cairns to Darwin will hold you up. If you have the time, and don’t mind regular one or two day rides, cars, buses and trains offer a reasonable means of transportation. They also allow you a good opportunity to see some of the country and enjoy the unique scenery, although looking at red dirt does become somewhat of a bore after a while. If you don’t have time, flying is going to be the only option that allows you to see a fair bit of the country in a reasonably short period of time.
Normally speaking, travelling by bus will prove to be the cheapest, with legions of travel passes, kilometre passes, point to point tickets and other opportunities existing. However, with the arrival of Virgin Airlines as a discount carrier in Australia a few years ago, cheap online flight fares have become a regularity. Those travellers with time or good planning in advance can regularly take advantage of prices which are comparable, if not cheaper, to bus travel, without the coinciding travel times.
Very popular among independent travellers are smaller buses that stay ‘off the beaten track’ and travel Australia on smaller roads than interliners would follow. Travelling in this manner allows travellers to socialize more with fellow travellers and to get to know each other better. The bus driver doubles as a guide and there are regular stops and activities along the way, with pre-selected accommodation breaking up trips further. For those travellers with time it is a great way to see more of the country without actually having to purchase your own car or means of transportation.
If full independence is what you are after, your best bet is to hire or purchase a car. If you are staying longer than 4 or 5 weeks, purchasing can already be cheaper than hiring, with numerous car sellers offering a guaranteed buy back at a certain percentage of the sales price. There are numerous garages or autobarns where backpackers can cheaply purchase second hand cars, and some that specialize solely on the backpacking market. Keeping an eye on hostel notice boards and your ear open when talking to backpackers that are leaving the country are other popular methods. With some backpackers abandoning their car at the airport before departing the country, there are often bargains to be found in the case of desperate sellers. Just be careful you don’t end up with their outstanding traffic violaion bills and that your insurance is all taken care of when you hit the road!
One of the biggest worries most people have when departing for Australia is what they will do about accommodation when they get there. Although logical to some degree, it is totally unnecessary. Accommodation is readily available at all different price ranges and if you want the security of booking in advance, there are numerous sites where this can be done safe and secure (like right here on Travellerspoint for example). Many hostels and hotels also offer free airport pick ups as an incentive to book your first nights with them.
Hostels are the most common form of accommodation for backpackers, although some backpackers on a less stringent budget might consider hotels every now and then. Hostels also offer the added benefit of getting to know fellow travellers quicker, offering cooking and clothes washing possibilities and being considerably more social overall, without necessarily losing in cleanliness and comfort. One drawback that unfortunately comes with sleeping in a room full of strangers is that you are bound to be woken at times you weren’t planning to wake up. Another, unfortunately, is theft. Not everyone in your room might be inclined to respect that what you purchased is actually yours, so it is smart to keep an eye out at all times and not to leave valuables lying around.
If you are planning to stay somewhere for longer than a month there might be other options interesting to explore that provide you with a totally different experience. Short term shared housing options are an interesting possibility forming a good middle ground between a hostel and your own rented accommodation. You still share a room with a few people but these are all travellers staying for at least one month and therefore you get to know your fellow room- and housemates a lot better. Prices are not necessarily cheaper than one week rates in hostels but the added security and sense of ‘home’ are worth it to many.
If you are really planning to stay somewhere for a while, short term leasing is usually the cheapest and safest alternative. Although lease contracts for periods shorter than six months are not readily available, some real estate agents do offer them. Alternatively you can sign an agreement for longer and hope to pass it on to another traveller after a few months. Be careful that your name doesn’t remain on the contract in this case so as to avoid unexpected bills later on. It is fairly common practice among backpackers to accommodate and ‘pass on’ rooms in houses that have been inhabited by travellers for years. No one really remembers who initially started leasing the place and as long as the rent is paid each month (and there aren’t too many complaints from the neighbours), the agencies tend not to care too much. Local newspapers often have a weekly section with short term accommodation making these are a great place to start looking if you are thinking of signing your own lease. Otherwise, keep your eye on the notice boards in hostels to take over someone else’s room when they move on. No need to pay too much if you can have the same for less!
More Australian resources during your trip
Check out these valuable travel resources while you are in Australia. They will open in a new browser window.