Last week I re-printed one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles, it was called Girlie Shopping in Australia: Retail Therapy. Well, if you look closely at the magazine cover…
… you will notice it’s main title is “Discover Brisbane”.
That’s something I’ve already done, and so the people from the magazine asked me if I would write an article to help those arriving in Brisbane for the first time with a few local tips.
This was a much bigger article than my usual “Expat Diary” entries, which are all one pagers. This article wasn’t just two pages…
Much of it is specific to Brisbane, but quite a lot also applies to any of you who are newly arriving in any town or city here in Australia. Let’s get stuck in…
Relocating to Brisbane
So, after a great deal of consideration, a lot of paperwork, and most probably a quite substantial financial outlay, you find yourself landing at Brisbane International Airport to start your new life down under.
You might describe it as a brave move; others may call it a dream move; you have to do everything you can to make sure that it becomes a successful move. Going back would probably work out to be just as costly as it was to get here. Yes, some people do return, you probably won’t want to be one of them. You certainly don’t want this to become your most expensive mistake.
I came here in November 2007 with my wife and young daughter who was aged just 3 and a half at the time. I can still clearly remember how difficult those first four months were, whilst at the same time being hugely exciting. Exciting, because there are so many fantastic new places to see, and difficult, because there are lots of things to do before you truly settle in.
So, where do you start? What do you need? Let’s make a list.
Very high on your list of “needs” would be accommodation upon arrival. Next you will probably need to arrange transport, most likely a car. Brisbane is a big sprawling city, not easy to navigate on foot.
So how do you find temporary accommodation before you arrive? This is where Google (.com.au) is your friend. Search for “short term furnished accommodation Brisbane” or “furnished short term rentals Brisbane” for example. I did and I found lots of properties available starting from around $65 per night. You won’t get much for that, but it is short term.
Long term though, average weekly rental prices around Brisbane can vary greatly, starting at $350, rising to $600 or more for a four-bedroom detached house. Be prepared to show bank statements and provide any references you can when applying for a rental; as a newly arrived resident in Australia, it’s the only way your landlord or his management company can check you out.
You’ll need to pay a deposit (bond) of either four or six weeks rent. You will also be asked for a couple of weeks rent in advance; offering more could help you secure the rental. Landlords prefer twelve-month agreements, but you can usually negotiate six. This may be better for you if you are unsure about which suburb you want to settle in.
So, how do you choose a suburb? This is where a car and a Sat Nav would come in very useful. Of course, you don’t “need” to buy a GPS, you could get a street map and ask your partner to navigate. But as you can pick up a cheap Sat Nav for less than $100, who needs the additional stress? I’m sure your passenger would much rather be gazing out the window at their new surroundings rather than burying their head in a map.
Brisbane City is very compact and quite easy to navigate, and the Greater Brisbane Region is also quite straightforward. At its simplest, we have Inner Brisbane including the City. Then we have Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Suburbs. Seems simple enough on the face of it, but within those five areas there are something like 250 different suburbs for you to choose from.
So you can’t beat driving around and taking a look at some of these places for yourself. If you want to be close to the city and in the heart of the busy nightlife, then you need to be looking at the more expensive Inner Brisbane Suburbs. If you would rather be closer to the coastline, then you need to look at Eastern Suburbs.
Notice I said coastline and not the beach? Brisbane doesn’t really have a “proper” beach. But Northern Suburbs are good for access to the beaches on the Sunshine Coast, and Southern Suburbs good if you want to get to the Gold Coast and the much more commercial beaches of Surface Paradise. Each journey would be under an hour from those suburbs.
We’ve looked at how to get short-term accommodation before you arrive, but long-term, whether you want to buy or rent, you should look at Australia’s biggest housing portal, realestate.com.au. You will pick up your cheap Sat Nav from somewhere like Office Works or Dick Smith.
The best place to go hunting for a car would be carsales.com.au, whether you want to buy private or from a dealer. If you are going to be using public transport, make sure you get yourself a Go Card. Fares are cheaper with a Go Card and you can easily get them from most newsagents, post offices and 7-Elevens.
Need to find a school for your children? There are a couple of websites you can look at to compare performances of various schools, but this would be my advice to new arrivals. Send your children to the nearest school to wherever you decide to live.
There is no better way to get to know your neighbours than to meet them as parents as you wait in the playground for your kids to come out. And there’s no better way for your kids to make friends who CAN come round for play dates after school, because you DO live just down the road. But if you choose to send your children to a school a long way away, these things are unlikely to happen. That wouldn’t be good, because to truly settle in Australia, you will need friends.
You and your family have left your friends behind and probably all of your relatives too. You can spend a lot of time missing them and thinking about them, or you can work very hard to replace them.
I would strongly suggest you do the latter.
Make the effort, get involved in community events, meet people and some of those people will become your friends. I can’t stress enough how important this is to your successful immigration to Australia.
Which leads me to man’s best friend; you may also need to arrange to pick up your dog (or cat) from Australian quarantine. You did bring your dog or cat with you, didn’t you? I know it’s expensive to do so, but leaving the favourite family pet behind can just add to the stress when you get here.
So just pay the money and smile, it’ll be worth it.
Bringing your dog.
Brisbane doesn’t have a quarantine station, the nearest one is in Sydney. Your pet will need to be transported from there to Brisbane at the end of their stay. My wife’s business, DogWalks.com.au, can help your pet through the quarantine period and she can also recommend a reliable pet carrier to transport your cat or dog to Brisbane.
There are many other mundane tasks you will need to do on arrival in Brisbane, like registering with Centrelink; getting your Queensland driving licence; signing up with a doctor and a dentist, that sort of thing. But above all you must find the time to explore your new surroundings and visit some beautiful places. It will remind you why you made all the effort to move here in the first place and keep you sane, even if you are struggling to settle in during those early months.
That’s the end of the article, as it appeared in the magazine. If you want more information and advice, I’ve written about every single subject mentioned above elsewhere on this website. I’ve decided not to embed links within the above article to these other pages, otherwise it would just be awash with links.
If you do want further information though, I suggest you start on this page…
… and click on the link to the page from there that is most relevant to what you’re looking for, or simply use the search function in the right-hand sidebar.
Wow, there’s much to learn before settling to new city.
It is obvious to see new exciting things and makes you want to try them.
Especially I have a read quite number of articles on things to do in Brisbane.
And the list goes on and on.
I am Saad from Pakistan. I along with my wife will be arriving in Melbourne next month (on a 189 PR VISA). I’ve been trying to sort out how to find 1st accommodation soon after arrival i.e. where to go upon landing at MEL. This post of yours has been the best help so far. I’m really grateful. I still have a few questions though:
1. Can I rent an apartment (or short term residence) while still in Pakistan? I plan to arrive with my wife and want to make sure we have a place to stay before arrival.
2. If yes, how does renting from overseas work? What documents do I require?
3. If no, where do I go immediately after arrival? As per my understanding, the rental process takes a week or two, and with no initial job at hand I would like to avoid staying at expensive hotels.
Glad to hear you have found this article helpful. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can, but ultimately your first two questions depend on the individual landlords or homeowners.
These days a good place to start would be Airbnb, and you can easily book somewhere to stay through them from abroad. I don’t think you will need any documents, you just need to pay in advance. If it’s just you and your wife I’m pretty sure you can rent a room in a house with the owners living there as well, that will certainly keep the costs down. There are plenty of people on Airbnb that rent out rooms only.
The other places to check out the short-term rentals have already been mentioned in the above article and I don’t think you will have any problem booking from abroad.
When you get here, I’m sure you will want to find a more permanent rental, especially as they are cheaper to rent. I think you’ll find it will take you longer than a week or two though, so if you get the chance to negotiate a good deal with an Airbnb owner for a month, I’d take it.
Hope that helps and good luck with your move, Bob
Hi there – can you “enlarge” on Centrelink in your post. What is it for ? I’ve looked on their website and it seems to be if you need to claim benefit. A bit like our dept of social security / job centre. We are both hoping to secure jobs after a few months and send our daughter to primary school and then Brigidine College when she turns 11 next year. Our 21 year old son might take a bit longer to get a job having only just got his degree ! Will Centrelink be something we need to do on arrival ? Thanks again
Check out my post Centrelink: Social Security in Australia, it should have the answers you need. Cheers, Bob
I visited Australia in 2004 and had two experiences that really stick in the mind.
One was a few hours after I had first landed. I went into a shop to buy a bottle of water and the guy asked how I was doing and what I was up to that day. It was so unexpected that I had to say “what?” and felt extremely rude, but was genuinely taken by surprise.
The second was when our van broke down in the centre of Perth. We were unsuccessfully trying to change a tyre at 8.30am. The number of Australians who stopped on their way into work to help was incredible. We had guys in suits jumping up and down on the wrench and looking under the van helping us. We literally couldn’t have turned them away if we had wanted.
Very nice people
Yes, they are very nice people, always happy to help you out. Makes a change, doesn’t it?
Thanks to you and your blog, our family is quite certain about living in Brisbane. In fact, we have already bought air tickets and booked accomodations in Brisbane for our first arrival in April 2013.
Thank you very much for very positive approach to everything you see down under. Your blog is inspiring people to rethink and realize the true values in our lives that some of us have forgotten.
We will be going through this initial stage of movin in within 9 weeks. I must say that you have given a great deal of assistance with you postings to overcome that fear of uncertain circumstances in front of us.
Hope to meet you in person and buy you a plenty of beer for all your efforts.
Thank you again,
Danil & Zulfiya from Kazakhstan.
Hi Danil & Zulfiya
I’m glad I have been some help to you, and I hope your move goes smoothly. I also hope you get to love Brisbane is much as I do. Our new local pub is still being built, but who knows, maybe it will be finished by April and I might just let you buy me that beer 🙂
Hi Bob, just updating you, we fly out on 4th March to start our Oz adventure. House all packed up, cars being shipped just looking for accommodation at the moment. My husband is going to be working in Lawnton, do you have any recommendations ? Thanks for any help Geraldine
Exciting times! I don’t know the area up their very well, but I have been to Brighton and Redcliffe, both have a little bit of sand, but not what you would call a proper beach. Quite nice around there though.
Rentals, I assume you are going to rent at first, aren’t easy to secure, I’d say your best bet is not to be over fussy with your first one, try and get a six-month lease (rather than 12) and then look around to see where you really want to live.
I hope you get to love Brisbane and Australia is much as I do 🙂
Thanks for the reply, whilst on holiday in the Eastern Med this year, when it was dark and warm we just loved it. Will take some getting used to it being mild weather and dark though . Bumped into my neighbour today who reminded me that her son does the same job as my husband and that he had just come back after a year and absolutely loved being a Doc in Oz. will keep checking on your site for all the excellent info and inspiration you give to those of us who are taking the leap and going on an Australian adventure .
Thanks Geraldine and yes, do stay in touch. Yes, dark and warm is much better than dark and cold, and it’s the same with rain here, warm rain is way better than cold rain.
Update: I should make it clear that I’m talking mainly about Brisbane weather and also do be aware it does get cold at night here, and freezing in many other places in Australia during winter.
im planing on moving to australia with my partner and daughter could you give me tips on how to do this thanks
This website is full of tips for you, start on my page full of Migration Advice … and click on the links to the individual pages.
Hiya Bob, love this website, your sense of humour just reminds me of my own scouse humour….. Anyway, what I want to ask is, how did you adjust to the dark nights ? I have heard (this may be wrong) that it gets dark in Brissy quite early. One of the things in the UK that most folks like is when the light nights turn up. So Bob did it bother you or your family ? Ps we should arrive in Brisbane in January. So we are not thinking its a deal breaker. Thanks Geraldine
Good question Geraldine, and yes, it does get dark earlier than I would like. I think the problem is worst in Queensland, which is a massive state on one time zone and the farmers up north like it to be light early in the morning.
I remember being in Adelaide last summer (January) and it was still light at nearly 9 PM at night. Here, in summer, it is dark by about 7 PM, in the winter it’s 5 PM. So winters aren’t much different from the UK, but summers certainly are; I seem to remember it sometimes still being light at nearly 10 o’clock in the evening there.
The difference here though, is its still warm balmy in the summer at that time, so the outside lifestyle is not affected. I have got used to it, but I would prefer it to be lighter later.
Bob, I think you mean rents start at $350 per WEEK (not month).
‘Long term though, average weekly rental prices around Brisbane can vary greatly, starting at $350 a month, rising to $600 or more for a four-bedroom detached house.’
Woops, that one slipped through the rigourous proof reading process, thanks for the tip off Greg, I’ve now removed the reference to “a month”. In my head I know for sure it’s weekly, my brain is still hardwired to quote rents monthly as they always have done in the UK.