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…
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.