Practical advice on moving to SYD [from the UK]

Old Oct 23, 10, 3:36 pm
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Sydney
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Practical advice on moving to SYD [from the UK]

Please move this after a period of time on here to the appropriate place, however I thought I'd start here given the number of followers that seem to be based in SYD...

I will be moving down to SYD in Jan with my wife & daughter on a work secondment. She's an Australian citizen and her parents live there so shouldn't be too hard to settle in. However I'd be interested in hear any tips from others who have followed a similar route, such as recommendations on international removals, opening bank accounts, finding rental accommodation, buying a car, etc. I've only just started looking into this as the formal offer just came through so looking for any help however small!

Also to make it on topic, they will pay for our flights but only in Y...! I'm thinking of trying to convince them to pay my taxes if I were to use my own miles and a 241, however there is no availability so the chances of this look remote anyway. So what would be the other recommendations for getting down there as comfortable as possible? We will probably stop over anyway and don't mind where that is.

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Old Oct 23, 10, 3:41 pm
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Can you get Premium Economy classed as "Y"? Just a thought...

Can't help with your specific questions but wanted to extend an early "G'day Mate, welcome Down Under"...

Be careful though.... an ex-RN Commander I worked with in our Navy had originally come here on a 2 year attachment... when it came time to return to the UK.. in his words..

"I couldn't get my wife out of the vineyards or my kids off the beach!"

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Old Oct 23, 10, 4:49 pm
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HSBC have an excellent international service, and can help with opening local bank accounts and credit cards. Best to get all this sorted before you arrive.

If you need to stay temporarily in a serviced apartment before finding something more permanent I would recommend:


and in particular:

But the biggest tip I can give you is to learn about and apply for LAFHA:
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Old Oct 23, 10, 5:01 pm
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Originally Posted by oscietra View Post
HSBC have an excellent international service, and can help with opening local bank accounts and credit cards. Best to get all this sorted before you arrive.
When I moved to New York, I had US bank accounts and credit cards sorted 3 months before I moved. My employer did it all for me but you can just pop into a branch to start the ball rolling. If you have UK accounts with HSBC, they link all your accounts together so you can move funds between them instantly which is very handy.
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Old Oct 23, 10, 7:32 pm
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If you have an Amex card already, you can use their card transfer service.

Alternatively, many of the big Australian banks can set you up with an account before you leave the UK. I went with Commonwealth, and used their international support team based in London:

As mentioned already, read up on the Living Away From Home Allowance. You are not legally entitled to it - it's up to your employer if they decide to set it up. But it makes a large chunk of your salary tax-free, so definitely worth asking for.
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Old Oct 23, 10, 7:37 pm
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For cars Trading post & carsguide are places to start
As your wife is Aussie does she have an Au bank account ?
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Old Oct 23, 10, 9:07 pm
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Sydney, Nova Scotia
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We made the same move a couple of years ago (permanently), fortunately just before the UK exchange rate tanked!
Re bank accounts. We used the Commonwealth migrant service, which gave an account in London and Sydney - v useful for transfers.
We have UK & Oz addresses, and so have kept our UK Amex (no BA Exec Club out here) which we use in UK and added a Qantas Amex for local use. Have used 2for1 from UK card for trips back - obviously requires planning next trip at same time as round trips must originate London unless just use one way LHR/SYD. As you say, availability for 2for1 is tight but LHR/HKG usually wide open & we have managed to use voucher to route LHR/HKG & then SIN or BKK/SYD on BA miles (for same as LHR/SYD fare) with a cheapie on Jetstar or similar to cover the middle sector. Alternatively, just use your 2for1 to get as near to Oz as possible..e.g. routing possibilities incl LON/MRU on BA then MRU/SYD on Air Mauritius who had a cheap biz fare last time we looked.
Re removals. We used Pickfords - excellent service, took around 6 weeks and no problems at all - they packed & unwrapped everything so little for us to do!
Re accommodation. Prices in SYD still high as no housing crash yet (and an Aussie obsession with putting money into investment properties). Look at &
Re cars - is a good starting point, or most dealers have ex demo cars at a good discount.
Best of luck!
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Old Oct 23, 10, 11:19 pm
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Very topical thread for me having just moved over about 6 weeks ago.

oscietra gives some good tips. I used the apartment service to arrange accomodation while I was looking for somewhere more permanent. However, watch out with them as they require 7 days notice to change/cancel your booking so you may end up paying for two places if you don't work things out properly.

On renting, it's VERY difficult! Being an immigrant, you will have no rental history here. That puts you at the bottom of a very large pile. Renting here works like this:
  1. Check out and for properties that you are interested in
  2. Most estate agents WON'T give you a private viewing, unless you are talking about spending large sums of money or are dealing with an agent that tends to deal with more corporate clients (I can recommend someone as I was also in this situation, drop me a PM). It really isn't worth entering into a conversation with them because most will simply push you towards the open inspection, they are simply not interested as the market is so active.
  3. Viewings normally take place on a Saturday morning, be early, you only get 15 minutes
  4. If there are properties that you really like prior to the viewing, try to download the applications forms in advance from the agent's website and fill this in prior to the viewing so that if you like it, you can hand everything in straight away. You will need a copy of your passport and visa information, driving licence, payslip or contract, bank statements etc
  5. Once you have viewed a property submit the application to the agent there and then or head down to their office straight away, you may need to pay a holding deposit (normally a week's rent)
    TIP - Applying for a property is not on a first come first served basis, so take your time at the viewing, don't feel as though you have to be the first to approach the agent
  6. Once the applications are in, they are collated and the landlord decides which one he likes best (there is nothing more that you can do at this stage)
  7. If you are successful expect to pay about 4 weeks rent as a security bond plus 4 weeks rent up front before you can move in

I was almost tearing my hair out trying to find somewhere to live. I viewed about 25 properties over 4 weeks and applied for 4, all were rejected due to lack of rental history, something completely out of my control. Very frustrating. I eventually met an agent who mostly dealt with professionals migrating from Europe and understood the issue of rental history and was able to look past it.

Other tips, sometimes, if a property is really popular, people will add extra to the rent to try and secure it, sometimes as much as $50 a week. They also might offer to pay 2 months up front rather than the standard 1 month.

Removals - I used Anglo-Pacific for removals. Can't recommend them I'm afraid. They sat on my stuff for a month before loading it on to the ship and it was difficult to get progress updates. My stuff is on a boat somewhere between Singapore and Sydney at the moment. It remains to be seen if it arrives safely!

I would go with one of the more well known companies.

Banking - I signed up to Westpac as this is the company that my employer banks with. The process was very easy. After 30 minutes I have a checking account, savings account and credit card.

One thing that no-one seems to be able to explain to me though is the stupid 'cheque', 'credit', or 'savings' option that you get asked everytime you buy something with your debit card. No-one can give me a precise answer as to what to use when and sometimes not all of the options come up. Very confusing.

I use Moneycorp to transfer money back and forth as it works out cheaper than using the bank rates, but it is slower, taking about 5 days end to end.

Cars - Very expensive here, especially European cars. In the UK I had an Audi TT which cost about 30k. That same car over here is closer to $80k which at the current exchange rate is 49k so brace yourself. Insurance is also high over here and you will be penalised (excess wise) for having no history and a foreign licence (although that is not unexpected to be fair).

LAFHA - Living Away from Home Allowance is a very lucrative tax benefit which allows you to write off your living costs against your tax. For example, if you rent is $700 a week, you simply reduce your taxable salary by that amount, meaning that you pay a lot less tax. However this only applies if you are here temporarily (temporary visa such as 457) and intend to return after your visa expires.
You'll need to speak with your employer as this benefit is paid through payroll. You'll also need to speak to an accountant about your personal situation so that the correct calculations can be made.

Medical - Check the conditions of your visa. Most visas require medical cover. Australia has a reciprocal agreement for UK citizens called Medicare (like the NHS, but not quite as everything isn't free). Check to see what your requirements are as you may need to take out private cover also.

Bring with you - You can get most things here that you can in the UK but if you are a particular fan of any food items I suggest that you bring them. You simply cannot get prawn cocktail crisps here, as one example! You will find Cadbury's chocolate (and it tastes the same), hob-nobs, decent tea bags etc.

If you want to know anything else, drop me a PM.

Enjoy, you've picked a good time to come over, the height of summer, expect a bit of a shock as you step out of the airport terminal.

Last edited by matthandy; Oct 23, 10 at 11:46 pm
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Old Oct 24, 10, 2:40 am
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Originally Posted by matthandy View Post
I used Anglo-Pacific for removals. Can't recommend them I'm afraid. They sat on my stuff for a month before loading it on to the ship and it was difficult to get progress updates. My stuff is on a boat somewhere between Singapore and Sydney at the moment. It remains to be seen if it arrives safely!
Same - avoid. They took ages, issues on arrival, and according to Natwest my credit card details were leaked/sold so my card was cancelled and had to be reissued (this was obviously by an employee, not the company, but still left a bad taste).

matthandy's post was very good info, spot on in all areas.
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Old Oct 24, 10, 2:53 am
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To add to matthandy's post:

The cheque, savings or credit question when buying something relates to credit cards offered by the big banks. When I lived in Aus I had, through the ANZ, a Visa credit card, a savings account and a cheque account all on one physical card. I could then choose which account to pay from.

For debit cards it's less of an issue as typically the credit and savings options are linked to the same account, but most debit card accounts in Australia have a limited number of "savings" transactions that can be made each month, where "credit" transactions are usually unlimited.

As for cars, yes, all European cars are much more expensive, except things like the Astra which Holden bring in and rebadge. As there is a strong domestic car market, all the European brands are taxed heavily. Add in shipping and you're better off just buying a Commodore or a Falcon - there's a reason those cars sell so well. They're the size of a 5 series BMW and cost AUD40k (admittedly the quality isn't there, but if you have kids, it's a big consideration)

Definitely apply for LAHFA if your employer approves it, it will be worth a great deal to you.

I lived in Sydney for many years and if you'd like any other more specific advice about areas to live in or some such feel free to drop me a PM. All the best for the move.
estate is offline  
Old Oct 24, 10, 3:03 am
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Did this six years ago. May I suggest : for the Australian forum. Everything you wanted to know about migrating/long term stay from the UK but were afraid to ask.

Removal company : We used PPS and they still come highly recommended.

Bank Account : NAB - Simply because its fee free banking with heaps of branches and you can open an account from the UK

Money Transfer :

Above all - best of luck. Sadly there is no way to make the UK > Aus trip much fun in Y. Perhaps your company would just pay you the fare and you could make use of the *A US Airways deal since it's still double miles until the 15th November. Although I doubt it would work out that great given the FX rate from GBP.
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Old Oct 24, 10, 4:44 am
Join Date: May 2009
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Originally Posted by estate View Post
Definitely apply for LAHFA if your employer approves it, it will be worth a great deal to you.
You should hopefully be entitled to this, i was when i lived in SYD for both my WHV and then 457 VISA, it was worth a great deal. Seemed a little complicated for me at the time and my employer was not much help so i enlisted a payroll company to sort it out for me.
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Old Oct 24, 10, 6:35 am
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Cheers for all the advice, has given me a lot to think about. I will get the LAFHA but I wasn't clear how they calculate how much you get. Is it based on your actual rent and living costs or is it a fixed amount? also would nursery fees be covered?

I heard about cost of cars and was considering importing my 330i but seems a lot of hassle and after costs and what I might be able to sell it for it didn't seem worth doing.

I am with HSBC but they told me it costs 150 to set up an AUS account over here so I'll wait until arrive as my wife has her own

Am keen to live on north shore but in laws are in hurstville and it's likely I'll need to do frequent trips down to MEL so getting to the airport quickly is good

One other question- are there sim only iPhone plans and which operator has the best deals and network?

Thanks again!
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Old Oct 24, 10, 1:19 pm
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The HSBC account opening service (and international transfers) are free if you have HSBC Premier, there are certain criteria for this like income and/or and holding HSBC products. These criteria vary between countries. If you are close to qualifying it might be worth seeing if you can upgrade to Premier and then open an Australian account saving the 150.

The Amex overseas account opening service is good but in may require proof of Australian address. In my case they first wanted a bank statement but then were OK to accept a letter from a bank with an Australian address on it.

The Commonwealth Bank UK account-opening service is also fairly hassle-free.

Most Australian bank accounts come with fees for operating the account - HSBC Premier avoids this.

I believe that opening a bank account once you are in Australia as an immigrant is easier within the first few weeks after arrival, after this time they require more onerous proof of address.

Either the HSBC or Amex route (or both) can give you access to a credit card in Australia based on your UK credit rating. It's worth hanging on to your BA Amex if you have one and if you will still have a UK address, as the 2for1 on redemption flights is not repeated with the Qantas Amex - the top tier Qantas Amex offers a free internal flight each year but that is not nearly as good a deal as the BA Amex 2for1. Amex is quite widely accepted but a lot of places surcharge if you use it to pay with so having a Visa/Mastercard product too is a good idea.

You can get SIM-only iPhone plans or pay as you go from most of the mobile companies. Phone contracts are expressed on work on a monetary 'cap' rather than a number of minutes each month which takes a bit of getting used to. Getting a contract as a new immigrant can be a bit of a hassle.

If arriving into SYD buy something from duty free to get to an express immigration channel.
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Old Oct 24, 10, 2:42 pm
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Definitely avoid Telstra for your mobile, they're worse value than the rest. 3 are pretty good, as are vodafone. Coverage isn't a concern, it's all good everywhere in the cities. However if you have to go bush at all then go with Telstra.

Cap plans are similar to what exist in the UK, you might pay $49/m, and that gets you $300 worth of credit, to be used on calls or texts, as you please. Same idea as here but you get the flexibility between calls and texts.

North shore is great, I lived there for many years, near Chatswood. With the Tunnel and the Eastern Distributor it's not that hard to get to the airport, my old man does it weekly and it's perfectly fine. For getting to Hurstville - it's probably about 40mins (non-rush hour) from Chatswood. I used to visit my sister in Rockdale and it wasn't bothersome. I wouldn't go much higher than Lindfield though, purely because of the commute.

I can't comment on LAHFA details, but this would be a good place to start:
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