Moving to Sydney

Recently a number of friends and acquaintances in Hong Kong asked me about things they need to consider related to moving to Sydney. Some used to live here, some are planning immigration.

So now you have decided on Sydney to be your future home, what’s next?

Both Sydney and Hong Kong are vibrant cities, but they can be very different.

Let’s first start with the basics: a place to live, utilities, Medicare, driver’s licence, transportation, banks, etc.

Some people would almost want to get a mobile phone plan once their flight touch down at Sydney Airport. Mobile phones are really extensions of arms, can’t survive without it! For those who will get an existential crisis without mobile phones, there are 2 telecommunication providers with a branch in Sydney Airport, both on the departure level. Or you can just use the airport wifi (a bit slow though, really).

Prepaid mobile service will be a good solution when you first arrive. Later on when you settle down with everything in place you can consider to continue using the prepaid service or switch to a postpaid service. It’s easy to purchase a prepaid sim card for your phone (reminder: make sure your phone is not locked with your previous overseas service provider), you can get them from many retailers such as supermarkets or convenience stores, and there are tons of plans to choose from. There are dozens of service providers, the 3 major network operators are Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone (most service providers lease service from them). Once you purchased a sim card, it needs to be activated before you can use it. You can do this online. The law in Australia requires you to provide an identification document (e.g. passport) and an Australian address (this can be a hotel/AirBnB) to complete the activation process.

Next on your list is definitely finding a place to stay. If you have no friends or relatives who can provide you (and your family) with accommodation, you may consider searching for homes on Airbnb as a temporary living arrangement. It’s always a good idea to have a short-term living arrangement before committing in a rental or purchase.

Two of the most comprehensive properties websites are Domain and Both websites cover the whole of Australia and very easy to use. You will be able to look into different suburbs before making the decision of where to reside.

If you are looking into purchasing, solicitors, agents, and banks will be so happy to provide you with all the help and advice you need.

If you are a student, the best solution would probably be student accommodations to start with. Some are run by universities, some are privately owned. Some have private rooms, some have shared rooms. They are somewhat more expensive than renting your own place, but this way you will not have to worry about buying furniture and appliances, and electricity, gas, internet……

If you are thinking of renting a place first, there may be some difficulties starting fresh with no proof of income and no rental records. When I moved back to Sydney a few years ago, I went to numerous rental inspections, submitted lots of forms for rental application, and got zero feedback. All because I was unable to provide a payslip to the landlords. I was willing to pay 6 months of rent upfront, and still unable to find a place to live. After weeks of this tragic loop, I finally had to find a friend to co-sign the lease to secure a place to live.

Frankly speaking, there is no way you can get around this income proof. Landlords and agents are also requesting proof that you will be a good tenant, meaning rental ledgers from your previous landlord or agent. These constitutes part of the 100-point rental system along with photo ID. On top of all these, if you have not personally attended the inspection, agents are highly likely to ignore your application.

So being new to Sydney and trying to look for a rental property for the first time is not as easy as many people would think. Vacancy rates increased a bit over the past months with high-rise apartment blocks sprouting from the ground scattering everywhere in Sydney, but the popular suburbs still face fierce competition, and the landlords have multiple prospective tenants to choose from. What you can do is try to gather as many documents as possible even before you arrive in Sydney, e.g. if you have been renting in your home country, ask your landlord to provide a reference if possible, and the more financial proofs the better. Talk to the agent to get as much advice as possible.

If you are looking for a place to live in Sydney now, all the best in your residence hunting! Next post will cover all other basics such as getting around Sydney, Medicare, utilities, car and driver licence.

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