417 – Working Holiday Visa

Hello – this blog post is for one for anyway who is interested in learning how I made the decision to booking a one way ticket from Ireland – Australia & also can be useful for anyone who make have that fear of making the leap.

Recently it hit the 6 month mark of my visa here in Australia so it pushed me to share my journey so far. I’ve put in a lot of effort to make this post as informative and honest as possible! So hang in and continue reading if your interested in coming to Australia as you will learn a few tips.

One Way Ticket…

Basically since I left school I always had a passion to travel, I knew I didn’t want to go to university, personally it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have much interest during school for various reasons and once I completed my Public Services & Health & Social Care at collage I still didn’t have much knowledge or insight into what I wanted my career to be.

Luckily Nathan my partner has the same passions to travel & explore so Australia wasn’t a random move for us both, we had talked about a one way ticket since we moved into our first home together back in 2015.

We both weren’t fully happy back home. I felt the weather very draining and the lifestyle isn’t great either which left us with not much options to do anything outside of working. Our weekends consisted of boredom and often led to pigging out on junk food. We didn’t have many close friends or family so also felt a little lonely at times.

From my situation I had nothing really that kept me from making the decision to move but it wasn’t something easy for me either. I done a lot of research and thinking in my own time without Nathan because you need to consider your own happiness and think “Is this what I want?” & also knowing its a one way ticket can be quite frightening because you don’t actually know when you may return. BUT don’t worry I have learnt to realise no matter where you are in the world – you’re home is only a flight away.

I try not to think negative about any situation but leaving & taking that risk to see more of the world has really made me learn and understand more about myself & I’ve realised who I truly am as a person. I used to be this up tight person, who would of over thought every single situation & cried most times as I was lonely and didn’t feel like I had a strong support around me. I felt like my life consisted of working to pay my rent, bills, food & even working 60+ hrs a week in 2 jobs I felt like I was still not making it much further in life.

If your young and got nothing stopping you definitely take the leap and go for it. Don’t overthink the situation or make excuses like you can’t do it alone or think of all the things that may go wrong.

Its such a popular thing and its like the norm now, lets be honest half of Ireland/UK are out here.

As much it sounds/looks or seems like the thing to do you need to remember a year is a year and can be a very long one if you make the wrong decision.

You may only see people’s Instagram photos of them travelling and seeing the beautiful sights of Australia but don’t forget besides all the amazing sunny beach worthy photos you see, are there any posts on the tuff times struggling, finding a job, coping with the pressure of being so far away from home or running out of money??

Remember you can always experience different emotions even when travelling so here is my journey so far.

First steps…

First steps are applying for your visa and researching how the visa works as there are certain restrictions. I went onto the Australian Government website and applied for mine which I highly recommend. Some travel agents try to charge nearly double the price as they help you fill it out online but it’s fairly basic information. If you choose to fill it out yourself, it will not only save you a little bit of money but you hear back with a response almost immediately.

We got our visas granted within 12 hours via email and obviously jumped for joy (then reality kicked in).

The visa we applied for was the 417 Working Holiday Visa. This allows you to work and live next to the beach for 1 year, however you are only allowed to work for one company for 6 months then you must leave and apply for another job. If you wish to stay longer than the 1 year you have to complete 3 months regional work or get sponsored by a company.

Savings…

I tried to research before travelling on how much savings to bring but online forums weren’t the best to judge by as people always have different interests & plans so we can’t judge our savings against theirs. As I had my 3 weeks accommodation in Sydney & flights already pre-paid this made the process a little easier as this meant I only needed to worry about transport costs, food & activities. Me & my partner brought $3,500 AUD between us and this lasted roughly 5 weeks – including budget hostel stays, a road trip & car hire around Gold Coast before he started a labour job through our hostel in Brisbane.

I would recommend bringing as much as you possibly can if you want a stress- free relaxed trip and don’t want to rush into getting a job as soon as you arrive. Also I would advise to save as far ahead of your trip as possible to give yourself enough time so your not having a lot of stress to save last minute before your trip begins.

Preparations…

After our visa got granted we had to begin preparing for our move to the other side of the world. We firstly give our Estate Agent notice that we were moving out and our jobs notice of leaving. Then the difficult part was selling our car, furniture, clothes and basically giving up everything we owned.

Every Sunday morning for us consisted of freezing cold car boot sales at 5am haggiling to get every penny we could. It was a very stressful yet exciting few months ahead of us!

Whilst all the preparations were happening in the background I was working extremely hard to save money and worked 7 days a week on top of learning how to drive! I think if you have to work hard for something it will push you to prove not only people around you but also yourself that you can do it and when you reach your goal you will then be able to appreciate it and always look back on it with gratitude!

In the end it all worked out & we both managed to save enough money for our trip to Thailand, Singapore & then Aus. I received great news of passing my driving test 3 weeks before leaving.

Next steps…

You will need an Australian bank account to not only save money but to also start using when you enter the country as this will make everything easier.

I opened our bank accounts online after our visas were approved to gather as much money as we possibly could then we knew where we stood with the financial side of things.

If you wish to open an Australian account you can do this online before entering the country. I recommend banking with ANZ as my experience has been good with them so far.

I used Torfx for the middle person to transfer from our UK account to Australian account as bank charges are far too expensive for international transfers. Using Torfx is free, although the minimum transfer is £100.

I always like to be prepared in advance so I pre booked and paid for all our accommodation through Booking.com as I couldn’t imagine arriving to a country you’ve never been to before & having to search for available rooms.

We both left our jobs 2 weeks before our departure date, this give us more time to do last minute shopping for essentials and organising our house for the BIG MOVE. We were lucky we did take these few weeks off as we only sold our car 5 days prior to leaving, talk about nerves.

TIP: I would highly recommend giving yourself a least a week before leaving on a way way ticket as this gives you time to accept whats ahead of you, gives you quality time to spend the last few days with friends & family and also gives you extra time to pack & prep everything you need.

Day of Departure

12.03.18…

I felt so SICK and it literally felt like I was on this ongoing rollercoaster ride. I didn’t know how to think or react to the situation. Early this morning we handed our keys back for our home then got the next bus from Belfast Europa to Dublin Airport.

The feeling was just so strange and as soon as I got to the airport I took full advantage of the Executive Lounge. I had a few too many Gin & Tonics to help calm my nerves! I still can’t believe how I managed to get my life rammed into 2 bags- for anyone wondering we brought 30kg each!!

After some travelling in Singapore and Thailand we finally touched down in Sydney after 2 weeks.

Arrival to Sydney

25.03.18…

We arrived in Sydney International and collected our luggage then got the train straight to our hotel which was only about 10 minutes away. First thing that shook me was the price of the train journey which was only a few stops away. It cost just under $20 however do be prepared if your getting the train to or from the Airport that there is a tax charge on the public transport costs and this is why the fare is so high.

Transport around Sydney is really efficient and I do recommend getting the Sydney NSW Opal card as it will work out a lot cheaper. It works by just topping up an amount and then for every journey you tap on and off. Once you hit 8 journeys within 1 week you get half price fares the rest of the week.

We arrived to our hotel in Newtown and stayed in Sydney Park Hotel for 1 week it was beautiful and the location was perfect as it was right across the street from St Peter’s station so it’s really ideal to get in and out of the city. Our first week here in Sydney was treated as a holiday and we did a little bit of sight seeing.

Luckily when we arrived in March it was still roughly around 28 degrees so we were able to go to the beach and chill.

Important must do’s

1) Day 1 or when you get over your jet lag I advise you get an Australian SIM Card straight away. I find Vodafone have the best value deals for data as it’s what I use my phone for the most. I get 25gb per month for $40 which is roughly £20, pretty sweet right?!?

2)Another important thing I advise to do is to go online and apply for your Tax File Number unfortunately you can’t do this abroad and can only apply for your TFN once you arrive to Australia and are staying at an Australian address however it arrives in the post really quickly. You need this to be able to start working so you get put through the right tax code. It’s basically similar to what we call National Insurance Number back home.

3) You will need to set up a Superannuation account. I set up mine through my bank as I was advised this was the easier option. This is also something you need before you commence working it’s abit like a pension and you can claim up to 40% of the amount back once you leave the country or if your staying in Australia it will build up until you retire!

4) Join any online groups / forums for backpackers in Australia – I recommend a group on Facebook called “Irish around Sydney” this page is full of rooms, rentals, people selling stuff, people suggesting things within Sydney & also can be a good page to meet people! I also recommend following anyone you may know already out in Australia & reaching out to them when you arrive can be helpful this way you will feel more at ease & not alone – they can help you explore & find places. Make sure to join any hobbies / interests you would enjoy like football, gym, gaa as there are a lot of groups out here & this can also be a great way to make friends.

Must sees…

First place I wanted to go and see was the Opera House and Harbor Bridge! It was so surreal to see in person.

This area is my favourite in Sydney to take in the sights and dine. There are many beautiful restaurants around here. I recommend The Opera Kitchen and Searock Grill for food & drinks. They are reasonably priced for being right next to the Opera House.

Check out my Sydney Food & Drink Blog post for my top places to eat & drink.

The upcoming days were spent walking around the city and we visited the massive Westfield Shopping Centre. This shopping centre is built below Sydney Tower which is the tallest structure in Sydney. You can dine here and also climb Sydney Tower, it’s on my list to do!

We visited Darling Harbor and went to Hard Rock Cafe for food!

There is also plenty of variety of restaurants around Darling Harbor area, a little more expensive but you also have the views to take in.

Darling Harbor has an amazing firework display shown every Saturday night @ 8.30pm. They are definitely worth the watch!!

Blue Mountains is a must see!! Its the Grand Canyon of Australia. We took the train here and from Central it’s roughly a 2 hour journey. The views at this National Park are incredible it costs roughly $70 if you want the package which includes the worlds steepest train and rides on the cables around the park. We took the walk which takes you close to The Three Sisters and the photos you can get here are amazing!

Bondi Beach is my favourite beach in Sydney!! The waves are crazy and I love the vibe here it’s very chilled and the area is beautiful. I find it awesome that everyone comes here to surf after work and on a hot day it’s packed with people! It’s a very popular location to hang out!!

After a fun week in Sydney we had the intentions of living in Brisbane so we already had our flight and hostel pre-booked. We were sad to be leaving Sydney as we fell in love with it as soon as we arrived.

We didn’t have any friends or family in Australia but we knew of friends and people that had travelled here. Before arriving we listened to their experiences and advice. We were told that Sydney was extremely expensive to live in and heard good things about Brisbane that it’s a smaller city and easier to get jobs and living costs are much lower.

Hence the reason for our pre-booked trip to Brisbane! Well we lasted 2 weeks in Brisbane and even at that it felt like a long time lol. I don’t regret listening to others and taking on board there advise but sometimes you have to just experience the situation first before you decide. I suppose I done the right thing by leaving because I knew I didn’t like it almost instantly.

I honestly didn’t notice a difference in prices or costs of living. I tried to get a job and apartment and found it extremely difficult, who knows maybe this was a good thing?

Brisbane…

We arrived to Brisbane and stayed in City Backpackers for 2 weeks. This was my first time staying in a hostel. Listen up girls it’s not glam at all and your anxiety flies through the roof when you have to enter the shared kitchen which is literally a bomb scare 24/7. Trying to get a hob to cook your food was a total disaster screw that I lived off fast food to get over my anxiety of the place.

Thankfully me and Nathan were in a private room but it was literally like a prison cell. You have your double bed, a window and enough room to open the door. You have dreaded room checks at 8.30am every god damn morning. This is to check if there is alcohol in your room, omg how did I cope?

The noise at night was something else this give me an insight into how immature some people are. At like 3am some thought it was fun and cool to run up and down the hall ways like kids cos they were so stoned off their bakes.

We both then started to feel really home sick and cried most of these 2 weeks. We knew this was not what we expected and certainly not how we wanted to spend our time here.

Here is the view at the top of City Backpackers Hostel. I do recommend staying here if you plan on seeing Brisbane as the view overlooks the whole city.

Brisbane is a very small city with not much of a buzz, there’s very little to do. If you are looking to visit here I would only recommend staying a couple of nights but no longer. Our hostel was a short walk away from South Bank which is lovely to walk around. There is a man made beach here which is also cool to chill and you have some restaurants around this area also.

Within the first week we viewed roughly about 12 apartments and didn’t hear back from a single one haha I also struggled to get a job and before I arrived I’m not going to lie I thought I would get one instantly but it’s not easy, well definitely not for girls. It’s much easier for guys as there is always labour work going for them and they can get work through most hostels.

I do advise coming with enough savings as things can get pretty messy if you don’t have enough funds whilst being out of work. The hostels are even expensive! Into our second week in Brisbane we accepted that we were not staying here and started thinking where next & what next?!?

Decision making…

We came to a decision that we wanted to go on another little trip up to Gold Coast but after this we thought it would be best to get our 3 months farm work over and done with for our second year visa.

So we hired out a car through Hertz which cost only like $300 for the 2 days. It was so funny watching Nathan drive an automatic car for the first time. I must of went through the windscreen at least 50 times.

On route to the Gold Coast we stopped off at Burleigh Heads it’s basically a small town but has a lovely beach that over looks Surfers Paradise in the background.

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We also stopped off and had a day trip around The Australian Zoo owned by the Irwin family. It was incredible to see how Steve’s family are keeping the zoo going just they way he would of wished it to!!

Bundaberg…

We then continued our road trip which was another 5 hour drive to Bundaberg. We actually were in a rush too as the hostel reception closed at 7pm so we knew we had to arrive before this time to check in. (Me and Nathan are forever late).

When we arrived we left our luggage etc in the car and went straight into getting checked in. The couple behind the desk give us information on the area, told us how everything works and give us a tour of the hostel. Then they announced our room was a 6 bedroom male dorm.

DRAMA: for me I was fuming I literally burst into tears and refused to stay here once I seen the state of the room then also a bong caught my eye. Once Nathan knew I was upset he decided to go speak to the night manager and told her the situation that we basically drove 5 hours to get here and were promised a double room prior to arriving.

The staff more less didn’t care about the circumstance and said that’s where we would stay regardless of what the manager promised us, which was a private room over the phone. So we sat in the car for roughly 2 hrs and both cried then laughed and said to each other right we can do this. We spent the rest of the night moving our stuff into the room and spoke to a few people which made it less awkward.

Although the more people we got to speak to and got to know we found were actually struggling to get work and were living off very little funds so we found this worrying. We were promised work in 2-3 days as it was lemon season but after 1 week here we left as every day we got told the same bullshit lies that it would be another day to wait for work.

On the 6th day of being here we finally got told the truth that we would be waiting at least 3-4 weeks on work as the hostel had to accommodate for roughly 40 people on the waiting list infront of us. The staff advised to get some money of our parents to stay HA, unfortunately I’m not a sponge and this is when I needed to rethink the situation.

I realised this place was a total scam I watched many people come and go and everyone I spoke to got told the same thing and got sent the exact same email about starting work within a few days. I don’t like to slate people nor businesses but if they are going to take the hand out of people, others need to be made aware of this to avoid the same mistake.

Basically what they were doing was taking people’s rent money on arrival and people were still expected to pay rent regardless of not having any work. The pay was also horrendous you got piece rate which worked out that some people in the hostel were earning $20 per day for 8 hours work. HOW IS THIS LEGAL?!?

This doesn’t even pay a weeks food shop never mind $230 a week on rent. SHOCKING!!!

This is like the one point in my life where I followed my gut feeling and knew we had to escape this horrible situation.

My gut told me to get on the next flight out of here and I knew we could not stay here for another 3 weeks waiting on work we would have no money like how would that work?!?

You know sometimes you have to take control of situation so I took full control and went back to our dorm and was like “Nathan we are leaving on the next flight back to Sydney tomorrow morning”. I knew it was the best thing to do and spent the rest of this day contacting many hostels throughout Sydney until I got reassured that one of us would get a job.

If you do research on Bundaberg you will learn it’s very small and located in the middle of nowhere so firstly we had to get a 4 hour train to Brisbane to get to the airport. This train cost like $280 altogether for both our tickets then the flights from Brisbane back to Sydney cost nearly $200 each.

Back to Sydney…

We spent so much money and learnt a lot from this situation, it left us both broken for months.

Luckily we found Cronulla Beach Backpackers and spoke to the owner over the phone a few times which reassured us that he would have a job for Nathan the next day and he did.

We arrived here the following evening and were given a bed in a mixed dorm.. yes AGAIN. Although this time around I didn’t care I just wanted out of that horrible crappy place in Bundaberg.

The receptionist said we would be given the next private room that became available and I still remember the day we received the text to say “You can move into a private room tomorrow” omg. I was proper jumping for joy to be finally in a double bed and not be squashed on a top bunk next to Nathan in 25 degree heat!

We got treated really well here by the staff and they reassured we would not be messed around. They had a lot of time for you and you could tell they were nice people. The owner only charged us for 1 person when we arrived because he felt so bad for our situation…what a guy!!

We literally were at a all time low after this situation we had just enough money to make it by. We lived on beans & toast and maybe treated ourselves to super noodles a few times… NO JOKE.

Honestly it was scary that we survived many weeks on $50 between us both. I don’t know where I would of been without Nathan because he was the one who got the job, supplied the beans and bread but also paid our rent or we would of been homeless.

Finding a Job…

I was without a job for roughly around 3 months and trust me I was on every job site applying day and night. I printed my resume and handed it out to local cafes, bars, shops. Heard nothing back and everyday got tougher because I was in the hostel alone when most people were out at work and I didn’t have money to do anything.

One thing that I found irritating is not every company wants to employ people on a working holiday visa as it has certain restrictions so this does make finding a job a little difficult.

A few weeks later I ended up with 3 interviews in the one day and the last interview was the one I got the job for. I applied to many recruitment agencies within CBD that way I could be contacted for any temp work & with another upcoming roles.

A few weeks later me & Nathan both got in the same job and had a contract for 6 months. What else could we want? I was delighted to finally get back to work, get my body into a routine and earn money again.

We stayed at Cronulla hostel for a total of 3 months and it was during the worst time “WINTER” it rained so much and the hostel was literally -5 degrees during this period. The room was full of moisture and so horrible to live in, some of my clothes actually went mouldy in the room it was that bad.

Moving In…

We were friendly with two Dutch guys that we spoke to anytime we were in the hostel kitchen together. They offered for us to move in with them. At first we were indecisive but when we went and viewed the house and realised it was going to be $100 cheaper each to live here we decided to go for it.

We moved in the following weekend and were literally so excited to have normality back. Our own bed, kitchen and bathroom.

I’ve learnt that living with people is the way to be if your travelling Australia because it makes the rent so much cheaper and means you can save a lot of money to continue travelling. The deposit and rent is way too expensive if you want to go private and not share especially if you know your only going to be living there a few months temporarily

After a few months of working, saving money and basically only finding our feet again. I got taken into hospital due to a allergic reaction. I was never allergic to anything back home but I took a bad reaction to an apple cider I drank. This situation really stunned me because I knew nothing about the Health care system in Australia.

Medicare…

The morning I rang the doctors and explained what had happened they advised me that I needed a Medicare Card, I was like what’s that?? I went straight to my nearest Centrelink and filled out the application. The process took roughly 5 mintues. I was given a temporary number until I received my card later in the post. I was advised to go straight to hospital and show my passport which meant I would get seen without being charged.

When I woke up this morning and knew I had to go to hospital I took a panic attack and was totally shaken up because I obviously didn’t know how much it was going to cost me. So I advise even if your spending 1 year in Australia to register for a Medicare Card it’s free and will get you seen by a doctor etc the only cost you will have is if you get supplied with a prescription.

I am so grateful for the service and treatment I received on this side of the world because when something like this happens it really worries you especially when you don’t know much about how it all works.

Being so far away…

Home really does seem such a far distance and it can be difficult sometimes especially adapting to the time difference, we are currently 10 hours a head from Belfast so keeping in touch with family & friends back home can be a little frustrating some times with the time change.

I feel living out here is such a life changing difference – no 2 days are the same & you learn / face new challenges every day, I love it!

I feel so free and actually feel happy within myself, you live a much better lifestyle. There are far more opportunities like I have recently found various things I love & enjoy doing which I never once would have had an interest in before.

I feel like I’m actually working towards something and I always have something to look forward to. If you haven’t already noticed I literally live for my weekends which is now spent exploring!!

My next journey…

After what happened first time around when trying to begin our 3 months regional work we were both completely put off it and refused to do it. However after rethinking the situation we know that we just had bad luck and picked the wrong place to go too.

We know this is our only option 6 months in to gain our second year. After extensive research I think we will get treated better this time around and we currently have friends in the same area.

This weekend we leave Sydney and head up to Cairns to begin our 3 months of banana picking and packing on a farm to gain a whole new year in this amazing country!!!

I feel a lot more confident and at least I know what to expect this time around. I’m eager to start and get my days done so I can look forward to lots more travelling next year.

To be continued…

I will be sharing my journey on the farm with you all so give my Instagram a follow emmajanecraig_x and stay tuned for the dramas ahead!

Thank you so much for reading this lengthy post, however I hope you have learnt a thing or two. I felt I needed to add everything or it wouldn’t of really been my true journey. Over these past 6 months I’ve learnt so much and I still am every day but my main aim is to share what I learn with you guys.

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