Sydney Opera House and bridge at night time

The Cost of Living In Australia

The cost of living in Australia, what you need to know before taking the move down under.

6 minute read

Seeing the world might be fraught with more challenges than normal right now, but no amount of travel restrictions can stop us from dreaming of moving to sunnier climes – and what better place to emigrate to than Australia.

Renowned for its blue skies, sandy beaches and laidback put-another-shrimp-on-the-barbeque lifestyle, it’s easy to see why Australia is the most popular country for Brits to emigrate to. And it’s not just young backpackers looking to make the move; it’s also becoming increasingly popular among retirees too. In fact, we love Australia so much that Brits make up the largest expat community Down Under.

But before you pack your bags with vague promises of sending home a packet or two of Tim Tams, there are a few things you need to know – like how much you fancy new life in Australia is going to cost you.

Financially, How Does Australia Compare To The UK?

It’s hard to make a straight comparison between Australia and the UK because, just like here, living costs vary greatly between different parts of the country (more on that later). But if we take the UK’s most expensive city (London) and compare it to Australia’s most expensive city (Sydney), we can see that London is actually pricier. Once you take into consideration the cost of housing, transportation, entertainment, food and household bills, a recent survey ranked London as the 18th most expensive city in the world, compared to Sydney sitting comfortably in 31st place.

But Sydney is just one city within an entire country and the cost of living can vary greatly once you widen your search out to the whole country. So let’s break it down.

How Much Does Healthcare Cost?

Australia’s Medicare system has been the country’s flagship medical universal health provider since its inception in 1984. It’s funded through taxpayer’s salaries (a contribution of 2%) and, unlike the NHS, you’re free to pick and choose the GP or specialist you prefer as opposed to the one that’s geographically closest to you.

Through Medicare, emergency room and doctor visits are free and access to some private medical or specialist care is subsidised by 75%. However, dental, vision and long-term care is not covered unless you take out additional private insurance (50% of Australians do).

Thanks to a reciprocal health care agreement between Australia and the UK, Brits are eligible for access to Medicare regardless of what visa they have travelled to the country on. For those from a country without a reciprocal health agreement in place, you’re entitled to a Medicare card if you hold a permanent visa or have applied for a permanent visa. If you don’t fall into any of those categories, you would need to take out private health insurance (basic cover is roughly 200 AUD per month).

How Much Does Property Cost?

Sydney was recently dethroned as the most expensive place to buy a property in Australia by Byron Bay, a coastal town in northern NSW. The average price to buy a slice of this particular brand of paradise (hey, if it’s good enough for Zac Efron, Matt Damon and Chris Hemsworth, it’s good enough for you) is an eye-watering 2.7 million AUD, compared to Sydney’s 1.2 million AUD.

Melbourne is the next expensive with property costing an average of 1.02 million AUD, with Canberra hot on its heels at 1.015 million AUD. Due to the lifestyle and career opportunities, other popular cities for expats to settle in include Brisbane (678,236 AUD), Adelaide (629,728 AUD) and Perth (595,823 AUD). It’s also worth noting that Perth was deemed the most ‘liveable’ Australian city for 2021 by The Economist (Melbourne and Brisbane also feature in the top ten).

But be warned, a lack of availability and low borrowing costs mean that trying to muscle your way onto the Australian property ladder is trickier than ever.

OK, What About Rent?

For a family home, rent in Sydney averages at 550 AUD per week, while a unit (Australian way of saying flat) will set you back 470 AUD. Of course, this figure can fluctuate wildly depending on where in Sydney you want to rent so it pays to do your research (FYI, Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and Northern Beaches are as expensive as they are beautiful).

For a house in Melbourne, you’re looking at roughly 430 AUD and 375 AUD a week for a unit while in Perth weekly rent on a family home is, on average, 430 AUD and a unit is 365 AUD. Adelaide costs, on average, 425 AUD for a family home and 350 AUD for a unit.

Canberra, the Australian capital, is the most expensive city to rent in, with a house averaging at 600 AUD per week and a unit 500 AUD.

What About Utility Bills?

Annually, those is the Northern Territory pay the most for their electricity with annual bills averaging at 2,224 AUD a year, while Western Australia pay the least at 916 AUD per. Everywhere else is on a sliding scale between the two.

For a two-bed apartment in Sydney, you can expect basic utility bills to cost approximately 182.48 AUD per month. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, those in Hobart, TAS, pay way above the national average for their utility bills (which is 219.90 AUD per month) at 302.38 AUD. And while you will pay less on rent in Perth than most other cities, utility bills are roughly 220,79 AUD a month, which is a fairly hefty 40 bucks more than in Sydney.

How Much Will I Earn?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average weekly wage for a full-time position is 1,797.00 AUD (men, on average, earn over 300 AUD more than women because apparently no matter how far you travel you’ll never escape the gender pay gap).

Statistically, the mining industry is the most profitable in Australia, with wages averaging at 2674.30 AUD a week while the financial sector averages at 2065.40 AUD. For retail, wages average at 1311.30 AUD a week while accommodation and food services bring in approximately 1201.90 AUD.

The Australian Capital Territory, where Canberra is based, has the highest national average wages at an annual 99,247 AUD for a full-time position. Western Australia, home to the mining industry, follows behind at 97,744 AUD a year. NSW, where Sydney is, comes third with wages averaging at 91,744 AUD. Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia all have wages below the national average.

How Much Will My Commute Cost?

While COVID has impacted the way Australians work, prompting increasing numbers to work from home, you might still want to commute – or at the very least, travel around the place you’ve just emigrated to.

In Adelaide, a monthly transport pass will cost 101.00 AUD, which is below the national average of 150 AUD. In Melbourne, it’s 156.00 AUD and in Sydney it’s a whopping 217.39 AUD.

If you prefer to travel by car, the national average for fuel is 1.41 AUD per litre.

How Much Will My Food Cost?

It was once said that the Australian millennial obsession with avocado (avo) on toast was all that stood between them and home ownership. So just how expensive is the food in Aus?

Grocery prices in Sydney are 0.20% higher than the national average, with a 1L bottle of milk costing 1.70 AUD, a 1kg packet of chicken breasts costing 11.09 AUD and a 1kg bunch of bananas costing 3.32 AUD. To buy a 0.5l glass (which is just over a schooner) of draft beer in a restaurant in Sydney is approximately 8 AUD, which is bang on the national average.

In Perth, grocery prices are 2.30% lower than the national average, while eating out in a restaurant is 0.98% higher than the national average (here, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost roughly 90 AUD).

In Brisbane, grocery prices are 2.55% higher than the national average, with Brisbanites paying 13.13 AUD for their McDonalds McMeal, which is 1.13 AUD more than the country’s average.

But if good food and eating out is important to you, you might want to make a beeline for Adelaide (dubbed by locals as Radelaide). Not only is it renowned for its quality food and drink, restaurant prices here are 10.13% lower than the national average.

I Still Want To Travel Overseas – How Much Does That Cost?

As their national anthem goes, Australia is ‘Girt by sea’ – which is a fairly convoluted way of saying it’s an island. And one that’s pretty far away from anywhere else, at that. This means that overseas travel can be pricey. While it’s hard to predict how the aviation industry is going to recoup their loss of earnings when the Australian borders reopen (although we can hazard a guess), a pre-COVID return flight from Sydney to London Heathrow to visit your loved ones would be around 2,500 AUD. But a quick hop over the Tasman to neighbouring New Zealand will only set you back around 700 bucks. Or perhaps you fancy a weekend break to Fiji? That will be around 700 buck too, please.

So although you’re further away from some things – the people, the weather (ha!) and the good ol’ familiar products that you know and love – you’re closer to others. Ultimately, living in such a beautiful part of the world is priceless.

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Author: Nichola Appleton
Nicola is a UK based writer and editor with a special interest in parenting, lifestyle and entertainment. She has extensive experience…