Moving to Australia: 5 steps to nail your gap year in Kangarooland

Moving to Australia: 5 steps to nail your gap year in Kangarooland

Spending a gap year in Australia is something very popular for people in their twenties. But with an increasing horde of backpackers getting there every year, tasks like finding a job or finding farm work in order to apply for a second year Visa are getting trickier.

Moreover, compared to when I was there 4 years ago, government policies for immigrants are shifting dangerously to the right, which means a massive rise in Visa fees. But don’t get discouraged! Spending one year (or more) in the Land-where-everything-could-kill-you is a still a super good -and eventually affordable- idea.

So, how to move to Australia?

In my Australian series I will share with you my tips and tricks to get your shit organized and enjoy your Downunder experience without getting broke. I hope it will be helpful 🙂

Getting a (decent) vehicle in Australia

Getting a (decent) vehicle in Australia

This step of course depends on the type of experience you want to get. My personal suggestion is to get a car or -even better- a van as soon as you can if you’re planning to move around the country.

Having your own vehicle will allow you to look for jobs even in remote locations, or to move quickly if the farm job you were hoping to get isn’t available anymore. Some people land in Australia almost broke and spend the first months working in big cities to raise enough money to travel. In my opinion, this may not be the wisest way to spend your year there.

Living in big cities is WAY more expensive than living in provincial or rural Australia. For me, getting a van first and working in regional areas in the beginning of my trip meant saving a lot of money while travelling quite a lot. In the end it’s up to you. 🙂

buying a van in Australia

Where to buy a Van

The second hand market is pretty lively in Australia. Considering the the great number of backpackers that come and go, finding a van or a car should not be too difficult. Depending on your budget and your location you might have three options to find the vehicle that suits you.

Backpackers car markets

You will find backpackers car market in every major town in Australia, the biggest one in Kings Cross, Sydney. There, you will find hundreds of cars being bought and sold by backpackers. It’s easy to get nice bargains because people need to leave, but have a close look on the health status of the van, backpackers tend to have long journeys and not to take care of their vans properly.

Buy from a private

Like in every other buy-and-sell situation in Australia, Gumtree is your main reference. There you’ll find plenty of ads, no matter what your budget is. If you are lucky you may even buy a decent van from locals and not from backpackers.

Buy from a car seller

This is obviously the most expensive option, even if you’re buying second hand. On the other hand, you will be super sure that the van is a pretty good condition.

Our super equipped and super reliable Mitsubishi Delica 4WD

How to be sure that you’re buying a good van/car

Choosing the right registration

Buying a car might seem very easy, but if you don’t pay attention to some details you might find it very difficult to re-sell it later on. The most important thing is the state in which the car is registered. In most states you will be asked to produce a roadworthy certificate of the vehicle (done by a professional mechanic) in order to sell it. Spoiler: many, many cars and vans are far from roadworthy. This means that you will have to spend a lot of money to fix it in order to be able to get the certificate (requirements can be pretty strict, i.e. your vehicle has to have zero rust). The only way to get around the roadworthy certificate is to buy a vehicle that is registered in Western Australia. Don’t ask me why, but for some strange reason when a car comes from WA is automatically considered OK for roads. In the end, buying a WA plated car will make it a lot easier to sell it later on.

What to check?

  • How many kilometres has the engine? (vans can range up to 300k+, watch out!)
  • How many owners did it have? And how many of those where backpackers?
  • Did they ever change the transmission belt?
  • When was the vehicle serviced last time? Does it need frequent oil refills? (bad, bad sign)
  • Don’t be misled by cosy hippie interiors. Check if the van makes strange noises instead, if it leaks oil, if it has evident rust signs (don’t forget to check the roof, rust on the roof = rain in the van).
  • Do you want to explore the outback a little bit? Consider buying a 4WD. Even better if comes equipped with proper bullbars for close encounters with animals on the road (not even joking)

Which paperwork do you need?

A valid Rego: The vehicle will need to be re-registered under your name within 14 days of the purchase. You will also need to pay your registration-tax once a year. The rego works as a tax as well as a third part insurance. Which means that you won’t need any other insurance, but you won’t be covered for any damages to other vehicles/buildings or yourself if you’re injured. So my suggestion is to buy an extra cover like:

RAC – Road Assistance 24/7: buying this extra insurance will insure you that if broke down in the middle of nowhere, someone will come and tow you to the nearest mechanic at no further cost. Of course this only applies if you can get signal to call them 😀

buying a van in Australia

Top Tips for driving in Australia

  • When in the outback or in Western Australia, never, ever drive in dark. Farmland is often unfenced and the bush gets alive at night. Plenty of animals will come out with the chill. Which means that you will eventually have close encounters with cangaroos, giant cows, wallabies and every other sort of small to big sized mammals. Crashing with a small wallaby is very sad, crashing with a cow is terminal (for both).


  • Get a Camp Australia Wide Atlas (now there’s also an app available) and plan your stops at one of the several free rest areas that you’ll find on the road. Those areas are usually equipped with toilets, running water and in some cases even with barbecues or showers. Rest areas can vary from just a parking lot on the roadside in NT to a beautiful campgrounds under the trees in NSW. In most cases you will meet other travellers and share beers and stories (in some places you can even build a fire)


  • Try to avoid sleeping in your van when in the city. Rangers will eventually knock on your windows in the middle of the night and ask you to leave immediately (or fine you, in the worst case scenario).

Top 3 tasks to complete as soon as you land in Australia

Top 3 tasks to complete as soon as you land in Australia

tips for moving to australia

After landing Downunder and having exchanged your warm clothes with shorts, singlet and flip flops (this may be optional: many Aussies go barefoot), you’ll better fix a few things on day one. Here are my tips for moving to Australia with no worries.



Get a SIM card

You’ll need an Australian phone number for almost everything from banking to renting to job searching, so don’t hesitate. Telstra is said to have the best coverage, even in remote areas. In my experience though, when you’re really in the middle of the desert and a phone or GPS are most needed, even Telstra doesn’t work. So buy whatever.


Open an Australian bank account

Once you have an Australian mobile number, go to a bank and open a bank account. Do this ASAP, because transferring money from oversea takes at least 7 working days. Choose a big bank, one that has branches all over the country like Westpac or Commonwealth.


Apply for a Tax File Number

Once you have a working phone and a bank account, go to the nearest tax office and apply for a TAX FILE NUMBER. Without that magic number you won’t be even able to look for a job, let alone finding one. So do not delay this step. You will need it for everything work and tax related.

After having completed this three fundamental step, you’ll be good to go! Ready to look for a job or a van to explore further.


How to find a job or farm work in Australia

How to find a job or farm work in Australia

How to find farm work in Australia

How to find farm work in Australia? This is still the most asked question that I get even 4 years after I came back. The answer varies depending if you’re looking for a job in the city (say bartending or waitressing) or if you’re looking for regional work to be eligible for a second year Visa.

For hospitality city jobs it works just like in any other city: you look upon the local ads online (in Australia they mostly use Gumtree ) or print a decent CV an you start the tour of the local bar/eateries with a gorgeous smile stamped on your face. By “decent CV” I mean that if you’re looking for a waitressing job try to stress on similar experiences you had in your Country, even if this means cheating a little bit 😉



For regional work or farming, things are a bit more difficult. Everyone that wants to extend their Visa needs to complete 88 days of regional work, which means farming, mining, pearling, fishing, working on roadhouses in the middle of nowhere, working in aboriginal lands, etc (full list here). Because of the increasing amount of backpackers who travel to Australia every year, decent farm work (or farm work at all) is starting to be scarce. Scams are also very common. Speaking of:

How to avoid scams

  • Never EVER send money to a possible employer to “pay the accommodation deposit” in a farm or to ensure yourself the job. Those are scams. Stay away from it.


  • Do not accept to work without a contract. First, farm work can be very tiring and also dangerous if you work with machinery or livestock. No contract means no insurance: BIG NO. Secondly, you’ll need the contract to have your employer to sign the documents to prove you’ve done your regional work.


  • Be aware of fake woofers that will tell you that volunteering in their farm will count for a second visa. This is not true anymore, exactly because the existence of these scammers that exploited backpackers promising to sign their regional paperwork in exchange for free work.


  • Beware of farmers that offer you to sign your regional paperwork in exchange of money. Those are scammers too and the Immigration Office will eventually find out. This is also true even if your employer is just trying to help you offering you to sign for extra weeks of work that you haven’t done there. Immigration CAN check your credit card movements to see if they match your permanence in the farm. I mean, have you ever seen Airport Security Australia? Those guys know their shit, don’t try them 🙂

Working hostels, a useful help or a scam?

Working hostels are expensive hostels located in rural Australia that offer to look for farming jobs for you and even to drive you there every morning if you stay at their hostel. The problem is that that you will spend way more time in their hostel than working (because of the great number of backpackers on the same hostel/area). Moreover, when you work, the hostel typically takes a share of your pay. I heard plenty of sad stories about people that are desperate for farm work (because they’re running out of time and they still haven’t completed their 88 days) and end up in these sketchy places.

That’s why when I was in Australia in 2013, me and my boyfriend decided to avoid working hostels completely. We started looking for regional work as soon as we got to Australia (that’s where buying a vehicle straight away comes in handy).


So how to find work in Australia?

First thing we made sure that at least one of our CVs (my boyfriend’s) was farm-friendly. Which meant that his dad backyard with chickens became an Italian agricultural business to which he had contributed since he was a child. Don’t be scared to “enhance” your story a little bit, farmers will take you for the least qualified job in their property anyway, but a resume with farm related skills will stand out.

We found our first farming job (Farm hands in Western Australia –  you can read about the experience here) scanning gumtree all day long and calling every farmer that put his number in there, until it worked.

The second one was a little bit trickier to find. We were in rural Queensland driving around farmland to look for mango picking jobs, without much luck. Discouraged by the mango fiasco we gave a try to the yellow pages online. And with “giving a try” I mean that in 3 days we called more than 200 numbers under the “farmers” label on the yellow pages website.

As boring as it can sound, we finally managed to talk to a farmer who had a neighbor that looked for workers in his cattle property. We got the job and we drove 400km (100 of which off road) overnight to get there. You can read about the experience, one of the craziest of my life, here.


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Easiest VISA to move to Australia

Easiest VISA to move to Australia

Best visa for backpackers in Australia

Applying for a Working Holiday Visa

The first thing before even try to move to Oz is to check if you meet the Visa requirements. In this post I will mostly refer to the Working Holiday Visa (aka 417).

This Visa allows you to work and travel in Australia for one year and can be extended if choose to do some farm work (more on this here).

To be eligible for this Visa you have to be between 18 and 30 years old

Moreover, you need to hold a valid passport issued by those countries. If you’re very close to your 30th birthday and you still want to apply, remember that as long as the Visa is granted BEFORE your birthday you will still have one full year to activate it entering the country.

The super friendly cost (JK) of the Working Holiday Visa is 440 AUD.

Trying the Student Visa

If you do not meet the age requirements you can still apply for a student visa, but be mindful that this choice is far more expensive than the Working Holiday Visa. The student Visa fee is 550 AUD plus the cost of the school.

Because language schools know that A LOT of foreigners enroll just to have a Visa, they do not come cheap. Typically, even the cheapest option is around a few thousand dollars.

You also have to consider that you will be allowed to work only a few hours a week, which means that sustaining yourself there could be pretty difficult, unless you decide to work cash-in-hand risking your Visa.

More on Australian Visas subclasses, and online Visa application here.