The cost of living in Australia

The cost of living in Australia

17th January, 2013

Are you thinking about moving ‘Down Under’? It’s an amazing country with its stunning coastlines and varied climate, unique interior and vibrant cities, each with its own distinct personality. But what about the cost of living in Australia? Are some parts of the country more expensive than others and if so, why? What about accommodation, food and transport

It’s wise to get a grip on everyday expenses before you leave because it’ll help you to avoid nasty shocks. Here’s what I have found out.


Crowded coastal cities mean high rent and property prices

There are only 20 million people in Australia, which means there’s an awful lot of empty space. But because so much of the country’s wild, scrubby, searing hot interior is relatively empty of human habitation and very sparsely populated, people tend to flock to the cities. As such big city accommodation Down Under can be very expensive. Some cities are more costly than others, for example Adelaide tends to be cheaper than Sydney or Melbourne, the country’s cultural capital.

Look at a map and you’ll notice all the large cities sit sound the coast: Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane, Armidale, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Broome. Only remote Alice Springs sits in the middle of the continent. As a general rule the farther you are from the city, the lower the demand and the cheaper the cost of renting or buying a house or flat.

The mining boom has also had an effect on rental costs, as has the strength of the Australian dollar. Like all currencies its value fluctuates with the market and you need to be aware of its current value as well as its potential to shrink.

Salaries in Australia

Compared to many European countries, for example France, salaries in Australia can be as much as 50% higher. Which helps ameliorate the high cost of living. It’s all relative and as an expat, the sooner you start thinking in Aussie dollars the better. Constant translating between your old and new currency can be confusing and means you never really get to grips with what you can get for your money in your new home country.

The cost of consumer goods and food in Australia

Because the country as a whole is so remote many consumer goods are imported long distances, which adds to their cost. Particularly in Alice Springs and in Hobart, Tasmania, which are about as remote as it gets.

Clothes, books, electronic goods and so on can be more expensive than elsewhere but like any country, it’s often a matter of shopping around. For example there’s a chain of Kmarts in Australia as well as The Reject Shop, popular in Britain.

Telecomms costs vary, with a home telephone, TV and internet bundle costing from 100-150 Australian dollars per month. The cost of fresh food varies depending on the weather – the recent decade-long drought, for example, affected food prices and other extreme weather conditions, like cyclone Yasi which devastated vast areas of Queensland, can easily wipe out entire crops.

Australia is an island continent with strict rules for import and quarantine to protect native species, so some prices are naturally higher. But like anywhere else, supply and demand are the real drivers. If you live somewhere with several supermarkets, prices will probably be lower than if you live in a town in the interior with just one shop. As a general rule bread, milk and pasta are relatively cheap but cereals, yogurt and cheeses are more expensive than you might be used to, depending on your country of origin.

Petrol prices in Australia

Similar to the rest of the world, Australian petrol costs are steadily going up based on international oil prices, taxes, environmental pressures, supply, margins and the Australian dollar exchange rate. As a general rule fuel is cheaper in the cities, more expensive in remote areas, simply because it’s more of a logistical challenge to supply far-flung areas.

Heating and cooling costs

Apparently gas is cheaper than electricity in Australia. You might save on heating in many states because the weather is traditionally much warmer down there. But you need to take the cost of air conditioning into account during the Australian summers, which can be fiercely hot.

Getting the latest information

Prices change, demand fluctuates, currencies rise and fall. To get an idea of the actual cost of living in Australia at a specific time it’s a good idea to find someone who lives there and ask them for a brief run-down of their monthly expenses. Many people have friends and relatives there and if you don’t, someone you know might have a useful point of contact willing to fill in the gaps for you.

Enjoy our in-depth expat country guides

For more information about making a success of your move abroad, why not download our free eBook, The New Expat? It covers medical considerations, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and plenty more to make your expat life easier.

We also produce handy Country Guides each month, packed with country-specific information to help you make the most of your new home. Recent additions include Taiwan, Austria and Cyprus.

What are your experiences of the cost of living in Australia?

We would love to share your experiences with our readers. Leave a comment below, connect with us on @now_health on Twitter or on the Now Health Facebook page.


Image source: mr. toaster

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

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