A Travel Nurse Relocating to Australia: Trials and Tribulations


By Bree Parker

August 14, 2013



A Travel Nurse Relocating to Australia: Trials and Tribulations

As a Travel Nurse relocating to Australia is a scary prospect.

I’d thought I’d had greater culture shock in Miami, but starting my Australian nursing position changed my mind. Traveling halfway around the world with the uncertainty associated with moving to a new country can be overwhelming.

Although Australia is an English speaking country, their English may not be your English. Beyond deciphering the accent, one must understand the slang and acceptable verbiage. Culture shock is inevitable. When you think of your experiences as a travel nurse, culture shock might be a way of life for you. It might be dependent on your experiences or your background, but when one relocates to a different country…Everything might be different. 

There are many things to consider prior to accepting a job and relocating to another country. 

The populations are as diverse as any you might see in the United States. It’s normal to hear many languages as you walk down the street in the city.

Do you want to live in a rural or city setting?

In Australia, the large cities are located on the coast, and beyond the cities and suburbs are extremely rural areas. For instance, Sydney and its suburbs are sprawling. The Blue Mountains are approximately a two-hour drive from the central business district. After the blue mountains are the bush, you might drive 100 km without seeing anything other than kangaroos.

Housing is another consideration.

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Did you know rent is paid weekly in Australia? Finding a home or apartment to rent can be time-consuming and very expensive. Prior to your move find a serviced apartment. These apartments are fully furnished and short term leases are available.  A corporate studio in Sydney can be as little as $350 per week to as much as $700 per week AU or more. It is location dependant.,  While Australia has a relatively low crime rate, there are still undesirable areas to live in. Another option to look into is renting a “holiday” property, but these can be very pricey.

Be wary of sites like Craig’s List, many travellers have lost money due to scams on Craig’s List. If you are interested in using the site, wait until you’ve arrived in Australia. This will allow you to actually view the rental property.

When you arrive in Australia, you will be overwhelmed and exhausted. The flights are long and the time difference is great. Currently, Sydney is 14 hours ahead of New York City and in the summer it’s 16 hours. Settling into a hotel or corporate apartment will make the transition easier. The last thing a traveler wants to worry about is where they will stay upon arrival. If you come to Australia via a medical recruitment company, they will assist in setting up a house for the first 3 months.

Try to arrive a week or two prior to starting work.

Adjusting to the time difference can take awhile. I arrived on a Monday morning. While I didn’t go to sleep until 9 pm that night, my body rebelled against every moment I was awake. Because I was excited to arrive, I had difficulty sleeping on the flight over. When I was in the United States, I rarely slept more than six hours a night, but for my first month in Australia, I slept 12-14 hours a day.

Availability of Transportation

Finding housing near public transportation is necessary. While you can drive on your American Driver’s license, actually jumping into a car and driving on the “wrong” side of the road can be rather stressful. There is traffic to contend with and the public transportation system in Australia is amazing. In my suburb of Sydney, I can go to 8 different bus stops within 600 meters from my apartment. The ferry wharf is a 10-minute walk. The buses will take me to the central train stations in approximately 15 minutes. I can take a train anywhere in the city.

Do not get an International Driver’s License. It’s a waste of time and money. You can drive on your US license while you are here. You cannot get an Australian license until you’ve been here six months unless you haven’t had a license prior to arriving. Licensing is in stages here. If you have only had an international license for a year or less, you will be granted provisional P1 privileges and if you’ve been licensed for less than three years, you’ll be granted a P2 license.

Each has restrictions such as speed limits and alcohol consumption. If you have a P1 license, you may not consume alcohol for 24 hours prior to driving and your top speed is 90 km/hour.


Is your smartphone unlocked? You can purchase a SIM card for any of the mobile carriers at any of the shops. The SIM card is a $2 purchase. When I arrived, my fiance bought me SIM cards for all the carriers. It cost less than $10 AU. While in the United States, a majority of the population are in contracts with the major carriers, in Australia, the majority use prepaid plans.

Review the sites for the carrier and decide what you want. I spend $30 per month (far less than I did in the United States on my contract) I have 250 minutes to use. These can be used on international calls as well, plus data with free data on social networking sites.

Which mobile carrier you choose is up to you, but check which SIM card will give you the best service. In my first apartment in Sydney, I had no service with my current carrier.

Food/Groceries and Shopping

A trip to the shops will cost you far more. Groceries are much more expensive here, but you can still find deals. Since I use public transportation, I order my groceries online and have them delivered. The fees are minimal, but this offers me the opportunity to shop at the larger stores and purchasing the store brands will save a great deal of money

For instance, a case of coke costs $27.83. When I was home, I would normally buy a 24 pack of soda for work, taking two cans a night. I’ve since broken that habit.

Also You cannot bring any food into the country. You are able to find some American foods at grocery stores, but typically you can find an American “Lolly” (candy) store where you can purchase items like PopTarts or Hershey Kisses. Surprisingly, there are items I’d always taken for granted in the United States such as Crisco Shortening. You can use something called Copha, but it’s nothing like cooking with Crisco.

While there is no Walmart in Australia, there is Kmart and Big W. If you are looking for inexpensive household items, these two stores are the best place to shop. Although Target is available, it’s far more expensive than in the United States.


When you arrive in Australia, you need to apply for a bank account within 12 weeks of arrival. An application can be completed online or on a mobile site and only takes a few minutes. You will have to venture into a bank at some point to verify your identity.

You will need to apply for a Tax File Number. The application is simple and you’ll receive your number within 28 days via post. In order to be paid, you must have a TFN.

Other things to think about

  • Everything is more expensive.
  • You should have a decent nest egg. You’ll have to pay a bond (security deposit) for your apartment, plus weekly rent.
  • Transportation costs are high. A multi-ticket for public transportation can cost up to $61 per week depending on the zone chosen. Though if you are using only one type of public transportation, such as the bus, you can purchase a prepaid ticket for 10 trips.
  • Purchasing a car is costly. While there are many sites that post advertisements for cars, all cars are far more expensive here than in the United States. For example, a 2014 Kia Sportage runs about $18, 500 in the United States while in Australia, the same vehicle costs $37, 990. Buying a “cheap” car will cost you approximately $5000. If you are lucky, the registration will have will go for several months. When you register your car here, you must also pay for one year of insurance. Plus, if you finance a vehicle, you must purchase comprehensive insurance as well.

If you use an agency to relocate to Australia, they will help you through the overwhelming process. Either way, you’ll be in for the experience of a lifetime.

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