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The real cost of moving Down Under

Whether in Australia alone, as part of a couple or as a family, the days of backpacking across the country on a shoestring budget are long gone.

The newly increased visa rates, expensive flights and travel insurance that migrants fork out for in Ireland are only the tip of the iceberg.

It's once you arrive in Oz, recently revealed as the most expensive of the world's 20 largest economies by the International Monetary Fund, that the real expense kicks in.

Quite simply, if you plan to survive here, you need to earn the local currency.

Thankfully, when you do find employment, salaries are high and taxes comparatively low.

The minimum wage is now set at $15.96 (€12.65), with many restaurant and bar owners paying as much as $20 (€15.85) per hour.


But even getting one of these jobs will cost you money, as it is compulsory in all states to complete a Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate, at a cost of $120 (€95.13), before you are allowed to work anywhere that serves alcohol.

Admin and temping jobs generally pay between $40-50,000 (€32-40,000) a year, while nurses, construction workers, teachers, insurance brokers, bankers, legal secretaries and journalists can expect to earn from $55,000 (€43,600) to $70,000 (€55,500).

Meanwhile qualified accountants, engineers and those in the mining sector could earn as much as $100,000 (€80,000).

In Western Australia, a study by Hayes recruitment specialists found that salaries can be up to 10-15pc higher than their Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide counterparts.

Rates are also on the rise in Queensland and the Northern Territory, where Australia's resources boom has driven the jobs market forward over the past year.

With higher-paid jobs, however, comes a higher cost of living.

And as many an Irish backpacker will testify, our depleted euro doesn't stretch far.

It's those first few weeks or months of getting set up with a job, paying one month's bond for accommodation ($1,200- $1,500; €950-€1,200) and waiting for the first pay cheque to come in that can cripple an already overstretched bank balance.


From the moment I arrived, the startling expense was evident.

A trolley at Sydney airport costs $4 (€3.20) to rent, a quick cup of coffee to counteract the jet-lag a further $6 (€4.75), followed by $75 (€60) for a 15-minute taxi journey to my destination in the city.

I have since learned that taxi fares, albeit more expensive than Ireland, don't generally run that high. My second mistake was buying my groceries at the local convenience store.

Here, you can look forward to paying an average of $4.99 (€3.95) for a loaf of bread, $3.55 (€2.80) for a 600ml bottle of coke and up to $3 (€2.40) for a Snickers bar.

It quickly became apparent that the only place to shop is the supermarket. Again however it's costly, with staples like peppers ($2.79 each; €2.20), yoghurts ($5 for six; €4) and cheese ($7.99; €5.50) all costing far more than Ireland.

In fact, it's often cheaper to eat out than in.

Rent is also a lot more than at home, with double rooms here in Sydney costing between $300 (€238) and $400 (€320), a one-bedroom apartment costing upwards of $500 (€400) per week and a two- or three-bedroom apartment costing as much as $650-$750 (€515-€600) per week.

Prices are moderately less in Melbourne and parts of Queensland, while rents have gone through the roof in the mining capital of Perth.


Similarly, entertainment doesn't come cheap.

A single ticket for the cinema costs $19 (€15), concert tickets start at $100 (€80) and gym membership can be anything from $25 (€20) per week and upwards.

A night on the tiles will also set you back, with a pint of beer ranging from $8 (€6.30) to $12 (€9.50) depending on where you go, a cocktail costing between $15 (€12) and $20 (€15.85) and most nightclubs charge a $15 (€12) or $20 (€15.85) entrance fee.

There's no doubt that modern-day Australia is reminiscent of Ireland's Rip-Off Republic of years gone by, but as long as the trade-off continues to be a better quality of life, then for now it's a price I'm willing to pay.

But others need to be aware of it before they make the leap.