Some tips for your first week in Sydney

Moving abroad for the first time is as daunting as it is exciting.

There are so many fantastic sights you want to see and new friends waiting for you to meet so we thought we would help you check off some of the basic things that you will need to do when you arrive to help you get started on your new life. 

We have compiled a list of 3 essential things you need to do when you arrive to study in Sydney.

1. Buy an Opal card 

To use public transport in Sydney, you will need an Opal card. These cards operate across the rail, light rail and bus networks.  You can buy them from train stations, convenience stores or even the airport. If you are over 15 years of age, you will need to purchase an adult card.  International students are not eligible for an Opal Concession cards, and if you buy the wrong card, you can be fined $200.  Read more about Opal cards and how they work 

Tip: For only $2.60 per person, you can enjoy unlimited travel all day Sunday in Sydney, Newcastle, the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Hunter and Illawarra areas, by train, bus, ferry and light rail.  This is great for planning Sunday sightseeing trips.  Ask the student services staff for some ideas of where you can go. 

2. Open a bank account 

If you are going to be in Sydney for more than a few months, it is a good idea to open a local bank account. Having a local bank account will allow you to manage your everyday expenses without worrying about high international fees. You will also be provided with a debit card to use while you are here.

If you are planning to work part-time while you study you will find that most employers pay directly to your bank account so this might be essential for you.

The four major banks in Australia are ANZCommonwealth Bank of AustraliaNational Australia Bank, and Westpac Banking Corporation.

Most banks will allow you to set up a bank account before your arrival in Australia. It is very straightforward as you only need to fill out the application form on the bank’s website and provide your passport number, expiry date and a valid email address. When your application has been approved, you will receive an email with the details of your new account. 

Once you have arrived in Australia, you need to set up an appointment with a bank manager to prove your identity (passport); they will also require proof of your Australian residence (household bill or tenancy agreement) and proof of your enrolment at ELS Sydney. 

3. Get up a local phone plan

First, let’s sort out the vocabulary

cell phone = mobile phone
prepaid plan = pay by the month – no set contract period.
postpay plan = a contract to stay with the same phone company on the same plan for a set period of time. 

Prepaid Plans
For most students, a prepaid is the best option because you are only committed for 30 days. After this time you can cancel or change plans.  You can purchase a pre-paid SIM card at newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets or directly from the phone companies outlets.  You can top up your credit where and when you want, without being locked into a contract.

When you choose your plan make sure you consider the amount of data that comes with it.  Even the cheapest contracts offer at least 3GB and often as much as 30GB of data. This means you don’t have to worry about using wifi at your homestay or residence.  

Postpaid Plans 
These usually require a 1-year commitment. While they sometimes end up being cheaper if you use your phone a lot for most students they are not the best option. You will pay a fixed price monthly for a fixed amount of data, calls and texts.

What do you need to get a phone contract?

  • Proof of your Australian address
  • Proof of enrolment
  • Proof of identity  
  • Proof of income and/or funds – a payslip or bank statement

Can you think of anything else you should do when you first move to a new city?  Head over to our Facebook page and share your ideas.