The cost of living in Australia

Zorica Lončar
09.09.20
6 minute read

With its great weather, cosmopolitan cities, diverse natural landscapes and relaxed lifestyle, it’s no wonder that Australia remains a top pick for expats.

If you’ve decided to move to the country, one of the first steps is figuring out the cost of living in Australia, so you’re ready to settle.

Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating, or moving to Australia for good, using a service like TransferWise could help you reduce your overall costs. Now you can send, receive, and organise your money internationally, without hefty fees.

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How expensive is Australia compared to other countries?

Australia currently has the 16th highest cost of living in the world, with the USA and UK well behind at 21st and 33rd place respectively.¹

While life in Australia comes with a price tag, Mercer’s most recent survey², shows that Australian cities have dropped in the rankings, which is good news for companies relocating employees to the Asia-Pacific area.

Australia’s most expensive city, Sydney sits at 42 on the Mercer’s cost of living index. Melbourne is at the 99th place, Perth at 104th, Canberra on 118th, and Brisbane at 126th.²

With expatriate hubs like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo all sitting in the top ten, Australia is more appealing than ever.

The Currency

The official currency of Australia is Australian dollar, which is written as A$ or AUD.

The list below shows the approximate value of Australian dollar at the time of writing, compared to a few major currencies:

$1000 = A$1373

£1000 = A$1811

€1000 = A$1623

C$1000 = A$1048

Before moving to Australia, one of the first things you’ll have to consider is the exchange rate. How much the money of your home country will amount to in Australian dollars. But also, what type of fees you might pay to convert your money.

If you’ll be earning income in your home currency, you’ll be faced with hefty currency exchanges along the way.

That’s because most banks and money exchange services tend to markup the exchange rate to increase their profits. By making money on the rate, they’re able to keep their conversion fees low.

For this reason, you may believe that you’re getting a good deal when in reality that’s not the case. When you’re converting your money, make sure to always check a currency converter for the current, real mid-market exchange rate.

TransferWise can help

If you need to send money to and from Australia, you can use TransferWise’s Borderless multi-currency account to save money on fees. With it, you can also send and manage dozens of different currencies, all from the same account and with no monthly fees.

Give it a try. Try TransferWise today and cut back on fees.

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Cost of living in Australia compared to the UK

The following chart compares some basic costs (in Australian dollars), across Australia and a couple of cities in the UK.³

Comparing basic cost of living1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)Transportation (monthly pass)
Sydney, AustraliaA$2,649A$100A$217.39
Melbourne, AustraliaA$1,839A$80A$159
Perth, AustraliaA$1,480A$95A$155
London, UKA$3,175A$108.22A$270.54
Manchester, UKA$1,426A$99.20A$126.50
Edinburgh, UKA$1,467A$108.20A$101

Where to live in Australia

Sydney and Melbourne are popular choices for expats moving to Australia (but where you end up is completely up to you).

The Economist Intelligence Unit gave Sydney perfect scores for healthcare, education and infrastructure - and ranks it third in a list of the world’s most livable cities.⁴ Sydney has excellent weather, beautiful beaches and an outdoor lifestyle. Melbourne is cosmopolitan with a thriving restaurant and arts scene.

Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth are appealing options for many people, as are regional and coastal towns, where the cost of living is much lower.

What are general living expenses like in Australia?

Total Living Expenses in SydneyAverage cost
1 person, per month (without rent)A$1,432⁵
4 person family, per month (without rent)A$5,185
Utilities - basic, for 85m² apartmentA$198.09
Total Living Expenses in MelbourneAverage cost
1 person, per month (without rent)A$1,432⁶
4 person family, per month (without rent)A$5,185
Utilities - basic, for 85m² apartmentA$210.25
Total Living Expenses in PerthAverage cost
1 person, per month (without rent)A$1,302⁷
4 person family, per month (without rent)A$4,640
Utilities - basic, for 85m² apartmentA$221.10

How much does housing cost in Australia?

House prices across Australia vary greatly.

Sydney tops the list with the median house price at A$1,142,212, while Adelaide has a more affordable median house price at A$542,947.⁸

If you don’t necessarily want to live in one of the big cities, you could consider living in some of the smaller ones, where the prices are more affordable. Hobbart has a median house price at A$530,570 and Darwin at A$509,452.⁸

For those who are renting, once again location is everything. While a Sydney rental averages out at about A$2,649 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment, renting the same sized apartment in scenic Hobart will be half the price.⁵

Shopping around will get a decent deal on utilities, but basics, including power, gas and internet for a standard two bedroom apartment will come to about A$350 a month.

Travel and commuting in Australia

Public transport in the cities is pretty good.

Sydneysiders have rail, bus and ferry options, all of which are covered on a swipe-on-swipe-off Opal card that the commuter tops up.

And compared to cities like London and New York, Australian public transport is reasonably priced with the capital cities making up 6 of the 10 most affordable places for public transport. While New York might have significantly cheaper single trip tickets than Sydney or London, Australia’s public transport system will give you more miles for less.

Health and fitness

Australia has an excellent healthcare system. Permanent residents have access to Medicare, but even then many Australians take out private health insurance to cover extras, like dental and specialist care.

Comprehensive cover can cost up to $500 a month.⁹ Expats from Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are entitled to treatment through Medicare thanks to reciprocal health agreements between countries.¹⁰

Gym memberships are on average A$78 a month. Australians take advantage of the outdoor weather with outdoor personal fitness trainers and group sessions. Walking, running and cycling are the three most popular fitness techniques Down Under, even more so than swimming.

Eating in... and out

Groceries are more expensive in Australia than many other major cities around the world.

A dozen eggs will be about A$5.00. A loaf of bread around A$2.73 and a 2-litre bottle of milk is A$1.66.⁵ A weekly shop can range from A$80 to A$300.

A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in Sydney will cost upwards of A$70, compared to about A$108 in New York or London.⁵ On average you’ll pay A$11 for a Big Mac Meal¹¹, A$7 for a beer and A$3.50 for a coffee. But you can be guaranteed a good one because Australians take their coffee seriously.

Is moving to Australia worth it?

On average, salaries in Australia are 28% higher than in the UK¹². Australia’s minimum wage is A$19.84 per hour¹³, compared to A$15.69 for the UK¹⁴ and A$10.05 for the US¹⁵.

Add to that the quality of life, sunshine and months of beach weather, and it’s easy to see why Australia remains a favoured destination for expats from around the world.

And if you’re planning on moving, read our in-depth guides on moving to Australia and money in Australia.

Don't get ripped off sending money to and from Australia

Cost of living in Australia could be higher than what you were typically used to in your home country. That’s why it’s important to come well prepared.

Whether you're moving money to pay for your new digs Down Under, or paying off your mortgage at home - don't get overcharged.

Make sure you’re getting the most of your money by using TransferWise’s Borderless multi-currency account to send money to and from Australia. There’s no exchange markup rate and no hidden fees.

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Good luck with your move!

Sources:

  1. Numbeo - cost of living, ranking by countries
  2. Mercer 2020 cost of living survey
  3. Numbeo - cost of living, comparison
  4. EIU - the Global Liveability Index 2019
  5. Numbeo - cost of living Sydney
  6. Numbeo - cost of living Melbourne
  7. Numbeo - cost of living Perth
  8. Domain.com.au - Domain House Price Report
  9. Health.gov.au - extras and ambulance cover
  10. Hcf.com.au - reciprocal health agreements
  11. Aussie prices - McDonalds prices
  12. The Money Principle
  13. Fairwork.gov.au - minimum wages
  14. Gov.uk - the national minimum wage 2020
  15. Dol.gov - minimum wage

Checked on 8th September 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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