Preparing to come to Australia



Research your new home

Australia covers 7.7 million square kilometres and is a land of extremes. Educational institutions are spread across the country. Some, such as the University of Melbourne, are in big cities. Others, including Charles Sturt University at Bathurst, are in smaller regional centres. All of Australia’s six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania) and two territories (the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) host universities.


From November to May, monsoonal rains pour down on Townsville, home to James Cook University in north Queensland, where temperatures soar into the high 30s. In contrast, students at the Australian National University in Canberra have hot dry summers and cold winters with temperatures sometimes below 10 degrees Celsius during the day. Australia is in the southern hemisphere so our seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere. This means that Christmas (December) in Australia is in summer when it’s hot, and winter starts in the middle of the year from June.

Think about where you want to live

While you’re doing some research about coming to Australia, start looking at options and availability of accommodation and develop a plan to find a place to live. Your educational institution will arrange temporary accommodation for you when you first arrive, but you’ll need to have a plan for a more permanent place to stay. Accommodation can be one of the biggest challenges Awardees face. The cost of living and availability of rental accommodation differs between regions. In some places, such as Sydney and Darwin, there is high demand which can make finding private accommodation challenging. We recommend you start researching and looking for accommodation before you leave home. There are plenty of housing types to choose from, including on-campus, home-stay and private rental, but these fill up quickly. Think about factors including cost, location, transport and safety. You can also check with your institution to see if they have accommodation support services and find out which suburbs or areas are nearby and recommended for students. Having a good understanding of the types of accommodation options available, as well as their quality, location and cost, will make it much easier and less stressful when you arrive.

Public transport and other services, including banking and medical services, as well as the availability of part-time jobs, also vary widely between cities. Access to transport, services, facilities and amenities, as well as the location of your institution, will have an impact on where you choose to live. The Department of Home Affairs’s booklet Life in Australia  has essential information on services, public transport and accommodation for each state and territory. If you think on-campus accommodation is the best option for you, you should register with your institution early and contact them before leaving home.

Thinking about bringing your family?

Your first semester of study will be busy and demanding, and you’ll need all your focus and attention to ensure you settle into your study routine. While the support of family is important, many scholars find the extra costs very hard to manage. They recommend that it is best to wait until you’re established and in long-term accommodation before your family arrives. We strongly encourage you not to bring your family members to Australia in the first six months of study. Family of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sponsored students must lodge a Student visa application (subclass 500) (subsequent entrant) with a letter of no objection from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Important documents to bring

As well as your ticket, passport and travel itinerary, bring your driver’s license if you have one, your letter of offer from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as any other documents that are listed in your letter of offer. Carry photocopies of these documents in case you lose them. Also, consider bringing your medical history and, if you are travelling with medication, a letter from your doctor and copies of your prescriptions. Other documents that could be useful for you, and your family if they join you in Australia, include birth certificates, your marriage certificate, academic records, job references, and property rental references.


Your Establishment Allowance and Contribution to Living Expenses will be paid into your bank account soon after you arrive. But you’ll still need Australian currency to cover expenses in the first few days of your stay. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends you have at least $500 Australian dollars when you arrive to cover costs such as food and temporary accommodation. You can change money at the airport when you arrive in Australia and credit cards are also widely accepted.

Health Insurance

Health services in Australia are of a high standard but are expensive. The institution will arrange and pay for basic medical insurance, which is called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). Your Student Contact Officer will provide you with more details regarding OSHC once you arrive at your institution. Please note it is mandatory condition of your Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector (subclass 500) Visa that you maintain an OSHC for the duration of your stay in Australia. If you bring your family to Australia you are responsible for organising and paying OSHC for your family. We recommend you research OSHC for your family well beforehand as the cost can be significant. \

Travel light

Airlines limit the weight of luggage you can bring free of charge. If you bring too much and exceed these limits, you’ll be charged an excess baggage fee, which your Australia Award Scholarship won’t cover. Before you pack, check with your airline to find out what the baggage limits are. This information is often included with your tickets.


Australia has strict quarantine laws to protect our native plants, animals and agriculture against pests and diseases. When you arrive in Australia, you must declare all food and other plant and animal material as many of these are banned. If you are carrying food or plant items, declare them even if you think they are allowed. The airline staff will give you an incoming passenger card, which you must use to declare these items before your aircraft lands. If you don’t, you could be given an on-the-spot fine or face prosecution. Other items you should declare include medicines and large amounts of cash in foreign currency. There are also strict limits on the number of cigarettes and the amount of alcohol you can bring into Australia. You can bring up to three months’ worth of prescribed medicine with you – you will have to keep it in the original packaging, declare it when you arrive and make sure you have your prescription with you to prove the medicine is yours. Make sure you check that the medicine is allowed into Australia – you can find a list of restricted medicine at the Office of Chemical Safety ( or the Therapeutic Goods Administration ( You are not allowed to bring in prescribed medicine for family members. There have also been many cases of prohibited goods, mainly foods such as spices or seeds, being mailed to overseas students studying in Australia. Warn your family and friends not to send you food or other plant and animal products, because the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service checks all parcels for illegal items and heavy fines are levied. Australia is a multicultural society, and specialty shops mean nearly all the food or ingredients you want can be purchased here. Never carry illicit drugs. Penalties for drug offences in Australia are severe and could result in a jail term.

Check out these websites to learn more about Australia before you arrive

  • The Australia Awards webpage has lots of useful information including the Scholarships Policy Handbook that outlines your contractual obligations. Visit
  • Information for international students on living and studying in Australia can be found at:
  • The Department of Home Affairs has essential information on local services, public transport and accommodation for each state and territory. Visit:
  • Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, has up-to-the minute national and local news and weather, as well as an Australian perspective on international events. Visit
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics—our national statistical agency—has statistics, information and services on economic, social and environmental matters as well as information on Australia’s geography and climate, the environment, government, international relations, defence, education, and our health and welfare systems. Visit
  • The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has the latest weather forecasts as well as information on severe weather warnings. Visit
  • Google maps will help you pinpoint your new city or town, locations and addresses. Visit
  • The Department of Agriculture manages quarantine controls at Australia’s borders. For information on Australian quarantine restrictions and what you can and can’t bring into Australia. Visit The Australian Border Force manages Australia’s border security and detects and deters unlawful movement of goods and people across the border. Visit

Additional information