Early lessons and challenges

Two weeks into our new life and we’ve learnt a few things that are worth noting for future migrants.

In our preparations for the move, we found plenty of near-encyclopaedic lists of tips for what to do on arrival, covering all the essentials such as registering for Medicare, setting up a bank account, or how to exchange your driving licence for an Aussie one. But here are a few things that we wish we’d known, or known more about, before we arrived.

Electrical items
If you’re coming from North America or one of those other places that has a different voltage system to Australia, then there’s probably no point in you bringing your electrical items as they either won’t work, or will explode the minute you plug them in.

But if you come from a 220-240 volt country, it’s worth bringing a few of those multi-socket extension leads with you. Of course, eventually, you’ll swap all the plugs on your electrical items for Aussie ones, but in those few weeks after arrival, it’ll be useful to only have to change the plug on the extension, so that you can then plug all your home-country plugs into the sockets on the extension lead.

Mobile phones
Mobile phone contracts in Australia are pretty expensive compared with Europe and North America. Be prepared for that. There are also very few contracts that will offer you a decent amount of international calls as part of the deal.

First, stay available on your old number by either buying a dual sim adaptor for your phone, or buying a cheap handset for your old home-country sim, so you can receive call and messages, then call people back from your new number. Once people get used to your new number, you can cancel the old sim (or keep it for use when visiting home).

We’ve found Skype to be very useful. At the moment, they are offering an annual contract for about £60 or A$120 which includes calls to all landlines and mobiles in most countries of the world. You can set up a ‘Skype To Go’ local number for your mobile phone, make a local call to access Skype, then use it to patch you through to international numbers.

Mobile contracts with unlimited Australian calls are fairly common and relatively cheap (we found one for just A$29 per month) and, coupled with the Skype subscription, you can have a setup that gives you unlimited national and international calls for less than A$40 per month – important when you are organising so many things in your new country while also trying to keep in touch with friends and family in your old one.

As an added bonus, if you take out a subscription, Skype will give you something called a ‘Skype-In’ number — a phone number that non-techie friends and relatives can call from a normal phone. But here’s the best bit, your Skype-In number can be in any country you choose. We chose a UK number, so our friends can call a UK number but be patched through to our Aussie mobiles at no cost to them. Clever, eh?

If you’re coming from Europe or North America and are used to cheap, fast, unlimited internet access, prepare yourself – those days are probably over.

In Denmark, we had a 20mbps unlimited broadband connection which included all national and international calls via VOIP for around £20 or A$40 per month. A slower connection, without phone calls, and data limited to 500gb of downloads per month would set us back around A$175 per month in Canberra.

This is a big deal when FaceTime calls and Skype video calls can do so much to make loved ones feel that you aren’t so far away after all.

To be honest, we haven’t solved this one yet. We’re not in one of the neighbourhoods blessed with the new, super-fast, fibre-optic NBN network. We’re not even in a neighbourhood where many of the newer broadband providers can offer us ‘naked ADSL’, a broadband-only connection without the need to add a home phone contract into the deal.

To add to the conundrum, it’s common for broadband providers to lock you in for a 24 month contract, which makes choosing correctly pretty important.

For now, we’re operating with a mobile USB dongle, which we top up from week to week. It costs about A$50 per 4GB and is painfully slow. Thankfully, the local library offers free, unlimited wifi during opening hours, so we’ve become regular loiterers outside their door come opening time.

We’ll make a decision on which broadband provider to go for soon, but this really does appear to be a choice of limited options and it’s frustrating because, much as we’ve spoken to friends and family since arriving, it really would be nice to see them once in a while, too.

17 thoughts on “Early lessons and challenges

  1. Claire says:

    Hi Mark,

    That quote for internet you have is ridiculously expensive! I assume it is from someone like Optus or Telstra but have you looked into TransAct, TPG, or DoDo. I have used both TransAct and TPG in the past during my uni days (I now have NBN so can’t help you there) and they were great – reliable and good customer service.

    Good luck!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Claire, Yes, it was Telstra. Funny thing is, they almost seemed proud ti say that: “Well, we are the most expensive.” Optus can’t service our address apparently, so we’re short of options but I’ll look into the providers you mention. Thanks for the tip. Ooooh, NBN. I am casting covetous looks in your direction! One day it will reach us, I’m sure.
      Best wishes, Mark


      • I don’t know. It seems that other providers can only offer ‘off-net’ connections, meaning we are effectively tied to Telstra (or companies who lease the line from Telstra) which seems to be limiting our options somewhat. BTW, I emailed you some tips for your trip to CPH — I hope they reached you.
        Best wishes, Mark


      • Your tips are excellent – looking forward to replying in full soon. Had already booked one of your recommendations so very glad we are on same page!! Re Telstra yes that’s basically the case – it has a monopoly on the lines. Don’t let it stop you looking at other providers though.


      • Claire says:

        The nbn isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. It’s more expensive for less data and comes with a huge ugly modem for the middle of your living room.

        To be honest my mobile is through telstra and despite the premium I think it’s well worth it for the coverage. Its not called telstra tower for nothing.


  2. Do try iinet – our place in Gungahlin was either ridiculously expensive and slow with Telstra, or expensive and slow with iinet. (we eventually ended up with nbn which is lovely lol). But yes, telstra prides itself on its monopoly and refuses to negotiate on price, relying on the fact that they do provide the best connections and people will pay for it. Sigh.


  3. Will ask my husband if he has any ideas – we are not in an NBN area and are not even in the list of suburbs to get it because, I believe, of our underground cables. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of research, but it may just be that hubby, who knows a bit about this area, can offer some suggestions.


      • Unfortunately he says for 500Gb that’s what he’d expect you’d have to pay with Telstra. We have smaller plan at a little over 2/3 of what you were quoted – we don’t do a lot of big downloads – but it includes our landline and allows landline phone calls to mobiles BUT we weren’t looking for international calls.

        We’ve tried various providers over the years (a few through Transact), including Telstra once before, and have come back – mainly because of the landline deal. We’re old fashioned and still use landlines. I have an annual Telstra iPad account as well, but a cheap prepaid mobile. Mobiles are not my thing. I don’t like much like the intrusiveness of phone calls, but prefer SMS and emails!


      • Yep, that’s what I found, but thanks for sanity checking it for me. I’ll continue looking but, for now, the kids’ YouTube, Skype and Minecraft habits have been severely curtailed and I’m continuing my residence at the library until I find something that’s at least approaching value for money.
        Best wishes, Mark


    • Yes, I tried that. None of the deals were great but maybe I’m just in an area without great deals — perhaps on account of the tethering to Telstra. I’ll give it another go but it certainly never included providers such as Dodo. Appreciate you taking the time to advise though.


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