With no more travel in New Zealand to look forward to, I set my sights instead on Australia and getting down to organizing my necessary paperwork.
The Working Holiday Visa was the easy part – I’ve had that since December. Much like New Zealand, the WHV for Australia is done solely online and I received instant approval. It costs a bit more money (~$280 vs $100) but otherwise is nearly identical. Australia also has a provision that allows people on a WHV to stay for a second year if they choose, and have met certain qualifications (working in agriculture for a certain amount of time is the main one, I believe). I don’t plan on spending more than 12 months in Australia though, so I just considered it an interesting point and didn’t pay much more attention than that.
After that, things became a little more difficult. Setting up a bank account in Australia is much like New Zealand. In other words, I can do it online and it’s as easy as pie. With a new account at the National Australian Bank (NAB) approved, I moved to set up my appointment with a migrant bank clerk in Melbourne, so I could pick up my bank card, authorize my account (they need to see ID and such), and access my money. They recommended setting up the meeting at least 2 weeks in advance, so I wasted no time and called the number they gave. No answer. I figured they must just be busy, and sent an email instead. 2 days gone and still no reply, I tried the number again, this time getting routed to the central customer service for NAB. They were a bit baffled at the idea of setting up a meeting, figuring I’d just need to show up instead. But, after insistance, they called the branch I had been assigned in Melbourne…except nobody answered their calls either. This is apparently a very busy branch. They suggested I try again in the morning. So I did, with the same results. At that point I simply gave up and decided to show up at the branch when I got there, and hope that this place actually existed. The next day I got an email response from my NAB rep, along with a good meeting time. Success!
Then, transfering some money. Not surprisingly, my New Zealand bank (BNZ) made the process as easy as can be – it can be done online and within minutes. My Canadian Bank though (TD)? I still haven’t figured out how to do it, other than stepping foot inside a branch. Which isn’t exactly going to happen anytime soon. Oh well, don’t need the money from those accounts, just yet.
Next, travel/medical insurance. Now that I had been outside of Canada for more than 6 months, I no longer qualify for insurance in my home country (except for a few very expensive options). Canadians just aren’t meant to travel for more than 6 months I guess. Looking at European/UK providers, they almost all have extensive long-term travel options, and often are very reasonably priced (ie $100-300/year for good medical emergency coverage). The problem is, naturally it’s for their own citizens only. When I came to New Zealand, my option was very easy – New Zealand has excellent health coverage for not only it’s citizens but also visiting tourists. Getting insurance here as a backpacker was a cinch, and cost about $150NZD for the entire year. Australia, though also being a haven for backpackers, doesn’t have quite a open and forgiving healthcare system. They also don’t seem to offer much for backpackers, so I was stuck looking for international ‘expatriate’ insurance. Which varies wildly in coverage, price, and reviews. After many hours of pouring over coverage and policy forms, I ended up choosing an American insurer that specialized in long term travel. It was a headache inducing ride to get there though.
The flight was the easy part. With numerous flights to Australia every day from Auckland it was simply a matter of choosing where I wanted to go. Originally I had figured I’ll head north – warmth and beaches seemed appealing. But the prices were a bit higher to fly there, and I wasn’t sure if the cities there would be places I’d want to work. So I instead went with the cheapest flight option, taking me to Melbourne instead. I’m actually glad I decided this way – Melbourne looks to be a fantastic city to set everything up in, though I doubt I’ll stay there much past the first week. But, time will well.