The complete guide to moving to Adelaide

Updated: Oct 18, 2017

Sitting pretty up against the Torrens River, Adelaide is the city that feels like a town. It’s backed by hills and looks down to the St Vincent Gulf, meaning that it doesn’t matter if you’re a beach buff or hiking fanatic, there’s something for you here. And did we mention the wine? Adelaide is home to some of the most famous wineries – in the world. There are over 200 cellar doors to explore here. So that should keep you busy for a few weeks!

Setting up home

Adelaide is curious mix of old and new. What was once a very conservative city, Adelaide has opened up in recent years, bringing with it a freshness to the colonial roots. Many people think of Adelaide as a huge country town, it’s got that warm, pleasant feeling that often gets lost in huge cities. There’s also a lower cost of living, making Adelaide a relatively affordable place to live and set-up a home. The wider expanse of greater Adelaide covers leafy suburbs, bohemian arts districts and vast expanses of beautiful beaches, meaning you’ll have plenty – if not tough – choices on where you’d like to settle.

To rent or buy

If you’re looking to buy, HomeStart is a government backed initiative helping house buyers in the state of South Australia. They have a number of different financial incentives to help prospective buyers. If you’re a graduate, you can get a preferable interest rate – as low as 3% depending on your circumstances. Plus there are low loan repayment rates if you’re building your own home. You don’t need to be a graduate or a first-time buyer to take advantage of their services. Have a look at their website for more detailed information.

There are a number of ways to buy property in Adelaide. You can buy off-plan, for a property that’s still in the development or building process, or you can buy privately, usually through an agent. You can also purchase properties through auction. Adelaide is a relatively small city, in fact, it’s said that you can get anywhere in Adelaide in 20 minutes! Having said that, given the many suburbs of the city – and it’s sprawling out to the greater Adelaide region – there are still plenty of suburbs to settle in.

Burnside and Kensington Gardens might be worth checking out if you’ve got younger children, as there is plenty of green space for them to run around in, plus plenty of community facilities to help your young family settle in. If you want to be close to the city centre, somewhere like Prospect or Medindie could be worth a look. They have a range of housing options, from modern apartments to larger townhouses and detached properties. They quite affluent areas and are very popular with expats from Europe. Western Adelaide is home to Brighton and Glenelg, both beach-side and desirable, so you’ll find prices reflect this.

Grab a glass of wine and sit down with or even to just gauge how much bang you’ll get for your buck. It’s worth knowing that many places will hold open inspections and landlords can vet you based on your application. The market is really competitive, so be prepared for a little bit of a hustle to get your dream home. If you’re lucky your new employer or colleagues could give you some helpful info with specific recommended agents. Rental properties don’t usually come with any white goods, so depending on where you’re moving from, it might not be feasible to bring your washing machine and fridge from home. You might also want to register with 1 Form – this is a central application site that many agents use and will have you copying your details on to a million application forms

TIP: Before putting down a rental deposit, or an offer on a house, explore the area. Does it fit with the kind of lifestyle you lead – good schools, great restaurants, close to local transport or the office?


The bad news? As of 2017, South Australia overtook Denmark as having the highest electricity prices in the world. Ouch. The good news? You can shop around for the best deal as the energy sector here is deregulated. You can opt for big names such as AGL, EnergyAustralia or Origin. Or you could select from nearly 20 other providers. The Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy website: is a good resource for comparing plans and prices.

The gas market is also deregulated, again with the same big names dominating the field. It’s worth knowing, though, that most smaller companies will only include gas supply as part of an electricity package deal. Again, you can use the Energy Made Easy website to compare deals.

There are two main contract types to choose from: retail or market. You’re likely to be on a retail contract unless you specifically specify a market contract. The main difference being that with a retail contract there are usually no exit fees if you want to leave the provider and more options of flexible tariffs. That being said, market contracts can often discount on your individual home needs, and generally work out cheaper.

There’s less choice with water – it’s supplied only by SA Water. Your home will already be connected to the water supply, unless you’re building your own home or moving to a new build. Your conveyancer should have informed SA Water of the change of ownership. Billing begins the day you take over the property.

Getting around

Public Transport

Adelaide’s Metro system comprises buses, trains and trams that serve both the city and the wider, metropolitan area.

Buses make up the main component of public transport in Adelaide. There are a number of operators with a variety of routes – nearly all of which terminate in the city centre. Famously, the 12km O-Bahn guided busway is the world’s fastest busway, with speeds of up to 100km/h. The City Connector bus is a free service that loops the city and North Adelaide. Both useful if you’re using public transport to commute.

If you prefer the train, Adelaide is covered by six lines and 81 stations, reaching out as far as Gawler in the north to Seaford in the south, and all come via the city centre, too. Adelaide was once home to a sprawling tram network, which sadly closed in the 1950s. The Glenelg tram is the one remaining line, running from the city centre to Glenelg. However, there is talk of a massive rebuilding of the tram network, which would include six new lines, all serving the city centre.

The Metrocard is Adelaide’s contactless smartcard for integrated travel. With an initial purchase cost of $5, it allows you to travel on buses, trains and trams, and is a cheaper alternative to single journey tickets. Your fare is deducted by tapping your card on a validator as you get on the bus/train/tram. You can recharge your card online, at stations, or even arrange for it to recharge automatically once your credit falls to a certain level.

TIP: Invest in a Metrocard and sign-up online for automatic top-ups. That way you won’t have to worry about running out of credit or trying to find change for your fare unexpectedly.

Getting a driving licence

You’ll need to apply for a South Australia driving licence within 90 days of arriving in Adelaide. It’s a simple process, as you’re just transferring one licence for another. You’ll need to fill out some paperwork first – an application form – and bring it along with your current state licence, proof of ID and a medical certificate if you have a condition that needs declaring on your licence. The fee for an annual licence renewal is $43.00, plus an administration fee of $17.00. You can apply for a licence lasting anything from one to ten years. You can also apply if your licence has expired, however, if your licence expired more than five years ago, you’ll need to start from scratch: this means passing your theory and driving test. To find your nearest customer service centre, have a look at the government transport website:

TIP: You’ve got 90 days to swap your licence – do it as soon as you can. If you leave it too late you’ll have to sit your test again.

Registering your car

As well as your licence, you must register your vehicle within three months of moving to Adelaide. You’ll need to take your current interstate registration certificate to a Service SA customer service centre, which is the same place you’ll go to change your licence. If you don’t have this, your car will have to have an inspection to confirm you’re the owner and the car is road-worthy. After it’s inspected, you’ll need to give the customer service centre your completed application form for registration and third party insurance, plus your inspection certificate. Registration fees can vary, depending on things like the type of vehicle you have, plus your insurance. To help you with your moving budget, you can get an online quote here:

School Options

All children in Adelaide are guaranteed a preschool place, although obviously local government can’t guarantee it will be at your first choice of school. From the age of 4, children are eligible for preschool – they can attend for a year before they are due to start school full time. As children don’t legally have to be in school until they are 6 years old, you might decide to wait until your little one is 5 before enrolling them in pre-school. Before making any decision, it’s best to have a chat with the principal and staff. There is a lot of helpful information on the South Australia government education site, including school districts, which will certainly help when you’re making the decision about where to live. See for more information.

When your child moves on to primary school, they’ll be there until the end of year 7. During Primary school, your child will cover a wide variety of subjects through the Australian Curriculum. This includes the basics like Mathematics and English, plus a broader arts, technology and physical education program.

This broad selection of studies will continue in to high school, and to year 10. Once student reach year 10, their studies begin to narrow as they prepare for the SACE – South Australian Certificate of Education. To achieve this, students must pass 200 credits in subject pathways during years 11 and 12. There is a wide variety of options available to young people, allowing them to follow their interests. There are a few core studies in literacy and numeracy, but students can then follow the sciences, arts, or even combine with more vocational courses. If your teen is coming up to SACE study age when you move, it might be a good idea to sit down with them and have a look at their options and how the system works:


Voting in Council elections in Adelaide is voluntary – although it’s obviously an important way for you to have your say about how your community is run. You don’t necessarily need to enrol to vote: Adelaide City Council automatically enrols all owners of property within the City of Adelaide. If you are renting, you will need to complete the State Electoral Commission Application form.

If you choose to vote in a Council election, it is done exclusively by postal ballot, and you’ll have a three week window to return your form. The next Council elections are going to be held in November 2018.

Voting in State and Federal elections is compulsory. You can enrol to vote in State elections very simply by completing the Australian Electoral Commission’s online form: Alternatively, a paper form is readily available from any Australia Post Office. You must enrol on the State electoral roll if you are over 18 years old, and an Australian citizen, and have lived at your address for at least one month.


There are a few rules you’ll need to follow if you want to bring your four-legged friend with you to Adelaide. If you have a dog who is three months or older, they need to be registered annually. This needs to be done in July or August. It’s a very simply process and you can do it online here:

If you have more than one dog, you’ll also need to complete this form -

The standard registration fee is $73, although this can be reduced if you have your pooch microchipped and neutered. The fee can be brought down to as little as $29.20. If you’re a cat person, feline doesn’t need to be registered in Adelaide. It’s not currently state law in South Australia to have your dog or cat microchipped, but will be from July 2018. Do keep in mind though, that some Adelaide suburbs have enacted an entitlement to introduce local by-laws requiring microchipping – and registration for cats – so check your local council’s website.

All dogs must be kept on a leash in public areas, although they can be set free in council parks and certain reserves. There are a number of fully-fenced dog parks when you can take your dog to give them a good run in safety.

TIP: Check the local suburb rules around microchipping and pet registration, as not all follow the state rule and you don’t want to be given a nasty fine – or worse.

Everyday Life

Recreational activities

Adelaide is within easy reach of some of the most famous wine territory in the world. McLaren Vale, Clare and Barossa Valley are all close by, meaning day trips to learn your riesling from your shiraz are easy to do. Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island and as its name suggests, is home to plenty of wildlife. It’s a great place for hiking, with some beautiful scenery. As with most cities in Australia, Adelaide has an outdoor culture, so lots of opportunities to surf, dive and sail. Plus, as over 20% of South Australia is designated national park, there are plenty of bushwalks and nature trails to take you out of the city of a weekend.


As you’d expect from a world-leading wine region, agriculture is big business here – both food and wine for a global market. As part of this, manufacturing also is a strong employment route, as products need to be packed for export. Plus, the hospitality sector attached to the wineries and tasting houses. South Australia plays a central role in Australian defence, with warships, submarines and automotive components being built here. You might find the wages are a little lower than you might be used to – but this is reflected in the lower cost of living here too.