The complete guide to moving to Sydney

Updated: Aug 25, 2017

Sydney. Seriously, you need an introduction? From iconic Australian architecture such as the Opera House to the Harbour Bridge, Sydney has one of the most recognisable cityscapes in the world. There’s more to this massive hub than a pretty skyline though: business is booming with global companies setting up shop here, the city practically buzzes with excitement come sun-down and there are so many green spaces to relax in when you’ve worked and partied too hard. Oh, and then you’ve got the beaches. A lengthy coastline for swimming, surfing and sunning. We can’t blame you for wanting to move to Sydney.

Setting up home

Sydney is home to over 5 million people and as you’d expect from such a massive city, there’s an eclectic mix of cultures which makes for a really exciting place to be. And busy. So, when you’re thinking of moving to Sydney, have a think about what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for: if you’re arriving young, free and single you might be looking for a different pace of life than if you’re bringing the family and pets. You will notice though, that it’s not the cheapest place to live and Sydney can often be found on the lists of some of the most expensive places to live in the world. Don’t let that put you off though, as there are literally hundreds of suburbs to pick from, meaning there’s bound to be one that fits your budget and needs. You’ll find a mix of housing options, from apartments to converted Victorian houses.

Areas like Bondi, Manly and Surry Hills always come up as some of the most desirable places to live, but given how big the city is, they’re not the only choices. If you’re lucky enough to have some time visiting before you move, then you should get out an explore – perhaps areas that are close to the office first, or to a park or beach. With such a massive range on offer, it helps that Sydney is broadly divided in to regions, which might help narrow down your search:

Eastern Suburbs – thanks to its proximity to the main business zones and the airport, this district has grown over the years and brought house prices with it. There is a mix of young professionals, expats and families in the region, depending on the neighbourhood.

Hills District – is a cosmopolitan area of Asian and European influences which is growing thanks to it family-friendly green spaces.

Inner West – older houses, more house shares and popular with the young, single crowd thanks to the abundance of trendy coffee shops and hipster hangouts.

Northern beaches – as the name suggests, close to the coast but you’ll often have to pay handsomely for the privilege.

North Shore and suburbs – beautifully leafy, and more like small villages in certain places, this is where those with high incomes call home.

Western Sydney – although further outside the city centre, you might find bigger houses at more affordable prices. It’s a real international mix of cultures in this region.

TIP: Before putting down a deposit, try and explore the area you’re thinking of moving to. Does it fit your lifestyle: is the office/school/coffee shop easy to get to? Is there a park nearby to walk the dog?

To rent or buy

This all depends on whether you know your move is ‘forever’ straight away, or if you want to try your neighbourhood for size before committing to buy.

Thanks to the First Home Owner Grant, if you’ve not bought before, you might benefit from exemption on from stamp duty, which can really help cut buying costs. There are also other schemes if you’re buying a new-build. Have a look at the NSW government website:

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


Electricity and gas is deregulated in NSW, so you can search for the most competitive deals around. A great place to start is the Your Energy website:

The market is dominated by Australia’s largest energy suppliers – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – but deregulation (which for gas happened only in July 2017) means that there are great deals to be had from a wide range of sometimes smaller companies.

Water supply is provided by Sydney Water Any existing property will already be connected, so you don’t need to do anything. If you already have an account with them, you don’t need to do anything either, as they simply get your details from the Land and Property Information when you move to your new address.

Getting around

Public transport

As you’d expect from a major hub, Sydney’s public transport is extensive. It covers buses, ferries, trains and light rail services. They’re all operated by Transport for New South Wales and it pays to invest in an Opal card. You can top this up online and when you tap your card at a station, you’ll helpfully get a warning if your balance is low. You can also use your card across all public transport operated by the network. The light rail network starts at 6am and runs every 15 minutes and covers the main shopping and entertainment areas. The train network is more comprehensive, with 7 lines running from central Sydney to Richmond in the north west to Macarthur in the south. Certain rail lines and bus routes operate 27/7, with other routes offering extra services through the night of a weekend – and even some of the ferry services run to 1am – so you shouldn’t be caught short trying to get home after an evening out. If you’d rather opt for a taxi, there are dedicated taxi ranks in popular areas such as Kings Cross, but after 11pm of a weekend or public holiday, you might be asked to pay your fare upfront. You’ll also be liable for any road tolls and even a fee if you pay by card rather than cash. You can pre-book your cab or hail one on the street, or opt for an Uber.

TIP: Invest in an Opal card. They’re free to buy and you can top up online. They can be used on trains, ferries, busses and the light rail network.

Getting a driving licence

Moving interstate will still require you to update your driving licence. The good news is, you do have three months to do this from when you take up residency. In the meantime, if you’re driving on your home/current state licence, you’ll need to make sure you have it with you any time you drive.

For your initial application, you’ll need two forms of ID: usually your birth certificate, passport, tenancy agreement and/or electoral roll confirmation, plus proof of address. You also need to make sure the documentation is in the same name – if you’ve just got married/divorced you may need further proof. Also, they must be originals, even certified copies are not accepted; and at least one of the documents needs to have your signature on. The issue date of your interstate licence is used to work out the dates on your new NSW licence, so if your current licence doesn’t show this, you’ll need to get a letter from the issuing authority to confirm your dates – it might be an idea to do this before you move, while you’re still in the same state as your issuing licence. There is quite an extensive list of things the RMS (Roads and Maritime) department will accept, so you might find it useful to check out their list:

You need to fill out an application form and have your photo taken – so maybe make sure you’ve got a clean shirt on! Oh, you’ll also have an obligatory eye test. If your interstate driving licence is still in date, your NSW will be swapped over free of charge. Depending on which branch you visit, your new licence will either be handed over to you or sent through the post. If yours is posted to you, you’ll be given a temporary paper copy to keep with you until your full licence arrives. Your old licence will be taken off you and cancelled, you’ll not need to do anything with it.

TIP: Although you have 3 months to change your licence over, don’t leave it too late – or you’ll run the risk of having to sit both your theory and practical tests again.

Registering your car

You’re also going to need to have your car – or other vehicle licenced when you move to Sydney. Again, there’s a little bit of paperwork you should have in order, which should lead to a fairly easy registration. Your first step is to have your vehicle inspected to check its road worthy and safe. You can have this done at an Authorised Unregistered Vehicle Inspection Station (AUVIS). Use this tool to find your nearest AUVIS Your car might also need additional checks if you’ve had any modifications made to it. You’ll then need to get what’s called a green slip, which is basically compulsory third party insurance. There are six providers who can issue green slips, and you can compare them here: Your final step is to register the vehicle itself. You’ll need to fill out some paperwork and take ID documents with you, plus proof that the car is yours and that you’ve got your green slip. RMS will assign you with new number plates and records to show that the vehicle is now registered within NSW. Costs can vary depending on the type of vehicle you’re looking to register, so to help you budget there is an online calculator which can give you a rough estimate at the cost:

Road Tolls

There are toll roads in NSW, with them forming a ring around some of the most well-used parts of Sydney. Most of the motorways are toll, using a cashless system. There are a few different options, depending on how often you’re likely to be using the toll roads. An electronic tag is perhaps a better option if you’re using motorways frequently. There is a balance applied to the tag and you can top it up using your bank card. If you have a Transurban link account from Melbourne or Brisbane, you’ll be able to utilise it in Sydney. An electronic pass will record your number plate and you’ll pay based on how many trips you’ve taken, which is better if you’re not a frequent user. Don’t worry if you accidentally use a toll without having set up any pre-pay options, if you know you’ve been on a toll road, you’ll have three days in which to pay. Otherwise a notice will be issued to you.

School Options

While pre-school isn’t compulsory, it’s recommended, particularly if you want to guarantee your child a place at the local public school. It’s also the way most children start their education.

Kindergarten is the first year of school legally, and your little one must start this before their sixth birthday. They’ll usually have a ‘Best Starts’ assessment to identify their literacy and numeracy levels, which is a good starting point. Students continue through primary school until year 6, when they’ll move to secondary school and start year 7.

To enrol in a local primary, you will need to visit the school, which is a good way to get to know the staff and to check it’s suitable for your child.

The Department of Education website should be your first stop, as it’ll give you all the information you need about enrolment, and give you a list of schools close to where you live:

Although the NSW Education Standards Authority sets the curriculum from kindergarten to Year 10, each school district can adapt it to the needs of their students.

When your child moves on to secondary school, they’ll study 8 core subjects, including English and Maths, with technology and language programs included. Unlike primary school, each subject will have a different teacher. In years 7 and 9 your child will sit NAPLAN – the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, which is common in all schools in Australia. They’ll continue their studies until Year 10, when there are a few more options, and you can sit down together and look at your child’s interests and strengths and develop their year 11 and 12 study program. In these final two years, students will study towards their HSC – or High School Certificate, which is an internationally recognised qualification. Students chose their pathway depending on what they’re hoping to do following high school. Courses range from Arts, Technology, Languages and Vocational courses for students wanting careers in engineering, hospitality. If you have an older teenager approaching HSC age when you move, we’d suggest having a look at the dedicated government website

and set up a meeting with your new school so that staff know what pathways your child is already working on, if applicable, and you can ask any questions.

If you didn’t want to enrol your child in a government-backed school you could opt for an independent education. This can work out quite expensive, with fees on average $25,000 - which doesn’t include things like application costs.


Electoral roll requirements – state and federal

Everyone is eligible to vote in local council elections provided you live in Sydney and are on the State and Commonwealth (Federal) Electoral Rolls. If you are, you’ll automatically be on the city electoral roll. If you’re not sure, check your status online with the NSW Enrolment Verification Facility

If you need to enrol to vote, or change your details, do so online at the Australian Electoral Commission -

Voting is compulsory for State and Local elections, and a fine may be levied if you do not exercise your vote. To see when your local council is holding an election, have a look at

Pets registration

All dogs and cats must be microchipped by the time they’re 12 weeks old. If not, you can be fined up to $880. This can go up to a whopping $5500 if your dog is a declared a dangerous breed.

All dogs and cats must be registered with your local council by six months. In NSW, the registration is valid for the animal’s entire life, even if it changes owner. You’ll need to give your local council a signed Lifetime Registration Form (R2), a copy of your dog’s Permanent Identification (P1A) Form or Verification of Existing Microchip (M1) Form. Fees differ depending on your individual circumstances – from free to $201 depending on various factors such as if your pet has been neutered or is from a rescue shelter.

When you move to Sydney with your furry friend, you must complete registration within three months of arriving and you can’t transfer registration from another state or territory. All the necessary forms can be found here:

In public places, dogs must be kept on a leash and be under an adult’s control. It’s worth knowing that if you have a few four-legged companions, a person is not considered under control of the dog if they have more than four at once. Breaches of these rules can attract fines of up to $1100. However, there are plenty of off-leash dog parks, which can be found here:

Everyday life

Recreational activities

It goes without saying that there are plenty of things to do in your downtime in Sydney. From high culture at the Opera House to the beautiful sands of Bondi. And speaking of Bondi, it’s not just the beach that’s a big pull. With plenty of cafés and brunch spots to pick from, the Bondi area is a great way to spend the day. You can even do one of the most iconic walks – Bondi to Coogee – ideal if you’ve filled up on hotcakes at Harry’s. The Blue Mountains are just a few hours’ drive from Sydney and you’ll find everything from hiking to mountain biking available against the scenic backdrop. In the heart of Sydney, under the harbour bridge in fact, you’ll find Kirribilli Markets which features different stalls during the month and is a good mix of art, fashion, and homewares.

Head to popular but gritty Kings Cross – there’s theatres, restaurants and bars overflowing in this area. It’s long-established and a bit worn round the edges, but still packs a crowd of a weekend. Given the number of neighbourhoods in Sydney, you’re bound to find a great flat white or cold beer somewhere close to home.


Sydney is a massive trade hub and a global city, so there are plenty of opportunities to further your career. The city is home to global company headquarters, and over 90% of the international financial institutions that operate in Australia have offices in Sydney. Plus, the nearby airport offers direct links to the USA and Asia – both markets offer a wealth of business opportunities. In addition to finance, there are a lot of digital and tech companies operating out of Sydney; while more traditional industries like manufacturing still have big pulls in the area. This includes food, textiles and pharmaceuticals. Hospitality roles have long been on offer thanks to an increase in national and international tourism.