Australian currency has been said to be indestructible. It is literally made out of a material, polymer that resembles a flexible plastic. The notes are waterproof and tear resistant which make US dollar bills seem flimsy in comparison.
Australian coins range from 50 cents to $2 and become bigger as the value becomes smaller. It has been strange becoming more accustomed to carrying larger amounts of coins around. At home we are all so used to carrying a few bills however here your wallet jingles as you walk to or from the store.
Since the exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the US dollar is almost identical I have been surprised by how expensive my first few weeks in Sydney have been. Obviously you have to take starting costs into consideration; household items such as soaps, sponges, detergent, bathmats, coffee pots etc add up and can make you reconsider the amount of money you have budgeted for the semester. However upon looking closer it is easy to see that these costs won’t be frequently recurring. It was specifically difficult for me to choose what seasoning spices were actually necessary for cooking and what I could do away with for my short time abroad.
Before arriving in Australia my dad went to a currency conversion shop and converted about $200 into Australian currency. It is a good idea to have some money converted before you leave, as you will have plenty of other things to do once you arrive in your new country.
This amount carried me through my first week abroad (well maybe it didn’t cover everything but at least all the necessities). Luckily the suburb I live in boasts many banks. I set up a high yield checking account with Charles Schwab bank at home, which refunds any atm fees, and doesn’t charge a currency conversion fee. A few other friends here Down Under have set up accounts with the local Australian banks: Commonwealth Bank or ANZ Bank, both of which feature atms on campus. However do understand that when setting up a bank account with a local bank that it takes time to transfer money, receive your debit card and receive your pin.
Living here in Sydney it feels like you are constantly taking money out of the atm. It helps that most of the restaurants are BYO (bring your own booze) but in general the cost of living is very high. Here is a taste of what prices have been like:
- Shampoo $6
- Bus pass $16 for 10 rides
- The cheapest beer at a bar $5
- Ice-cream $4.50 for a scoop
- Chicken gyro $8.50
- Sushi hand roll $3.50
- Salmon dinner with Rice $19
- Can of Soup $3.50
- A fifth of rum $35 (yes you read that right, alcohol except wine is severely taxed).
- Soda at convenience store $4