Journey to Australia: Arrival

This post elaborates things to be done at your Arrival to Australia(the following post focuses specifically on Melbourne).

Landing on an unknown country can be scary if you are not well prepared. With Internet, you can be best prepared for what is to come. But there are things you can still miss out. I'll try to put my experience in the best way possible. If you have questions/concerns please leave a comment.

The following points would be explained here

  • At the Airport
    • Immigration
    • Border Protection/Customs
    • Phone SIM cards
  • Day 1
    • Myki Card
    • Bank Account
    • Medicare
    • Centrelink(if you have kids)
  • Things to do
    • Tax File Number
    • Library Card
    • Driving License
  • Misc info
    • Shopping?
At the Airport
Have your documents ready after landing at Melbourne. By documents, I specifically mean -
  1. Passport
  2. Print of Visa Grant
  3. Declaration form(which was provided to you during flight)
Make sure the Declaration form is filled correctly. Australia has strict border protection policies and quarantines. This helps them safeguard the biodiversity from diseases present in rest of the wold. You must respect that and declare any food/organic products that you bring in. For Eg: if you have any sort of food with you, check the corresponding box. Food means cooked, packed, dried or whatever. Even if it's chocolates. It's important that you declare what you are bringing. The people at the Airport are smart if you try not outsmart them, and it doesn't come cheap. Fines can be anywhere upward of AUD 200.

After landing, head to the Immigration queue. There would usually be a long wait over here. Hand over your documents to the officer, answer any questions he asks and keep moving. The next queue is for the Border protection(customs) clearance. Here is where your bag would be checked(if they are suspicious). We had declared everything and the officer(before the queue started) was happy and let us across to the exit.

As soon as you exit the Airport, buy your phone SIM cards. This is essential as you can make calls and use data for communication/navigation. All major telecom providers are available here - Vodafone, Telstra, Optus. While purchasing chose your prepaid plan to accommodate international calls. Most of the tariff plans available have unlimited calls/messages and enough data. This would cost you AUD 30 and above. Activation is immediate. Use your passport as identification here, if you are taking two connections - use the corresponding passport(otherwise it will be difficult to port/convert to postpaid etc. in the future).

Exit this area and grab a Taxi to your accommodation. There is option of taking a bus, but being the first time I'd recommend to go by Taxi. The Airport is far from the City, and could cost you approx. AUD 70 to the city. Make sure you have contacted your host and have everything sorted out for the accommodation.

Day 1

  • Myki card - This is the travel card used for public transport in Melbourne. You can use this for Trains(Metro), Tram and Bus services. The fare is approx AUD 4.30 for 2 hours and AUD 8.60 for the whole day(See this - Fares). You can buy a Myki card from any convenience stores(Eg: 7 eleven). To be safe, swipe in and swipe out whenever you use any public transport(you don't have to actually swipe out in Trams, or swipe at all in Free Tram zones). Travel within the City(CBD), is entirely free for Trams. Once you get the card, you can register it  online to enable Auto top up.
  • Bank Account - If you have setup the account from India, they would've arranged your Debit card for collection at your choice of branch. Activate your account and collect the debit card. If you don't setup the account earlier, it will take a few days for the debit card to arrive(via post or you can chose to collect). Major banks - ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank
  • Medicare - Medicare is the Govt. provided medical service for all. It covers a lot of services, and it's important that you set this up immediately. Private doctor visits can be really expensive if you have no insurance at all. Goto Medicare, fill up their forms and your card should be delivered within a few days. You can use this card to make GP(General Practitioner) appointments for any illness. Any GP prescribed tests are also covered in Medicare. Just make sure you visit a place that Bulk Bills so that everything is processed cashless. Medicare Card can also be used as a form of ID.
  • Centrelink - Centrelinks provide social security services. For eg: if you have kids you might be eligible for some allowances like day care services. 
Things to do
The following items need not be done urgently, but good to be done at the earliest.

  • Tax File Number(TFN) - This is like your PAN in India. You can register for TFN online, and the number will be delivered to you by post within a few days. This is mandatory while you start working
  • Library Card - As a permanent resident, you have free access to the Public Library. Register for this and collect your card. You can rent books, movies, games, music, magazines and lot more from the public library for free.
  • Driving license - You can drive in Melbourne with your Indian License for a period of 6 months. It is better to apply for a license at the earliest as this would be your best possible ID card as well. Here is a summary of things you have to do to obtain a license(if you already have one in India). For more info - Vicroads
    The whole process takes more than a month as you need available slots for the tests. It also costs around AUD 200-300 approx. for the whole thing(doesn't include driving lessons)
    • Call and take an appointment for Overseas License Conversion. Go with required set of documents and pay a fee for this. Post this book an appointment for Learners test
    • Practise and take the learners test. This is an MCQ test. References - VicroadsAussie Driver. It's not very difficult to crack this, but practice is important - don't be over confident and driving knowledge in India is NOT enough. After you pass this test, book your next tests. You can opt to get the Learner's permit - but this will mean that you can no longer ride with your International License. Take the Learner's permit if you are past 6 months. Note : The rules are very strict, and drivers with Learner's permit have lot of restricions
    • Hazard Perception Test - This tests your reflex and ability to respond to a variety of situations. It'll look something like this. After you pass this book your Driving Test
    • Driving Test - I'd recommend going for driving classes even if you are an expert. There are things you have to follow to pass the test(Eg : Head Check, if you don't know what this is - it a critical fault). The lessons cost about AUD 200-300 and it's totally worth it.
Miscellaneous Info
  • Shopping - The best places for all in one shopping is at the huge supermarkets of either Coles or Woolsworth. They have their stores all over the city/suburbs. Other hotspots for shopping are Target, IKEA, Bunnings etc.
  • Grocery shopping - You can get fresh and cheap produce at markets. Victoria Market is one of the best places to go to.
  • Indian shopping - there are lot of Indians stores available in the cities and suburbs. City stores are usually more expensive. 
  • Indian Cuisine - Melbourne has an amazing range of cuisines available including Indian. Its not hard to find the food you are looking for.
I think this summarises all the important points that you need to take care once you arrive at Melbourne. I hope this is helpful to you. Leave a comment if you feel I missed something, or you would need more info on.

Read all the posts related to my Journey to Australia -
  1. The Beginning
  2. Road to get a Visa
  3. Cracking PTE
  4. Visa granted, now what?
  5. Job Hunt Part -1 
  6. Time to Fly!
  7. Arrival
  8. Job Hunt Part - 2