How to Budget in Sydney

Carlie Kidd

So you’re heading to Sydney for your internship, how exciting! I used to be a Sydneysider myself before becoming an Admissions Counselor for GE, and from my experience I'm here to help make sure that your budget doesn't go down under!


My six months living in Sydney were some of the best times of my life! I was living in an apartment in Bondi with three other girls, going to school at the University of Sydney and working at The Sugar Mill in King’s Cross. I wanted to make the most out of my trip - go to lots of different cultural events, take day trips to Hunter Wine Valley, the Blue Mountains, or climb across the Sydney Bridge, and just check out some of the great restaurants, and bars. All things that you could do during your internship in Sydney!

Carlie Opera House

However, I was a college student, and did not have all the money in the world to spend. Shocker Alert - My first week in Sydney I went to a burger joint with my friends in Bondi, and my burger and drink order was $20 - no fries and no drink refill! Coming from the US, this might’ve been my first wave of culture shock! So I adapted, re-budgeted, and prioritized my bucket list, I was fine from then on, and managed to have money leftover for another trip to the Great Barrier Reef! :)

This experience will really help you learn to budget your money wisely, even if you're here for a Accounting Internship! I have included tips (for all career fields!) to help you start your budget before for your trip to Sydney, so you can make the most out of your trip!

Banking Before You Leave

Westpac Bank

Check if your bank has an international branch in Sydney. If not, they may have a sister bank you can use that won’t charge you extra fees for using the ATM. For example, Bank of America’s Australian sister bank is Westpac. Ask about foreign transaction and ATM fees to compare, typically, it should be lower than 2.5% (don’t use if it’s over).

Australian Dollars - Figuring out the Currency

Australian Dollar

We recommend bringing AUD $300 in cash to start out. You can get AUD exchanged at your home bank prior to departure for a good rate, which takes a few days to process. Airports do not give you the best rates, so use ATMs or banks where you can get the best bang for your buck. You will most likely be charged a fee to pull out cash, so it is wise to pull out large amounts at a time to avoid having ATM fees add up (but you never want to keep all of your cash on you at any time).

Public Transpo

Opal Card

Don't worry, we will help you navigate! Each intern is provided the Opal Card! Totally worth it because it offers discounted fares compared to purchasing one ticket for the day. No matter how much you travel with an Opal Card you never pay more than your Travel Caps. The Opal Card is good for travel on trains, buses, ferries and light rail, day after day, with one card. Depending on the distance and mode of transportation to your internship, your budget for transportation could range from $40-60 AUD per week / $160-240 AUD per month.

If You’re a Foodie Like Me…

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

Sydney Happy Hour

Take advantage of happy hours after work where you can load up on half-price foods and drinks in different parts of the city - King’s Cross, Glebe, Surry Hills, The Rocks all have awesome happy hour options, like $5 AUD for a drink and personal pizza, yum! Do some research on the local bars and restaurants near your internship to figure out what places have the best specials for your wallet. If you’re still in college during your internship abroad, always look for student discounts and make sure to keep your student ID in your wallet!

Family Dinners Are the Best!

Friends Making Dinner

A good estimate for food in Sydney is to budget about $30 a day for 8 weeks. Some days you might spend this, other days you won’t spend anything on food. You’re going to bond pretty quickly with your roommates and the other interns in your building. Help each other save money and build friendships by cooking big family dinners together! Each apartment can take turns each week night!

Cooking dinner together is a great way to save money on groceries, and a way to include new people into your group to build closer relationships. For example, if you're here for a Marketing Internship or a Finance internship you probably won't interact much with someone in a Fashion internship. This creates an opportunity to learn not only about different career fields, but each other. Plus, you can bring leftovers to work for lunch the next day! Otherwise, eating lunch out every day could get pretty costly. As I mentioned above - a burger and drink runs about $16-$20 AUD. Where as a big grocery run may be about $100-$200 AUD for all necessities, followed by weekly trips at $50 AUD, which covers breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the whole week!

Communicating Down Under - Cell Phones

Abroad Communication Platforms

You can use Skype to make free international calls back home. Set up your account for free before you leave, and have your family set up their account. If you want to have a local phone, the cheapest and easiest way to get yourself communicating is to bring your own unlocked phone and buy a local sim card once you’re there.

You can expect to pay $40-50 AUD per month for your phone. That includes unlimited calls and texts, unlimited calls to the States in most cases, and 4-6 GB of data. In Sydney there are phone shops at most airports and in almost all shopping centres, and the main providers are Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone.

Start Right Now

Researching your Budget

Create a budget of how much money you expect to spend before your international internship starts, and make sure to add in the currency exchange rate. Make a list of things you will be spending money on like food, transportation, travel outside the city, and entertainment costs.

You got this!

This is in no way one-size-fits-all-advice, but hopefully these help you get started. If you've never created or used a budget before, try one out in the months before you leave so you can get a feel for it. It's new at first, but just like everything else gets easy with time. Once you're officially a part of Global Experiences, your online portal actually provides you with a guided fill-in-the-blank budgeter to ensure you've accounted for everything and to adjust with different numbers! Our advice?  You're smart, you're capable, you got this!

Have you traveled abroad to Australia before? Leave your suggestions in the comment box down below!

Let's Get Started


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