Changing money in Australia is simple. You might want to set yourself up with a bank account at one of
the four major banks of Australia: NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth, or ANZ. Get your hands on the Australian dollar the simple
and easy way. If you're hungering for the past, dream about Australian pounds as you sleep. You can see Australian prices and
compare them with other countries.
The Cost Of Living In Australia
"If you enjoy hemorrhaging
cash, then you'll love
Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
The Best Things In Life Are Free
That's what they say anyway. How can you put a price on
a golden sandy beach, a pristine mountain stream, a lush national park, or
an Outback sunset? Transport is how. Because
Australia is so vast, getting your tush to each of these natural wonders
is going to cost you.
helluva lot of this
The Good News:
Absolutely Speaking, Australia Is Not That Expensive In
fact, flying over here from overpriced Western Europe or Japan,
Australia will feel like stealing candy from a baby. The prices for gasoline, food, and
accommodation will feel like it's handed to you on a subsidized platter.
The bad news is if you're flying here from the United States or, even
more likely, from a Southeast Asian country on a stopover, you'll feel
like the baby who's getting his candy stolen. Prepare to thin out
All right, in all
seriousness, Australia isn't that extreme, even for North Americans.
Gasoline and car prices remain high by American standards, jacking up your costs,
but low-end accommodation and camping options are reasonable and
available in quantities and prices not seen in the US or Canada.
And while food prices are creeping up, no one's going to suffer cardiac
arrest from gazing at the prices in a typical Australian grocery store.
Australia gets expensive because you have to drive
or fly thousands of kilometers to get from one must-see region to
another. All the while, it's hard to kid yourself that
you'll be back anytime soon. Australia is so far out of the way
from most of the places in the world you're ever likely to be.
You don't stop in Australia on the way to somewhere else; you stop
somewhere else on the way to Australia. As a result, you feel like
you have to make the most of it all while you're there. At least
that's how I felt as I put over 40,000 km on three different cars.
Below is a comparison of various items among five countries, including Australia. All
prices are in USD and reflect average exchange rates for 2008, which in itself
can distort the comparison. Between 2006 and 2009, for example,
USD 1 wavered between AUD 1.05 and AUD 1.60. If you were an
American visiting when the greenback was trading in the lower ranges, my
heartfelt condolences go out to you. I hope you weren't bled
to anaemia by the Australian economy.
Gasoline (per liter)
Coca Cola (per small can) in grocery
Lowest-end single room in a major locale
6-pack local bottled beer in supermarket
Steak (per kilogram)
Apples (per kilogram)
Minimum wage (per hour)
Personal computer, mid-range spec
Any price comparison list is bound to contain flaws. For instance, how can you
exactly compare the price of single rooms or steak or gasoline when prices themselves vary by region
in a country? Don't get too worked up over this. I spent ages
assembling this data, and it should give you some idea about how Australia's
price levels compare to other nations on this vast planet of ours.
Australia's banking sector
is dominated by just four banks.
Australia and New
Zealand Group (ANZ)
Commonwealth Bank of
National Australia Bank
Westpac Banking Corporation
There are other regional banks, like the Bank of
Queensland, but the four above are the ones you see in every region of the
country, with Commonwealth and Westpac being the largest.
The easiest thing to do if you're staying in Australia long term
is to open up a bank account here, transfer a large sum of money over in one go,
and then withdraw Australian dollars as you need them from your Australian
bank's ATM machine. Withdrawing money from an Australian ATM with a
non-Australian card will bring a lot of tears to your eyes. Have
a handkerchief handy when you examine your bank statements for the foreign ATM
fee surcharge. Withdrawing money from, say, a Westpac ATM with a
Commonwealth card also gives your bank a license to legally steal from you.
Whatever you do, do not bring traveler's cheques with you to Australia!
At the time I visited in 2006, all banks took a AUD 7 commission per
cheque. Unless you're swapping out cheques worth at least USD 500 per pop,
this AUD 7 commission is tantamount to a financial gang rape.
Australia's spending habits started with
The History Of The Australian Dollar
The Australian dollar (AUD
or A$), the world's sixth most traded currency, hasn't been around all
that long. Before 1966, Australia was using the Australian pound.
The Aussie pound was introduced at parity with the British pound, but
over time, lost value to the point where it remained fixed at the rate
of UK£1 to A£1.25 for decades. Whenever Britain
devalued its pound in the twentieth century -- believe it or not, UK£1
was once equal to US$4.80 -- the Australian pound cheapened itself
alongside. Most of Australia's trade was then conducted with the
sterling zone, and it was felt that an appreciating Aussie pound would
tip the scales against Aussie exports.
The Aussie pound, like its
British counterpart at the time, was not a decimalized currency. The
pound was divided into 20 shillings (s), with each shilling being equivalent to
12 pence (d). Prices were written like
£3 5s 6d. With 240 pence being equivalent to a pound, everyone had to
write up the prices in such a retarded fashion. Imagine calculating change
with this system. It was great for ripping people off. People poor
at math were fleeced, the rich got richer.
The rest of the world outside the
sterling zone, meanwhile, was using ultra-cool decimalized currencies.
Americans could walk with a cocky swagger. With 100 cents to $1, even
Americans who flunked remedial math classes could calculate the change off $5
for a $3.28 haircut. Naturally, the Aussies became envious and wanted a
decimalized currency of their own. The original intent was to 'go decimal'
in 1963, with a new currency called the austral, but 1963 came and went and
Aussies were keener on Beatlemania then a currency with a corny name. A
new currency with a brilliantly original name, the dollar, was finally birthed
in 1966, at a rate of A£1 to A$2 -- or 10 shillings to A$1. It was
a virtual copy of the South African plan of 1961 when the rand was phased in for
the former South African pound at a rate of 2 to 1. For months, prices were
denominated in both currencies, before the Australian pound was finally
sent to the gallows.
Many consider the change from British-style
pounds to American-style dollars another snub at Australia's former colonial
masters. The UK decimalized their own currency in 1971, but they didn't
abandon the pound. They just changed the idea of 12 pence (d) being equal
to 1 shilling (s) and 240
pence being equal to one pound. To decimalize, 100 pence became equal
to a pound, and 5 new pence (p) equal to one shilling. Australia's
unnecessary removal of the pound for dollars and cents says something about
their changing relationship with Mama England as they nestled ever closer to
their new best mate, the USA.
Today's Australian dollar is colorful
and soft to the touch and made from special material so it doesn't tear.
However, you'll be spending them so quickly, you'd never have had a
opportunity to try to tear them up even if they were still made of lesser
materials. Australian bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100.
There is no $1 bill, only a coin, which looks deceivingly like a British
one-pound coin. The Australians probably designed the $1 coin similar to
the UK£1 coin so as to bilk Brits out of their
more valuable pounds.
It all started out with Australian pounds, but they got dumped for the Australian dollar. Boo hoo.
The prices in Australia remained the same, but doubled on paper because of the change. Today,
Australian prices are stable, and it's easy to set up an account at any of the four major banks of
Australia. Westpac, NAB, ANZ, and Commonwealth.